Series Exhibition at the Atomic Rooster

Photo by Kyle Fazackerley.
Photo by Kyle Fazackerley.

Atomic Rooster opened Sheena Kalmakova’s Series Exhibition May 4. Paintings from all four of Kalmakova’s series were displayed including Moon Series, Sun Series, October Series and The Crows Series.

Atomic Rooster is a small intimate space where people come together to eat, drink a fresh pint, and enjoy some art.

Kalmakova’s art gives the bistro a romantic, almost dream-like ambiance. Her series wraps around the restaurant and progresses through stages of subject matter and colour as the warm glowing backdrops of Sun Series progress into the more dark renderings of October Series.

“The scenes and subject matter I choose to paint are those that I need or want to spend time with, or those that have greatly affected me. My pieces are impressions of things I have seen, or they are my best physical depiction of a feeling that I have experienced,” Kalmakova said. “Painting is my entry point and method for processing, reflecting, understanding and dealing with my experiences.”

Kalmakova’s paintings are in various styles. She said she likes to experiment with different mediums and approaches in her work.

“Although the subject matter may be the same, the individual pieces within the series may vary,” she said. “I can understand how this deviation could be frustrating to an audience, much like when your favourite band puts out an album that explores a whole different sound than the one you’ve grown attached to.”

Kalmakova said she prefers to experiment rather than have her art become stagnant.

“I feel that experimentation and discovery are essential to the creative process to keep the work genuine, and avoids painting oneself into a ‘do-it-because-it sells’ kind of a corner,” she said.

Kalmakova strongly advocates showing artwork in a bar setting like Atomic Rooster because it is an accessible space.

“The Rooster is one of those fabulous venues that help support our local artist community,” she said.

Atomic Rooster also provides an outlet for local artists to create and express themselves in a laid back setting. Artists can gather once a month to draw live models. Elli Merkis, a server at Atomic Rooster, models regularly.

“They’re all different themes, the first one was Steampunk, the second one was rockabilly and this one ComicCon, next month apparently it’s supposed to be a glamorous, classic movie star red carpet,” she said.

All the events and concerts at Atomic Rooster, such as May’s “Ode to Comiccon” live-modelling event, are free. Dana Burton said she has been coming to the Atomic Rooster since she moved to Ottawa four years ago.

“I find the Atomic Rooster inviting and encouraging for local artists to produce work by giving them that option to potentially hang their art,” she said. “I find Sheena’s work especially interesting. It has this serene, beautiful, and almost dark quality to it that is striking.”

Kalmakova’s Series Exhibition will continue to hang on the walls of Atomic Rooster until June 8.

– See more at: http://www.charlatan.ca/2014/05/dreamy-art-takes-over-the-walls-of-atomic-rooster/#sthash.o4QWVgan.dpuf

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Cedar Tavern Singers talk ‘art snob solutions’

The Cedar Tavern Singers discussed their work and exhibition, Art Snob Solutions, Phase III: At the Hundredth Meridian, with Christopher Rohde at the Carleton University Art Gallery Oct. 16.

The exhibition, curated by Sandra Dyck, featured the works of performance artist duo Daniel Wong and Mary-Anne McTrowe who formed The Cedar Tavern Singers during a conceptual art residency at the Banff Centre in 2006. Christopher Rohde, programmer at SAW Gallery, led the discussion with a Q&A.

“One of the things that interests me so much about the show is that it doesn’t really have a single, traditional exhibition element,”  Rodhe said.

“We like the idea of using these folk forms as a counter-balance for content which is sort of like art theory, art history, which gives an entrance way for the viewer,” Wong said. “All of a sudden they have this line of theory stuck in their head.”

The Cedar Tavern Singers were commissioned to create a limited-edition EP and music video featuring key artistic moments and works from Carleton and Ottawa’s past.

The duo is known for their ability to provide an informative art history lesson in the form of a catchy song.

“You got a music video, a CD, uniforms, the activity book and then the fragrance and also the drawing contest. All of those elements are not exactly what you would expect from a conventional gallery exhibition,” Rodhe said.

The duo held a drawing contest as part of the exhibition where gallery-goers could draw their favourite piece of Canadian Art and then have it displayed.

“We want them to learn about art and so for this show in particular it was about Carleton University Art Gallery and . . . Canadian art,” McTrowe said.

The Cedar Tavern Singers discussed their work and exhibition, Art Snob Solutions, Phase III: At the Hundredth Meridian, with Christopher Rohde at the Carleton University Art Gallery Oct. 16.

The exhibition, curated by Sandra Dyck, featured the works of performance artist duo Daniel Wong and Mary-Anne McTrowe who formed The Cedar Tavern Singers during a conceptual art residency at the Banff Centre in 2006.

Christopher Rohde, programmer at SAW Gallery, led the discussion with a Q&A.

“One of the things that interests me so much about the show is that it doesn’t really have a single, traditional exhibition element,”  Rodhe said.

“We like the idea of using these folk forms as a counter-balance for content which is sort of like art theory, art history, which gives an entrance way for the viewer,” Wong said. “All of a sudden they have this line of theory stuck in their head.”

The Cedar Tavern Singers were commissioned to create a limited-edition EP and music video featuring key artistic moments and works from Carleton and Ottawa’s past.

The duo is known for their ability to provide an informative art history lesson in the form of a catchy song.

“You got a music video, a CD, uniforms, the activity book and then the fragrance and also the drawing contest. All of those elements are not exactly what you would expect from a conventional gallery exhibition,” Rodhe said.

The duo held a drawing contest as part of the exhibition where gallery-goers could draw their favourite piece of Canadian Art and then have it displayed.

“We want them to learn about art and so for this show in particular it was about Carleton University Art Gallery and . . . Canadian art,”

 

– See more at: http://www.charlatan.ca/2012/10/cedar-tavern-singers-talk-art-snob-solutions/#sthash.QZk29XQp.dpuf

History, identity explored at Gallery 101 double exhibition

Gallery 101 hosted its first fall double opening, Real Job Interviews paraphernalia- re-enacting fiction and oskinikiskwēwak (Young Women) on Sept. 7.

Real Job Interviews explores Montreal-based artist Julie Lequin’s narrative process.  Within the gallery space rests five of Lequin’s hand-crafted characters, on mannequin stands, which she intends on using in later videos.

Also featured is Saskatchewan-born Joi Arcand’s exhibition oskinikiskwēwak (Young Women), which displays mock advertisements along Bank Street. Playing with aboriginal stereotypes, she uses sarcastic phrases like “these feathers are digital” to poke fun at the absurdity of old advertisements.

“I really wanted to make a splash in fall and so celebrating both at the same time was a really good way to do it,” new director and curator, Laura Margita said.

“The fact that they were both women artists, and both doing work about identity pulled it together for me,” she said.

Lequin said the current exhibition is based on personal experiences.

“This new project that I am working on is based on job interviews, inspired by my own job interviews, job interviews I went to, to have a job, and job interviews I gave to other people,” she said.

Lequin described a video in her exhibit in which she plays two roles.  One as the interviewee, and one as the interviewer. The interviewer is characterized by a strict principal of a Quebec General Vocational College, also known by the acronym “CEGEP.”

The exhibition emphasizes this pre-video process with look-books that show the characters de-constructed into random yet corresponding images. “Eeyore” from A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh appears as a symbol of depression and character trait of the principal.

Margita said the two exhibitions have are related by process.

“Both of them are process-based and both of them are identity-based. They’re both creating alternative histories or stories built out of their histories,” Margita said.

Arcand’s work is explicitly identity-specific as it explores her identity as a Cree and German-Canadian.

She re-created posters based on 1920 calendar pin-up girls. “They depict really stereotypical native women in scantily-clad outfits and just really project that fantasy world of the Indian princess as a vulnerable character to be sexualized,” Arcand said.

Margita said the initial use of these images was an old advertisement scheme in the 1920s.

“Those pin-up girls were in calendars that were marketed in the United States to bring hunters to the Canadian wilderness,” she said.

Margita said that they were “pin-up girls” and “sirens,” used to lure “great white hunters from the south.”

Arcand had family and friends pose as the original figures in a contemporary fashion to “take back the image.”

“In the original posters, the models that were used were white women so I’m in turn putting back a real native woman into the background that was created in the original illustration,” Arcand explained.

“Native women are still alive and strong. We’re human beings that deserve respect and we can laugh, can have fun, and poke fun at these images at the same time,” Arcand said. Margita, referencing both artists, said

“both of them share a strength that all artists would like to do — to be able to talk about their realities in a way that is engaging and beautiful and meaningful.”

– See more at: http://www.charlatan.ca/2012/09/history-identity-explored-at-gallery-101-double-exhibition/#sthash.I1FwGldd.dpuf

Artist ‘speaks truth to history’ at Carleton gallery

Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG) opened its exhibition What Is Said and What Is Done June 18 in conjunction with Sakahàn, the largest exhibition of contemporary, indigenous works currently at the National Gallery of Canada.

The multimedia exhibition displays video, sculpture, photography, and installation pieces by Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore in Belmore’s first solo show to be held in Ottawa.

CUAG director Sandra Dyck said she considers Belmore a senior artist with a strong presence.

“She’s always been somebody who speaks truth to history. There aren’t many works but the impact of the work is very powerful emotionally and aesthetically.”

The viewer is initially confronted with a video installation titled “March 5, 1819,” in which Belmore re-enacts a tragic moment in the history of the Beothuk people who resided in Newfoundland. The video portrays the brutal capture of a Beothuk woman, Demasduit, by colonial settlers and the murder of her husband Nonosabasut as he tries to rescue her.

The experience is visceral, overwhelming, and harrowing as the viewer stands between two projectors displaying the hopeless attempt of a couple to escape their enclosing captors.

Curator Heather Anderson described the state of the viewer as between both “witness and perpetrator.”

Belmore said she specifically placed the actors in contemporary dress so the viewer may relate to the man and woman on an individual, everyday level.

“I think history can be sort of cold and it seems very distant. What does it matter? Why should I care? But I think it really is about trying to give historic moments or individuals some kind of emotional landscape to be within,” said Belmore.

Anderson described the multiplicity of the exhibition’s title. “In a sense you can say, ‘what is done is done, let’s move on, move forward,’ but it’s also in a sense what is the difference between what is said and what is done. It could be read very tragic or you could also bring some optimism, some idea of change,” she said.

As the viewer walks through the gallery space, they are confronted with the ambiguous installation of a capsized canoe haunted by its lack of presence. It appears at the edge of an evocatively draped black cloth, suggesting the elegant motion of water.

“There’s an absence of whoever was in the canoe or if there was even someone in the canoe. It’s this idea of being in the process of turning over,” explained Belmore. “It is about the absent body and the idea of the power of water and that we should have more reverence for that body of water.”

The exhibition is provocative, powerful, and emotionally impactful. Belmore creates a temporal and spatial tension within her works through the representation of a people who are absent and yet alive in a historical and emotional moment of time.

“Our presence as aboriginal women is basically for the most part absent in history,” said Belmore. “I guess that’s why as an artist living in the moment here today I am interested in trying to look at that history or the lack of that history.” 

This capsized canoes is one of the installations at the exhibition (photo by Yuko Inoue)
This capsized canoes is one of the installations at the exhibition (photo by Yuko Inoue)

 

 

– See more at: http://www.charlatan.ca/2013/06/artist-speaks-truth-to-history-at-carleton-gallery/#sthash.4UOMLya4.dpuf

Exposed and Avant-Garde – Naked “LVNDSCVPES”

Self-taught artist Natalie Bruvels released her latest seriesLVNDSCVPES at La Petite Mort Gallery May 24.

Natalie Bruvels with her painting “Colossus” 

Photo Credit:Willie Carroll

LVNDSCVPES playfully uses the image of the ‘vagina dentata’ (latin for toothed vagina) to illustrate the fear and awe of a Canadian settler sailing into the St. Lawrence River.

“When you’re coming into the St. Lawrence, it’s almost like you’re going into a vagina dentata. A toothed, harrowing, man’s greatest nightmare” said Bruvels.

The title, like her series, is a play on the fusion of landscape with figurative painting.

“It’s somewhat a play on the ‘vagina dentata’ and people have been looking at my paintings and saying ‘Does she know they’re not landscapes? Does she get it, what is she doing?’” Bruvels explained.

However, Bruvels’ work is anything but harrowing. It’s a sensual orgasm with its vibrant, boldly dripping palette.

“Rainbow Connection” displays a seemingly abstract landscape of two figures making love.

“I like it cause it’s like the colours are being drained out of the rainbow and put into the amorist couple. It’s very lively,” she said.

Gallery director Guy Bérubé was pleased with Bruvel’s return to her beginning emphasis on the female nude after a brief depart to explore the innocent subject matter of a baby’s face in her June 2012 solo show Baby Beast.

“The content, where we’re obviously looking at physical landscapes of people fucking, I was surprised not because it was graphic in content, but because I thought they were vulnerable once again,” he said.

“Are we looking at content that’s personal, or that’s fantasy, or imaginary, or is it something she pulled from the Internet? I’ve never asked her. I just took them for what they are.”

Bruvels said she hopes viewers will take away “the playfulness of sex” from her work.

“I just loved the female form and I am drawn to it. I am drawn to the beauty, from the seemingly grotesque to absolutely everything about the female form,” she said.

“I know a lot of people who love the colour I use but they wish I would change the subject matter. I’m not trying to do anything to try and make someone uncomfortable. It’s not invading your privacy. It’s something that most of us enjoy and it’s also interesting to me.”

“Colossus” is a risqué landscape interpretation of a statue known as “The Colossus of Rhodes,” one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The statue was believed to stand over the harbour as boats came in between its legs.

Bruvels translates this into a stoic female penetrated by the penis.

Bruvels said she considers “Colossus” a landscape because it has certain qualities.

“There’s the trees in the background and it’s almost like the mountains are making out. It’s silly but its playful and its fun and doesn’t always have to be ultra-serious,” she said.

“Her work reminds me of Holgate, the eighth member of the Group of Seven,” said artist Michael Ashley, whose work has shown at La Petite Mort gallery before.

“He was notorious for taking the Group of Seven landscapes but also putting nudes in them.”

Ashley even described the series as “amusingly kinky.”

As for Bruvels, she said she hopes people who view the exhibit can really appreciate the female form.

“If I had to make a single comment,” she said, “It would just be how awesome is it to have a naked lady on your wall and to be comfortable with that.”

See the article “The female form gets reinterpreted in landscapes” in its original context:

http://www.charlatan.ca/2013/05/the-female-form-gets-reinterpreted-in-landscapes/

Survive This.

review of the exhibition Tony Fouhse: Live Through This:

Image

Fig 1. Tony Fouhse, Stephanie, from the series USER, 2010.

Live Through This is a remarkable series of portraits following the journey of a heroin-addicted woman named Stephanie MacDonald and her struggle to overcome substance abuse. The portraits are unique in that they capture not only the essence of a woman who is fighting for her life but also evoke a presence unseen. This presence is Ottawa-based photographer Tony Fouhse who documented Stephanie from her initial state of addiction to recovery. Fouhse is known for his most recent photographic series USER in which he uses drug addicts as subject matter much in the same way that they use substances but without the abuse. Fouhse reveals the triple entendre of the term “user”as the premise for the series: “I called it USER because the people I was photographing used drugs but I was using them. But they were also using me as a conduit to the outside world.”[1] However, it was not until he met Stephanie MacDonald on one of his excursions that USER would turn into more than the photographing of the drug addicted; instead, it was the beginning of a strong relationship between photographer and subject unprecedented in Fouhse’s previous street photography. Tony Fouhse crossed the invisible line between photographer and subject, documentation and portraiture that resulted in a breathtaking display of one woman’s struggle to get clean and the role art could play in it.

The exhibition, curated by Robert Evans at the Carleton University Art Gallery (CUAG), displays a series of portraits of Stephanie from her initial drug-addicted state to her recovery. “In June of 2010 I met Stephanie and the second I took her picture I knew there was something about this woman. I got to know her over the next six weeks fairly well; I photographed her three or four more times,”[2]Fouhse described the day which set the project in motion and refers to the first picture he ever took of Stephanie (Figure 1).  Stephanie appears in an orange bikini top and shorts, displaying her emaciated form. She looks at the viewer with a defiant look expressing a “no bullshit” attitude most likely acquired from nights spent on the street. Behind her fierce expression lies a certain softness in her eyes suggesting there is more to this woman than the two dimensional stereotype of drug addict. Fouhse recalled that he could not help but be drawn to her: “There was just something about her and one day I blurted out the words, ‘Is there something I can do to help you?’ She asked me to help her get into rehab. I asked her if I could photograph the process as she moved from where she was to where she wanted to be. She agreed and we began.”[3] The viewer moves from this initial picture to a series of photographs documenting the journey of Stephanie and Fouhse as they struggled with Stephanie’s substance abuse, withdrawal, relapse and almost death. The viewer is confronted with raw images such as Steph Injecting Heroin, Ottawa, Nov. 2010 (Figure 2) in which Fouhse shows Stephanie in the act of injecting heroin into her neck so calmly that one can assume it has become routine. Fouhse does not romanticize the subject but instead captures a truthful portrait of Stephanie. He shows her as she is: a woman with an addiction to heroin who the act of injection is but a mundane routine.

Fig. 2 Tony Fouhse, Stephanie Injecting Heroin, Ottawa, November 2010, 2010.

Live Through This was more than a photographer simply going into the streets and photographing the marginalized members of Ottawa’s society. Fouhse may “use” his subjects but he does not take advantage of them or treat them any differently than he would anyone else. Fouhse considers his work a collaboration in which his subjects contribute to the creative process as well. For instance, many of the photographs were posed such as Steph in her room, Ottawa, Jan 2011(Figure 3) where she appears clutching a white blanket with a look of distress.

Fig. 3 Tony Fouhse, Steph in her room, Ottawa, January 2011, 2011.

She was “dope sick” as Fouhse explains, “It was all too much chaos, so she was sick, and I said, ‘Steph, go stand against the door,’ so she would stand against the door. And the other ones are all pretty much posed even when she was injecting. She said ‘I’m just going to do this’ and I said ‘no, let me get my light right first.’ So we were very much collaborators creating on this.”[4] The portraits are also paired with journal entries that Stephanie had written throughout the process. Stephanie’s words seem to breathe life into the portraits which would otherwise not have had the same effect had they stood alone. Fouhse thought it was important to include Stephanie’s voice, “I think the writing really reflects what I was doing and shows how honest she is and how smart she is in terms of being able to see things.”[5] In Note, March 2011, Stephanie writes “I got as high as I could off Heroine and Crack that there isn’t any point but to quit. You can’t get any higher. So where does the crazy life end?”

The crazy life for Stephanie would end after she was admitted into the hospital for brain surgery resulting from a cyst that had grown on her brain. Stephanie writes “I will never trade this life now and go back to it but for some sick reason I miss it but deep down I know I had to have brain surgery cause it was my sign and only sign that I was ganna realize that I had quit or die.”[6] Site of operation, Ottawa, April 2011 (Figure 4) physically displays the hardship Stephanie endured through the visual of her head post-operation.

Fig 4 Tony Fouhse, Site of operation, Ottawa, April 2011, 2011.

The site of the operation is shaved and shows the metal staples which carve a sinuous line into the back of her head. They mark not only the physical suffering but also the emotional pain Stephanie had to persevere in order to get clean. The site is a testament to her battle with substance abuse and the fight to become clean.

It is easy to look at Live Through This and conclude the exhibition is a remarkable display of humanitarianism and that Fouhse was merely documenting the process of Stephanie being “saved.” However to assume this would be to grossly misinterpret the complexity and unusual nature of the project. Fouhse explains that the reason he pursued the project was not out of a humanitarian motive but one of a more selfish nature, “I wasn’t doing that because I wanted to be a stand up righteous dude. I was doing that because the time I was spending with her was about the most exciting thing I had ever done in my life, running wild in the streets, going to crack houses. I was doing it for the experience.”[7]  Live Through This is an experience: the experience between two people from two different worlds who have shared something no one but them can fully understand. The art of photography brought them together and as a result has brought the wider public together to experience the work and understand the danger of the stereotype “drug addict.” Stephanie Macdonald is not just a “heroin addict.” She is a beautiful woman who struggled with an affliction and survived.

Works Cited

Rybus, Greta. feature shoot (blog). http://www.featureshoot.com/2012/09/photographing-a-heroin-addict-through-despair-and-hope./ 

[1]Tony Fouhse, Round Table: Youth + Substance Use/Abuse in Ottawa, March 12, 2013, transcript.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Greta Rybus, Photographing a Heroin Addict through Despair, Horror and Hope,(blog), September 7, 2012, http://www.featureshoot.com/2012/09/photographing-a-heroin-addict-through-despair-horror-and-hope/.

[4] Tony Fouhse, interview by Brittany Gushue, March 12, 2013, transcript.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Wall Text.

[7] Tony Fouhse, Round Table: Youth + Substance Use/Abuse in Ottawa, March 12, 2013, transcript.

To see the original publication:

http://cuartgallery.tumblr.com/post/47223501231/congratulations-to-the-first-ever-winner-of-cuags-art