Installation and Sculpture > Breaths, Monuments, Offerings

Breaths, Monuments, Offerings
Natalie Hunter, Lauren Prousky, and Shellie Zhang

University of Manitoba School of Art Gallery
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
March 11th - May 5th 2022

Curated by Halley Ritter

Breaths, Monuments, Offerings

About the Exhibition:

Memory is integral to who we are, but it is also fragile. On one hand, memories are the only things that we can really be sure of—while the future is always uncertain, the past, having already happened, is concrete. We know that when we retell our stories, their endings and outcomes are always going to be the same. On the other hand, memories are fickle and malleable. The more we revisit our own personal histories, the more vulnerable they become, allowing details to slip away and elements to change over time. Memories function as a security blanket and they weave the fabric of our identities; how do we come to accept the fact that they can unravel so easily?

Memories can be elusive and intangible. It can be difficult to grasp and hold onto something so conceptual. For some, holding on to items is a way of holding on to people, places, and moments from our past. Objects become signifiers of life stories, emotional bonds, and connections to our personal and cultural identities, all things that validate our existence and shape the way we interact with the world. Items we come upon and hold onto help us to call forth recollections that may otherwise be forgotten, transporting us to the past like little time machines. The reliability of object permanence and the privilege of collecting and holding can bring great comfort to many. For others, though, the presence of tangible signifiers of the past may feel hollow, superfluous, or disingenuous, even presenting painful reminders of things they would rather forget. Collecting practices and sensibilities surrounding memory and its preservation are culturally specific, complex, and varied.

Breaths, Monuments, Offerings highlights commentary on the relationship between memory and materiality articulated beautifully by three contemporary Canadian artists. Addressing the visualization of memory and physicality from different cultural perspectives and through different media, Breaths, Monuments, Offerings is saturated in nostalgia and begs for self-reflection. Lauren Prousky, Natalie Hunter, and Shellie Zhang’s approaches to the subject variously employ maximalist aesthetics, articulate the fleeting nature of memory, and include the construction of mini monuments. Their works interact with each other in compelling ways that encourage us to pause, to think, to feel, and, of course, to remember.

Writing by Halley Ritter:

Breaths of a House
Natalie Hunter, 2019

Breath of a House 1, 2019, archival pigment print on silk charmeuse, copper, fittings

Breath of a House 1, 2019, archival pigment print on silk charmeuse, copper, fittings

inhalations or exhalations of air through the lungs; the power of breathing; life

"Breaths of a House visually manifests intangible sensory memories. The ones that come from early on, before we know how to put them into words and crystalize moments into stories. The ones that wind up dreamlike, fuzzy around the edges but somehow still bright. We remember these memories as breaths; constantly, naturally, crucially, in a way that is integral to our existence and inseparable from everything else we do, subconsciously, until it occurs to us to really think about what we’re doing and even then, only consciously until a new thought comes along. With this piece, Natalie Hunter recalls breathy memories of place, light, and feeling, “the ways we perceive and contribute to our everyday surroundings, and how we embody and remember physical space as psychological and sensorial experiences.” "

1. Natalie hunter, website page quoted

Natalie Hunter is from Hamilton, Ontario. She holds an MFA from the University of Waterloo and is mostly known for her immersive and multilayered photo-based installations on transparent film. She has shown her work in exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Hamilton;
University of Waterloo Art Gallery; Rodman Hall Arts Centre; Centre 3 for artistic + social practice; Art Gallery of Windsor, Smokestack Gallery and Museum London among others. She is the recipient of several awards from Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts. She is a sessional instructor at the University of Waterloo. 

Audio Description

"Breaths of a House is a pair of photo-based sculptural wall installations that responds to the subtleties of light and air movement. There are two artworks on display, Breath of a House 1 and Breath of a House 2. Breath of a House 1 measures x 52” tall x 24” wide x 16” outward from the wall. Breath of a House 2 measures 24” tall, 52” wide, and 22” outward from the wall. Each installation rests on the wall at a similar height that a window would be placed in a house to ensure a clear point of view. Silk photographs delicately drape over hand shaped copper tubing that protrudes from the wall in rectilinear and triangular shapes. Imagine trying to catch water in your hand, the sun touching your skin, or sand pooling in your palm. This is how the silk flows over each copper armature. Copper is a metal that corrodes and turns green over time. It is vulnerable to oxygen and therefore with time will age and change….like a memory. Each photograph ripples and billows with air movement as you walk by. The semi-translucent nature of the silk allows light to filter through areas of the image, reminding me of skin, sheer curtains, or bed sheets. As the natural light changes in the gallery space, so too does the material properties of the silk image. Saturated hues of pink, yellow and orange frame a landscape beyond a window in Breath of a House 2. The silk ripples and folds over the corners of the copper and appears at a similar height to looking out a window. In Breath of a House 1, greens, blues, and purples occupy the square panes of glass and rectangular shapes of the window frame depicted in the silk image. Suspended on a bias on the copper armature, the image cascades down the copper form, occupying the space that curtains might occupy a window. Malleable, fluid, and flowing the pictorial elements of each installation blend with the physical forms of the copper. Both revealing the shape of the armature underneath and concealing it at the same time. The time of day, the angle of the sun, and subtle shifting air movements in the space affect the translucency, fluidity, and weight of the silk. In this way these photo-based installations are impermanent, and mutable. Like a memory, the images are influenced by their materials and the external forces that impact them."

Natalie Hunter