VISIBLE MENDING (RECONCILIATION) – TANYA FENKELL
Tanya Fenkell’s watercolour paintings consider place, belonging, transformation and recovery through the beauty and tranquility of the Canadian landscape. The landscape draws us, even as our expanding knowledge of history makes reconsidering ideas of place crucial. Tanya’s ‘Visible Mending’ series of stitched watercolour paintings was created as part of an exhibition for Truth & Reconciliation and looks at the painful history of Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous peoples and paths towards Reconciliation from the perspective of a non-Indigenous Canadian.
Visible mending takes a tear or a worn area and makes it new and sometimes lovely. Instead of hiding the mend, it is enhanced and becomes a unique element. In the context of Reconciliation, it is about the idea of repairing historical damage and creating something new. For the pieces in this series, I began by cutting squares, measuring one inch by one inch, out of my paintings before mending them again, exposing spaces and deep red watercolour underneath. The cutouts are meant to invoke the idea of taking more than was offered (‘give an inch and they’ll take a mile’), as settlers did when they took land from Indigenous populations in Canada. Sewing together suggests the slow and often difficult work of repair. By stitching the landscape back together visibly, and slightly askew, I’m acknowledging that the repairs cannot erase history and its ugliness, but will instead be part of creating something new.
There is hope inherent in repair, and a look towards the future. The sewing threads are black and red, the dark ones both blending with shadows in the landscape and reminding us of the shameful history of Canada’s treatment of its Indigenous population, while the blood red invokes all the blood spilled. Stitches travel down the painting, as if blood runs from the open cuts in the landscape, again suggesting the tremendous difficulty of healing and repair. In each painting, the sky remains as it was, unstitched and untouched by all of these human activities, a witness to the past as well as to a hopeful future of healing and reconciliation. As a landscape painter, I care deeply for the natural spaces in which I find inspiration, and I believe that love for our environment is a passionately felt, shared experience that may help form a hopeful way forward together.