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Arts Exhibit

Yea I made it up, Yea it’s real: Examining digital culture, social media, and the meme-sphere

Concordia students and alumni adopt internet aesthetics to explore the human experience in the digital age in new exhibition

On Feb. 17, artists Edson Niebla Rogil and Dayana Matasheva hosted the vernissage for their exhibition Yea I made it up, Yea it’s real out of their shared Plateau studio.

The show featured 12 artists, including Niebla Rogil and Matasheva, whose works address the effects of the internet on the human experience through mediums ranging from AI-generated audio to livestreaming-inspired video compilations.

For Matasheva, who graduated from film production in 2020, the internet represents an aesthetic endeavour. “I think aesthetically, no one is using the visual vernacular of the internet. We are interested in its aesthetics specifically, rather than just its subject matter.”

After noticing a lack of representation of internet subject matter within traditional gallery spaces, Niebla Rogil and Matasheva issued an open call for like-minded artists.

“There’s a really big focus on technology as a medium, but there’s very little about the cultures that are growing online and changing the landscape of how people interact with each other,” said Concordia intermedia major Liz Waterman, whose sensorial TikTok-inspired video projection Doom Scroll was featured in the exhibition.

“I think that it’s shaping culture and psychology in a way that’s really interesting, and we don’t see enough work about it.”

Yea I made it up, Yea it’s real is the first exhibition organized, hosted, and curated by Niebla Rogil and Matasheva, but the pair have ambitions to move future exhibitions out of their studio into larger spaces, and to continue to host their networking event The Net Worker.

“It’s a recurring event where people shamelessly network and there’s no other purpose to it,” explains Matasheva. “People come together, exchange DIY business cards, they wear business attire and everything. It’s a little bit performative, but it actually is serving a purpose for artists.”

Information about upcoming exhibitions, networking events and more can be found on Niebla Rogil and Matasheva’s Instagram profiles.

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Arts Exhibit

[espace variable | placeholder]: experience art in a post-pandemic flux

Concordia students and alumni open a new online art exhibit in regards to adapting to a world affected by COVID-19

La Centrale galerie Powerhouse hosted the vernissage of their new exhibit [espace variable | placeholder] on the evening of Feb. 2. The online gallery was created, in part, as a statement that the world of art has shifted to the internet. 

It was created out of inspiration from a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg: the third place. Third places are the spaces where people can spend time in between their first place (home) and second place (work). As of recently, the world’s third place is the internet.

The exhibit is divided into four categories: Read, Observe, Listen, and Interact. 

Read, the first category presents texts reflecting artists’ experiences involving themes pertaining to third places, place-making, technological presence, and artistic subversion. 

Observe, the second category, displays the interdisciplinary approach to the concept of placeholding. 

Listen, the third category, involves audible artwork alluding to memory, transmission and reciprocity. 

Interact, the last, is a space which provides literature for readers to further their understanding and research of third places.

This exhibit explores navigation through third places as well as artists’ “(re)telling” of stories about finding a voice, or making a place, of those who have been demeaned by racial injustice.

One of the installations at the vernissage was from artist-in-residence rudi aker of the Byte-sized Sound Creation Residency. “This work, a bird in the hand, is what feels most appropriate to share with a larger public from those recorded conversations,” explains aker in their artist statement. The audio piece is “a move to safeguard our personal and familial histories from the often prying and exploitative consumption of Indigenous oral histories.”

My Little thingliness (SCRUB-A-DUB-DUB-BEBOP), another creation presented at the vernissage, is a spoken-word/sound immersion performance written and performed by Faith Paré. The piece thrashes you into the world of generational forced labour and abuse that Black women succumb to in order to survive white supremacist society. Because of this, Black women of today have the choice and opportunity to work with their minds instead of their hands.

Art history and studio arts major at Concordia India-Lynn Upshaw-Ruffner was the Artistic and Community Alliances Coordinator of [espace variable | placeholder] for some time. Through La Centrale, Upshaw-Ruffner met the Publications and Communications Coordinator Lital Khaikin.

During the creative progress of [espace variable | placeholder], the two developers contacted Paré, who Upshaw-Ruffner had discovered through a project she did at Concordia. Paré knew rudi aker through a class that they took together as well. The [espace variable | placeholder] ex-coordinator met rudi aker through a class on indigenous curatorial methodologies they had together. It goes to show that networking at school is important!

If you want to frequent an art exhibit but hate walking, you can now experience it from your own home. Click here. To access La Centrale Galerie Powerhouse’s website, Click here.

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Arts

Somewhere Gallery combines curation and care

Concordia grad aims to create a welcoming and inclusive space for Montreal’s emerging artists

Katherine Parthimos, founder and lead curator of Somewhere Gallery, has long, wavy-curly teal hair — as though a mermaid wandered into the city and started working in an art gallery.

In reality, Parthimos graduated in the middle of a pandemic, from Concordia University, with a Studio Arts degree; ready to start a career in a severely impacted industry. She spent the summer finding and figuring out what to do with the space on Park Avenue now known as Somewhere Gallery.

Since September, Parthimos has produced four vernissages highlighting the emerging arts community — alone, during a lockdown. The gallery’s fifth exhibit, Archiving Identity, a collaboration with the VAV Gallery, will feature the work of five Concordia artists. It’s the only in-person show of the VAV Gallery’s programming this academic year, though they have had online-only ones.

“For me it’s more about filling the needs of the emerging artist community,” says Parthimos, which she defines as artists in their last year of a relevant program, up to six years post-grad. The gallery doesn’t have the equipment to display digital works yet, and COVID is responsible for halting performance art, but pretty much every other medium is welcomed.

For the entire time Parthimos has run the gallery she’s always had to comply with the stricter regulations that provincial guidelines have required for public safety.

Suffice to say, Parthimos has been busy.

She began dabbling in curation during her final year of school, mostly collaborating with other students. Parthimos explained that while the Studio Arts program offers classes on topics like grant writing, there isn’t a clear track to pursue to become a curator.

“This is just as much of a learning opportunity for me as it is for the artist exhibiting at the space, so I think it’s an interesting conversation to have, emerging artist and emerging curator together,” she said, noting that the roles can create power imbalances.

“I consider this an art initiative over an art institution,” said Parthimos. Many commercial galleries take a commission of 40 to 50 per cent, which artists accept for the chance to show their work to a larger platform. Parthimos takes 25 per cent, which sustains the gallery but doesn’t make her a profit.

She does everything herself, from mounting the exhibitions, collecting the artist statements, creating the virtual tours, learning graphic design along the way, receiving visitors who have scheduled appointments, and then taking everything down to start again.

[blockquote align=”right” author=””]”Being an artist myself it was always just a jab in the gut to have to go to a gallery and have an exhibition, where if you sell your work you lose half your profits. That was always something that didn’t sit right with me,” she continued.[/blockquote]

“The concepts that I incorporate into my own painting and sculpture are based on community and people’s relationships. That’s a direct parallel to my focus in curation which is a focus on unifying community and bringing people together,” said Parthimos.

Nesreen Galal, a Concordia student double majoring in Computation and Studio Arts heard of Parthimos’s work at Somewhere Gallery through friends in the artistic community. She exhibited a series called Destruction in Digital Daydream, Somewhere Gallery’s fourth exhibit, in February. Galal contributed five Polaroid photos, rendered abstract through physical manipulation, similar to Photoshop editing made analogue.

“It’s the idea that art surprises me or that I have a mutual connection with art,” said Galal, a self-described perfectionist, also used to working with the control digital media provides.

“The [analogue] object itself has as much power as I do, so it surprises me and controls me and I control it too, and I feel like it’s a different relationship with art as well,” said Galal.

Galal used a variety of household products and objects, including bleach, to plan a few month-long experimental projects, which led to the production of colourful, expressive abstract forms bursting out of the classic white square Polaroid picture frames that were displayed at Somewhere Gallery and titled Destruction.

“It was my first ever [physical] exhibition, and it was awesome to showcase with different artists,” said Galal.

The traditions of art gallery openings, free wine and close conversations with the other artists weren’t possible because of government regulations, which Galal understood but was disappointed about. “I feel like considering COVID-19, [Parthimos] did a really good job with the reservations of two people. The process was very smooth,,” she said.

A number of the Polaroids, priced individually at $50, sold quickly.

“I was in awe. It felt surreal. [Parthimos] told me, ‘you sold some of your pieces!’ She knew it was my first physical exhibition. It got a very good reaction despite COVID. A lot of people were really interested to go and see the work,” continued Galal.

Destruction was unframed, like many pieces that have been displayed in Somewhere Gallery. This is worth noting  — art gallery conventions prescribe white walls, glass, matting and custom-cut frames to display the works.

But smaller, less established spaces like Somewhere Gallery, have the opportunity to reject or play with tradition. The gallery is small but sun-filled, measuring 15 by 9 feet, with one wall completely occupied by a window, which has an expansive view of Park Avenue’s cheerful chaos.

“My main goal is to have a unified and cohesive show to go through. Aesthetically I do try to find works that flow into each other, especially in such a small space. Putting together the show to make it physically unified, the size of artwork in relation to everything else, colour. In the past a lot of the shows I have put together have a colour palette that is apparent. Sometimes subtle colours, sometimes pops of colour. Formal artistic qualities like  [those ones] really offer a cohesiveness,” explained Parthimos.

“I try to incorporate the space as much as possible,” she continued.

An example of this was a 7-foot-tall painting by artist Trevor Bourke that was placed on the floor leaning, instead of hung up traditionally in the November 2020 exhibit, Current Location: Undefined. 

“Just little things like that are so interesting, because it kind of turned a wall piece into more of a sculptural thing,” said Parthimos. “Having a work that large in this space [provides] a different interpretation of the work than having it in a larger gallery where it seems like it fits the size of the wall. You wouldn’t feel it’s presence there in my opinion, as much as you would here. So that was something I was interested in playing with.”

The arts world, falling under ‘Culture’ was one of the worst affected industries in a 2020 StatsCan report on the Canadian economy in relation to the pandemic, which further detailed the increased disadvantages faced by women and young workers during this time.

“There is a lot of opportunity for you in school through the Concordia gallery and various festivals but once you leave school, you fall in this grey zone. You’re not really supported by the school anymore but you’re too emerging to be accepted by the artist-run centre community. That develops later on,” said Parthimos. “I think it’s really important to continue having these opportunities and continuing to exhibit your art to grow and to have that dialogue with people.”

Parthimos tries to create a warm, personal, experience for guests, rather than the sometimes sterile, faceless, environments big galleries have fostered in order to advance the idea of art as a commodity.

“I’ve always been really interested in community building initiatives and I was also part of the Fine Arts Student Alliance [at Concordia],” said Parthimos. “That really brought into my mind the significance of integrating communities, and offering back to the community you’re a part of.”

Archiving Identity is on display at Somewhere Gallery at 6830 Park Ave. #358 until March 25. Visitors can reserve an appointment by emailing somewhere.gallery.mtl@gmail.com.

 

Photos by Kit Mergaert

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Arts

Marie-Claude Marquis presents her solo exhibition Dancing Contradictions

Exposing sincere messages on delicate materials

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photos courtesy of Galerie Robertson Arès.

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Arts

We are wary, we are weary: reflecting on collective experiences during times of crisis

Responding to the pandemic and the current political climate through imagery and text

A part of the Prix Powerhouse 2020, We are wary, we are weary is a window exhibition presented by La Centrale on St-Laurent Boulevard.

We are wary, we are weary exhibits the works of Jenny Lin and Shanna Strauss, Prix Powerhouse 2020 winners.

La Centrale galerie Powerhouse is an artist-run centre dedicated to supporting multidisciplinary feminist practices. Their programming specializes in various dialogues with feminism, supporting social justice and intersectionality. Prix Powerhouse is a two-year award of $10,000 shared between two Montreal artists to celebrate their artistic career and practice.

The works of Lin and Strauss are a response to the pandemic, the current political climate, and the movement for racial justice and equity.

Each artist expresses their own perspective on these current social issues in their respective works, through a compilation of images and texts. This also speaks from the experiences of the artists as Black and Asian people.

Strauss is a Tanzanian-American mixed-media visual artist based in Montreal. She has exhibited in solo and group shows in Tanzania, Canada, the U.S. and Senegal. Her works are very personal and reflective.

By looking at Strauss’s artwork featured in the exhibit, one can see a right hand holding a heart while the left hand holds a needle and thread. The image is printed on a transparent film, leaving the back of the artwork visible. The background depicts newspaper headlines where one can read lines such as “Pandemic Within a Pandemic: Coronavirus and Police Brutality Roil Black Communities,” from The New York Times or “Legault supports protesters, but says there’s no systemic racism in Quebec,” from the Montreal Gazette. Strauss has made this work as a form of offering of healing to the Black community.

In her work’s description, Strauss explains the way she reflected on the collective despair and heartbreak that Black people experience. That despite the pain felt, they have to gather themselves every time they are oppressed and find the strength within themselves to keep fighting the oppression they experience.

“The piece became a meditation on repair,” said Strauss. “I thought about how the wounds that have been inflicted on us by white supremacy for centuries have to be continuously mended by our own hands, and how with every dehumanizing and oppressive act, with every life taken, new wounds are inflicted and old wounds are torn open once again.”

Lin is a visual artist who works with experimental narratives through print-based installations. Storytelling is an important aspect of her work.

Lin’s work Pencil teeth consists of a collection of various drawings made by the artist. The piece consists of hands pointing at drawings, one holding the corner of a sheet can be seen on the artwork. This accumulation of drawings demonstrates the many emotions felt by the artist during the pandemic.

The public can clearly see various hands, which point, react and interact with the drawings, while some hands are holding the corner of a sheet, as the person was observing the image.  This depicts an interaction with both artists when Strauss would show images to Lin. It reflects the way Strauss was processing what she was seeing and Lin was picking parts of the images as she describes, a kind of “interactivity.”

Lin’s statement mentions that her artwork reflects on her feelings and the weariness she has felt during the pandemic, including the way she has been worrying for loved ones and the protectiveness she feels towards the communities she is a part of.

“It is also a response to being for months in a state of overdrive and high-alert — over-functioning for my job to keep things ‘going’, being on edge due to higher incidents of racially-motivated violence, protecting against the virus, and observing the pandemic’s multi-faceted and detrimental effects on the most vulnerable in our communities,” stated Lin.

Strauss and Lin’s works are a representation of the many feelings, thoughts, and worries felt by the artists. Each one expresses the way they have been processing the current unstable political climate and the pandemic, which seems to have shed a light on the realities faced by many communities.

We are wary, we are weary is presented at La Centrale, at 4296  St-Laurent Blvd., until Dec. 12.

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Arts

Artmaking and teaching during the pandemic

Transcendence raises questions about the future of art education

Presented by student-teachers in Concordia’s undergraduate Art Education program, Transcendence explores growth during isolation. The exhibition, which was created for ARTE 432, Community Art Education: Theory and Practice, offers a varied body of work that aims to explore notions of making and teaching, and their effects on one another, during the pandemic.

Showcased with artsteps, an online platform for creating virtual spaces, Transcendence, which opened on Dec. 3, offers viewers an immersive experience. Viewers can interact with the works, which are exhibited in a realistic, simulated gallery-space named Tempo Gallery.

The viewer can make their way around as if they were in a video game. Clicking on an empty patch of grass leads their “player” running to the selected location. Other viewers, or players, can be seen walking around the gallery and its surrounding space.

Maybe this is the future of art-viewing and art making.

The viewer can explore around the outside of the building, which is situated on a waterfront — probably the closest they’ll come to being near the beach for a while.

Around the perimeter of the building, the works of three artists are exhibited. Among them, a multimedia graffiti piece in tones of red, orange, and blue titled Start Where You Are, by Gardenia-Jane Duverger Sarroche.

“Graffiti helps [express] my spontaneous thoughts with the possibility to spray-paint over my written fears and insecurities,” writes Duverger Sarroche in her artist statement. “Starting with scribbled intrusive thoughts on a drawer I found on the streets, I spat colors until I could not perceive my fears anymore.”

Inside the gallery, a series of nine paintings line the first wall. Each one of them features rocks and pebbles balancing atop one another, painted in muted tones of grey, blue, and orange. The digital illustrations, titled Douce Metamorphose, by Pauline Acchab, explore balance and growth.

“Cairns, stacked stones, act as a sign to guide travellers on the right path,” writes Acchab. “The assembled elements, defying the laws of gravity, demonstrate a level of tension with its surroundings while depicting harmony, fragility and stillness.”

Similarly, around the corner, a series of three works by Kassandra Quinteros explore self-growth and development. Braiding Threads is a vibrant photograph featuring a beaded mask worn by a figure who holds and weaves multiple braids in bright purples, yellows, and pinks, which contrast the black background.

“The multitude of threads being braided represents the infinity of information given to me during this academic journey and my personal experiences,” writes Quinteros. “The braid is my way of assembling these threads into one strong creation that defines my own self as a professional and as a person.”

Further into the gallery space, a series of five photographs fills a wall with collage-like images of roads and parking lots. The works, titled Forever Forward, by Rhea Bergeron, all feature a sunset and represent the changes that occur as seasons pass.

“[The sunset moments] could mean that, when a day ends, another begins,” writes Bergeron. “Also, the topic connects to my identity that is constantly changing and evolving throughout the years.”

Be it through Emmanuelle Lemieux’s upcycled papier maché sculptures, Kamila Dube’s mixed media paintings, or Liana Gomes’ photographs and digital illustrations, one thing is certain: self-reflection and experimentation are common themes that have risen as a result of artmaking practices during isolation.

Transcendence makes it clear that isolation is an extraordinary situation which has pushed artists and educators beyond the limits of what is normal. Despite this, these extraordinary measures have allowed for the possibility of creating what could be considered transcendent.

Transcendence will be available for viewing here.

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Arts

A look into the digital generation through paintings

Questioning the politics of contemporary media, network and consumption culture

As the year is ending, Projet Casa has initiated a dynamic exhibition for the second part of its program created for Pictura, an event dedicated to showcasing contemporary painting in Montreal.

Projet Casa, created by visual art enthusiasts Danielle Lysaught and Paul Hamelin, is an initiative that serves to present cultural events.

Curated by Caroline Douville with the help of Venessa Appiah, Echo Boomer: Digital Natives exhibits the works of nine emerging artists who, through various paintings, depict the way that the world has radically changed due to technology.

The artists presented at the exhibition were found on Instagram. Douville, who is a painter, is inspired by old digital work and was in search of similar artists. Douville and  Appiah have been working on the exhibition since the end of October.

The artworks are placed around the first floor and along the stairs to the second floor of where Casa Bianca used to be. They aren’t placed linearly, as one might have thought. Instead, Douville chose to position them in a way that enables the audience to get glimpses of various images at once. This represents the way people interact on the Internet, as there are various images circulating and one has to try to give attention to everything being shown.

“We want people to come in and interact and relate with artworks that depict this generation,” said Douville.

The paintings seek to bring virtual realities to life. Many references are portrayed in these artworks, such as pop culture, videos that went viral, and digital platforms that shaped today’s generation. Fashion, art history, and video games are also concepts included in the works.

“The older generation may get confused, as there are inside stories in these paintings,” said Douville. “I had to explain a concept that the owner of the place didn’t understand from one of the paintings.”

Precisely, there is a lot of irony, comedy, and realness shown in this exhibition. In the Internet era, we are bombarded with new content on a daily basis. The exhibition seeks to portray people’s daily consumption through virtual realities.

“They are nurtured by hyper-consumed and recycled images of universalized popular culture

and new understandings of materiality stemming from virtual space,” wrote Appiah, on the exhibition’s presentation. “These artists capture the algorithmic condition of our time whereby reflections of visual reality are shaped by computerized overload.”

Some paintings may be recognizable for some. For example: Un ti mot pour Kevin (2020) by Erzulie, which is Douville’s artist name, portrays a small canvas of a man holding a beer in a jacuzzi. This is a reference to a YouTube video that was posted in 2008 of a group of friends wishing happy birthday to a man named Kevin. The video was marked in Quebec popular culture forever. Her work emphasizes creating ironic images from entertainment culture.

Chloé Gagnon’s Did We Dream Too Fast (2020) is in reference to avant-garde Russian painter Mikhaïl Larionov’s Jewish Venus (1912). Gagnon’s painting depicts a naked woman laying on a bed in a collage form. Gagnon inserts the concept of collage in her work as a form of identity reconstruction, taking images of pop culture in her work.

Kevin Rameau’s Soundcloud|internet explorer.exe (2020) is the depiction of an artist’s page on SoundCloud, his alter-ego Homie-Kuan. The canvas illustrates a critical commentary on society’s often-biased view of the Black musician.

The concept of consumption can be seen in Antoine Larocque’s Carnaval (2020) canvas, where the public can recognize the word ‘Super’ from Super C’s logo. There are also printing performance tests and scribbles on the canvas that seems to depict the mess behind overconsumption.

There is a lot to see and appreciate in this energetic exhibition.

The exhibition is on display until Dec. 12 at 4351 Esplanade Avenue. Reservations can be made online.

 

Photos courtesy of Sabrina Jolicoeur.

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Arts

Art Mûr’s latest exhibitions explored the multifaceted world of sculpture

During the pandemic, we can still partake in the joys of art in-person

I entered Art Mûr searching for a break away from my two-dimensional companion for the past several  months — my screen — and let myself be immersed into the three-dimensional art of four artists. David Umemoto, Emily Jan and duo Hélène et son mari were my new companions for the next hour and a half as I wandered and wondered about their respective exhibitions and their sculptures, sculptures and sculptures.

David Umemoto’s Infrastructures are roofless edifications completely and complicatedly made in cement with dozens of stairs leading nowhere, or to the edge of somewhere. With structures complete with windows, arches and skylights facing the openness of the gallery, they all have an almost perfectly smooth finish of raw cement, that paradoxically feels as if decades of inhabitation by Escher-esque civilizations have passed. Maurits Cornelis Escher was a Dutch draftsman and graphic artist who is well-known for his mathematically inspired drawings and paradox spaces. His work has inspired the work of many artists and filmmakers, including Inception (2010). I could pin down many inspirations that come to my mind when I see Umemoto’s art pieces, but I cannot stop thinking about Ascending and Descending or Relativity, some of the lithographs where Escher reimagines architecture and reality. Each and every plinth is unique and infinite, demanding every window, door, corridor and corner to be inspected.

In my trance, the administrative director of the gallery Noémie Chevalier warmly welcomed me on a tour of the exhibitions. Leading me through Umemoto’s microcosmos, Chevalier told me about the artist’s architectural background. Umemoto, originally from Hamilton, Ontario, has a vivid interest in the passage of time, nature and human impact. This is concretely expressed in a collection of short videoclips of his sculptures being exposed to the elements, which played in a loop projected in the middle of the room.

I felt an immediate change of ambiance, from cold cement to warm jungle once we left Umemoto’s exhibition and entered Emily Jan’s The World is Bound by Secret Knots in the next room. Set at the back of Art Mûr’s ground floor, the dark green room was inhabited by magical creatures living luxuriously on vintage furniture. These hybrid mises-en-scène allowed me to slow down and better observe how they were made. As I got closer to the sculptures, made by the Californian artist who graduated from Concordia in 2014, I saw the creative use of unusual materials and textures to evoke issues of ecology and the human psyche. Jan’s creatures are sculpted using a mixture of wet felting and needle felting techniques that are evidently reminiscent of traditional methods of taxidermy. Chevalier and I stood between a snake made of stuffed fabric tangled to a branch that was emerging from an old table with a built-in sewing machine and a pair of majestic tropical birds, complete with floral feathers and a wooden shelf for a nest.

To the south of the equator’s ambiance, my guide and I climbed to the second floor to see the third and final exhibition from Quebecoise duo Hélène et son mari. Gradually, my eyes adjusted to the pastel colors predominating the space that Hélène Chouinard and Jean-Robert Drouillard jointly created. A character covered in a blanket welcomed us to Les couleurs de la terre, where many pieces of colorful ceramic emerged from faces and bodies made of wood. Each of the other human-like sculptures had their own personality and nuance. They all faced the back wall filled with dozens and dozens of ceramic bottles, handmade by Chouinard using an experimental colouring technique that incorporates the pigment directly with the clay. Closest to the stocked shelf were sculptures of twin boys, both named Leo, sculpted out of wood by Drouillard, and appeared to be painted with Chouinard’s colour palette. Chevalier led me around the floor, as she expressed her excitement for hosting the first exhibition where the name and work of Chouinard is highlighted, after years of collaborating in her husband’s shows.

As I analyzed the concentrated gaze of the sculptures towards the main piece, the thousand bottles, I rejoiced in the fact that I was finally not looking at art through a screen (although I do appreciate every opportunity to engage with art, of course). 

There’s something about the tactile world of sculpture that is so fulfilling to experience in person, rather than online. The three exhibitions closed on Saturday, Oct. 24, but remain accessible in a series of videos on Art Mûr’s YouTube channel to reach the extended virtual public.

 

Photos by Christine Beaudoin.

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Arts

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

 

Re: Reclamation and Reconciliation Through Art

In Reclamation and Reconciliation Through Art, students, artists, curators, writers and scholars come together to discuss how injustice, abuse and marginalization are portrayed in art. Saba Heravi, Adrienne R. Johnson and Soukayna Z. will lead a discussion about how their identities and art practices intersect in a “white male-centered field.”

When: Nov. 6 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Where: The Yellow Door, 3625 Aylmer St.
Admission is free

 

Inuit Art in International Perspective

The annual Carol Sprachman Lecture presents Dr. Heather Igloliorte, a curator, scholar and associate professor of art history at Concordia. Following the end of Among All These Tundras, exhibited at the Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery in Concordia’s LB building, Igloliorte will discuss new developments in the world of Inuit art and examine past Canadian works produced within the circumpolar arctic.

When: Nov. 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium, 1379-A Sherbrooke St. W.
Admission is free

 

VIBE workshop series: Inclusive Dance

Hosted by the Critical Disability Studies Working Group at Concordia, this workshop is part of the VIBE workshop series, which explores ableism and audism through accessible art practices. Inclusive Dance will feature live music and is concentrated on creative forms of contemporary solo and group dance, listening and connections with music.

When: Nov. 8 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: EV Building, Le Gym Studio C S3.215
Space is limited. RSVP at cdswg.concordia@gmail.com

 

Ensevelir

Andres Manniste is an artist and teacher at Dawson College. He is heavily inspired by the role of the internet in today’s society, especially how artists use the internet to create works of art. Ensevelir or “to cover up, as in to bury,” is a collection of Manniste’s larger body of work that captures mundane moments in contemporary life. Most of his imagery is reproduced from an old television in his studio, its pixelated quality captured in his pointillist approach to painting.

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Arts

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Inuit Women in the Arts

Part of McGill University’s eighth annual Indigenous Awareness Week, Inuit Women in the Arts will feature a panel of distinguished Inuit artists and curators. Heather Igloliorte, the co-curator of Among All These Tundras and professor of art history at Concordia, as well as Niap Saunders, a multidisciplinary artist from Kuujjuaq, Que., will be among the women participating in the panel discussion.

When: Sept. 25 at 5 p.m.
Where: McGill Indigenous studies program building, 3643 Peel St.
Admission is free. RSVP with Eventbrite.

Words Before All Else: Oral Histories in the Digital Age

Art centres Vidéographe and Dazibao come together to present multiple screenings that explore traditional stories and storytelling. According to Vidéographe’s website, “the works in this program make use of experimental forms akin to computer animation.” Words Before All Else will present short, digitally animated films by Skawennati, Mary Kunuk, Zacharias Kunuk, Trevino L. Brings Plenty, Doug Smarch Jr., Elizabeth LaPensée, Zack Khalil and Adam Shingwak Khalil.

When: Sept. 27 at 7 p.m.
Where: Dazibao, 5455 Gaspé Ave., Suite 105
Admission is free. Space is limited.

Art POP Montreal

Art POP curators Terrance Richard and Hugo Dufour have organized a collection of more than 70 artists for this year’s festival, with works that explore identity, heritage, narrative, class and culture. Taking over the entire third floor of the Rialto Complex with solo and group shows, the Art POP studio will showcase live dance performances and an independent writers reading event. Richard and Dufour have also organized satellite exhibitions all over the city. The locations include Espace POP, OBORO, Centre Clark, Ellephant and Pied Carré.

When: Vernissages, workshops and other events will take place until Sept. 30.
Admission to all Art POP exhibitions is free.

Alexander Calder: Radical Inventor

Calder has worked in a variety of disciplines—from painting and drawing to jewelry and sculpture. Organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 150 of Calder’s most innovative artworks have been brought together in a new exhibition. Born into a family of artists, Calder had a passion for invention. He designed several large sculptures, such as Trois Disques, which was created for Expo 67 in Parc Jean-Drapeau. The museum will be hosting several lectures, film screenings, workshops and family activities associated with Radical Inventor until the end of October.

When: Now until Feb. 24
Where: MMFA, Michal and Renata Hornstein Pavilion, Level 2
Admission is $15 for people under 30.

Graphic by Ana Bilokin.

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Arts

More than just free wine and cheese

Exploring the concept of a vernissage as an artist’s right of passage

Before the 1880s, the concept of art for public viewing was uncommon. Artists typically painted for the rich, and rarely exhibited their work in public. In contrast, art in the 1960s was all about consumerism, showing off to the public and making a statement. Artists threw elaborate parties and viewed art as a reason to gather and a product to sell.

It was at this time that the term ‘vernissage’ became popular, despite having been around since the 1880s. The origin of the word is French and translates directly to ‘varnishing.’ It was initially a reference to the day before an exhibition opened, when artists were allowed to touch up and varnish their work. Nowadays, vernissages mark the opening of an exhibition and invite the public to celebrate the occasion with the artist(s) and people involved.

With a background in anthropology and a profound interest in the arts, I have come to interpret the concept of a vernissage as a right of passage for artists. The way I see it, holding a vernissage is a way to legitimize one’s work by exposing the art in question to an audience, possibly for the first time. When a vernissage takes place, the artist’s work is subject to critique by all those who visit, peers and professionals alike. Being an artist isn’t just about creating work; it’s about sharing that work with others, capturing their attention and making them think. A vernissage is a celebration of an artwork’s first step into the world.

Imagine the life of a painting, for example. It is created, maybe quickly, or maybe over a long period of time. Eventually it is finished and the artist may come back some time later for touch ups, but meanwhile it sits in a studio.  Some paintings have the fortune of being commissioned and travel directly to a new home. But thinking back to those pieces that wait in studio; what becomes of them?

Most artists dream of a vernissage to show off their work. When the time for a vernissage comes, an exhibition is curated, or organized, in a way that forms a relationship between the blank gallery space and the artwork itself. The positioning of the artwork in a gallery is key. There is a reason behind every piece’s placement. It could have been in any other spot, but it’s there. Why is it there?

At a recent art-education lecture, Mélanie Deveault, who designed the education program at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, spoke about her role in the curation of some exhibitions, namely the Be/Love installation during the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition in 2016. For Be/Love, Deveault was tasked with portraying the museum as a safe space against homophobia and transphobia. She said the paintings selected for the installation were truly random. Deveault and her team asked members of LGBTQ+ organizations in Montreal to create poetic associations with random artworks. The written work associated with the paintings in the Be/Love  installation accompanied the main exhibition, Focus: Perfection – Robert Mapplethorpe. Their  physical layout proved to alter the interpretative perspective of the artwork. All in all, the placement of artwork is suggestive. I think it is important to remember that vernissages and exhibitions are carefully curated to inspire an aesthetic response from the viewer.

Two weeks ago I wrote about Queer & Peace at Dawson College, organised by the Dawson Peace Centre. The Peace Center has held some pretty amazing vernissages prior to Queer & Peace, which featured performances by drag artists. In the fall of 2016 the Peace Center organised a traditional pow-wow for the opening ceremony of  Sken:nen. Vernissages are more than art viewing, sometimes they can be full on parties, celebrating the work of the exhibiting artist or artists.    

To get a better idea of the multifaceted concept of a vernissage, I decided to reach out to artists whose work I’ve previously written about in The Concordian. I also spoke with a non-BFA student who had her work shown in a vernissage.

Laurence Pilon, a recent BFA graduate and practising artist, recounted her vernissage experiences, both as a student and as a practising artist. “I remember being encouraged by professors to go to a lot of vernissages or openings,” she said. “Most of the time when I did so, I felt inadequate, out of place. I think that feeling is just normal, and it slowly goes away as you get to meet more people.To me, art students who attend vernissages demonstrate a clear sign of commitment and seriousness”.

Pilon added that she believes vernissages are not just for those with a background in the arts. “Vernissages are events that exist to facilitate conversations around the work that is presented,” she said. “During these events, visitors usually have the opportunity to meet with the artist or artists and the curator, ask questions and/or communicate their appreciation in-person. Although, it is true that for artists, curators, collectors and other professionals of the milieu, these receptions are a way to support their peers and to express their engagement into the art community.”

Julia Woldmo, a current painting and drawing student at Concordia, added that vernissages as semi-private viewings can be elitist if the only people invited are friends of the artist or part of the “art world.” Vernissages should be where “art people” and the public can congregate to view, celebrate and discuss the works first-hand, she said. “They’re like parties, a place to build buzz about the show,” Woldmo added,  “It’s like how people gather with friends to celebrate birthdays … people gather to celebrate the birth of a body of work that comes together as a show. It’s all very exciting and deserves to be celebrated, observed, and critiqued.”

When I asked a former photography student, who requested to remain anonymous, about her  graduate group exhibition and associated vernissage, she said the experience was both exciting and stressful. “Exciting in the sense that it was my first time showcasing my work to the public, and I wanted to know others’ opinions,” she said. “The stressful part of my exhibition was the concept of showcasing them. […] I wanted to show as much of my work as possible, but at the end of the day, I had to carefully curate the images I wanted to use and be happy with the set-up.”

The way she sees it, a vernissage is a “gathering of people in the community with the purpose of looking at artwork together to understand and celebrate artist’s work, while having free wine and cheese!”

A few upcoming vernissages taking place over the next few weeks:

    • Fine Arts Faculty Biennial 13 at Warren G Flowers Gallery on Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m.
    • The Dollhouse at the End of the World at Ymuno Exhibitions on Feb. 17 at 4 p.m.
    • Joueurs: Serge Murphy and Jean-Francois Lauda at the Fondation Guido Molinari on Feb. 22 at 5 p.m.
    • The Opening Act: A Survey of Jan Xylander Exhibition Posters at Atelier Circulaire on Feb. 22 at 5:30 p.m.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

 

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Arts

Champ Amical: understanding friendship

Exhibit at L’Occurrence Gallery examines what it means to be a friend until Oct. 4

The artists involved in Champ Amical used a huge variety of mediums to express their ideas of what friendship all about.

The proverb “a friend in need is a friend indeed,” indicates the powerfulness of friendship, a theme that is seldom addressed in contemporary art.  The Champ Amical exhibition presented at L’Occurrence Gallery embraces it.

The artists featured in the exhibition are close friends, and they evoke the theme of friendship through their drawings, lithographs, books, photographs, videos and sculptures.  Graphic designer Catherine Beaupré; the multi-talented duo composed of Vincent Leduc and Annie Descôteaux, videographer Julie Tremble, photographer Michel Laforest, special effects designer Philippe Hamelin, and Jonathan Demers all contributed to the project.

Leduc-Descôteaux‘s exhibit includes drawings, lithographs, photographs, a video and a sculpture that showcases their friendship since 2004. It includes a motif, in the shape of a stuffed golden serpent. All the other artists created their exhibits specifically for Champ Amical.

Catherine Beaupré uses photography, drawing and collage in the form of three books to portray the many facets of friendship. The artist associates a colour with each of the three books to evoke different feelings and meanings such as the intense emotions often experienced in friendship, the feeling of adventure and even the impact of food in a friendship. When contacted electronically about her artistic work, Beaupré explains that, “books can be ideal to group different things and form one unique object. I chose books as my medium to restrain my work.” She described her use of photographs, drawings and texts in her books as a way to facilitates the contemplation of friendship.

Philippe Hamelin’s video incorporates the ecstatic dance movements of a group of digital zombies to create the poetic harmony that exists between humans and technology in dance.

Julie Tremble’s video recreates the inside of the homes of friends using 3-D modeling  “to portray the intimacy and transparency that exists there,” she says, “I wanted to create the feeling of discovering the rooms within a home, along with the shapes and objects contained within this confined and intimate space that is shared by close friends.” Tremble says that her video unintentionally portrays “an inventory of contemporary places where people from a certain social group, and of a certain age, live.”

Michel Laforest presents a series of photographs that depict the harmony that can exist amongst friends while they enjoy nature.  This harmony is evident by his use of colour and timing.

Jonathan Demers provides the audio guide for the exhibition, in collaboration with his friend Frederick Malette as complementary audio component to an visual ode to friendship.

As an ensemble, these projects are designed to help us reflect on the value of friends, in terms of how they affect our lives in ways that we may not have thought about.  By seeing the artists involved in the exhibition at the vernissage, it was evident that much discussion was generated as friends clustered in groups and mingled together. Champ Amical will most definitely make a friend out of you if go and visit this homage to the special bond that is friendship.

Champ Amical is presented until Oct. 4 at the new location of Occurrence espace d’art et d’essai contemporains. For more information, go visit the gallery’s website: occurrence.ca.

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