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:


Bring me shelter and bring me art

The STM’s Expo+ contest is letting the public vote on the art gracing bus shelters next winter

Navigating Montreal’s public transportation system in winter comes with its own unique challenges, such as slippery sidewalks, relative bus scheduling, and crammed bus shelters.

The STM plans to change transit shelters into miniature art galleries, leaving it to the public to decide which of Montreal’s artists will see their art in the city. Voting on the Expo+ competition submissions continues until March 16. Photo by Alex Caban

In response to the last issue, the Societé de Transport de Montréal (STM) wants to make a change. With last year’s decision to implement new stylized bus shelters, the STM has initiated another move — art appreciation.

Quebecor Media, in collaboration with the STM, aims to bring about this change. The Expo+ contest, launched in January of this year, seeks to find 20 artistic works to adorn the newly designed bus shelters. According to the organizers, the art itself will serve to enhance the appreciation of these new installations.

In its first phase, the contest was open to all Quebec artists and marketing firms. During this time, over 1100 artworks were put forth for consideration. The organizers themselves have little say in the end result and have turned the decision over to public voting.

The selection of the finalists is ongoing. Voting will be open to the public until March 16 through the contest webpage. It is possible to view all of the entries, divided into general public applications and those submitted by advertising groups. After voting is closed, the four most popular works will be awarded cash prizes totaling $10,000.

As there is no general theme to the contest, the submissions themselves vary greatly. Among these are images of horses, Montreal cityscapes, Hollywood celebrities and abstract concepts, just to name a few.

This large diversity demonstrates what a wide range of artistic ventures Quebecers are engaged in. The variety points to the richness of Quebec’s artistic scene, where not all artists are looking at the same subjects in the same way. This divergence is found, not only in the public offerings but also in the corporate ones.

Surprisingly, none of the advertising company entries feel like promotional material or even focus on merchandise. One must wonder then if the category was made more on the basis of group contributions versus individual productions, instead of the message to be transmitted. Regardless of this division, company-generated art is just as diverse and interesting as the individual submissions.

Arguably, the diversity presented is slightly disappointing as well. It is unlikely that the finalists will share any cohesive element in their material at all. An opportunity was missed to define the new bus shelters as a part of Montreal’s cultural environment. Had there been a defined theme, such as ‘chez nous’ for example, the final product would have had some focus and cultural resonance yet still retain the diversity already present.

It is a rare occurrence when the public is given a say concerning anything to do with  collective transport. Given the opportunity now, everyone should vote — whether it be for their favourite artwork, or the for the one they would find the least objectionable to see every day on the morning commute.

Voting will continue until March 16. The top 20 finalists will be announced on March 24. The top four entries will be revealed on Friday, April 4 on the Salut Bonjour! television program and in Le Journal de Montreal and 24 Heures newspapers. For more information and to vote on the art submissions, visit:


Glass oeuvres, blowing-up with colours

It is with reason that Utterly Breathtaking is both the name and quality of the colourful glass exhibition featuring artist Dale Chihuly.

Diane Charbonneau, Curator of Decorative Arts and Design, took The Concordian through the exhibit currently at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA), pointing out diverse installations and eye-popping colours.

“Chihuly is an artist with specific ideas in mind,” said Charbonneau as she pointed at mandarin orange glass vases. “He came here and knew exactly what the exhibit should look like.”

The MMFA exhibit features eight of Chihuly’s installations, with an extra one set up outside.

“Chihuly is interested in nature, in water, and in the west coast,” said Charbonneau. “He is influenced by a multitude of artists, such as Warhol and pop artists, but he has his own distinctive style.”

Having worked at the Venice-based Murano glass company, Venini, Chihuly definitively knows how to manipulate glass. Big time.

Chihuly’s installations are mesmerizing products of fine quality where colours vie for attention. By the time you amble your way through, life doesn’t look that drab anymore.

“Chihuly likes to work in comparisons,” said Charbonneau as she weaved through the installations. “He likes to point out how light can be reflected and how to play around with contrasts.”

One installation in particular showcases Charbonneau’s statement. Blue-rimmed rimmels that faintly resemble flowers are lined up against a white wall, emphasizing the cobalt blues and sun yellows of the rimmels.

Another installation showcased the brilliance of turquoise. One hundred and twenty tall turquoise reeds were set up on tree limbs, demonstrating the vibrancy of one single colour.

Charbonneau led The Concordian to a special room, where a mind-boggling amount of vases were placed above the ceiling – also made of glass. Aboriginal glass baskets, puttis, glass starfish and bowls were placed disorderly one on top of another. “Chihuly likes to pinpoint and question the fragility of glass … [which is why] we get an over-abundance of glass objects in this room ” said Charbonneau.

Another room is full of gigantic chandelier-types, each measuring up to 12 feet tall. Charbonneau pointed to a fire truck-red chandelier that seems to have grown numerous tentacles. “That sculpture has a funny story. Chihuly made the object in France, but it capsized and fell in the water as it crossed over. So Chihuly made another one, just for us. Red is one of the hardest colours to work with when it comes down to glass, so we were grateful,” said Charbonneau.

Another installation resembles a garden. “Chihuly’s mother was a gardener, and Chihuly loves gardens, so he made this glass exhibit that calls to mind a garden.”

The “Macchia Forest” installation is imbued with over 300 colours and large glass bowls speckled with gold and silver. “The colours are crazy at this installation,” noted Charbonneau. “We are literally immersed in a glass forest.”

Overall, Charbonneau was pleased with the reception of the installations. “People love the exhibit. So far we have had 200,000 visitors.”

Perhaps the best way to describe Chihuly’s vision is to use his words, quoted from The Art of Dale Chihuly, by Timothy Anglin Burgard. “I thought it was the hot glass that was miraculous, but then I realized it was the air that went into it that was miraculous.”

Utterly Breathtaking has been extended at the MMFA until Oct. 27. For more information, visit


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