The ‘harmony of opposites’

The Spaces Between examines the relationship between movement and the human form

Melanie Laurenco's sculpture, "I Ate the Source," draws comparisons between the human body and vegetables.
Melanie Laurenco's sculpture, "I Ate the Source," draws comparisons between the human body and vegetables.
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Fine Art Review: The Spaces Between @ the Union Gallery until Nov. 28

Sometimes still life provides the best depiction of movement and often the range of human expression is best shown by an inanimate painting or photo. This irony comes to the fore at the Union Gallery in Kate Shocrylas and Melanie Laurenco’s exhibit The Spaces Between.

According to their artists’ statement in the program, fourth year Fine Arts students Shocrylas and Laurenco set out to examine the “binary oppositions, tensions, battles and conflicts that exist between various physical and spiritual elements of the body and mind to create a harmony of opposites.” Shocrylas’ and Laurenco’s striking mix of digital photography, large and small-scale mixed media works on canvas, sculpture and an especially eerie interactive work in the project room is not only a worthwhile show, but a must-see if you’re on campus.

Shocrylas takes a very physical approach to her share of the exhibit. As a dancer herself, it’s no surprise that the majority of her work focuses on depicting motion and dance as visual art. “Portrait” effectively uses a large canvas with blurred, charcoal-like effects in greys and hints of pale yellow, evoking with nostalgia a pair of dancers who share something more than a routine. “Torn” reflects the pervasive sense of life in Shocrylas’ work through its burnished oranges, reds, violets and yellows, as a dancer loses herself in movement between ribbons of colour.

Her “Ghost Bride” panels are a haunting use of encaustic painting and photocopy transfer. A series of human faces with hollowed eyes and pained expressions, their high contrast creates an almost gothic, ghostly feel. The thickness of the panels suggests the faces may even pop outside of the painting, like a strange and spooky old photo album. She continues her corporeal theme in the “Untitled Series,” where rich, organic burgundy, tan and orange splatter effects recall gore and human injury.

Shocrylas’ work is remarkable in its use of bold colour, thick texture and its evocative depictions of human spirits lost in transit. However, while her dance portraits are aesthetically pleasing, they aren’t a suitable fit for the exhibit’s focus on bodily and organic content.

Laurenco, on the other hand, successfully makes the connection to the theme both tangibly and conceptually. Her sculpture series “I Ate The Source” is more than an ordinary look through the vegetable drawer. With a pepper, an onion, long beans, a tomato and a garlic clove, composed mainly of clay, beeswax and a beautiful red satin fabric, Laurenco’s work aptly demonstrates “the relationship between our bodies and vegetables, and the subtle processes that constitute both bodily systems and the workings of an organic vegetable garden.” The series shows how a relatively mundane smooth, tan shell can harbour such a surprisingly complex and lifelike “heart.”

The exhibit’s show-stopper, however, is in the project room. Closed off by a black curtain, the interactive installation “Thought Static (and other bodily traces)” is reminiscent of something you’d find in your grandmother’s haunted attic. Next to an antique-looking wooden chair and bare lamp is a large varnished trunk, lined with deep blue fabric, with ten painted canvas squares inside. The combination of colours is striking, with complementary interplay between deep avocado greens, navy blues and peaches. As muffled voices that seem to be speaking from the beyond emit from behind the trunk, the installation becomes a psychologically disturbing event. While examining the underside of the ten paintings, the viewer will find several notes and words embroidered inside the trunk. With phrases ranging from “Let it wash through you” to “Gurgling. Unsettled. What now of my beautiful cocoon?,” the message is clear: Laurenco isn’t content with depicting the relationship between the human body and spirit unless yours are paralyzed with fear.

Shocrylas and Laurenco’s pieces are excellent examples of art imitating life, even if Shocrylas’ dance paintings aren’t well-integrated into the exhibit. The gory, gothic and corporeal imagery is imperative to examine if you’re heading in the general direction of Stauffer Library, and more than worth a look even if you’re not.

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The opening reception for The Spaces Between will take place Nov. 11th from 6-8 p.m. at the Union Gallery. The exhibit runs until Nov. 28.

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