Friday, March 29, 2013

Precarious Circumstance reviewed by Jillian Player

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Shutting the loud, bustling street outside, I close the door to the gallery and feel like I've entered a womb-like environment shaded in the quiet, muted tones of grey. Or, maybe because there is no colour, it's more brain-like. I walk through thoughts of life, death, and children, all flowing through the synapses of paper winding through this capsule. Inside the gallery it is like a shrine to paper. Large scale charcoal and conte drawings on paper and loosely cut paper mobiles fill the space.

Joanne Hewko's large charcoal drawings in the entrance hold you there as your body starts to sway like a pendulum with the weight of the drawings subjects. They say, “I'm in mourning.” Here lies anger and sadness, yet there are glimmers of hope, and an effervescent bubbling-up of emergence and optimism. Each drawing, an average of 30x48 inches, have a portrait-like subject in the centre, some are split horizontally like landscapes, but all have the duality of heaviness and it's opposition: lightness. The objects in the drawings seem to be in motion, either swaying or floating. They hover, waiting for someone to make a decision where they should go. One can see the artist's hand in this work. Hewko has infused her emotions by rubbing, stroking, and grinding the pigment into the paper like some pagan spell-maker casting out her subconscious desire.

Entering the main cavity of the gallery is Cowen's work. (I say that literally) It gently breezes past you like you're swimming through a white paper kelp forest. These hand-cut paper mobiles drift through the space like hanging tendrils of thoughts. Just like Hewko, one can see the artist’s hand here. Cowen has spent many hours meticulously hand-cutting these tendrils of loops upon loops. They remind me of childhood paper cuttings of snowflake patterns, or paper people that are all joined together, one after the other. I try to look at each one individually to acknowledge their uniqueness. I also observe them as a group, to focus upon Cowen's design attempts, and to respond to the idea of “multitude” and its effects on me. I ask Sarah why she has strictly kept to the theme of loops. She answers that she wants the discipline of sticking to one thing. This repetitive, work-by-hand discipline is what keeps her present, it reminds her that she is alive. Both artists' work would fit naturally in the genre of the “Art of Labour.” That is really what this work is about: two women toiling to relieve the pressures of life. That is probably why the work seems embryonic and cerebral at the same time. Joanne said she tends to live in the future and Sarah said she lives in the past. In this body of work they have met in the middle, the present.

Sarah is still building her installation, strand by strand, but hopes to be finished by the closing reception of April 6th.

Precarious Circumstance - Artists Sarah Cowan and Joanne Hewko can be seen at Gallery 1580. - 1580 Cook St. Victoria, BC. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5pm.

1 comment:

  1. Pretty sensitive review of a most subtle way of making Art,
    like the one that artist Sarah Cowan is doing and has done at this installation.

    Also the art contribution of Joanne Hewko is a rather sensorial, being there, moody yet very effective work to judge from the author's review of her work, making you feel that you are there, walking among the large charcoal drawings.

    Great work, Jillian!