Chaos, discomfort, and absurdism

If you could visually represent feelings of discomfort and worry, what would they look like?

Montreal and Mexico City-based artist Beth Frey illustrates this in her most recent exhibition. The multidisciplinary artist, a Concordia MFA graduate, explores themes of girlhood, the body, social media, and mental health through her sculptures, drawings, and videos.

BOOM BOOM BLOOM DOOM was on view throughout the month of September at Galerie POPOP, in downtown Montreal. The space felt, all at once, organized yet chaotic; offering a visual representation of the conversation that is constantly going on in your head.

Frey approaches the topics through an absurdist perspective. Absurdism, a philosophy that emerged in the 19th century, refers to the human tendency to seek meaning in life, and ultimately, the inability to find any. The use of colorful watercolours-in conjunction with the underlying heavy subject matter-demonstrates the artist’s ironic approach to sociopolitical topics and playful sense of humor.

Frey’s works make references to pop culture by integrating cartoon and comic characters, which offers the viewer a sense of familiarity. The vibrant colours of the works, in contrast with the sketchy outlines and linework, allude to hyperreality.

Lucy Encounters Ego Death (and hopefully finds some sort of inner peace), features a cartoonish rendition of Peanuts character Lucy, quite noticeably in a state of disturbance. The dripping quality of the watercolours indirectly hints to the sense of lack of control that accompanies anxiety, offering the viewer an image of an unpleasant sensation.

The paintings, given titles such as Two Strangers Console One Another While the Artist Checks Her Instagram and I’m Not Bashful, You’re Bashful feel like an internal commentary. They are, all at once, satirical and critical, direct and honest, and similar to the works at the gallery.

The painting Anxiety Library illustrates a table surrounded by figures reading books with names like “Problems Vol. 26” and “Your Impending Death.” People sit among monster-like creatures, some burying their heads within their novels, others screaming. The whirlwind of colours and textures makes the work feel very noisy, as though the viewer can hear all that is going on within the piece.

While each of the pieces has a meaning on their own, collectively they contribute to the artist’s approach of creating works from an absurdist standpoint. They demonstrate a desire to find peace and quiet while simultaneously struggling with an internal search for meaning, and ultimately, battling an impending sense of doom.

Further information about Beth Frey’s work can be found at



With files from Beth Frey and Sophie Latouche.

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