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Undercurrents

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Excerpt from the essay by Ingrid Jenkner:

Elegies and Effigies (Material Remains)

Pensive, nostalgic, haunted and melancholyóelegiac emotions such as these are inspired by solitude and lamentation, but also by places, memories, weathers, abandoned, expired and washed up things. Such is the subject matter of the works by nine Nova Scotian artists selected for this exhibition.

The indexical trace, or the mark left by something that has passed (such as a footprint or an exposure on photographic film) which is retraceable to its original cause, may be employed by visual artists with or without additional mark-making to intensify the expression of ephemerality. In this connection I think of Susan Feindelís painting, Dredged; James MacSwainís and Irena Schonís photographs; Cecil Dayís etchings and Onni Nordmanís paintings with collaged lenticular plates.

Creased, cracked, and shedding sediment, Susan Feindelís Dredged is so experimental a painting that it may not survive much longer than the scarred sea bed it depicts. Composed of an over-sized colour photograph of one of Feindelís paintings of a ploughed field mounted on unstretched canvas, with a contrasting overlay of random dredge marks executed in sea sediment, Dredged reveals, in the artistís words, “Natureís unseen order beneath the sea, ravaged by the sweep of scallop rakes.” In its unorthodox hybridity, Dredged also represents the artistís determined engagement with her medium and her remarkable ability to extract signification from the raw material of the environment she so eloquently defends.

In contrast to Feindelís vast under-sea landscape, Cecil Dayís small etchings depicting beach detritus reveal the littoral as a microcosm of human interaction with the marine environment. Yet her ingenious incorporation of indexical traces is technically similar to Feindelís handling of material as signifier. The design of Tidelines: Three Sisters, Bay Roberts is only partly hand-drawn. The string and seaweed images were realized by pressing string and seaweed onto the soft ground of the etching plate, and then removing it, leaving behind a printable impression. What could be more expressive of fleeting existence than a detail such as this? Other relics, rendered by hand, include fish skulls and shot gun shells. Dayís compositions scrupulously show “only what was there,” but as she winds her black line around patches of flat colour, the artist discovers pattern in the apparent randomness.



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