I have been excited about artist Rena Sava’s work for some time, and pleased that this new body work is presented at the AGM. Sava has been a community leader in the art world of the 905 and the Gallery is honoured to work with this professional, smart artist who has a proven legacy and a strong future. The artist’s abstraction of urban landscapes speaks to a timely view of the built environment in the ever-changing cityscape of Mississauga, where world-renowned architectural structures inform the shifting identity of the city itself. In an election year within the city – this is no small feat, as the role of the artist is to lead to civic dialogue, and Sava has masterfully opened the conversation with this work.

Thank you to the RBC Foundation for the support of the XIT-RM project space initiative at the AGM, and thank you to Assistant Curator Kendra Ainsworth for thoughtfully curating this show.

The exhibition is possible with the collaborative support of AGM staff members: Tina Chu, Jaclyn Qua-Hiansen, Sadaf Zuberi, Laura Carusi, Sarbjit Kaur, Alexandra Hartstone, Shellie Zhang and our Volunteers.

Stuart Keeler
Director | Curator


The AGM is excited to present Urban Abstraction, a new series of works by regional artist Rena Sava that marks the artist’s move from the print-making technique of etching to that of relief printing. Sava uses the unconventional material of Styrofoam to craft her unique ‘fragmented’ landscapes, taking cues from the built environments that we interact with every day.

The works in this series capture our attention both through their striking minimal aesthetic and through a poignant expressive quality that is harder to pin down. In some ways, these qualities are most apparent when they coexist in spite of each other. To that end, the work is split between two subseries: one black and white, and one colour. With clean lines and ample white space, the black and white relief prints call to mind the simplicity and austerity of modernist geometry. By contrast, the translucent, textural quality of the colours causes each layer of pigment to apparently float over the other, lending an ethereal, almost nostalgic feel to these spare works.

Sava also experiments with how colour shapes our perceptions of urban space. Both the colour and black and white series present the same abstracted architectural formations, but the stark differences in aesthetic presentation are perhaps analogous to two ways of viewing the urban spaces we inhabit. The coloured series shows a world in which light plays across steel, concrete and glass, producing a feeling of the sublime in an urban context, while the black and white present a harsher vista of heavy walls closing us in, with light casting structures as dark, monolithic, potentially menacing entities. This contrast presents a question – are cities a metaphor for a romanticised ideal of democracy and intellectualism, or are they the concrete jungle bent on curtailing our dreams, with skyscrapers blocking out sunlight, preventing us from seeing the broader horizon?

Sava produced this series through a laborious process of reduction printing with Styrofoam – recarving the block after each colour has been printed, applying multiple layers of pigment until the final print is produced. This process can produce irregular results, but ones that showcase the value of experimentation in the artist’s process, where sometimes the incidental is just as important as the intentional. As the Styrofoam breaks down with each successive printing, it imparts more and more of a textural quality. This is perhaps

Sava’s way of bridging the gap between the two world views constructed by the two versions of this series; while she illustrates the potentially cold and distancing effects of the structures and strictures of architectural forms, she inserts the artist’s and material’s touch, reminding us that our surroundings are affected by us, as much as we are by them.

Kendra Ainsworth
Assistant Curator