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Students make space at the FOFA Gallery

by Maggie Hope January 24, 2017 0 comment
Students make space at the FOFA Gallery

Making Spaces brings together works from multiple disciplines

The theme of this year’s Undergraduate student exhibition at the Faculty of Fine Arts (FOFA) Gallery is space, which was given to the students to interpret in whichever way they found suitable. The show displays the collaborative efforts of students from the departments of fine arts, art history, design and computation arts, and this year’s new addition of contemporary dance.

Subjects such as outer space, queer space, physical space, political space and the space between a performer and the audience are explored in the exhibition, titled Making Spaces.

The artists, writers, designers and dancers involved vary in levels of professional experience, age and artistic medium.

Shawn Christopher, a visual artist and studio arts student, contributed his piece Toxic, a striking collection of metallic grey ceramic sculptures. The piece consists of a heap of carefully placed bodies, heads and limbs, each contorted in a way that conveys struggle and discomfort. In the centre, a few bodies emerge from the pile and reach toward the ceiling.

Euthymia, 2015, Kaja Levy, Wolski, Charlie Twitch

Christopher said he has wanted to make something worth being displayed in the FOFA for a while, and that his piece happened to work well with this year’s theme.

While it took Christopher some time to understand the motivation behind his piece, he said it’s about creating “spaces for people who are invisible.” Having dealt with challenging obstacles in his life, the artist added: “It’s more about allowing myself to occupy a space fully, with those demons that I don’t even want to talk about. So it was a sort of coming out in a way.”

Laura Horrocks-Denis, a recent graduate of the studio arts and English programs, was chosen to be part of the exhibition with her piece Inside Out. The sculpture is part of her sculptural series called Inside Out, Outside In, which she began creating in 2012. When she heard of the exhibition’s theme, Horrocks-Denis said she felt her piece would fit quite well because it explores the idea of an emotional space.

“The whole structure itself is echoing the shape of the human body, and at one point the body is within it… it’s one of the materials. When [the body] eventually comes out and finds its release, it points to a transformation,” said Horrocks-Denis of her work, which is a metal outline of a body in the fetal position. Red strips of metal curve over the frame, leaving space for a performer to curl up and lie inside the sculpture itself.

“Even when the sculpture is left vacant, that itself adds a whole other meaning to the piece—this idea of negative space. It retains the memory of the body… of this emotional state. I’m hoping that it inspires the viewers, that it’s possible to overcome your barriers.”

At first glance, it may seem like the performer’s body is being kept in a cage, but Horrocks-Denis was quick to say that the strips of metal could also be seen as emotional emanations, radiating from the body.

Jordan Beaulieu’s piece, Land of Plenty, addresses the theme of space through comic illustration and descriptive poetry, a genre the artist referred to as “comic’s poetry.” Originally from Prince Edward Island, the fourth-year studio art and art history student said she related the concept of space to her upbringing and familiarity with open landscapes, the ocean and the coast.

Her piece contains many illustrations of nearly-empty rooms and open landscapes. “It’s all about a feeling of absence within a large space and about distance between people, and about the threshold between mental space and physical geography,” said Beaulieu. “The way that landscape can kind of reflect the landscape of the mind.”

Toxic (2015-16), Shawn Christopher. Photo: Guy L'Heureux.

Toxic (2015-16), Shawn Christopher. Photo: Guy L’Heureux.

The comic begins with the narration of a PBS special on the Dust Bowl, a series of dust storms that took place across the prairieland of the United States and Canada in the 1930s. Clouds of dust spill over the beginning pages, which then transition to images of a female protagonist having a phone conversation with a friend. “[They’re talking] about this feeling of not really doing that much, but kind of being idle and trying to move forward,” said Beaulieu. By the end of the comic, the female character is able to shed the haze of uninspiration and uncertainty to achieve clarity in her mind, just as the prairies were swept clean of clutter and left barren.

Elizabeth Sanders, a second-year art history and film studies student, was chosen to be one of the writers for Making Spaces, and was given the task of analyzing and discussing Beaulieu’s piece in an essay published in the exhibition’s catalogue. Although she admits to being slightly intimidated by the task at first, Sanders said the coordinators of the show were extremely helpful in guiding the writers in their approach, while also giving them space to write something meaningful that would do justice to the artists’ work and their interpretation of the theme. She also expressed her appreciation toward the undergraduate student exhibition, not only as a way for students to gain experience and improve their skills, but also for “giving undergraduates a voice.”

The Making Spaces exhibition runs until Feb. 17. Accompanying dance performances are held in the gallery every Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., the last of which is on Feb. 16. Apart from performance evenings, the gallery is open every weekday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free.

Featured image: “Inside Out” by Laura Horrocks-Denis.

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