by Jane Arnold
Network is the title of the new exhibit currently on display at in.sight Gallery in Sydney Mines. This communications inspired exhibit officially kicks off in.sight’s third season as Cape Breton’s only artist-run art gallery. Network is an exhibit inspired by the transition from the Island’s industrial economy to one that has become more telecommunications based, as seen with the explosion of call centres in Cape Breton.
As a rookie in the local art scene, I found this to be a wonderful introduction to eight accomplished and established artists. Collectively the artists in the show have been creating for decades and have exhibited all over the province and beyond. Featured in this exhibit are Nancy Chiasson, Onni Nordman, Morgan Hanam, Catherine Moir, David Tuck, Anne Latour, Kathleen Bunin, and Sharon Trueman. Although the show is fairly small in terms of numbers of works, it is filled with an eclectic mix of pieces including mixed media collages, acrylic on canvas, and monotype print.
Each artist addressed the topic of the exhibit differently, but at times certain themes did overlap. Onni Nordman and David Tuck both utilize light bulbs in their pieces to comment on communication mediums. Nordman’s work A Board of Lonesome and Quarrelsome Heroes is acrylic on holographic paper. The paper is actually Christmas wrap covered with multi-coloured light bulbs. Painted on this substrate is the image of the MacDonald Highland Lassie from the Export ‘A’ cigarette pack. An unusual pairing, but Nordman feels that cigarettes talk in certain societies where exchange of goods speaks volumes, such as in the army or jail. The holographic paper was inspired by the Canadian heritage short depicting Marshall MacLuhan speaking about light bulbs as an information source. This idea is also explored in Tuck’s piece Hub of Cape Breton Network where multi-coloured lights are embedded into an abstract teakettle. The artist associates the bulbs with signals used daily in the transportation industry. Trains, planes and automobiles use light signals all over the world.
Catherine Moir’s piece 3 in 1, is an acrylic on canvas painting of three Catholic churches from separate communities in Cape Breton. The artist feels that going to church is an important and “low tech” way of networking in a community, and has the ability to connect people around the world. Religion as a mode of communication is also found in Kathleen Bunin’s biblically inspired piece From Thee to We. This monotype print, which is printed backwards on a flat surface, has been cut into multiple pieces and then framed. The words are cut up piecemeal so that it is difficult to read the entire message, but attempting to understand begins the communicative process.
A few artists indicated that for the pieces in this exhibit, they weren’t working in their usual mediums. Nancy Chiasson refers to her piece Spin as experimental. It is a classic, translucent, red-coloured record, which she has gilded on one side. Words have been etched into the gold leaf and the record does actually spin. Morgan Hanam who usually paints in oils, has used black plastic and metal office clips for his piece, Clip Art. These usually hold memos, drawings, and other papers in his office environment – but in this context they hold each other. To me the piece resembles a human spinal cord, which is the ultimate communication device!
Anne Latour has created a mixed media collage titled Perception. It is full of landscapes with the childhood Dick and Jane mantras placed within the piece. It demands that you “look” and “see”, causing you to pause and examine the work further. One of my favourite pieces appears as a non-descript black and white document done by Sharon Trueman. She chose to literally communicate with the network of artists exhibiting at this show. The conversations are transcribed into her work titled Speak Your Piece. Although the work is difficult to access, I urge visitors to take their time and read these conversations. It sheds light and understanding onto the pieces in the exhibit, and is a thoughtful and funny look at what some consider the mysterious creative process of the artist.
Ironically, the same day that I attended the exhibit opening, the Nova Scotia Arts Council’s doors were closed by the Province. As artists try to raise awareness about communication and the importance of networks, one of their most important avenues for funding has been taken away from them. Artists and art galleries need public support now more than ever.
You only have until April 26 to view Networks at in.sight gallery, located on Main Street in Sydney Mines. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday from 12:00 to 5pm.