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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.

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Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit Student Life

Matrilineal Memory: Celebrating Métis heritage through generations of women

Juliet Mackie paints motherly love and female power in her latest artwork.

Shé:kon Gallery is currently hosting Matrilineal Memory, an exhibition showcasing the work of Juliet Mackie. She is a visual artist from Métis origins, currently residing in Montreal. Through her beadings and paintings, she embraces her heritage and pays tribute to the women of her lineage. 

Mackie is a PhD candidate in the iIndividualized iProgram at Concordia University as well as a holder of a BFA in painting and drawing. The exhibition’s curator, Alexandra Nordstrom, is a PhD student in the inter-university doctoral program in art history at Concordia University. Nordstrom and Mackie have previously collaborated on another exhibition, Braiding our Stories, at VAV Gallery.

Juliet Mackie, Kineweskwêw, 2023. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Shé:Kon Gallery. Photo by Michael Patten.

Matrilineal Memory is hosted at Shé:kon Gallery, which belongs to the Contemporary Native Art Biennial (BACA). BACA is a non-profit organization launched in 2012 which promotes Indigenous artists’ artwork. The Gallery was opened in 2021 and is in function all year-round, and is described as a “space dedicated to emerging Indigenous artists and curators from Quebec.”

Juliet Mackie, Jaymie, 2023. Beadwork on felt. Courtesy of Shé:Kon Gallery. Photo by Michael Patten.

Starting with her great-great-great-grandmother and ending with her mother, Mackie has recounted the lives of her female ancestors. The women in the portrait collection share unequivocal family resemblances, such as dark hair and large brown eyes, as well as beadings of floral figures, which both represent Mackie’s connection to nature and embody femininity.

Juliet Mackie, Greta, 2023. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Shé:Kon Gallery. Photo by Michael Patten.

The portraits and beadings are vividly colourful. In the paintings, some women are pictured in traditional Indigenous clothing, whereas others are painted wearing  dresses and pearls. There is a family portrait called Trapline Girls where a woman wearing furs is seen smiling accompanied by three children, presumably girls, which might be the representation of tradition being passed down from generation to generation. 

Juliet Mackie, Trapline Girls, 2023. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Shé:Kon Gallery. Photo by Michael Patten.

Another painting, Granny Oak, shows an elderly woman holding a young girl in her arms, surrounded by pink flowers. This portrait particularly exudes maternal love and feminine energy. The background of some paintings includes flowers, trees and eagles—yet another reminder of the artist’s love of nature as well as the Métis’ connection to fauna and flora. 

Juliet Mackie, Granny Oak, 2023. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Shé:Kon Gallery. Photo by Michael Patten.

The artist’s great-grandmother, Evelyn Oak, is a central figure of the display. She was a Métis woman from the community of Fort Chipewyan, in Alberta. She, as well as her daughter Greta, inspired the artist through their journey of self-acceptance, resilience and courage as Indigenous women during the 20th century. As she embraces her family history, Mackie also embraces her own identity, reconnects with her origins, and celebrates tradition. Unapologetically feminist, Matrilineal Memory is an intimate encounter between the artist and the women who shaped her way of being.  

Juliet Mackie, Evelyn of the North, 2023. Acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of Shé:Kon Gallery. Photo by Michael Patten.

Matrilineal Memory will be on view until Dec. 22.

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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.

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Arts

Le roman de monsieur de Molière at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde: A review

Between modernism and traditionalism: the constant debate between Corneille and Molière

The theatre adaptation of Mikhaïl Boulgakov’s novel Le roman de monsieur de Molière by the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde comments on the playwright’s chaotic life, and paints a vivid picture of the anxieties of devoting one’s life to being an artist. 

The audience did not need to be an aficionado of Molière to understand the intricacies of the play. 

The newly-restored Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, following the fire that erupted in the building earlier this year, seated 800 people and was nearly full. Most of the audience seated in the orchestra seemed of retired age, while younger people sat in the balcony.  

Though Molière’s life has been profusely copied and reimagined, this performance is contrasted by the unique proximity between the author and Molière. 

The 20th-century Ukrainian author Mikhaïl Boulgakov, much like Molière, was an artist unrecognized for his genius. They were both censured and silenced for their prose, receiving recognition after their deaths. 

Boulgakov plays on this theme in his novel, as is also present throughout the play, standing on the sidelines observing his written work unravel in front of him. Boulgakov’s and Molière’s characters intertwine and untwine themselves to unite and individualize their realities. 

For instance, Boulgakov frequently uses the first-person singular when narrating the play, as if he was himself Molière. While the story unfolds, Boulgakov never leaves the stage: he stays still, as a spectator. 

The audience barely notices him, as his movements are often immobilized by his role as narrator. He uses asides when he notes something specific that cannot be translated into action. 

The two-hour play, without intermission, highlights the continual chaos that surrounded Molière’s life as he was exposed to the pitfalls of wanting to resemble the great Corneille in tragedy, while never receiving the appraisal he thought he merited. 

The show played between themes of modernity and tradition, the former being reflected by Molière and the latter by Corneille. Their rivalry occupied most scenes, and made for a constant battle for mastering words that were both dramatic and entertaining. They played on words taken from their works while inlaying humorous formations as a form of satire. 

Jean de La Fontaine, the 17th-century French poet, was represented as a medium between the two. His character spoke his lines comically, referring to his previous works quite humourisly.

Boulgakov narrated Molière’s life as he acted on stage. This gave the audience a deeper understanding of his inner thoughts. There were short representations taken from his other plays, namely L’écoles des femmes, L’Avare and Tartuffe. 

Molière and his company L’Illustre Thêatre would often play out scenes that foreshadowed the well-known plays that would then be created. For example, when Molière was sick, and his wife Armande responded that no doctor would come to see him because of his work, the audience understood that Le médecin malgré lui had been written. 

The audience could understand the chronology of the story and Molière’s rising fame through costume changes. The dresses of the comedians became fancier and more intricate, and the vest Molière wore went from simple black to polished silver — a symbol of his rising social standing as a comedian who was being acknowledged. 

The first scene mirrors the last, as a bath is used for Molière’s birth and death. 
The show will go on tour across the province beginning Jan. 18.

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Arts

Inside the creative mind of Aaliyah Crawford

“As I learned printmaking, it was like a language I understood. How to make prints just felt very intuitive”

Some people are simply born to create. This is certainly the case for Aaliyah Crawford, the general coordinator of the Fine Arts Student Alliance (FASA) and co-editor in chief of Yiara Magazine. Since the age of five, Crawford has been creating art. She later went on to study printmaking at John Abbott College, where her interest in the medium flourished. She is now in her final year at Concordia where she is majoring in Studio Arts. Crawford spoke with The Concordian about her passion for printmaking, her creative process, and more. 

TC: What appeals to you most about printmaking?

AC: I learned printmaking at John Abbott. At first I didn’t think I would like it. I was kind of confused by the whole thing. I was like, ‘why would you want to do something that a machine can do?’ As I learned printmaking, it was like a language I understood. How to make prints just felt very intuitive and I was really comfortable with the medium. It’s really fascinating, it’s very labour intensive. 

But as I’ve been doing print now for nine years, I don’t feel the same way about it anymore. Now I’m really into monoprinting and book arts. I’ve been really enjoying that and finding different ways of using a medium that I think can be really rigid in a more flexible kind of way.

 

TC: What themes do you like to explore in your work?

AC: It’s a lot about me, it’s kind of like a diary or like a dream journal. I kind of meditate on my own experiences. For me, when I’m working, I don’t often know what I’m making while it’s happening. And then when it’s finished, I almost look back and learn secrets about myself that even I didn’t know. It’s really fun, but also kind of terrifying.

TC: Can you briefly walk me through your artistic process? How do you bring an idea to life?

AC: Lately I’ve been making a lot of books, so when I’m doing a book project I tend to be writing all the time. I keep little notes on my phone or computer, and eventually I’ll start to notice a theme. If I keep writing about the same thing or certain key words keep coming back up, something’s happening. Usually it starts with a title. I tend to know the title of all my book pieces before I make them.

So I’ll start to think about what I’m noticing in the work. I have a little studio space [at home], and I’ll take everything out. I work with a lot of different mediums, so I’ll take some stuff out and I’ll block off like five hours to make something. I’ll do that about five times and then I’ll go through everything I made and sort of notice a theme. Then I try to tease it out. I’ll work on the same pieces again, I’ll do a lot of layering, and revisit a lot of old things I made. There’s usually a lot of writing in my work, so I’ll edit what I wrote. Then I have to make it into a book, so I have to do the layout. When I make the book I either get it printed somewhere or I do it myself, and then bind the book.

TC: You mentioned that your work often centres on you, and that it’s almost like a diary. I was wondering if there are any particular pieces you’ve created that capture your experience as a Black artist? What have these pieces taught you about yourself?

AC: With my work being so autobiographical, it inevitably captures some of the essence of my experiences as a Black person. Some of my work has brought up memories from my childhood where I experienced racism before I really understood what it was. I think it left me with a feeling of being other, growing up in a predominantly white community. It’s been interesting revisiting those memories as an adult through my work and reshaping the narrative that I had internalized about myself.

TC: How has your work evolved over time?

AC: It’s becoming more honest and less fixated on perfection. I think when I first started making art I spent a lot of time making things that I thought other people wanted me to make. I think I was just trying to figure out, in terms of getting a degree and pursuing it as a career, how I could make art that’s marketable. Now I don’t think about anything (laughs). It’s so much more fun that way. I feel like when I started studying it in CEGEP, it kind of sucked the joy out of it, because everything I made was part of my art practice and part of some overarching creative narrative of my life. I longed for when I was a kid and I would make art for hours and hours on end, and I never really thought about what I was making or what it meant, if people would like it, if I could make money off of it, or if it was important. That’s why I wanted to be an artist, because I love that process. 

For more information on Crawford and her work, please visit her website and Instagram

 

Visuals courtesy Gab Castelo and Aaliyah Crawford

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Arts

LACUNA-LACUNE exhibition showcases raw materials and natural shapes

On Oct. 1, Andréanne Abbondanza-Bergeron’s LACUNA-LACUNE opened at Concordia’s FOFA gallery. The solo exhibition features a series of photographs displayed in the gallery’s vitrines, and two other installations in its main space. In her work, the artist contrasts the use of industrial materials like rope, steel, and glass, with references to nature and organic patterns front and centre.

The exhibition concludes a long creative process for Abbondanza-Bergeron, one that started before the pandemic. LACUNA-LACUNE was supposed to be presented last year, but the delay impacted the artist’s creative process. The photographs that are now part of the exhibition were taken during the pandemic, when the artist began to take walks in the forest. These photographs present human waste in natural spaces. One of them shows pieces of blue glass invading a natural environment that is composed of moss, grass, and rocks.

Abbondanza-Bergeron’s creative process is usually inspired by architecture, but it evolved in a different way this time. Nature became a central element of the show, influencing the final exhibition and the main installation. “This piece has something that has shifted a lot more towards the organic, towards […] something that for me is more influenced by the natural form,” she said. The artist explained that nature has always inspired her, but never in a way that was expressed in her art pieces.

The main space of the FOFA gallery is filled with a steel installation. This massive piece is composed of multiple steel ribbons, which are usually used to tie pallets together. The bands of steel are attached to the walls of the gallery and come down to the floor in an undulating fashion. Visitors are allowed to walk under the installation to appreciate it from another perspective.

Abbondanza-Bergeron explained that prior to creating this piece, she envisioned the tension that the large creation could put on visitors who looked at it from the front. When it was completed, she discovered that looking at the work from underneath managed to conjure the opposite feeling. “The interior became something quite different, more enveloping, more of a relief from all that tension,” she said, adding that it results in the viewer “actually just feeling protected and embraced.”

Lighting is also an important part of the main installation. The soft lights being used add texture to the steel. Under the installation, the ribbons’ shadows are interlaced, creating straight and curved lines on the floor. For Abbondanza-Bergeron, light is always an important part of her work, using it here to create a sense of weightlessness. She found a way to use light to reveal “the volume and the different stratas, the different cascading waves and […] to make that mass become more three-dimensional.”

The FOFA gallery’s black box, a closed room painted in black where artworks requiring dark lighting are presented, showcases another installation by Abbondanza-Bergeron. The art piece is composed of window screens hanging from the ceiling. Two panels of the thin screen-like material are put together and sway as the air in the room pushes them from side to side. Here, lighting also plays a crucial role, since the screen fabric under light produces wave-like patterns as it shines through the material. For Abbondanza-Bergeron, this work of art is a bridge between the photographs showcased in the gallery’s vitrines, and the larger installation piece, since it is made of industrial screen material while being “related more directly to natural shapes and the natural world.”

The catalogue of the exhibition will be launched on Nov. 4. “For me, having a catalogue is really nice to keep a piece alive a little longer,” she said. This exhibition and its catalogue are the conclusion of the Claudine and Stephen Bronfman Fellowship in Contemporary Art research fellowship that was granted to Abbondanza-Bergeron in 2017. The LACUNA-LACUNE exhibition will be open to the public until Nov. 5.

 

Photograph by Véronique Morin

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Ar(t)chives Arts

Gordon Matta-Clark’s unique vision of urban space

American artist Gordon Matta-Clark is well known for his technique which involved cutting shapes into buildings

Gordon Matta-Clark was an American artist who specialized in architectural interventions and photography during the seventies. He is best recognized for his transformation of abandoned buildings through holes and shapes he cut in their walls and floors.

Matta-Clark’s conceptual art was based on his concerns and critique pertaining to the urban reality of New York. One of his first outdoor interventions, created in 1972, was titled Dumpster Duplex. The artwork was composed of an opened garbage dumpster with home furniture, walls and doors placed in it. This piece of art was featured in the neighborhood of SoHo in downtown Manhattan. Through this work, Matta-Clark critiqued housing challenges that the poorest communities of New York were facing at the time.

Matta-Clark also opened the restaurant Food in SoHo with artists Carol Goodden and Tina Girouard. This restaurant was a place where artists could gather to eat and work. Despite only being open from 1971 to 1973, Food is considered to be one of the first restaurants of the area. In terms of Matta-Clark’s work, this restaurant added to his process of investing in and rethinking urban space.

His vision was also transmitted through his Reality Properties: Fake Estates project. He bought 15 plots of land for prices ranging from 25 to 75 dollars between the years of 1973 and 1974. They were small and often unusable due to their location. The artist took pictures of the micro plots. He created collages combining the photographs, maps of the area and his property deeds. The project aimed to critique the unaffordability of real estate in New York.  While he visited most, Jane Crawford, Matta-Clark’s widow, explained that the artist never got the opportunity to see one of the plots he owned since it was surrounded by private buildings.

One of Matta-Clark’s best known projects, Splitting, highlights his iconic building cuts. These art interventions consisted of pieces of a built structure being taken off through strategic cuts with a chainsaw, which transformed buildings into a deconstructed space. The artist described his work as “anarchitecture,” a play on the words anarchy and architecture.  Created in 1974, Splitting consists of restructuring large cuts that were taken out of a house that was supposed to be demolished. Matta-Clark and his team created separations and holes in the dwelling’s structure. The walls were deconstructed to create new spaces between the different rooms. They also performed a cut that went through the house, beginning from the roof and ending in the basement. The artist documented his work through photos, which he gathered in a book titled Splitting. These photographs echo his work on the house. He made collages with the photos, cut them and combined them together to imagine even more modifications to be done on the house.

Matta-Clark continued to perform his building cuts, making them more spectacular. A notable one is titled Conical Intersect. This work of art was created in Paris in 1975. Matta-Clark made cuts in two buildings that were going to be demolished by the city. The round holes he created granted pedestrians access to a look inside the 17th century buildings. The circular cuts left by this art intervention started a pattern for the artist. He created similar round holes in other structures during the following years.

Matta-Clark called his creations on abandoned buildings “non-uments.” The artist’s on-site interventions did not remain, but his photographs and notes were conserved after he died in 1978. His work presents an awareness of architecture, which is still pertinent today as more humans live in cities and are surrounded by dynamic, ever-changing urban environments.

 

Graphic by Taylor Reddam

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Arts

Sumarnótt: A night without darkness

Montrealers can experience Iceland’s endless summer days in a captivating exhibit by Ragnar Kjartansson

Sumarnótt, meaning “summer night” in Icelandic, is the name of Ragnar Kjartansson’s new art installation. In a 77-minute music video, the artist captures a long summer night in Iceland, where the sky never goes dark. To create this piece, he partnered with American band The National and Icelandic band múm. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will host the exhibit until Jan. 2, 2022.

Early Thursday morning, I was the first to visit the installation. For 10 minutes, I stood alone amidst a circle of seven floor-to-ceiling screens. The room was dark, but the screens shone bright, showcasing expansive plains and grey skies.

The video featured two sets of twins dressed in wool sweaters, long skirts, and light scarves. They walked from screen to screen, singing, “by the stream, my love,” “in the dark, my love,” and “death is elsewhere.” I caught myself spinning in unison with the twins. Their hair was unbrushed, and the women wore no makeup. They seemed comfortable in the plains, as if they played music there every night.

While I stood in that dark room, I imagined long grass brushing against my shins. I also envisioned a sharp wind blowing against my face. The singers worshipped where I stood. For the length of the performance, I felt like I was an idol at the centre of a spiritual ritual. I transcended into something bigger than myself, something worth reverence and contemplation.

The song, a blend of acoustic guitar and soft harmonies, put me in a trance. It invited me to lay down in the grass and close my eyes. The setting is peaceful and beautiful. However, it morphed into something different. It made me aware of my impermanence.

The singers embraced each other, and they sometimes held each other’s gazes. Once in a while, they stopped to look through the camera and into the dark room where I stood. In their eyes I saw a reflection of my fears and worries. I saw the human condition we all share — mortality.

To emphasize human triviality, Kjartansson gives the grassland more screen time than the performers. He also trivializes the topics they sing about. They sing about death, but the wind continues to blow, and the clouds still move in the sky. Human life and worries are set against a backdrop of a never-ending horizon. The setting is constant and devoid of feeling.

At first, this juxtaposition inundated me with angst. I, the person who stood in the middle of this landscape, was insignificant. But as the singers circled around me, again and again, I started to see the beauty in my temporality. I was suddenly a part of nature. So, I relinquished my worries about what nature had in store for me. Like the twins’ song, for a moment, I chose to believe that love is the continuation of life after death. Love is “in the dark.”

 

Photograph by Hannah Sabourin

 

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Arts

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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Arts

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.

Categories
Music

Mac Miller, Circles, and the art of the posthumous release

The late rapper’s estate successfully delivers a carefully crafted and complete posthumous effort.

The posthumous album is one of the most conflicting listening experiences any music fan can have. The motive behind the release isn’t always clear: the music might be unfinished, the quality may be lacking, and you can’t help but think about whether the artist would have wanted it released. Musicians put their life into their work, and in the unfortunate event that they pass, who their music is left to can majorly affect their legacy––either positively or poorly.

In September 2018, Mac Miller tragically passed away at the age of 26, leaving the music world in shock. His impact on hip hop was enormous, as he played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of the genre through the 2010s. In using his platform to bring light to many up-and-coming artists, Miller played a major part in the budding careers of Vince Staples, Earl Sweatshirt, and many more.

While his platform helped to give these artists exposure, they also helped him find himself musically––throughout his career, Miller showed an astonishing level of growth. With each project released, he moved further and further from being the youthful stoner that was trying to fit into archetypal hip hop traditions laid out by his influences. Towards the end, Miller was working towards creating a sound and style that was entirely his own.

With 2016’s The Divine Feminine he took a chance, releasing a full-length project that relied on his singing as much as his rapping. Infusing neo-soul instrumentation with modern hip hop, the release’s sound was fresh for Miller and showed his desire to evolve as an artist. This was doubled down on with the release of 2018’s Swimming, leaving behind his neo-soul influences for a more varied and eclectic soundscape. These two projects showed Miller heading in a direction less concerned with fitting in, and more concerned with personal and artistic growth.

Circles builds off of the foundation laid out by these two albums and on Miller’s legacy while taking his music in a slightly different direction. Serving as a companion album to the aforementioned Swimming, producer and multi-instrumentalist Jon Brion worked to complete what he and Miller had started. The result is a mesmerizing album, that is extremely melancholic, yet instrumentally lush and gorgeous, and features some of Miller’s most personal writing and best singing.

While Miller isn’t a classically trained vocalist, that had always been a part of his charm. His ability to capture the emotions present in his lyrics through his limited vocal range humanized him as a singer and makes him more relatable. It’s less a spectacle of ability and more about being able to feel what he conveys vocally.

Lyrically, this album sees Miller painting a picture of a man who is not only dealing with his personal struggles but optimistically accepting them as part of his life and trying to move on. The theme of Circles, however, appears to be his acknowledgement of the cyclical nature of his struggles, and how they keep coming back around. At times, despite Miller’s seemingly optimistic view, he speaks on his own personal downfall as an inevitability, which is heartbreaking to hear in the wake of his passing.

It’s apparent that this was an album that was well on its way to completion when Miller passed. There is a clear vision here, a cohesive soundscape throughout, and consistent lyrical themes that bring the project together. The album plays like one last goodbye from an old friend—a long, warm and bittersweet hug from somebody that you’re not quite ready to let go of yet.

This is where this album shines; and where many posthumous albums fall short. In recent years, with the unfortunate passing of several young artists, we’ve seen a lot of posthumous releases that seem like nothing but a cash grab. XXXTentacion’s last project, Bad Vibes Forever, was a colossal mess of a project. At 25 tracks long, it was bloated with features and filled with incomplete song ideas rather than fully fleshed-out tracks. The artist’s vision and fan enjoyment were secondary, with the primary concern being maximizing streaming revenue.

In the case of Circles, Miller’s estate has given an example of how to handle the music and legacy of an artist after they’ve passed. It is an album with very little promotion, it’s free of gimmicks or radio-ready singles, has no big features, and the sound isn’t all that familiar for fans. It’s a complete, concise and focused artistic expression of a man who is seemingly learning to accept his internal struggles and grow from them. The album pulls no punches creatively, and that’s what makes it so special.

Circles feels like the full realization of the sound that Miller had been trending towards for a few years now. It’s brilliant, beautifully arranged and emotionally gripping music that gives us a glimpse into where he was mentally, prior to his passing. It’s very apparent that Jon Brion and Miller’s estate understood his vision, and they’ve clearly worked very carefully to bring it to fruition and carry on his legacy. As hard as it is to say goodbye, this is a superb send-off for one of the most important and impactful rappers of this generation.

Rating: 9/10

Trial Track: “Blue World”

Graphic by @justineprovost.design

Categories
Music

A Swift Friendship

Damien Jurado and Nick Thune are Sad Music, Sad Comedy

Singer-songwriter Damien Jurado and comedian Nick Thune are both prominent artists from greater Seattle, but they never met until their mutual friend and collaborator, Richard Swift, died of complications from alcoholism in May, 2018.

Swift was a producer and multi-instrumentalist that worked with groups like the Shins and the Black Keys. Thune and Jurado came together to eulogize Swift at his memorial show, and became friends.

“I had never met him before, my oldest son and I were both big fans of Nick,” said Jurado. The show went so well that the two have decided to tour the east coast together, bringing music, comedy and sadness to L’Astral on Jan. 24. The show has Thune doing new jokes and stories, and Jurado playing cuts off of his newest album, In the Shape of a Storm. 

Thune is a veteran comedian and actor whose Comedy Central half-hour debuted in 2008. He’s known for his laid-back and dry style, as well as his sharp wit. He seems like the friend who’s the funniest in the group and is always getting away with something. Thune came up playing acoustic guitar as a bed for his jokes and has always been attracted to music, having originally wanted to become a musician. On stage, he would often open with a line to warm up the crowd: “Can I get more laughter in the monitors.”

“Comedians want to be musicians and musicians want to be comedians,” said Thune. “This tour kind of feeds into that idea.” His last full-length special, Good Guy, premiered in 2016 on Seeso (RIP) and focuses on the birth of his son. Since then, his son has turned five, he and his wife have separated, and he has gotten sober after the culmination of a serious battle with alcoholism in 2018. After the news of Swift’s death, Thune checked himself into rehab, and has since been feeling more creatively focused.

The romance of intoxication and drugs producing good art is false,” said Thune. “I don’t go running down these paths of a funny idea that I think I have when I’m drunk, then I hear about it when I’m not as drunk and I’m like ‘what was I thinking there?’”

While tired tropes of drugs and creativity populate all art forms, Thune noted that for him, sobriety was the clear path forward for not only his life, but his livelihood. When he was drunk, his thinking was clouded. “You’re really missing a lot more than you’re hitting. Right now with clarity and sobriety I’m hitting way more,” said Thune.

“Putting that show together, it felt like something that Richard would have loved to watch,” said Thune. Jurado and Swift were longtime collaborators. He produced songs on In The Shape of a Storm, which Jurado says makes up most of his setlist. The record is stripped down to just Jurado and his guitar. The songs are written intimately with themes of love––they are as vulnerable as they are powerful. This is sure to be a unique contrast with Thune’s brand of humour. “It’s fun because the audience feels like they’re getting different drugs,” said Thune.

“It’s a sense of laughter and sadness,” said Jurado. “I don’t have any expectations. Each individual person’s going to get their own experience out of this.”

The two cite influences in musical comedy, but the formula of a musician and a separate comedian on stage is rarely done. The duo share a bond that transcends art in their friendship with Swift.

“I was on stage and I was thinking to myself this is so crazy that Richard’s not here, to witness Nick and I not just being friends now but also going on tour,” said Jurado. “It’s a very strange missing part of the puzzle here.”

The show is sure to be a night of laughter and tragedy, and a common thread of two friends from the Pacific Northwest who shared a close friend. “Damien goes on first and makes you think about life, then I come on and make you want to end your life,” said Thune.

Speaking to them from their hotel in Pennsylvania, the two clearly share a sense of humour. I asked what Jurado and Thune want people to take away from this tour. “A ton of merch,” Thune said.

Sad Music, Sad Comedy plays at L’Astral on Jan. 24, at 8:00 p.m.

 

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