Through Thick and Thistle
Modern Fuel’s 14th Annual Regional Juried Members’ Exhibition, titled Through Thick and Thistle, will be presented at Modern Fuel from June 23rd to August 3rd. An opening reception with the artists and curator in attendance will be held on June 23, 2012 at 7pm.
Works by the ten artists in this year’s exhibition, Mark Birksted, Shayne Dark, Andrea Graham, Daniel Hughes, JoAnn Ralph, Matt Rogalsky, Joan Scaglione, Heather Smith, Anna Soper and Laurie Sponagle, reflect the excellence of the wide-ranging practices of artists in the region, including sculpture, photography, painting, drawing, video, and sound art. This year’s guest curator, Rhiannon Vogl, has selected works in accordance with Modern Fuel’s mandate to support contemporary Canadian art practices that are innovative, experimental, and from diverse communities.
See images of exhibition here
Rhiannon Vogl is currently Curatorial Assistant, Contemporary Art at the National Gallery of Canada (NGC). She received her Master of Arts in Art History from Carleton University, Ottawa in 2007. Her writing has appeared in several catalogues produced by the NGC, most recently Arnaud Maggs: Identification (2012); It is what it is: recent acquisitions of new Canadian art (2010); and Nomads (2009). She has also written for, amongst other publications, Border Crossings, Canadian Art, Paroles Gelées: UCLA French Studies Journal, Dharma Arts Online, Vernissage Magazine, and The Ottawa Xpress. She has curated exhibitions at the National Gallery and at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, has sat on the Board of Directors at galerie SAW gallery, and has presented her research internationally at conferences in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Kingston, Ontario.
Through Thick and Thistle
Text by Rhiannon Vogl
“No one knows what causes an outer landscape to become an inner one.”
– Margaret Atwood
The title, Through Thick and Thistle, evokes a sense of journey, of excursion, of brambling through the underbrush in search of new encounters or discoveries. Emblematic of the way a curator must approach a group show of this kind - as an opportunity to discover new links between the diverse practices of artists who, until this point, may not have had their work considered in the same context with one another – this alliterative turn of phrase also alludes to the ways each work selected for the exhibition addresses – in one way or another - the complex relationship between human beings and the natural realm. Infusing the traditional landscape genre with a sense of contemporaneity through their treatment of materials, their environmentalist message or their juxtaposition of the idyllic with the imperfect, the ten artists presented here depict nature as something that is simultaneously strong and pristine yet delicate and fleeting, and offer various meditations on the vulnerability of our place within it.
Heather Smith’s The Woods Behind My House acts as a starting point for the exhibition. As both a depiction of an exterior landscape – quite literally the forest behind her childhood home – and an interior mindscape – a place to lose oneself in daydreams and memories – her installation draws us into this knotted thicket, suggesting it as a place of mystery and wonder.
Mark Birksted’s Tangle bursts like burning brush as though from within Smith’s woodland, its metallic boughs casting a web of flickering flames across the wall while Shayne Dark’s Twists coil and contort like fallen logs, sliced through by a polished, metallic blade. Exploiting the sculptural potentialities of his raw materials, Dark coaxes wood and steel into telluric bodies that contort on the ground.
Andrea Graham’s Ghost Trees – mutated and felted trunks that drip, roots exposed, from the ceiling – act paradoxically as metaphors for the organic process of growth and decay as well as the abnormal deviations forced upon nature by our careless treatment of the environment. The intimacy of Laurie Sponagle’s vista belies the ominous mood she has too created through shadow and shade and Anna Soper’s ambiguous, if not esoteric, photographs recall a set of other-worldy terrains, depicting vast seas, rivers and other brooding topographies yet to be explored.
JoAnn Ralph has translated her experience of the land into schematic graphics that can be read at once as microscopic, code-like mappings and omnipresent visions of the world as seen from above while, in an ironic reversal of form and function, Matt Rogalsky’s installation Trio emits an eerie arrangement of sound that conflates technological and natural resonances. Recalling the sensation of a persistent tinnitus, his soundtrack also uncannily resembles an orchestra of crickets that has taken over the gallery space.
The chaos of these collapsing landscapes is tempered by the absorbed, contemplative stillness captured by Daniel Hughes in his subject Sita, and by the meditative, flowing movements of the swimmer in Joan Scaglione’s hypnotic video projection. Here, the figure represents the vulnerability inherent in our relationship to the natural world, reminding us of the fundamental elements that link life together.
Laced with a sense of anxiety, but also a profound sense of hope, the works in Through Thick and Thistle evoke tensions between real places and psychic spaces, memory and materiality, instability and order and are poignant reflections of our desire to define our position within the world.