when people came out of the forest there was nothing
The title of this exhibition is derived from one of many first-hand accounts of World War II collected by Svetlana Alexievich in her book “The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II”. In researching experiences of the Great Patriotic War in Belarus, landscape is frequently alluded to in accounts and representations of traumatic, haunting experiences. As background and sometimes as foreground, the earth, sky, forests, bogs, rivers, roads, fields, snow, sunlight, darkness – are inextricable from battle, displacement, asylum, escape, devastation, death, fire, burial, blood. Land, as a semblance of mood and subjective experience, seems to have been at once ever-present, concrete, yet evasively withdrawn.
This work is informed by an introverted, acquired awareness of WWII as an indirect afterimage amassed from museums, stories, fictional literature, and cinema. The works in this exhibition are based on selections of landscape backgrounds from found photographic documentation of the Great Patriotic War in Belarus. They are close studies of low-resolution, black and white files, translated into an accumulation of marks, surface, and atmosphere. The found images document instances of historical events and their landscape backgrounds were not intended to be the focus; the selected fragments on which the drawings are based appear to be distant and incomplete.
The drawings are melancholic landscapes. They fixate on a persistent impression of a mood more so than a tangible, lived experience. Melancholy can be understood as a persistent and evasive sense of longing and loss, resisting complete comprehension and fixated on the inaccessible. This work is a continuation of my ongoing interest in overlapping themes of melancholy, materiality, and the tensions between content, image, and object.
The exhibition of this work at SB Contemporary Art was made possible with the support of Ontario Arts Council.