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Connecting, crossing, bridging… Spanning the Divide

April 22, 2024

Each year, OAG presents an exhibition featuring the work of uOttawa MFA graduates, supported by the RBC Foundation’s Emerging Artists Projects fund. 

The exhibition Spanning the Divide: Art from the University of Ottawa Department of Visual Arts, 2023 explores uncertainty and familiarity of spaces through experiences, boundaries, memories, and relationships. Artists Heer Mandaliya, Kelly Rendek, and Sarah Tompkins, recent University of Ottawa Master of Fine Arts (MFA) graduates, investigate routines of the everyday, such as walking on a wooden floor, allowing the viewer to reimagine the notion of home and embrace intuitiveness. Meet the artists of this year’s exhibition, presented at OAG in collaboration with uOttawa, and the Curators behind it. 

Heer Mandaliya 

In her installation ‘The Boundaries Are Now Crossed’ (2023), Heer Mandaliya uses corrugated cardboard to reference moving boxes and relocation from one place to another. The impression of Mandaliya’s own feet on the cardboard signifies her personal experiences with displacement within the work. 

Heer Mandaliya,‘The Boundaries are Now Crossed’, 2023, corrugated sheets and wire, courtesy of the artist. 

“The floor is such an everyday thing it can go unnoticed, yet, it has been there to silently witness the experiences, emotions, anxieties, and all the ups and downs of the individual.”    

– Heer Mandaliya, Spanning the Divide artist 

Heer Mandaliya explores displacement, nostalgia, and the diasporic experience through depictions of interior spaces and floors. Often using the format of a grid, she reflects on her own experiences as a South Asian artist now living and working in Canada. 

Kelly Rendek  

Kelly Rendek’s installation invites the viewer to enter into and engage with the space as a collaborator in the re-imagining of home. Here, the artist envisions home as a personal, portable environment, carried by a person wherever they go.  

Kelly Rendek, The Practice of Home, 2023, aluminum rounds and tubes, 3D-printed PLA, acrylic and oil on canvas, acrylic on spun polypropylene, courtesy of the artist. 

“I have found home not in a given location but in the repeated activities of showing up to my studio, having conversations with fellow artists, and engaging in creative work. Home is a practice, not a place.”  

– Kelly Rendek, Spanning the Divide artist 

Kelly Rendek is based in Ottawa. Her recent work explores the concept of home as a collection of memories and habits that define our relationship to place.   

Sarah Tompkins  

In the making of Now the air is so filled with ghosts / that no one knows how to escape them, Sarah Tompkins secured the canvas across the entirety of her studio wall. It was stapled directly into the corners of the room, over the baseboards, and up to where the wall meets the ceiling. 

Sarah Tompkins, Now the air is so filled with ghosts / that no one knows how to escape them, 2023, mixed media on canvas, courtesy of the artist, photo: Rémi Thériault. 

“Sensation, while it may be predicted, is above all unknowable – it emerges from the immeasurable, boundless chaos of the universe to act directly on the nervous system of the body, which itself is unpredictable and everchanging.”  

– Sarah Tompkins, Spanning the Divide artist 

Using site-specific, intuitive abstraction as a critical method, the artist questions the power of desire and denial to consider the limitations, potential, and agency of the feminine body. Her paintings prioritize process over outcome as they submit to creative and destructive forces. 

The co-curators of the Spanning the Divide, Karen Miller and Rebecca Anne Rama, are in the MA Contemporary Art Theory program at the University of Ottawa. This past year they participated in a mentorship with an OAG Curator, collaborating with the artists and Gallery staff to mount the exhibition. Karen Miller is an Ottawa Textile Artist whose work creates conversation around the consequences of motherhood on women’s identity, perceptions, relationships and value. Rebecca Anne Rama examines how contemporary artists interrogate transgressions of control, information collection and dissemination of seemingly benign technology through their artistic interventions.   

The Ottawa Art Gallery would like to recognize RBC Foundation’s support of the OAG’s Connect: Artist Mentorship Program for its role in this exhibition presented in partnership with uOttawa and OAG. 

Spanning the Divide wraps-up May 26, 2024. 


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