What effect do your surroundings have on your life? Maybe this isn`t a question you ask yourself commonly, but one that Union Gallery’s new exhibit Striking the line will have you considering.
The exhibit, part of the gallery’s winter showcase, features various works from Queen’s students. The pieces are arranged around the outside of the main space, starting with Julia Fast-Grass’ The Space Between (2016) depicting the top third of a brick house. The details of this piece drew me in, while the way it beautifully captured an uncommon angle of an everyday scene kept me glued to the painting.
Beside it, Austin Henderson’s Into Place (2016) furthers this feeling of drawing attention to the ordinary, illustrating the paradoxical stability and collapse of a brick wall and reminding the viewer that our most familiar places aren’t permanent. Although the title could imply optimism, the dark colours and looming bricks made me feel more of the wall’s dividing quality — adding a different dimension to the work.
Emma White’s Solstice (2016) and Cloister 2 (2016) are two of the bigger pieces in the exhibit. Both embodied a feeling of home in their classic Canadian landscapes of full trees, fresh water, and rocks. The former is filled with a warm sky of pinks and purples, while the latter is all greens that made me giddy for a long-awaited spring. These landscapes are somewhat abruptly disturbed by shocks of varying colours applied in thick strokes over the scene, providing a stark contrast that took me away from my otherwise tranquil feeling inspired by the nature presented.
In addition to paintings, the exhibit also featured Daisy Jin’s monoprint Stay (2016). The piece reveals two figures with their backs to the viewer, moving off to destinations unknown. Its addition to this exhibit is unclear as the piece didn’t seem to have a spatial setting, unlike Carrie Emblem’s colour lithography Time will tell (2016) an anxiety-inducing work made of pieces of clocks that remind me that my time in places like my beloved Queen’s is running out.
Next, Chanpreet Khangura’s digital print Untitled (2016) brought me back to a calmer reality. The three frames showing different far-off shots of buildings amidst full-leafed trees reminded me of High Park in my hometown of Toronto and that taking a pause from the concrete jungle doesn’t require a complete change of scenery.
Coming upon Madison Tyrell’s piece 01.S02.016 (2016) was a wonderfully calming experience and reinforced the exhibit’s overall feeling of solitude in my environment. The scene feels familiar, reminiscent of visits to friends’ cottages and taking evening walks along the Canadian shield. Birch trees and rocks form the bank of a black river flowing to the viewer’s feet. The area is barren and dark, with a glimpse of pink sky in the distance promising more light ahead and beckoning me farther into the work.
Angel Lin’s Venez et Danse avec ces Escaliers (2016) is a series of two paintings facing each other in a smaller room attached to the main gallery. They’re full of bright colours and straight lines detailing the outlines of churches, making me want to do exactly as the title suggests; dance up the staircases and into these grand structures.
Also in this room is Daisy Barrette’s digital colour film Loci (2016). The video overlays images from a dollhouse and abandoned stairwells. As each frame shook it took on more of a bad dream quality and unsettled me further. Not to be missed on your way out is Biba Esaad’s I Cried at this Museum (2016). As figures take in blurred-out art works, a single person is facing the viewer in the grey gallery, head in hands. The piece acutely captures feeling loneliness amid people.
This exhibit left me keen to become more aware of and reimagine the spaces I inhabit everyday, while feeling nostalgic for the places I love best and how they’ve shaped me. This exhibit isn’t to be missed, as it offers a starting point to embark on the unique task of acknowledging everyday spaces and insisting on their ability to shape our world.
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