Blooming beauty

Exhibit deals with themes of body image

Artists Audrey Assad and Rosalind Breen use oil on canvas paintings and gel glosses to depict the theme of physical representation.
Artists Audrey Assad and Rosalind Breen use oil on canvas paintings and gel glosses to depict the theme of physical representation.

Something in bloom is neither in conception nor its prime.

With their new exhibit titled Bloom, Audrey Assad and Rosalind Breen have created a marginal space with their pieces where each painting is on the fringe of becoming.

The BFA students produce shock with bold colour schemes and large-scale paintings in their exhibit. The artists address slightly different topics of inquiry, yet they both use imagery of the body to confront issues of physical representation and identity.

Assad’s paintings address the self-consciousness of females in their bodies. In one of her pieces, she uses her own face and places it onto another body, repeating the image in a circular pattern in the work reminiscent of the inside of a kaleidoscope. The canvas forms a perfect square, but the painting is hung on the wall as a diamond, strongly emphasizing the copied faces and the protruding limbs from the staring heads.

The body parts float on top of a deep red background done in oil paint and covered in a gel gloss medium. While the painting isn’t symmetrical, it depicts the constraints of symmetry, suggesting that bodies are often perceived as two symmetrical halves. However, upclose no one’s body reflects perfect unity.

Two of Assad’s paintings were influenced by the work of Jenn Davis, a photographer who addresses issues of weight and body image by photographing herself next to thinner subjects. “Amy Two” features a single woman sitting on a bed in her underclothes. Her eyes are cast downwards, inviting the viewer to examine her body without being confronted by a returning gaze. The woman’s body takes up the space of the painting, and her bare skin is emphasized by Assad’s use of colour blocking.

Breen’s oil on canvas paintings, on the other hand, are large and visually loud but convey soft and sensitive thoughts. In “Memories/Insomnia,” four figures lie haphazardly across the canvas, their bare skin touching with warm flesh tones and their bodies interlocking in large swift brush strokes.

The figures in the painting cover each others’ eyes with their hands. While these subjects are physically connected, they can’t see each other, lending an element of trust to the scene.

Breen has painted these figures with their underclothes on, a choice, which diverts the attention from the sexual and refocuses on the intimate. The viewers must then confront their own ideas of intimacy and belonging.

The four subjects take up roughly equal space on the canvas, suggesting that this isn’t a singular subjects’ experience, but rather a shared experience. Perhaps intimacy can only occur in the presence of others.

Reflecting on the title of this exhibition, Bloom is about transformation. The artists have transformed themselves, their subjects and their audience in a study of bodily representation and intimacy.

Audrey Assad and Rosalind Breen’s exhibit Bloom is on exhibit in the Main Space of Union Gallery until April 19.

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