Annual FOFA Gallery exhibition displays the work of undergraduate students
What do impressionist-inspired paintings, sculptural pieces about political language and a film exploring cultural identity have in common? They’re all featured at the FOFA Gallery’s ongoing exhibition, Matter of Place.
Matter of Place is this year’s edition of an annual undergraduate exhibition which aims to represent the diverse art practices and research interests of students in Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts. This year, the mediums used in the exhibition vary greatly, from paintings, photography and ceramics to videos, textiles and audio art.
In addition—as is the case every year—students from several other departments contributed their talents to the exhibition. Concordia professor Angélique Willkie’s contemporary dance class was invited to participate by choreographing performances inspired by the exhibition’s artworks, and a number of art history students were tasked with writing essays about each piece in Matter of Place. These essays have been published in a catalogue created by Concordia design students, which is available to view and purchase at the gallery. The exhibition’s interdisciplinary approach welcomes the viewer into an immersive and multifaceted experience.
Florence Yee studies painting and drawing, which she described as more traditional fields of art. Her installation at the exhibition, This is Not Photorealism, is a collection of seven paintings hung together salon-style in the vitrine of the FOFA. Most of her paintings reference Claude Monet, a 19th century French impressionist artist who painted water lilies he imported from Japan. Monet even bought land in the French countryside so he could build a large, Japanese-style garden and paint the flowers in their quasi-natural habitat.
“I always liked Monet’s paintings as a child,” Yee said. “As I grew older, I realized that many people associated me with water lilies because I’m an Asian woman and I’m sweet like a lotus flower. Sometimes, it can be a good association, and other times, it can feel like a stereotype.” Yee said she was interested in how these Japanese symbols came to represent French nationalism. She reproduced original Monet paintings to look like blurry photos taken by tourists, including a timestamp at the bottom to indicate when she made each piece.
Chris Mendoza is a third-year studio arts major with a minor in art education. His sculpture and performance pieces were inspired by the 2016 American presidential election. Mendoza said he finds political language fascinating.
“I was just really interested in language and how it affects the way we perceive the world around us,” he said. “The performance that I submitted was a bit of an exploration of that.”
According to Mendoza, the sculpture is elevated by his accompanying performance. The objects of his sculpture are arranged in a certain configuration, and his performance adds meaning or use to the objects.
Given that such a small number of students are chosen to participate in this exhibition, Mendoza said he feels it is definitely an accomplishment to have his work included.
Although one of Kevin Jung-Hoo Park’s latest films was selected for the exhibition, the piece, titled Letter(s) from a Gapping Zone, is unfinished.
“It started out with following my father’s oldest memory—when he went up to the mountain with his father to bury his one-year-old sister,” the film production student explained. The film has since evolved into “an autobiographical fiction of a filmmaker who fails to find home.”
For the purpose of the film, Park tried to pinpoint the exact location in South Korea where his aunt was buried. This search was also done in the hopes of reconnecting with his roots, because Park said he has always struggled with his Canadian identity.
While editing the footage, Park said he realized he was just hurting himself by delving into his family’s past. The film takes place in the village where his grandmother lives and where his father was born, yet Park said he felt like an intruder. Since the villagers aren’t used to being filmed or photographed, they were constantly staring at Park while he worked.
Eventually, Park said, he hopes to develop Letter(s) from a Gapping Zone into a longer documentary piece by adding voice-over narration about his experience making the film.
Born in Gatineau, Camille Lescarbeau moved to Montreal five years ago. She studies art history and studio arts at Concordia, but is currently travelling in Iceland. Her contribution to the Matter of Place exhibition is a hand-typed book on a shelf with a tape recording. The piece, tiled Doux Labeur, was created last year in her Art X class, a course that emphasizes “critical and conceptual thinking over medium-specific creation,” according to the university website.
When asked what inspires her to make art, Lescarbeau said it is often her creative friends. “I was a dance teacher in high school, so I have been surrounded by people who dance and do music. Many of my friends write poetry, so their writing also inspires me.”
Matter of Place runs until Feb. 23 at the FOFA Gallery in Concordia’s EV building. The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The performance evenings run until Feb. 8, each starting at 5 p.m. Entry is free. More information can be found in the event section of the Concordia website.
Feature photo by Kirubel Mehari