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How this collage artist shapes fragments into epiphanies

‘It’s good to be a little bit afraid…and to have some courage to explore what’s personal’: Nadina Tandy’s show is on at the Gumboot Café in Roberts Creek until Sept. 30
A.Nadina Tandy (credit Michael Gurney)
Artist Nadina Tandy at the site of her current exhibition, Generational Imprints, at the Gumboot Café in Roberts Creek.

A Gibsons-based artist whose works are in collections from North America to Europe has launched her first café exhibition in 24 years with a display of collage prints that depict the passage of time through related faces. 

Generational Imprints, Nadina Tandy’s recently opened show at the Gumboot Café in Roberts Creek, represents an intentional return to the intimacy of artwork displayed in a local gathering place.  

“When you come out of art school, you exhibit in hair salons and cafés,” she said. “Then you’re supposed to evolve into having gallery representation and being in museums. I’ve been in galleries, but here, now, I was just excited to do it myself. I am thrilled to share my art with hungry tourists and members of the community.” 

Tandy is a graduate of the Fine Arts program at Langara College and studied drawing and painting at Emily Carr University of Art + Design. Her migration to collage from earlier work in oils, pastels and mixed media was in part the result of a wrist injury. 

“The process of gathering material and cutting and putting things together works really well for me,” she said. Tandy pores over old magazines and advertisements to assemble images. She favours old issues of Life magazine for its depiction of shifting cultural mores. “I think in a non-linear way and [collage] is storytelling in a way that I’m showing you, not telling you.” 

The Generational Imprints portraits that dominate the Gumboot Café exhibition are combined from elements of photographic prints depicting Tandy herself, her mother, and her grandmother. Behind each figure, hand-drawn patterns echo the theme of genetic variation through family lineage. 

“There was a marriage [between creating the collages] and learning my own story while I worked,” Tandy said. “I’ve altered family photos before, but in this series, I’ve tapped into something that I feel as a sort of emotional DNA that comes out across generations.” 

The composite faces with their pastel backgrounds meet the viewer’s gaze directly, demanding subjective deconstruction and analysis. Tandy admits that she felt nervous making art that reveals so much of herself and her own parentage. “But it’s good to be a little bit afraid,” she said, “and to have some courage to explore what’s personal.” 

The large-scale portraits are accompanied by a dozen analogue collage prints. Tandy’s appetite for humorous juxtaposition surfaces frequently in scenes rife with contemporary symbolism. 

In The Swimmer trying to deny unpleasant truths, a shirtless man and woman peer through a kitchen window at an immaculately-set dinner table. In Bucket Full of Nuns, an amorous couple writhes in a chest freezer while members of an Eisenhower-era nuclear family herald the delivery of a wooden barrel containing black-habited sisters. With eyes fixed on the connubial activity in the freezer, the nuns’ expressions are caught between condemnation and commendation. 

“I don’t consider viewers’ reactions while I’m working,” Tandy said. “I’m having my own experience. But of course I want to connect with people, to evoke a little bit of the viewer’s own history where they say, ‘Oh, I remember, I remember.’ I want them to feel when things, visually, are kind of balanced and there’s a harmony.” 

Nadina Tandy’s Generational Imprints remains on display at the Gumboot Café in Roberts Creek until Sept. 30. Tandy maintains an online portfolio at 

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