March 21, 2014

Knots of people loitered on the street like teenagers as the sun started to have some real meaning.  It was an afternoon to saunter.

Trinity Square Video

The work on display at Trinity Square Video, called The Cloud of Unknowing, by Ho Tzu Neyen, put me off lunch.   The camera lingered over plates of rotting food and maggots, appalling skin diseases, obese half naked people, fetid water and a heavy set man wearing a Depend.

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Still from The Cloud of Unknowing by Ho Tzu Neyen

The soundtrack could be described as ambient metal or dark ambient with an overlay of heavy breathing and occasional bursts of quite good drumming.  There is no dialogue.   A collection of vaguely surrealistic and improbable tableau vivant were linked with a cloud/steam/fog image.  At the conclusion of the presentation a fan switches on somewhere and a  steamy vaporous cloud wafts into the dark viewing room as the screen fades to a blinding white. It’s disorienting.

Showing video in art galleries has always been challenging.  On this Saturday afternoon I became aware of an apparent new trend in the medium: a material manifestation (literal fog or cloud in this case) of the onscreen work.

(Fog was one of the key components of a memorable art piece I saw in London by Olaf Elliason called The Weather Project.  In that case viewers in the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall became so spaced out they lay on the floor, staring up at the fog shrouding a dim sun in the mirrored ceiling far above.  The fog created a dreamlike atmosphere and seemed to release all kinds of inhibitions. )

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The Weather Project by Olaf Elliason

Ten minutes away from Trinity Square Video, at the Georgia Scherman Project, there is an anything goes atmosphere as an art installation/perfume launch is underway.  The space is very dark and very fragrant.  A short black and white video loop is playing is which a model clomps up a circular stairway in what appears to be a dank cave or grotto of some sort.  The soundtrack is ambient metal.  No dialogue.  The floor is littered with black confetti which has been heavily doused in the fragrance.  The artist wants to create a particular atmosphere.  At the counter – I mean desk – sachets of Andrea Maack’s upcoming fragrance “Dual” are handed out.

The gallery staff mentioned the plan for the video to go viral.  You never know what’s going to catch on.  More than 40 million people have watched: Double Rainbow.

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Samples of the fragrance “Dual” by Andrea Maacke

The idea for the black confetti underfoot – more material manifestation – is that the public will inadvertently track it out into the neighbourhood and disperse the olfactory offering up and down Techumsah Street and beyond.

Susan Hobbs Krista Buecking

Next door at Susan Hobbs I thought I was in more conventional terrain.  Big, beautiful framed art pieces hung on the walls.  But at the moment of entering the gallery a soundtrack is triggered: swelling violins and “This Magic Moment’ by the Drifters spills into the space.

In the exhibition, titled Matters of Fact, Krista Buecking creates equisitely subdued atmospheric fades and then suspends hard edged graphics above them on the encasing glass.

For me, although the music was an endearing touch, the art pieces could totally stand alone.  It did strike as me as amusing that whereas the media artists want some ambient element scattered about the painter selects an old school emotional torch song to create an atmosphere.

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codified form B by Krista Buecking

Mist, fog, dreaminess, atmosphere.  Those seems to be the themes for this beautiful sunny afternoon.

March 7, 2014

Today a 25 year old man was rescued by the authorities as he tried to walk from Detroit to Toronto on the ice of Lake St. Claire.  He had been on the ice for a couple of days when found, improperly dressed and without a cell phone or life jacket.  “He was in the beginning stages of hypothermia,”  said the commander of the Coast Guard cutter who spotted him, “It took him a long time to formulate his thoughts.”  This guy could not have been thinking clearly from the start.  It’s March now.  The sun has a new strength.  Soon all this ice and snow will disappear and be forgotten.

Barbara Edwards Contemporary Art – Medrie MacPhee

The oil paintings by Medrie MacPhee, on display at the Barbara Edwards Contemporary Art, point to a cycle of change.  Awakening, destruction and renewal are quite literally the subject matter of this work, as embodied in that epic domestic event: the home renovation.

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The Force of Things by Medrie MacPhee

Openings are excavated as layers of surface are ripped away.  Heaps of material lie in ruins, shredded, frayed and broken.  Orientation is subjective as up or down could be anywhere.

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Bayou II by Medrie MacPhee

In most of the painting familiar building materials are rendered: lathing, flashing, duct work, sheet rock, even bits of copper pipe.

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Detail from painting by Medrie MacPhee

These paintings of a domestic interior in upheaval bring up lots of ideas: the mayhem of warzone collateral damage, the destruction of security and relationships, psychological states of painful renewal, transition, damage, change.

I haven’t gone through a homeowner renovation but I notice that when people talk about these traumatizing experiences they invariably use the word “nightmare.”  I imagine it could be nightmarish to witness the demolition phase.  In most of the paintings a looming black void is present.  Maybe its about a feeling of dread that must occur when the sledgehammers come out and you know there is no turning back.

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The New House by Medrie MacPhee

The Look

The Look by Medrie MacPhee

Formally these paintings are so interesting to look at.  They have churning quality which somehow emerges through the compositional elements being strung together with attenuated shadows, cracks and slablike edges.  In some pieces it appears the artist has used canvas like paper collage, adhering layers like a construction site patch job that adds to the sense of heaving movement.

One of the most absorbing pieces is in fact a paper collage.  It has a lightness and freshness that is very appealing.

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Rummage by Medrie MacPhee

There is a Portuguese bakery a couple of doors up Bathurst from Barbara Edwards Comtemporary Art.  We dropped in after the show and totally obliterated some flakey, cream filled confections.

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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.