Kamloops artist Laura Hargrave’s series of drawings called Memory Lines is a visual representation of the instability and confusion that comes with memory loss.
Hargrave created the works by standing in front of her canvas and drawing in continuous lines behind her back. This makes the drawings wobbly, cartoonish and in places, incomplete. Her method made memory loss a part of the process as well as the product. Since she couldn’t see where she was drawing, she could only draw (in both senses of the word) from her memory.
The drawings themselves are outlines of elderly people. Most of the figures are facing to the left and seem to be in motion. In The Cube Gallery it looks as though they are walking in circles around the room. One of the figures is on all fours, as though they have fallen or are searching for something on the ground.
The chaotic visual of the multi-coloured chalk lines reflects the scattered minds of people suffering from memory loss. With only outlines of the seniors, they feel intangible and untethered. Although it is hard to discern their expressions, the figures seem confused and distressed.
For anyone who has known someone who has dealt with any form of dementia, the exhibit can be quite emotional. Despite the fact that the drawings were created blindly, the physicality and posture of the people depicted are surprisingly accurate. It isn’t difficult to see people you know in the sketched faces.
The overall impression is that the mental state of the subjects of the drawings is more akin to that of a restless spirit than a live person.
Hargrave was inspired by seeing family and friends cope with memory loss in old age. It is a theme she has explored a lot in previous works.
The exhibit consists of a small handful of works, but the pieces themselves are huge, nearly covering the walls. The memory-challenged people in the paintings are larger than life. Together they seem more like one continuous work of art than separate pieces.
Putting aside the symbolism, the art is very aesthetically appealing. Although the lines are frenzied, there’s something serene about the simplicity of the colourful lines on a black background repeated on all four walls.
With the aesthetic and conceptual values combined, Memory Lines is a moving series, and The Cube is the perfect place to display it.
Memory Lines will be on display in the Kamloops Art Gallery’s Cube for free until June 18.