September 26, 2021

The end of September is one of those perfect times in the year; the honey-coloured light, the tension between perfection and decay, new clothes and sharpened pencils, and suddenly, Gallery Weekend!

Dahlias peak at the end of September

Everything feels tentative after this long period of fear, isolation and lockdown. I enter cautiously: masked, distanced, with proof of a second dose ready on my phone.

Will this city ever feel carefree again?

Maybe next year.


Bill Burns at MKG127

Installation of view of Bill Burns show at MKG127 titled “The Salt, The Oil, The Milk”

At MKG127 Bill Burns is into the third year of his slow performance, described below:

Bill began his slow performance called variously The Great Trade or The Great Donkey Walk in Amden Switzerland in 2018. With the help of two Donkeys, Bill carried salt from the local salt mine up some gentle slopes in the Swiss Alps and so this project began. Goat milking, donkey walking, sheep shearing, honey rendering, cheese making and occasionally country singing are Bill’s modes. This exhibition includes several dozen drawings that Bill refers to as “pre-documents”, pictures that depict events that have yet to occur, as well as “documents”, pictures of events that have already occurred.

MKG127 handout

The numerous drawings — which are small, pale, delicate watercolours, featuring text, which is sometimes descriptive and sometimes not — were apparently ripped from Bill Burns’ notebooks and then meticulously framed and hung in tight grids.

Detail of drawing by Bill Burns

Detail of drawing by Bill Burns

Installation view of drawings by Bill Burns

It’s such a liberating concept of what art could be: slow, thoughtful, lots of unexpected twists, delightful objects that spin off the activities and make sense in terms of the internal logic of the piece, big questions to mull over.

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Pennants by Bill Burns

I have yet to witness a Bill Burns performance but I am excited to report that I will attend one October 8th, at the Oculus on the Humber River Trail.

In the meantime, I appreciate the meandering, round about, surprising way this artwork touches on so many aspects of our present day world: Where does all the stuff that we have come from? How do things get done, made, traded, shipped, bought and sold? What is our connection to farms, to animals? What kind of hierarchies govern our lives? Our we wasting our time rushing around, getting, and spending? What does time even mean now?

Bill Burns walking a Donkey in Amden, Switzerland in 2018. This was the start of the slow performance.

I really like the way Bill Burns uniquely speculates, slows down and simplifies contemporary life, teases it apart and offers it to us — with a light and playful touch — for consideration.

And what about Donkeys? They are so appealing. I learned the following on The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada website:

Donkeys have been a cornerstone in human existence and they still prop up entire communities today, ferrying water, food and crops.

Donkey carrying water in Kenya



*****

Marcel Van Eeden at Clint Roenisch

Marcel Van Eeden is a major Dutch artist. I learned this from the many publications available at the Client Roenisch gallery, on the occasion of this exhibition, titled “Stolen Pictures.”

Drawing from the Rijks Museum series by Marcel Van Eeden

According to Client Roenisch, there is a key to this artist’s obsessive rendering of imagery which existed prior to his own birth. Marcel Van Eeden came into this world on November 22, 1963. Yes, that was the day JFK was murdered in Dallas! Even as a child Marcel Van Eeden saw the coincidence of the assassination of JFK and the beginning of his own life as an almost mystical nexus.

Marcel Van Eeden’s creative production has been to draw everything – “the light, the architecture, the travel, the people, the cities, the familiar, the foreign, the intrigue, the art, the violence, literally everything” — from the period including the start of photography and concluding at the moment of his own birth.

Drawing from the Rijks Museum series by Marcel Van Eeden

The drawings in the main gallery at Clint Roenisch — which all reference a distant art theft, including text and locale — are huge, powerful, intensely black (rendered in charcoal), and extremely elegant. They have a certain reckless vitality that also manages to be very precise.

Artwork by Marcel Van Eeden
Artwork by Marcel Van Eeden

There are also some small paintings, some in colour, also referencing the past, which is moving further and further away from Marcel Van Eeden.

Video about Marcel Van Eeden

I found this video on You Tube. It goes deep into the practice of this fascinating artist, his relentless drawing and his obsessions. There is very little talking in the video, although at one point the artist does explain his underlying motivations and what he’s getting at and why and just what its all about and so on… but then, of course, I don’t speak Dutch.


*****


Rae Johnson at Christopher Cutts Gallery

At the Christopher Cutts Gallery Rae Johnson’s paintings are on display. Sweeping vistas and low horizons, serene and majestic, filled with awe and reverence, these paintings express a deep and joyful love of nature and an acknowledge of the stark indifference we are all faced with — in our brief, frantic lives — as we look out, in a moment of calm, on this astonishing world.

STORM FRONT BREAKING, 1989, painting by Rae Johnson

The show is called “Of Light and Dark” Water, Land and Sky Paintings: 1989-2009.

SELKIRK/GROUND SHADOWS, 2008, painting by Rae Johnson

In many of her paintings, not shown here, Rae Johnson has depicted archetypes of depravity and redemption, populated by lonely, dreamlike sylphs in dimly lit nighttime haunts, or caught in painful scenes under a harsh fluorescent glare. This exhibition is another side of Rae Johnson’s work. Here, she is enthralled by the elements: air, light and colour

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STORM FRONT WINNIPEG MANITOBA, 1998, painting by Rae Johnson
GREEN SKY, 1989, painting by Rae Johnson

I wanted to bring the sublime into people’s existence.

Rae Johnson

It’s so uplifting to wander around the Chris Cutts Gallery, look at Rae’s paintings and realize that yes, she definitely succeeded in her goal.

*****

February 28, 2015

The Dufferin bus was suddenly drenched in a unfamiliar phenomenon: Sunshine!  We looked around, stunned, and blinked weakly.

MKG127 – Liza Eurich

What initially attracted me to drop by MKG127 and take in an exhibition by Liza Eurich was the appealing artist’s statement on the Gallery website. See below (reproduced in its entirety):

Eurich will be presenting work that: emphasizes negative space, is hollow, has a faceted surface, contains other work(s), is concealed, is layered, has multiple components, is not a multiple, is like a drawing, incorporates text, is stationary, has reticent characteristics, is monochromatic, uses straight lines only, references Agnes Martin, is fragile, consists of more than three materials, is made of ceramic, was built, is freestanding, requires a plinth, uses keyholes, uses a French cleat, is in its third iteration, is in a series of three, is positioned adjacently, is architectural, references something from an Ikea catalogue, is functional, is recognizable, does not resemble an animal, was almost omitted.

Based on this text I anticipated hardcore post-conceptual, neo-minimalist works but something about the slightly off-kilter, cannily understated writing assured me it would be fresh, distinctive and droll.

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Installation view of Liza Eurich exhibition

Just as the writing suggests, the exhibition, titled Either a New or Existing Character, is a collection of unique items with various attributes: is wood, is thin, is freestanding, hangs on the wall, painted white, stained and…. so on.  The art works are diverse but nearly all could be described as spare, restrained, subtle, precise and strangely reminiscent of some carefully crafted maquette or fragment of a maddening Ikea puzzle that just will not fit together.

The delicate piece below is fitted with what could possibly be a tantalizing scrap from an instruction manual.

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Eeeee: not for placing by Liza Eurich

I really liked the cool, deadpan industrial look of Liza Eurich’s larger sculptures.  They are so perfectly suited for some mysterious function.  Are they a tribute to the Scandanavian juggernaut on the Queensway?

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Freestanding two sided rack by Liza Eurich

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Shelving: six additions by Liza Eurich

Occasionally Liza Eurich adheres some murky graphics to her sculptures.  Apparently these images are from a single book found by the artist.  Possibly medical or antique technological illustrations, these random bits of imagery, placed with such constraint and exactitude, add to the sense of an architectural model but one that references time and atmosphere as well as structure.

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3 levels, pedestal base by Liza Eurich

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Two components, layered rectangle by Liza Eurich

Resting on a pedestal is an artpiece initally reminiscent of a vessel of some kind.  It’s made of deep black broken tiles which dip and swerve to encase a naturalistic form.  Mishapen, gnarly, almost expressive, the soft black tiles absorb and reflect light like a big lump of bitumen.

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Facets by Liza Eurich

Liza Eurich keeps her ideas on simmer and doesn’t give away too much.  I left the gallery with an appreciation for the subtle feeling of hesitancy and tension that was created.

November 1, 2014

Wet snow appeared briefly in the backyard this morning and it seemed that winter was looming as I set out to see some galleries along Dundas Street West, between Dufferin and Ossington, on this cold, blustery, overcast afternoon.

MKG127

I was surprised to see the work of Laura Kikauka (with Carl Hamfelt) at MKG127.   For some reason I had some vague, preconceived notion about what was waiting along this particular stretch of Dundas and this wasn’t it.

The show, which is entitled What Box?, is in fact filled with unanticipated and engrossing work that, as the title suggests, defies categorization.

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Stadium Moment $200

Laura Kikauda’s work is truly eccentric. She mines a rich vein of our consumer society’s debris to create numerous tiny, perfect worlds with her own uniquely disquieting sensibility. The show also contains video and various sculptures but it is the delicate, miniature dioramas which are the most fascinating aspect of this exhibition.

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Installation view of dioramas by Laura Kikauda

Each of the boxes, about four or five inches square or a bit larger, is accompanied by a title and a price, hand written by the artist.

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The Bright Underbelly of Subversion $300

Undoubtedly, the work is related to Joseph Cornell‘s boxes, through the form itself and the nod to
Surrealism, but whereas Cornell’s art evoked nostalgia and used fragments of desirable objects to create something referencing a lost reality, that is not the case with Laura Kikauka’s pieces. The materials she uses were never particularly precious or beautiful; instead she salvages that which was always more or less worthless. And the pieces she creates have a fragile, lyrical strangeness to them that is like the flotsam of another world.  Its easy to become transfixed before any of these odd pieces as they appear to capture moments in some transitory and unsettling narrative.

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Great Escape $280

One of the sculptural pieces uses black dominoes on which the artist has inscribed texts commonly found on tomb stones.  These solid little rectangles are Minimalism’s opposite.

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Wandering around the exhibition I realized I had visited this artist’s studio a few years ago in connection to the Electric Eclectic Festival, which is held near her home, known as The Funny Farm, in Medford, Ontario. There Laura Kikauka lives in a bizarre nest of thousands of found objects. With this exhibition she has shown an uncanny ability to edit a tiny fraction of those items into delicately evocative works of art.


ESP (Erin Stump Projects)

The show at ESP (Erin Stump Projects) has the svelte, young, stylish look I thought I would find along Dundas West.

Kotama Bouabane, who is exhibiting photographs and an installation on the main floor of the gallery, has taken a step up from Home Depot and RONA and explores the wonderful new materials available in the trade shows and interior design display outlets of the world. Outdated, Updated, Renovated is the name of this subtlety sophisticated show.

A sculptural installation consists of an array of materials displayed to create a tableau of colour, texture and surface.

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Kotama Bouabane also uses photography.  The artist captures incidental moments in the display universe to create almost formalist, painterly images which subvert the literal function of the materials.

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Upstairs at ESP is an exhibition called Painting with Fire.  It contains a number of ceramic pieces and photographs of ceramic pieces produced by Naomi Yasui during a residency in Denmark. These bulbous, ungainly forms, lightly mottled and coloured in nuanced gold and red, have a powerful, slightly menacing presence, like a science experiment gone wrong.

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According to the notes in the gallery, the process the artist used to make these works, known as “atmospheric firing” has a certain unpredictability.  The aspect of chance in the process is an important element in the work.  In that connection Naomi Yasui displayed a large box containing the process “rejects.”

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Details of “reject” items from Naomi Yasui’s exhibition


Le Gallery

I am a big fan of looking up close at unframed drawings.  Technically the art pieces by Scott Waters, pinned nakedly to the wall at Le Gallery are paintings – he uses something called acrylic ink –  but they have a deft freshness that feels drawing-like.  The deep, seductive blacks and unerring compositions make these art pieces a pleasure to view.

The content is intense.  From 1989 to 1992 Scott Waters served as an infantryman in the Third Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Bravo “B” Company.  Maybe that explains his focus on disaster and folly in the series.  The unrelenting twisters, the charred cabin of a downed airliner, the collapsed span: all have a Warhol-style cold eye on tragedy and mayhem.

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Some of the works have an emotional charge, like the depiction of the startled doe in headlights or the stoned chanteuse. We see the impending crisis and we want them to survive.

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