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Hidden gems just off a street corner

by Youmna El Halabi September 11, 2018
Hidden gems just off a street corner

How two art curators showcased three artists’ work in a garage

On the corner of St-André and Genereux Sts., just off the graffiti-filled Mont-Royal Ave., you will find FEAT Management’s latest art exhibit, WE ARE WHERE | WHERE ARE WE, set up in a garage.

FEAT, short for Featuring Emerging Artists Today, is a Montreal-based brother-sister artistic partnership, aiming to broaden people’s horizons and cast light on hidden artists by curating and showcasing their work.

Rafaël and Max Hart-Barnwell are both Concordia alumni. Rafaël graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s in communications, and Max majored in photography. They have been working together since July 2017.

As Max likes to put it, FEAT combines his eye for art and Rafaël’s social skills.

“I wasn’t showing my art to a lot of people. I wasn’t being outgoing with my art. I wasn’t really applying to art galleries,” he said. “My sister was like, ‘Oh you have this beautiful studio in Little Italy, let’s convert it into a gallery and invite all of our friends and see what happens.’”

FEAT does not limit itself to the generic white-wall gallery, and prides itself on using all the nooks and crannies Montreal has to offer—be it boroughs, restaurants or, as with their latest exposition, garages.

The siblings’ relationships with artists rely on mutual understanding. Their main objective is always to showcase an artist’s work and get their names out into the world, which is something that also helped broaden the Hart-Barnwells’ own horizons.

“Once you start scratching beneath the surface” Max said, “you start to realize that there is so much hidden talent in Montreal.”

In their latest exhibition, the hidden talent is that of Concordia fine arts graduates Alex Coma and Justine Skahan, as well as Université de Montréal student Guillaume Huguet.

The exhibit is eclectic and engaging, mixing three artists’ work together rather than devoting different spaces to each of them. Small, grey and some would even say a tad rusty, the garage was deemed perfect by the curators.

“We were looking for something grungy to work with the art,” Max explained, “and the garage worked great. There’s no limitations or profiles. Any kind of environment could be a potentially good show for us.”

FEAT ‘s website described WE ARE WHERE | WHERE ARE WE as an art exhibit showcasing “constructed realities,” and human beings’ desire to identify with others and everything around them.

The Hart-Barnwells were seeking artworks that reflected liminal spaces, Skahan said, which was in line with her recent collection of work.

Justine Skahan’s paintings are interested in domestic space and the way in which people construct themselves through it.
Photo courtesy of FEAT Management

Skahan’s work is quite varied. As she is very interested in domestic spaces and suburbia, as well as the way people construct themselves through these aspects of society. Her paintings depict muted close-ups of plants and grass, among other suburban elements. Her art obviously compliments Rafaël and Max’s aim in their exhibit, touching upon constructed realities. WE ARE WHERE | WHERE ARE WE is her first Montreal show of the year.

“Group shows take pressure off of you,” she said. “Normally, the work is curated by someone else, and it could be good and bad.”

She compared the vernissage jitters at a solo exhibit to the anxiety a person might feel at their birthday party when they’re not really sure how many people will turn up. She said the pressure is relieved when it’s a group show, however, because you can count on other artists to bring in people in case your entourage doesn’t make it.

Coma is yet another artist the Hart-Barnwell duo believed fit their theme quite well after seeing his collection titled Wormhole, otherwise known as the theoretical passage through space and time.

“Wormholes are created on a daily in our everyday lives from Earth to space or another planet or anywhere you want in the universe,” Coma explained. “I want people to feel transported. My paintings are very symmetrical, so it allows the viewer to project himself into the space I drew.” Coma is a Concordia alumni as well, having majored in photography.

“My photography is the basis of all my paintings so far. I used them to make a sort of collage on my canvas” he said. “A painting of mine can be a mix of several pictures I took. The tree I painted is on a different photograph than the house that’s next to it. But the more I paint, the more I can start using my own imagination to move away from relying on my photographs.”

Coma has an upcoming solo exhibit on Sept. 26 at Le Livart Gallery on St-Denis St.

In his Wormhole series, Alex Coma paints elements from several photographs on one canvas.
Photos courtesy of FEAT Management


Contrary to Coma and Skahan’s more landscape-oriented, dark-coloured works, Huguet’s work is a series of colourful portraits.

Mathematics student Guillaume Huguet paints lively portraits using paint and oil pastel. Kau (left) and Anna (right).
Photo courtesy of FEAT Management

French-born Huguet does not have an artistic background, as he is currently finishing up a master’s in mathematics in the Université de Montréal. His artworks, however, do not disappoint.

He focuses mainly on the relationships between human beings and the tension that comes with it. Although not detailed and mostly relying on distinctive brushstrokes, the burst of colour is a refreshing contrast to Coma and Skahan’s dark colour palettes.


“I like Guillaume’s portraits,” Max said. “The use of colours, and also the rough lining, it compliments others’ detailed works. We mixed the canvases together rather than make it seem like one corner is Justine’s, the other is Guillaume and that one’s Alex’s, because each one of them could influence the other and tell a beautiful narrative.”


WE ARE WHERE | WHERE ARE WE will be on display until Sept. 14 on the corner of St-André and Généreux Sts.


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