Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tara Bryan and Craig Francis Power Artist Talks at the Anna Templeton Centre

Tara Bryan and I will be giving presentations and talks about our respective art practices Friday, March 3rd at the Anna Templeton Centre on Duckworth Street at 7pm. Everyone is welcome to attend. Five bucks.

The Way They Were at RCA Gallery

This is the third review of an art show at good ol' RCA I've done, and I'm happy to say, it may well be the last that I do for some time. It just hurts.

I just feel like I'm missing some really important piece of the puzzle. I mean, I'm just not getting something. Maybe I'm just not proud or patriotic enough. Maybe I'm an ignorant fuck. Maybe I'm just not Newfie enough. I don't know what it is, but upon seeing this show, I felt like how I imagine most regular people feel when they go into a contemporary art gallery: Like A Complete Outsider.

At first I was going to write about this show in relation to the Cabot 500 celebrations of 1997. How both events commemorate an important historical event or era, and how they both sort of ring very hollow. But the stumbling block was of course that everyone could relate to Cabot 500 in some way, while The Way They Were has appeal for only an incredibly tiny fragment of the population of St. John's.

Kent Barrett's work consists of a slew of sepia, black and white, and colour digital photographic prints with elements of collage thrown in for good measure. It just looks like the guy plays around with Photoshop way too much to the point where the work is completely over-designed. There are a lot of original photos scanned into the new work, in addition to the use of the original 35mm negatives. Some of the old photos are really nice looking.

But what, you may be wondering, are the photos of? Why, they're portraits of the people who were involved with the whole collective theatre movement of the 1970s in St. John's. A movement that had the LSPU Hall as its epicenter, and from which groups such as the Mummers' Troupe and CODCO (amongst others) eventually emerged.

Which is just fine and dandy, okay? I'm not knocking it. RCA has just turned thirty, and like all thirty year olds during that fabulously neurotic of years, the Hall is looking back over its life with an odd mix of nostalgia and insecurity. The fact remains, however that this art show is only enjoyable if you know personally the people in the photos. I don't, and therefore have no point of access into the work.

The most interesting thing for me (just like it was at the NIFCO 25th Anniversary screening at the Hall last summer) was which people were omitted from the show rather than the ones that were actually included.

So. If you know a bunch of the prominent St. John's theatre people from the 70s, you might want to pop down and check out Barrett's show. But, alas, if you're on the look-out for beautiful, provocative and heart-wrenching visual art, it remains an elusive animal at RCA Gallery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Excellence In Visual Arts Awards (Revisited)


A friend said recently that the literary and music scenes in Newfoundland and Labrador are light-years ahead of the province's visual artists when it comes to self-promotion, visibility and credibility.

I'm inclined to agree.

I'm inclined to go further, actually.

Fucking STAND UP and SKETCH COMEDY are taken more seriously in this province than the visual arts.

If you're reading this, you must have at least some amount of interest in the visual culture produced in Newfoundland and Labrador. So, I implore you to go to the VANL site to which I've linked above, and NOMINATE artists in the categories available. We have no one but ourselves to blame for the lack of exposure and opportunities in this province for visual artists. No one is going to make our careers for us. These awards are a great chance for us to pat ourselves on the back for our hard work and to garner some attention for ourselves. So please, do it.


Friday, February 10, 2006

Excellence In Visual Art Awards

If you are a visual artist, or know one, you should check out these new prizes recently set up by VANL. Nominate early, nominate often. Nominate yourself.

Apparently, one of the adjudicators is Border Crossings' Robert Enright. That's pretty heavy duty.

Which reminds me.... Who do you people reckon are the best established and emerging visual artists in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Will Gill and Beth Oberholtzer at the Rooms

The Art

Having never before attended an opening at our hulking cultural behemoth of glass, steel and brick, I was really excited about comparing this event to the various other high budget art receptions I've attended at other provincial galleries in the past.

The art is really good, though I somehow think you could put a lump of dog shit in the contemporary gallery on level 4 of the Rooms and it would still inspire awe. It's just such a beautiful gallery. Not only is Will Gill possibly the nicest person in St. John's, his large scale paintings and sculpture on display are just lovely to look at. Whimsical, simple, mysterious and somehow a little sad, his work has the sweet and otherworldly feel of magical objects you might see in a child's storybook.

All of Gill's work in the show seems to circle around the theme of transformation. Fire transforms matter. Day becomes night. One of Gill's sculptures, a wax bowl, like a giant speaker installed into the wall, transforms the sounds of the gallery so that everything seems muted and close, like you were on the inside of a closet, speaking to yourself.

Oberholtzer's work deals with the transformative as well. It's all sperm and eggs all over the place, with vaginas made of flower petals on one wall and a necklace of detritus, literally stuff she found on the sidewalks of the city, hanging opposite. While Gill seems more concerned with a kind of elemental, external change in the world around him, Oberholtzer examines the world of the interior. The world of the fetus, obviously, but also the transformation of the idea into object. It's good work as well, but doesn't benefit from being shown beside Gill's monumental pieces. Her necklace piece for example, while interesting, is placed beside Gill's 28 foot tall sculpture of a ladder going up into a cloud, rendering her work almost invisible as a result. Too bad.

The Food, The Drinks, The Reception

The best opening I've ever been to was at Anna Leonowens gallery in Halifax. I have no idea what the art was all about, but the artist, a middle aged woman celebrating her graduation from art school, had kebabs cooking on a grill right there in the gallery. Man, that was good. When you go to an opening and they've got veggie and chicken kebabs there sizzling away, it just makes you feel really good about the future of art production in the world.

Such was not the case at the Rooms, however. I guess they've blown the budget on the architecture (or maybe its Gordon Laurin's severance package) cause three of four little fruit plates from Sobeys just doesn't cut it, dudes. And sure, there was free beer and wine, but the crowd of seventy or so went through the limited supply in shortly over an hour...but I guess with Dean Brinton in charge, we should be thankful it wasn't a cash bar with QV lager going for eight bucks a pop. Speaking of Brinton, does this guy actually attend events at the Rooms? Several people at the opening said he hasn't been to a single visual art reception, odd, since it would seem he'd want to reconcile with an art community that (at least before apathy set in) thought he was an asshole. Fat Chance.

The Schmooze

Shauna McCabe and Bruce Johnson were in attendance of course, and the two seem to have a steady if somewhat unspectacular vision for the future of the Rooms. I've known McCabe for a few years and I think she's an extremely capable director who won't rock Dean Brinton's boat too much. I've heard that she's applied for the big job on a more permanent basis, and I think she'd be a good one to keep around.

But man, the artists in St. John's sure are a funny group. They'll make fun of Johnson's dangle-y earrings until he's standing next to them, and then treat him with the kind of reverence and deferential treatment usually reserved for the Pope. It's unreal.

At Bianca's later in the evening, it was fascinating to watch nearly every artist in the room slowly make their way to the chair beside McCabe, a procession so over-friendly that I just wanted to tell them to give the woman your proposal and slide list and be done with it.