Critics’ Picks

Haroon Mirza, Lamp for Williamsii (detail), 2016 mixed media, dimensions variable.

Haroon Mirza, Lamp for Williamsii (detail), 2016 mixed media, dimensions variable.


Haroon Mirza

Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver
555 Nelson Street
January 13–March 19, 2017

The announcement for British artist Haroon Mirza’s first Canadian solo show, “Entheogens” at first reads like an edibles review. Promising all new work, the statement includes a list of main ingredients as pseudospiritual anchoring points: a scattering of the scientific names for LSD, magic mushrooms, and peyote. The artist’s previous self-regulating installations provided an interesting context for his recent references to ethnobotany and West Coast trip culture, especially when examined by a Brit in a city with a strong First Nations artist community.

Mirza often works with light and sound, and he refers to everything he produces as an act of composition, whether or not it’s audible. That said, some of his pieces are a bit too on the nose in using audio components as drawing materials. Those that feel more engaging take chances with imperfection, and even push the envelope on some of the wordplay underpinning his overall project. For instance, take Acid (all works 2016), a copper PCD blank over which the artist sprinkled a handful of morning glory seeds (natural producers of LSD) that had been dipped in ferric chloride, the same acid used for etching copper circuit boards. While Mirza’s Lamp for Williamsii, made up of blinking lights and peyote, is the show’s main attraction, other more subtle copperplate works captivate, too. For those pieces, Mirza elecro-etched photogrammic analogs of Psilocybe cubensis––the mushrooms appear as a kind of hallucination themselves.