Cracking open The Book

The Book
Artist: Carol Wainio

Ottawa-based artist Carol Wainio’s art exhibit, The Book, is currently showing at Western’s McIntosh Gallery and consists of a collection of paintings that illustrate the shifting and contradictory role of representation.

She describes her works as an opportunity, “To engage with certain aspects of the world […] through a whole lot of different manifestations of previous visual culture and story culture.”

Wainio’s works uniquely challenge expectations, as the viewer experiences feelings of pleasure fused with uncertainty. The theme of progression is subtly displayed among the collection of small and large canvases hung on the walls of the gallery, evoking disillusionment through the use of contrasting colour and short, ridged brush strokes. Wainio uses vivid, unblended acrylic paints to represent the continuous transitions and adaptations society has undergone throughout history.

Many of the paintings are a two-page configuration, reflecting the book motif and serving to critically illustrate the misrepresentation of social status often characterized in folktales.

The painting “Camouflage” appears active in tone as pinks, light blues, and greys sporadically colour the canvas, distracting the viewer from the hidden human that resides under a crouching bird. The simplistic mirrored black outline of two birds dressed in gentleman’s clothes, representing disguises and mechanical processing, juxtaposes the space surrounding the vignettes and draws the viewer’s attention between active and passive states.

The animals featured within “The Boat” once again possess human characteristics expressed through both their attire and manner of social convergence. Wainio’s inspiration from children’s books is apparent within this work as generic storybook characters are naturally illustrated to reflect early renaissance paintings. The schematic drawing on the left vignette contrasts the right as it lacks complexity and limits interpretation. This painting conveys a darker, more serious tone expressed through a collection of dark colours with occasional highlights of white.

The collection of works is a thoughtful and powerful demonstration of Wainio’s concern for the inequalities associated with the current global consumerist society. She aptly simulates the separation of rich and poor, low and high culture, desire and consumption, as well as generating distinctive forms of recognition.

Carol Wainio’s exhibit The Book will be on display in the McIntosh Gallery until November 16.