Mundane & magical

BFA student Emma Fowler explores the ins and outs of daily life in her new exhibit Rituals

By creating a collage with vintage photos, Fowler provides a unique perspective towards Western culture.
By creating a collage with vintage photos, Fowler provides a unique perspective towards Western culture.
Photo: 
Photo: 

Fight the routine.

It’s a battle of boredom we’re all familiar with.

The struggle between the mundane and the magical of everyday life collide in Emma Fowler’s exhibit, Rituals.

Prom, family vacations and time spent at home are essential elements of our development from adolescence to adults.

Fowler captivatingly portrays these defining moments of our lives with her collage.

The pieces are beautifully composed using photographs, grids and free flowing ink paintings.

The contrast between elements is striking. They come from depicting the war between the contrived and authentic to the imposed obligation. They reveal the never-ending search for meaning in a seemingly predictable world.

Fowler’s use of vintage photographs plays an essential role in telling her version of the story of Western ritualistic life. The photos are atmospheric and evoke nostalgia in the way a Doors song or an episode of M*A*S*H does for a world fighting for itself.

The nostalgia in the exhibit is alluring, as Fowler uses faces cut out of old photos to make room for the imagination of the viewer in such works as “Vacation.”

It’s those same wistful memories that I could relate to in Fowler’s piece entitled “Home,” which uses a variety of vintage photographs that include images of children.

A smattering of different house fronts are also used to suggest the centrality of the family regardless of the house’s aesthetic.

The images sprawl outside of their limits at the bottom of the work, signifying the inability of ritual to fully define or limit human experience.

And while Fowler’s pieces all feel very personal, the ultimate result is a sense of universality — that we’re all connected and sharing these milestones together.

The faces of children, disembodied hands held together, open skies, gardens, front doors, and cars are all fragmented to tell the narrative of growing up in a post-modern Western world.

Mentioned in the artist’s statment, Fowler’s abstractions present the “beauty of chaos” and “the comfort of structure” optimistically as equal rivals unable to exist independently.

The rigid grids imposed on top of the soft curves and colours of the collages underneath fail to confine them or fully subdue them — and therein lies the inspiring hopefulness and positivity inherent in Fowler’s work.

Leaving the exhibit, I felt like I’d ridden in the back seat of my family’s van and laid giggling on our cottage’s shag carpet.

But this time I experienced them with a real sense of appreciation for their beauty.

And while everyone seems to say ‘one day you’ll wake up and be old!,’ it really doesn’t happen overnight.

Somewhere in between now and then lies hundreds of lazy summer days spent stretched out on our beds listening to music, chasing our dogs and enjoying the daily rituals that make up our past.

Emma Fowler’s Rituals is on exhibit in the Project Room of Union Gallery.

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