Brock University Department of Visual Arts Honours Exhibition
March 22 to April 27, 2014.
Rodman Hall Arts Centre
109 St. Paul Crescent
St. Catharines, ON L2S 1M3
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.
VIEW IMAGE GALLERY
Click HERE to download the catalogue.
Featuring the work of 4th Honours students of the Visual Arts Department:
In 2014, flush from the exit of the first decade (or so) of the new millennium, one might feel quite comfortable casting a critical eye to the technocentric, urbanized, hyper-connected condition of North America. Time ticks loudly. Even our language gallops along—casting off and acquiring words as it rushes ever forward—echoing the frenzied super-speed of our contemporary, globalized world. In the constant, pounding momentum of this current cultural climate it is easy to become dismissive of the processes of time. This environment may energetically drive one to become conscious of future potential. Conversely, it may inspire a move for some to nostalgia and the unyielding and austere defense of what was. Fear of erosion of what is known is frequently polarized by fear of inertia in the cultural rhetoric which seeks to frame the attitudes of our era. TRACE, the 2014 edition of the Brock University Visual Arts Honours Exhibition at Rodman Hall Art Centre, asks us to stop splitting time and to open up to nuance: the delicate complexities of memory, touch, presence and evidence.
TRACE features artworks by seven graduating honours students from the Department of Visual Arts: Julia Chamberlain, Holley Corfield, Emma German, Amy Hansen, Stacey Kinder, Monique Mol, and Lauren Regier, who have been working under the tutelage of professors Donna Szoke and Jean Bridge for the last eight months. Works vary in their materiality and assertiveness, but curatorial choices made by TRACE curators, Marcie Bronson and Stuart Reid create a cohesive body that manages to tackle the challenge that undoubtedly comes with organizing a large group show around potentially disparate beginnings. The on-going partnership between The Department of Visual Arts and Rodman Hall provides a unique opportunity for graduating students to not only work towards a graduate show in a national exhibition centre as renowned as Rodman Hall, it also allows for work in specially allocated studio spaces on location at the gallery. This close working relationship opens the artists up to the opportunity for direct engagement with the Gallery’s curators and also with the guest artists who exhibit at Rodman Hall throughout the year. TRACE marks the ending of all seven artists’ time with Rodman Hall. Poised at this precipice between their undergraduate careers and their futures, it is easy to see why these seven hold fast to nuance and refuse to give into, or relinquish time to either oppositional viewpoint.
In conversation, the artists interpret ‘trace’ with indefinite spatial terms: describing its meaning as, “trapped between presence and absence; a mark.” Here the marks of time are attributed an unmistakable physicality in their haunting touch; moments—even time itself—can inhabit, move, mark and depart from spaces, places and lives. Materials that hint at the past, memory and history are presented in found-objects, video, installation, poetry, printmaking, sculpture, fibre works, new media, and instructive interactive works demonstrating the diversity and breadth of this exhibition. Works belonging to the seven artists fill both the main gallery space and the neighbouring hallway, forming two distinct clusters. The main space organizes pieces by bodies of work and features several larger pieces. The hallway space has a much quieter, almost precious tone and seeks to integrate the works in closer proximity. The boundaries are less visible here.
Holly Corfield presents the viewer with found family photographs in several forms. In Faded Memories, a video screen presents the all-too-familiar slideshow: audio is present and signals each changing slide with the startled recognition, playful anecdote or drawn-out silence of a man’s voice in comment. The remarks do seem to belong here, although they distinctly do not correspond to any ‘slide’ in context. Gravely but lively, his voice settles into one’s consciousness quickly and comfortably with the sentimental familiarity of a father or other dressed-up, agreeable patriarch of ones choosing. A C-print, titled, Impressions presents a dated and grainy photograph of several people smiling. As is often the case with old photographs, this image is hard to make out and one might almost miss that what is here is, in fact, a photograph of a slide projected onto a backyard fence at night. In the struggle to look too deeply at the subjects in search of information, this trace is almost lost.
In the fence projection one is struck by the romantic notion that these whispers of history were beamed onto something solid and earthly—if only for a moment—before being swallowed up once again by the lens.
Personal, alternative, asserted and fragmented histories are at play throughout both her photograph-based works and in the embroidery hoops presented in the hallway gallery space. In the latter works, Corfield plays with memory, embedding thread in a hurried race for permanence and marking cloth with charcoal in less realized, impermanent strokes. Finally, in overlaying a photograph, Corfield leaves us with an imperfect view of one moment in time: strikingly singular and lacking a promise for more; an ‘impossible photograph.’ Beside this piece Monique Mol’s, Best Before plays well against the echoes of Corfield’s hoops. Lined up on a ledge, sit several exquisite drawings of humble rural dwellings trapped like fireflies in Mason jars. Perishable—as the label indicates—we are acutely drawn to the collapse of the rural life we once knew. Family agriculture gives easily under the progressive march of urban centres, big agriculture and small acreage/big yield real-estate. What happens to what is when there is no trace of what was? Mol asks this here. In Survey, found in the main gallery space, Mol makes a new request, “What defines a home?” Here viewers are given small wooden houses with which to make ‘homes’ and add to a growing neighbourhood. Emma German’s 100 Moments presents casts of empty 8mm film canisters bought at auction and cast in hydro-stone or silicone.
Exploring origins and toying with false histories, German matched threads of information from the canister labels to YouTube videos with corresponding dates, names or titles. Matching these novel histories to the empty shells by adding scannable QR codes to her casts, German has effectively created a collected archive of fabricated relationships. In matching up antiquated film canisters with internet videos time, as a theme, becomes delightfully permeable, jittery and tense when flexibly located in a work whose casted materials denote process so heavily at their core. Amy Hansen’s knit piece, Hub is surprisingly analogous to German’s in its deep connection to materiality and moments of discovery. A mismatched tangle of hanging fibre-works suspend from the ceiling in the main gallery space. In the hallway Web and Element distinctly feel like experiments or tests. This is not to suggest that they are incomplete or lacking, but rather to point to the importance of trial in Hansen’s artwork. Research rooted in creative practice—the installation process—employs the inherent and unmistakable procedure of knitting to highlight the history of this art object as it utilizes the space, light and context of the space it inhabits.
Julia Chamberlain finds trace in the tenderly cagey shelter of poetry. Life is lived, processed, filtered and returned through fractioned thoughts in Chamberlain’s Lacuna. Untitled (Too far off), presents seven black-out poems. Unlike Lacuna, Untitled (Too far off) feels surprisingly assertive as Chamberlain obstructs the intentions of the author and forces her personal narrative into the page. Dwelling in memory and working with the traces left in the voids and insertions of suggested relationships between subject and other, Chamberlain’s voids and presences ebb and flow across her works and are most poignantly embodied in totality with Water and Dreams. Boggy cyanotypes punctuated by hand written annotations that are traced on the gallery wall—by the artist’s hand—feel as if they are at risk of eroding. Guilt, regret, longing and injury reside in Chamberlain’s liminal spaces.
Stacey Kinder’s work tears open the problematic barrier between what is ‘nature’ and what is ‘man-made’; a distinction that surprisingly remains in contemporary consciousness. What, indeed, is the difference between a skyscraper and a bird nest? What separates a city from nature? What defines ‘wilderness’? In Home, Swarm, Regress and Time Kinder seems to turn the magnifying glass to this relationship. Gilded bees, a canvas ravaged by soil and tree stumps traced over in ink illustrations are all created not as a collaboration between artist and nature: to ‘collaborate’ points to our otherness and would only serve to re-establish the divide. Divides are also at work in Lauren Regier’s, Where the marrow of the beloved can harm us no more. Interested in the fear and suspicion of the future that leads to distrust in progress, Regier creates an installation that resembles a dated, war-era laboratory that documents, logs, investigates and experiments with our own paranoia of the machine. Regier highlights our techno handwringing by referencing a point in history that clearly marks a shift to fear of technology and both alludes to the jeopardy of our hubris while simultaneously exhibiting a fictionalized account. Regier’s, Where the marrow of the beloved can harm us no more finds trace in the promise of the future played by actors from the past.
With its sensory thresholds, gradation and subtlety, TRACE is a show well worthy of what we have come to expect from the Brock University Visual Arts Honours Exhibition at Rodman Hall Art Centre. Walking out of this exhibition, one gets the distinct impression that a request was being made by all the works in that key moment of the viewer’s interaction and sensory acuity. When you do cast a critical eye to the technocentric, urbanized, hyper-connected condition of North America, TRACE asks you to take pause. This pause is not to be made in protest to what is, nor to revel in what was. Nor is it meant to unswervingly face to what could be. Instead we are asked to pause in reverence to the processes of time and open up to nuance. See the traces present in the delicate complexities of memory, touch, presence and evidence. It’s a big ask, but these seven artists clearly are made for big things. Such talent and dissemination of research from the Department of Visual Arts are key to the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts’ mandate to connect the community with the breadth of talent and creativity at Brock University.