Union Gallery exhibit uses art to explore the creative process

‘Course of Action’ is a meta love letter to visual art

‘Course of Action’ explored the steps behind artistic creation.

Course of Action, Union Gallery’s most recent exhibit, makes art out of an artist’s challenging creative process.  

Although not thematically linked, the works in the exhibit capture the physical, intellectual and emotional aspects of artistic creation through an emphasis on different artistic techniques and how they deliver a message.

Brush strokes, edited video, text and sculpted material are essentially a visual means of communication. That message, analyzed and interpreted by both the audience and the artist, makes art possible. 

The pieces in Course of Action, although showcasing breathtaking works of art, also strip the artistic process to its bare bones so we can observe how ideas and concepts are generated in the mind of the artist.

This is what makes this exhibit so unique and thought-provoking. Course of Action uses art to illustrate what goes into the making of a great work of art. For instance, Chelsea Saunders’ “Interlude” consciously leaves brush marks visible, allowing the viewer to examine the trajectory of the painting. 

Through techniques such as this, the viewer garners an understanding of the experimentation, decision-making and emotional changes inherent to creating art. 

Many of the pieces showcased in Course of Action are both conceptually challenging and beautiful to look at. Some of the best works include Ramolen Laruan’s “Untitled”, Haley Menard’s “Silence is Golden” and Shaylyn Myshrall’s “Rotten”. 

Laruan’s “Untitled” is an eye-opening series of 12 picture frames containing the written thoughts of the artist herself. The piece is arguably the most conceptual, with an emphasis on the self-doubt of the artist and the challenges of authentically conveying  vulnerability to an audience through artistic creation.

As viewers, we’re free to appreciate the end result of an artist’s work without seeing the difficulties of the creative process. Laruan gives us a vivid and often unexplored glimpse into the entire process.

Menard’s “Silence is Golden” uses plaster, acrylic paint and string to convey the idea of censorship, more specifically, the difference between being silenced or being free to express yourself. 

The piece shows two hands sewing a mouth shut using string. The materials used in this piece are also integral to understanding the concept, as the string and plaster generate a tension whereby the string is unable to pierce the plaster.

My favourite piece in the exhibit is Myshrall’s surrealist painting “Rotten”. The piece depicts bioluminescent fungus growing on an unsettlingly cooler and water-stained background depicting the cyclical nature of life and death. 

The beauty of the green fungus is countered by the dread-inducing colour pallet and decomposing background, generating a feeling of intrigue. 

Through focusing on a species of plant-life that typically grows at the base of rotting trees in Brazil, Myshrall conveys the ability of certain species to form and thrive through the decomposition of another organism. 

“Rotten” uniquely addresses how we feel about death — taking a subject that is inherently frightening and ugly to most, and presenting it as a natural, symbiotic and even beautiful process. This work shows the necessity of knowing what it takes to make yourself thrive in life — regardless of how that might seem to others. 

Although the works in Course of Action are diverse in both their medium and message, they all explore the individuality that underpins an artist and their works. 

Each piece gives a peek into the artist’s mind, and into the decisions which led to the pieces on display.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.