The Age of Uncertainty

Reid Gallery

The Age of Uncertainty

Sandra Sawatzky

Opening Reception:
August 25th - 6 pm to 9 pm

Artist Talk:
August 26th - 1 pm

Sandra Sawatzky is an artist on a mission, one tiny stitch at a time. Through her work she is transforming our perception of embroidery as an art form while drawing attention to the larger social, political, and environmental issues that affect us all. Beneath the brightly coloured figures and meticulous stitching the 12 embroidered panels that comprise The Age of Uncertainty depict in great detail the overarching issues of our time – environmental degradation, debt, income inequality, (un)employment, artificial intelligence, science & technology, war, overpopulation, nuclear threat, resource scarcity, corruption, and surveillance.

The work highlights both the urgency and absurdity of the problems that we face as a society and a species, illustrating our exceptional reliance on the networked, digitized, energized, electrified, mechanized, prefabricated, and manufactured world. Rather than providing solemn lectures and mountains of data, The Age of Uncertainty portrays these issues using humour and a fine needle and thread.

Each piece in the exhibition resembles a large scale medieval illuminated manuscript complete with detailed illustrations, calligraphy, inhabited initials, borders filled with flora and fauna, and funny grotesque elements called drolleries.
They all follow a similar format, providing an illustrative rhythm to the exhibition. In each a large, decorative quote frames the narrative, human drama is depicted in the centre, and a decorative border portrays a beleaguered natural world often seeking reprisal for the hubris of humanity. The border area depicting the natural world fills roughly half of the 1200 square inches of embroidery on each panel. This intentional use of space illustrates the evidence that nature needs half of all the land, air, and water to be protected from all human
activity in order to survive. Everywhere you look there are details to notice; juxtaposed art historical and pop-culture references share the space with intricately detailed plants and animals. The brightly coloured embroidery thread, humorous references, and stylized illustrations provide an accessible entrance to the admittedly intense subject matter. In Debt, a group of 12 companions check their cell phones and enjoy happy hour at the Last Supper Diner – an ominous reference to the Leonardo da Vinci painting – while around the border birds on a stylized money tree hold debtors in their beaks and winged dollar bills fly away. In Climate, the promise of futuristic buildings, spaceships and flying cars is subsumed by smog while all around the border animals and sea life contend with empty bottles and cans. In War, a helmeted skeleton beating a drum with bloody bones decorates the quotation and armed animalia surround a central image of weapons production.

If art reflects our current reality, then The Age of Uncertainty contains multitudes. It is simultaneously hopeful for positive change and appropriately apocalyptic about the damage humanity has done to the world; both a joyful celebration of an age-old technique and a solemn meditation for what has been squandered and lost. The heavy subject matter relayed by lithesome craft is an opportunity to appreciate embroidery as a serious art form and to come away percolating with your own thoughts. Ultimately, it is a call to consider our place in the world and how our own actions matter.