A Practice in Gestures
Farheen HaQ, Drinking from my mother's saucer, 2015, video still. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

A Practice in Gestures

Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC - Sep 10 - Nov 7

by Michael Turner

The emergence of performance art in the 20th century has contributed greatly to contemporary art discourse. Just as painting has carried much of the language used to talk about art and art practice, performance has given us descriptors for actions that precede those required to make a painting. After all, behind every brush “mark” made on a canvas is a hand “gesture” signalled directly from the brain. Many of the gestures we make over the course of our day are done absently. For curator Nan Capogna, gesture is more than a point of departure.

This six-artist group exhibition features work in a range of materials – beads, embroidery threads, clay and more – that are often associated with repetitive gestures and the ostensible banality of domestic space. For some of the artists in the show, these gestures are preceded by a desire to both physically engage in such gestures and, once engaged, to meditate on past experiences and future possibilities; for others, the physical and mental can align to produce artworks focused on personal trauma, colonization and environmental degradation.

Farheen HaQ’s video Drinking from my mother’s saucer (2015) looks at trauma through ancestral history, the subjugation of Indigenous peoples and her complicity in the colonial state. Deborah Koenker presents embroideries from her Hanging by a Thread (2002-) series. Anishinaabe bead artist Bev Koski debuts are you still watching? (2021), a text work derived from our COVID-induced stay-at-home habits. Mitra Mahmoodi stages a series of clay pitchers that draw on contradictions from the world of antiquity. Bettina Matzkuhn’s contribution includes SOS (2018-19), composed of seven embroidered life jackets. And in an e ort to show how carefully we must tread these days, Barbara Zeigler gives us Totally Cracked (2021), a floor work made up of eggshells and river rock.


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