by Anastasia Hare, Communications & Development Manager
Station Gallery’s exhibition Between Latitudes is not only delightfully rich in colour and pattern, it’s also rich in meaning. History and metaphor underlie the featured works that span Sri Lankan born, Canadian artist Frances Ferdinands’ artistic production over the last ten years, reflecting both personal and cultural ideas in a variety of media, from painting and mixed media works to sculptural installation.
Twenty-six pairs of flip-flop sandals tread the gallery wall, representative of the years of Sri Lankan civil war; and each intricately painted in floral motifs inspired by the designs found in temples that Frances visited during her recent stay in the country. Displayed across from this commemorative piece are masks which Frances carved while studying from artisan masters in traditional Sri Lankan fine art.
Passing through the dim-lit historic station feels dream-like as I weave through more than a hundred illuminated embroidery hoops suspended from beaded and bejewelled strands, inspired by the Buddhist mala. The discs in this installation sway and spin as I walk by them and get closer to read the mantras that encircle their unique painted and appliquéd designs, from floral and crochet to sequins. Frances explains that these “are reflections on dualities of life – the mundane and mystical, hope and despair. The hoops serve also to focus on the qualities of the handmade, a way of knowing the world, which can only be gained through working with our hands.” Transient sounds also fill the gallery with familiar and unfamiliar ringings and whispers, yet the space is tranquil, and at the same time, charged with visual and aural charm.
In the next gallery space hang a grid of paintings that have a museum-like presentation, depicting an image against a white ground and including corresponding identification. Here Frances depicts grenades that mimic perfume atomizers, each also
referencing a trade item in Sri Lankan history, such as cinnamon and tea. On the opposite wall are a row of intricately painted
stupas, dome shaped Buddhist shrines. Together with these works, the adjacent abstract painting that once read as a bold floral burst of colour now feels like it could reference another sort of burst and regeneration.
Illustrating the breadth of the artists’ practice, the exhibition also includes Frances’ early and recent works that are more personal in focus, reflecting on her feelings of hybrid identity and memories of wanting to ‘fit in’. The early works are abstract and almost quilt-like in their composition, integrating found objects and imagery; while in the latest series, Frances’ colourful floral patterning takes new form in surreal-like landscapes populated by whimsical vegetation. Beyond visual delight, viewing Frances’ artwork becomes an opportunity for learning and reflection on our own personal and cultural histories and identities, offering much to contemplate and discover.