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A conversation with artist Henri Bouchard

How COVID-19 helped this Concordia student set his artistic path

It’s no wonder that Henri Bouchard has become successful so rapidly. His works are captivating, and make you fall in love with the images being depicted, like the human body and the environment. Bouchard is a third-year student in studio arts at Concordia.

Ever since COVID-19, he has had the time to develop his talent in painting and share it through social media. “I have a great audience,” said Bouchard. “It has grown since the first few times I posted my works online.” Before enrolling in university, he was already familiar with acrylics. Today, he predominantly works with oil paint, adding beeswax to make it dry faster, while still using acrylic paint for certain elements.

When COVID-19 shut down everything, causing people to stay in their homes, it was only the beginning for Bouchard. His mother rented a cottage in Saint-Anicet, where he stayed for a year, honing his craft. That’s where the magic took place: near the water, with breathtaking sunsets, all of which made him fall in love with the scenery.

Most of his paintings maintain the same colour palette. Bouchard is very much in love with pastel tones. However, this doesn’t hold him back from using darker tones, which are essential to creating contrast. “I’m crazy about pastel colors. There’s something about them that is so appealing to my eyes, and they are a necessity in my work,” said Bouchard.

Bouchard has attracted a variety of people online, especially on Instagram, where his page acts as a self-curated exhibition. He may not be the biggest fan of social media, but it has helped him and brought unexpected success: most of his canvases have already been sold.

“I once had an argument with my mother because I sold a painting to someone else instead of her,” said Bouchard. “She eventually understood that my clientele couldn’t revolve around family.” Something noteworthy about the artist is his portrayal of human bodies.

He also paints landscapes, but mainly portrays body parts. Freedom (2020) is a painting on a homemade canvas that displays the back of a person in blue tones, contrasted with light colors like pink, beige and white. “There has to be a presence of white; it brings brightness to the canvas,” added Bouchard.

Another remarkable work is Yu (2020) on homemade canvas, which illustrates Bouchard cheek-to-cheek with his girlfriend. This was inspired by a selfie they took together. On this canvas, skin details are highlighted with pink and blue, creating a vivid expression on both faces. When looking at it, one can tell that it was made with a lot of love.

“When I fall in love, I fall in love completely,” said Bouchard. “I’m really into romantic things, so maybe that can be something that viewers can see through my work.” This theme of romance can certainly be seen in Save my love (2020), where a woman is holding her partner dearly, capturing a tender, personal moment between two lovers.

In regards to his creative process, Bouchard often swaps his effort between works. He manages to start a canvas and proceed rapidly onto the next. This allows him to recharge and work on another painting, before getting back to the initial work he began. “Sometimes it’s good to step back for a few days, look at the work you’ve been working [on] and see what else can be added or modified,” said Bouchard.

When school began again, Bouchard relocated to Montreal, where he lives with his girlfriend. Here, he has the chance to work in his studio, a place where he is allowed to make a mess. “My workspace needs to be all over the place, it can’t be neat.”

For the moment, Bouchard envisions creating merchandise that promotes his artistic talent. During the summer, he established himself as a painter. Perhaps we’ll be able to see his future work in a gallery exhibition. “Living off my art is what I most desire, and with the audience that I have, it’s been so far very rewarding,” said Bouchard.

Viewers can access all of Henri Bouchard’s works here and keep up to date with his future projects on  Facebook and Instagram.

 

Photo courtesy of Ana Lucia Londono Flores

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Going back in time in La vie sans applis

Rediscovering life before digital technology, Internet and social media

Walking through the exhibition feels like traveling back in time. For some, it will seem like an unknown life, whereas for others, it will seem familiar. 

Exhibited at the historical Musée de Lachine, La vie sans applis invites viewers to take a walk in a space that shows them life without the internet or social media. The exhibition is presented through different sections, which include social media, photos, music, games, e-mail, and more. It’s presented in a manner that displays the evolution of these different subjects. Each section also provides three types of information: a historical fact about Lachine, a “did you know,” and environmental facts.

When entering the room, viewers can see a blue wall to their left, where photographs of people are displayed. Pictures of hockey teams, as well as people fishing, playing tennis or running a marathon, can be admired among many other photographs. Ironically, in today’s world, this would be similar to an Instagram or Facebook feed. Perhaps it could also make visitors think of an old family photo album that they peek at once in a while. 

When looking at the photo, video and music sections, there are a variety of objects that can be gazed upon. One can see the evolution of cameras, now old relics with different shapes and sizes. In today’s world, we are able to instantly take pictures with our cell phones. Still, some take pleasure in using a film camera, waiting with excitement for the shots to be developed. Aesthetically, old-school looks better. 

Phonograph records dating from 1923, and an electric and battery operated radio circa 1937 are among other objects seen in the section. Today, there’s no need to worry when it comes to music, considering the multitude of apps that allow people the opportunity to listen to whatever they like. The internet has allowed younger generations to discover music from once upon a time, and help older generations look for their favourite older music with a better sound quality.

One downside of today’s music devices is streaming. According to an article published in 2019 by Rolling Stone, a researcher from the University of Oslo explored the environmental impact of streaming music and found out that “music consumption in the 2000s resulted in the emission of approximately 157 million kilograms of greenhouse gas equivalents.”

The exhibition suggests that the audience download and save the music on one’s device. Knowing the amount of music we listen to per day, it would be a challenge for everyone to go back to cassettes and vinyl when everything we listen to is on our devices. 

The game section of the exhibition displays familiar pastimes, such as a chess board from 1910, cards from the 20th century, lawn bowling balls from the 19th century and more. Though video games appear to have replaced some of these old forms of entertainment, they are still enjoyed by many out there. In all sincerity, game night with your pals at your favourite board game bar is far more exciting. 

The exhibition also demonstrates the way information was received in the past, how products were promoted and the way encyclopedia collections were equivalent to today’s search engines. Everything that is exhibited in La vie sans applis can be found on a cell phone. Whether you want to use a calculator, look at the world clock, or communicate with distant family members, everything can be done immediately. 

Digital technology has shaped the way the world works as everything travels faster than ever. However, it is essential to take a break and recharge by doing an activity that doesn’t involve using our cell phones. La vie sans applis encourages the audience to think about the relationship people have with their electronic devices. 

In the end, the real question is: would it be possible today to live without them? 

La vie sans applis is being displayed at 1 Chemin du Musée every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. until Oct. 10. 

 

Photo by Ana Lucia Londono Flores

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Introducing Lana Denina

An artist who speaks her truth through intimate art-making

Social media does have its advantages; it allows people to discover and connect with the many talented artists that share their work on social platforms.

I came across Montreal-based artist Lana Denina’s Instagram account a few months ago while scrolling on the application’s explore page. The colour palettes she uses and her detailed illustrations of faces caught my eye.

Denina, who is of Beninese and French origin, is currently studying Marketing at Concordia. She remembers copying drawings from her childhood books when she was six. Then, she started painting.

Her style is unique. Denina’s art illustrates modernity and authenticity, exploring human relationships, body movements and morphological diversity.

My paintings are greatly inspired by our era of beauty and technology,” says Denina. “I also incorporate a lot of modern fashion into my art.”

Denina combines digital art and painting, representing people of colour is important for her as she feels they should be more included in contemporary art.

She looks up to different cultures. For instance, she gets inspiration from the art of the Shōwa era, a period of time in Japan that signified the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito, from 1926 to 1989. Denina also admires Dan masks, traditional objects created by the Dan people, an ethnic group from Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. According to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the masks are integrated into the hierarchical system that governs political and religious life.

Her paintings are designed differently from each other. Some pieces are darker, whereas some are lighter; it all depends on Denina’s mood. The faces depicted in the artworks were envisioned by the artist, creating new beings. “They all are made-up faces from my imagination. It’s a mix of various faces I saw over the internet or in real life that I thought were unique,” said Denina.


Moi vouloir Toi (2021) is an animated painting depicting a woman with a snake on her head looking at a man. The background changes colour, from green, purple, to a fading red, giving life to the artwork.

L’ocean du regret (2021) is a self-portrait of Denina from the series Wet, a collection of paintings she created where water is always present. In this painting, viewers can observe Denina standing in the water, with a cut over her heart. The piece is about giving one’s heart to someone fighting personal battles and the way it can be harmful for both people. The piece is painted with dark red shades, making the painting seem more intimate since it’s a self-portrait and red is known to signify intimacy and passion. It’s as if Denina was portrayed in her vulnerability.

I want to show my process of evolving throughout adulthood but also tell love stories,” said Denina. “Love is extremely powerful because it transforms people into vulnerable beings. It unveils the true nature of people.”

 

 

Loving myself, suffering with myself (2021) is another astonishing work, illustrating a woman in a red background, sitting on a red couch looking at viewers. This painting is about self-love and the way it can be challenging to accept one’s self. “I mostly love my sad paintings,” added Denina. “ They express powerful feelings.”

Her most recent work, Puedes oírlo (2021), which translates to “you can hear it” in Spanish, is animated work, showing a couple sharing an intimate moment, while the sound of a heartbeat can be heard. This painting seems to be a remembrance of a past relationship, where one still remembers the heartbeat of a partner that they once heard; a sound that never left.

I’m attached to all of my paintings. All of them are unique and capture a particular emotion I was feeling at the time they were created,” said Denina.

She possesses the skills to fabricate her art with different materials. Duo Tone is a set of velvet rugs, each with a different illustration on them. She also designed a woven throw, inspired by the Suri tribe, a community from Ethiopia. A woman meditating can be seen on the throw.

“I want to tell stories about life, the good and the bad sides of life. Every human being on Earth is different and has [their] own story,” said Denina. “I want to represent people as much as I can.” For the moment, Denina is working on a silk scarf she is designing.“The sky really is the limit, I have so many ideas. Lots of new projects are coming up soon but cannot be revealed yet!”

Viewers can keep up with Lana Denina’s work on her website and Instagram.

 

Photos courtesy of Lana Denina.

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Ocelle: connecting the real with the virtual

Vincent Larouche exhibits familiar characters through dynamic paintings

From video games and sci-fi films to cyberpunk, Vincent Larouche found a unique way to reunite contemporary themes in a dynamic exhibition that depicts a generation that grew up surrounded by pop and media culture.

Presented at Fonderie Darling, a visual-arts venue in Montreal’s Old Port, Ocelle is an exhibition that showcases nine paintings in a space where the real and the virtual coexist.

Larouche is a Montreal-based artist who graduated with a BFA from Concordia in 2019. Since then, the artist has built a reputable name for himself, doing several exhibitions both locally and internationally, including his first solo exhibition in Montreal Black-Talk (2017) and another called Bouches de Cendres Actives (2019).

The paintings are placed around the room as if each canvas will present the next sequence of the previous painting. It feels like admiring images that came out of a comic book.

Larouche’s work portrays caricatures. In Ocelle, he included various familiar characters that one may recognize from pop culture.

A Study in Motion (2019-2020), depicts Sonic the Hedgehog, the well-known protagonist of a series of video games published by Sega. In this painting, viewers can observe a female character looking directly at them, as if the character was posing for a picture, surrounded by different poses of Sonic.

Being a Sonic fan myself, seeing this painting brought me back to my childhood, when I would watch the animated series or get dizzy playing a Sonic-themed race game on the GameCube. Good times.

Then, famous Hollywood stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are portrayed side by side in Ontological Fan Fiction (2019). This painting illustrates Reeves in his character from The Matrix (1999) and Bullock as her character from the 2009 movie The Blind Side. Compared to the previous painting, this canvas seems less joyful. Both characters have serious looks on their faces and exude mystery.

Another particular artwork that is fascinating to admire is History Painting (2020). The canvas shows a hacker destroying a computer system, while looking towards those viewing. This painting is an example, among others, that illustrates the concept of evil.

Dante Looking at Phlegyas, (2020) is a piece illustrating a heroic figure being observed by what seems to be devils, illustrated on opposite corners of the painting. While the artwork may seem childish due to its simplicity, it may depict how there’s a desire to possess power in a virtual world.

The painted characters easily capture the audience’s gaze, with the figures looking back in return.

It’s strange, yet bizarre, being observed by fictional beings. Plus, they are placed around a small room, which gives the audience the impression that they are being watched from every corner of the space.

Ocelle presents dynamic and engaging artwork. Many of Larouche’s characters give off several expressions; some may seem more malicious than others, while others may seem more sympathetic or even suspicious.

Walking through the space, it is as if the roles are alternated. Instead of spectators observing the fictional figures, the figures are watching them. Sounds like a sci-fi movie plot.

The feeling of being observed by fictional caricatures is creepy. Though, the exhibition shows the deep relationship between the natural and the supernatural worlds as they cohabit together in reality.

Technology has advanced rapidly, allowing the creation of several virtual worlds that can be explored through video games, television series, books and more. Ocelle represents a new fantasy world, where pop and media culture icons come together and observe another reality; never taking their eyes off the public.

Ocelle is on display at Fonderie Darling, at 745 Ottawa St., until April 4. The art complex is open Thursday to Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. For more information about Fonderie Darling’s current programming, visit their website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Photos by Ana Lucia Londono Flores.

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Marie-Claude Marquis presents her solo exhibition Dancing Contradictions

Exposing sincere messages on delicate materials

In her newest solo exhibition Dancing Contradictions, presented at Galerie Robertson Arès, Montreal-based multidisciplinary artist Marie-Claude Marquis showcases a collection of 97 vintage plates and eight velvet embroideries.

Everyone is experiencing the pandemic differently; it has proven to be the most unsure time of our lives, as the future remains uncertain. To that end, the series depicts the hardships and successes that the world has gone through during this period of time.

Marquis’ artistic practice revolves around porcelain plates and embroideries. She reuses objects to give them a second life. The vintage plates were objects Marquis recycled, giving them a new meaning. Also, every instance of writing was hand-painted or embroidered by herself.

Dancing Contradictions exposes fragility and strength as the pandemic has shown to be a rollercoaster ride of events and emotions.

The collection is set around the gallery. One wall is dedicated to Marquis’ velvet embroideries. Each piece has a different design and message inscribed. The messages are either written in French or in English, and feature familiar expressions that can easily be recognized. Marquis inserted curse words and Quebec expressions that one may hear once in a while, but also quotes that one may have read on the internet, such as in You’re overthinking again (1/3), (2021)

At times, some messages may sound cheesy; some may be funny and relatable. Some of them can also bring a sense of comfort as there are words that may reflect one’s state of mind, or may simply be words of encouragement. Still, they are honest and are there for the audience to engage with.

For the velvet embroideries, spectators can admire works such as Faut pas croire tout ce qu’on pense (3/3), (2021), Oh, baby baby it’s a fucking wild world (3/3), (2021), Focus on what you can control (3/3), (2021), and more. These velvet embroideries evoke a vintage aesthetic with the different prints and colours Marquis used in her work.

The embroideries are square shaped, inspired by silk squares, also known as silk scarves, that are mostly worn by women, and became popular during the post-war years. According to  Rampley & Co, a British clothing company, silk scarves became a symbol of glamour, power and independence during that time. Marquis incorporated the styles of silk scarves, as her embroideries are made with vivid and sharp patterns.

As for the vintage plates, they remind the audience of porcelain plates they may have in their homes, hidden in their kitchen cabinets as they are used less frequently.

It could be hard to pick your favourite vintage plate as they vary in shape, structure, pattern and colour. For example, Riding Dirty, (2021) is a plate depicting Off to School (1920), a painting made by Norman Rockwell. Lots of things happen for no reason at all, (2021) is a floral plate, like Osti de mélancolie, (2021)

Marquis has found a way to bring comfort, humour and honesty to her work. As there are many art pieces, it seems like there is a message for everyone. While there may be some straightforward words, compared to others that may sound softer, they can depict sentences one may not think out loud, or comforting words one needs to hear.

The pandemic brought uncertainty to everyone. It also brought change into our lives. With new hobbies, new life goals, and unexpected events, the pandemic allowed everyone to grow in a certain way. While Marquis’ main concern is the impact of isolation on mental health, she made sure to expose these expressions that people unconsciously carry with themselves.

Dancing Contradictions encourages spectators to engage with the artwork, express their feelings towards them and remind them that everyone is in the same boat. Hopefully, the exhibition can uplift some in these weird times.

Dancing Contradictions is on display at Galerie Robertson Arès, at 1490 Sherbrooke St. W, until March 27. The gallery is open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m Monday to Saturday, and Sunday by appointment. Viewers can check out some of her art pieces here.

 

Photos courtesy of Galerie Robertson Arès.

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Stéphane Crête showcases Jamais Seul

A video installation projecting intimacy, freedom and escape in relation to nature

Created by comedian and actor Stéphane Crête, in collaboration with his son, Philémon Crête, a cinematographer and producer, Jamais Seul (Never Alone) is a video installation exhibited at the Cinémathèque québécoise, located at 335 Boul. de Maisonneuve E.

Jamais Seul explores freedom and escape in different environments visited by Stéphane Crête. The artist aims to create a connection between the body and its environment.

The video installation is composed of three parts: Rouler (ride), Marcher (walk) and Contempler (contemplate). Each part portrays Crête engaging with his environment in a distinctive way.

Rouler consists of a video with three screens, each of which depicts a different aspect. The first screen shows Crête laying on a bed in different environments. Viewers can see Crête either awake or sleeping. He may be in a room or in a tent. Nonetheless, he is never in the same place.

The second screen is footage on the road that the artist filmed while driving. For instance, Crête may be driving on an empty road away from the city, on a bridge, or he may be driving on the highway near an urban area.

The third screen is another compilation of videos that Crête filmed where he shows his surroundings in different places. One can see the sun setting by the sea, a field on a sunny day, and many more locations that Crête has visited.

The second projection is Marcher, a video installation where the audience can observe Crête walking in different environments, sometimes fully clothed, half-clothed or naked. Crête doesn’t make eye contact with the camera; he simply walks in front of the lens. Most of the time, he has his back to the camera.

The artist walks in a variety of climates. Viewers can see Crête walking in cold or hot places. Crête can be seen walking on sand dunes, on a deserted road, or he can also be seen walking in a forest full of snow or even in a rainforest. There is a shot where he is sitting at the beach during sunset, contemplating the view while the waves crash on the shore.

The artist is never in the presence of another human. He is in the company of nature. This forms a bond between human life and non-human life that surrounds Crête.

The third installation of the collection is Contempler, small footage closeups of different textures of nature. The artist is in contact with his environment through touch. The videos show Crête touching moss, a bee on a flower petal and closeups of leaves, dirt and more. This is the way he engages with his environment to depict the deep connection his body has with it.

Jamais Seul gives spectators the opportunity to follow Crête’s path and see the many types of landscapes that exist. The audience can connect with what is being shown on the screen as some of these environments may be reminders of familiar places they have visited while travelling or simply by taking a walk near a field or in a forest. Still, they remain unknown places to spectators.

Like in a movie, Crête has created a relationship between the actor and the spectator. Crête’s solitude makes the audience desire to be this body wandering in the landscapes seen on the screen. This creates the longing of escaping in these places.

The artist is connecting with his environment. Nothing distracts him from the breathtaking sceneries in which he walks. While watching the video installation, one can realize how the world consists of beautiful places. With the current climate emergency, it may remind the audience of the importance of preserving the environment as it is being harmed due to human activities.

As mentioned in the exhibition’s description, the images projected in the exposition can also be interpreted as a dystopic representation of the end of the world. Crête may be presenting what the world would look like if there was only one human remaining on Earth.

Jamais Seul reminds its viewers of the way they are internally connected to nature as they also take part in the creationJamais Seul is on display at Cinémathèque québécoise until April 4. The space is open from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day.

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Malcolm & Marie: exploring fragility and passion within a relationship

A Hollywood couple brings the audience into an intense confrontation 

Directed by Sam Levinson, the creator of the HBO series Euphoria, Malcolm & Marie is a black-and-white movie that tells the story of producer Malcolm Elliot (John David Washington) and his girlfriend Marie Jones (Zendaya) who spend a full night arguing, putting their relationship to the test.

Once you are 20 minutes into the movie, you already know what it will be about.

The story takes place in a Malibu house that the production company Malcolm works for has provided for him and Marie. They come home after Malcolm’s movie premiere, which went very well for him. He puts some music on, makes himself a drink and celebrates his accomplishment while dancing in the living room. Meanwhile, Marie is in the kitchen, preparing a late night snack for both of them.

Malcolm is happy. Marie seems bothered by something. 

While Malcolm is anticipating the reviews and expressing his excitement about the audience’s response to his film’s screening, Marie lights up a cigarette, nodding at everything Malcolm says. Malcolm suddenly notices something is off in Marie’s energy. He asks her what’s bothering her.

Marie tries to avoid a quarrel since it is late at night. In vain, Marie decides to confront Malcolm and tell him that she is upset with him as he didn’t thank her at the movie premiere.

Marie tells Malcolm that his film, which is about a woman named Imani who struggles with drug addiction, was based on her past life when she was a drug addict when they met.

Malcolm denies Marie’s accusations, telling her the movie has nothing to do with Marie. Still, Marie stays convinced as she tells him that the movie wouldn’t have turned out the way it did if they weren’t together.

Then, Malcolm and Marie go through a series of arguments. In one scene, they scream at each other, letting go of all of their rage that was hidden inside of them.

Frankly, I thought there might be more to the story than seeing two people fighting on screen. The movie was exhausting at times since Malcolm and Marie end up arguing every time there was a tender moment between them. It is as though every hidden feeling or issue with one another was coming to light.

Malcolm & Marie is a romantic drama film, but it is very different compared to other romantic movies. It is not the typical story where both characters fall in love and live happily ever after. On the contrary, viewers find themselves in the middle of a conflict between two people and it is hard to know whether their fight will lead to something good in the end.

There are times where the audience might feel uncomfortable, because let’s face it, there is nothing worse than witnessing a couple fighting. 

As someone who doesn’t like conflict, it wasn’t very pleasant to see both characters in the middle of a fight. Malcolm and Marie said hurtful things to one another when they had a chance. Most of the time, it wasn’t necessary.

Although the movie is emotionally charged, Levinson did an incredible job at depicting a side of couples that tends to be seen less on television. People have issues and relationships aren’t perfect.

Malcolm and Marie love each other very much, but their love is dysfunctional. While watching the movie, it may be hard to pick a character’s side as both of them have a right to being mad at each other.

At the beginning of the movie, Marie says “I promise you, nothing productive is going to be said tonight.” She was right as they tore each other apart in one night, later wondering if their relationship was worth it.

Malcolm & Marie is available to stream on Netflix. 

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Seascape Poetics: a virtual exhibition

Connecting Caribbean stories through water

Curated by Bettina Pérez Martínez and assisted by Simone Cambridge, Seascape Poetics presents the work of six Caribbean artists who explore the complex connections of Caribbean relationships with water. The virtual exhibition is hosted by 4TH Space, a programming research space, and the Curating and Public Scholarship Lab, an experimental gallery at Concordia.

Caribbean artists Deborah Jack, Joiri Minaya, Lionel Cruet, Nadia Huggins, Olivia Mc Gilchrist, and Jeffrey Meris engage in a virtual environment to depict the relationship of water with colonization, slavery, exploitation, and Caribbean identities.

The Caribbean has a complicated past as the region was colonized. The ocean surrounds many islands and is a keeper of the many colonial histories that aren’t spoken about. Hurricanes, slavery, colonization, memory and many other themes are explored through the artists’ work concerning the ocean.

The artists also evoke a sense of nostalgia derived from being away from the main homeland due to environmental catastrophes, exploitation of resources, but also tourism which affects the local people of islands that are taken for granted for private interests.

As stated on the exhibition’s website, Seascape Poetics engages in a form of digital placemaking where the Caribbean and its diaspora exists temporarily in a shared archipelagic space.

When entering the exhibition, viewers are situated under palm trees near a wooden house, with the sea on the horizon. On the next page of the exhibition, the sound of waves crashing and the coquí, a small frog that inhabits Puerto Rico, can be heard, letting the viewer enter into an unfamiliar environment.

The exhibition is set at dawn and takes place in a tropical environment, but not the tropicalized environment that corporations have produced to sell the Caribbean. Instead, it is an uncrowded space near the sea, depicting different ecosystems that inhabit the many islands of the Caribbean, such as mangrove trees, a type of small tree that grows in coastal waters. As all of the artists have different backgrounds, they share a space where they can draw connections in an environment that resembles their homeland.

The public can navigate throughout the exhibition with 360 controls, meaning that viewers can click and drag on the background to have a look at their surroundings. Each artist has a page to showcase their work, accompanied by a description. There is also a play button at the right of each artwork title, enabling viewers to listen to a commentary by Martinez and Cambridge.

The first art piece presented is Drawn by water. (Sea) drawings in [3] acts, Act One: Wait(Weight) on the Water (2018) by Deborah Jack, an artist whose work revolves around video and sound installations, poetry and more. This video installation, which consists of scenes of sea shorelines filmed in Saint Martin and the Netherlands, looks at memory, colonial history and climate change. The video is black and white, erasing bright colours to avoid tropicalization.

The second artwork, Labadee (2017) by Dominican-American artist Joiri Minaya, is a video that draws parallels between colonization and tourism, and questions whether tourism is ethical. The video starts with a Columbus narration in contrast to the perspective of a Caribbean Royal cruise ship sailing in the same sea that Columbus once sailed. The video was filmed in Labadee, located on the northern coast of Haiti, a private beach rented by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.,  an American cruise company. Minaya also draws attention to the impact cruise ships have on the ecosystem and the way it’s being damaged.

Moving forward, Puerto Rican artist Lionel Cruet’s Flood aftermath and other hurricane stories IV and V (2020) is a painting created on a blue tarp, the same blue tarp that was distributed to local Puerto Ricans by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover roofs that were destroyed by Hurricane Maria (2017). This artwork depicts the aftermath of the landscape after hurricanes by showing abandoned houses. Puerto Rico is still trying to recover from the event.

Then, viewers dive underwater where they can observe the work of Saint Vincent and Grenadines photographer Nadia Huggins’s Transformations No 1 (2014), depicting two images: to the left, a self-portrait of the artist underwater, her face covered in shadow and on the right, a sea urchin that emerges from the artist’s face. This artwork is significant as it draws connections between human life and marine life, where class, gender and social norms don’t exist.

Returning to the surface of the water, French-Jamaican artist Olivia Mc Gilchrist’s video installation Virtual ISLANDS (2019) shows a combination of lakes, rivers and oceans, creating ambiguity between land and water with the use of a circular lens that submerges viewers into a virtual world.

The exhibition ends with Haitian artist Jeffrey Meris’s Mouth to Mouth (2020) installation placed on the shoreline to honour overseas migrants. This artwork consists of fibreglass resin and plastic bottles sustained from a steel frame, creating an abstract version of lungs, including concepts such as breath, memory, and displacement.

The exhibition enables viewers the opportunity to understand realities that they may not be aware of, allowing them to have a better comprehension of the many stories that the Caribbean holds in its archipelagic area.

Seascape Poetics is available for viewing at https://seascapepoetics.com/ until Feb. 26.

 

Photo courtesy of 4TH Space.

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Kicking off Out of Many with Antwaun Sargent and Yaniya Lee

Behind Jorian Charlton’s photography exhibition

As part of the online exhibition Out of Many, curator and art critic Antwaun Sargent, alongside writer and editor Yaniya Lee, hosted a conversation with Jorian Charlton. The talk, which took place online on Feb. 9, discussed the work behind Charlton’s photographs presented in the virtual exhibition.

Curated by Emilie Croning, Out of Many is presented by Wedge Curatorial Projects, a non-profit initiative promoting Black and diasporic culture, in collaboration with Gallery TPW, an artist-run centre that exhibits artistic and curatorial practices.

Antwaun Sargent is a writer who has contributed essays for museum publications and has been published by The New Yorker and The New York Times. Sargent is the author of The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion, published in 2019, which addresses the role of Black people in fashion and art today.

Yaniya Lee is a Toronto-based writer interested in the ethics of aesthetics. Lee has written for publications such as Vogue, Canadian Art, C Magazine and more.

The conversation revolved around the work of Jorian Charlton, a Toronto-based portrait photographer whose work focuses on personal experiences and Jamaican-Canadian culture.

Charlton uses digital and film photography for her work. Her photographs depict storytelling and Black representation.

The virtual exhibition includes photographs that Charlton’s father Clayton Charlton gave her. Charlton and her father’s vintage 35mm slides complete each other as they create a dialogue about family albums in contemporary time.

Charlton’s father’s images depict the 1970s to the late 1980s in Jamaica, Toronto and New York.

Through these images, viewers can see a band playing music on a bright day or men and women posing in different environments. His pictures present the past, whereas Charlton’s are the present. Together, they create a chronological line of experiences.

Charlton doesn’t know much of her father’s past as he wouldn’t share too much. She would learn details of his life from her aunts. Her father’s photographs were a small peek into the past. She remembers having asked her father about the pictures, but he would simply reply by saying that they were only pictures.

Having seen the pictures that were given to her for preservation, she thought about creating an archive that she could pass down.

“After I had my daughter, I was sort of thinking about family album archives and wanting her to have an archive for the next generation,” said Charlton. “When you think about family albums or photos from the ’80s or the ’90s, it’s usually from an American perspective.”

That is when she created her own perspective with her photographic style. Her photographs are personal, accentuating beauty and intimacy.

She eloquently captures people in pictures. Couples, siblings, and single portraits can be seen. Each photograph is a story.

[blockquote align=”left” author=””]“I just want to have more representation of us and have that be normal,” said Charlton. “I want the next generation to see themselves.”[/blockquote]

Charlton has created an archive of Black people’s lives to be looked back on. Charlton portrays them in their authenticity. She seeks to demonstrate beauty in tender photographs by showing various personalities through her lens. “I see similarities between my father’s and my pictures even though it wasn’t made on purpose,” said Charlton.

When photographing her subjects, Charlton has little involvement when it comes to telling them how to pose. She is usually quiet when taking shots to let her subjects do their own thing. Charlton keeps it as natural as possible.

[blockquote align=”right” author=””]“I want these photographs to convey a person’s truth and essence,” said Charlton. “I don’t want to manipulate things too much, I keep it as simple as I can and I want my subjects to be comfortable when I’m photographing them.”[/blockquote]

Charlton speaks of individuality. She lets her subjects be free in her images through fashion and style to let them present their stories in their own way.

Just like her father’s photographs, Charlton was able to capture tender moments that will forever live on, shedding light on a new generation of people.

In her exhibition, Charlton quotes Bell Hooks, author of In Our Glory: Photography and Black Life”, in Art On My Mind: Visual Politics (1995): “Ultimately, these images, the world they recorded, could be hidden, to be discovered at another time.”

Out of Many by Jorian Charlton is presented online until April 17.

 

Photo courtesy of Jorian Charlton.

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Behind the scenes of Mephisto Bates’ universe

Creating universes with primary colours

As part of its second artistic residency, Aussenwelt.co, a community of multidisciplinary artists that showcase the works of various creators, is presenting the works of Montreal-based artist Mephisto Bates.

Created in 2018, Aussenwelt.co is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to bring together all types of artists from the Montreal art scene. The organization aims to provide a sense of support for artists to exhibit their works in an innovative way.

Fragments colossaux: Hommage à Riopelle by interdisciplinary artist Mephisto Bates is hosted at Deneb.es, a multidisciplinary space, located at 22 Duluth Street E.

Bates studied Visual Arts at Cegep du Vieux Montréal a few years ago. It’s now been five years since he took his paintbrush and started working more profoundly on his artistic skills.

While admiring his canvases, it is easy enough to see that the palette is repetitive as Bates works with primary colours such as red, yellow and blue. Bates also uses orange and pink in his works.

To be honest, I dislike mixing colours, it annoys me,” said Bates. “I really like primary colours and with pastel alternatives, it gives my canvases a childish vibe.”

Bates works with acrylic paint and oil pastels. Depending on where he is, he will also use spray paint for his canvas.

In front of the multidisciplinary space’s window, five small paintings are showcased which is his study series. One of the canvases is a remake of a renaissance painting he used to create his own version.

“I find it interesting of reappropriating myself of artworks that already exist and are from another era. That way, I remake the artwork, but in my way,” said Bates.

Bates painted the inspired renaissance canvas with his left hand, even though he’s right-handed. He uses this technique to exaggerate his subjects on paint, giving them disproportionate bodies.

If the result is not exaggerated enough while using his left hand, Bates will simply blindfold himself to create more exaggeration in his work. 

“Before covering my eyes, I prepare my colours. Then, I get lost, I don’t know what colour I am using,” said Bates. “I start my canvas like that to create a composition over which I have as little control as possible.”

The pandemic seems to have brought him luck as he is feeling more creative than ever. This has given him the opportunity to develop his skills and experiment more as he is already doing.

One particular canvas that sheds light on Bates’ unique style is La vierge pi des enfants pi toute (madonna) (2021) This is in reference to Madonna, a representation of the Virgin Mary.

This specific painting depicts a woman with a child on her knee, pointing at another child at her feet. The subjects are faceless, the bodies are disproportionate, but they make the canvas look simple.

The presence of white and black makes the vivid colours of the canvas burst, which emphasizes the light colours in depth.

His works are also a tribute to Jean-Paul Riopelle, a Montreal-based artist who was known for his abstract style of painting and mosaic works in the 1950s. Riopelle is an inspiration for Bates as he created powerful atmospheres on large canvases.

“I paint with colours that anyone could use. I like the idea that primary colours are the base of paint,” said Bates. “It’s like a paint kit for kids: I directly use the paint without having to mix it with another colour.”

The exhibition is presented behind windows, attracting the eyes of the public who can take a glance at the artwork presented in the locale.

Fragments colossaux: Hommage à Riopelle by Mephisto Bates is on display until Feb. 23.

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The Post Image Cluster presents oral historian and writer Aanchal Malhotra

Reconnecting history through material memory

The Post Image Cluster, a research centre at Concordia, had the pleasure to present its first speaker in their artist talk series, writer and oral historian Aanchal Malhotra.

Based in New Delhi, Malhotra graduated from the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD) with a BFA in Traditional Printmaking and Art History. Then, she graduated from Concordia University with an MFA in Studio Art.

She is the co-founder of the Museum of Material Memory, a digital repository of material culture of the Indian subcontinent, promoting the preservation of material memory through objects of antiquity.

Having enjoyed learning traditional print skills at OCAD, Malhotra decided to enroll at Concordia, as enrolling in grad school seemed like the most natural thing to do.

However, when she arrived at Concordia, she realized that the print program wasn’t as traditional as she had imagined. That was at a time when the program was moving away from the traditional methods of printmaking to digital printing, videos and print installations.

“I was lost for a long time and I didn’t know what to do. I was just drawing a little bit because there was all this talk about research and I didn’t know the meaning of research in art,” said Malhotra.

Malhotra was overwhelmed as she didn’t understand the way that research could be included in visual art.

“Maybe it was just me, but I was resisting the box that I was being put into in my program,” she said. “‘Indian artists should make Indian art’ is what I was being told.” 

Malhotra later realized she shouldn’t have felt that way as her work later revolved around India.

“I was resisting moving away from my traditional print media that I spent four years fortifying.”

Malhotra was able to find herself in her work as her art started to speak of her home. She started doing bookwork. More specifically, she made an installation of books she had made with traditional Japanese Washi paper. Her work started to include the skills she gained when she learned how to do paper and screen printing.

“I come from a family of booksellers, so books and readings were always in my blood, but writing was never included,” said Malhotra.

As part of the program requirements, she had to write a thesis. Malhotra didn’t know where to start. She decided to take a sabbatical year and returned to India. During this time, she worked at her family’s book shop, BahriSons Booksellers, which was set up in 1953 by her grandfather.

There, she encountered two objects that her great uncle showed her: These were the objects that his family migrated with during the Indian Partition of 1947.

This was the beginning of her research.

“I felt embarrassed since I was 22 at the time and didn’t know that much about the Partition of India and how it affected … my grandparents.” 

The Partition of India occurred in 1947, two years after WWII, when the British withdrew from India after 300 years of occupation, and the land was divided into two independent states. This forced Hindus and Sikhs to the eastside of India and Muslims to westward Pakistan. It is estimated that 14 million people were displaced and one million were killed during that time.

Malhotra went on an intensive journey. From India to Pakistan, and to England, she revisited the Partition through objects that refugees carried with them when they were displaced.

Her book Remnants of a Separation: A History of the Partition through Material Memory, published in 2017, tracks down history through various family stories that people shared with Malhotra. Through interviews, she traces human history.

Malhotra was able to trace human memory through photographs of family members, objects such as jewelry, passports, certificates, and many other materials that people were able to share with her.

A particular object that was odd, but very significant, was the lock to a man’s house that was carried by his family during the Partition.

“People would lock their houses in hopes of returning one day to their home,” said Malhotra.

Her research helped her understand a part of history that she was unaware of. It also allowed her to make connections between her family’s story and other people’s stories.

Malhotra’s work is of great importance as it serves as a remembrance of the past and honours the many unheard voices that lived in through the Partition.

At the moment, Malhotra is writing an oral history on the impact of the Partition.

 

Photo courtesy of the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture, and Technology at Concordia.

 

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Your Name Engraved Herein: a never ending love story

The highest-grossing LGBTQ+ movie in Taiwan gives audiences an emotionally charged experience

Directed by Kuang-Hui Liu, Your Name Engraved Herein is a coming of age movie that tells the story of two classmates, A-han (Edward Chen) and Birdy (Tseng Jing-Hua), who fall in love precisely when the martial law is lifted in Taiwan in 1987. Despite this, society doesn’t change overnight, and homophobia, family pressure, and social stigmas remain present.

It’s intimate and sensual, but heartbreaking at the same time.

The martial law lasted in Taiwan for 38 years, from 1949 to 1987. This period of time is known as the White Terror, when the Republic of China took control of Taiwan. Chiang Kai-shek, leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), decided to impose a martial law, a temporary imposition of military authority and control of civilian rule, on Taiwan to prevent the Communist Party, led by Mao Tse-tung, from winning the Civil War. Freedom of speech and human rights were declined. Civilians who opposed it would either be imprisoned, tortured or even executed.

In the film, Birdy is a new student at a strict all-boys Catholic high school that A-han attends. The two rapidly become friends and their bond grows stronger.

They take part in the school’s band, led by Father Olivier (Fabio Grangeon) from Montreal, who is also the school’s priest. Father Olivier always reminds his students, “Profiter du moment” (live in the moment). During one of their classes, he discusses the concept of youth and love with his students. While everyone is questioning the priest about his love life, A-han and Birdy glimpse at each other.

News of President Chiang Ching-kuo’s death surfaces at school. Students are encouraged to take a trip to Taipei to pay their respects to the deceased. In Taipei, A-han and Birdy take advantage of their stay in the capital to enjoy their time together. Still, they are resistant to their mutual affection.

The arrival of girls shifts the school’s dynamic. Birdy is noticed by Ban-Ban, who represents social acceptance, stability and heterosexual romance. A-han gets jealous as Birdy spends more time with Ban-Ban and A-han won’t let go of his affection towards Birdy. A series of confrontations and reconciliations follow as they part from each other. Finally, life brings them together a few years later, giving them an opportunity to reflect on their past.

Director Liu captures a period of time when many people suffered from discrimination due to social stigma, even after the removal of the martial law. Gradually, society was able to evolve as Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019.

The movie pays a tribute to known Taiwanese LGBTQ+ activist, Chi Chia-wei, who was imprisoned during the White Terror. The activist appears in one scene of the movie, where a protest is happening, holding a sign that says “Homosexuality is not a disease.”

At times, it is hard to watch since the story is beautiful, but also heartbreaking. In a particular scene, Birdy is injured in a scooter accident and A-han decides to help him shower. A-han and Birdy get intimate. When Birdy climaxes, he kisses A-han but rapidly apologizes. Then, both cry in each other’s arms, understanding each other’s pain, shame and love.

The title of the movie is in reference to the song “Your Name Engraved Herein” written by Hsu Yuan-Ting, Chia Wang and Chen Wen-Hua, and performed by Crowd Lu. In the film, A-han plays the song on the phone to confess his love to Birdy. By the end of this scene, both start sobbing as they listen carefully to the song, heartbroken.

In a Time interview, Liu mentioned that “The LGBT communities need a movie like this to tell them, ‘You are allowed to love, you are not guilty.’”

The movie sheds light on those who have lived in pain and frustration due to past trauma.

Although the film depicts a generation that was denied to celebrate their identities freely and are recognized in Taiwan today, it still demonstrates that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is not over.

Your Name Engraved Herein sends a clear universal message that, regardless of sexual orientation, love is love and everyone deserves it.

Your Name Engraved Herein is available to watch on Netflix.

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