Artists explore vulnerability and gentleness through their respective practices
The right-hand wall of the VAV Gallery is plastered in various mementos; post-it notes, handwritten letters, and novel excerpts. Observing Joshua Jensen’s work, With Love, has the viewer taking a peek at someone’s private life, leaving them with a certain warmth, or as the exhibition title suggests, tenderness.
What does it mean to feel tender? The VAV Gallery’s first exhibition of 2019, i feel tender, features the works of ten undergraduate artists exploring tenderness in a variety of ways. The exhibition’s curatorial statement reads, “it requires something specific… Some sort of warmth? Maybe it’s the artists’ approach, or the feeling that arises from encountering their work?” While the works are not assembled by a common theme, they all share a particular physicality.
With little given context, other than the notion of tenderness, the materiality of the works impacts the relationship between art and viewer. Ranging from sculpture to multimedia installation, the artworks engage the senses and lead the
viewer to find the projected “tenderness” in the pieces exhibited.
“I’ve been told by viewers that the piece made them ponder why they are looking at such a sensitive moment, especially that of a body in a bag. So I think that of course, the viewer’s experience develops their perception of the work,” said Jacqueline Beaumont, whose piece, Sodic Bodies serves as a memorial for trans women.
While all artwork is certain to evoke a reaction, the experience of the viewer will greatly differ from that of the artist.
“Each viewer will have their own experience, depending on their own knowledge and understanding of the process of ceramic art, their knowledge of the history of painting and sculpture, and countless other things that they may know or think of when they see the pieces,” said Markus Denil. Putti, created by Denil, consists of fragile ceramic putti, which are cherub-like figures. The work explores toxic masculinity through juxtaposition; the fragile putti each wear leather harnesses.
Despite the artwork and its meaning being entrenched in its physicality, the viewer’s interaction and interpretation of the piece will constantly change; the materiality serving as a means of understanding. “As we gain more information we are able to interpret the situations we are presented with,” said Denil.
i feel tender demonstrates how objects, art and their materiality embody experiences, ideas and beliefs. “I think the feeling of tenderness mainly came from the subject, that being letter writing and long distance relationships,” said Joshua Jensen, whose work, With Love, delves into memory, distance and the documentation of life. “Through this reappropriation of imagery I create a sphere of ambiguity to project my own experiences in relation to memory,” the artist said.
Denil’s innocent Putti wearing harnesses and Jensen’s mementos both provide the viewer with very different representations and experiences. The works exhibited provide a physical understanding of “tenderness” and, through juxtaposition, reframe what the viewer perceives it to be.
i feel tender is on display at the VAV Gallery until Feb. 1. The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The vernissage will be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 31. Admission is free.
Photos by Gabe Chevalier