Feature image: Russna Kaur original photo taken by Natasha Ponda
Written by Natasha Ponda
Kindred Tracings, a current group show at the Burnaby Art Gallery, attempts to fill the gaps of language by drawing them. Four contemporary artists reveal their personal pasts on the canvas, strengthening a connection to their ancestral lineage with vulnerable honesty. Through a variety of mediums, Muriel Ahmarani Jaouich, Minahil Bukhari, Russna Kaur and Michelle Sound unify deeply personal histories through the communicative tool of choice: art.
Muriel Ahmarani Jaouich
Muriel Ahmarani Jaouich’s work attempts to elicit empathy in her audience as we become witnesses to a personal history that is intimately private to Jaouich, a Canadian artist of Armenian, Egyptian and Lebanese descent. Her memories are threaded from oral history, photographic archives and bequeathed objects, to harness imagination that unfolds on the canvas.
From the messiness of trauma and past experience, memory is bent, embellished or dimmed through the accumulation of time. The recollection of memory, especially one of historical identity, has a nature of blurriness. This fogginess can be seen in Jaouich’s brush strokes and bleeding colours. Pockets of smeared grays nibbling into terracotta hues alongside a faded recall of interpretative hieroglyphic shapes convey signs of aging, and yet maintain a marked presence of ancestry and lingering heritage.
Minahil Bukhari’s work explores the disconnection that accompanies displacement. She manifests these intangible feelings into visualizations that represent the subconscious mind. To find one of Bukhari’s works, you must walk deeper through the show, where it hangs as a mobile at the back. As you move into the furthest room from the entrance door, it is like traveling into the back of the gallery’s mind. Housed in a circular room eliciting the roundness of the human skull, Bukhari’s mobile floats in the middle like suspended thoughts. It hangs in the air with multiple outstretched rods, mirroring synaptic neurons that carry memories or the ancestral connections traced by branches of a family tree.
Similar to Jaouich’s work, what appears like interpretations of linguistic symbols echo the sensation of faded memory. These “alphabetical letters” hang in isolation. The poetic gesture found in the mobile’s structure creates symbolic detachment, literally and figuratively. For the viewer, a sense of loneliness is evoked from the perspective of these isolated bodies. They are arms length away but unable to embrace each other to form a word or sentence. Though, there is a sense of comfort in viewing the mobile as a whole, as you trace the thread of the string back up to the rods where these symbols all connect eventually.
Russna Kaur and Michelle Sound
Without revealing everything, there is much to explore in the must-see works by Russna Kaur and Michelle Sound. The development of Kaur’s mark-making stories on the canvas are investigated with colour and layering of texture through paint. Her strokes reveal the nature of identity in flux. Identity is layered and influenced in varied ways and directions. This sense of varied influence is reflected in her placement of paint, with sometimes small amounts, large, thin, or sprawling. There is much to ponder at the mesmerizing flows of pattern and color as you move closer and farther away.
The undulating textures continue into Sound’s work. Sound fuses traditional materials to contemporary application to explore identity within the present while honoring the past. Her beadwork, threaded stitching, and hair tufting create warm emotions as these materials embrace historical documents, photographs, word translations and cultural objects. As one would mend a favorite sweater, Sound approaches works regarding kinship with the same love and affectionate attention to address post-contact histories as Cree and Métis.
Visit Kindred Tracings at the Burnaby Art Gallery (6344 Deer Lake Avenue) until January 21, 2024.
To easily plan the route for your next artistic outing, you can use the TransLink Trip Planner.