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Student artists bring playful humour to life

by Maggie Hope September 12, 2017
Student artists bring playful humour to life

The VAV Gallery teams up with POP Montreal and the Art Matters Festival to showcase Concordia talent

What could be expected of an event that is the result of a collaboration between three well-established forces within Montreal’s art community? A visit to the VAV Gallery between Sept. 11 and 15 will provide the answer.

POP Montreal, the Art Matters Festival and the VAV Gallery have come together to create POP Matters at the VAV, a playful exhibition showcasing the work of seven Concordia artists. Pieces by Ben Compton, Mel Arsenault, Hea Kim, Ayse Gauthier, Paule Gilbert, Sabrina Maisonneuve and Lucas LaRochelle will fill the gallery to collectively create a fun and lively atmosphere.

Ben Compton, pictured here, will be performing his piece at the exhibition’s vernissage on Sept. 14. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

“POP Montreal is a big organization that’s really made a name for itself and has a reputation in the city,” said Mattia Zylak, the exhibitions coordinator of the Art Matters Festival. “It’s great to be able to get students and student work associated with that.”

At the beginning of the summer, the three organizations extended a call to artists who had previously shown their work in either last year’s Art Matters Festival or at the VAV Gallery during the 2016-17 school year. POP Montreal approached Art Matters and the VAV with the themes of DIY, neo-pop and humour, which elicited varying responses from the artists involved.

Compton, one of Concordia’s intermedia students, said he found that the exhibition’s themes were ideas he “worked with a lot in [his] own artistic practice.” By recontextualizing everyday objects and experiences through multimedia performances, Compton said he aims to give the audience a new perspective and bring forth new ideas. He identified the exhibition’s theme of humour as relating to his work quite specifically, because humour is often attached to experiences of everyday life. His live performance piece “explores the theme of waking up.” Compton explained that his piece includes him making live music and performing to the music, while filming his performance and projecting it onto a wall. He will be performing at the exhibition’s vernissage on Sept. 14.

Arsenault and her series of sculptural pieces were also selected by the small jury of the event. Constructed out of papier-mâché, Arsenault’s pieces are made to resemble rocks of different shapes and sizes. The painting and drawing student explained she has always been interested in geology and wanted to create a series that would give life to rocks, which are usually seen as passive, dormant objects. Each papier-mâché piece has been paired with sections of written dialogue, which are placed on the wall behind the sculptures. Arsenault explained that she wanted to convey the idea that the rocks are communicating with each other. “With this project, I’m [tapping] into relationships, social differences,” Arsenault said. “The fact that the protagonists are rocks and not people, I guess it’s easier to get into the dialogue and the story behind it. They’re neutral protagonists, and they can talk about anything.”

Kim, a part-time fibres and material practices student, contributed her whimsical, intricately constructed sculptures to the exhibition. Kim uses a variety of pastel-coloured craft materials, such as plastic drinking straws, to create intriguing and playful displays. The artist, who grew up in South Korea, described her pieces as “friendly and nostalgic.”

Mel Arsenault contributed her series of papier-mâché sculptures which are made to resemble various types of rocks. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

She explained that she wanted to create her own version of a shrine, much like the ones in Buddhist temples she visited as a child. Kim borrows traditional Asian symbols like the Buddha, and constructs them out of unconventional media, thereby presenting them in a new context. The result is a unique juxtaposition that lends itself perfectly to the exhibition’s themes of humour and DIY.

Gauthier, a studio arts student and print media major, interpreted the theme of playfulness and applied it to her work using grids. Gauthier’s piece is a series of printed images, which all together form one expansive grid. The artist explained that she has conducted extensive research on the topic of grids, and chose to explore their versatility by constructing her own, using thread. She found that the finished piece fit quite well with the DIY theme POP Montreal proposed, because her piece is accessible to everyone. “In theory, it’s endless and anyone could repeat it,” Gauthier said. “The grid is a very rigid form, but it’s [also] really flexible. You can be very playful in it.”

POP Matters at the VAV will be on display at the VAV Gallery from Sept. 11 to 15. The vernissage will take place on Sept. 14 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Entry is free. The gallery is located in the VA building, at 1395 Réné-Lévesque Blvd. W.

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