Ottawa artist Cynthia O’Brien is fluent in the language of clay: its many uses, sculptural and technical qualities, and history that reaches back thousands of years. Much of her work over 25+ years of art practice has involved creating installations of sculptured forms which reflect her feelings on life and death. She puts this very personal work out for public display and contemplation. This simple act of courage is an invitation for us to think on the fragility of our lives and the beauty of nature that surrounds us.
from down under invites us into a garden installation that O’Brien has re-created from the “physical memory”
of her studio residency experience in Australia. Visit The General’s back space gallery to see and understand her meaning for yourself.
“This work is based on an installation I created at the Tank Art Centre within the Flecker Botanical Gardens in Cairns, Australia. I spent a month being taught by nature to see plants from all angles, lights and moods. My hands learned to move the clay to bring out the strength and delicacy of each plant.
Australia has a very tough policy that nothing is brought in or taken from their fragile environment. I abided by these rules. What struck me later in February, as I sat in my cold Ottawa basement studio, is that I did collect a good deal of their plants through the physical memory in my hands. Working again on these plants gave me great joy and I could feel a great lightness and warmth of the lush foreign garden I learned so much from.
The flowers I created in Australia are gone, dissolved in water back to the natural state of clay. I cannot assume to replicate nature; the flowers I make now are a mix of reality and fiction. They all have many stories within the garden and in the minds of who view them. My story tells of beauty, sadness, adventure and new growth.
The flowers float around the space, grounded only by the weathered fence boards creating a new garden, a space for reflection. I invite the viewer to come and contemplate the simple beauty of the world around them.”
-Cynthia O’Brien, March 2015