I am continually in awe of how all our life processes are mirrored in nature. For the past five years I have been working with the concept of Sanctuary using drawing, printmaking, painting and installation. Born and raised in Newfoundland and Labrador, I bring the same sense of community I grew up with to the images exploring relationships, identity and change using nature’s traditional sanctuaries. Throughout this series I have become increasingly concerned about forestry practices, which resulted in my cataloguing seedpods from the Acadian Forest. All the work in this series grew out of my land work, The Sanctuary, located in Southern New Brunswick, which continues to be a source of inspiration.
Ann Manuel, 2019
Sanctuaries reveals the core fibres of Ann Manuel’s life’s work.
Long engrossed in researching notions of preservation — of self, memory and home — Ann Manuel turns her eye to the natural world. In doing so she finds metaphors which support the ideas and the work that came before. In the fresh air, Manuel seeks glimpses of preservation in the often overlooked. Sociology and biology overlap, and metaphors unite science and spirituality to speak of the human experience through nature’s lens.
Sanctuaries are sacred sites for refuge or safekeeping. Originally of entirely religious connotation, the term sanctuary is now part of non-religious, and even secular, language; it refers to any space which provides protection and safety. For Ann Manuel, the sanctuary is synonymous with home— a place to seek comfort, a shelter from the outside world. Manuel’s explorations of the sanctuary are acts of seeking connectivity in a fragmented world.
Setting out to find a simplified sanctuary in its purest form — in nature — Ann Manuel gathers evidence. In her quest she closely observes the magic of the natural world. Practicing absolute presence, Manuel takes note of seashells, tadpole sacs, seedpods and nests. In Sanctuaries, she presents her collection of specimens with skill and sensitivity in print, painting and drawing. In devoting time and skill to the investigation of these forms, she imbues them with a heightened significance. Finally, through literal presentations of her outer-world, Manuel tenders viewers an opportunity for inward meditation.
Perhaps the strongest metaphor woven through Manuel’s Sanctuaries is that of the nest. The image of a nest represents wonder and perfection; a structure which causes humankind to marvel, in awe of its intricacy of both form and function. Birds collect and assemble the material that forms their sanctuary in near secrecy. In most instances, by the time a human finds the nest, it is no longer a viable home for the bird. Instead, it represents the balance of absence and longing with the hope of a promise to return. There is a conundrum embedded in the nest metaphor—we know a nest is a precarious thing; and yet, it “sets us to daydreaming of security”. Ann Manuel understands this incongruence within the metaphor.
In nest structures, Manuel finds universal longing: for a safe haven, for the busy home we recollect with fondness. The nest —like the tadpole sacs— is her chosen metaphor because it epitomizes the sanctity and perfection of a fleeting moment. The flux of the world works its way through Manuel’s nests as she deconstructs them. Her refined nests in scrolls and etchings make way for more fluid representations of time and security with her brightly coloured mono prints of Deconstructed Nests and Memory of Nest. These specimens are her evidence and they recall hope for strength and security in the face of change and uncertainty.
Ann Manuel is magnifying the world, taking note of the small moments as they pass. These moments and every day reminders are her sanctuaries. She knows the world changes and she does not take any iteration of its marvels for granted.
Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969. Print
Amy Ash, 2019