Yukon News

A new exhibition examines the rituals that rule our lives

Pierre Chauvin Wednesday January 11, 2017

Joel Krahn/Yukon News

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Michel Gignac’s installation piece, Window, stands at the front of “Rite de Passage” at Arts Underground in Whitehorse.

Rituals, traditions and customs govern much of our lives, sometimes unbeknownst to us.

That’s what five Yukon artists set out to explore through paintings, collages and mixed media art at Arts Underground’s latest exhibition, “Rite de Passage.”

“The theme came about because of the fact we need to have a sense of stability in our lives,” said Virginie Hamel, who organized the exhibition and contributed to it.

Political instability, violence, and natural catastrophes force people to seek refuge in those rituals, which are comforting because of their regular occurrence.

Because there are so many rituals, Hamel took the opposite approach and explored what isn’t considered a ritual in our lives.

“All our daily lives are governed by rituals,” she said. “The slightest movement is guided by codes.”

Some date back to so long ago they’re almost impossible to decipher, she said.

With her series of nine collages, she guides the viewer through her own reflection. Hamel constructs her collages using vintage magazines and creates vivid contrasts with the canvases she used.

In one of the collages, a horse drinks out of a teacup inside a forest, in a surrealist rendition of daily life that recalls the work of Belgian painter Rene Magritte.

The five artists each took different avenues and techniques to reflect on the theme.

Marie-Helene Comeau/Yukon News

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Marie-Helene Comeau’s “Travel in a virtual world.”

When entering the gallery, the audience can’t miss the door standing in the middle of the room that looks like it survived an RCMP drug bust.

The artist, Michel Gignac, took a hammer to the door, leaving a sizable hole before covering it with polyester and tape. Pieces of wood from the door are scattered around, forcing the public to tiptoe around them.

Gignac told the News he focused on the idea of cognitive dissonance when thinking about rites of passage.

“It’s an imbalance of thoughts,” he said, “having two beliefs that contrast to each other.

“There is a conflict that occurs there.”

He explained that when looking at rites of passage, like a boy entering adulthood, he used the door as a literal representation of that passage.

As curiosity to what’s behind the door grows, so does the hole in the door.

“(It’s) this idea of someone entertaining the thought and letting it go too far and not being able to get back to their initial singular thought,” Gignac said.

“Once those two (thoughts) have entered into consciousness you’re left to figure it out: you have to do some soul-searching.”

The decision is between remaining behind the threshold or going through the door.

Beyond Gignac’s half-destroyed door is Marie-Helene Comeau’s installation, an acrylic painting depicting a traveller entangled in computer wires. A white suitcase with a phone on top of it sits in front of the painting.

“There is a greater space for reflection with the viewer,” Comeau said, about the pairing of physical objects with her paintings. “It’s almost like there is a physical relation.”

Her installation explores the almost compulsory use of smartphones and computers when travelling, a technological rite of passage she had to adapt to.

“We feel like we’re travelling through the screen of our computer,” she said.

“But actually it’s light years away from the physical experience.”

Comeau experienced this herself when she went to Madagascar a couple of months ago for an art workshop.

“When I got there it didn’t match at all with what I saw (on the internet),” she said.

The exhibition also features a painting by Josée Jacques and a video installation by Lea-Ann McNally looking at common events considered rituals in our modern lives.

Rite de Passage runs until Jan. 31 at Arts Underground. For more information, visit artsunderground.ca.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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