Review: Fiona Crangle at KWT Contemporary.

March 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

Fiona Crangle, "Agatha" (KWT)

KWT Contemporary is currently showing the first solo exhibit of Canadian artist Fiona Crangle, entitled, Be Prepared. Her varnished canvases are a time-warping fusion of Baroque portrait with contemporary adolescent subject. The occasional nose ring is visible on the glowing faces of her female figures, proudly posing in saintly garb and displaying the symbols of their legendary exploits. Indeed, these teenagers are representing martyred saints of the Roman Catholic Church, who resisted arranged marriages and paid the ultimate price: their lives.

Fiona Crangle, "Rufina" (KWT)

Upon entering KWT, a short flight of stairs past the first exhibit leads to a widened area, where a number of Crangle’s gilt-framed medieval style pieces introduce her art. Further along is a smaller room in which the portraits are displayed. Surrounding the viewer from all sides with fierce glares, one almost feels cornered by these powerful figures. For not only are these young women recognized saints, but they possess the dual identity of modern day scouts, trained in leadership and survival. These oil-on-canvas works are rich with iconography attesting to their achievements. ‘Agatha’ (2011), as the story goes, refused an arranged marriage and had her breasts brutally severed and presented on a platter. While the girl holds a bloody rag to her chest and clings to a collection of scout badges, she refuses to break her intense stare from the viewer. One of those badges shows a pair of pincers, symbolizing her mutilating punishment and martyrdom.

Fiona Crangle, "Margaret Undressed" (KWT)

All of Crangle’s Baroque-inspired pieces are painted using the chiaroscuro manner of heavy shading and exaggerated lighting. KWT Contemporary brilliantly illuminates the paintings with overhead spotlights that capture the glowing skin, precise brushwork and dusky backgrounds, reminiscent of Caravaggio and Zurbaran.

While the accompanying leaflet and the lovely KWT staff helpfully provided me with information on the artist’s intentions and inspirations, Crangle herself happened to be visiting the gallery and generously shared her thoughts with me. The self-determined adolescent spirit, both beautiful and terrifying, is what she aims to communicate through her work. The repetition of this theme throughout her paintings, as well as the display of the portraits on all four walls of the gallery, effectively cornering the viewer, truly brings the strength and stubbornness of these young women to life.

Be Prepared runs from until March 31.

-Anne Deck

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