By Shannon Boklaschuk
A renowned Saskatoon artist and University of Saskatchewan (USask) alumna is organizing a new digital exhibition with the aim of highlighting how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting studio art production.
Marie Lannoo (BA’77), a painter whose work focuses on light and colour, put out a call on April 1 inviting professional artists to submit to the digital exhibition called Colour in Quarantine. Artwork must be completed between Feb. 1 and June 1, 2020, to be eligible for inclusion.
“Self-isolation is a new experience for many people,” said Lannoo, who earned a bachelor’s degree in French through USask’s College of Arts and Science. “For me, like many other artists, my workdays are normally spent alone in the studio. I am very disciplined and work regular hours from 9-5 or longer, every day and most weekends. Working this way voluntarily is one thing, but being forced to do so is quite another experience.”
Lannoo said she is interested in how the global pandemic will affect her studio practice over time, and how the health crisis is currently affecting other artists.
“In a crisis, some may be quick to dismiss the arts as a luxury when, to the contrary, they are basic and essential ingredients to our health and cultural survival,” she said. “I don’t want to make my intentions with this project sound grandiose. I am simply trying to do my small part to try and make sense of the implications of this new reality that has been thrust upon us.”
Lannoo said the idea for the exhibition came to her a few weeks into isolation. She wondered what 330g—her independent, self-funded project space in Saskatoon—could do to connect artists during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In October 2019, I did my first online project with the MacKenzie Art Gallery, Marie Lannoo-Blue Sky, that launched their new online platform, The 13th Floor. This project connected artists around the world via the colour of the blue sky,” she said.
“I imagined doing another online project during COVID where digital images would again be featured. I was thinking about how non-essentials are quickly stripped away during a crisis, how what is elemental and basic to survival remain beyond food and shelter—connection, communication, personal and artistic expression.
“For a painter, colour is an essential tool and means of communication. I am curious to connect with other artists who are using colour as the primary means of expression and meaning in this time of global pandemic. I am interested in critical colour—how colour can be used to communicate complex ideas (and) emotions through basic visual language.”
Lannoo has invited an emerging artist and USask alumnus, Kyle Zurevinski, to co-curate the artists’ submissions with her. Zurevinski (BFA’18, BA’19), who studied art and art history and studio art in USask’s College of Arts and Science, is described by Lannoo as “an enormously talented” Saskatoon photographer, new media artist, actor, film producer and production manager. He is also the web manager of 330g.
“As a senior artist, I am interested in mentoring and working with emerging artists in any way that I can. The art business is difficult at the best of times,” said Lannoo.
“I have a project space and online exhibition capabilities at 330g, so working with Kyle is a way to enlarge the experience and responsibilities of an emerging artist beyond the discipline of studio practice. As a senior artist from a different generation, not only do I enjoy working with younger artists, I value their point of view enormously. I hope it is a two-way street.”
In lieu of fees, the artists who contribute to Colour in Quarantine will be acknowledged with a full-page reproduction of their artwork, along with their website and Instagram information. Professional artists are invited to send one low-resolution JPG image to email@example.com, with the subject line “Colour in Quarantine.” The email should include a full description of the work, including the title, medium, dimensions and date of completion, along with the artist’s full name, country of origin, website and/or Instagram account. Lannoo and Zurevinski will ultimately select 10 artists.
Lannoo is known across Canada and internationally for the innovative, visually stimulating artwork she creates by employing conceptual research and scientific methods of experimentation.
Influenced by abstraction and modernism, Lannoo’s work challenges how viewers see colour in their day-to-day lives, while also highlighting the complexity and illusion, as well as the magic and beauty, that can be found in colour experiences.
A survey exhibition of her work, entitled the architecture of colour, was on display at USask's College Art Galleries last fall.
“In my own work, I continue to focus on the physics of light that enables the perception of colour and on the emotional and raw impact of colour on the senses,” said Lannoo.
“A solo show, Both Sides of the Spectrum, scheduled to open May 9 at Newzones in Calgary, has been postponed. I hope that some new work, produced during the last few months of quarantine, will now become part of this exhibition once rescheduled.”
While Lannoo is interested in how the COVID-19 pandemic is influencing studio practices and artists’ work, she said the global health crisis has “perhaps not been as difficult for me as many others.”
“Now the most unusual part of the day is coming home to my husband being in the house,” she said. “Since he started working from home, he has also more fully assumed the responsibility of cooking—so prepared lunches and dinners are beyond great.”