More than just a beverage, tea has become a ritual in cultures throughout the world. So much so, that the very word ‘tea’ is loaded with associations for billions of people from Japan, to England, to colonial North America.
Artists Jo-Ann Sheen and Diana Durrand explore the symbolism of tea from their unique perspectives in their joint show Sunday Tea, which opens at the Fort Gallery today (April 20) and will run until May 8.
An opening event will be held Thursday, April 21 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sheen incorporates actual tea bags, packaging and the stains left behind by used tea bags into her works.
These found objects — after having been steeped and torn for human consumption — are transformed into kites, quilts and interpreted images. They become expressions of human imagination rather than the leavings of a casual brew.
This notion of finding unintended meanings in random patterns and artifacts is a strand that runs through Western art. Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci recommended it as ‘not to be despised’.
Of course ‘reading the leaves’ is also a rite associated with tea. But Sheen notes that how we make and consume our morning cuppa has been transformed by the industrial revolution. Her work revives in new forms dimensions of tea sipping that have been largely stripped away in the age of hurry-up consumption.
Durrand juxtaposes the sensuous ‘landscape’ of the human body with the precise art of Victorian china cups in her series. “Sunday Tea is a very personal reflection of a time when leaving the church and the coming of age collided, yet the family ritual of Sunday tea survived,” she said.
As such it becomes a metaphor for the decline of Victorian religious and social values in our world, even as we fondly — or unconsciously — continue with the forms and rituals that were part of the Victorian psychic framework.
In her works Durrand balances elegant teacups with floral decorative patterns on various parts of the female body.
The contrast between controlled, ritualized design and the fluid contours of living, sensuous flesh evokes contradictions, which the viewer must either resolve or live with.
The Fort Gallery is at 9048 Glover Rd. Call 604-888-7411 or visit www.fortgallery.ca. The gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.