By STUDY28|Violette Stepaniuk
While viewing contemporary art I often wonder “Why is this art?” It must be my left brain challenging my right brain for clear and meaningful answers, so elusive when it comes to art. This question popped up again in response to Neera Huckvale’s Fragments in Time, an exhibition of silk wall hangings at the Trinity Art Gallery.
I was on my way to a different exhibition when I stumbled upon Huckvale’s show. Her unusual palette and the simplicity of her work struck me at first glance. Based on my limited exposure to the medium, I expected textile art to be intricate and colourful, but what I saw at the gallery was nothing like that: black and white cutouts of human silhouettes and other simple shapes, as well as pieces of veil, stitched or glued onto large rectangular white silk “canvases,” with ample empty space between the figures. With exception of two more elaborate works, Huckvale’s collages seemed rather simple.
“Seemed,” however, is the operative word here because after just a little while, it was clear to me that a lot of thought, creativity and emotion went into each arrangement and the collection as a whole. I understood why this is art. I was in the middle of an experience, as subtle and as gentle as the delicate silk and veil used to create it, and as rich and thoughtful as the emotions and messages captured in the images surrounding me.
In the exhibition’s guest book someone wrote, “I am finding it very emotional.” So did I. I was near tears looking at There Is No There, a work depicting a dolphin or a whale or maybe a large fish, created out of veil, with a silhouette of a woman’s upper body with her head cast down marking the animal’s tearful eye, a melding of animal and human pain and grief.
Using organza to depict this animal was a perfect choice. The soft, delicate fabric helps evoke the gentle nature of a dolphin or a whale, and speaks to the fragility of life and nature, and to our own emotions. Dark veil can also suggest mourning – is that what the artist is implying?
Beckoning – Who Calls? is another work that really touched me. Two black silhouettes, a man and a woman, I believe, on the opposite edges of the picture, with a huge divide between them. I found this separation so powerful that it took a second visit to the exhibition for me to notice that there are actually other figures in the picture, possibly keeping apart the two people – Lovers? Friends? People who want to be lovers or friends but can’t find a way to each other? Strangers who are too distracted, too preoccupied to notice each other?
Another visitor’s note said, “Thank you for taking us on such a reflective, challenging and engaging journey.” I fully agree, and add that although all art needs to be seen in person and experienced, some works and exhibitions, including Fragments in Time, lose more in translation than others. You just have to be there.
where all verges on emptiness
breaking open a necessary anarchy
shapes of hope, steps of loss
beckoning – who calls?
illusions, delusions and dreams
fragments in time *
Like simple line drawings that can express and evoke deep emotions, these textile sketches of fragments in time project feelings, thoughts, suggestions, stories, and questions. Like holograms, they reach out with all the energy embedded in them. The simplicity of their visual language only intensifies this experience.
Neera Huckvale created not just thoughtful, meaningful and moving pieces of art but an experience that affected me deeply and continues to haunt me, in a good way. What’s more, like Janie Julien-Fort’s Révélations anticipées exhibition, Fragments in Time raised my appreciation of art and my expectations of what I wish to experience through art. I am definitely all the better for it.
Fragments in Time is on display at the Trinity Art Gallery, Salon B, Shenkman Arts Centre, until September 22.
*(Borrowed Lines) by Violette Stepaniuk