Jamelie Hassan fuses aesthetics, activism at Museum London

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A piece of work from the At the Far Edge of Words exhibit

Gazette File Photo

MAKING A DIFFERENCE WITH ART. London-based artist Jamelie Hassan uses a wide array of media to explore critical and relevant issues in the exhibit “At the Far Edge of Words,” on display now at Museum London.

It’s not often that one finds an artist who so adamantly fuses together the aesthetics of art with an activist’s raw desire to send a message. Jamelie Hassan’s newest exhibit, “At the Far Edge of Words,” displays a passion for activism and addresses such topics as colonialism, racism and the objectification of women.

Hassan is a London-based artist whose work has been displayed in the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and even in Western’s McIntosh Gallery. In 2001 she was the recipient of the Governor General’s Award in Media and Visual Arts.

The current exhibit features a series of works tracing the past 30 years of Hassan’s career with specific emphasis on key pieces that have honed her skills as both an artist and activist. Although this is not the first time her art has been featured at Museum London, this exhibit is monumental in that it is the first comprehensive survey exhibition of her work to be mounted.

The title, “At the Far Edge of Words” references a poem written by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The poem itself is the reflection of a man’s journey through life and his discovery of what the word “home” truly means.

Melanie Townsend, head of exhibitions and collections, at Museum London muses that “beyond the apparent issues of cultural identity and displacement, the poem also makes reference to Hassan’s recurring use of text and language in her work.”

Hassan is careful to pick a medium to best address the message she wishes to convey. The exhibit is a collection of Hassan’s work dating back to the 70s. The wide array of media " including ceramics, watercolors, photographs, videos and installations " illustrates the precision that Hassan uses in picking a medium that is best suited to each project and to the subject that it addresses.

Throughout her career Hassan has stressed the responsibility of an artist to address critical, relevant issues. By intertwining art and activism, Hassan is able to tackle controversial subjects in a contemporary and meaningful way. This makes each piece in Hassan’s exhibit multi-dimensional to its audience as one is forced to search for the deeper, global meaning in the piece.

“Her pioneering practice has steadfastly asserted that artists have a responsibility to address the critical issues of our time, while the geographical location in the ‘regions’ of Southwestern Ontario grounds her practice,” Townsend says. “As such, many of her works address displacement and political injustice.”

Museum London is also currently co-publishing a book on Hassan’s work with the Morris and Helen Belkin art Gallery, where a version of the exhibition will travel in 2010.

The exhibit will be on display in the Ivey Galleries of Museum London until May 31.

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