Rural reality

The Sins of Our Fathers explores images of early 19th century Canada

Fourth year BFA student Lianne Suggitt looks at double-exposure photography and generations past as inspiration for her multimedia sculpture Fox Twins.
Fourth year BFA student Lianne Suggitt looks at double-exposure photography and generations past as inspiration for her multimedia sculpture Fox Twins.

Lianne Suggitt and Emily Turner are very different artists. But in The Sins of Our Fathers at Union Gallery, they revive history together.

Suggitt’s painting and multimedia works are displayed alongside Turner’s arrangements of photographic prints. Suggitt and Turner, both fourth-year BFA students at Queen’s, focus on 18th and 19th century rural Canada.

They recreate the past in different ways, but are both aware of the present in their work. Though Turner opens the exhibit, Suggitt’s Fox Twins is the immediate draw. Two fox masks float above white dresses, with the ghost-like sculptures hanging eerily still. Farmhouses, church bells, animal masks — the odd assembling of country elements makes for a provocative pair of works.

Next to Fox Twins is Suggitt’s Lingering — the oil painting mimics the dream-like sculptures in many ways. In Lingering, the figure of a girl in a white dress overlaps a barren rural landscape.

The layering of images gives depth to the painting, drawing you into an out-of-body experience. You become the ghostly figure and feel like you can hear the bells in Fox Twins. The parallels in Suggitt’s work round out a definite mood in the collection.

“My work is mainly inspired by rural life and double exposure photography,” Suggitt said in her artist statement. She adds that she tries to explore the relationship between forgotten generations of rural life and modern traditions.

Turner’s ink-prints are equally moving, although it’s less obvious how to engage. Where Suggitt literally inserts an onlooker into the work, Turner uses photographs and texts to form an intimate connection with the viewer.

In the New Country, a selection of Turner’s prints are arranged to look somewhat like a dissassembled puzzle; each segment of land and lake marks a place, and each face and phrase belongs to a story. The prints are mounted unframed with clear tacks, creating a sort of mosaic of old images.

Using early 19th century-style photographs — including portraits and images of gothic architecture and maps — Turner revives memories. The candid images of everyday activities, like men milking cows and sisters at play, provoke a strong sense of nostalgia.

She uses lithography — the process of copying photographic negatives with photosensitive emulsion — and waterless lithography, the same process, but using waterproof silicone, to incorporate photographs and texts into her work.

“I have used photographs as well as text to create a body of work that spans landscapes and people across the country,” Turner said in her artist statement.

Through a mix of mediums and perspectives, Suggitt and Turner find something enviable about rural life — the simplicity and the structure. Regardless, The Sins of Our Fathers gives reason to think about generations past, which always manages to shed some light on the present.

The Sins of Our Fathers is at Union Gallery until Dec. 6.

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