Brock alumna Kylie Haveron returned to St. Catharines to host an art installation at the Marilyn I. Walker building for the month of January. Since graduating from Brock in 2018, Haveron has been able to dedicate much of her time to her art. She has set up a small painting studio in her home and her work has appeared at shows in Toronto; she has also been applying to shows closer to home in Hamilton.
Her exhibit, entitled Not Dark Yet, is a collection of Haveron’s recent work that explores the tension between light and darkness, using them to reflect on the anxieties and stresses that are a huge part of many people’s lives.
“A lot of what interests me is the contrast between light and dark and what they represent,” said Haveron. “Night and day, angels and demons, life and death. I’m looking at these things in a day to day perspective. When the light of day comes it feels like it brings us opportunities, but when night falls it feels like an anxiety is created, a sense of standing still or waiting for the light to bring us answers.”
“A lot of my work also looks at seasonal depression and how extended periods of darkness in the winter time affect someone’s perception of the darkness inside themselves.”
Haveron has fond memories of her time at Brock, where she feels she was given the groundwork she needed and the encouragement to branch out and find her style.
“There are a lot of professors at Brock that encouraged me to not be afraid to be different,” said Haveron. “We started with a lot of fundamentals in first and second year which really helped. Third and fourth year is about experimenting and finding your style, as well as a lot of art history; it’s really important to know where we’ve been and where we’re headed.”
The encouragement Haveron received to branch out and find her own voice has paid dividends. Not Dark Yet is a stunning collection, rife with vivid portrayals of internal struggles, represented as external agony. Many of the paintings in the exhibit focus on images of nude bodies, their features heavily distorted and thrown against stark backgrounds of bleak, dark colours. There’s a strong sense in these images that the darkness makes it difficult to see who we really are: in our own minds, we become the monster hiding in the dark, even though that isn’t true. Darkness itself, however, is only part of the focus of the show. Haveron expanded upon these distortions, explaining that their focus is not really the body itself.
“It’s not really about the physical qualities of someone,” Haveron said. “Picasso was fascinated with expressing the interior of someone and that’s the sort of thing I’m exploring with my own style. When I’m looking at a subject, what means more to me is the emotion behind their eyes. What people look like doesn’t really describe who they are.”
For me, the most moving piece were two sculptures in the middle of the room. One is titled ‘Chains’ and the other ‘Life is Short When Wasted’. Both depict people with almost vacant expressions, lying on their backs, facing away from one another. Something about their placement in the room, merged with the imagery that surrounded them and the expression they carried made them seem almost hopeful. At any point, they could have turned to face one another, or stood up, ready to face the day. Haveron also pointed out that many of her figures are depicted as bald, stripping them of one of the most common ways in which we identify ourselves. This ambiguity means that these sculptures could have depicted anyone, almost as if the piece is daring you to be the one to stand up. That moment feels so close when you look at these sculptures that, in spite of the somewhat bleak theme of the exhibit, you cannot help but feel a sliver of hope reaching out.
That hope is often emphasized in Not Dark Yet through the use of light and colour. ‘Nature Heals’ is a perfect example of that contrast. Many of the larger portraits use bold, black or dark backgrounds, but this piece is a portrait of a face against a soft, pale green background, with blooms of greens and reds against the colours of flesh. The image is still hectic, but the presence of these colours softens it, giving it a soothing feel.
That, in essence, is what makes Not Dark Yet such a powerful installation. Haveron is not obsessing over or dwelling on the darkness; while it’s important to her that its presence is felt, the overall message is to find the light in spite of that. Her work is incredibly personal and unique, yet captivating in how relatable it is; as bizarre and foreign these images might appear, it’s very easy to see what she’s going for.
Once the exhibit at the Marilyn closes up, Haveron is looking forward to expanding upon it. Some of the pieces are up for sale, but between the ones that don’t sell and new pieces that will be created, she hopes to broaden her exploration of these themes and ideas. With the experiences she’s had since her graduation, she had this piece of advice to share with current arts students:
“Always continue to experiment. A practice is never finished until the end of your life; all of your experiences and all the people who influence your work will always be beneficial. My style is always changing and will keep expanding from here. Always try to find new things to do.”
Not Dark Yet is on display Tuesdays-Fridays from now until January 26 at the Art Gallery in the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts.