Story Girls 2007

Exhibited at the Cambridge Galleries, Cambridge, ON with Aganetha Dyck, Michele Karch-Ackermann, Vessna Perunovitch
Curated by Virginia Eichhorn

One October morning Anne wakened to the realization that she had slept for the last time under the rood of her little house. The day was too busy to indulge regret and when evening came the house was stripped and bare. Anne and Gilbert were alone in it to say farewell. “It has all such a heart-broken, reproachful look, hasn’t it?” said Anne. “Oh, I shall be so homesick at the Glen tonight!” “We have been very happy here, haven’t we, Anne-girl?” said Gilbert, his voice full of feeling.
Anne’s House of Dreams

In Montgomery’s writings, home is of paramount importance. Having a place where one belongs and feels safe was something that Montgomery and all of her heroines desired perhaps more than anything else. Tina Poplawski’s work frequently deals with those issues. Poplawski’s family suffered during World War II when they were taken from their home in Poland and incarcerated in the Gulags of Siberia. They eventually escaped, going first to [India], then Africa and England where Poplawski was born and finally to Canada. Since 2000 Poplawski has addressed and explored within her work the ideas and repercussions of displacement and the consequences of what happens when one is “uprooted”.

Her current body of paintings and works on paper address the threats and anxieties that she is experiencing now. The neighbourhood that she is living in is becoming increasingly “gentrified” and artists are being forced out. She and her husband wonder when they too will need to leave the home they have shared for almost twenty years and find somewhere else to call home.

Poplawski lives on a street called Stewart located in downtown Toronto. Last fall she noticed that the sidewalk was littered with Maple Leaves that had become hosts to various species of larvae known as Leaf Miners. These larvae had taken up residence in the paper-thin space between the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf. The insects eat their way through the leaves, leaving a labyrinth of narrow serpentine passages. These lines tell a tale of the life history and hungry wanderings of a larva from the time when it hatched, as small as a pinpoint, until it has fully grown and perhaps successfully enters the next stage of its cycle as a fly, moth or beetle.

She collected numerous Maple Leaves and then scanned and digitized them, enhancing then in various ways: spherizing or making them circular, intensifying the colours to make them almost prismatic and then creating a reversal which drew out most of the colour and left a negative version. The circle within the square is a particularly important recurring motif within her work as it is a representation of a mandala which can be viewed as a visual expression of the struggle to achieve wholeness. She also noticed that the contours of the leaves seemed to form open mouths after they were made circular and that there was a distinct resemblance to the 80s computer game PACMAN, where the tiny protagonist gobbles its way through mazelike passages, evading and outwitting enemies and in the process scoring points and or loosing them.

The works on paper and on canvas face each other, contrasting the light images set against the dark images. The works on canvas are made up of acrylic and wood ash. Ash is used to signify the cycles of life and death, of destruction and renewal.

Her work becomes a narrative about life and death, about consumption and power. It is a story about strategic pursuit through a constrained space and dramatic reversals of fortune. It is a story about relationships in which every character is part of a larger whole. And it is a journey, where these characters are mapped onto each other in complicated and subtle ways. The story just keeps going around and around, the chorus of voices growing larger and louder.

Virginia Eichhorn Excerpt from Story Girls Catalogue 2006