Sunday, 24 July 2016

Event 2: Niagara Falls Art Gallery

For my second event, I decided to visit the Niagara Falls Art Gallery (NFAG) situated in the city of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Niagara Falls is one of the great natural artworks of Canada that outputs wealth when combined with industrialization and engineering. The natural wonder supplies hydro power and contributed to the bloom of hundreds of factories in the early 1900s, its prominence is testified by the once-famous Mill District along the Niagara gorge.
A very small gallery located on the coast of an high way
The site itself was very humble! 
The NFAG curates a unique collection by William Kurelek, the Ukrainian-Canadian writer and artist whose many works depicted his childhood on the prairies, his relationship with nature, and his Christian faith. However, it was not difficult to observe traces of technology and industrialization in his works. In a way, much of his art can be interpreted as portrayals of the consequences of science, in religious or environmental contexts.
from the "Last Days" series by William Kurelek
Matthew 24-19: "It will go hard on women who are with child"
The first artwork by William Kurelek that I would like to discuss is a piece from his series "Last Days", which depicts the Bible's Old Testament prophecies from the Gospel of Matthew. The exact verse of Matthew 24:7-8 states that "there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains." Kurelek portrays this biblical "ending" of the earth as an aftermath of nuclear destructions and radiation. The consequent biological mutations are reflected in the deformed infants in the foreground, and overgrown vegetation in the background. This painting reminded me of the genetic experiments mentioned in the BioTech & Art unit, and the topic of bioethics. In a way, this piece not only serves as an artistic illustration of a biblical prophesy, but a warning on the effect of biological experiments and warfares. 
The second piece I would like to discuss is on the topic of industrialization. This watercolor + pencil drawing combines Native Americans - a personification of nature and the virgin land, and smoking factories, which represent the negative consequences of industrialization. The smog and pollution from factories combines to form a gross figure in the sky, which is worshipped by the Native Americans. This painting can be viewed as the destruction of the sanctity of the environment by industrialization and technology. 

Facial omission
The final pieces I want to examine is a series that share one common theme - the omission of the face on a body. The first two faces were replaced by glitter, while the last was replaced by a stack of crocodile heads. Replacing the most expressive organs of the human body with unexpected content can be a revelation of the peculiarities of the human brain - the source of all expression. In many ways, these portraits reveal the strangeness, creativity, eccentricity, and obscenity of our minds. They resonate with the unit of Neuroscience + Art, where artists use art as a medium to explore and postulate the undiscovered truths about our conscious and subconscious.

Overall, the NFAG was an interesting discovery, and opened my eyes to how seemingly irrelevant themes, such as religion, industrialization, neuroscience, and technology can be combined to create art that calls attention to modern concerns of our society - such as environmental protection and bioethics. William Kurelek's collection was especially memorable and bold, and I would definitely recommend this gallery to future visitors looking for a melange of art on historical and contemporary topics. 

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