Enveloped in art

Sanctuaries goes beyond the confines of traditional art exhibitions

An image of Odudu Umoessien’s work in Sanctuaries, which runs until Dec. 19

Let the world fall away and lose yourself in an immersive experience with Sanctuaries, a curatorial, architectural and artistic masterpiece that is rewriting the rules of art viewership.

Sanctuaries is an interactive exhibition presented by Gallery 1C03 in collaboration with Mahlet Cuff, Shaneela Boodoo and Chukwudubem Ukaigwe, otherwise known as the curatorial team Patterns Collective.

Running until Dec. 19, the show features the work of artists Anique Jordan, Akum Maduka and Rajni Perera as displayed in a dynamic digital viewing platform created by Odudu Umoessien.

The architectural viewing space Umoessien created is full of warm colours and fluid lines that foster a nurturing and maternal environment for viewing the female body. The only standing structure in the vast, digitally created ocean and sea of stars is modeled after a flower. The “petals” are meant to guard the artwork within and provide a safe space in which it can simply exist.

Umoessien further elaborated on the intent behind his work in an artist-talk discussion with Patterns Collective. He revealed that themes of “femininity,” “body” and “sanctuary” emerged when he collectively viewed pieces by Jordan, Maduka and Perera.

“They’re telling very different stories, very powerful stories, but in completely different ways ... my job was to find a way to create a space where all of this work could live, and they could live together,” Umoessien says.

In an interview with The Uniter, curator Mahlet Cuff stressed the importance of viewing the body and identity in a nonconventional way. She emphasized that Sanctuaries is meant to be a safe space where conversations about abstract ideas like body and identity can take place beyond preordained constructs that lead to narrow interpretations.

At the artist talk, Jordan, Maduka and Perera expressed interest in expanding conversations around and perceptions of their art. They emphasized that their work has many layers and should be linked to productive and complex ideas of progress and discovery instead of a restrictive identity placed upon them by colonial frameworks.

“People need to see (our) work for the layers of complexity that’s in it, instead of just trying to find that answer and that singular question around ... oppression and identity,” Jordan says.

“The complexity of how our identity functions within the world connects to way more than just the selfhood ... there are so many more interesting things that we could be talking about when it comes to how our work is read.”

Although details remain limited, the Patterns Collective has future exhibitions in development that will be digitally accessible to community members and viewers across the globe.

Sanctuaries will remain open for exploration until Dec. 19 and can be accessed at thesanctuaries.ca. For information on upcoming workshops, programs and interviews with the involved artists and curators, follow @collective.patterns on Instagram or visit the Gallery 1C03 webpage at uwinnipeg.ca/art-gallery.

Published in Volume 76, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 4, 2021)

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