SFU Audain Gallery presents “Collecting Plum Blossoms,” a dazzling graduate-class student exhibition

Graduating artists from SFU’s fine arts program explores identities and futurisms

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A person leans over to adjust a sculpture featuring a sewing machine
Photo Credit: Paige Smith

Editor’s Note: A previous version failed to accredit the photographer of the published images. This has been updated to give Paige Smith full credit for all images used in the article. A previous version stated, “Sofia Grace titled I Leave You With All of Me, To You. It implemented wood, gesso, and acrylic paint,” implying these pieces were not separate. This is incorrect and has been updated to reflect that the piece being described was titled To You and its materials were mixed media. A previous version writes, “The aspect of technology in art is shown through Lin’s attempts to experiment with the inputs and outputs of the camera feed and the microphone.” This is incorrect and has been updated to reflect that this artwork does not include a camera feed and there was no camera involved in the production nor installation of this work.

By: Nercya Kalino, Staff Writer

“Collecting Plum Blossoms,” the 2022 exhibition of student works displayed at SFU Audain Gallery from April 14–23 portrayed an intriguing approach to art and the future. The title of the exhibition was inspired by a 2021 artwork by Sahar Rahmanian and symbolizes students’ hopes for the future. The exhibition showcased various works from 13 graduating artists from SFU’s fine arts program. According to the SFU School for the Contemporary Arts Instagram post, “plum blossoms become a metaphor for the way disparate pieces can come together.” It writes about the special collectivity of showcasing with other artists and the “sense of futurity” that comes from graduation. Artists chose unique choices of materials and mediums to create their works. 

Before “Collecting Plum Blossoms,” I had only been to one other exhibition, so I didn’t know what to expect. It was wonderful to see several works expressing experiences of vulnerability. Each of the stories narrated reflections of the world. The first work I came across was by Sofia Grace titled To You, a mixed media piece.

To You by Sofia Grace / Photo Credit: Paige Smith

The arrangement of the pieces resembled an author’s messy desk accompanied by a memory wall with intimate letter exchanges between strangers. For the project, Grace mailed hand-written cards “proposing friendship” to use for the exhibition. The letters appeared to elevate what was described by the gallery brochure as an “experimental gesture that looks to generate new connections through invitation.” Grace used the exchanges and contributions of letters she received to relate the meaning of her work to items within the art piece. The mixed media piece focused “on the idea of the pen pal” in order to convey this sense of vulnerability, as explained by the brochure. 

Revealing Hidden Memories by Ravneet Kaur Sidhu / Photo Credit: Paige Smith

Ravneet Kaur Sidhu’s work definitely brought childhood memories and feelings to the surface. Her art piece, Revealing Hidden Memories, stuck out to me. The wood, metal, and paper materials she used for the piece were items I played with as a child. The artist tied together the domestic and cultural relationships in her life in this piece. There was also an element of soundscape that complemented the pictures. The biggest piece — the wooden picture frame — had multiple pictures of family members in it. The photos had a tan filter layered on top with a newspaper background as the frame. Seeing this work, I reminisced about the smell of old newspapers or moments when all of our relatives gathered at the grandparents’ house with so much food and lively chatter. The dialogues of a festival celebration in a household within the background brought life to these memories. According to the exhibit pamphlet, Sidhu’s approach was to emphasize “sentimentality” and “the gaps between traditional and modern relations in her community.” 

Reformation by Shinaaz K. Johal / Photo Credit: Paige Smith

Another work that I particularly appreciated was Shinaaz K. Johal’s Reformation. This textiles piece was one I connected with on a deeper level — fabric and texture are an immense identification of culture (or BIPOC communities, myself included). The artist collected the fabrics used on the large canvas from woman family members. What impressed me was the abstraction of the piece: it reminded me of the birthing organ. The colour coordination and the textures of chiffon, silk, and velvet gave it life. I think the textures worked in parallel with the themes the artist tackled. According to the exhibit pamphlet, these themes were “Indian culture, empowerment, internal conflict, and the body.” As someone who is drawn to abstract works, I was immediately enticed by the artistic elements of the piece including the materials themselves and the intentional arrangement of the fabric. 

HUES (Highlighting Ubiquitous Emitted Sounds) by Daniel Lin / Photo Credit: Paige Smith

HUES (Highlighting Ubiquitous Emitted Sounds) by Daniel Lin was a piece that used a microphone and a projection — a work that used colour and sound to show new ways of expressing art. The piece responded to sounds that the viewers made. It was not marbled colours, but rather a portrait of colours in constant movement to the sounds, glowing and meandering into and out of each other. The colour emission was vivid in a way that did not take away from the movements; it was more like a lulling emission. The aspect of technology in art is shown through Lin’s attempts to experiment with the inputs and outputs of the projection and the microphone. It was quite impressive that he was able to tie it all together to show the possibility of going beyond the boundaries of medium functionality. 

The other works exhibited at the Audain explored the idea of identity and the public in contemporary spaces. Through observing these works, I learned more about the innovative forms and executions of art in modern society. The exhibit encompassed broadened forms of media as tools to spark new ways of contemplating identities. 

To learn more about and view some of the pieces that were on display, follow the exhibit Instagram page and SFU School for Contemporary Arts Instagram page.