The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

Graduate students’ exhibition Construct! explores artistic interaction

By in Culture
The briefcase with legs looks like a head crab from Half-Life.

The current exhibition at the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery is Construct!, an MFA visual arts exhibition showcasing work from students of both the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan. This show not only provides art lovers with an opportunity to view work from artists they may not be familiar with, but also with a chance to muse upon the flavourful collision of artists navigating through the Masters program.

The opportunity to view graduate student works from Regina is a welcome shift that adds dialogue and a new set of visual imagery for understanding place and how we create a belonging there. Themes stream through the exhibit like veins, and each person visiting the show will connect works differently or not at all. Identity, place, pathway, time, narrative, myth, materials and form interact in media inclusive of sculpture, painting, drawing, projection and video.

It seems the significance of an exchange between students of Saskatchewan’s two Masters of Fine Arts programs, other than simple celebration, is in the ties forged or differences exposed.

This occasion of collective exhibition, however, makes it difficult to come out of the gallery with more than a sample. This group collaboration is new, and I look forward to the continuation and progression of these collective exhibitions as they gain momentum and begin to address concepts and questions en masse. So, having no set theme other than inclusion in a specific program, I find myself imagining. I enter the gallery and turn ghost, navigator and explorer.

In the vacant and opulent paintings of M. Eileen Murray, one of the main organizers behind the showcase, a disquieting vision of interiors appears clothed in green. In the first collision of MFA students in Regina, Murray had shown black and white photography in the exhibition titled Jumbalaya. Now, the luxury of an empty view, notions of escape and what is comfortable articulate themselves in oil on canvas.

Interaction with spaces we occupy continues with the sculptural work in the show. Alexa Hainsworth’s frosted mylar sculpture comfortably defies gravity and references flight, while Crystal Howie’s “Iris” playfully occupies a corner with its textured holding of space and light. The beautiful and mute multiplication of moth imagery collects itself in sphere form, while allowing a peek into its centre, a type of surrounding and protection which may also be experienced in Zane Wilcox’s earthy piece, “Vessel Deconstruction I.”

Other sculptural pieces by Mike Binzer present an outer experience that references the body. Binzer’s hanging yellow construction “Embraced in a pendulous dance” speaks of a type of oppressive and inconquerable weight — of a fluidity in freeze. Olga Dermendji creates a collective isolation. April Fairbrother manifests a making of disintegration.

There are stories being told here and stories being deconstructed. Kevin Bishop takes masculinity into a bright layering of exaggerated idealism. Michael Farnan employs narrative and character as his material, showing a projection of imagined circumstance and playing humorously upon the experience of a post-settler generation on the Canadian prairies.

Levi Nicholat’s painting takes experience into a layered and disjointed world of colour and sentiment.  A process which at times clarifies and at others obscures, tangling and cascading the figure, and then uniting the composition through coloured line which weave along planes of colour.

In the exploration of line and space, of time and space, I am gravitationally drawn to the work of Susan Varga. Her multilayered work possesses a quality of lightness, occupying the wall space and emerging from it. The mixed media drawing contains in it the maps of glacial landscapes, silver scrawls across vastness, a subtle and revolving narrative that is both still and moving, inside and outside, here and there, and undoubtedly elegant.

When thinking on past and present I am brought to Wing Yee’s televised vision, “Cat and Doiley.” In flashes poetically referential of television snow and times past, doilies, cats and comfort combine in an endless loop. Distraction comes to mind, and what it means to make a place comfortable, a home. I imagine the video as itself an act of embroidery, a repetition which continues in a visual and auditory combination of black and white vision and big band charm.

Photo: Raisa Pezderic/The Sheaf

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