Elyse Portal has been practicing ecological art for nearly 2 decades. She works both independently and within the collective ee portal. In 2011, ee portal (Elyse & Emilio Portal) initiated their collaboration with the multidisciplinary work, advanced life support unit, at the University of Victoria. As part of the installation the duo deconstructed the space, removing the gallery door to project shadow, a video that documents the movements of a woman (and friend) who was told she would never move her body again after a severe spinal cord injury. In the face of great adversity, she slowly regained access to her body through a movement therapy based on physics and somatic studies, called Feldenkrais. Founder, Moshe Feldenkrais said, “We move according to our perceived self-image.”
As numerous life supporting structures now face ecological paralysis, what does it take to adjust the collective self-images that demand so much of our planet? Elyse is continually motivated by the courage of this woman to recover her body - piece by piece, starting with the smallest movements.
Elyse’s methods of working are fluid, spontaneous and encompass many fields including philosophy, poetry, ecology, spirituality, performance, sound, video, sculpture, painting and craft.
She likes to get her hands into her surroundings, and seeks out local plant dyes and fibres, records meditative ecological dialogues and integrates alternative sources of energy within her installations.
Elyse is inspired by many contemporary artists including Francis Alys, Joseph Beuys, Rebecca Belmore, Beth Carruthers, Lynda Gammon, Ann Hamilton, Kimsooja, Richard Long and Wolfgang Laib.
The ecological philosophy of Timothy Morton has become particularly influential to her practice, and will be delved into during her 2019 summer residency at the Burren College of Art, County Clare, Ireland.
When not making art, she enjoys playing with her son, Teo Sol.
Background & Exhibition History
Elyse has a BFA from the University of Victoria, and a master's degree in Visual Studies from the University of Toronto. Materia medica, her master’s thesis, has been published in the Journal of Comparative Media Arts (Simon Fraser University, 2015).
Since 2011, she has also produced ecological art within the collective ee portal (comprised of Elyse and Emilio Portal).
Elyse’s work (as a multidisciplinary artist, independent curator, and with ee portal) has been part of the following exhibitions: hyperobjects / claybank (Nuit Blanche McEwen School of Architecture, Sudbury, 2019); claybank (Eco|Femin|Isms, The White House Studio Project, curated by Vicki Clough, 2018); stars pour through (ee portal: 7a*11D as part of 7a*md8, Nuit Blanche McEwen School of Architecture, Sudbury, 2017); Materia medica (Decelerated dialogues, York University, 2017); 3 ways of working with plants (ee portal: WKP Kennedy Gallery as part of the multi-arts festival, 2017); handmade fire (ee portal: G Amani’s Garden Skool, SAVAC, Toronto, 2016); daylighting (Reconstructing Resilience Symposium, OCADU, 2016); (re)member of water (ee portal: Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario, Sudbury, 2015); buried waters (Quest Art Gallery, Midland, 2015); microhabitat/self-deception (ee portal: Supernova, Burlington, Toronto, 2015); Journey into Fantasy (McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, 2015); Materia medica (University of Toronto Art Centre, Toronto, 2014); claybank (Whippersnapper, Toronto, 2014; University of Victoria, 2012); Juglans manos (Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario, Sudbury, 2013); who is this land am i (ee portal: University of Toronto, 2013); friction (ee portal: University of Toronto, 2013); urbeing (Xchanges Gallery, Victoria, 2012); Mark Laver: Shining Examples (Legacy Art Gallery, Victoria, 2012); aline (Upstairs Gallery, Victoria, 2012); Greenish (Open Space Arts Society, Victoria, 2011); Species-at-Risk (Ministry of Casual Living, Victoria, 2011); advanced life support unit (ee portal: Upstairs Gallery, University of Victoria, 2011); listening arms (Mary & Moses Sculpture Garden, Saanich, 2011); Taché (Audain Gallery, Victoria, 2010); Real Eyes (Canadian Heritage, 2007-09); Elements (Northern Arts and Cultural Centre, Yellowknife, 2008); Lost & Found (Javaroma, Yellowknife, 2006); Flower of Life (Somba K'e Public Art, Yellowknife, 2004); Reclaimed (Old Town Glassworks, Yellowknife 2004).
Awards: Ontario Arts Council Exhibition Assistance (ee portal: 2017, 2015), Master of Visual Studies Graduating Scholarship (2014), Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (2013-14), University of Toronto Fellowship (2013), Jamie Cassel's Research Award (2012), Fine Art Festival Bursary (2011), Pat Martin Bates Scholarship (2011), Royal Bank Scholarship for Innovation (2009), The Tenline Sales Material Award (2009), and the NWT Arts Council Emerging Artist Grant (2007).
Along with producing ecological art and teaching art, she has been a teaching assistant for the University of Toronto's School of the Environment.
Elyse has also been trained by Eliot Cowan in Plant Spirit Medicine, whose approach to non-humans as aware and reciprocal beings is considered and integrated into her making processes.
elyseportal at gmail dot com