The division bell tolls


Art installation opens in Bloomfield Centre art gallery.

Art Gallery StFX in the Bloomfield Center hosts Fencelines, an exhibition on display from November 6 to December 15. The collaboration by Fenn Martin, Raina McDonald and Ruben Irons is a powerful visual statement that invites the viewer to re-envision the meaning of division.

The use of our Gallery’s space is fascinating. An enclosure divides the information booth from the exhibit. To witness the full impact of the artists’ statements, the viewer must step through the open fence and witness the art from the insider and outsider perspectives.

Consider the idiomatic expression ‘on the fence’ which distorts the idea of a solid division between the insider and outsider. It is the gray charcoal smooshing between the black charcoal and white background. The exhibit invites the viewer to think dialogically; a higher order level of thinking than binary opposites. 

The most thought-provoking piece exposed? Steel fence lines. Based on the idea of biomechanics, the fence is intertwined with stunningly designed tiles and only once the viewer steps within the enclosure do bones appear fossilized on the inside of the ceramic fence tiles.

More bones are interspersed throughout the Gallery. One that caught my attention was the centerpiece skull. Binary opposite ideas of domestic versus wild, life versus death, head versus heart and permanence versus impermanence are challenged in this space.

This professional collaboration between the Antigonish-based trio is a newer version of the gem previously revealed at the Mary E. Black Gallery in Halifax from March 24 to May 14 of this year.

A remarkable collaboration between Fenn and French earth artist Gilles Bruni, The Landing (L’Atterrissement), at Antigonish Harbour in 2016 has, similarly to Fencelines, deep connections to the land and its relationship to animals and people. This co-creation was the first earth artwork in the area, located on the flooded roadway to the historic Antigonish Landing where land and water, fish and birds, and the Mi’kmaq, Scots, Irish and Acadian peoples all came together. Those corporal and cultural forces continue to mould the identity of the Nova Scotian landscape today.

Fenn is a ceramic sculptor who started the beloved Antigonight, a two-day celebration of artistry in downtown Antigonish. He has previously collaborated with Raina on a metal and clay project, Attachment.

Raina, an artist of drawings and prints among many skills, is a member of Visual Arts Nova Scotia (VANS) and the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council (NSDCC). The artist also has a notable reputation as a yoga instructor.

Ruben is a blacksmith artist who blends “tradition and contemporary design that places value in handmade objects that celebrate human ability and creativity over mass produced industry.” Ruben has joined forces with Raina on R + R Handmade (don’t look for it at the NSLC; unfortunately, it’s not a new blend of Nova Scotian Royal Reserve whiskey). Check out their signature R + R bowls, candle holders, bottle openers and trivets @