Death and comics

Fiona Dunnett blends disparate ideas in her artwork

  • Jan. 20, 2012 5:00 p.m.

Fiona Dunnett with a sample of her artwork

When Canadian artist Fiona Dunnett adopted Oaxaca, Mexico as her home after graduating with a B.A. in Fine Arts — with honours — from the University of Victoria, she immersed herself in the cultural, social and political environment of Mexico.

She is back in Canada, but her six years of living in Mexico is reflected in her art work, which portrays graffiti-like images of death surrounded by a collage of comic strips.

Dunnett works in large scale and in three dimensions, using techniques and genres like collage, mixed media, photography and pop art.

Her multi media work will be exhibited at the MacMillan Arts Centre (MAC) in Parksville January 31 to February 25.

Mexican pop culture and its worship of death which is portrayed very graphically in the Mexican tabloids with gruesome news stories and photos of mutilated corpses provides some of the inspiration for Dunnett’s art work.

The Ottawa-born artist moved to Oaxaca in 2005 and the culture of the southern Mexican city became a rich source of stimulation for her work. Combining the photographs of violent deaths in the Mexican newspapers with a collage of comic strips, her graffiti like paintings in acrylic also contain elements of the natural world.

Dunnett’s canvases get their natural colour from dyes she made out of crushed insects and flowers. She used the cochineal, a beetle like parasite that lives on cacti from which the dye carmine is derived to make a bright red dye and she used Marigold flowers to make a yellow dye. Dunnett said she attended a workshop in the community to learn about the use of natural dyes which are derived from local plants and insects.

“For quite some time I’d been thinking about using natural dyes in my work and then I had the opportunity to learn about their use from an expert.”

Dunnett also participated in more traditional hands-on seminars, at the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca and at other art institutes in the city.

She credits two local graffiti stencil art groups with providing her with additional inspiration.

The portraits of death combined with the comic imagery isn’t subtle and Dunnett admitted that while some people may find her paintings dark, it isn’t her intention to evoke feelings of horror.

“In Mexico they treat death in a different way … and I like to work with ideas of death and mortality,” she said.

Dunnett’s artistic talent has been influenced by more than Mexican culture. When she was five years old, her family travelled to Bangladesh because her mother was a diplomat for the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). After three years she returned to Ottawa, and then her family spent three years in Zimbabwe.

Dunnett said she puts her own personality and life experiences into her work and she hopes the images come across as thought provoking rather than troublesome.

Her art show at the MAC includes an opening reception Friday, Feb. 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. where the public is invited to meet the artist.







Just Posted

Bowser residents protest marine sewage outfall plan

Veenhof and staff endures harsh criticisms at public information meeting

Qualicum Beach society goes to bat for insect eaters

Two bat houses built to monitor population in Heritage Forest

Parksville reopens portion of wetland

City undertakes review, remediation of liability concerns

Is Steve Nash Vancouver Island’s best athlete of all-time?

As Captain Canada gets ready to enter basketball’s Hall of Fame it’s time to debate his legacy

Who is Vancouver Island’s greatest athlete ever?

We want to know, you get to choose in a 64-athlete tournament bracket

VIDEO: After the floods, comes the cleanup as Grand Forks rebuilds

Business owners in downtown wonder how long it will take for things to go back to normal

SAR scaling back in Kilmer search, but friends will keep looking

Search for 41-year-old Cobble Hill dad hits six-day mark

Rachel Notley to skip premiers conference to focus on pipeline deal

Kinder Morgan has ceased all non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline project until it receives assurances

B.C. tech company will power Uber Elevate

Moli and Uber announce research and development partnership.

Olympian sues USA Swimming, saying it failed to protect her

Ariana Kukors Smith alleges her former coach Sean Hutchison began grooming her for sexual abuse at the age of 13

Defence minister thanks troops for B.C. flood relief work

Harjit Sajjan says not only was military response quick, support from locals has been ‘tremendous’

Still no sign of missing father in Cowichan Valley

Search group for Ben Kilmer now stands 40 SAR volunteers and another 100 friends and concerned community members

Couple survives being buried in mudslide on B.C. highway

The couple, from Saskatchewan, were en route to Nelson when a tree fell in their path

‘So grateful:’ Injured Bronco hockey player glad he’s alive, works on recovery

Ryan Straschnitzki was badly hurt in the accident: a spinal injury, broken ribs, a broken collar bone, and punctured lung

Most Read