ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present Not My Story, a new installation in the Project Room by internationally acclaimed Toronto-based artist Vessna Perunovich. The show runs from Friday, Sept. 7 through Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, with an opening reception on Friday, Sept. 7 beginning at 7:00 p.m.
These are challenging times, especially as we navigate the complexities and contradictions of our personal lives and social relationships, and our fraught political landscape. We expose ourselves on social media even as we worry about privacy, fabrications are taken for facts, and progressive ideas around equality and the environment are losing ground.
As a Serbian-born artist who immigrated to Canada in the late-1980s, Perunovich makes work that has long engaged with social and political issues. Shifting Shelter, her previous exhibition at the gallery, explored ideas around immigration, exile and identity through an immersive installation that examined the meanings of the word ‘home’. For Not My Story, Perunovich casts a broader net at a moment when our humanity is being tested. Not My Story asks: what do we believe in, what do we stand for, what does the future hold?
“I care about how politics influence our daily lives, our morals and ethics, and how we progress – or regress – as human beings,” says Perunovich. “This work reflects on the rise of far right populism, movements like #MeToo, and the current climate of political unrest and misogyny.”
Using images culled from fashion magazines, advertisements and newspapers, Perunovich creates a psychologically charged index of expressions, gestures and body language. By concealing the backgrounds and parts of the figures under dark gray paint, leaving only fragments visible, Perunovich focuses our attention on specific elements. Figures become isolated, their sense of solitude a contrast to their origins as widely circulated media images. Text also plays an important role. “The quotes come from several sources,” she explains. “Some are common phrases, or quotes from popular songs and plays by Samuel Beckett, or words that are ingrained in our collective consciousness, such as Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’, which, for me, speaks to the high values we should be aspiring to.”
Perunovich acknowledges that the show’s title carries a certain amount of irony, which is in keeping with the sardonic tone of our times. While elements of the show reflect her own experiences, Perunovich envisions a world in which we all empathize not only with others’ experiences of joy, but also struggle, disappointment and loss, regardless of their ethnicity or gender. “As an artist and human being, I want to address subjects that affect me deeply regardless of cultural brackets, and to help break down the barrier of ‘us’ and ‘them’, ” she says. “Ultimately, Not My Story can be read as anybody’s story.”
– Bill Clarke