Monday, January, 21, 2013
Lori Victor, How Lovely to See You, 2012
Foreign. Familiar. Façade. Fiction. Fusion—Fashion to Form.
These are some of the guiding ideas through which invited visual artists have chosen to interpret the unconventionally themed February group show at Ottawa’s Wall Space Gallery.
Borrowed from the inimitable Dr. Seuss, the theme “BIG F, Little f, What Begins With F?” arose when the Wall Space brain trust found itself facing a flurry of f-words early in 2013.
“With a fast-approaching fifth-year anniversary and four local artists we wanted the chance to flaunt during the month of February,” explains Wall Space curator Cynthia Mykytyshyn, “it seemed a fitting quip to title what promises to be a fantastic and, admittedly, fun show.”
The exhibition runs from February 1 to 28, with an Artist Opening on Sunday, February 3 from 2 to 4 p.m. at 358 Richmond Road. It will bring together photographer Paul Wing, painters Heidi Conrod and Elle Chae, and graphic design oriented Lori Victor.
“Elle Chae and Heidi Conrod probably have the most in common in terms of visual style,” says Mykytyshyn. “Both appear very painterly and free with their application of materials. Lori Victor, on the other hand, is very meticulous and structured in her paintings ... Paul Wing’s photographs are digitally manipulated and actually begin to look like paintings, and he plays a lot with the colours and textures, so I think that ties his work in nicely.”
With all the thematic f-words flying around you might wonder whether the show's title arose during an “aww, fuck it” moment. Not quite, recalls Mykytyshyn.
While “struggling a bit to come up with a direction,” says the curator, Mykytyshyn and Wall Space gallery director Patricia Barr began found themselves in an f-word funk. Mykytyshyn jokingly blurted out the Dr. Sesussian wordplay.
“We’re generally pretty enamored with the weird and whimsical, so it stuck,” Mykytyshyn explained. “I should mention that February is when our big annual sale on framing occurs, and we're also hosting a fundraising event for CARE Canada by Kickass Canadians on February 10. So, the title actually served to capture everything that was going on in February at the gallery, even beyond the art itself.”
While public response to the theme so far seems good, Mykytyshyn admits that she hesitated initially.
“I thought the show’s title might register as juvenile, flippant or crude in some way,” says the curator. “It’s certainly a very playful concept, which runs counter the notion that art must be a very serious thing. I am sensitive to the compulsion to ‘justify’ one's decisions when it comes to art, which may be especially felt in Ottawa with our reputation for being rather conservative relative to Toronto and Montreal.”
Now Mykytyshyn feels that the title’s playfulness is also its strength.
“The title seems to capture people’s attention and imagination,” Mykytyshyn said. “There is something inherently interactive about it—I have a feeling that a lot of people, maybe despite themselves, engage with the title and imagine their own f-words.”
Heidi Conrod, Garden Party, 2012
Heidi Conrod, Homecoming, 2012
Elle Chae, Viewpoint, 2012
Paul Wing, Chinatown, Singapore, n.d.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Installation view of Interface at Patrick Mikhail Gallery
By Alisdair MacRae / Images courtesy Patrick Mikhail Gallery
Given the preponderance of information accessible online from within the comfort and safety of one’s home, dystopian ideas of isolated individuals gorging themselves on cheap entertainment seem a ripe topic for discussion. In imagining such scenarios, museums and galleries typically fall by the wayside, deemed too expensive in an age of austerity measures, and generally unnecessary. I will proceed to argue otherwise.
During a recent symposium on curating at Carleton University that also marked the career of Diana Nemiroff, Matthew Teitlbaum (director for the Art Gallery of Ontario) indicated that galleries and museums draw people in as a place to connect with other people. That may seem vague, and hard to pinpoint in terms of the role of cultural institutions, but the same experience of connection will not likely present itself when visiting a shopping mall, with individuals seeking out the better bargain and showing little or no concern for their fellow consumers.
It is also worth noting that in spite of the numerous social media Web sites available, and the equally varied technological gadgets by which one gains access to these sites and some supposed sense of communal experience, Teitlbaum’s remarks suggest that people just want to interface with people. Whether the trend results from a reaction against technologically mediated socializing, it warrants a visit to a group exhibition of three local artists to see how it plays out.
Interface opened at Patrick Mikhail gallery on Friday 16 November with a healthy crowd in attendance. The show features works by Donna Legault, Amy Schissel, and Andrew Smith, whom Mikhail had wanted to show as a group for some time in the right context. In my mind, the exhibition title provides suitable unification. While Legault’s work operates somewhere between sculpture and new media, Schissel and Smith mine the trajectories of abstract painting with rich results. Qualifying each artist as to the nature of the medium they employ does their work little justice, so if one is willing to brave the distance to the gallery from downtown, it is better to simply step inside.
Amy Schissel, Cyberfields, Panel 1 (detail), 2012
Large works by all of the artists immediately greet those entering the space. Schissel offers three large panels from a series of nine entitled Cyberfields. While the roughly four-by-eight-feet panel size might sound overwhelming, the warmth and softness of the artist’s black, white, and grey palette owes itself to her meticulous yet expressive handiwork. On closer inspection, one notices the layers of washes and intricate details that the artist has built up from systems of lines and concentric rings of tiny circles.
Appropriately enough, Schissel has found inspiration in an on-going attempt initiated by Bill Cheswick to map the Internet. Cheswick, an American computer scientist who helped develop early concepts around Internet security, began working on the mapping project in 1998 at Bell Labs. To those unfamiliar with his efforts, it may sound far-fetched, but the outcomes can actually show the densest locations of Internet connectivity, and as with these large works on paper, create stunning visuals with masses of fine lines intersecting at various nodes. More than a visual evocation of the World Wide Web, Schissel’s work communicates a profound interest in how we negotiate amongst virtual and non-virtual worlds, egging us on to consider whether or not human beings can truly interact if they have no immediately apparent physical location, a predicament likely familiar to anyone who uses Skype. Drawing that question out further, Schissel relies on her imagination and sense of intuition to develop her networks using acrylic, ink, charcoal, and mixed media on paper.
Amy Schissel, Cyberfields, Panel 2, 2012
Beneath Schissel’s panels, one of Legault’s sculptural works spreads out across the floor. For Transmission, bands of metal have been hand-wrought to replicate varying frequencies of sound travelling through an architectural space. As with Schissel’s Cyberfields, the piece provides another low-tech approach to consider our increasingly technological understanding of the world. The work shifts subtly as one walks around it, playing on a sense of perspective, translating audio into a visual and spatial experience as the viewer performs the behaviour of sound waves: moving about the room according to the logic of its construction. Another of Legault’s works, Resonant Variation, hangs on the wall looking much like a white rectangular painting. However, the surface of the panel has two smooth yet slightly staggered openings that house video monitors. Images of wires pulsate on either screen in time to the artist’s own heartbeat, while the piece mysteriously emits ambient field recordings set by the volume control knobs found on its side. Such blending of new media with the analogue is both a hallmark of Legault’s work and a worthy example of the show’s theme.
Andrew Smith’s substantial canvases occupy the space on either side of Resonant Variation. His paintings lure viewers in with their size and boisterous palettes, with rich swaths of acrylic and oil paint slathered onto the canvas, or applied in diaphanous washes. However, rather than create abstraction for its own sake, Smith uses painting to query the nature of communication, allowing viewers to involve themselves by tracing the apparent brush work and movement inherent in the paint. Such intermingling of artist and viewer experiences lends itself to the behavioural quality of Smith’s titles, such as Holding Pattern and Feeding, part of the artist’s efforts to forge an empathetic relation to the natural world without any help from digital means.
Andrew Smith, Holding Pattern, 2012
Andrew Smith, Feeding, 2012
The second room of the gallery features additional works by each of the artists. Smith offers a number of smaller pieces on plywood entitled Interferences that show a more restricted use of colour but could serve as studies for larger works. The movement of brush and paint has been replaced with a concentrated application of plaster, ecstatic lines, and gouges filled with bee’s wax, emphasizing the human touch characteristic of his work.
For Minutiae, Legault has created an amplification system for a music box. Complete with two variably pitched speakers, the wall-mounted piece plays a melody from a paper scroll based on comparisons of fingerprint data found online (of all places). The pattern from the scroll has also been replicated on the wall in paper dots, presumably cast-offs from the process of punching out the holes that activate the music box, which also appear to feed back into the enigmatic machine that produced them. Using identity as raw materials for creating something else, the piece strikes me as a pre-Internet version of Facebook. Works from a series by Schissel entitled Earth Systems Release incorporate mottled landscapes that have found their way into sections of the more recent Cyber Fields panels in the front room. Although presented at somewhat smaller scales, the works convey a sense of flying high above an immense landscape that would easily dwarf its tiny human inhabitants, if any do happen to live there. The artist admits that the Internet inspired these scenes as well, but with less focus on representing raw data than on how the phenomena has utterly transformed our experience of the world.
Donna Legault, Minutiae, 2012
The exhibition of these local yet remarkably accomplished artists allows us to consider how we connect with environments—both natural and digital—and people around us. Thinking of Legault’s pieces as the object-oriented technology by which to approach the less structured paintings in the exhibition, viewers can move back and forth amongst the works without reaching any final conclusion. Particularly after riding on public transit out to the gallery and watching people engage more with phones and other devices than with each other, Interface provides a much-needed means to consider the ways in which we navigate our lives.
Interface remains on exhibit until December 23.
Monday, November 26, 2012
Member of the church of Entropy, Stephen Frew, 2012
Oil on Linen, Charlene Lau-Ahier, 2010
There’s a diversity of interesting pieces in the ongoing Figureworks juried awards exhibition on view at St. Brigid’s until December 2. And because figural works often become more compelling when coupled in diptychs, Guerilla has paired a selection of the exhibited pieces for your viewing pleasure in this installment of g-Gallery.
What is more, Hilde Lambrechts—the Ottawa-based artist who founded Figureworks in 2010—has some refreshingly candid insights to share about the show’s raisons d'être. Lambrechts offered no fewer than eight answers to the question “Why did you initiate the Figureworks project?” Here are all eight.
“Because rendering a human figure is a great way to develop and maintain technical skill in art.”
“Because developing and maintaining technical skill is key to the profession of visual artist, especially when we live in an age wherein we can all be artists when we have a concept that can be developed with little skill required. At the end of the road, it is good to return to the figure from which new ways can be explored.”
“Because the human figure is popular among artists, but not with gallery owners because of the low selling potential so they say.”
“Because perhaps conservative Ottawa is not ready for a nude on the wall and I like to shake things up.”
“Because this is a way for me to give back to the artistic community: No commission, no membership fee, but the opportunity to explore and show off artistic ability without worries about selling potential.”
“Because the human figure is a great tool to communicate with the viewer.”
“Because there is nothing wrong with ambition and striving to improve.”
“Because complaining about the lack of opportunities leads to nothing. Better failing than not have tried. Hence the birth of Figureworks. I’ll see where it goes. But nobody can say I did not try! So far, so good.”
The Figureworks 2012 jury consists of Jerry Grey, Karen Bailey, and Maskull Lasserre.
Gaze, Mahshid Farhoudi, 2012
Hijabi Chic, Pansee Atta, 2012
Taking a stand, Rosemary Breault-Landry, 2009
Gisele, Charlene Lau-Ahier, 2010
Mary, Kim Edgar, 2012
My mixed emotions V.2, Ted Johnston, 2012
Amber (Symington) Grobbelar, Gerald Smith, 2009
Benet Baldwin, Gerald Smith, 2009
Meditation, Rosemary Breault-Landry, 2009
Cory Haggart, Janet Slavin, 2012
Colours of masculinity 7 – “strained”, Maja Maricic, 2009
I like to paint!, Margo Blackell, 2012
Fraser, Nicole Crozier, 2012
Wind, Kerri Weller, 2011
Thursday, November 15, 2012
By Tony Martins
If you appreciate occasions when artists make the Dorothy-like leap from the proverbial Kansas to considerably darker and riskier terrain, look no further than the coming exhibition by pencil-wielding Andrea Sutton.
For the past while, Sutton had been promoting a series of whimsical pencil illustrations that featured charming characters from pop culture, including Kermit the Frog and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz.
Sutton’s newest series is anything but cute, however. Dark, sexual, and fetishistic, the works will be prominently featured in her aptly titled “My Big Pencil Show” opening November 24 at Venus Envy. A vernissage is slated for Saturday, December 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Sutton began her drawing career as a portrait artist and completed many memorial portrait commissions for funeral homes. She still does commission work but told Guerilla of a growing desire to “step out of that box.”
Instead of stepping into a new kind of light, however, Sutton is venturing into her shadow side.
“I think my work has a darkness to it whether or not I intentionally put it there,” Sutton explain. “Since I was a child, graphic nightmares were a regular occurrence. I always felt tortured by them but I am realizing now that it drives my imagination."
When informed of another pencil portrait show currently exhibited at the Manx Pub on Elgin Street, Sutton agreed that perhaps art in this medium is coming back into favour.
“I believe we have reached a time where a lot of people are going back to more simplistic lifestyles. In such a technologically driven world … people are wanting to strip that away and appreciate the things that were always there.”
Sutton accepted an offer to do the show at Venus Envy as a great way “to show people that I do more than formal portraiture.” Not all the works in the show will be erotic, however, and Sutton does not feel that the sexy drawings are particularly shocking.
“I have done nude and maybe you would consider them fetish drawings in a classical style but with a darkness I would call sinister,” the artist explains. “I am working on some more ‘shocking’ pieces presently. Stay tuned for the Christmas group show at Patrick Gordon Framing. I hope to shock you.”
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
At the Diner They Formed a Common Bond
Post by Tony Martins / Images courtesy the artists
For seminal psychologist Carl Jung, “individuation” is a healthy process of self actualization akin to peeling away the layers of an onion. The objective is to clarify and differentiate the individual self.
Husband-and-wife collaborators Sherry Tompalski and Graham Thompson apply this metaphor beautifully in WRAPPINGS, a three-act multidisciplinary project launched in late September at Ottawa’s Electric Street Studio (229 Crichton Street).
Coined by the artists as “the adventures of the Wrapped Woman and her hasty marriage to a gorilla,” the tragicomic project will ultimately offer a range mixed media, sculpture, and video illustrating pivotal moments in the life of the wrapped woman.
In Act 1, shown September 20 to 26, the collage and oil-on-canvas works chronicled the wrapped woman’s rush “to get started,” says Tompalski, wherein she hastily marries a gorilla who is a vet from WWll.
“They immediately have a family,” continues Tompalski. “The story is set in the 1950s. This show is the beginning of the Wrapped Woman’s path to healing and freedom from fear.”
Delving deeper into the wrapped woman character, Tompalski says: “Her head and hands are wrapped, her eyes covered with sunglasses. She does not speak. She seeks to hide her many emotions, her shameful experiences and remains silent about important events … Nonetheless, her body expresses the many emotions she is unable to give voice to.”
After obtaining funding in 2011 from the Ontario Arts Council, Tompalski and Thompson set about developing the WRAPPINGS characters.
“I liked the idea of the two extremes,” Tompalski explains. “The wrapped woman contained and held together, in a sense undeveloped, living an interior life but also impossible to read and potentially manipulative … and the gorilla’s pure emotion, uncontained, explosive but also transparent, almost naive, impulsive with a lack of introspection.”
A clinical psychiatrist by trade, Tompalski knows a few things about married couple dynamics and applies them to the wrapped woman and gorilla husband.
“They are drawn to each other as many couples are unconsciously because of similar wounds or losses in their past,” said Tompalski. “And so they have an immediate empathy for each other even though they are so very different and really know very little about each other. He is a war vet and she is a reeducation camp survivor.”
“I did couples therapy for over 15 years and also assessed and treated over 100 soldiers at CFB Petawawa,” notes Tompalski, “so I have had a lot of experience with the manifestations of trauma and the complexities of relationships.”
To effectively exhibit the entire project when completed, the collaborators are looking for a larger venue that can accommodate video and sculpture along with the mixed media pieces.
Tompalski reveals that act 2 will be tragic and act 3 will be the liberation of the wrapped woman: “In the final act the wrapped woman revisits her life, becomes strengthened and removes the bandages.”
For more on Sherry Tompalski, visit her website.
She Loved to Shop
They Both Loved to Dance
Dinner Was Served Always at 4:30
Monday, October 15, 2012
The Cedar Tavern Singers AKA Les Phonoréalistes
Post by Tony Martins / Images courtesy Carleton University Art Gallery
CUAG (Carleton University Art Gallery) opens its doors for an ambitious 20th anniversary celebration with a catalogue launch—Jocelyne Alloucherie: Climats (Climates)—and the debut of two exhibitions today (Monday, 15 October) beginning at 5 p.m.
“Photomontage Between the Wars (1918-1939)”
Co-produced by Carleton University Art Gallery and Fundación Juan March, Madrid
“The Cedar Tavern Singers AKA Les Phonoréalistes’ Art Snob Solutions, Phase III: At the Hundredth Meridian”
Curated by Sandra Dyck
The event will also include a live performance of “See You at the CUAG,” by the Cedar Tavern Singers written to celebrate the gallery’s anniversary. For an inside look at the flurry of activity and what it might mean for CUAG’s new director Sandra Dyck, Guerilla asked her to find time for a quick Q&A:
Were you a fool to take on the CUAG Director's job with the 20th anniversary mega-project looming?
Absolutely not! CUAG has many exhibition, publication, and public programming projects in the works at any one time.
How did these two particular exhibitions end up being aligned with the 20th celebration?
It’s a combination of strategy and serendipity. CUAG’s former director, Diana Nemiroff, had long wanted to organize an exhibition drawing on Merrill Berman’s world-class collection of graphic design and modernist art, and it just so happened that the timing worked out perfectly to coincide with our 20th anniversary celebrations. I had a studio visit with the Cedar Tavern Singers in Lethbridge in early 2010 and later hit on the idea of commissioning a 20th anniversary song from them. That grew into a limited-edition EP with four songs focusing on some works in CUAG’s collection and some key moments in CUAG’s (and Ottawa’s) art history.
Are you being brave by bringing in the Cedar Tavern Singers, who sort of make fun of or make light of the art world?
The Cedar Tavern Singers are the brave ones! After all, they’re performing live at the opening, as they did for the recent “Oh, Canada” exhibition at MASS MoCA. I’m just providing them the opportunity to work their musical magic.
And how/why does the catalogue launch factor into the mix?
The beautiful (and bilingual) Jocelyne Alloucherie catalogue is hot off the press, literally—it’s arriving at CUAG on Friday the 12th of October. It’s not directly tied to the 20th anniversary celebrations, but we always take the opportunity to launch new publications at exhibition openings.
Do these particular exhibitions say anything about CUAG's first 20 years? Next 20 years?
I think these exhibitions speak to several key characteristics of CUAG’s program—it is ambitious, dynamic, and experimental, and unique in the Ottawa/Gatineau cultural landscape.
Should we expect a different kind of CUAG with you at the helm?
My two predecessors—Michael Bell and Diana Nemiroff—each left their unique imprint on the gallery. I am eager for the gallery to thrive and develop under my leadership. Plus, our new curator, Heather Anderson, is already making a fantastic contribution to shaping our program now and in the future.