Days in retrospect

Two fourth-year students explore personal and social memory

Phoebe Cohoe’s the best kind of careless is one of the artist’s mixed media installations in Union Gallery’s From the Tablet of My Memory.
Phoebe Cohoe’s the best kind of careless is one of the artist’s mixed media installations in Union Gallery’s From the Tablet of My Memory.

Try and remember those days. Blowing soapy bubbles through a plastic stick and watching as they float away, bursting mid-sky — it was the best kind of carelessness. As a 20-something, it can be harder to indulge in such pure moments — with post-Reading Week catch-ups and end-of-year exams heavy on the mind.

For Phoebe Cohoe, BFA ’12, the loss of “unencumbered creativity” inspires art.

“I feel that these are qualities that usually get lost as we grow up, and I am interested in why that happens, and how I can maintain some of that carefree playfulness,” Cohoe said in her artist statement.

In Union Gallery’s newest exhibit, From the Tablet of My Memory, Cohoe and classmate Kaisa Moran combine their takes on memory — both personal and social — in a small collection of unframed prints. Bathing in playful colours and an atmosphere of ease, the dual exhibit is a sophisticated throwback to childhood fun.

Cohoe’s the best kind of careless is actually a stream of canvas bubbles floating along the wall. The clusters of circles are washed in a rainbow of watercolours, creating a mesmerizing illusion connecting one to the next. Stitched silhouettes of a young girl pop up at points, showing her reaching overhead on tiptoes or dancing in the wind.

Of Cohoe’s four works on display, three trace memories of the young girl at play.

Places/explores shows the pigtailed figure spreading her arms wide, imagining she can fly. In kite dance she dashes alongside kites and a plane on a string. In both, the artist uses vibrant colours and varied materials, like felt, evoking familiar textures.

Her final piece, a black and white woodcut print, continues with the theme of nostalgia. Though the shapes and figures in the print have little fine detail, the repetition of wavy lines and a bold floral pattern give an easy flow and beauty to the scene.

Comparably, Moran uses almost no colour — three out of five of her works are printed in black and white. Her series of woodcut prints celebrate textures, playing with rough etches and fine lines or thick blotches and grainy strokes.

Homemade Coat, a woodcut on rice paper, is charming. Though faceless, the happy couple are brought to life. The woman’s lavish fur coat and curls — channelling Marilyn blonde — are tangible. Her man in uniform stands poised and proud.

The woman beams as she clutches the coat close to her chest, playfully showing off as she poses. The cuts appear hasty at first, but the scribbles create unique textures. Moran’s treatment of the woodcut injects energy in each detail. Other scenes include portraits of families and newlyweds.

To finish at the start, Moran’s Log Book Triptych opens the show. A three-piece composition that recalls the contents of a military notebook, these canvases fit into the artist’s vision, using fare from the armed forces as universal memorabilia.

“Armies have globally existed for centuries,” Moran said in her artist statement. “The uniform plays an important role in the collective memory of all individuals in society and aids the viewer in relating to the prints in his/her own way.”

From the Tablet of My Memory is at Union Gallery until March 20.

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