Ciara Phillips, Corin Looking, 2015, screenprint on linen. Purchase, Gallery Association Purchase Fund, 2017. Photo: Paul Litherland
By: Zelia Bukhari
If you take a stroll through the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre this season, prepare to be transported through different times and experience many emotions as you view their fall season show, featuring three new exhibits.
Treasures and Tales: Queen’s Early Collections
In honour of Queen’s 175th anniversary, Treasures and Tales: Queen’s Early Collections, is a coming-of-age exhibit that celebrates the University’s history.
Walking through the show, I felt ashamed I didn’t know more about the school I’ve called home for the past couple years. Historical pieces such as gifts given by prominent members of the Queen’s and Kingston community, Canadian art and photographs, and even a Queen’s pin designed by Tiffany and Co., were part of a collection of artifacts on display.
While I’ve always been proud to be a Queen’s student, I felt a closer connection to the school when delving into our history, seeing in front of me the little pieces left behind by others who called this campus home and the tangible evidence of the impact they left on our community. One of my favourites was a beaver top hat, preserved by Margaret Angus from the costume section of the Queen’s drama department back in 1941. Along with 2,500 other fashion items, this piece is a part of the Queen’s University Collection of Canadian Dress which Angus began to preserve fashion items from as early as the eighteenth century.
Ciara Phillips: Comrade Objects
Upon entering Ciara Phillips: Comrade Objects, I was immediately engaged by the story written by her pieces and embedded in the fabric of the show. The combination of blocks of colour, creative yet relatable slogans, eye-catching motifs and women-centric portrait pieces, all made for an interactive as well as investigative experience.
The layout of the exhibit is easy on the eyes as well as atmospherically calming through its minimalistic design. What stood out to me the most was Phillips’ new take on Workshop (2010 – ongoing). One room of the exhibit was transformed into a workspace with printers laying about, a cork board covered with written concepts and different images — the whole area rather appeared like an art class.
I quickly skipped over this room, thinking it was not an exhibit but rather a work in progress, or even a place for community members to come, learn and create. It wasn’t until I was on my way out, when I realized I could interact with the pieces. I found the minimalist design and lack of structure to be refreshing, while the raw exploration of the exhibit was stimulating. Ciara Phillips removes a person away from their current pressures, and instead involves them in a highly-energetic experience.
The Other NFB: The National Film Board of Canada’s Still Photography Division, 1941-1971
With my interest by now definitely peaked, I came across the final new fall exhibit and probably one of the most striking, The Other NFB: The National Film Board of Canada’s Still Photography Division, 1941-1971.
This series of photographs was emotionally moving and represents the ever-changing Canadian identity. To think that many of the photos were taken in places where I’ve been, but at a completely different time — socially, politically and artistically — made me think twice.
To be able to witness what the life of a woman my age was like at that time, in the same city in which I currently live in, is a humbling experience. The exhibit featured photos of women in the workforce during World War II, men in Toronto Jewish markets, families on vacation in Niagara Falls, the Sikh community in Vancouver, and a tattoo artist at his parlour. A lot of these photos were shot in their homes or during exposed moments that showed what the day-to-day life was for everyday people during the crucial period (40s, 50s and 60s) that shaped so much of our country.
The Canadian landscape was also beautifully captured through these pictures. My personal favourite was an image of a group of friends hanging out and casually painting on a beach, creating for themselves an image of this country that I, years later, saw again through a new lens.