Artist Anick Fernandez was pleased to be able to explain her creative process and share her work at the opening reception to her exhibition, Migrations, Frontiers and Territories, Sunday at the Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre.
“In my creative process, I first find something that moves me, because I cannot expect someone to be moved if I am not moved by something,” Fernandez explains.
“Once I have that idea, I research about it. There’s a lot of thinking going on, it’s all mental. It may take weeks or months or sometimes years. It’s always in the back of my mind. Sometimes I write out a few words to guide me,” says Fernandez.
“I never make sketches. Sometimes I make a tiny drawing, maybe two centimetres, to figure out proportions, but that’s it. When I have all the elements in my mind, I start working. I work intuitively. All the shapes, all the forms, everything begins to flow and it doesn’t stop until it stops. Until it is done.”
For this exhibition, Fernandez derived her inspiration from the images of the refugees fleeing Syria and attempting to enter Europe. Fernandez and her husband were living in Spain at the time and she was moved by the refugee plight. “When I started this project, it was in response to the migration from Syria,” she says. “All these Syrians were trying to reach Europe. We were watching on TV all these heartbreaking images of families. That was the trigger of this exhibit. This is like the story of migrations in general, how people move from one place to the other, the difficulties they find along the way, that are not just geographical obstacles but prejudice against religion and ethnicity.”
Fernandez speaks with compassion for the hardships and obstacles refugees and migrants encounter. “When we first arrived in Spain, one of the things that shocked me to learn was that there are so many people from Africa trying to reach either Italy, Greece or Spain. They pay fortunes to get a place on a boat to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Many have capsized. Many of them drown. Many of them died from hypothermia, but sometimes they make it.” Fernandez’s work explores the paths of the migrants, the obstacles they face and the willingness to overcome them.
She uses the printmaking techniques of collagraphy and drypoint to create her works. The works themselves are rich with texture and movement. Within the images, one can trace the steps of the migrants as they leave their territory and seek out another, the visible obstacles they face in their path and their ways around them. “I’m an optimistic person. All of these works were designed to be exhibited together,” she explains as she gestures toward a series of prints. “These forms here represent obstacles and barriers, and then these lines here, represent people finding their way out. They all make it.”
Fernandez describes this journey. “They arrive in a new territory and they will have to adapt.” She understands how it feels to migrate, move to a new ‘territory and adapt.’ Born in Mexico, she has travelled extensively and had her work exhibited in Mexico, Spain, Portugal, and France and Canada. She understands how it feels to breach a new frontier and enter a new territory. She explains how the world has changed over this past year, and we are more aware of the concept of territories; whether they are countries, provinces or regions or even rooms in our house. “I think that COVID uncovered it. Now we are all talking about new territories in one form or another, and borders. COVID has been such a great opportunity to remind us or to make us aware that we are all interconnected, and that we depend on each other, and that we are all the same.”
This exhibition will be on display from Nov. 3 to Nov. 27 in the Joyner Gallery. For more information and gallery hours, contact niagarapumphouse.ca or call 905-468-5455.