Threshold catalogue

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THRESHOLD Ann Connelly Joanne Hewko Natasha van Netten Judith Reed Nicola Rendell

Slide Room Gallery


June 5-26, 2016

THRESHOLD Exhibition with works by

Ann Connelly, Joanne Hewko, Natasha van Netten Judith Reed, Nicola Rendell 2016 graduates of the Diploma of Fine Arts at the Vancouver Island School of Art

Threshold (Executive Director’s Introduction) Threshold is the result of intense concentrated focus by the Vancouver Island School of Art’s (VISA) 2016 Diploma of Fine Arts graduates: Ann Connelly, Joanne Hewko, Natasha van Netten, Judith Reed and Nicola Rendell. The title of the exhibition, Threshold, serves as a unifying link between five artists with very divergent practices. “Threshold” is used to describe a place between the present and the future, a place where things might happen next. An art school program can be considered successful if graduates leave the institution with the desire and motivation to continue the art practice realized in their final year. I feel confident that all of these graduates are just at the beginning, or “threshold,” of what I am sure will be a lifetime commitment to their art practice. One of the exciting things about being part of a program such as the Diploma of Fine Arts is that students get to work alongside others whose work varies from their own. Through the understanding of difference, students become more aware of what is individual and special about their own work. Diploma students in their final year are provided with a studio space (24-hour access); this allows them to maintain a serious and dedicated practice. The students come from diverse backgrounds, and have come together to discover what would happen if they dedicated a good portion of their lives to making art. Threshold is just the beginning of what these artists will have to share with the world. Ann Connelly has been working on several series that include relief fabric sculptures, paintings, and drawings on wood. Ann’s work focuses on her personal history as well as her current situation. A recurring theme in Ann’s work is her connection with the environment, and her concern about the effect powerful forces such as climate change are having on the natural world.

Joanne Hewko discovered that intimate photographs from her childhood could provide an endless source of subject matter. She was attracted to using family photographs because of the kind of truth that is revealed by the images. Joanne questions what information that can be gleaned by considering both the subject and photographer. Thinking about these photographs led her to investigate the idea of memory and how we process our ideas surrounding remembered events. Natasha van Netten turned her passion for whales into several deeply considered series of drawings and paintings. Her years at sea on a sailboat, her hands-on experience on the water, and being in the presence of whales, were the initial driving forces for her interest in these animals. Natasha’s work avoids the cute or romantic notions of whales as being superstars of the oceans or Disneyfied creatures, and challenges our understanding of these incredible beings that swim in the dark oceans. Judith Reed uses silk fabric as a surface for her layered paintings and has brought this material, which is often associated with fashion or craft, to a new level by staining, drawing and using it as transparent layers. Through her process, Judy transcends traditional associations of silk fabric and creates complex interesting surfaces based on her memories of particular landscapes of the American Southwest.

Nicola Rendell’s work addresses her feelings about the tragic devastation of the cultural heritage of Syria. She has focused on the idea of pattern being used to represent a culture. Islamic design and architecture play a dominant role in her work. Nicky has represented the actual destruction of the Syrian architecture by building up her own paintings, often containing architectural elements, and then destroying sections through gouging, scraping and burning. The result becomes a humble and poetic manifestation of an immense tragedy. It has been a priviledge and an honour to work with such an engaged group of individuals and I am proud to call them all graduates of the Diploma of Fine Arts program at VISA. Wendy Welch Executive Director, Vancouver Island School of Art

Room 6 Advanced Studio Room, May 2016

Ann Connelly Growth 2016 Fabric, thread and ink 39” x 78” x 10” (approx).

Ann Connelly by Natasha van Netten In Park Placed, Ann Connelly investigates the changing microcosm of her local park through paintings, textile and wood sculptures. This diverse series hinges on Connelly’s close observation of not only the park in general, but more specifically of overlooked and unwanted plant forms and growths. Connelly also explores the complicated relationship between manmade and natural objects that co-exist within city parks. She recreates natural forms using manufactured materials such as acrylic paints and coatings, emphasizing a collision of organic and artificial elements. The textile sculptures are riddled with bulging growths, pocketed shelves and cavernous openings. These three-dimensional forms become a tapestry of colours, patterns and surfaces. The outer edge of the form looks as though it can barely contain the shape. Connelly’s work revolves around prolific natural growths, such as mushrooms, fungi and burls. She investigates forms that are under-appreciated and easily trodden on. Her work is created from used and worn textiles, such as old clothing and scraps of cloth. The sculptures are made using traditional crafts such as stitching, embroidery and felting. These historic processes continue to wane in Western culture and are not as

valued as they once were. Connelly’s employment of under appreciated processes echo the seemingly unwanted forms she creates. Connelly’s minimal paintings offer a contrast to the overflowing rectangular boundaries of her sewn fabric sculptures. Each painting is made with a single colour: purple, yellow, blue, teal or green. Despite the bright colours, these pieces maintain a subdued presence because of the atmospheric paint application. Her paintings depict manmade forms found in parks: a bench, a garbage can or a swing set. Connelly draws each object with a fine black pen so they are hardly visible on the canvas; they barely peek through the layers of paint. Each painting contains only one small representational drawing surrounded by an expanse of colour. These seemingly serene monochromatic paintings act like a breath or a pause next to the artist’s elaborate textile sculptures. Yet there is an underlying emptiness and loneliness in this work—like something is missing—an unexpected feeling when thinking about a city park. In Park Placed, Connelly uses an eclectic assortment of materials, techniques and mediums to create a series as diverse as a park itself. The work is a deep investigation of plants and objects that are taken for granted or overlooked entirely. Connelly joins the natural and unnatural worlds in a way that isolates objects from their usual context. All of the work reflects Connelly’s deep interest in everyday plant forms and the mingling of nature and city: the urban park. In another series called Four Generations, Connolley has made paintings inspired by the transition of moving from a remote croft in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland in the nineteenth century, to an upscale area of Edinburgh in the present time. The paintings consider the impact of carbon emissions and consumer culture from a personal point of view. The diptych format is used to portray two ideas: one gives a hint of a time at the beginning of each woman’s life and the other is a record of consumerism reached nearer the end of their lives. This juxtaposition provides a visual link and reference to the evolution of climate change throughout the centuries.

Ann Connelly Is this an improvement? 2016 Acrylic on canvas (diptych) 24” x 42”

Ann Connelly What we are passing on? 2016 Acrylic on canvas (diptych) 24” x 42”

Joanne Hewko by Jenn Wilson Merleau-Ponty describes memory as a performance, an active collage where “sudden illuminations are triggered by juxtapositions of decontextualized quotations”. 1 The resulting illuminations resonate with a poignant temporality, reverberating in our amorphous dreams. The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, editor Galen A. Johnson, trans. Michael B. Smith, Northwestern University Press, 1993. 1

Joanne Hewko has been engaged in a personal odyssey using childhood and family photographs as sources and supports to actively navigate the murky waters of memory. Her compass point is determined by process and performative gestures with the medium of choice on a given day. Hewko uses photographs as source and material. Charcoal, graphite, eraser, ink, paper and paint have all come in contact with the photographic surface. Surfaces have been lined, scored, cut, obscured and smothered. The works reveal a dynamic interplay between photograph and paint. The physical juxtaposition of these two disparate elements on the same surface creates sparks of recognition tempered by flashes of mystery. The surfaces of Hewko’s autobiographical paintings, drawings and collages are fields of torn edges, where photographic fragments, painterly smears and paper patterns jostle and vibrate against one another. Within her images the subject, meaning and context are suspended in an aura of photographic and painterly time. The childhood photo is both trace and resemblance of someone; the paint is a track of the passage of the artist’s hand. The dialectic of photographic past and painterly present collide. She develops a reflective space of stillness and contemplation between the fragmented photo image and vibrant gestural landscape of paint. Look at these paintings. Direct your gaze to the presented image. The photographic self stands at the threshold of living colour; shadows of those once close slip into a sea of smeared materiality; cut lines trace and reference the existence of what was and what will be. The frozen fragmented pose is held in the optic landscape of the photograph; the haptic landscape of the paint constructs an ambiguous reality unbounded by time.

See these paintings. Experience the tension between the opposites; flattened photographic realism is suspended in a saturated roiling abstract sea of painted colour. The figures are dusts of pigment, a remnant of the photo transfer; the ground is a tangible relief of turbulent, swirling painterly gestures. Witness the slip of spatial illusion where veils of paint pool and flood into a once inhabited interior space. Linear perspective collides with aerial perspective; structural lines that should define stability and locale are challenged by the haunting gradations of tone and hue. The transformation of visual information on these painted surfaces is a series of contradictions and distortions, distractions and retractions, where memories and traces collide in raging silence. The atmosphere is both charged and still. In front of our eyes, the photographic punctum is illuminated by the expressive gestural brushwork. We bear the heavy heat of the puncture wound.

Joanne Hewko Straight Forward – Strayed Back (Black) 2015 Photograph and acrylic on panel 16” x 20”

Joanne Hewko My Beautiful Garden 2016 Acrylic and photograph on panel 24” x 30”

Joanne Hewko Out of Reach 2016 Acrylic and photograph on panel 24” x 24”

Natasha van Netten You Had Best Not Be Too Fastidious In Your Curiosity Touching This 2016 Oil on panel 15.5” x 28”

Natasha van Netten -161.411°, 54.795° 2015 Gouache on embossed paper 22” x 30”

Natasha van Netten by Joanne Kahan The works of Natasha van Netten offer both representational and abstract interpretations of how we see and understand whales. Her work often provides only a minimal amount of visual information as a way to reflect on the sparsity of up-to-date scientific data currently available on all species of whales. Her intention is to inspire a deeper understanding of the many different whale species in existence today. Most of us who have seen whales in their natural habitat, have only seen portions of the whale’s body: the parts that rise above the water. Van Netten’s paintings represent this experience; parts stand in for the whole. Whale shapes morph into landforms. We are uncertain of what we are seeing. Van Netten uses a range of tonal values, limiting her palette to grays and blacks. The focus of the work is on form, space and texture, creating work that feels both real and imagined. The uncertainty of what we are seeing as a viewer is a reflection of how little we know about whales. Van Netten’s drawings include black pen circular renderings that visually represent the number of whales of a specific species (e.g. in 2016, there were 13,590 Right whales, so the drawing contains 13,590 drawn circles). These drawings are done on architectural drafting paper to create a sense of authority with regard to the information. However on an abstract level we just see a large circle form made of many smaller circles. Included in van Netten’s work is also a series of drawings in which lines have been made on an etching press to create an embossed whiteon-white surface. These drawings also include large areas of solid black ink. The embossed lines stand in for whale migration routes and the large black areas represent the landmasses. This depiction is the reverse of how we normally understand geographical representations on a map with the reversal drawing attention to how we perceive and understand visual information. While van Netten is not making a direct political statement about the plight of the whales and how they are at risk from overhunting, ocean pollution and global warming, her work draws us into thinking about

this most incredible and little understood marine animal. Van Netten’s intense attention to detail both in her drawings and paintings make us pause and reflect; and the next time we see a whale spyhopping or we hear statistics about their declining populations, her work will come to mind.

Natasha van Netten Soon We Shall Be Lost In Its Unshored, Harbourless Immensities 2016 Oil on panel 32� x 23.5�

Judith Reed by Denise Dowdy The first impression one gets when looking at Reed’s paintings, inspired by childhood memories of Utah, near Salt Lake, is that of a fantasy land. The viewer has a feeling of being taken on a journey into the artist’s mind, and catapulted into a sort of dreamlike state, where colours and textures intermingle and merge throughout the mysterious layered surfaces. Reed works on silk and pours dyes across the surface letting the silk decide how much it will absorb and how far it will spread. Neither bright, nor dull, the colours are soft and muted, like a hazy August afternoon. They are also vibrant and alive because of the richness of pigment. Fabric dyes are poured directly onto the silk surface, mixing with each other in unpredictable ways. Pigments flow as if melting onto the support of the silk. The work is deceptively complex in that it is made of multiple layers of translucent silk and gauze and one is not able to discern what is surface and what is underneath. The act of pouring diluted inks onto the gauze produces the intuitive marks and haphazardly formed shapes. Reed then adds intentional drawing onto the topmost layer or onto the silk base. This method relies on an intuitive and organic progression towards a final product. Reed is totally absorbed in the process as she lets unexpected images emerge from the silk and then thoughtfully responds to the result with lines and patterns. Reed’s process-based approach is balanced by careful and specific drawings of repetitious patterns on the surface. The paintings start out as hazy indistinct shapes of colour and texture and result in structured compositions evocative of land formations. While Reed has not been back to Salt Lake in fifty years, her deep, ingrained memories of the vibrant colours, vast canyons, and severe weather in and around the lakes have been her source of material and the muse that feeds her passion.

Judith Reed Old Pathways 2016 Dye and pigment pen on silk on canvas stretcher frame 16” x 20”

Judith Reed Chaco Canyon #1 2016 Dye and pigment pen on silk on canvas stretcher frame 24” x 36”

Judith Reed Chaco Canyon # 2 2016 Dye and pigment pen on silk on canvas stretcher 18” x 36”

Nicola Rendell Sacred Burning 2016 Oil on wood board 36” x 46”

Nicola Rendell by Jenn Wilson Syria past—A land of tangled historical complexity surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea and Syrian Desert, cut by the Euphrates River; a nation populated by Arab, Kurd, Armenian, Assyrian, Bedouin, Muslim, Christian, Jew—the cradle of civilization. Syria today—A country where civil war rages, where the population flees its borders to avoid the bloodshed and destruction of its homes and infrastructure. The massive migration is of global concern, the movements of peoples crossing western borders and television screens. How does one come to terms with the human tragedy that unfolds before ones eyes? How does an artist from beyond that nation’s borders begin to give voice to what her conscience and heart feel about the humanitarian crisis? Nicola Rendell is a painter who has traveled the lands of Syria and the Middle East, experiencing the art, culture and traditions of the various peoples in these regions. She was particularly captivated by the prolific ornamental patterning which graced the exterior and interior surfaces of the monumental ancient architecture, which itself seemed to withstand the assault of time and human folly. Now these structures are in ruins. People are forced to leave homes and cross borders. In her recent body of work, Rendell uses her memories of and research on these art forms to express her anger about the seemingly senseless destruction of these sites of cultural legacy and her angst about the displaced peoples of Syria. Anger—In Sacred Burning, Rendell pulls from her memories the overwhelming awe she experienced from gazing upwards into the domed heights of the ancient mosque. The lingering awe shifts to the present knowledge that the mosque has been bombed and destroyed by warring factions. By depicting the interior in a series of skewed perspectives she activates a sense of vertigo, confusion and frustration. But the two-dimensional image of the mosque was not enough for Rendell. She had to unleash her outrage about the destruction of cultural and spiritual heritage. The wooden panel now is but a remnant, burned by fire, stained black with ash, scarred with

violent hacking marks. Angst—In Red Metal, Wallpaper and Passage of Hope, Rendell begins to work with the geometric patterns found adorning the surfaces of walls and floors. Pattern for her is a reflection of the cultural and spiritual richness of the peoples. Patterns built on strict underlying mathematical equations, stress the importance of unity and order within the Islamic and Christian societies in Syria. Rendell takes these mirrored, rotated and repeated continuous patterns that have been stenciled on paper and defaces, scratches and cuts away segments of the pattern. The papers are superimposed overtop wooden panels painted in palettes of red, gold, earthy hues and blues. Like skins suspended above a transforming turbulent landscape, the papers shiver with apprehension and trepidation at what the society has become and what will happen in the future.

Nicola Rendell Wallpaper 2016 Oil, paper and glass chard on wood panel 24� x 24�

Nicola Rendell Umayadd 2016 Oil on wood panel 38” x 46”

Artist Bios Ann Connelly was born in Scotland and travelled to Canada in 1980 for a year of adventure. Connelly worked in northern Newfoundland and in the Arctic where she was a community health nurse. Later she moved to Victoria to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and continue her nursing practice. Knitting, sewing and crochet and learning to use what was available at an early age have been a major inspiration for her current body of work. Joanne Hewko is an artist with a previous career and background in design. In 1988 she received a Bachelor of Interior Design from the University of Manitoba. Hewko’s family moved frequently between central and western Canada. This experience led Hewko to investigate and create art that explores the mutable and constructed nature of personal memories, using a collection of family photographs as a point of departure. Natasha van Netten was born in Vancouver, Canada. After graduating high school van Netten volunteered as crew on a 100-foot sailing vessel in the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea for two years. These experiences at sea influenced her art practice and informed her work. Van Netten intends to continue her practice which revolves around the many species of whales on this planet. Judith Reed was born in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her formal art training began after retirement from her first career when she began studying at VISA. She also studied at the Arts Post College of Art in Hamilton, New Zealand. Reed works in a process-based manner using pouring, drawing and layering as a way to evoke landscape memories from her childhood. Nicola Rendell grew up in a small village in the southwest of England, an area where ancient history remains part of the lived landscape. Her early education at a Catholic convent school immersed her in tradition and ritual, and launched her subsequent passion for art. Rendell intends to pursue her investigation of the ways historical patterns can be used as metaphors imbued with cultural significance.

Acknowledgements We would like to thank and acknowledge the following people for their support: The Diploma of Fine Arts students: Ann Connelly, Joanne Hewko, Natasha van Netten, Judith Reed and Nicky Rendell for their dedication and commitment towards producing a strong and personal body of work and excellent artist statements. The Independent Studio Students: Celine Berry and Jane Francis for their ongoing studio support and encouragement. Denise Dowdy, JoAnne Kahan, Natasha van Netten and Jennifer Wilson for the essays in this catalogue. The Curatorial Committee for their dedication and care in installing the Threshold exhibition: Karima Heredia, Karen Jones, JoAnne Kahan, Natasha van Netten and Jennifer Wilson. Mentors Barrie Szekely who worked with Ann Connelly, and Nicola Rendell; Wendy Welch who worked Joanne Hewko, Natasha van Netten and Judith Reed; and Xane St Phillip and Barrie Szekely who were the adjudicators. Melissa Gignac, our magnificent office manager, who works tirelessly to make sure all things related to the Vancouver Island School of Art and the Slide Room Gallery are organized and have the best outcomes possible. And all the community supporters, volunteers, faculty and students who make the Vancouver Island School of Art and Slide Room Gallery an important part of the Victoria community. Photo credits: The diploma graduates provided their own photodocumentation of their work.

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