Tag Archives: Le Gallery

Looks good on Papier

I may have been just as excited for Sterling’s first train ride as I was for my first visit to Papier 14 this weekend. We arrived late Saturday afternoon, around the same time as the rain. Our late arrival caused me to miss Bill Clarke’s talk at the fair on Friday, and Leah Sandal’s talk on Saturday, though I’ve been catching up with some of their exploits on Facebook… The show was smaller than I had initially envisioned, but I have to give credit to Montreal for it’s wonderful support of the event. The red carpet, mushy and frothing with rain invigorated soap, was well worn by the constant stream of visitors piling into the pay-what-you-can exhibition.

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Wren Noble, At the Dance I, DC3 Gallery

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Wren Noble, Pigeons 2011, DC3 at Papier 14

 

Having a toddler in tow inspired us to trade Papier’s ubiquitous glass of wine for one of the biggest and mentionably divine chocolate chip cookies from the café inside the tent. As Le Gallery’s owner and director, Wil Kucey mentioned, the show is an interesting and refreshing cross-section of Canadian art. The work is diverse, and like every fair, there is much to serve varying degrees of taste. While some galleries challenge the definition of “paper based art,” by showcasing novelties, others simply bring out their best in the offerings of drawing, printmaking and photography.

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Andre Dubois, sombre crepuscule- read my mind 2014, Galerie BAC

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Ted Barker, untitled 2009, Graphite on Paper, Galerie Laroche/Joncas

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Erika Dueck, Untitled- the ephemeral mind series 2014, Art Mur

 

Erika Dueck, Untitled- the ephemeral mind series 2014, detail, Art Mur

Erika Dueck, Untitled- the ephemeral mind series 2014, detail, Art Mur

While there were a few pieces that struck me from galleries farther afield, one of the most exciting parts of the show was previewing some of the impressive summer offerings coming to town to a few of my favourite galleries here in Toronto. At PM gallery, Amanda Clyne’s deconstructions (Excavating Artiface, on now) was hung beside Wil Murray’s series of renovated photographs. Using photographs taken from a book of early travel photos he purchased while living in Berlin (Die Welt in Farben), Murray uses various techniques (collage, painting) to manipulate the photographs and then creates a negative so that he can reprint the photos. They are then hand-coloured and remounted onto their original pages from the book. Powell MacDougall, owner of the gallery, was excited about the recent purchase of three of these unique works into the RBC collection.

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Wil Murray’s work at PM Gallery, Papier 14

At Le Gallery, a massive example of one of Tristram Lansdowne’s surreal landscapes was unmissable. Two smaller works by the young artist, who was recently accepted to do his Master’s program at RISD, show eager experimentation into less narrative work. (Unfortunately I doubt his path will cross with his talented friend and Le colleague, Amanda Nedham who will likely be finished her current studies at the institution). Also of note were the grotesque Asian scroll works by artist Howie Tsui.

Finally, Balint Zsako’s mix and match drawings, displayed on a thin shelf running across the centre of Mulherin’s booth, created a minimalist space that drew instant attention in its contrast with the other galleries at the show. Each of the small framed watercolours, which are sold exclusively in pairs or larger denominations, is created to fit together seamlessly with any of the other works from the series. Apparently, the artist came to Katherine Mulherin with the concept days after the gallerist was approached about coming to the fair for her first time. Zsako, who was in attendance at the fair, will return home to complete the series which will exhibit all summer.

Balint Zsako's work on display at Katherine Mulherin, Papier 14

Balint Zsako’s work on display at Katherine Mulherin, Papier 14

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Matt Bahen

I’m embarrassed to admit how long it’s been since I’ve been planning to post an article about Matt Bahen. I first became interested in him after last year’s “After Wolves” solo show at Le Gallery. The massive, heavily impasto pieces appealed to my strong love of dystopic fiction, as the scenes alternated between barren Canadian landscapes and demolished interiors- often with dogs standing or fighting within them. Similar motifs dominated the work in his show at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie this summer. In the show you may have unfortunately just missed “Striking fire out of Rock,” at Le Gallery, Bahen has expanded his thematic repetoire to include empty ships and ubiquitous fleets of starlings. Apparently, according to gallery director Wil Kucey, the dog paintings were so popular that Bahen was at risk of becoming seen more of a crafter of candid canines than the serious conceptualist that I know him to be.

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 Kurtz

My second admission is that I’m writing this as my nearly two-year-old daughter is curled up in her stroller- which is parked in the living room- slumbering amidst dry coughing fits that haven’t quite woken her yet. She tends to want me to lay with her while we nap, though sometimes she falls asleep in her stroller, especially if I prime her with some of the froth from my latte, that said, my time is always limited. (the people at Crafted must think I’m nuts to be feeding a toddler coffee!)  So, with my apologies, most of the following article is taken from the visit I paid to Bahen’s Toronto studio last winter to see him in action, with photos from his shows at Le Gallery and the Maclaren Art Centre.

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Striking Fire out of Rock 

Matt Bahen’s instructions on how to get to his studio swam through my mind as I struggled to maintain my balance while walking down an icy downtown Toronto alleyway. “There’s no number and no street name, but it’s not hard to find.” I was beginning to doubt this advice until I heard opera music blaring from behind a slightly open doorway.  “It’s Rossini, the Arias”, Bahen explains to me. “My buddy Steve left it here, I’m gonna get myself sophisticated,” he scoffs wryly, taking an urgent final drag of his cigarette.

Bahen appears much more humble than sophisticated. Dressed in plain black jeans, brown leather shoes and a functionally warm fleece sweater this artist’s common appearance belies the contemplative depths yet to be revealed later in our conversation. His studio is also unassuming.  His massive oil paintings are stacked against the walls in various states of completion and the floor is littered with containers of unknown article.  Basketball-sized mounds of excess paint are piled on a board in the centre of the space and in one corner there is a pile of hundreds of empty tubes of oil paint. The overwhelming smell of oil is the only thing warm about the studio.

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As it the Noise were Thunder

Bahen pulls up a fold out chair for me and places it beside a tiny propane heater on the floor. In front of me is a nearly finished painting of one of his interiors. The scene portrays a once brilliant cathedral, now derelict.  Three stray dogs wander amidst the rubble on the floor of the church. The dystopic implication of these dogs was what initially drew me to Bahen’s work.  Never overt characters in the pieces, their presence within the broken interiors is immediately suggestive of a society no longer in control. Bahen points out that his interiors are full of light and life, and notes that the dogs represent a Virgil type character- to be trusted and feared simultaneously.

His unpopulated landscape works are somehow even less hopeful.  Painted in the same masterfully controlled yet excessively impasto style, in them we are thrust into grey, skyless mid-season desolation. Unlike the Group of Seven’s conceptualization of the untamed Canadian landscape, blooming with full colour palettes, these works are unconcerned with the viewer’s appreciation of actual wilderness that is often portrayed. Rather, Bahen is using his tormented muse to inspire works which provoke feelings of discomfort in the viewer. Bahen mentions a recent trip up to Orillia, “It all looks crummy up there. It is BLEAK. It takes grit to live here.”

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And this man is no stranger to bleak. Having worked as an outreach street worker in downtown Toronto for the last nine years it’s easy to imagine why Bahen needs to have a beer in hand while creating what essentially seem to be visceral studies in suffering. He explains that his initial subjects for painting were war based- jets, snipers, armies, but after working so closely with Toronto’s least privileged, he eventually withdrew from the obvious subject matter of war in favour of more abstract emotional renditions.

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When the Stars threw down their Spears

Currently, Matt Bahen is preparing for his second solo exhibition at Munch Gallery in New York at the end of April.

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The Weight of Light

There are a bunch of fantastic exhibitions happening in Toronto at present. Stay tuned for another nap-time review prior to the new year.

Bogdan Luca at Le Gallery

I visited Bogdan Luca last week at his studio on Ossington above Awol Gallery. He was busily preparing for his solo show The Roving Iconist, which opened Friday night at Le Gallery. Dressed in paint splattered blue mechanic coveralls, Luca led me through the work in his tiny white box-studio. With paintings stapled to the cracking walls sometimes three canvasses deep, the air was thick with the smell of oil and solvents. It wasn’t until my own comforted feeling of nostalgia wore off that I noticed how dizzy I was.

Having started off dedicated to painting purely figural studies, Luca’s work is now focused not only on playing with the relationship between figure and ground, but also and even more importantly, in resolving the viewer’s  relationships to images within our heavily image saturated world.  Like many artists  Luca is chronically archiving multi-sourced visual footage to use as the fragments which will inevitably compose any given final work.

Starting with the background as the conceptual framework for this present body of work, Luca looks at the connective structures within the physical network of the previous revolution. Tunnels, bridges and ramps become easy metaphors to examine our own contemporary concepts of progress and movement in a digital world. The juxtapositions of unrelated imagery atop of these connection metaphors parallel the travel of information and commerce within the ether of cyberspace.

It’s unapparent in many cases as to where the imagery originally hails from though individual light sources on the various figures give clues as to their independence. Unified by a dark candy coloured palette of blue, cherry, violet and apple-green, the images are unapologetically stitched together, sometimes amid purposely left white expanses to create disquieting visual-non-sequiturs.  Though each is heavily weighted in symbolism, the artist welcomes viewer interpretation of his unique scenarios. The unlikely pairings of the various unexplained figures seem to be Luca’s attempt to make narrative sense of the mass of disparate yet poignant imagery within his archives. By compiling these images into an expressive body with the potential to instigate emotions in others, Luca challenges the passivity of the image and creates the argument of image as experience.

In our media saturated world, it’s unsurprising that a visual artist would seek to validate the value of their experience of the seen world- real or virtual. I’ve heard similar conceptual arguments before-Toronto artist Brendan Flanagan comes to mind. In a world where information is the greatest commodity, how could we argue that one couldn’t gain meaningful experience virtually? Can it be argued then, that an artist who is painting entirely from images culled from outside sources is indeed still painting from their own experience?

As I listened to Luca explain his conceptual musings, I couldn’t help but begin to focus on his thick European accent. Having arrived from Romania with his family over 17 years ago, it’s unfair to call this young artist anything but Canadian. When he begins to talk about his various representations of iconoclasm however, I can’t help but think about the importance of the human experiential lens through which we translate our visual experiences.

In one of his works an iconoclast sprays a white background amidst his  surroundings. In another, a pair of them erect a blank wall to block the gallery of image history that lay behind. As the artist recalls regimes of the past trying to wipe out the history of various peoples through the destruction of images, I feel that Luca’s own cultural heritage is an undeniable, if subconscious, influence on his work. With that, I wonder if the concept of image as experience even warrants dispute. As Luca struggles to narrate his experiences of these emotionally jarring images through a possibly subconscious unpacking of his own early history, I wonder how it could ever be possible to separate the experience of an image from the gallery of human experience.

Bogdan Luca’s, The Roving Iconist is showing at Le Gallery until July 17, 2011.