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Vanitas by the Sea / Vanitas par la mer

Barbara Safran Niverville

Barbara Safran de Niverville explores the vigour of growth where native plants and garden escapees mingle. Discarded domestic objects punctuate intricate vegetation that seems to hover in the dark ground. The title of the exhibition references the still life genre of painting popular during the Baroque period in western art history. Vanitas portray highly realistic, symbolic objects such as flowers, porcelain and silver dishes, fruits and vegetables. Together on a tabletop, the objects are a reminder to the viewer of the hubris of mankind and the inevitability of mortality. Barbara has reinterpreted this point of view recognizing in her work the subtle influence of the present pandemic and its parallels to the plagues in Europe during 17th and 18th centuries. She has chosen to include objects in her work that are worn with use, but seem to possess an aura of their past significance while the shadow land they now inhabit evokes the mysterious resilience of the uncultivated growth found between a beach and a forest – abandoned land that survives in spite of humanity’s seeming indifference.

“Using a combination of natural and synthetic materials, my mixed-media panels represent a metaphor for the hybrid quality of the natural world.  I question our concept of wilderness and reveal the flux between Nature and Culture and the tension between growth and decline. My current work explores outcast and forgotten areas of landscape that retain traces of human use.  Essential to my process is experimentation, through digital photography, drawing, and the testing of new combinations of art techniques with industrial products”.

Vanitas Vivace is a short experimental video based on the painting Vanitas Chicory, on exhibit with this series. Elements from the painting leave the panel’s surface, become air born and dance to an original soundtrack.  Barbara’s husband Peter de Niverville animated the film with music composed by their daughter, Abigail de Niverville. It is available to be viewed on Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/568608152/bb5d5ef7f8

A Prix Éloize finalist in 2018, Barbara has exhibited landscapes across Canada in twenty-six solo shows and numerous group projects in the United States and Iceland. In 2014, she completed her Masters of Fine Arts degree at the Art Institute of Boston.


July 10, 2021
August 21, 2021
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