Wednesday 19 August 2015

"Far From Ordinary" by Emily Andrews at NAC

 The latest show at NAC, August 8 to 21, 2015 has been put on by Emily Andrews. If I may quote from her artist's statement, she wishes it to be known that she is "a Niagara Falls based visual artist, actress and musician who has been involved in various artistic projects in the community over the past six years. A graduate of Brock University with a B.A. in Visual Arts, Andrews was one of the artists in residence chosen by the Ontario Trillium Foundation in 2012 and was last year's recipient of the Allister Young Arts and Culture Endowment Fund."

This show's full title is "Far From Ordinary: A Series of Dreamscapes Made with Very Precise Slices." It is Andrews' second solo exhibition and "includes a collection of Surrealistic scenes in the form of hand-cut photo collages. The intricately crafted pieces explore a whole new level of phantasmagoria that balances on the line of reality and imagination."

At this point, I go on with my own perceptions. The picture by Emily Andrews with which I am most familiar is also called "Far From Ordinary" and first appeared in her earlier solo shows. She makes and sells prints of her collages as well as showing and selling the originals and I bought a fairly large print of this picture and have it hanging in my house. It is based on a couple of the Tenniel illustrations to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and I am always a pushover for anything to do with Alice.  The Alice books were the first two books I read as a child and they made a deep impression on me.  I am sure I must have dreamed and fantasized about them.  The picture "Far From Ordinary" presents the viewer with such a dream or fantasy.

In the front to the left, we see a startled Alice growing unexpectedly tall.  To the back of the picture we see a quite untroubled Alice, unperturbed by the vagaries of her existence, standing with her back to us and looking into a window fitted with impossibly large stars.  Or are they snowflakes?  Both interpretations are possible and in a dream you don't have to choose.  Various animals lurking around -- a dog, an owl and one and a half llamas -- do not owe their provenance to the Alice books but that need not disturb us.  Doubtless they have their own dream reasons for being there.  However the Cheshire Cat is also there, grinning from a large mirror to the left of the frontal Alice.  Also to her left is a large clock which suggests that Time itself, having stopped, as in the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, has entered the dream.  The only difference is that it is not teatime but may be one of the early hours of the morning when one is likely to be asleep.  The background to all this is a well-appointed Victorian living room waiting for well-heeled residents to relax with a glass of sherry.  The title of the picture is spelled out in acrobatic script above the window and all seems quite lucid and matter of fact, with one exception.  A cupboard in the background seems to contain a brightly coloured modern abstract painting.  Is this an intrusion from the workaday world?

I have described this picture in detail as it is fully representative, but there are twelve pictures in all, quite different and intricately detailed.  Perhaps I should mention a few others that caught my eye.  One is another Alice picture showing the White Rabbit running up a flight of stars while consulting his watch and exclaiming, "Mary Ann!  Fetch me my gloves this moment!"  Below him is a rather lackadaisical young woman propped on a couch, again in well-appointed surroundings.  She obviously has no intention of fetching his gloves or paying him any attention whatever.  The picture reproduced on the invitation and which may therefore by supposed to be a favourite of the artist, shows a marina in the foreground with a series of bathing beauties and a dog all packed into may equally well be canoes or coffins.  Since the title of the picture is "Celestial Paradise," either interpretation might fit.  But the most striking and even majestic picture is "The Butterflies of Versailles."  This shows a gallery in Versailles with lit candelabra, a beautiful black girl in a fancy dress, a flying gull, a dog, the back end of a donkey and a much smaller cat chasing a mouse.  Gorgeous large golden butterflies are scattered all over.

Andrews' framed collages are not unduly expensive but she also offers them as much cheaper prints, even on T-shirts.  Altogether a very rewarding show with something for everybody and everybody's wallet.

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