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Vancouver
Steffanie Ling
Marianne Nicolson at the Nanaimo Art Gallery
May 10, 2017

Several recent exhibitions have addressed Nanaimo as a harbour city, a nexus of resource extraction, trade and labour stories. Awi'nagwiskasu: Real Land, Marianne Nicolson’s solo-exhibition at the Nanaimo Art Gallery, adds to that trajectory with a precise handful of mixed-media works that attend to water as an essential referent in illuminating political and social geographies.



Marianne Nicolson, Untitled, 2017, video

Widzotłants gwayułalatł? Where Are We Going...What Is to Become of Us? from 2007 is a large etched-glass pane suspended from the ceiling that depicts plant life, animals, and humans caught in a weir. The weir is a site for controlled fishing, but it also functions philosophically as a symbol of balanced relationships and an awareness of how resources can potentially be abused if one is not mindful of how they are reaped. These pictographs form the frame for a black and white photo-transfer of elders from Nicolson’s childhood. As sunlight shines through it, the shadow of this plane is projected onto the polished concrete floor. Standing with the large glass over my head and its shadow beneath my feet evokes being under water, while the frame of the composition refers to the boundary of the weir.

Another piece that incorporates glass is an illuminated pointed-arch window recessed into a wall in the main space titled Always the New Day Dawns. A blue light maneuvers behind the window to mimic changing water levels. It shows a young girl surrounded by the symbols of two worlds – heaven and earth, Christian and Kwakwaka’wakw worlds, historical turmoil and present resilience. This work does not bury itself in symbolism though. The complicated convergence of motifs is a resistance to historical erasure, yet Nicolson’s choice in using coloured light and sophisticated technology gives further depth to her ongoing consideration of the past within the present.


Nanaimo Art Gallery: http://nanaimogallery.ca/
Marianne Nicolson: Awi'nagwiskasu: Real Land continues until July 2.


Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.

 

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