Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Beneath the Stones: StFX's Broch Research Collective hosting art exhibition, lecture focused on culture and cemeteries

May 22nd, 2015
George Thomson

The Broch Research Collective, an interdepartmental research cluster at St. Francis Xavier University, will host two events at the People’s Place Library on Friday, June 5th. 

In conjunction with Antigonish Culture Alive, the Collective will showcase the work of three Nova Scotian artists in the Bistro Gallery of the People’s Place Library. Artwork by Russell Jackson, Anna Syperek, and Bill Rogers, interpreting the hallowed spaces of rural cemeteries, will be the focus of the exhibit, entitled Beneath the Stones. An opening reception for the exhibit, which runs June 5-30, will be held on Friday, June 5th, at 6:30 p.m. All are welcome. 
Russell Jackson studied illustration in Scotland and lived for many years in Sweden and Iceland before choosing to settle in Nova Scotia. He fills sketchbook after sketchbook with portraits of people and different places: coffee shops, tattoo parlours, city streets, and courthouses. During a visit to the Scottish island of Iona, he became inspired to make a visual record of the magnificent crosses, and grave slabs that can be found on the grounds of Iona Abbey. Long hours were spent in complete silence, painting these monuments, some of which are over a thousand years old. 
Anna Syperek’s poetic realism is inspired by an intuitive rapport with her own surroundings. Coming as an immigrant to Nova Scotia, she was struck by the centuries-old living culture of Scottish exiles who had come before. Her paintings of cemeteries – fundamentally human landscapes – embody an attention to the essential and to the personal. For Beneath the Stones, she will show a number of pieces depicting cemeteries in Antigonish, Marydale, and other local communities, situating them in the context of everyday life, of personal history, and of their natural surroundings. 
The Antigonish artist, Bill Rogers, draws much of his source material from plein air landscapes. With an eye for the universal and the commonplace, he explores the interplay of light and colour as a means to evoke both mood and place. The cemetery is just one of many locales which has inspired his artistry and animated his paintbrush.  
The theme of Beneath the Stones is meant to complement a lecture by Dr. George Thomson, also hosted by the Broch Collective at the People’s Place Library. The lecture will follow immediately the exhibition’s opening reception.
Dr. Thomson, an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow, will present his extensive research on gravemarker lettering. His talk is entitled “Gravemarker Research – A Never-Ending Journey,” and will begin at 7 p.m.
Dr. Thomson, a practicing typographic designer, studied at the Edinburgh College of Art, and received his doctorate from Stirling University. In the past 35 years, he has taught on lettering, typography, and graphic design at the Glasgow School of Art and University of Cumbria, released more than 15 books, and published in numerous international journals. Dr. Thomson is also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and of the Society of Scribes and Illuminators and an honorary member of the Broch Research Collective.
Dr. Thomson’s research centres on the study of inscriptional paleography – historical inscriptions carved, engraved, painted, or written on stone, metal, wood, or any other permanent surface. Tying archaeological, historical, and typographical research together, he has produced an impressive body of research on post-medieval and early modern gravestone inscriptions. Most recently, he has applied geometric shape analysis to inscription lettering to identify individual stonecarvers of seventeenth-century gravestones and published an article on gravemarkers in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, which discusses the impact of regional variation and Scottish influence.
The Broch Research Collective is hosting this exhibition and lecture as a part of their larger mission to explore the beliefs, attitudes, and practices surrounding death and dying among Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island’s immigrant Scots. 
These events are sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Centre for Regional Studies, Office of the Academic Vice-President, Office of the Dean of Arts, Antigonish Culture Alive, Angus L. Macdonald Library, Department of History, Department of Sociology, Department of Anthropology, and Department of Celtic Studies.  
Both events are free of charge and open to all.

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