Fingerprint opens at Full of Beans

Full of Beans is becoming the hot local place for new artists to launch their first exhibits.


The artist, Kaitlyn Elphinstone, stands next to one of her gorgonian needlework pieces on display at Full of Beans café.
Photo: Anna Wootton

This month it is hosting the works of Kaitlyn Elphinstone, a young artist working at the National Gallery who has taken a big step into the unknown and put together an exhibit of mixed media pieces that put across a polite yet firm message.

The show is titled Fingerprint to represent man’s print on the environment, but to a ‘less intense’ level than the commonly-used term ‘carbon footprint’, said Ms Elphinstone.

‘I wanted to illustrate man’s ‘print’ on the environment as well as a ‘natural print’ or formation. For example, the intricate growth patterns of the sea fan or a sea grape leaf. However, I hope the viewer is able to make that connection on their own,’ she said.

The exhibit wisely uses art to relay the environmental impact that man has on the Earth without being disturbing or difficult to look at – in fact, it remains quite pleasingly aesthetic to the eye. This is something that many other artists fail to achieve, so to have mastered this in a first exhibit is quite an achievement.

‘I was worried about the Dead Fish piece,’ Ms Elphinstone admitted. ‘I asked the owner if he was okay with it being on display in the main eating area. But I wanted people to be challenged by it – I wanted them to connect with the food they eat,’ she explained.

The piece she is referring to is a photograph of the catch of the day, open-mouthed and open-eyed but clearly dead. Rather than hiding it in the back of the café, the owner encouraged its presence in the dining area. Indeed, it makes it hard to ignore the reality: this is what animals experience before reaching your plate, after all.

However, it is still an impressive photograph; the composition and framing are striking, lending itself well to exhibition, thus it is not offensive enough to put anyone off their food, but hopefully is sufficient in stimulating thought among the viewers.

Another interesting concept was captured in the series Ideal Landscapes, a set of three composite photographs that Ms Elphinstone took and put together after asking three of her friends to write their favourite places of the world on a piece of paper.

‘The series certainly illustrates how our ‘ideal’ landscapes fail to include a human presence,’ she noted. Indeed, one of the most striking of the composites contains a blend of Caymanian clear-blue waters from North Sound, stormy Ontario skies and rural Italian mountains.

‘With this exhibition, I didn’t want to illustrate a completely negative view of our relationship with the environment but rather show it how it is,’ Ms Elphinstone explained. ‘I think it’s an important concept that we can see ourselves as part of the environment as opposed to separate from, and possibly detrimental to, the world around us.’

Ms Elphinstone admits that the environmental theme is a definite concern of hers, along with ideas of cultural identity, visual narratives and ‘sticky notes’. These have been lifelong concerns for her.

‘I guess I’ve always had a love of nature and natural forms,’ Ms Elphinstone said. ‘I suppose you could call me an outdoorsy individual.’

Viewers of the exhibit noted the variety of media used to create the various works. The common denominator for the exhibition was the theme far more than the method of creation, it seemed.

‘I like to consider the medium I use to be dictated by the concept or idea I am trying to express,’ Ms Elphinstone said. ‘Nonetheless, I really like working with materials. I enjoy printmaking, Photoshop, assemblage, installation.

‘I’m now experimenting with a kind of photography called lomography, a medium which creates these really strange and unexpected images. I suppose my least favourite [medium] is painting, but even so, I frequently find a use for paint.’

Ms Elphinstone’s art education began in school but continued with her overseas studies in Visual Studies and Art History at the University of Toronto, from which she graduated in June 2008.

‘It was extremely important for me to continue my studies abroad. I majored in a school that emphasised visual concepts over strategies,’ Ms Elphinstone said. ‘I was lucky enough to freely experiment with many art forms, from drawing to performance art.’

The importance of education in art is something that has followed her through to her day job in her work as Education Coordinator at the National Gallery.

‘Being able to think creatively is a fantastic skill and is applied in countless professions and situations,’ she pointed out. ‘Working with the National Gallery and their outreach and educational programmes has definitely shown me how beneficial art can be to all individuals.’

Her time overseas also reinforced that message, and Ms Elphinstone encourages all artists to spend time in a ‘major art city’ such as Toronto, London, New York or Melbourne.

‘I learned a lot while I was at the University of Toronto, not only from the lectures but also from the fantastic art environment the city had to offer,’ she said.

Although unable to pinpoint a favourite work in the exhibit – a difficult task for any artist, whose works become almost like their children – Ms Elphinstone was able to identify those works which posed the most challenges.

‘I would say the woven sea fans with garbage bags and ones with dental floss took quite a bit of time and were probably the most frustrating to make,’ she laughed. ‘Purple sea fans are brittle!’

The exhibit was a joyful experience for Ms Elphinstone as a new artist, and she relished the chance to show her works and generate discussion.

‘I loved hearing other people’s opinions and interpretations of the works,’ she said.

Fingerprint is on exhibit for the month of February at Full of Beans Café in Pasadora Place. Visit during the café’s opening hours to peruse the displayed works and contact [email protected] with any questions or for requests to purchase.