Artists in motion

Kingston artists unite for a diverse and eclectic collective show at the Union Gallery

Shayne Dark’s wood sculpture, which is untitled, is as beautiful as it is puzzling. Conflux, a massive collabortation between 10 different artists, runs from now until Aug. 7 at the Union Gallery in Stauffer Library.
Shayne Dark’s wood sculpture, which is untitled, is as beautiful as it is puzzling. Conflux, a massive collabortation between 10 different artists, runs from now until Aug. 7 at the Union Gallery in Stauffer Library.

Since its inception, the Union Gallery has struck a harmonious balance between showcasing student and professional works in a tiny space in Stauffer Library. Conflux, which runs now until Aug. 7, is a massive collaboration between 10 different artists. Part of a pilot project entitled Art Shift; an intergenerational project for creative exchange and professional development for artists, it brings together emerging and established artists in one space.

According to the collective, the show’s purpose is to “assist emerging artists in building their art practice through the development of practical and critical skills, further strengthening the artistic culture of the city.” There is an enormous range between the works, which is both interesting and crippling. It’s hard to see a common thread between all of the works. Some gallery-goers might find the randomness of the pieces puzzling, as it is often the norm to create some sort of synchronization and linearity in exhibitions. But despite the lack of thematic concern, some truly innovative and challenging works are on display.

Perhaps the most accessible and outwardly witty piece on display is Frances Leeming’s video “Genetic Admiration.” Leeming is a professor of in the film and media department at Queen’s. As someone who is interested in gender, technology and consumerism, she has created a 23-minute gem. Leeming’s medium is collage animation. Created by plucking and cutting out images from various sources, she uses a 16 mm camera to animate the two dimensional images. The piece is loosely set at an amusement style theme park, complete with fortune tellers and artificial insemination facilities. What more could a girl ask for? Leeming’s style fits perfectly with her satire. You can literally see the manipulated incisions she has made with her own scissors. This hand crafted look is different from the strange and often confusing science used within the piece. The main characters of her film look as though they have been cut out of old Life magazines and move flatly along the screen. The iconographic ideologies behind the images sharply contrasted with the over the top dialogue and narration creating a tension which is both funny and poignant. Shayne Dark’s wood sculpture, which is untitled, is a little less literal in comparison to Leeming’s work; however, it’s just as enjoyable. Something of a puzzle, the piece stands awkwardly in the union gallery. Although it looks a little out of place, the sculpture engages the eye and has a quality to it that people seem to gravitate towards.

“My work results from a rhythmic and organic process involving ideas, feelings, formal play, and structural necessity,” Dark wrote in his artist statement. “Every aspect of the process has the potential to hold meaning, to draw upon and focus our general physical and perceptual experience of the world.” The red-painted wood looks like a cross between an oversized spider and an exaggerated tree branch. There are familiar and uncanny forms within the piece, which makes it hard to talk about. But it’s fun to try anyway.

Both Robert Wiens and Dave Gordon have pieces on display that concern familiar Canadian icons. In Wiens’ piece, we see the steadfastly Canadian maple tree. “Sugar Maple” is a four part watercolour depicting from each cardinal compass point. Photographing the trees first, each view of the tree is then rendered to full scale. The work is part of an ongoing piece in which Wiens hopes to document and represent carious trees seen in North America. The pieces look just like photographs with incredible detail and precision. If there is a biased eye looking at these trees it is hard to detect, as Wiens’ interpretation of a tree seems to be hidden somewhere—perhaps in those tiny brush strokes.

Dave Gordon’s acrylic on canvas painting “7 Sparrows” looks like another scene plucked from the Canadian wilderness. Self-descriptive in its title, “7 Sparrows” is simply seven sparrows perched all in profile against wooded backdrop. The birds are artificially placed in the scene and look like as Gordon himself describes them as “notes on a page of music”. There is something unsettling about the piece and much like Wiens’ watercolour, one cannot help but look for the mistake or the subliminal message of the piece. Their traditional style is mystery in itself.

Many other works by local artists add to this dynamic exhibition and although it is hard to string these works together they offer up something unique. Each artist has a connection to Kingston and this show is a perfect display of the diversity and creativity in this small city. And who said Kingston was only filled with limestone?

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