Filling the Void in Union Gallery

Sue Lloyd’s new show melds the pastoral and the political

With Void, Union Gallery’s walls become home to cultural narratives.
With Void, Union Gallery’s walls become home to cultural narratives.
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In “Crows and Black Hawks,” artist Sue Lloyd politicizes Van Gogh.
In “Crows and Black Hawks,” artist Sue Lloyd politicizes Van Gogh.
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By putting familiar images in new contexts, Lloyd looks to challenge the cultural perspectives of Union Gallery’s visitors.
By putting familiar images in new contexts, Lloyd looks to challenge the cultural perspectives of Union Gallery’s visitors.
Photo: 

Walking into an art exhibition entitled Void one might expect to stare into bare canvases or sparse scenes depicting empty spaces.

But the idea of Void takes on a new meaning in the hands of Toronto artist and Queen’s adjunct art professor Sue Lloyd with her latest showcase of digitally produced work at the Union Gallery.

Lloyd takes “found” source material and makes it her own by juxtaposing various ideas with often unlikely visual counterparts. Old favourites and familiar symbols—cultural, biblical and popular icons—are combined, creating a dynamic that will surely seem unlikely upon first glance but which perhaps will give new meaning to cultural material that we live and breathe.

Working with various figures, landscapes and random bits and pieces from the visual world, Void suggests a collection of narratives. This exhibit begins with an exploration of the day and night skies and of the heavens; it then extends into the void of darkness, emptiness and nothingness. The significance comes from the cultural context paired with the open spaces Lloyd projects into her work. A process which may lead many to see accepted images, ideas and cultural icons in a completely different light, that is, if they can see through the void.

Several pieces in the exhibit mix images that seem completely opposite, but it’s through this opposition that we see the images in a new and exciting way. In her piece “Ground Birds,” Lloyd depicts different species of birds, which also vary in style.

Some birds look realistic and some are cartoon-like, while others look like they’ve been sketched with charcoal. By placing them all on one canvas she makes a statement about the very nature of art itself; it’s subjective, and there are many ways things can be represented in the visual world.

In other pieces, such as “Crows and Black Hawks” and “Nevada Test Site Barrage Balloon,” Lloyd mixes images of war and destruction with classical images ripped from the pages of art history.

In “Crows and Black Hawks,” we see a portion of Van Gogh’s famous “Wheatfield With Crows” covered with the infamous Black Hawks helicopters instead of crows. Black Hawks are an image not many Canadians see flying around in their wheat fields; however that image may be not be out of the ordinary for the many countries where the chopper has been used to bring freedom.

“Nevada Test Site Barrage Balloon” is also a piece in which we see two very unlikely images blended. The Nevada Test Site was established in the 1950s, and nuclear testing at the site began with a one-kiloton bomb being dropped on January 27, 1951. Many of the iconic images of the Cold War era come from this site. But again, Lloyd adds her own twist by scattering a choir of baby angels, Renaissance style, over the smoke filled scene. It’s as though the strange pairing of these images allows Lloyd to speak through art.

Lloyd also makes an interesting comment on how images become culturally significant or universally understood. In her piece “Goddesses and Superman,” Superman bursts through a traditional Egyptian piece depicting Egyptian goddesses. Superman may not seem like the cultural equivalent of an Egyptian goddess, but Lloyd’s work makes us question our thoughts about the hierarchy of art.

“This is neither a frivolous nor contrary exercise, but a very necessary journey: an investigation of other ways of knowing and understanding,” Lloyd said about her work.

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