Published on Brock University (http://brocku.ca)
Brock University Department of Visual Arts Honours Exhibition
April 16 to May 1, 2011.
Rodman Hall Arts Centre
109 St. Paul Crescent
St. Catharines, ON L2S 1M3
Opening Reception April 15th from 7pm to 9pm
The Department of Visual Arts, part of Brock University’s School of Fine and Performing Arts, has a long tradition of presenting the work of graduating students mentored in its Honours studio program. The Department’s partnership with Rodman Hall has made the Honours Studio an especially fruitful undertaking. Students accepted into this course, develop a cohesive body of work that that will support their entry into graduate school MFA programs and professional practice as artists. The exhibition at Rodman Hall is the capstone of their visual arts education at Brock and an opportunity to publicly present the results of their exploration and hard work.
Such exhibits from the Department of Visual Arts are a key part of the School of Fine and Performing Arts' mandate to connect the community with the breadth of talent and creativity at Brock University.
The Secret(s) in the Old Attic
In 1944 The Secret in the Old Attic--the 21st volume of the classic Nancy Drew series--was published. In that mystery our beloved heroine, Nancy, is once again on the case with her trusty sidekicks, Bess and George. This caper revolves around a plot full of creative endeavours, mysterious music and some sassy, stolen silks. As the title suggests, in order to solve the case, Nancy needs to investigate a creaky old attic, a virtual treasure trove of memories and materials.
While the attic at Rodman Hall perhaps isn’t the scene of a Nancy Drew-style mystery, for the past several months it has been the site of some sleuthing of a different sort. The students in the 2010/11 VISA 4F06 class have occupied this space on Fridays for the past several months, coming together as a group to question and create; to question the role of art in society and in their own lives, to create pieces that have pushed their boundaries both as artists and students preparing for graduation. While what we see in the “Nine Lives” exhibition is the culmination of this experience, the processes that each of these artists went through to arrive at this point are as significant as the finished pieces on display in the gallery.
The explorations that have taken place in the “old attic” at Rodman Hall are multi-layered and complex; some are intimate, personal and create a shroud of abstraction that invites the viewer to continue the journey on his or her own terms while others make bold, broad statements.The divergent approaches employed by these nine artists weaves a rich tapestry reflective of the Honours Studio experience at Brock University. The various media and technologies--video, painting, sculpture, installation, sound art, performance, photography--employed this year in VISA 4F06 is a testament to the curiosity, creativity and tenaciousness of this group of graduating students.
For many of the artists in this show the process of creating their final body of work for their undergraduate degree involved reflecting on the idea of memory and how remembrances, in turn, shape lived experiences. While we often think of memory as an intimate entity, often symbolized in the smallest of gestures, in this exhibition the idea of remembrance becomes elevated to a monumental level in the work of Bruce Thompson and Joshua Bellingham. In the work of both of these artists we find a tension that exists between the act of consciously looking back to a remembered past while simultaneously witnessing the process of time passing.
The passing of time is also referenced in Carley O’Hara’s paintings. These detailed still-life explorations of antique objects ask us to think about narratives told through material objects. If they could talk, what stories would these objects tell? Who owned them? Were they given as gifts? Were they discarded at the end of a broken relationship? Did they bring joy to their original owners? In these works there is a poignant juxtaposition between the crisp, almost photographic detail in the paintings and the “fuzzy” ambiguity which surrounds these forgotten objects.
The visuality of a bygone era is also evoked in Julia Prudhomme’s stop motion animation piece, “The Boy Drowned in the River Trying to Kiss The Moon.” This piece is a whimsical reminder of Edison-era visual technologies and plays on ideas of nostalgia. In contrast to this, Julie Gemuend’s video-based piece in “Nine Lives” presents an ethereal, post-modern aesthetic that confronts the tension that exists between external projections of the self and the intimate, inner-most aspects of identity. As Gemuend puts it, the tension between “the desire to be understood and the desire to remain a mystery” underscores the most fundamental aspects of self-expression.
Spirituality and transformation are themes that Tyne Mester and John Gagne have explored through their VISA 4F06 work this year. The work of both of these artists skillfully combines different forms of visual expression as a means to reflect upon connections between different life forms and forces. There is a sense of metaphysical energy informing these works, the suggestion that the human figures represented in each of these instances is undergoing a profound metamorphosis.
On a similar note, Miranda Austin’s digital photographs address the physical and spiritual transformation of death. These photographs evoke the memento mori qualities of previous forms of visual culture, and there exists a provocative play between these age-old themes and the material aspects of Austin’s digital photography. On the one hand, these images are part of the long lineage of the camera being used as an act of memorial and, yet, on the other hand, their formal aspects--the crispness of these digital prints--evokes the historical tradition of vanitas paintings.
Mortality and corporeal concerns also inform Bethany Scholl’s elaborate sculptural installation in this exhibit. At first glance, this piece appears to be a formal dinner table set for a fancy tea party. Upon closer examination, however, this illusion melts away; where one might expect to find dainty delicacies there is, instead, manifestations of the grotesque. Like Gemuend’s contribution to this exhibition, this piece centres upon the tension that exists between appearances and “the real.”
Lastly, the collaboration between Julia Prudhomme and Bethany Scholl immerses the viewer in a cornucopia of sensations--sound, smell, touch, taste and sight. Through reflections, projections and narrative techniques, “Minutes of Sun and Hours of Storm” is an all-encompassing sensory experience. The objects assembled for this piece evoke a sense of nostalgia that is entirely appropriate for the “old attic” in which they are found.
The “Nine Lives” exhibition put together by the 2010/11 Honours Studio class addresses things that are often undisclosed and unexposed. For the duration of this exhibition we are invited to investigate, to peel away the layers and barriers so often constructed around the many themes explored in this show.
Rodman Hall Arts Centre Gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday, 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m., Friday, Saturday & Sunday,12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m. Closed Mondays and statutory holidays.