Things of Desire Issue #5

September 18, 2008

Greetings ToD friends! This week we here at ToD are super excited for the official beginning of the Fall arts season. As the leaves start falling it’s time to get gallery hoping. And we’ll be here to guide you from gallery to gallery, so subscribe to Things of Desire by launching an email to thingsofdesire@gmail.com to make sure you know what’s the happy-haps. Enjoy!
—Mike Landry

By Mike Landry
Seth's model for "The North Star Talking Picture House."

Seth's model for "The North Star Talking Picture House." photo K.J. Bedford, KW|AG.

When Seth picks up his phone after a few short rings, the bell inside his rotary phone can be heard still faintly pitching its antiquated tone. The phone, like the Guelph-based cartoonist’s fictional city, Dominion, is typical of Seth’s anachronistic nostalgia-laced style.

This melancholic take on the modern city is taking Waterloo by storm this week. University of Waterloo’s Render Gallery presents Seth’s model Dominion City, complete with new Hall of Records style faux documents. And the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery has built a new functional life-sized model of Dominion’s theatre.

“I tend to think small I work in a studio I’m a cartoonist I never think of doing anything large so it was an interesting opportunity for me,” says Seth. “It’s a lot bigger than I imagined. I made plans so people could build it, and even though I put measurements still, somehow, I didn’t imagine it being bigger than a garden shed.”

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By Stacey Ho
Join in song with "Why we should Cry."

Join in song with "Why we should Cry."

At Montreal’s Cabot Square, Deborah Margo and Devora Neumark are organizing some unusual singing lessons. In a park celebrating the European colonization of Canada, immigrants and refugees will be sharing their mourning songs. During the course of six sessions, Neumark and Margo hope to create a public space for dialog and reflection in a project titled Why should we cry: lamentations in a winter garden.

“The notion of singing is something everybody can do. It’s not about having a beautiful voice. It’s about what can happen when people sing together.”

In a spirit of inclusiveness, the two artists have sought out teachers from a wide range of communities and experiences. Accompanied by a drum, Pierre Junoir Lefevre is leading the first session on September 21, sharing traditional mourning songs from his native Haiti. Considering the recent hurricane as well as the police shootings in Montreal’s Haitian community, these processional songs in French and Creole hit especially close to home.

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Measure your Morals

September 18, 2008

By Mike Landry
A more opulent shade of McQuitty's aesthetometer.

A more opulent shade of Jane McQuitty's aesthetometer.

Calgary artist Jane McQuitty used to think modern taste was natural. It seemed to her we were hardwired to enjoy things that are restrained and true to material.

After some reading she was shocked to discover just how culturally loaded out taste is. During the Victorian era, one’s taste became irrevocably linked to one’s moral standing. Good morals led to good taste, which would become the hallmark restraint of modern aesthetics. McQuitty’s just not to sure if she’s buying it anymore.

“That’s a cultural artifact, and I think we live in a cosmopolitan society now. I’m interested in sampling Calgarians and seeing where they fall on this,” says McQuitty. “Do they like the more elaborate and sensual work, or do they like the sort of minimalist daylight lit version. I would just like them to articulate that a bit for me.”

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By Mike Landry
Wilson's mixed media work, "Still Beautiful and Full of Promise."

Wilson's mixed media work, "Still Beautiful and Full of Promise."

With a four-month old baby boy to occupy her time, Toronto-based artist and new mommy Jen K Wilson hasn’t had much time to work. But her new series Mysterious Guests has become a lot more important.

Using drawings, photographs and imagery taken from catalogues and other sources Wilson produces photocopy transfers which she incorporates with oil painting to create a visual narrative. In Mysterious Guests, Wilson addresses her interest in vegetarianism and animal rights.

“I had produced a series of paintings called Dreams of Barbarians, which was very abstract and focused primarily on the meat industry.  With Mysterious Guests, I aimed to produce work that would be more accessible to a wider audience, as well as exploring some new territory, both thematically and technically,” says Wilson.

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By Mike Landry
"Morulas 3" features blown-up images of tiny cells.

"Morulas 3" features blown-up images of tiny cells.

Movement and suspension; big and small; figurative and abstract—Montreal artist Richard Deschênes newest series, Reproductions, creates poetry in opposition.

“In general all of my work is like the opposition between movement and suspended action. It’s about time, scale, and the process of how to build an image,” says Deschênes.

Although a mix of large 7×9 foot paintings and other smaller works, Deschênes also used small found images and blew them up to a obscurely large scale. Most of the images are from an old encyclopedia collection. Deschênes enlarged images that were two inches big to as three to five feet.

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Artist-Run Decentres

September 18, 2008

By Mike Landry
Take a closer look at artist-run culture with "Decentre."

Take a closer look at artist-run culture with "Decentre."

After eight book launches across Canada for Decentre: concerning artist-run culture, managing editor Robert Labossiere is exhausted. Considering Decentre is the only book of its kind in Canada, there’s a lot of people looking to check it out.

“There have been in articles in magazine and occasionally book anthologies that have tried to deal with what is an artist-run centre,” says Labossiere. “But early on we decided we weren’t going to do a book that was going to be an in depth analysis, or a compilation of those essays. That would make an interesting book in itself but that’s not this book.”

Shying away from the overly academic, Decentre features about a hundred contributors writing anywhere from 7 to 1000 word pieces. Labossiere and his editorial team provided contributors with a few questions to get them thinking, and most went off on their own tangents.

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Make Rugs Not War

September 18, 2008

By Stacey Ho
A shot of the "Battleground." photo by Jill Kitchener

A shot of the "Battleground." photo by Jill Kitchener

When war is a part of everyday existence, it also becomes a part of everyday culture. Driven out of home villages and encountering urban areas for the first time, mixing with disparate groups in refugee camps, Afghan weavers reflect the shared experiences of a country that has been a war zone since the Soviet occupation.

Battleground: Afghan war rugs brings together 118 rugs that reflect the lives of people cut off from Western media coverage. For curator Max Allen, the rugs, taken together, show a radical and disturbing shift towards modernity.

“The war is so spectacular and horrific,” he says, “that [weaving] traditions have been broken, except for technique. Representational tradition is broken, or exploded I guess is a better word.”

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If it ain’t Broke…

September 18, 2008

By Mike Landry
Patrick Neufeld's traditionally inspired "Deposition."

Christian Worthington's traditionally inspired "Deposition."

Seeking comfort in company, a group show between Winnipeg artists Christian Worthington and Patrick Neufeld was inevitable. Relics in a postmodern age, the artists share a deep theological concern in their art.

“If you see the show in person it becomes pretty obvious why the two of have a show together, because there’s just an old master consciousness to the images,” says Worthington. “You don’t do something once and then forget about it. Culture is built up by taking things of value and restating them over and over, every day”

Worthington’s traditional-styled paintings and Neufeld’s restrained print and encaustic works had made them aliens in a scene constantly seeking originality. On its own their work had a veneer of irony. Together the seriousness of their projects becomes apparent.

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From Fabrics to Flowers

September 18, 2008

By Mike Landry
One of Sally Ayre's new screen printed works.

One of Sally Ayre's new screen printed works.

After 15 years, Toronto-based artist Sally Ayre was ready for a change. She had made a name for herself using old photographic processes on translucent fabric that she would then layer to create images on images.

Replacing the fabric for the similarly translucent and textured Japanese paper Ayre set out to learn screen printing at Toronto’s Open Studio last Fall.

“You can only push a way of working so far and you need to shake it up a little bit,” says Ayre. “You get to a point you’ve really done all you wanted to do, and you don’t want to become redundant.”

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By Mike Landry
Onikoyi Photo Studio, Niamey, Niger, March 2008.

Onikoyi Photo Studio, Niamey, Niger, March 2008.

According to wikitravel, West Africa’s last surviving giraffe herd can be found just 45 minutes outside of Niamey, Niger. But when Montreal photographer Michel Campeau visited the French-African capital he was interested in another at-risk species—darkrooms.

Campeau’s latest project is a continuation of a book he published focusing on darkrooms in the Montreal area. Expanding his scope, he’s now working on a sequel that focuses on darkrooms around the world.

“After working for 35 years in darkrooms I finally decided to look at them,” says Campeau. “My project is about the photographic decline and the disappearance of the darkroom. That’s the reason I wanted to look at them, because they’re slowly disappearing everywhere.”

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