By Mike Keenan
On a beautiful sunny July afternoon, arriving at Brock University’s ornate Rodman Hall Art Centre, not far from the local train station, I encounter one of its summer programs for youth (ages 6-8 and 9-12) with busy children gathered about on the front lawn (amidst the sculpture garden), working on and proudly displaying their take on American artist, Jackson Pollock. On a summer day, what could be better for a child than throwing vivid paint on a canvass outside?
The attractive Centre replete with an inviting garden is often employed for weddings, and it facilitates talks here and at the Mahtay Café, featuring notable artists such as Canadian Janet Werner. I was part of a poet-artist exhibit and reading here a few years ago. Brock’s Fine Arts program also conducts classes here.
The current exhibit “Afterimage” runs to Aug. 2, followed by “Material Women” from Sept. 15 – Aug. 2. Marcy Bronfman curates “Afterimage” which features three artists ‒ John Noestheden, Reinhard Reitzenstein and Gayle Young.
An afterimage is a sensation, usually visual, that remains after the external stimulus ceases. The three artists explore perception and what resonates beyond experience, in fleeting moments in nature, the lifespan of a tree, or the timeline of the universe. Powerful stuff that emanates from unconscious depths. I immediately think of the iconic Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung who founded analytical psychology.
John Noestheden creates monochromatic paint objects by layering coats of acrylic paint mixed with what he describes as “stardust” – ground meteorite, lunar dust, ash, urban particulate, and pure elements such as carborundum and diamond dust. Stardust indeed! The objects’ richly-textured surfaces suggest agricultural seedbeds and constellations, and the pure hues imprint themselves on our retinas, revealing complementary colours that slowly fade.
Composer Gayle Young’s accompanying audio installation draws on the ambient sounds of an ecosystem on the Niagara Escarpment where old-growth cedars in a spring rainfall combine with sounds of the highway and the river below. From recordings, she extracts layers of pitch that characterize voice sounds, revealing a breath-like exchange between the human body and the world that we inhabit. Actually, I found these sounds to be somewhat weird.
Reinhard Reitzenstein observes and chronicles trees under siege. I enjoyed his fanciful exhibit the most. Displaced by architecture and manufacturing, trees adapt to environmental conditions, supported by mutual relationships within their ecological communities. I took home a souvenir cardboard cut-out of one of his “trees.” He exposed the trees roots, and applied a mixture of cerulean blue rust guard paint and turpentine to its trunk. The exposed roots resemble corporeal systems such as blood vessels or ligaments, while blue is reminiscent of surface veins.
The viewing area in Rodman is limited but the experience was fun, backed up by the children outside. And speaking of afterimage, outside, near the children, sits Reinhard Reitzenstein’s “Carolina Blue,” his 2017 cast bronze, a Carolina Poplar tree in cerulean blue rust guard paint and turpentine. Struck by the presence of a dying Carolina Poplar tree on the grounds of Rodman Hall, Reitzenstein cast a fragment of its trunk in bronze and excavated part of its root system in the summer of 2001. He cast only a small fragment of the Carolina Poplar tree, and left the bronze raw, allowing it to patinate naturally, As the tree deteriorates over time, the bronze cast stands in perpetuity.
The Rodman Hall Art Centre Sculpture Garden contains five more sculptures and there is a helpful brochure and map available inside. There is no charge for admission but a fee of $5 is recommended. More information about Brock University’s Rodman Hall Art Centre can be found on the web at: www.brocku.ca/rodmanhall
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