Disintegrating: A painting exhibition

Fourth-year fine arts student Savannah Mileen Harris’s art installation is unlike anything you have seen before. In her own words, “‘Disintegrating’ explores the destruction of land mass due to rising sea levels through abstraction, layering, materiality, mark-making and memory.”

The stunning use of spray paints, glitter and neon colours is initially captivating, but the collection also highlights the serious problem of shoreline erosion.

Savannah Mileen Harris alongside a piece from her instillation. Adrian Kiva/Argosy
Savannah Mileen Harris alongside a piece from her instillation. Adrian Kiva/Argosy

“I’m from P.E.I. and shoreline erosion is a big issue there. There are some places on the Island that recede up to eight metres per year, and I wanted my paintings to mean something and not just be,” Harris said.

“The title ‘Disintegrating’ comes from what is actually happening to coastal properties: pieces of land are breaking off into smaller and smaller pieces as they fall into water and adding height to the ocean floor. This summer I was able to visit places on P.E.I. where I could actually watch chunks of the cliff falling off into the water, even days after the last rainfall, and that inspired the repeating brown, rock-like pattern.”

Harris said that she began her collection by experimenting with abstraction and different ways of laying down material. Because of this process, a single piece required that she paint one layer and then move on to work on a different painting.

“I have been exploring ways in which I can combine drawing and painting to create unified artworks,” she said. “I wanted to stretch my own limits in what I consider a painting by adding materials…like ink, marker and thin, linear mark-making. I wanted to explore juxtaposing chaotic mark-making with layers of softer, flatter colour.”

Harris’s project was made possible through a research grant with which she had four months to complete and install her artwork. Compared to assigned classwork, independent grant work gave her more freedom and time to explore different painters’ techniques.

“I’ve always been a landscape painter and only recently have been trying to capture the feeling of the landscape,” she said.

“I abandoned naturalistic representations of water, rocks and sandstone for motifs that could remind the viewer of properties of these that weren’t just visual, but reminded them about the way these elements moved, felt and sounded.”

Harris’s collection is on display until Sept. 20 at the START Gallery.

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