Artist Gabriola mixes history and memory in an art exhibition
Artist Antoinette Hérivel exhibits a series of memory drawings at the Gabriola Island Library which recount events from her early childhood in post-war Britain between 1947 and 1951.
The drawings, titled “The Green Front Door,” are made up of watercolor, pencil, ink, collage and text, and can be viewed through the end of August.
“[When I was a child]we had a door that was green, and it refers to the little girl – [who] I called my ‘frenemy’ – she told me there was a bogeyman that catered to children who had green front doors,” says Hérivel. “And I really believed her.”
In selecting the memories to portray in the series of 31 drawings, Hérivel said she not only chose the strongest memories, but the ones she felt would resonate the most with people.
“There’s one about the death of my dog, which is a very common childhood experience… And also things related to that story,” she said.
Another work by Hérivel includes copies of clothing coupons attributed to her as a child.
“You couldn’t get materials and clothes very easily after the war for a while. And so everyone got ration books, not just for food but for clothes. Even children,” she said. “I didn’t use many coupons because I was a child who wasn’t growing very fast.”
One of her favorite designs, she said, simply because it is symbolic of the times, depicts “factory girls” on bicycles passing a row of houses – which she says are still standing today. Hérivel said she also remembered sirens going off at seven in the morning, noon and one in the evening.
“This drawing reminds me of that time and reminds me of those movies made in the 1940s,” she said.
Most of the drawings are rendered in watercolour, pencil and ink. Using watercolor, Hérivel said she thought it was appropriate because it is a transparent and versatile medium. And one that lent itself to the reach of memory and the “distant nature” of the designs, by “not really being there, but still being seen.” And like the medium, Hérivel worked in an impressionistic style to make the depictions seem reminiscent and undefined, just like her memories.
The Green Front Door series is a prequel to another series Hérivel worked on that recounts memories of an older age, between eight and 11 years old, in the form of oil paintings.
She said the series has about 70 paintings that depict experiences between 1951 and 1954, while living in a different community. However, it is a personal project that she has not shown publicly. However, having done both series now, she said she was interested in doing another that also incorporates history and memory.
Hérivel’s drawings can be consulted at the Gabriola library, accompanied by an accompanying book until the end of August, but can also be consulted online at www.antoinetteherivel.ca, or on his Facebook page.