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Final two BFA shows explore empty space

By in Culture
Gabriella Sieminska’s photo of a lone figure explores the catatonic state of isolation. (Photo: Gabriella Sieminska)

As the school year draws to a close and students worry about exams, essays and final projects, graduating Bachelor of Fine Arts students are wrapping up their final art shows. Last week, the Sheaf featured many of this year’s graduating BFA shows that appeared in the Snelgrove Gallery throughout March. This week, the Sheaf features the final two BFA shows of the term: Adam Slusar’s Smoke and Mirrors and Gabriella Sieminska’s Katatonia.


Sieminska’s main focus in Katatonia is her photography, but her show also features paintings, drawings and installation pieces. She uses the cyanotype process of developing prints in chemicals for some of her photographs as well as digital mediums.

It’s important to Sieminska that she doesn’t pinhole her art into a specific category.

“A lot of people say that my drawings or paintings are abstract but I would never say that about my work myself. There’s not a lot of depth or perspective within my work and it’s all about textures, lines and colours,” said Sieminska.

Her photographs are more surreal than abstract, which may be attributed to her love of surrealist painter Salvador Dalí.

“A good piece of work might not necessarily need a perspective or depth within it,” she said. “I was always taught that perspective was something that you had to have within your piece in order to make the viewer respond to it but I’ll try to prove that’s not necessarily the case.”

Sieminska created Katatonia to reflect the mood of the space she forms in and around her paintings.

“A catatonic state is basically a state of melancholy­­—sitting somewhere for a very long time and looking at one spot or looking somewhere in the distance and being not really here, being hidden in your thoughts,” she said. “It is described as a state of coma or schizophrenic behavior that really fascinates me.

“It’s a kind of island. A space that you walk into and you leave with your own experience. It’s a place on earth that doesn’t really exist.”

Adam Slusar’s acrylic painting combines architecture and figure.

Smoke and Mirrors

Slusar’s exhibition features acrylic paintings, etchings and wall drawings in which Slusar ties the psychological aspects of geometry into his noir-inspired work.

“My themes are mystery, deception and also bridging my interests in architecture with my interest in cinema,” said Slusar. “I tried to hold on to that while also branching into abstract territories.”

In his use of open space, Slusar activates the background so that it is as important as the subject is in setting the mood. His use of line draws the viewer’s eyes across the painting and around the picture to hint at a story only partly developed in paint while his narrative, in subdued colors, takes precedent in the viewer’s imagination.

“They all have their own colour properties and they kind of radiate a certain colour more than others do,” he said.

It’s easy to see the noir influences in Slusar’s work as the image of a lone, dark figure appears frequently in his paintings. They could easily be used as film posters from the 1960s.

“If you look at how I am adapting the photos of my work into paintings, some of them really push into the illustrative aspect and others maintain a little more abstract” aspect.

Both Slusar’s and Sieminska’s BFA shows focus heavily on narrative elements. Viewers are expected to fill in the blanks and decide for themselves what’s missing on the canvas. The shows emphasize how empty space can be just as important and thought provoking as occupied territory.

[box type=”info”]Smoke and Mirrors and Katatonia show from April 16 to 20 at the Snelgrove Gallery, with a reception on April 19 at 7 p.m.[/box]

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