Sinkholes, Voids and Other Lapses

Jenna Faye Powell and Amy Alice Thompson
August 18, 2016 to September 22, 2016

Jenna Faye Powell is from London ON. Her beautiful and playful drawings and paintings present smooth rounded out voids in the earth: x-ray visions of what lie beneath the surface, revealing to us the sinkholes’ topography and geology. In works like Tubular ll and I’m Okay ll,  layers of earth are stylized in warm and golden hues reminiscent of old and fading photographs, and fill us with a warm nostalgic feeling. Nothing threatening here, just lovely and quirky depictions of the earth rounded out and sliced and diced to show us what’s inside.  But in other works the sinkholes are done on black paper, appearing as a night scene and things take on a slightly more ominous and gloomy tone. In Slip l  a road is suddenly interrupted by a gaping hole that while still rendered in “friendly tones” is nonetheless disconcerting when confronted with the thought of driving into such a hole. In I’m Okay lll  we see a sinkhole appearing to collapse before our eyes. Road barriers and crumbling asphalt are all a jagged jumble floating in a sea of black depicting the potential violence of the event. In another pair of works, Quagmire lll and Rainbow Road, all recognizable signs have disappeared and only strata of earth remain, swirling down into a vortex, taking us with it deep beneath the surface. Powell says in her artist statement that she uses the imagery of sinkholes "as metaphors for the unpredictability of contemporary living – the idea that the ground may literally give way under your feet."

Amy Alice Thompson is from Ottawa ON. She collages historical American western photo landscapes with diverse material, sometimes turning them into sculpture and opening spaces for the imagination. The collectable photos she uses in her work, taken from the See Your West commemorative albums from the 40’s, given out at gas stations throughout North America depict many of America’s national monuments and national parks in an idealized way. Golden tones and bucolic scenes are saturated in a pastoral peacefulness. But the reading of the images are interrupted by large voids, taking the form of geometric shapes removed from the centre of each picture. Thompson has also covered aspects of these geometric shapes with gold leaf giving many a three dimensional appearance completely at odds with the two dimensional depictions of idealized nature. In her artist statement she says of the geometric voids "The shapes of the voids—pyramids, cubes, and spheres—serve as a visual cue to help shift the consciousness of the viewer, drawing them in and allowing them to meditate on what is and is not missing...The use of gold leaf within the geometric voids symbolizes the wealth and power associated with resource extraction and the resulting desecration of these lands."

Both artists use metaphor to navigate a line between the beautiful and the abject, between satisfaction and discontentment and between peacefulness and anxiety. At times playful, and at other times serious and probing, they consider both our collective behaviours in regard to the path we trod upon the surface of our world as well as our emotional responses to what may lie beneath it, even while knowing what that could be lies just out of our reach.