An exploration of a past self

Montreal pop-jazz singer Léonie Gray’s recent EP is a cathartic release

Léonie Gray performed at L’Escalier, a cozy vegetarian restaurant near Berri-UQAM metro, on Jan. 30 to showcase new material from her recently released EP, Eliana’s Poison. The new project features delicate ballads with an electro sound and high-quality vocals. She goes from sophisticated orchestration to an intimate pop-folk register using her strong voice.

“It’s always a good experience to open up to people on a stage and to have friends come and support my performances,” Gray said after her show at L’Escalier. The Montreal-based pop-jazz singer started singing at the age of one and began performing when she was only seven. Following the release of her latest EP, Gray sought out some new musicians to complete her band. “Some of the struggles of finding new band members is finding someone reliable who you’re going to get along with in general and musically,” she said.

The cover for Léonie Gray’s new EP.

Gray’s new EP is a powerfully emotive reflection on heartbreak and loss that doesn’t always offer a light at the end of the tunnel. With an instrumental palette of piano, drums and splashes of electronica textures, Eliana’s Poison is a poised and ever-confident debut from a singer trying to prove herself in the music industry.

“I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and [I started] songwriting when I was 16 or 17 years old,” Gray said. Some of the songs on her EP, such as “Break Free,” were written when Gray was a teenager. “Actually, it wasn’t a song about a heartbreak, but a friend of mine who passed away because of cancer,” she explained.

For the songs that are about heartbreak, Gray said putting together lyrics about toxic relationships has helped her move on. “Yes and no. It doesn’t really do the job for you, but it helps you to stay focused and concentrate on yourself, to worry about your own success only,” she said.

The videography in Gray’s music video for “Break Free” features a lighthouse by the water. According to Gray, she usually jots down ideas for the music video before even writing the song. She submits these ideas and scenarios to the videographers, who then approve her suggestions and go into more details about creating a mood and selecting actors, costumes and makeup, as well as finding locations to film the music video. Gray said some videos can take a single day to shoot, while others can last anywhere from one to a few months. Regardless, she said, they are always interesting to work on.

Gray was reluctant to choose a favourite track from Eliana’s Poison, since each song represents a state of mind she has experienced. She said she loves all her songs equally, and looking back on them feels like remembering a past self.

In order to bring Eliana’s Poison to life, Gray collaborated with numerous producers, notably Sookz for the track “Cactus,” Lucas Liberatore for “Break Free” and “Your Game,” while “Save a Prayer” and “Pieces” were produced by David Esteban.

Gray expressed gratitude for the contributions each producer and musician made to Eliana’s Poison. She said she wanted to thank everyone who helped her through this process, including, “ironically enough, my ex-boyfriend, who was the main inspiration for my EP.”

Leonie Gray’s new EP, Eliana’s Poison, is available for free on Spotify and Soundcloud.

Feature photo by Joyce Chan


It’s a matter of time and place

What do impressionist-inspired paintings, sculptural pieces about political language and a film exploring cultural identity have in common? They’re all featured at the FOFA Gallery’s ongoing exhibition, Matter of Place.

Matter of Place is this year’s edition of an annual undergraduate exhibition which aims to represent the diverse art practices and research interests of students in Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts. This year, the mediums used in the exhibition vary greatly, from paintings, photography and ceramics to videos, textiles and audio art.

In addition—as is the case every year—students from several other departments contributed their talents to the exhibition. Concordia professor Angélique Willkie’s contemporary dance class was invited to participate by choreographing performances inspired by the exhibition’s artworks, and a number of art history students were tasked with writing essays about each piece in  Matter of Place. These essays have been published in a catalogue created by Concordia design students, which is available to view and purchase at the gallery. The exhibition’s interdisciplinary approach welcomes the viewer into an immersive and multifaceted experience.


Florence Yee studies painting and drawing, which she described as more traditional fields of art. Her installation at the exhibition, This is Not Photorealism, is a collection of seven paintings hung together salon-style in the vitrine of the FOFA. Most of her paintings reference Claude Monet, a 19th century French impressionist artist who painted water lilies he imported from Japan. Monet even bought land in the French countryside so he could build a large, Japanese-style garden and paint the flowers in their quasi-natural habitat.

“I always liked Monet’s paintings as a child,” Yee said. “As I grew older, I realized that many people associated me with water lilies because I’m an Asian woman and I’m sweet like a lotus flower. Sometimes, it can be a good association, and other times, it can feel like a stereotype.” Yee said she was interested in how these Japanese symbols came to represent French nationalism. She reproduced original Monet paintings to look like blurry photos taken by tourists, including a timestamp at the bottom to indicate when she made each piece.


Chris Mendoza is a third-year studio arts major with a minor in art education. His sculpture and performance pieces were inspired by the 2016 American presidential election. Mendoza said he finds political language fascinating.

“I was just really interested in language and how it affects the way we perceive the world around us,” he said. “The performance that I submitted was a bit of an exploration of that.”

According to Mendoza, the sculpture is elevated by his accompanying performance. The objects of his sculpture are arranged in a certain configuration, and his performance adds meaning or use to the objects.

Given that such a small number of students are chosen to participate in this exhibition, Mendoza said he feels it is definitely an accomplishment to have his work included.


Although one of Kevin Jung-Hoo Park’s latest films was selected for the exhibition, the piece, titled Letter(s) from a Gapping Zone, is unfinished.

“It started out with following my father’s oldest memory—when he went up to the mountain with his father to bury his one-year-old sister,” the film production student explained. The film has since evolved into “an autobiographical fiction of a filmmaker who fails to find home.”

For the purpose of the film, Park tried to pinpoint the exact location in South Korea where his aunt was buried. This search was also done in the hopes of reconnecting with his roots, because Park said he has always struggled with his Canadian identity.

While editing the footage, Park said he realized he was just hurting himself by delving into his family’s past. The film takes place in the village where his grandmother lives and where his father was born, yet Park said he felt like an intruder. Since the villagers aren’t used to being filmed or photographed, they were constantly staring at Park while he worked.

Eventually, Park said, he hopes to develop Letter(s) from a Gapping Zone into a longer documentary piece by adding voice-over narration about his experience making the film.


Camille Lescarbeau’s piece, titled Doux Labeur (2017), is comprised of a hand-typed book and a tape recording. Photo by Kirubel Mehari.

Born in Gatineau, Camille Lescarbeau moved to Montreal five years ago. She studies art history and studio arts at Concordia, but is currently travelling in Iceland. Her contribution to the Matter of Place exhibition is a hand-typed book on a shelf with a tape recording. The piece, tiled Doux Labeur, was created last year in her Art X class, a course that emphasizes “critical and conceptual thinking over medium-specific creation,” according to the university website.

When asked what inspires her to make art, Lescarbeau said it is often her creative friends. “I was a dance teacher in high school, so I have been surrounded by people who dance and do music. Many of my friends write poetry, so their writing also inspires me.”

Matter of Place runs until Feb. 23 at the FOFA Gallery in Concordia’s EV building. The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The performance evenings run until Feb. 8, each starting at 5 p.m. Entry is free. More information can be found in the event section of the Concordia website.

Feature photo by Kirubel Mehari

Student Life

A night in the life of a Barfly

A creative storytelling series by Concordia students

My interest in Barfly started this past summer when I was first discovering new bars in Montreal by myself. At a bar called Grumpy’s, I had a funny conversation with two strangers, who were brother and sister, about the definition of a barfly. Barfly (noun): a person who spends too much time drinking in bars. The brother recommended that I visit Barfly at least once, hailing it as the best dive bar in the city.

I hadn’t planned on going to Barfly this Saturday night. Originally, I was headed off to my friend Sarina’s house, but it turns out I had mixed up the dates of her birthday party, so I made new plans. Earlier that week, I had seen a Facebook event for two bands who would be playing that night. Excited to hear some good live music, I decided to check out Barfly for a spontaneous rock-and-roll adventure.

I got on a bus in front of St-Laurent metro and as I got off, I  immediately spotted the bar right across the street. Not sure what to expect, I opened the door and went to sit in the middle of the bar. To my surprise, my Facebook friend Steve, who was playing drums that night, was sitting right beside me. He didn’t recognize me until I pulled out a pen from my purse and started drawing a picture of Pennywise the clown. After awhile, I noticed that there was another person engaged in creative work.

Across from me, there was a bearded man writing and drawing in a sketchbook. Even though we never spoke a word to each other the entire night, seeing this like-minded individual made me feel less weird. I was happy to be sitting next to Steve since he always has interesting stories to share and he appreciates my talent as a visual artist. We talked about our addiction to tattoos and where he got the fork-shaped piece of jewelry that he was wearing.

The funniest part of the night was when my English teacher, who taught me short fiction two years ago, showed up. He commented that he knew the author of the poetry book I was reading. It never ceases to surprise me how small social circles are in Montreal. When the second band of the night started playing, a quirky and drunk old man got up on stage and started dancing. When he got too carried away, his lady friend grabbed him off the stage and forced him to sit down. There was a moment when time seemed to slow down. I stopped watching the stage and looked around at the crowd of people who were nodding their heads along with the rhythm of the music.

I felt like a fly on the wall, quietly observing the strange mix of people around me. Even though I was probably the youngest person at the bar, I felt a sense of belonging to this group of strangers who wouldn’t judge me. Everyone gathered there that night was longing for an  alcoholic escape from the stresses of everyday life like me. At midnight, I decided to start heading home. I walked out into the night and spotted the drunk old man outside with his pants down peeing into the wind. A couple laughed at his exposed privates as they passed by.

Spontaneous adventures like this night are important because they remind me that I can still have fun by myself. I seek comfort in going to bars alone to renew my sense of independence. Going to Barfly was a fun night filled with good music and quirky individuals.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Putting her mark on the walls of the city

Concordia alumna Cedar Eve Peters speaks about her mural painting and traditional jewelry

Cedar Eve Peters, an Ojibwe First Nations artist from Toronto, began beading because she wanted to try a different medium and explore her artistry.

Peters moved to Montreal when she was 18 and graduated from Concordia’s studio arts program in 2012. She now works in Montreal as an independent artist, creating brightly coloured beaded jewelry as well as drawings and acrylic paintings that she sells through Instagram.

One of the artist’s sets of beaded earrings. This pair is made out of Amazonite gemstones and sterling silver. Photo courtesy of Cedar Eve Peters.

Although she enjoys beading, Peters said she sometimes has to draw or paint to relax before starting a beading project. Beading requires a lot of concentration and is very tedious work, she explained. When the thread breaks, it can be frustrating. Nonetheless, she said she finds making earrings to be very therapeutic.


“I taught myself how to make earrings, but my jewelry is inspired by my mother and grandmother’s earrings,” Peters said. “I look at elements of nature for inspiration for my beading—from flowers to sunsets to the winter season.”

Peters’ work also includes mural paintings. She recalled that one of her most memorable experiences as a student was a trip to Peru in 2011. She volunteered alongside five other girls and had the opportunity to paint a mural for an elementary school.

This experience exposed her to the collaborative process of mural painting for the first time. From Aug. 13 to 21, Peters had a solo exhibition at a gathering called Unceded Voices: Anticolonial Street Artists Convergence, where she painted a mural on the corner of St-Jacques and St-Philippe Street. Unceded Voices is an event that brings together “primarily Indigenous-identified women, two-spirit, queer and women of colour street artists” to create murals in Montreal, according to their website.

One of Peters’ drawings, titled that’s a mouthful. Pen on paper. Photo courtesy of Cedar Eve Peters.





Originally founded in 2014, the most recent edition of Unceded Voices took place in Montreal’s St-Henri neighbourhood, which has a variety of bare walls, abandoned buildings and train tracks. This year’s event is the first to receive funding from both the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts de Montréal. “Unceded Voices is a call to action to rethink our relationships with the colonial cities, and to have the courage to listen to what the walls are saying to everyone,” said Camille Larivée, an Unceded Voices organizer.

Peters’ drawings and paintings, which she also sells through social media, often depict shape-shifting creatures that hover between human and animalistic. She described them as spirit beings with powerful energies. She said she is inspired by mythologies and stories found in Indigenous cultures.

“I hope my art can relate to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike,” she said. “The language of art allows for people to communicate with one another through a non-verbal means and is integral to keeping First Nations culture alive. It is my way of carrying stories forward and a way to remember my ancestors.”

To see more of Cedar Eve Peters’ work or to purchase her jewelry, check out her Instagram page @cedareve.

Photos Courtesy of Cedar Eve Peters


Incorporating culture in her artwork

Local tattoo apprentice Sai Li draws inspiration from traditional Chinese art

Sai Li wanted to get her first tattoo when she was 15, but her parents wouldn’t let her. Born in Dongbei, the northeast region of China, Li immigrated to Montreal when she was 21. She is now a tattoo artist.

Li’s work is heavily inspired by traditional Chinese art, which sets her apart from other artists in Montreal’s tattoo scene. To add to her knowledge in digital drawing, Li paid a tattoo artist working at Lili Tattoo Studio in China to teach her how to use the needling machines. She would arrive at the shop everyday at 9 a.m. and stay until 9 p.m. At home, she would practice tattooing on artificial skin using a very heavy needling machine, which helped her learn the craft quickly.

In 2012, Li graduated from the Communication University of China, Nanjing with a bachelor of plastic arts and a major in 2D animation for video games. Following her move to Canada, Li graduated from the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue in 2015 with a degree in creation and new media. Li didn’t like computer animation, so she decided to follow another career path. After earning her second degree, Li opened a Chinese restaurant with a friend, but started drawing tattoo designs for clients in her spare time. She said she has always admired the artistry behind tattooing and wanted to find a lifelong career that would allow her to grow as a visual artist.

Li was in China from​ January to April this year, and had the opportunity to tattoo people after just one month of apprenticing at Lili, which is quick in this industry. In Canada, apprentices must wait a minimum of two years before they are allowed to tattoo clients. Her teacher allowed her to tattoo five clients for free, and she began with lettering. According to Li, cursive writing is more difficult to tattoo than it appears, because the needle has to move in one continuous line. When asked about the tattoo artists who inspire her, Li said she admires the work of an artist named Chen Jie (@chenjie.newtattoo) from Beijing, China. “Her work looks like watercolour traditional paintings on skin,” Li said. “I want to represent traditional Chinese culture in my tattoo style and show it in a unique way.”

After her apprenticeship in China, Li returned to Montreal. She spent months emailing tattoo shops and looking for an apprenticeship in the city. One day, she was walking on Ste-Catherine Street when she discovered the Slick Styled Steel tattoo parlour. She decided to go in and ask if they were hiring. She has been an apprentice at Slick’s for six months now.

Li said she has had many clients ask for tattoos of a Japanese mask without knowing the cultural meaning of the symbol. The mask, called Onryo, represents a girl who died from jealousy and turned into a ghost. Li said she finds it strange that people want this tattooed since the Onryo are vengeful spirits whose souls try to harm humans. In Japanese culture, these ghosts are considered bad luck.

Li creates soft, delicate images of dragons, flowers and calligraphy. She loves the exchange between customers when she draws an image for them and they share secrets with her.

Check out Li’s work on her website or Instagram: @sai_tattoo. To book an appointment with Li, call Slick Styled Steel at 514-842-8999.

Feature photo by Mackenzie Lad


L’OFFRE illustrates the art of gift giving

Curator Cheryl Sim speaks about the rewarding process of putting a large exhibition together

Giving a gift to a loved one can bring extreme joy to oneself, but there are also mixed emotions of anxiety for the receiver who might not know what to give back.

As part of its 10th anniversary celebration, DHC/ART (The Foundation for Contemporary Art) is exploring the complex concept of gift exchange in its exhibition, L’OFFRE. The exhibition is a culmination of a variety of works by artists from around the world.

As a curator, Cheryl Sim wanted to create a show which would honour DHC/ART’s contribution to Montreal’s cultural landscape. She has been working at DHC/ART for 10 years and has had the privilege of seeing the foundation grow. When she was tasked with curating the exhibition, Sim knew exactly how to approach the job.

“Artists have forever been interested in gift exchange and the offer of their labour to the service of art-making, which is not necessarily going to give you a lot of financial return,” Sim said. “Many artists work in their spare time, they give their work away for free or they show it for free. DHC/ART as a foundation itself represents a gift to the city of Montreal.”

Sim spoke about Phil Collins, who created a collaborative project called Free FotoLab for L’OFFRE. He put out a public call in Eastern Europe, asking people to give him their undeveloped rolls of 35 mm film in exchange for the right to develop the photos of his choosing.

“He is interested in how you create compassion and how do you show empathy. In so much of his work, he is looking at a relationship between himself and the people he needs to rely on to show his work,” Sim said.

The photos Collins developed include both special and everyday moments, like people attending birthday parties, going to the beach and napping. There are a total of 80 slides in the piece.

Lee Mingwei, a Taiwanese artist, has two pieces in the exhibition: Money for Art (1994-2010) and Sonic Blossom (2013). Sonic Blossom was inspired by the time spent with his mother when she was recovering from surgery. This piece is focused on the transformative and healing power of song. On Saturdays and Sundays, between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the foundation, two singers will perform for visitors who will sit in a chair and have one of five Franz Schubert’s artistic songs (known as lieders) sung to them. Sonic Blossom is presented in collaboration with faculty and performers from Concordia’s music department.

DHC/ART is a non-profit organization founded in 2007. According to Sim, the founder, Phoebe Greenberg, had a dream to make art accessible to the public by hosting large-scale art exhibitions with free general admission. DHC/ART’s exhibitions are unique because they present mostly international artists while the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has a mandate to present only Canadian and Quebec artists. People do not have to travel to Paris or Berlin, for example, to see their favourite renowned international artists.

Sim said one of the main challenges in curating such a large exhibition is choosing a nice mix of media and trying to consolidate large works of art which fit with the theme within the space. The curator explained that the most rewarding aspect is seeing the project materialize after a long process of working alongside the technical department and the coordinators.

The ultimate reward for her, however, will be seeing the public’s reaction to these beautiful works. Montreal-based artists Dean Baldwin and Karen Kraven have created a commission-based installation project specifically for the public reception on the evening of Oct. 4.

The opening reception for L’OFFRE will be held on Oct. 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m at DHC/ART, at 451 St-Jean St. The exhibition will officially be on display from Oct. 5 to March 11, 2018.

Student Life

Attending my first feminist comedy event

Belly laughs and feminism came together at Concordia’s cozy and intimate Café X on Friday, March 31 for a night of feminist stand-up comedy.

The space was beautiful, with twinkly blue lights, potted plants and comfortable couches—as an artistic person, I felt at home, surrounded by other creative and beautiful women.

I sat down with Emily Karcz before the event to talk about her experience organizing the night of comedy. She said one of the challenges in setting up such an event is social media promotion—making sure people hear about it, and that they actually show up.

Café X is entirely student-run and open to collaboration with other people, organizations and groups for special events or exhibitions. It offers an alternative space for emerging artists.

The night started with a casual ice-breaker game where volunteers were invited up to the microphones to “verbally vomit” out any words that popped into their minds. This game made for some deep stories about hair colour, heavy drugs and annoying cats. I volunteered to participate and had a lot of difficulty forming a story with random words. This made me realize how difficult it is to build a chronological plotline on the spot. I could see how this game would help creative individuals build on their vocabulary.

Two hilarious women performed interesting comedic monologues. Menstruation, awkward first dates, ways of saving money on tampons… no topic was off-limits.

“I think feminist comedy is still something that people have to understand. Everyone who will present tonight will probably have a different view on feminism,” said Karcz. “There’s a healthy way to cope with things that are going on. Women are hilarious—I have great conversations with my girlfriends. People in oppressed positions often experience a lot and they rip on that,” she added.

“Yeah, that was my first time doing comedy. I felt great, definitely a very welcoming atmosphere,” said Emily Estelle Belanger, one of the stand-up comedians.

“Everyone is super supportive, no hecklers for sure. I spent the last week making all my friends listen to it. My speech is typed up in a draft email to myself. I would love to do more of these things in the future if the opportunities were there,” said Belanger.

Comedy helps women laugh about their stressful experiences and transform hardships into something positive and bright. I am incredibly happy I went to this event because it made me feel empowered as a woman and ready to take on the world without fear. I appreciate my female friends even more now and feel so thankful for their constant love and support.

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