One New Work is an ongoing series of exhibitions focused on new work by significant Alberta artists, curated by Nancy Tousley. Each exhibition juxtaposes one feature artwork with other objects or artwork (often drawn from Glenbow’s collection) selected to set the new artwork within a context. DaveandJenn: The Wellspring is the fourth exhibition in the series.
Calgary-based artists, Jennifer Saleik and David Foy, who have collaborated under their combined names for a dozen years, began their careers as painters. Their work has evolved to incorporate sculpture, as they started creating three-dimensional figures that appear to have emerged from the teeming, tangled landscapes and narratives depicted in their paintings. Built up in layers of acrylic paint supported by layers of clear resin, DaveandJenn’s paintings are thick, semi-transparent slabs, where images suspended in the top layers of the resin cast shadows onto the layers below. Pockets of space exist where light from the real world shines into the fictional undergrowth in the paintings. In spaces such as these, a path towards installation work opened and expanded. The artists say that, although the path was slow, the idea was there from the beginning: they have always envisioned that one day they would make a painting you could walk into. The Wellspring is the first installation work by DaveandJenn and the first in which they visualize painting as a physical experience for the viewer.
The centerpiece of "The Wellspring," is a coral formation growing out of a volcanic sea vent on the ocean floor. Magically, the coral takes the form of a female figure who wears a gilded bronze mask, concealing her head and face.
A commanding yet enigmatic presence, she is in league with the huge serpent that wraps itself around her. Fusing its body with hers, the serpent is an ouroboros, the snake that bites its own tail. The ouroboros symbolizes life, death, and rebirth. All the elements of a dramatic story are in place, one that plays out in three dimensions.
We made her those sweet, girlish colours because it was important that she be both soft and terrible. Like life.
Drawing upon diverse sources such as classical sculpture, collectible Meissen figurines and internet gifs and using an incongruous mix of materials (gilded bronze, epoxy resin and tinsel foil) DaveandJenn have created a resonant 21st-century art work that addresses the origins of life in the universe, cycles of life and death, the workings of complex systems such as coral reefs and human bodies, and the interconnectedness of all living things.