This paper is a critical review of Winnie Truong’s solo trade fair taking place at the modern art gallery, Erin Stump Projects (ESP). Winnie Truong’s solo exhibition of The Fringes is happening at contemporary art gallery, Erin Stump Projects (ESP). She recently graduated from Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) and has already been featured in several of Toronto and New York’s hottest Contemporary galleries. Truong’s simple use of pencil crayons and chalk pastels on Stonehenge, to draw large and intricate portraits, questions our notion of what is beautiful and what is abnormal in a few words. She has become a recipient of numerous awards such as; the 2010 W.O Forsythe award, Canadian art awards, Bank of Montreal’s (BMO) first art award for Ontario, and the 401 Richmond Career Launcher prize for her talent. It is a great opportunity for her to exhibit her work at ESP because of the technical support and skill afforded, but this is also because of the intuitive guiding principle, for such artists as Winnie who are often fairly recent graduates of BFA or Master’s programs. ESP is a small art place located on 1086
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Queen Street West in Toronto which is also known as the center for Canadian broadcasting, visual arts, music, fashion and performance (Potter 9-18).
Winnie Truong’s artwork showcase portraits of different characters in a relationship with hair by using only pencil crayons and chalk pastels on Stonehenge paper. She explores our anxieties about an appearance by using hair as a metaphor and ploy, probes on our society and visual assumptions in ways that are discomforting, but somehow familiar. The characters in the drawing have a human feature; this is more-less a combination of the prehistoric and modern. Most of her drawings possess only a head with a white blank background that gives a feeling of insecurity and isolation. The most human-like feature with brown colored drawings is exhibited on one side of the wall and beast-like features with black and blue colored drawings are exhibited on the other side. One of my favorite drawings from the exhibition is the, splitting image. (Potter 9-18)
As titled, if this drawing is divided vertically, the left side features a man and the right side features a woman; on the left side of the drawing, a short mixed color of grey, black, green hair with man’s face. On the right side of the drawing, a long wavy hair, covering the face to wonder what sort of face lurks under all that hair. The face is also drawn in hairy traits except for the eyes. Hair serves as a coy veil, which arouses curiosity about the portrait subject, shielding and emblem of identity and gender while suggesting a hidden irregularity just beneath the surface. In splitting image and matter of sexual identity, hair on generically male and female faces shows its potential to render gender-ambiguous as a marker of difference. (Potter 9-18)
In other drawings of Truong, she adds hair in place such as coarse hair from the eyebrows to the cheeks. It brings the understanding of the subtle play of fleeting emotions by the control of scale, color, and facial expressions. Truong has successfully expressed her notion of the post-human feature. In other artist’s cases, the elaborate hair-dos threaten to engulf their subject. However, Winnie Truong’s subjects are outsiders, as the punning title of the exhibition suggests, their hairy beauty on the border that transforms into monstrous characteristics. Her use of hair mutates whatever claim of generic normalcy they possess and yet the traditional ideals of beauty and modern vanity carry through, such as with the consuming tangle and overgrowth of hair (Potter 9-18).
The gallery has a quite modest size for solo exhibition. However, within the neighborhoods of small art communities and businesses, ESP stands out with big windows that help people to keep their visual experience very clear. Once in the gallery, people can look around freely; however, the artist sits just behind the wall that people can easily ask her questions about the artwork. At first, I did not recognize the artist, Winnie Truong, until I asked her if she was the ingenious brain behind such magnificent drawings. This was so because she was simply absorbed and busy working on her computer on the edge. Each drawing is exhibited on the white wall with white colored frames; three series drawings on the left, the other three on the right while two big drawings on each wall (Potter 9-18).
A good track lighting on each artwork and painted wood floors suits well with artworks. It seems a bit inconvenient for people that there is no title or artist statement for each artwork, but information paper about artist, artwork and price are meticulously attached on the board at the entrance. However, it was a great experience for me, as a viewer and also as an art student, to talk to the artist directly. If I have not talked to the artist, I might not feel welcome since it was an independent gallery that most people just come to look at the artwork and leave. Again, if I was one of the enlisted people at ESP, I would have appended my sign in front of the gallery for purposes of attendance check-up and make the exhibition to congregate both artist and audience together as the standard presenter or spectator relationship (Potter 9-18).
Winnie Truong’s simple use of materials, pencil crayons and chalk pastels on Stonehenge paper, present delicate line work to express bristly, curly and complexities of hair in terms of its expected behavior towards something mysterious. Her impressive expression of a series of portrait drawings tell the story of faces that dare to exist at the fringe of beauty, fashion, gender, identification, and biological possibility. In my opinion, the ESP gallery fits perfectly with Truong’s artworks since it is a solo exhibition for beginner artist. Impeccable features such as; lighting, color of the wall and old wooden floors make the exhibition even awesome (Potter 9-18).
The gallery is directly lit, it faces the skylights in the roof; however, spacious rooms are not open to the elements to direct sun which might easily hamper artworks. The blueprint of terraced reading section minimizes manuscript retrieval interlude considerably, in comparison to traditional gallery blueprint. Portrait section and stacks are organized closely, implicitly artists sitting on the terrace edge, takes full benefit from maximum exposure to natural light. Throughout the gallery the replica is repeated hence forming a gigantic amphitheater containing a huge range of uniformly lit exhibition area. Nevertheless, the gallery is augmented by modern digital information devices and designed to admit a variety of shifting technology in future. My overall experience at the exhibition was remarkable. It was so thrilling to see a young artist having a solo exhibition; her skill, creativity and passion as an artist is what I intent to cultivate.
Potter Elena. Enrin Stump Projects. Explorations in Toronto Art. 2011. Web.