"Clearing" by Cynthia Fuhrer. // Supplied

Magical moment and historical portraiture inspire Cynthia Fuhrer’s exhibition Splendid String

Splendid String
Works by Cynthia Fuhrer; Art Gallery of St. Albert; until Sat., Apr. 27. Exhibition Tour: Thu., Apr. 18 (12:05 p.m.)

By Paul Blinov

Years ago, out in Thunder Lake Provincial Park, Cynthia Fuhrer was cross-country skiing with her mother and grandmother. They took a corner and found themselves staring down—and being stared down by—three enormous moose.

“It was magical,” recalls Fuhrer, who’d never seen the animals in the wild, especially not so up-close. “There’s this inner life to them. They just stood there, and looked at us more than we looked at them, really. They weren’t concerned with us at all. They just went about their business.”

Something about the image lingered, and when Fuhrer was looking to honour the memory of her grandmother, part of that memory—the moose—ended up on a canvas, alongside her daughter, “as a way,” she notes, “of acknowledging the next generation in my family.”

That pairing sparked something in Fuhrer, and now Splendid String—her latest solo exhibit— collects about a dozen large-scale canvases that bring humans and animals together with a mythic, dreamlike sensibility. The title and works suggest a connection between all living things; one canvas finds a girl’s hair entwined with an animal’s antlers, each of them bearing a matching tattoo sleeve; in another, two children and a wolf all stare back at you, as if you’ve inadvertently interrupted a moment. The works carry the poise of historical portraiture, a style Fuhrer often finds herself drawn to in her practice. There’s something compelling to her about the style’s inclination to hold a direct gaze with the viewer.

Cynthia Fuhrer with two of the paintings in her exhibition “Splendid String.” // Supplied

“The way they seem like they’re trying to engage specifically on a one-to-one level, the way that you stand and talk to somebody,” Fuhrer says of portraits. “Their eyes, in a lot of the paintings—not all of them—directly gaze with the viewer, and try to have that one-on-one connection.”

Scale, too, is part of Splendid String’s effect. Fuhrer’s working on large canvases to capture that massive feeling of encountering those moose years ago—the show’s biggest piece is a five-by-15-foot triptych. And while these works have been Fuhrer’s focus for the past year, the inspiration she’s found in the style and subject matter doesn’t seem likely to exhaust itself anytime soon.

“I feel this series of work is probably gonna be with me for a long time,” Fuhrer says. “I have no shortage of ideas.”

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