Union Gallery

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off-site projects

Union Gallery Bookshelf Selection Project

September 9 - October 12, 2016 | Curated by Teresa Carlesimo
Located just outside the gallery - stop by any time of the day

Responding to the Union Gallery's fall exhibition, the Bookshelf Project has been curated to explore themes that resonate with artist Emily Jan's installation After the Hunt. Inspired by the discord between science and myth, history and current affairs, After the Hunt borrows from the language of 17th century Dutch still life painting to create a life­size tableau which explores the culturally produced and historically specific division between humanity and the rest of nature.

The banquette scenes in Dutch still life painting portray the wealth and abundance of the time, often depicting extravagances such as imported flowers and fruit, or silver and porcelain. Yet these paintings, which seem to only celebrate the pleasures of the flesh, are not without a moralistic message. Many of these paintings, much like Jan's After the Hunt, include sombre symbols such as broken bread, capsized drinking glasses, or (less subtly) human skulls, to signify the brevity of life and presence of death.

As the Golden Age of Dutch painting is known for it's "embarrassment of riches," Jan's work could be seen as sharply commenting on our own era, where the consequences of decades of mass-production and hyper­consumption have begun to impact the Earth's biosphere. Within a painting, the experience of nature is suspended in time; freshly slaughtered animals and fruit never rot, and flowers never wilt. The paradigm of value that forms the foundation of this wealth is flattened, while the broader social context and impact is continually overlooked.

Together, this selection of books demonstrates the myriad ways in which contemporary Canadian artists are grappling with the passage of time, notions of value and looming environmental concerns. Water and land arise as recurring themes, often as abstractions, as do commercialism and notions of ‘the good life.’ While Jan’s work speaks to the impact of global trade and colonial violence, it does so through reflecting on the everyday, on modes of consumption and excess. The artists in these pages look to divergent experiences of the everyday, while invoking a consideration of different ways of understanding and interacting with the world around us.

Teresa Carlesimo is Curatorial Assistant at the Union Gallery and a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at Queen's University.