Students find their Place in exhibit

Variety of styles combine for a potent exploration of location and emotion

Monture's “American Fill-Up” examines the space in modern consumerist society.
Monture's “American Fill-Up” examines the space in modern consumerist society.

Fine Art Review: A Sense of Place @ Union Gallery until Oct. 31

Looking at the paintings displayed in the Union Gallery’s current exhibit, “Sense of Place,” one is immediately struck by the aptness of the show’s name.

The paintings irresistibly draw the viewer into the immediacy and authenticity of the places the images evoke: it’s hard not to imagine oneself there, as the situations are both potent and accessible--whether it’s a long car ride, a quiet moment in a campus café or an impending storm, we've all been there. “A Sense of Place” features paintings--primarily oil and mixed media on canvas—by Kelsey McIntyre, Veronica Monture and Roslyn Peter, all Fine Arts ’07. The self-curated show hangs together nicely; the pieces exhibit visibly different styles, but compliment each other well.

Monture’s “American Fill-up” depicts a scene at a gas station, crowded with signs advertising McDonalds, Wendy’s, a lottery and cigarettes. The painting’s satirization of contemporary consumer society is reminiscent of Chris Woods’ adbusters-esque paintings.

Monture’s “To Kingston, to London, to Kingston, to London” is a series of small painting, snapshots of a moment in transit on Highway 401. They bring the viewer back to the experience of displacement one associates with being on the road.

“Summer in Port Stanley” creates a vivid and bright image of a crowded beach, in which vacationers, beachcombers and myriad multicoloured umbrellas jostle for space. The child in the foreground, dressed in a pink floral bathing suit and surrounded by sand toys, brings to mind the quintessential summer day at the beach.

Monture said she tries to convey emotions in her paintings with which the viewer can empathize.

“Most of my paintings are common images that most people can relate to,” she said. “I think I see things differently than normal people would … it’s mostly about different experiences in life--travelling and the emotions that different places make you feel.”

Peter’s paintings are much more abstract, but no less arresting. She uses vibrant colours to show movement and emotions in her paintings. In “Waiting for the Storm,” the multicoloured sky is in a state of fierce tumult, electric with activity.

By contrast, the much calmer and appropriately titled “Sleeping Waters” is an exquisite blending of turquoise, blue, green and purple, whose living space seems to exude a sense of peace. Streaks of yellow close to the horizon suggest an impending dawn or recent sunset.

“It was more about evoking a feeling in the viewer,” Peter said. “Memories of how places make you feel … they’re also done in a very playful manner, and I think maybe some of the paintings, you want to come up close and get a better look.”

Peter said most of the paintings are set in Northern Ontario, where her family has a cottage.

“In Search of Tom,” a collage of different forest perspectives, is almost distracting in its variety. The viewer’s eyes jump from a stand of evergreens to a disorienting close-up of bright orange flowers, to a displaced square depicting a silhouetted tree.

Peter said the painting is an adaptation of some of Canadian artist Tom Thompson’s work, which she admires.

“I was fascinated with … the way he interpreted and made this identity about Canadian landscape,” she said. “I think he’s one of the best colourists ever.

“Some of [the images in the painting] create a conversation between my images and his images.”

McIntyre’s pieces illustrate snapshots taken from everyday Kingston life. Her two depictions of a Bagot Street laundromat convey two very different scenes: in one, the laundromat is bathed in dark blue, with ghostly tree branches peeking out from behind the building. The other shows the laundromat from a different angle, with a street light covering the building in a warm, orange glow.

“The laundromat is actually where I do my laundry,” she said. “Late at night, [walking home] from the bars, I walk past the laundromat.”

McIntyre said the two paintings use light to show the laundromat at different times of day, and from different angles.

“There’s always the light in the windows, though,” she said. “It shows a sign of life and there are people there … it’s also a sense of solitude.”

The large oil painting, “The Lounge on Princess” is populated by fuzzy figures and shadowy tables and chairs. Through the windows, a blurred street is visible, although it’s hard to tell the time of day. The only person in focus is an androgynous-looking sitting figure, head on his or her arms in a pose that could be fatigue, drunkenness or despair.

McIntyre said fuzzy aspects of her paintings are done on purpose, to evince the brief glance of an observer.

“I want to just paint a fleeting moment—I don’t want it to be portraiture, necessarily,” she said. “[I try to] capture the sense of a moment in time. When you look at something, you don’t always see everything in the scene right away.”

McIntyre said she likes to focus on scenes and social interactions from life in Kingston, especially those that are relevant to her own life, and the way those scenes affect people’s emotions.

“My time at Queen’s is pretty important, so I want to be able to remember that.”

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