With a sculpture and painting practice rooted in traditional Northwest Coast design, Luke Parnell contrasts these formal aesthetic elements with personal and contemporary concerns.
His new installation, Repeat the chorus three times, includes three box drums. Varying in scale and design, the pieces are adorned with curving lines and concentric ovoids in both red and black paint, or with carved elements.
In the Varley Art Gallery now, the drums are rendered silent, echoes of their beats audible only in the imagination of their viewers.
At the same time, however, the drums act like the verse of a song, one after the other adding meaning to an evolving visual narrative.
As with many of Parnell’s past works, these pieces explore how both culture and trauma are passed down from generation to generation, creating a conundrum about how one reconciles with both simultaneously.
Luke Parnell is Laxgiik (eagle) from Wilps Kwa’kaans on his mother’s side and Haida from Massett on his father’s side.
His training has involved a traditional apprenticeship with a Master Northwest Coast Indigenous carver, a BFA from OCAD, and an MA from ECUAD.
His artistic practice explores the relationship between Northwest Coast Indigenous oral histories and Northwest Coast Indigenous art, with a focus on transformation narratives.
Parnell’s work has been exhibited at the MacLaren Art Centre (Barrie, 2011), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, 2014), the Biennial of Contemporary Native Art (Montreal, 2016), the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (Kitchener, 2018), and more. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Banff Centre and the International Cervantino Festival (Guanajuato, Mexico).
The exhibition will be showcased until May 14. Visit varleygallery.ca for more details.
Photo: Luke Parnell, Repeat the chorus three times, Installation view. Varley Art Gallery of Markham, 2021.