Arts & Culture, Features, Social

Finding Refuge in Art: Valda Zobens’ Perilous Journey & Threads and Memories

By Lindsay Cooper Valda Zobens is best known for her paintings dealing with themes of temporary migration, which have been inspired by her travels, or permanent immigration, taken from her father’s stories. Zobens’ father, Janis Kalnins, was a successful Latvian conductor who worked with the Latvian National Opera for eleven years before the country came under Stalin’s regime. After living and working in a camp for displaced persons in Germany for three years, Kalnins immigrated to Canada. Tempered by her own family’s immigrant experience, Zobens began her Perilous Journey series, which is made up of one collection thus far. On March 2, Perilous Journey will be added to, though, with Perilous Journey & Threads and Memories. Composed of a series of the artist’s paintings, some of which are accompanied by media images, Threads and Memories is a direct response to the contemporary refugee crisis. With a past in enamelling and metalwork, even Zobens current pieces (all of which are on canvas) have an astute sense of space while also exploring the relationship between shape and colour. Threads and Memories delves into these themes using monoprinting, a production technique similar to screen-printing that allows for only a single print to be made of each work. These works often depict masses of people as far as the eye can see. Despite being faceless, individuals are still distinguishable from one another due to Zobens' expert uses of colour and shape, giving each person in the crowd their own shade and silhouette. Zobens' works to give each anonymous shadow their own identity in hopes that Canadians will do the same when realizing the individuals affected by the refugee crisis.   See Valda Zobens’ Perilous Journey & Threads and Memories at Propeller in Toronto March 2-20. 50% of sales from the Perilous Journey series will be donated to St. Leonards Refugee Sponsorship program. Image courtesy of Propeller.

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