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Jane Enkin

Jane Enkin Interviews Susan Turner, Re: Art at the Zedek-Visual Art Exhibit Feb 18-April 30, 2018

Art at the Zedek, February 15 – April 30, 2018 at Shaarey Zedek Synagogue

by Jane Enkin, February 26, 2018

Susan Turner loves colour. Her artwork explores form, and balance, and a sense of movement, but it is her love of colour that she emphasized in our conversation.


Turner's artwork is on display as the latest installment of Art at the Zedek, hung in the entrance-way and public area on the ground floor of Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. The pieces consist of four series of multiples, all produced in the early months of 2018. SphereLens and Obi are abstract sets, many of the images simple at first glance, but each made up of geometric or loose forms and constructed out of tiny areas of colour. Little blue squares arranged like quilts or children's blocks glow with auras of light. Jagged streaks of brilliant orange, yellow and pink radiate.


Turner works digitally using the camera and scanner, computer software such as Photoshop, and an archival inkjet printer.  She begins with photographs or scans she has taken of the natural world or the constructed environment or with images from her earlier works, and manipulates them on her computer, plays with them, changing colours, textures, depth of shadow, scale and form until the original subjects are transformed. The process is organic and fluid; Turner works with layers of form – a rectangle on a central spiral on a swirl of marbled colours, say – until a work feels complete.


The fourth set of multiples stands out from the others. Tabernacle (adapted from a 2012 series) is a set of five large works printed on vinyl hangings. Each piece is a response to Jewish ritual textiles.


The background story to Tabernacle is intriguing. Turner has curated several exhibits for the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada and years before, her mother did the same work. A few years ago, Turner went through a storage room where some of the Heritage Centre's collection is housed. She founds boxes labelled in her mother's handwriting, containing beautiful textiles. The parokhet, Torah ark curtain, that is featured in three of Turner's prints now hangs in Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Synagogue thanks to the efforts of Turner and synagogue President Earl Hershfield.


In Tabernacle, the photos of the parokhet and other textiles have been transformed, but strong echoes of the original photos remain. Curtain features the rich, dark velvet and twisting fringes of a mappeh, a table cover to be used under the Torah. In Orb a form that reminds Turner of a keter, a Torah crown, floats above the tablets of the Commandments. Pillar of Fire again features the tablets, with the Hebrew letters and the Lions of Judah of the ark curtain, but the focus is on a woven-textured, brilliant orange flame. Hovering is a deeply affecting work about prayer shawls – there is a pale, perhaps ghostly traditional tallit outspread, and swirling over it the gorgeous blue of a tallit as it is swung into place to wrap around the worshipper's shoulders. Chaos features even more of the rich embroidery of the ark curtain. The colours superimposed on it suggest the tohu v'vohu, the formless beginning of the creation story in the first verses of the Torah.


This exhibit of Turner's 2018 prints will tour to several Manitoba communities. Fortunately, the works are limited edition multiples and are for sale now, at approachable prices.


In her artist's statement, Turner writes, "I work to express the evanescent and intangible in visual form. By juggling chaotic states and meditative sanctuary, I create multi-layered, textured, mysterious and reverberating spaces in which interiors and exteriors collide. As an artist, my formal interests lie in variation, mutation, and the intersections between representation and abstraction.



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