Axe Head is a program of exchanges and exhibitions between Basque and Canadian artists and art institutions.

In this second exchange, the artwork of Basque artist Miriam Isasi will be on display at the Doris McCarthy Gallery(DMG) in Toronto, while the cultural space Puerta in Bilbao, hosts the work of the artist from Ontario, Laura Simon.

Miriam Isasi

Tre partigiane. 1945 (2015), intervened photograph, 20x30 cm.

Miriam Isasi’s practice is focused on investigating and intervening in the real world. Her artworks combine found materials with artistic elements and provisional constructions to interpret “forgotten spaces” and give form to her inquisitiveness related to the quotidian. Installation is the artistic medium that she typically chooses, and the narratives of her work often present material and social imbalances. Her artistic actions and processual methodology demonstrate ways of overcoming limits and the possibility of altering the environment through revelation.

In There is no crime in natural processes (2013-14), Miriam worked within the loopholes of property law in relation to plantations of opium poppies in the North of Spain. The plantations belong to private pharmaceutical companies, however they are controlled by the Spanish Civil Guard and obtain public subsidies. Miriam installed colonies of bees within the fields of poppies with the objective of transgressing the limits of public and private, and the honey generated by the bees is presented as a residual object of her actions. In Stolen Energy (2012-), Miriam surreptitiously charges car batteries with energy obtained from “places that hierarchize us”, such as the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao or the BBVA bank. This energy is later reverted to the public in actions connected to informal transit in common spaces. Power is shared with people in concerts, manifestations, market booths, etc., with a tone ranging from ironic to absurd, like the artwork that’s presented here. Made this year in Italy, Three partisans. 1945 refers to the fall of Mussolini’s last fascist regimen in Milan, and celebrates the bravery of the actions of common people in the maintenance of political balance and resistance. Replacing the guns of the protagonists with bread is a wink toward the absurd and the everyday, highlighting the lunacy of fascism seventy years after the historical fact..

With her thesis “The Migrant Refuge. A Phenomenology to the Limit.” Miriam received her PhD in Art from the University of the Basque Country in 2015. Aside from previous studies in Bologna, and artistic residencies in Peking, Mexico City, and currently at the Spanish Academy in Rome, Miriam has also participated in workshops with artists such as Antoni Muntadas, Daniel Canogar and Francesc Torres. She has exhibited in Spain at Artium (Vitoria-Gasteiz), MUSAC (León) and Bilbao Arte (Bilbao), and has received numerous awards and grants over the course of her short career. This is her first exhibition in North America.

Laura Simon

One irrefutable fact remains: to reject an infinity of dimensions is to limit the world, to affirm them is to enrich it. Through the third dimension, height, a point trapped within a circle can escape upward without ever touching the circumference (2014), ink on paper, 38 x 28 cm and 30.5 x 23 cm.

Hailing from northern Ontario, Toronto-based Laura Simon (Ontario, 1987) originally pursued political science and agricultural studies at University before moving into art. These initial interests in math and science continue to inform her practice, which is based in drawing and sculpture. Finding variations upon a theme often informs many of her series of drawings. “Most of my drawings are based on what I read, but things mutate,” she says. “The drawings usually end up far removed from their point of origin.”

Simon’s two-part drawing on view here has (she sheepishly admits) an almost embarrassingly long title: One irrefutable fact remains: to reject an infinity of dimensions is to limit the world, to affirm them is to enrich it. Through the third dimension, height, a point trapped within a circle can escape upward without ever touching the circumference. The drawing gets its title from a mathematical reference made by Jorge Luis Borges, of whom Simon is a fan, and was part of a larger assemblage of drawings and sculpture based on her recent readings about String Theory, a branch of physics that attempts to connect four fundamental interactions — gravitation, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force, weak nuclear force — in one theory. Simon admits that she is isn’t deeply knowledgeable about the subject, and that she’s often attracted to theories that have already been debunked. The repetition of forms in Simon’s drawings, then, are a reflection of the multiplicity of perspectives that drive debate in scientific study. “There is often an ambiguity in one scientific finding that makes us look for another truth beyond it,” explains Simon. “My drawings are like looking at an existing idea, revealing permutations and finding a form’s generative potential.”

Simon is also a member Toronto’s sought-after artist collective VSVSVS (pronounced Versus Versus Versus). Simon met the other members of the group — Stephen McLeod, James Gardner, Miles Stemp, Wallis Cheung, Anthony Cooper and Ryan Clayton (each of whom also make solo work) — in the art program at the University of Guelph, which has a reputation for turning out smart and ambitious artists. The collective lives and works together in a large industrial building on Toronto’s waterfront, where they also run an artist’s residency and maintain a small exhibition space. “Being part of a collective like VSVSVS makes me more active than I’d probably be if I was only making work by myself,” she says. “The energy of the group is really good for my individual practice.”


TheDoris McCarthy Gallery (DMG), is located on the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. Named after Doris McCarthy (1910 - 2010), one of Canada’s leading landscape painters, it is dedicated to the collection, presentation and dissemination of contemporary art in all media.

The DMG is dedicated to fostering international networks and contributing to contemporary art discourse. The gallery has presented significant exhibitions by senior and emerging Canadian artists, including Liz Magor, Gordon Monahan and David R. Harper. The gallery has also exhibited work by international artists Sue de Beer, Xu Bing, Wafaa Bilal and Rivane Neuenschwander.

PUERTA is a cultural space that was founded in Bilbao by Rosa Parma, Laura Fernández Conde and Jorge Núñez in 2013. It offers a workspace where lines of support and research intermingle. Puerta has “an inter-spacial, extreme and technological zone” where workshops and work sessions develop, and encounters and film projections take place. Some highlights in their diverse programming include the Dibujo Radikal drawing workshop, the Oreja Toca experimental sound workshop, and the Pantalla Fantasma “border-weird” film series.



Miriam Isasi

Laura Simon




Bill Clarke

PDF - Axe Head #02 pamphlet