Arts and Culture Exhibit

Wandering eyes behind the mask

Shary Boyle is a Toronto-based artist whose imaginative approach cultivates her unique world-building abilities. The fantasy worlds that Boyle fashions through painting and sculpture are unsettling and sophisticated, surreal and theatrical. Boyle provokes the curious minds of the visitors through her multimedia and multi-dimensional works. She invites us all to discover our inner imaginative self. Her exhibition Vesselling is now on view at the Patel Brown Gallery.

Curator and writer Anaïs Castro’s accompanying exhibition text explains that Vesselling, at its core, refers to “the act of holding space for a vulnerable community, a safe and contained environment to share and reflect on complex or difficult realities.” Boyle conjures this notion through her unique craftsmanship, complexity and world-making to guide the audience’s experience. The works within the exhibition creates a space that invites the viewers to take a journey to a mystical reality, in which the materiality, their nature and their relation to reality is being challenged.  

Upon entering the gallery space, a long podium displays several sculptures that are shaped and entangled in twisted forms. The podium provides the viewers with the ability to walk around the sculptures to explore each angle of their disproportionate bodies. 

A two-coloured sculpture is placed in the center of the podium, displaying two pot-shaped bodies entwined in a close and intimate embrace. The larger, dark figure spreads its legs, inviting the smaller, white figure to fill the space between them. The figures constitute an abstract, continuous shape—their relationship is dynamic and romantic. 

“Dysfunctional ceramic vessels serve as metaphors for human connection and receptacles for human values—contained forms that embody the complex processes of personal, and societal, relationships,” Castro explained. 

The series of paintings that hang around the periphery of the gallery space is entitled Grafters. The collection seems to represent As a collective, it seems as if all the paintings are frozen moments of a mystical puppet show or a ritualistic ceremony that can be compared to  theater plays, television shows or everyday chores that we witness in our surroundings. Traditional painting canvases display figures with ceramic masks covering their faces. Some paintings incorporate everyday objects such as ribbon, hair, jewelry, buttons and so forth.

These paintings play with reality and imagination, bringing up curious, mystical,  dreamy and metamorphic narrative within different visual frames. The ceramic masks, on one hand, function to prevent the viewers from seeing who is underneath. This may prompt the viewers to curiously look closer to see the set of eyes behind the mask. On the other hand, the masks give the paintings a sense of liveliness as if they are emerging out of the painting to confront the viewers with their tangible presence in our world. In Castro’s words, paintings in Grafters series “function within the logic of a double-performance.”  

In one of the paintings, titled The florist, Boyle depicts a mysterious space with the main figure in the center holding two flowers—Anthurium and pink Gladiolus. Even though the ceramic mask covering the florist’s face emphasizes the ambiguity of the work, the irises penetrate through the mask and follow you, establishing the figure’s presence in the moment. The flowers, along with the smooth painting technique and the decoration of the upper part of the painting, offers a soft and feminine setting. In contrast to the softness of the work, there is a hidden violence that is projected via the appearance of a knife.

Vesselling will be on view at Patel Brown from Feb. 29 to April 20.

Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit

Trevor Baird’s Sunkissed at Pangée

Embracing age-old methods to create new work that feels ancient.

Trevor Baird is a Montréal-based artist with a BFA in ceramics from Concordia University whose works have been exhibited domestically and internationally. His current exhibition Sunkissed is now on view at Pangée, a gallery located inside a historic 100-year-old building, formerly known as the Czech Consulate. The gallery directly overlooks Mont-Royal park, making it a favoured destination for the art community of Montréal. 

Upon entering the building, a fluorescent sign bathes the entrance in warm, red light and directs visitors upstairs into the gallery space. The bright and sunlit space smells of fresh oil paint, initially gravitating the visitors toward Delphine Hennelly’s whimsical exhibition, Behind the Scenes.

In the adjacent room, Trever Baird’s exhibition features a long podium in the centre of space which displays a collection of wood-fired stoneware works. This new body of work marks a significant departure from his previous method of working, for Baird is embracing a new approach to ceramics. “It’s been a while since I’ve shown and have completely rethought my entire practice since Covid,” Baird wrote in a recent post on Instagram, “moving away from a more technical practice to an intuitive one took a long time to understand, but I’m so much more satisfied with this work than I have been in the past.”

Trevor Baird’s Arca Mundi, 2023, Ash Glazed Stoneware. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian.

The collection overall has the distinct, rustic quality of archeological discoveries, leading the viewer to question whether they are looking at contemporary artworks or antiquities. In the poignant words from artist Rebecca Storm’s accompanying exhibition text, “Tarnished, at times seeming to have surrendered to erosion, or to the slow creep of lichen, [the ceramics of Trevor Baird] bear ciphers of antiquity, teasing the viewer into speculation. Have I been newly created, they ask, or have I been found?”

For example, the repeated motif of the ribcage (Arca Mundi, 2023) may remind the viewer of fossilized human remains, preserved by the earth. “Ribs are the artist’s interpretation of the alchemical concept of the vessel as the symbol for the soul,” Storm wrote. The rib cage both protects and metaphorically imprisons the heart—the presumed locus of the human soul. Baird’s “remains” are imbued with a sense of the spirit of the body they perhaps once belonged to. 

Sunkissed will be on view at Pangée from Jan. 20 to March 2.

Arts Arts and Culture

Caitlin Dix captures tender moments in their monumental paintings

Recently shown in Concordia’s VAV Gallery’s temporary exhibition Cycles of Existence, Dix shared their process and inspiration.

From Oct. 23 to Nov. 2, the Cycles of Existence exhibition at the VAV Gallery featured a number of Concordia’s Fine Arts students who explore the mysterious cycles and patterns of history in their work. 

“Growth, the seasons, emotions, our bodies, strife in the world, breathing, everything we know seems to exist in a cycle,” stated the VAV Gallery on their Instagram. “Cycles of Existence explores exactly this—the cyclical nature of life, either in the subconscious, the physical, or the abstract.”

Caitlin Dix currently studies at the undergraduate level of the Concordia visual arts program. The Concordian spoke with the artist at the VAV’s opening reception for Cycles of Existence about their own installation, Tender Gardens.

Dix described their work as the display of archived family moments that captures their deep connection with nature through gardening, food preparation and sharing food with their family. Dix’s artistic practice encapsulates their childhood nostalgia, family heritage and generational practices. The ritualistic relationship that food has to family and nature emerges as a central theme in Tender Gardens

In this exhibition, they represent the women of their family, particularly their grandmother and mother, as modern-day gatherers—the active sustainers of the community and their family. Dix said that appreciating and caring for nature is inseparable from their family’s traditions. 

The installation involved three larger-than-life unstretched canvases, suspended from the ceiling. Broad strokes of bright colors—greens, blues and purples with the occasional orange or red detail—draw the viewer into a scene of Dix’s family members in a garden. The inviting work is meant to be fully immersive, where the viewer becomes a part of the scene in front of them—Dix’s grandmother smiles at them. 

Caitlin Dix, detail of Tender Gardens, VAV Gallery. Photo by Shaghayegh Naderolasli.

An interesting experience awaits viewers as they navigate through the installation. When standing in front of the pieces, viewers encounter a clear image of the scene and are invited to imagine themselves standing in the garden before them. The use of fiber materials to create textural illusions is incorporated into all three paintings, offering a multi-sensorial experience with objects, nature, and figures. 

Moving around to the reverse side of the canvas, the image becomes murky—a ghostly impression of the paint seeping through the canvas. This blurry version of the scene appears almost like a memory, creating a temporal distance between the viewer and the subject of the painting. The relationship between the two sides of the installation speaks to the passage of time; the time between witnessing a moment and seeking to remember it months or perhaps years later.

Caitlin Dix, detail of the reverse side of Tender Gardens, VAV Gallery. Photo by Shaghayegh Naderolasli.

See more of Caitlin Dix’s work on their Instagram account: @caitlin_dix_art.

Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit

The simultaneous lands of dreams

“A Coin on a Tongue” is now on view at Espace Maurice.

“A Coin on A Tongue” is an exhibition curated by Marie-Ségolène C. Brault at her apartment-gallery, Espace Maurice, located on Ontario street in Montréal. The exhibition includes works by artists Adrienne Greenblatt, Dante Guthrie and Anjali Kasturi, that encapsulate their spiritual, fantastical and historical world-building visions through their unique visual languages and conceptual framing. Each piece depicts historical fractions or fantastical worlds that coexist with our universe. 

Adrienne Greenblatt, Sheol i & ii, 2023, Borosilicate Glass. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian.

Adrienne Greenblatt’s glasswork installations occupy several corners of the gallery. The pieces offer multisensorial references to the human body, alchemy, medieval weaponry and esotericism through the use of hair, metal gates and glass. Each glossy surface draws attention to how sunlight reflects and refracts around the exhibition space. The ghostly materiality of each one urges the viewers to embrace their spiritual and historical vivacity. They welcome the presence of artifacts with historical characteristics and essence in the modern space of the gallery. 

Dante Guthrie, Bergmeister, bismuth. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian.

Dante Guthrie’s metal works are infused with the illusion of gothic architecture and storytelling through his combination of traditional atelier process and modern technologies. His metallic and abstracted architectural façades and frames are copiously detailed but open to interpretation in terms of conceptual vision—the frames can be interpreted as a depiction of a fantastical world, a futuristic prophecy, a medieval illusion, a talisman or a symbolic illustration of a spiritual practice.

View of the gallery, Espace Maurice, paintings by Anjali Kasturi. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

As for Anjali Kasturi’s paintings, their use of desaturated and washed-like colors, foggy depiction of space and mysterious representation of objects and landscapes convey a sense of fantasticality and fear of the unknown. The pieces invite us into the happenings and to explore the sensational atmosphere—to smell and feel the fog or the breeze. They allow the viewer to perceive the works in relation to their personal experience and capacity, focusing on the individual connection and interpretation of the space of the works. Each painting portrays an imaginary universe, a symbolic representation of an event or a dream traced back to an individual experience.

Anjali Kasturi, Gate 7, 2023, oil on canvas, 20”x24”. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

Throughout the exhibition, the various materials used in the works resemble distinct feelings and conversations that emphasize the relationship between the artists, their materials and their spiritual practices.

View of the Gallery, Espace Maurice. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian

Looking at the venue of the exhibition itself, a studio apartment, offers visitors a sense of community and movement. The continuity of the exhibition into the living space connects the works in the gallery and personal belongings. We do not necessarily know where the exhibition starts and where it ends, challenging the definition of a public space and public display. “A Coin on a Tongue” will be on view until Oct. 28.

Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit Student Life

How a bike becomes home

A group of artists who cycled Canada from coast-to-coast displayed their photographs at the Woodnote.

ViaVélo was a temporary photography exhibition organized by Concordia student Sampson McFerrin and Luke Welton at the Woodnote Solidarity Cooperative between Sept. 15 and 17. The Concordian shared a friendly conversation with McFerrin regarding his experience organizing the show, the works on display, the team’s curatorial choices and the idea behind the exhibition. 

McFerrin’s parents are both avid cyclists, therefore he and his brothers grew up cycling and exploring the world on their bikes. He spoke of the inherently healthy and unique lifestyle that comes with regular cycling. The activity became an inseparable part of his identity—as an adult he began to seek out opportunities to explore different parts of the world through cycling and build a community to share his passion with. 

McFerrin is a Print Media major at Concordia University with a minor in Business—a combination that gave him the tools to successfully organize ViaVélo. The exhibition presented a collection of memories from his coast-to-coast journey across Canada. Photography and documentation captivated him during his earlier travels and these creative tools served as inspiration for the trip and offered him means to capture it.

 The gallery consisted of two rooms that displayed a collection of photographs and paintings by McFerrin and Welton. The photos encapsulate the experience of the two artists and a few others, who cycled from Victoria, British Columbia, all the way to St. John’s, Newfoundland, spanning 10 provinces and over 11,000 km. They started their journey during the summer of 2020  before they were interrupted by the pandemic’s restrictions and finished their adventure in 2023. 

Photograph from the ViaVélo collection. Courtesy of Sampson McFerrin.

By displaying the photos of their trip, the artists aimed to represent their journey and introduce different ways of seeing Canada. Through storytelling and captured memories of friendships, community and their lifestyle on the road, the exhibition proposes a new perception of the Canadian experience.

Viewers were met with photos of all 10 Canadian provinces, which McFerrin noted really capture the essence of the specific place and time it was taken. The presence of McFerrin’s bike in the gallery space, loaded with all the necessities for the trip, adds to the vivid memory of their life on the road. “The bike became the home that you take care of, and it takes care of you,” McFerrin said.

Arts and Culture Student Life

What is FASA and What Does it offer?

Concordia’s Fine Arts Student Alliance hosted their first orientation event of the school year.

Concordia University’s Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) is a student-run organization that provides funding, creates several clubs and organizes art shows for all students within the faculty of fine arts. It is committed to being an inclusive, diverse, accessible and welcoming community for all students. FASA 101 was a recent event organized by the FASA members at Concordia’s VAV gallery located at the Sir George Williams campus on Tuesday, Sept. 12. 

FASA 101 Zine Workshop, VAV Gallery. Courtesy of FARR Concordia, Photo by India-Lynn Upshaw-Ruffner.

This event was an orientation gathering that brought together all the clubs under FASA. The aim was to provide a better understanding of the association and the opportunities it offers to new students. As one of the members mentioned, “it is basically an event where you should drop in, make crafts, meet friends while getting to know available opportunities.The Concordian was able to attend the Mindful Campus Initiative presentation—part of the many presentations and workshops that took place during FASA 101. 

The association representatives explained FASA’s dedication to the well-being of the fine arts students. The presentation outlined offered online courses focusing on stress and anxiety management tips, on campus services and activities for students to take advantage of as they navigate their coursework. 

The representatives also discussed the potential difficulty students may have as they begin to get involved on campus. It may seem overwhelming at first for new students to pursue joining new clubs in an unfamiliar environment, but FASA’s mission is to make the process as accessible as possible.

FASA offers several opportunities that can help students get involved in the university. Some of the best ways to get involved are by following callouts for upcoming exhibitions or events, volunteer work, jobs and grants. The best way to access all of these opportunities is through their websites, Instagram accounts, and email subscriptions. 

The VAV gallery’s general meeting is one of the upcoming events that will be hosted on Sept.21  at the gallery to elect the board members for the 2023–2024 academic year. Undergraduate students in the fine arts department are welcome to attend this event—whether to simply become familiar with the operation and members of the gallery, or to nominate themselves for one of the positions available! 

Arts and Culture Exhibit

The Portal to Unity between Nature and Humanity

Collaboration between museums and Indigenous communities offers a step toward a new way of displaying sacred objects.

Thought and Splendour of Indigenous Colombia: Portable Universe is a collaborative exhibition organized by five museums in the United States, Canada, and Colombia in dialogue with the Arhuaco community of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region of Northern Colombia. The active inclusion of the Arhuaco community in this exhibition’s organization intentionally puts forth an indigenous perspective of the world, allowing viewers to witness each object through the lens of the culture from which they came. This decision provides a richer understanding of the intentions behind each piece and creates a cross-cultural dialogue through which knowledge can be equally exchanged. 

The exhibition opens up with a didactic wall text that provides an overview of how the perspective of Indigenous people enriches present-day society through a timeless sensibility. There is no beginning or end for the objects collected here,  for their inherent spirit traverses time and space. Upon entering the gallery, the viewers encounter the “Votive figure (Tunjo)”, which is a sculpture shaped like a man seated in the basket position. Through the gesture of the figure’s connected hands, this piece provides a glimpse into one of the major themes of the exhibition—the circularity and timelessness of indigenous thought. A selection of contemporary artwork at the end of the exhibition rounds out the show by reinforcing the timeless notion of nature as a respected and valued part of humanity.

The curators refused to organize the display according to a linear timeline. This choice encourages the visitors to connect with the pieces’ functional role and the intentions of the creator rather than inserting them into a canonical order. Consequently, the viewer focuses on the lessons embedded in each piece regarding the relationship humans share with nature and their symbiotic roles.

View of the exhibition Portable Universe: Thought and Splendour of Indigenous Colombia at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Photo MMFA, Jean-François Brière

Considering nature as our extended family and respecting it is another recurring theme of the exhibition. The importance of the natural world in Indigenous communities shows through their sacred practices. The exhibition opens a discussion that calls into question the Western view of nature as a resource to use and exploit and encourages viewers to consider the Indigenous view of nature as our shared home that must be respected and protected. 

Each room in the exhibition is curated according to a different theme in order to emphasize an important aspect of the Arhuaco culture. Video projectors, images and soundscapes throughout the exhibition remind visitors of the natural sights and sounds that are significant and sacred in the practices of the Indigenous communities of Colombia. These practices focus on the principles of creation and imitation of natural elements. Video projections serve as extended narratives and insert a sensorial and human element into the gallery space. 

The exhibition is located in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and will be open to the public until October 1st, 2023. 

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