Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Douglas Coupland at the Rooms

I wasn't there, and I've yet to see the show myself, but already I've heard wildly varying opinions. Please leave comments about the show, and once I see it, I'll join in.

Have at it.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Festering, ReAnimated Corpse of Official Newfoundland Culture

I recently went to see High Steel at the Hall. Given that I know almost nothing about theatre, I just have one question to ask: Is there anyone else out there sick to death of being told how proud we should all feel for being Newfoundlanders? I know I am.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mike Hansen at James Baird Gallery in Pouch Cove

If I had to choose just one word to describe Mike Hanson’s early works on paper currently on display at James Baird Gallery in Pouch Cove, it would be this: Puke-y.

Maybe it was that I was incredibly hung-over from the night before (poker, Scotch) and that that very morning had vomited an evil-looking, purple, viscous liquid into my toilet just before the long drive to the Pouch Cove gallery. Maybe it was the fact that when Angela, Jim Baird’s partner and hostess of the opening offered me a glass of red wine upon my arrival, my stomach, the source of many a mysterious sound and much pain that day, threatened to propel it’s meagre contents onto the gallery floor. Maybe it was that one of Hansen’s pieces has the word BARF stencilled across it. Whatever it was, upon seeing Hanson’s early work, the colours and composition did nothing but remind me of regurgitated food.

This, however, is not necessarily a bad thing.

Hansen’s earlier encaustic works on paper (circa 1997-98) entitled the It’s Your Call Series are very weak when compared to the newer mixed media works on display. They look muddled and static and have none of the luminosity encaustic work has in the hands of a more skilled artist. There is a tepid attempt at criticism of post-modern art in Hansen’s collaged in photos of Jeff Koons’ Puppy and a Basquiat painting (stencilled with the words DUH, and EGAD respectively) which do nothing for me aside from reveal Hansen as something of a dimwit when it comes to skewering art he doesn’t like. The inclusion of Chinese Hell Bank Notes (traditionally burned to lessen the time an ancestor’s soul must spend in the Underworld) likewise left me cold as they only seemed to make the composition even less dynamic, more cramped and added nothing interesting conceptually.

Did you ever notice how when after you puke it’s like the hang-over just recedes and you can begin to concentrate on getting better without all that poison in your guts? It seems like that’s what happened to Hansen. Bigger, crisper, cleaner and immeasurably less puke-y, the newer works blow Hansen’s older stuff right off the gallery wall. It’s like he had to purge all the bad stuff from his system. From 2002-03, Vivasection and Storm show a confidence in gesture and handling of materials lacking in the It’s Your Call Series. I kept coming back to one piece, Gideon’s Holy Bibles (2003), a simple drawing of a precariously stacked column of red bibles looking as though they might fall right off the page onto the floor.

It’s interesting to note that Hansen’s recent move to Toronto from Newfoundland has brought out themes in his work related to the traditional iconography of visual art in this province. Fish, landscape and religion are a recurring preoccupation in the new stuff.

It’s also interesting to see an exhibit in which a sampling of an artist’s development over a five-year period is shown in the same space. It makes the earlier, puke-y works more understandable and necessary as growing pains in Hansen’s continued progress as an artist, though they sure didn’t help the health of my intestines the first time I saw them and they make the show as a whole feel more than a little uneven.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Arts Awards Gala and SchmoozeFest

Last night was the first of these I was able to attend and the one piece of advice I received over and over about the event was to dress lightly, it gets pretty fucking hot in the Reid Theatre. This turned out to be true, but from what I heard it wasn't nearly as bad as previous years.

If memory serves, the winners were: Emerging Artist: Duane Andrews ( he beat out Ali Pick and Tina Holter (who?)), Patron of the Arts: Dave Hopley of Living Planet. Art Educator: Benni Malone and Artist of the Year: Lisa Moore. It was hosted by Ruth Lawrence and Sherry White and Kelley Russell with Sean Panting and Anita Best (amongst others) providing the music. It was a pretty good event, especially with the opportunity to laugh at/with the step dancers from time to time, who despite screwing up occasionally, were really fun to watch.

The after party was absolutely jam packed with people and food and free drinks and there was this sort of glazed tension hanging in the air that's a mixture of nervousness and shyness and small talk and boredom and shmoozing. We didn't stay long for that.

Nicolas Fleming and Stephen Fisher at Eastern Edge

I had been looking forward to this show for quite some time, not only due to my interest in landscape in visual art, but also because of the project Nicolas Fleming has planned for when he visits sometime later in May.

Fleming, from Montreal, is put into a canvas bag, while wearing a canvas suit with no eye-holes, and brought into a non-urban enviroment. By which I mean a park, the woods, whatever. Fleming crawls around on the ground, attempting to get a feel for the landscape only through what he can touch and hear and smell. As you can imagine, the video documentation of this performance is hilarious, as we watch Fleming (who just looks like a canvas coloured blob on screen) sort of roll around on the grass while people look on. Fleming then takes what information he has gathered through this performance and attempts to make an accurate depiction of the landscape in a painting.

On display right now at Eastern Edge is the documentation and paintings from two previous performances Fleming did as a sort of teaser for when he actually arrives in St. John's.

Paired with Fleming is Stephen Fisher from Halifax, whose bright dynamic abstract paintings are just wonderful to look at and are just as interesting conceptually. What Fisher has done is to take data related to a particular location: weather patterns, animal migration routes, geological events etcetera and translates this data into visual elements.

When I see work that deals with landscape in this way it makes all of the traditional stuff that dominates Newfoundland art production seem that much more tedious. It runs until June 17th.

Art In Newfoundland partners with Current Magazine

Hi all. Sorry for my prolonged abscense. (Once again).

This week marks the beginning of an exciting partnership for me and Current Magazine in St. John's. I'll be writing art reviews for them and will be plugging this blog in the by-line of each article so that readers will be directed here to comment and so on. This issue's review is of Mike Hansen out at James Baird's space in Pouch Cove and I'll be posting it on Thursday, when the new issue of the magazine comes out.