Local writer and visual artist, Emily Pittman, is currently completing a three month residency in The Rooms’ Elbow Room Studio.
The competitive Elbow Room Artist-In-Residence program offers an emerging artist access to a studio in The Rooms, as well as support from the in-house curator and staff. At the end of each residency the artist is given the opportunity to show their work at The Rooms, in an exhibition accompanied by a small publication.
Pittman is about a month into her residency and is working on an installation tentatively titled Unsettled, which will open in Fall 2018. I met her in the Elbow Room, a space with a wall of floor to ceiling windows that look out on Harvey Road.
“This space is a luxury, when I got the key I was kind of overwhelmed because I’ve never had a space so big with so much light and support from staff,” Pittman said. “Once I started making a little bit of my own mess, it started to feel like my own space. It’s been an incredible experience so far.”
Two wires stretched across the room above our heads, Pittman is using them to hang prototypes of larger pieces which will hang from the ceiling in the final exhibition. Like some of her previous work, Unsettled will use abstract architectural imagery to explore the manipulation of perspective.
The new work will build on Colour Cuts, A Fresh Coat of Paint and Steep Lines, Steady Levels pt. 2, exhibitions that used collage and painting to depict bright geometrical shapes. For Unsettled, Pittman will create 3-dimensional shapes from pieces of wood that will be painted on both sides and hung from the ceiling. Many of the pieces will be made from multiple shapes loosely attached to each other, introducing movement into the pieces.
“The idea is that you’ll be able to walk into the gallery and move between the pieces, they’ll just be floating around you,” Pittman explained. “I want it to be immersive and also confusing because a piece will look flat and substantial, but then you turn and seeing it from the side it’ll just be a little sliver.”
Pittman found inspiration for the shapes in Unsettled in a second-hand book called Ten Historic Towns Heritage Architecture in Newfoundland which features drawings of classic Newfoundland architecture. Pittman began work on the exhibition by recreating the images in the book, breaking them down into more basic and abstract shapes.
For her, it’s significant that the shapes in the exhibition are a reference to Newfoundland architecture partly because the pieces suspended in the gallery are meant to be evocative of houses being floated across the bay during resettlement.
However, the pieces are also about this particular moment in our history – when the rising cost of living in Newfoundland along with economic instability in the province makes it difficult for people to imagine what the future might look like here.
“It was important to keep the houses loose so they’re not really screwed together tight because, when you’re in a house it creaks and it cracks and it kind of settles with the changing weather. We have so much changing weather that all our houses are constantly creaking and cracking and I wanted to capture that fluidity, the flexibility we need to survive here,” Pittman said.