Student Reflections: #2: Anong Migwans Beam

Beaverbrook Art GalleryNovember 16, 20160 Comments

Student reflections: Randi

These student reflections have been written by Randi, a high school student undertaking a co-op program at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Her writing offers an insider’s view of the Gallery from a high school student’s perspective, and examines the exhibitions and programs being presented at the Gallery during her term.

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My first impression of Anong Beam’s exhibition 63 Views from Mount Dreamers Rock was that of curiosity and an unexpected feeling of human contact. Instead of having a conversation with yourself about the art, you're having a conversation with the works themselves. The paintings have their own energy and voice to be experienced.

I got a chance to meet the exhibition before it was open to the public. Seeing the show without any labels and didactic panels is a unique opportunity. The chance to get acquainted with the paintings alone with no other on-lookers is a lucky one. The walls are painted black, which gives the right amount of focus on the paintings themselves. Any white would have been too jarring to the eye. There is no overpowering light, no frames, no words. Just a sentiment of quiet with breaks of light in between. There is vivid personality here, and I feel I must introduce myself.

The music playing in Beam's video is haunting and cold. It adds to the general feeling of her work, which is akin to memories of looking at eye-spy books. There’s always something hidden. The energy in the gallery is mischievous and playful. Although the paintings were meant to represent her and who she is, there is a pleasantly overwhelming energy of fantasy among the paintings. They feel like entities of their own. Maybe that's how she experiences her life?

The different elements of the paintings feel like components to a song. They're all made up of melody, rhythm, and gentle beats. No lyrics, however. They're not necessary. All the little bits of photo transfer, stamped images and splashes of eye catching color come together to perform a complete song.

Though the colors aren't earthy in the slightest, the pieces represent their natural subject matter just as well as a photograph might. The colors are cold and somehow emotionally distant. They are wispy, almost unreal. They ebb and flow in a pattern that is untraceable. If they were sound, they would be the quiet whispers of wind through bare branches and sporadic notes on a piano. The paintings are beautifully diverse yet all connected through a common theme. The paintings share the same complexity that is reminiscent of landscape photography, which may sound surprising. Though a picture of a landscape might seem simple at first, there is a hidden intricacy in the way nature interacts with itself. There are little signs of life everywhere, always moving around and buzzing with energy.

The paintings aren't to be classified and figured out easily, which is what makes them so intriguing to look at. There's an abstraction present that leaves the interpretation up to you. It feels as though you are meant to sympathize with her paintings and find ways to identify with them personally. The exhibition takes what you know, or what you think you know, and asks what it means to you.

Beam spoke about her work during her time as artist-in-residence, both the artistic and technical process, and I had the opportunity to ask her a question about her exhibition. Her answer shed some light on her intentions with her art. I asked, "My understanding of your work is that it's meant to represent your memories and who you are. Has it always been like that, or was there a process to getting to that state of mind?"

I didn't get her exact words down, since I was more focused on paying attention to her while she spoke. This is the general gist of it, from what I had scrawled during the session:

"Reassurance and solitude. She makes the work she needs to see. The imagery is also important, all the symbolism is very personal to her life and who she is. The sense of peace, solitude and reassurance also comes from the landscapes. It's a sense of reassurance from the permanence of land and water. Her goal is to be a comfort and soothing presence with her work to everyone, since she finds most landscape art to be closed off and not open to everyone. Her work is definitely connected to the earth, and what having the earth underneath us means. "

Her point, I think, is that her art has always been a personal experience. In her response to my question, she also mentioned that she felt most landscape art is quite literal; it's a set idea about a place in time and it isn't as open to interpretation. In her dreamy landscapes, the objective is for it to be tangible to all. The sense of peace and permanence from the landscapes she paints are very important to her, and her goal was to make them open to everyone.

I think she does this very well, and that her work can be available to any viewer. The fantasy-like qualities leave room for different meaning, while still maintaining that peaceful aspect that she mentions. Her personal symbolism is all over her work, without a doubt, but it's still all very open to everyone to apply their own feelings and thoughts. Her art has a lovely breath of abstraction which is soothing.

In the end, Beam's work is beautifully engaging to behold. They are dreamy but purposeful, with a strong emotional component. In my culture and my family, there is a dream magic that is passed down. To us, dreams are more than silly images brought on by too much sugar before bed. Dreams have things to tell us, predictions and warnings for what is to come. No matter who you are or where you come from, though, I feel that dreams always have a cold and untouchable quality. The voices of the paintings, and Beam’s own voice in the video ask you to respond and decide for yourself what the exhibition means to you. The real beauty of it is it's up to you to decide how to share in those feelings.

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Anong Migwans Beam: 63 Views from Mount Dreamers Rock is curated by Jeffrey Spalding, and organized by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. The exhibition is presented with the support of CI Institutional Asset Management (CI Investments), and will be on view through January 15. You can read more about it here.

(This blog post has been created independently of the organizers/sponsors of this exhibition.)

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