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Jaclyn Conley, "Untitled (Rosegarden)," oil on canvas, 2008, 48" X 60".
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"Key to the Nuthouse"
Jennifer Chernecki, "Key to the Nuthouse," oil on canvas, 24” X 36”.
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Kathryn Dingwall, "Chris," oil on canvas, 60” X 48”.
Elliot Louis Gallery, Vancouver
August 19 to September 6, 2008
By Beverly Cramp
Curated by Lynn Ruschneinsky, who teaches at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design and Langara College, Elliot Louis Gallery’s fourth annual show of emerging artists included painting, sculpture, and photo-based work by 16 artists from across Canada and from New York. Ruschneinsky effectively made several mini-exhibition areas in the gallery’s large white space by forming a moveable wall into an X-shape in the middle of the gallery, creating places to experience the work more intimately.
At the entrance, an ethereal oil painting by Jaclyn Conley is called Untitled (Rosegarden). It’s a portrait of a person floating head-first out of the canvas. We can’t see what’s supporting the body, positioned as if in a coffin, surrounded by abstract flowers. A lamp sheds golden light in the upper right corner, but the bright spot of light in the middle of the painting is slanting in from the left, illuminating a mesh fence painted in great detail. Is the person sleeping or dead? Are we indoors or outside? The portrait doesn’t give easy answers, but draws the viewer in with its depictions of multi-layered consciousness.
Other portraits in the show include Kathryn Dingwall’s large-scale oils, Dylan McHugh’s masculine subjects spray-painted on vellum and beautifully framed, and photo-based works by Josan Pinon, who moves away from his staged photographs for this show, creating candid snapshots of strangers on subways. One of Pinon’s subjects flashes a grouchy look with a hint of fear, while another appears to give a half smile, though the enigmatic glance could also be a sneer. Pinon’s photos can be interpreted any number of ways.
Jennifer Chernecki’s oil paintings have a psychedelic tone. Her combination of Beatrix Potter sensibility and surrealism could be dismissed, except that its incredible detail and humour prove to be thoughtful. In Key to the Nuthouse, we see a young woman holding a squirrel with a key in its paws pointed at a toy house resting on tree boughs. Nuts piled high can be seen through the tiny windows of the toy house. But there are other tiny human and natural objects hidden in the house, and the tree foliage as well, drawing interest in the details.
Megan Carroll created elegant groupings of thin ceramic sculptures from porcelain paper. Titled the i>Nesting Series and edged with gold lustre, Carroll’s works look like fragile broken egg shells nesting four deep inside one another. Elizabeth Burritt is also working in ceramics, but with far different results. Her In(ter)sect Series of insect-like creatures are sweetly whimsical, though they’re pinned to a platform, mounted for scientific research.
Though the show is a mix of style, technique and medium, Ruschneinsky has introduced us to fresh talent, and has identified a group of artists on their way to the next level.