Ozone Gleaners explores notions of the “alien” through saturated hues and contrasting textures
Gallery spaces can often feel empty. Stark white walls and neon lights do not make for an inviting space, leaving the artists’ work to liven the space and instate a narrative. On display at Projet Pangée in downtown Montreal, Ozone Gleaners instantly captures the viewer’s attention, compelling them to engage with the work.
The exhibition unifies the works of artists Tiziana La Melia and geetha thurairajah, as a way of exploring representations of history, settling, and the notion of the unwelcome. The space fully embodies its namesake. Ozone is a colourless gas formed from ultraviolet light, while gleaners refers to someone who gathers or harvests. These ideas are further depicted in the narratives of the works and the ways in which they are portrayed.
Saturated in deep purples, blues, and pinks, the eye is instantly drawn to La Melia’s work. The Vancouver-based artist plays with texture and materiality to demonstrate the polar differences between depictions of simple, or rural life, and notions of abstraction. She alters reality by removing spatial qualities from the work; characters can be found in settings that do not correspond to their garments and certain attributes, such as the size of homes and trees, are not rendered rationally.
In her 2020 work, Visitors, an illustration of a harvest scene is depicted in rich yellows and greens, contrasting with the pale silk canvas on which it is dyed. The artist makes a statement about notions of the unwelcome, through a fantastical approach, by depicting a fable-like narrative. She merges contrasting fantasy-like aspects, seen here as harvesters are standing against the delicate background. The figures wear lingerie-style garments, and seemingly do not belong. The idea of the “alien” lingers in the viewers mind, as they are left thinking about notions of settling and belonging, and can be left to consider the place of the figures in their underwear against a farm-like setting.
Brooklyn-based artist geetha thurairajah uses color and wide brushstrokes to play with the perception of surface and space in her expressive paintings. Her work considers language and histories, exploring these themes in an effort to examine who is left or removed from certain places and settings.
Her 2019 painting, Convergence, features a sketched figural silhouette against an ultraviolet background. Here, she plays with the idea of alienation and demonstrates this via wide brushstrokes to create an indiscernible plane. This makes the setting abstract and unrecognizable to the viewer, leaving them questioning their relationship to the work.
Together, La Melia and thurairajah’s works consider origin stories, and create a space where one is left to contemplate perceptions of space, who gets to belong in certain settings, and ultimately, who gets to write these histories.
Ozone Gleaners is on display at Projet Pangée, at 372 Ste-Catherine St. W, suite 412, until February 15, 2020. The gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m.
Photos by Laurence B.D.