Both rough & calming

Student show at Union Gallery captures Canadian landscape

The settings aren't destinations, but the places people pass through to get where they’re going.
The settings aren't destinations, but the places people pass through to get where they’re going.
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Visual Bloom: Cumulative Fragmentation brings together the work of artists Brian Hoad and James Puffer to present an expansive view of Canada through a collection of photographic collages.

The pieces of Hoad, BFA ’15, and Puffer, BFA ’14, share a lot of similarities that allow for such a cohesive exhibit. Both in their individual and collaborative works, the two artists layer series of photographs to create a broader perspective and a sense of depth behind their captured landscapes.

In one of Puffer’s collages entitled “Tripping in the Moira: Skootamatta Bound,” a series of photographs are lined up to create a panoramic view of a lake. In “Kingston Mills”, Puffer overlaps the photographs in a descending pattern, evoking the feeling of falling. This method of presentation plays with the sensations of the viewer and how they experience the landscapes.

Within this cohesion, there’s a sense of the Canadian landscape being defined by juxtaposing certain elements. This view of Canada is both calming and rugged, mixing the natural with the man-made.

Hoad incorporates other mediums into several of his collages. As backgrounds to the photographs, blunt strokes of paint are used in some, cut and pasted coloured paper in others.

“Meaghan (Enter Sumac)” incorporates a chalk etching of leaves along with the photographs. These different mediums add texture to Hoad’s work, creating a feeling of roughness against the shiny, artificial finish of the images.

Hoad and Puffer’s collaborative piece “Bridge to U.S.A.” also incorporates texture in a striking way. The photographs have been painted over with transparent paint, leaving brush strokes that are visible when viewed from different angles. At first glance these strokes look like scratches on the surface of the photographs, and this provides an interesting complement to the metal structure of the bridge. The artificiality of the bridge is then offset by the natural setting of the surrounding frozen lake. This contrast creates a beautiful yet haunting scene.

In most of the pieces there is a lack of human presence. The settings aren’t defined by the people that inhabit them, but by the spaces themselves. We can see the traces of car tracks left or distant figures in the background, but they are subordinate to the landscape. The settings we see aren’t the destinations, but the places that people pass through to get where they’re going, which is very fitting to the majority of Canadian land.

The Project Room is fairly small and closed off from the Main Room of Union Gallery. This makes for an interesting space for an exhibit that focuses on the vastness of our country. Standing alone in the gallery is surreal.

The exhibit offers something to anyone who has ever experienced the Canadian landscape. Hoad and Puffer’s collection present a blurred state of the beautifully calming presence of Canadian landscape, with its rougher, sometimes challenging nature that we all can relate to. I imagine it would be difficult to find someone who could not connect to at least one of the pieces, or to be inspired to capture their own surroundings in a similar way.

Visual Bloom is in the Project Room of Union Gallery until Mar. 7.

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