Flint Saloon is now displaying a series of painted portraits titled blue by local visual artist Emily Zdunich, who recently completed her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts degree at the University of Saskatchewan. The blue series consists of five portraits of men attempting to mask feelings of sadness behind facades of other emotions.
The colour scheme of each painting is dominated by cool blues, which signal the feelings of pain and sadness expressed by the subjects. The abstract backgrounds and surreal elements of the portraits give them the feeling of a memory that has been altered by the emotions surrounding it. In the paintings, the expressions of the subjects do not immediately convey their underlying emotions.
The subjects look tired, bored, lost in thought or maybe even a bit angry, but as the viewer scans the paintings, small details begin to emerge that hint at the emotions buried beneath. It is often the eyes that betray the subjects’ true feelings — each individual gaze has a softness that shows their hidden vulnerability.
In blue No. 2, the subject looks bored and almost arrogant at first glance. His lips are a pale blue that makes him seem cold, and his eyes seem to stare not at the viewer but through them. At the bottom of the painting, there is the short message: “And So I said Goodbye.”
This painting seems to depict the familiar cliché of a man ending a relationship without showing empathy to the person he is leaving behind or acknowledging the damage he has caused. However, if the viewer notices the subtle tears running down his cheeks, everything is presented in a new light.
The subject’s arrogance and boredom can be seen as merely a mask he wishes to hide behind. His pale lips signify not a cold lack of empathy but an emotional numbness.
Zdunich was driven to create the blue series to challenge herself. Much of her earlier work had a lighter tone and was meant to be a playful critique of the art world, but her work began heading in a new direction after the unfortunate passing of her mother while she was completing her art degree.
Art, Zdunich says, became a way to explore her feelings and the concepts of life and death. She feels she was using female subjects as blank canvases onto which she could project herself.
“Any women I painted would really just be me,” Zdunich said.
In the blue series, Zdunich painted exclusively men to see if, by using a male subject, she could project less and “allow them to be who they were.”
“I want to be able to understand pain through the male perspective because women are all viewed as emotional beings and men are less [so]… I kind of wanted to see it through their eyes — like see how they deal with it,” Zdunich said.
Zdunich hopes blue can help people reflect on how they hide their emotions and that it can let them know that they aren’t alone in feeling the way that they do. She hopes that, if people can see themselves in blue, then maybe it can help them process their emotions.
Flint is an ideal location for the exhibit, Zdunich says, because of its accessibility to both her as an artist and the general public. She feels it is easier for new artists to get a show at Flint than at a professional gallery and that the venue is less intimidating to many patrons than a gallery is.
Zdunich hopes that showing her work at Flint can help people see it as a legitimate venue for art shows, allowing the people of Saskatoon see what local artists are producing. Zdunich’s paintings for the blue series offer striking emotional realism and can be seen at Flint Saloon until Nov. 14.
Photo: Heywood Yu / Supplied