STUDENT ART: TOWARDS A SENSE OF MYSTERY
by Virginia Nixon
A student art exhibition isn't necessarily a bellwether for future trends. if such a commercial sounding term can be applied to the movings of the art world.
Sometimes the orientation of student work reflects nothing more than the strong personality of a teacher. But such shows can give clues to what is going on in the heads of our younger artists, especially when they are exhibitions by graduate students - such as the current one in Concordia’s Sir George Williams gallery.
Some of these young artists completing masters degrees in Concordia's Fine Arts Department have already had solo shows and are fairly mature artists with well-defined ways of working. The show is a fairly good one all round. But what is most striking is that it seems to indicate a move away from formal abstraction towards not only a more personal, expressive kind of art, but in many cases towards an art that evokes a sense of the mysterious and the arcane.
I'm not suggesting Sir George has put together a Hallowe'en special. But there's no denying that John Francis' large wall sculptures constructed of bat-wing-like segments of black painted canvas fitted to pipe frameworks suggest something like a warlock‘s flying apparatus. And Francis is surely aware that he's adding to such speculations by informing us on the labels that his materials include blood along with paint, canvass and pipes.
Oozing with suggestions
Another work fairly oozing with suggestions of the arcane is Peter Trepanier's book sculpture. The charred pages of Trepanier‘s hand-made book are clasped inside a cover whose irregular, raised pattern suggests a turtle's shell. The cover has a blackened moulded appearance—as though it might have lain half-buried for heaven knows how long. Altogether this work couldn't be more suggestive of ancient magical lore.
Anne Ramsden’s wall sculpture in the form of a black wooden trough with a shiny band of copper inside, which contrasts with the rough black paint, shows minimalist influence in its simplicity. But Ramsden's piece gives out too many hints of mysterious purpose for it to get away with being a mere sculptural form.
I have chosen my examples selectively. But there are enough works of this type in the show to suggest that the preoccupation with the quasi-occult and with nature mythology. a moderately strong movement on the West Coast for some time, may be making inroads here. The exhibition, at 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd. W., mezzanine floor. is on to Nov. 13.
The concerns of these students are very different from those of the six young Quebec painters selected by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts contemporary art curator Normand Theriault for the exhibition at the Museum entitled Six Propositions.
The six artists, Leopold Plotek, Christian Knudsen, Luc Beland, Christian Kiopini, Lucio de Heusch and Richard Mill, have all applied a good deal of time, energy and dedication to developing consistent individual modes of painting concerned with exploring the possibilities and problems posed by contemporary non-objective art. The show is a useful look at the new directions they represent. However, a large part of its interest is intellectual — detecting the problems the painter has set himself and analysing his solutions.
Doesn't touch feelings
It's not an exhibition that touches the feelings very deeply. There are none of the pyrotechnics that characterized Toronto abstractionist Gordon Rayner's recent show at Sir George Williams, or of the seductive lyricism of David Bolduc's.
Some of the painters seem so caught up in working through their theories that they offer very very little to any but the most partisan viewer. Much has been made of the intellectual bent of Quebec painting. This show confirms that supposition.
The most emotionally active work is Luc Beland's large Anacoluthon: dans l‘ombre de Billie Holiday. Beland’s long, loose horizontal canvas is divided into four sections covered with abstract markings, gestural scrawls, bands and sweeps of color. The sections are unified by four diamond-shaped pieces of pinkish collaged canvas which fly across the surface trailing feather-like splashes of black markings behind them. The result is a creditable example of neo-abstract expressionist painting.
One of the most visually appealing works is Christian Knudsen's Withdrawing and drawing into with yellow for Artie gold, despite the... The left hand rectangle of this oddly titled two-part a delectable surface of cherry red, is divided into two triangles and further cut by a curving arc. The pale right hand side is also cut by lines and there are squared-off grid lines visible. The symmetry and careful geometry generate a sense of the craftsmanlike construction of art — an evocation that is curiously enhanced by the small delicate screws holding the paintings plexiglass covering in place.
Leopold Plotek's four oils are lighter and more thinly painted than the works he showed last year at Yajima, and at first glance they seem less persuasive. However, it was one of Plotek's paintings, the red and black Galgenlied (gallows song), which turned out to be one of the most interesting things in the show for me.
On the right a tall form vaguely suggesting a handle is roughly outlined in black against a deep red ground. At the bottom, its base line continues left to meet the base of another shape of equal height, a cloud of smudged smoky black. The amorphous foms and sketchy quality are decidedly puzzling — they don't fit with the neat flat patterns of Plotek's other works. But this very ambiguity is one of the qualities that make the painting one of the most memorable in the show. The exhibition continues at the MMFA to Dec. 2.