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Omer Arbel: Particles for the Built World

See sculptural and home building experiments in fabric-formed concrete.

Experimentation drives Omer Arbel’s art and design practice. He manipulates basic materials by applying heat, force, pressure, electricity, or movement to achieve surprising results.

Particles for the Built World focuses on Arbel’s experiments with concrete over the past five years. What if we poured concrete into fabric forms rather than plywood boxes or tube columns used in most building construction? The astonishing results are on display in this exhibit. “My intention is to develop a way of working with concrete that acknowledges its liquid nature and yields expressive form,” he says. “These new methods could have significant practical and sculptural ramifications to the construction industry.”

The exhibit begins with the material research phase of Arbel’s process, showing a large fabric-cast concrete object spliced into nine 14 inch wide sections. The cuts are a way of allowing the viewer’s imagination (and his own) to understand the amorphous shapes resulting from the technique of fabric forming, as if with x-ray vision.

From there, visitors can see how the fabric forming technique applies to a South Surrey home currently under construction. Designed by Arbel and named 75.9, the house features fabric-formed concrete pillars in the shape of inverted trumpets, ranging from 14 to 30 feet tall. The columns are slender at their base and open up into large rectangular tops that become the roof of the house. Root balls of transplanted mature trees fill in the large voids of the trumpet shapes.

In addition to the sculptural installation, visitors will see a multi-channel projected film, architectural models, plans, photographs, and sectional collages. These objects, images, and sculptures reimagine domestic and urban life outside the flat rectilinear visual language of so much modern design.

Related Events

Bus Tour with Omer Arbel | May 4 | 1−4:30pm

Tour the South Surrey house under construction that Arbel designed while enjoying further conversation in an award-winning home also designed by the artist. $39. Register here.

Exhibition Tour | May 16 | 7−8:30pm

Attend a free exhibition tour with Omer Arbel and architecture critic Trevor Boddy in the Gallery.

About the Artist

Based between Vancouver and Berlin, Omer Arbel cultivates a fluid position between the fields of building, sculpture, invention, and design. Focal themes of his work include investigation of intrinsic mechanical, physical, and chemical qualities of materials and exploration of light as a medium. Arbel’s work has been exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Barbican Centre, Vancouver Art Gallery, Mallett Antiques, and Monte Clark Gallery, among others.

Image credit: Installation image of Omer Arbel: Particles for the Built World at Surrey Art Gallery, 2019.