New from the Snelgrove: Death and longing in MFA exhibitions

By in Culture

The beginning of the school year coincides with the closing period for two Master’s of Fine Arts candidates, who will be holding their thesis exhibitions on campus. From Sept. 3 to 14, the University of Saskatchewan art galleries will be showing the work of Negar Tajgardan and Qiming Sun.

it cannot be called travelling

Location: Gordon Snelgrove Gallery, Murray Building

The exhibit called it cannot be called travelling by Negar Tajgardan deals with feelings of displacement and the longing to create a safe place for herself. The first part of the exhibition consists of paperand-wire sculptures in the form of luggage and backpacks.

Negar has been using paper as a medium since her Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in Tehran, but the concept behind her latest exhibition is specific to her experience of coming to Canada. These sculptures of backpacks contain certain places or experiences than cannot be packed away.

In this context, chimneys, air conditioners and antennas are elements often incorporated into the backpacks to allude to the landscapes of her native Tehran. Along with her own experience, Negar’s sculptures display what other immigrants wished they could have brought with them.

One backpack has a bedroom inside, while another one simulates a balcony from which you can admire the vegetable fields of a village in China. If this sounds surreal and dreamy, it is, because memories often are.

Negar says that, after spending a year in Canada, she found a safe place in her art studio. The second part of the exhibition was done mostly during her second year at the U of S when she started making small copies of every single piece of furniture she had in her studio: chairs, lamps and even her sewing machine.

Even though the exhibition consists mostly of paper sculptures, digital photographs and a
video are also used to document the pieces in specific situations. With these photographs, Negar documents the passage of time. In one piece, a chair sculpture seems to dissolve, suggesting that memories are just as vulnerable as paper.

Bellus Mortis

Location: Kenderdine Art Gallery, Agriculture Building

In Bellus Mortis, Qiming Sun explores the beauty in death, as the name in Latin suggests. With a combination of five large-scale oil paintings and nine smaller portraits, Qiming tastefully departs from the Western dichotomy that categorizes death with negative connotations in opposition to life.

According to Qiming’s artistic proposal, “life and death are merely two inseparable faces of the same coin: they are indeed mutually exclusive, but neither could exist without another.”

The coexistence of life and death is evoked through depictions of nature. For instance, in one small portrait from a series called Soliloquy of the Soundless, a group of flies rests on a pale, lifeless face. Flies can be interpreted as a symbol of decay, but they too are sentient beings.

In Spirit Cascade, a corpse hangs above a bouquet of flowers, representing death as a part of the cycle of life. When a body dies, it transitions into the fertilizer that gives life to another being. Qiming mentions Shintoism, Taoism and Shamanism as some of the philosophies that influence his work, which showcases different perspectives of what dying means.

In Wedlock, an Eastern influence is present in the depiction of a posthumous marriage in Imperial China as well as in the aesthetic elements, like the bamboo forest in the background or the garments the people are wearing.

Bardo portrays two naked bodies decomposing but alive at the same time. The title makes reference to a state of being between death and reincarnation, a belief in Tibetan Buddhism. The piece visualizes the suffering of immortality, depicting immortal souls trapped in their bodies because they were too attached to the material world. In Qiming’s work, life and death escape unidimensional definitions.

Gabriela Perez

Photo: Kaitlyn Wong / Layout Manager