Three contemporary exhibitions make a good impression
by Pan Wendt
The Confederation Centre Art Gallery is offering three very contemporary, and very strong exhibitions in its main galleries this summer, as well as an interesting selection of Centre memorabilia selected by Kevin Rice, downstairs.
The large west galleries are featuring one combined show, adjunct curator Andrew Hunter’s To a Watery Grave. Hunter has pieced together a variety of objects ranging from 19th century paintings (yes, there’s a Robert Harris or two in there somewhere) to photographs of burial sites, culled from collections across the country or produced by Hunter himself. All of the objects relate to the theme of death at sea, and to the stories such deaths have produced. Hunter finds that even the most humble objects carry powerful, if half-forgotten stories, and the juxtapositions in his exhibition show how these narratives can be refracted over time by the many ways they are represented. The dependable solidity of gravestones, to take an example, is shown, in fact, to buttress a mixture of fact and fiction. To a Watery Grave is convincing and compelling, and it's made even stronger by the presence of Edward Burtynsky’s powerful large-scale photographs of giant beached ships being broken down for scrap metal in contemporary Bangladesh.
Littoral Documents, curated by Shauna McCabe, is a consideration of the shifting nature of the shoreline landscape and how it is represented (and reshaped), visually and textually. The show features the work of artists David Askevold, Sara Graham and Doug Lewis, interwoven with shoreline maps, charts and diagrams produced by Canada’s Department of Public Works. All of these works deal with the shore of Prince Edward Island itself, from Askevold’s mosaic of photographs of Prince Edward Island’s coastal landscape to Sara Graham’s witty take on attempts to control and conceptualize the shifting sands of the Island’s edge. Combined with a beautiful catalogue that features the writing of artist-cum-Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, Hermenegilde Chiasson, this exhibition is a worthy complement to the more melodramatic sea stories featured on the other side of the gallery.
Beauty Queens, co-curated by Shauna McCabe, is a selection of contemporary works by island-based artists. “Island-based” refers here to a number of islands, and not just “the Island.” This exhibition features works by artists from Ireland, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Hawaii, Vancouver Island and Trinidad. The show is a cooperation between three galleries, including the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and the Confederation Centre. While the works are only loosely connected by a relatively low-key theme, individually there are many wonderful surprises, including Kings County artist Gerald Beaulieu’s entry, and Jim Hansen’s drily humorous “detective” photographs, among many other strong pieces. Overall, another great summer for contemporary art at the Centre.