Articles of Faith brings together artworks that explore how faith tethers us, often through ancestral practices, whether or not we choose it. Featuring the works of Borys Tarasenko, Emmanuel Osahor, Olivia Johnston and Thirza Cutland, the exhibition demonstrates the omnipresence of faith practices that at once provide a deeply historical visual language to describe sacredness where it is often neglected, but also its collusion with colonialism.
Those who are able to view the exhibition in person (for which you will need to book an appointment), will be greeted by Osahor's Sylvia's Garden. Toronto-based Nigerian artist Osahor created the larger-than-life mural through a composite of multiple photographs of his friend's garden.
The size of the mural is also a first for the gallery, spanning the full 32-foot length of its exterior wall.
"The photographs were taken from the same vantage point but with shifts in focus within each image," explains Osahor, recently named the 2021 Plaskett Award Winner. "The shifting focus echoes the physical process of trying to focus on something in a garden while many other things are calling for your attention. You are looking at one thing but very aware of everything else that is going on. This experience can be overwhelming, but also forces an individual to centre themselves, 'choosing' to pay attention to the object of their focus. For me, this also echoes what it feels like to be in the world today with the plenitude of crises we are embroiled in. How does one engage with and survive these things?"
Osahor hopes that viewers find the work beautiful, but that they also see how this beauty is complicated.
"My hope with the piece was to make the experience of standing in a garden palpable for the viewer," he says. "I do this because I am interested in creating work that functions similarly to a garden and offers the viewer a possible sanctuary space within which they can either reflect, or simply breathe."
Articles of Faith is part of a multi-site, ethnographic research project exploring how contemporary artists are grappling with faith and meaning making, conducted by Carolyn Jervis, director/curator of the MAG, and Robin Willey, assistant professor of sociology at Concordia University of Edmonton. The research project and related activities are supported by MacEwan, Concordia and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
"The artists and artworks featured in this exhibition illuminate the major thematics that connect the stories of our research participants," says Jervis. "Thanks to a SSHRC Connection Grant, we are also working on an exhibition catalogue that will be released at an interdisciplinary symposium that we are planning for February 2022. This grant also means that we are able to hire two students, one at each institution, to support the catalogue and symposium."
Articles of Faith
Bringing together artworks that explore how faith tethers us, often through ancestral practices, whether or not we choose it.
We acknowledge that the land on which we gather in Treaty Six Territory is the traditional gathering place for many Indigenous people. We honour and respect the history, languages, ceremonies and culture of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit who call this territory home.