Let the memory live again

Artist Leigh Konyk reinterprets moments from her past with her latest exhibit Mixed Media & Collage Assemblages

An image from artist Leigh Konyk’s new exhibit, Mixed Media & Collage Assemblages.

Leigh Konyk’s solo exhibition called Mixed Media & Collage Assemblages focuses on time and place and is currently on display at the Cre8ery.

“It’s my first solo show in 10 years,” said Konyk over the phone last week, after what sounded like an exhausting show set up.

Konyk graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1992 and while there, focused primarily on ceramic sculpting.

Mixed Media & Collage Assemblages highlights her move to 2D work, where her use of paint, photography and collage combine to create textural and stimulating narratives.

Konyk’s images are steeped in nostalgia and highlight the artist’s fascination with sentimental moments. The photographs that Konyk uses in her compositions refer to a time past, critical markers in the history of places adored and fondly remembered.

Her artist statement for the exhibition describes these pictures as “the manipulation and reinterpretation of photographs depicting my own family and those collected from friends and acquaintances.” These “simple childhood moments” are what Konyk uses to draw inspiration from.

A birthday, a trip to the Shrine Circus or a visit to the Dutch Maid are all portrayed by Konyk and read as personal moments. Yet these moments are familiar and reminiscent of what could be anyone’s memories or important events.

In a piece called “The Princess of Pilot Mound,” a tractor pulls a convoy of wagons with smiling children through the prairie. Like most of Konyk’s more recent collages, which she best describes as multimedia assemblages, this piece is dreamlike and takes on an ethereal quality. It’s as though you are looking into someone’s thoughts or memories when you look at her depiction of this childhood moment of triumph.

There is a certain quality to the work that makes it feel as though these stories are unresolved, or at a critical moment and frozen in time. It is here we wait to try and figure out what will happen next.

Maybe it’s the repetition of some of the figures or perhaps the painterly quality of Konyk’s work that makes you think that although the moments are frozen in time, they are very animated and about to move. It’s as though she brings the photographs she uses to life.

“I like to see what I can bring out of the photo,” Konyk said, describing her intuitive way of working with photos of family and friends.

By adding text and phrases to the work, she explores the stories in each piece.

Konyk also adds found items to her collages to add depth to her narratives.

“I like to add things to my work that I find at the Salvation Army and at antique stores. I really like using old dress patterns and applying them to the canvas using acrylic paint.”

Mixed Media & Collage Assemblages is on display at the Cre8ery Art Gallery (second floor, 125 Adelaide St.) until Tuesday, March 23.

Published in Volume 64, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 18, 2010)

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