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Context is Everything

Estevan Art Gallery and Museum

Curated by Amber Andersen
Winter in Saskatchewan can be considered a bleak season.  It equates to shorter days, increasingly colder weather and a barren landscape.  However, perspective is everything.
The dandelion, like winter, is an often negatively viewed phenomenon.  Viewed by many as an invasive weed, this plant has medicinal properties, is edible, can be turned into wine and endures the harshest of environmental conditions.  In the spring the dandelion’s signature bloom marks a transition in seasons. Regardless of one’s opinion on the plant, its ability to survive the bleakest of conditions is a marvel, much to the chagrin of its critics.  As we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic, Monique Martin’s installation of over 1,500 hand made paper dandelions transform the gallery into a space of hopefulness and resiliency. 

Installed directly on the gallery floor in clusters mimicking their natural growth habit, Context is Everything provides viewers with the ability to manoeuvre the space, mimicking a pastoral stroll outdoors.  As the title implies, the meaning of the work shifts pending on installation, location, and, of course, one’s perspective on this plant.  The scrupulous detail in each work, along with lighting, resembling dappled sunlight, complete the trompe l’oeil illusion of the installation.    

Each single work involves several intricate processes from hand-cutting and precise folding to multiple applications of lino-cut and screen printmaking techniques.  Pushing the boundaries of what is considered traditional printmaking, Martin manifests and imbues in the works a sense of tranquility, jubilation and, perhaps, aplomb.  Considered a nuisance to some, obnoxious to others, Martin is able to transform the dandelion into her interpretation.  In doing so, she gently urges viewers to consider their perspectives.  If one is able to shift their views on something as simple as a plant, what else could be manifested if ideas, people, places, religions were considered in a decidedly more nuanced way.

In this chaotic period, art galleries, arguably, more than ever have become much needed sites of introspection and calm.  Polarizing narratives have been dominant in 2020.    Perhaps it is apropos that dandelions, symbolic of emotional healing and strength, grace the floors of our gallery currently.  Afterall, we are all in this together.



photo credits to Len Thomas and Chantel Schultz