Apr 19

A Visual Reverberation of a Downtown Immersion

by Shannon Calhoun · 1 comment

I met local artist, Verna Vogel, in an accounting class at Bow Valley College of all places. She was looking for some people from our class to pose for portraits, so I decided to take her up on the offer.

While at her studio, I really came to love her work and have continued to keep an eye on it.  I noticed recently that she has an exhibition coming up at AXIS Contemporary Art Gallery in Art Central.

Luckily, I was able to catch up with Verna and ask her a few questions about her recent endeavors.

What was the inspiration for your latest exhibition, Tintinnabulation?

The inspiration for this series of paintings arose from my move out of Calgary’s downtown core and into an older neighbourhood near the Bow river.

What does the name “Tintinnabulation” mean, and why did you select it for this exhibit?

Tintinnabulation is a real word which can be found in the dictionary; it means “the ringing, jingling or tinkling sound of bells”.

I first came across this word in a book which explained the workings of the inner ear and the mechanism of sound perception. In a nutshell, the tiny hairs in our ears vibrate in response to sound. After intense stimulation - very loud or very prolonged noise - these hairs will vibrate even in the absence of any external sound, producing what is known as a ringing in the ears, or “tintinnabulation”.

Moving my home and studio away from the downtown core, where I lived and worked for over a decade, had a profound effect on my artwork, as I am now seeing the urban core from a distance rather than being immersed in it. These recent paintings show a sort of visual reverberation of my experience of downtown immersion, and also explore some new views of the city.

The ringing of bells - echoing the old and celebrating the new - seemed a very appropriate metaphor for this body of work. Besides, I like the sound of the word: Tintinnabulation. It sounds imaginative, magical and sort of fabulous, don’t you think?

What kind of mediums were used for these pieces?

These paintings were created with acrylic paint, canvas, and a sewing machine! I will giving an artist talk during my opening on April 20th, where I will be talking a little more specifically about my process. The opening will run from 2-5pm, and I will be presenting my talk probably around 3pm.

How has your recent move to the suburbs influenced your work?

These current paintings show an evolving view of the city. Some are very “urban density” where others are more about the city as seen from a little distance, with layers of skyline.

One painting in particular (titled Skin) brings together glimpses of urban infrastructure juxtaposed with more natural forms such as tree branches, and also has a bit of a feeling of aerial maps. I was not aiming for an aerial feeling specifically in this work, but paintings sometimes have a way of evolving independently from my conscious efforts! I find this one interesting because an aerial map shows a very different view of things than what is visible at ground level, and different viewpoints of the urban experience is really what I’ve been working with in this last year of painting.

Do you miss city life?

For awhile I missed living in the downtown core, but on the other hand I now love being a little closer to nature. There are so many interesting things all around, in any environment.

Do you have any new projects coming up?

Oh yes, always! I have more ideas than one lifetime will permit the realization of, haha.

One ongoing project is making plein-air landscapes, which means I paint on location outdoors. So far I have done this at least once in every month of the year, and a few weeks ago I even went painting at night! That was quite an experience.

Another thing is that I have been using Skype (a live video feed program which is free all around the world) to make portraits of people I’ve never met in person. I am very interested in the ways that people interact and in the ways that technology both facilitates and limits our interactions.

I have no concrete plans yet to show these landscapes or portraits, but you know, interesting things can happen when you keep an open mind and just keep doing what you love…!

Any plans to incorporate life in the suburbs into future work?

My work is an ongoing interpretation of whatever environment I find myself in. As my experience of the city evolves, so will the paintings I make, so to answer your question: yes indeed!

It you’d like to see Verna’s work in person pop by AXIS between April 20-May 4.

“Tintinnabulation” by Verna Vogel

Runs from April 20 - May 4

AXIS Contemporary Art Gallery (203, 100 – 7 Ave. SW)

Opening Reception Saturday, April 20, 2:00 - 5:00 pm

Artist in Attendance


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