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Akimbo is a Toronto-based company that promotes contemporary visual art, video, new media and film locally, nationally and internationally via the internet. Established in November, 1999, Akimbo has built a readership of more than 6,800 Canadian and international media and visual arts professionals and a client base of some of the country's most important galleries, museums, art institutions and film and video festivals.

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    Walking into Fabienne Lasserre’s exhibition Les Approaches at Parisian Laundry, I immediately envy the Brooklyn-based artist’s practice in a very physical way. I want to stretch with the shapes of her forms. I want to follow the delicate lines and gauge their tensions. Instead, I will have to make do with just looking at her work – which is in itself a pleasure.



    Fabienne Lasserre, Les Approaches, installation view (photo: Guy L'Heureux)

    Lasserre’s colourful sculptures fill the main floor of Parisian Laundry. Grouped closely together, it’s almost impossible to study them separately. The negative space of one sculpture provides a view onto the positive space of another. They seem to bend and stretch to one another, their colours and shapes echoing throughout the gallery. Each is grounded in its own being while sharing a purpose or conversation. The sculptures are made human scale and are relatively flat, so that they appear like paintings pulled off of their canvas and stuck freestanding in space. In some sense they evoke modern abstract painting, but, of course, it’s been undone. The works are made to look imperfect and cobbled together, using materials such as cardboard, felt, wood, steel, and linen, but with very particular attention to detail. Despite the fragility of their material presence, these objects have found their posture and sit with confidence and poise in the gallery space. The beauty of the work in Les Approches is that it is not as straightforward as it first appears. It is complicated with contradiction and ambiguity that rewards slow viewing.


    Parisian Laundry: http://parisianlaundry.com/en
    Fabienne Lasserre: Les Approches continues until November 28.


    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.


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    The danger in asking someone to look closely is that they’ll focus their gaze and lose sight of all that surrounds them. If you want someone to become more attentive to the world, it’s better to ask them to listen closely, which opens the ears and brings in a wider range of perception so that selection is usurped by immersion. There is less control in listening and more reception, less of the subject and more subjection. This relinquishing of authority is difficult since we’re so used to being in charge of meaning, of creation, of the planet. But in the age of the Anthropocene when our behavior as a species is putting all that matters at risk, perhaps the time is right for us to stop telling the world what it can do for us and listen to what it has to say.



    Robert Wysocki, traction

    All this might sound like a sermon from a hippie tree-hugger, but the artists in Blackwood Gallery’s current exhibition – with the mouthful of a title: The pen moves across the earth: it no longer knows what will happen, and the hand that holds it has disappeared– are nothing of the sort. Their objectivity in depicting the world or in allowing it to behave as it will is cool, calculated, and purposefully alienating. The result is an unfamiliar objectivity that’s been forgotten after decades of self-absorption. Tim Knowles’ ink trails follow creases in folded and crumpled paper but mark their own path. Robert Wysocki’s 30 000 pound pile of sand works its way across the gallery floor at the speed of erosion. Both artists hand over much of the process to the materials themselves (and if this reminds you of pre-hippie mindful music making by the likes of John Cage, I’m thinking the same thing too).



    Kara Uzelman, Magnetic Stalactites

    When human hands are more obviously at play – such as in Pascal Grandmaison’s hi-def slo-mo reverse entropy videos or Kara Uzelman’s carefully constructed post-consumer stalactites – it helps to see the artist as a magician’s assistant, someone who is only there to facilitate the trick. Grandmaison’s illusion is of a return to order after a violent disturbance. His systems (water surfaces, decomposing wood) are inherently fragile, so it’s difficult to assess the damage of his interventions – but that’s the point. Uzelman’s additions to the gallery architecture could evoke any number of other things (including the weight of personal history imbued in mass-produced domestic products), but in this context they highlight the material essence of her metal pots and pans that ties them back to elemental forces like magnetism. No matter how long they’ve lived in our homes, they can’t shed their origins in the earth and are called back to it through a physical attraction.

    If you do as I did and left the gallery to wander through the campus, taking in the material presence of its striking architecture before getting lost on a trail through scrub brush to the south only to end up on a cliff overlooking the Credit River, then the exhibition’s concerns will travel with you and your senses, piqued by the work within, will be subject to the world without.


    Blackwood Gallery: http://www.blackwoodgallery.ca
    The pen moves across the earth… continues until November 29.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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    “I value difficulty,” Derek Dunlop concedes at the close of an interview accompanying End-Forms, his first solo show at Lisa Kehler Art + Projects. By this point it in the conversation, it goes without saying. Pressed to examine the emotional and subjective angles of his approach and asked what it might mean “to queer colour,” he doubles down, insistently grounding the work in exploration of varying pigment bodies and reductive compositional devices. “I’m not entirely sure what it means to queer colour,” he pushes back, “and I’m not entirely sure that I am queering colour.”



    Derek Dunlop, Promise, 2015, acrylic and oil on canvas

    Fair enough. As a category, “queernees” is useful for its breadth and inclusivity, while Dunlop and his process are nothing if not particular. As reclaimed insults go, “effete” might be closer to the mark, both in its current connotations (affected, ineffectual, effeminate) and the original, Latin-derived sense (worn out from bearing young, barren, spent). Doubly cutting for its layered misogyny, Dunlop appears to embrace the attitude strategically. While playing it straight, he affects a kind of low-key camp intervention, suffusing exhausted lineages of post-painterly and post-Minimal abstraction with faltering poignancy and the occasional vague threat.

    Comprising precise titrations of hand-prepared oil colour arranged by systematically cleaving squares from rectangles, Dunlop’s canvases languish in an air of inevitability, hemmed in by their process and precedents alike. Still, their surface rigor belies what read as sentimental choices, complicating them. The work is resolutely pretty. Dunlop tarts up anemic grisailles with cosmetic smears of coral and hot pink, while swatch studies pinned to the walls read the preoccupations of colour field painting into the vernacular of interior decorating. Palette knife streaks in layers of cold wax or some other medium create illusory wrinkles in the canvas, suggesting inverted points of contact between fabric and skin. A knot of brushstrokes in one painting (Cherish) implies a navel, but the complexion is corpselike. Like the first hint of jaundice, an almost imperceptible yellow creeps at the edges of four abstract windowpanes on light grey.



    Derek Dunlop, Cherish, 2015, oil and acrylic on canvas

    The show is hung conspicuously low, making the gallery feel more than usual like the basement space it is while reinforcing the conceit – signaled by tables laid out with ephemera and works on paper – of a studio setting. A sense of furtive self-expression (Dunlop allows that his process has become “slightly more poetic”) is clearest in the handful of drawings included – forensic excisions and archaeological rubbings on paper. Searching clouds of chalk and charcoal fingerprints tease out hidden indentations, insinuating anything from repressed memory and old wounds to (in the case of some that trace the lines of ledger paper) a second set of books.

    I don’t know if the work itself is “difficult” so much as deliberately withholding. Either way, its prickly ambiguities at least leave open the possibility that there really is something vital left to search for in Dunlop’s worn out “end-forms.”


    Lisa Kehler Art + Projects: http://www.lkap.ca/current-1/2015/10/24/derek-dunlop
    Derek Dunlop: End-Forms continues until December 5.


    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.


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    Computers make bad art. That's what I concluded after visiting InterAccess's current group exhibition entitled Once Removed. I'm pretty sure that wasn't the curator’s point, but it's still worth noting. I had just read Raffi Khatchadourian’s profile of philosopher Nick Bostrom in last week’s New Yorker and was wondering why ethics garnered such short shrift in the Oxford-based intellectual’s speculating about our inevitable immortality and/or extinction as a species due to the equally inevitable emergence of artificial intelligence. Then, after seeing this exhibition, I realized there was also no mention of aesthetics or art (except for the description of Bostrom's overwrought symbolist paintings). My only conclusion is that computers are great at crunching numbers and processing data, but they ain't got no soul. And if it’s art or heart you’re in need of, soul is what you have to have.



    Brandon A. Dalmer, 101_copy_2svg, 2015, acrylic on canvas stretched over panel

    So what does it mean to have soulless art? That's a valid question and it’s what makes this exhibition worth looking at. Be they metaphors or models, machines have long served as mirrors to help us understand ourselves. Computers are now the reigning approximation and have progressed at such a clip that they exceed us in many ways. However, as artists they have a way to go. Admittedly, Once Removed isn’t home to MIT-league supercomputers and the conceit of the exhibition includes the human inventors, but even at this consumer electronic level, when left to their own devices, the artificial artists fall short. Curator Brandon A. Dalmer’s abstract graphic canvases look exactly like the paintings you’d expect a computer to make. Laura Hudspith and Nicholas Zirk act as assistants to paint for a program that responds to the picture as it progresses, but the finished pieces on display (alongside a video of the art being made) lack a centre of gravity and succumb to the status of wallpaper.



    Tobias Williams, Procedural, 2015, generative animation

    What generates that missing gravity? I’m enough of an unrepentant romantic to point a finger at unbridled emotion. Can you program a computer to feel anger, disgust, or longing? And why would you bother making it suffer so? Even the less regimented works in the show, like Tyler Vipond’s internet mashing collages or Tobias William’s Cheetos-orange lump, fail to compel. Which, if you ask me, is a reason to celebrate and then ask some more questions. What does this tell us about art in a negative way? That is, what’s missing must be what’s required for art because all the other elements are there. I’m tempted to compare it to an exhibition of work by children or monkeys or art school students – and I sincerely don’t mean that as an insult – because the failure to reach fruition is what makes the experience fascinating.


    InterAccess: http://interaccess.org/
    Once Removed continues until December 19.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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    Calgary has become a hotbed for grassroots artist-run activity operating outside of the longstanding government-sanctioned centres in the city. Avalanche! is on the leading edge of this group of upstarts, operating a gallery and a couple of studios to supplement the cost of programming. Three Sheets to the Wind is the gallery’s three-year anniversary exhibition and functions as a digest of its 2015 calendar by featuring one editioned print from each exhibited artist.



    Meghan Dyck, Avalanche! Edition No. 21, 2015

    Artists Cassandra Paul and Nate McLeod operate and program the space. Over the past year they put together a compelling program of small, well appointed solo exhibitions by primarily local artists at varying stages of emergence. They also produce the aforementioned multiples, but cleverly avoid the usual pitfalls of ARC swag by making the medium (archival inkjet print) and scale (20” x 14”) consistent. The show is a handy primer of worthy Southern Alberta artists, including particularly strong pieces by Omar Lalani, Meghan Dyck, Miruna Dragan, and Linsday Sorrell. The diversity of the prints is striking. In a time when group exhibitions look increasingly homogenous, there is a pleasing amount of aesthetic tension here.

    This yearend summary makes me curious to see how Avalanche! will develop. Hopefully they’ll move beyond solo exhibitions. I have nothing against single artists shows but Cassandra and Nate (whose day jobs are at WordFest and Contemporary Calgary respectively) clearly have something to say and I’m interested in what that might look like across a varied exhibition structure.

    And it goes without saying that this is a fairly ideal opportunity for holiday gift shopping. At $150 a pop the editions are a great way to enhance (or start) an art collection while supporting Calgary’s scrappy contemporary art community.


    Avalanche!: http://avalancheavalanche.com/
    Three Sheets to the Wind continues until December19.


    Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.


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    Gathie Falk’s fifty-year retrospective at Equinox Gallery is a forest of repeated objects. In the west gallery are piles of oblong ceramic spheres glazed to resemble fruit and snowballs, and then stacked and named in the uptight, indexical spirit of Minimalism (e.g. Arsenal: 140 Snowballs or 20 Apples). As you move further into the gallery, the piles get smaller, suggesting that in a ceramic parallel universe a snowball fight or a bad comedy show has occurred in the time it takes to traverse the room.



    Gathie Falk

    In the east gallery, cloth and shoe are the reigning referent. Tom’s Shirt A-E is a suite of sculptures depicting five collared shirts with variations on a pinstripe pattern and tie combo. An invisible wearer, presumably Tom, strikes the same meager outstretched arm. Single Right Men’s Shoes is a series of ceramic caste shoes behind glass in wood cabinets. Falk’s clothing always poses lackadaisically, despite the absence of wearers.

    Sometimes the gallery’s back room will exhibit a small body of work by an artist different from whoever is featured in the main space, and the sedately abstract paintings composed of small pastel strokes that are currently on display there surely aren’t of the same mind as the works in the larger rooms. But, in fact, they are from Falk’s painting series Pieces of Water. This period of her paintings in the eighties is such a visual leap from the other works (although nothing from the late seventies is represented) that it proves she is not preoccupied with a neat visual teleology of her practice. She has just made whatever was in her mind. With all the domestic narratives that food and clothing bring up, the exhibition is appropriately not titled The Things in My House.


    Equinox Gallery: http://www.equinoxgallery.com/
    Gathie Falk: The Things In My Head continues until December 12.


    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.


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    Unless you’re kidding yourself, all landscape photography is now a horror show. It’s soaked in death and each image is a memento mori that includes us all – not just “you will die”, but “we’re all going to die”. There is nothing great about the outdoors. Nature no longer exceeds us petty humans, belittling us while at the same time opening up an immensity that we can share in, because we’ve effectively killed it (or, at least, we’re steps from striking a deathblow unless something radical, unforeseen, and uncharacteristic happens in Paris this week). We made nature so. We also made it unbeautiful, because any instance of it is now subject to the threat of ruination, any attempt to idealize it is guilty of nostalgia, any attempt to regain its prelapsarian innocence is at best naïve and at worst misleading us about its rampant destruction.



    John Wyatt, Fault Line X, from the series Fault Line, 205, silver gelatin print on resin-coated paper

    With these happy thoughts in mind I wandered among the tree-strewn photographs on view at Circuit Gallery, the once nomadic commercial gallery that has shared a space with Prefix ICA at 401 Richmond since 2014. The three contributing artists – Eamon MacMahon, John Wyatt, and Chris Bennett– all turn their lenses to nature and suffuse it with a sense of dread. Wyatt's murky portraits of invasive vines suffocating large swaths of tropical forest are ripe with metaphorical potential. The gothic underpinnings of his (as well as the other two’s) work exudes a repressed return with terrifying consequences. Shot in twilight and printed with silver gelatin, the photographs appear from a distance to be minimalist charcoal paintings and up close resemble ancient stonework. An obdurate silence is the defining quality throughout. Bennett's dark forest scenes are, in contrast, almost lighthearted, but they too express an alienation from nature that cities were built to keep at bay. The fear of woods has long been a reminder of how we are visitors, not masters, of certain places on the planet.



    Eamon MacMahon, Yukon Woods, 2009, archival pigment print

    The same misapprehension is experienced from a different angle with Eamon MacMahon's God's eye views of our northern dominion, giving us a falsely transcendental perspective on all that we've damaged. The clusters of tiny trees in an Alberta valley look like hair follicles on a scalp halfway through the devastation of male pattern baldness. And three dots on a frozen barrens are the only signs of non-vegetative life in the entire gallery. If that makes the exhibition sound like a big bummer, it is and it isn't. The terror and beauty of nature used to threaten to destroy our selves; now we are the destroyers and nature is at risk, but terror and beauty remain.


    Circuit Gallery: http://www.circuitgallery.com/
    Apprehensions continues until December 19.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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  • 12/10/15--02:17: 2015 Critic's Picks
  • Traces That Resemble Us was this year’s essential screening series. Hosted by the Pacific Cinémathèque, each film was chosen and often introduced by an artist whose practice is informed by or intersects with cinema. An elegantly designed pamphlet containing the exhibition text by Aaron Peck provided insight into some overlooked parts of Vancouver’s art history that formed alongside cinema and filmmaking. A concurrent group exhibition at Monte Clark Gallery brought together work by contributing artists such as Vikky Alexander, Roy Arden, Owen Kydd, Myfanwy MacLeod, and Jeff Wall.



    Dan Starling, The Chorus

    Media Arts at the Western Front consistently captured my attention with the arrival of curator Allison Collins. We were taken on a tour of Hootsuite prefaced by a reading by Tyler Coburn in one of their West Coast-themed boardrooms, amidst the doldrums of “summer shows” was an installation of Corin Sworn’s The Rag Papers mounted in the Luxe Hall, and in The Chorus Dan Starling delivered research in-process for a film, recited dithyrambs with the audience, and pointed out the political sub-text of Star Wars: Episode 3.

    Lastly, television in 2015 is ending on a high note, reminding us that how we entertain ourselves is changing, but quality storytelling will always be the crux of our avenues of engagement. In Wrestling Isn’t Wrestling, screenwriter Max Landis and a cast of young actors attempt to explain the bizarre appeal of professional wrestling. As a wrestling fan myself, I can verify that this is a task met by much incredulity. Through Landis’ improvised narration of the career of one of WWE’s most iconic performers – Triple H – and with a cast of gender-swapped wrestlers, he attests to wrestling’s often-powerful storytelling with zeal and confronts the reminder that “wrestling’s not real, you know” with levity when he affirms that reality has never been a prerequisite to our collective desire to connect with characters and invest ourselves in alternate universes.


    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.


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  • 12/10/15--05:38: 2015 Critic's Picks
  • When I moved to Calgary late in 2014 I definitely never expected to see the NDP win a provincial election. It was the most pleasant of surprises. Still harbouring trauma from BC’s most recent provincial election, I walked around for weeks in disbelief. Things are pretty grim in Alberta these days, but I’m still cautiously hopeful that this shift will be good for arts and culture in the city. I feel the same federally.



    Patrick Cruz’s Otherings at Secret 8 Project Space

    The not-ARC, not-commercial gallery, not-museum upstart space has become increasingly interesting here. Places like Secret 8 (operated out of the bottom of a skateboard shop) and AVALANCHE! (a studio/exhibition space/multiples shop) had some the most compelling exhibitions I’ve seen this year. People in Calgary are really great at making their own fun. Take both the now ten-year-old indie culture juggernaut Sled Island and the brand new Femme Wave feminist art festival as indicators of the spectrum of cool shit that people are working on. With Contemporary Calgary, the Illingworth Kerr Gallery, and the Glenbow all currently without full-time director/curators of contemporary art, this community is picking up the slack and leading culture in the city from the grassroots up.

    I admittedly have not spent much time in Alberta outside of Calgary (I’ve been to, uh, Banff), but I have spent some time in Lethbridge at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery. Here’s another instance of a super-strong regional gallery (like Oakville Galleries in Ontario and Presentation House in BC). The SAAG is killing it with their exhibitions and programming, including shows from Antonia Hirsch, Elaine Stocki, and Brendan Fernandes. It seems to be one of the only institutions in Alberta that is actively participating in contemporary art nationally and internationally (through primarily exhibiting Canadian artists), all the while attracting a remarkably dedicated and enthusiastic local audience.


    Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.


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  • 12/10/15--05:43: 2015 Critic's Picks
  • It was a decisive year for Canada as a nation. We became politicized in a way that I’ve never witnessed before, and the Montreal art community was no exception. As I sifted through the projects and exhibitions I experienced in 2015, I noticed that some of the more compelling ones connected, in one way or another, with a desire for change.



    Shuvinai Ashoona & Shary Boyle, Black Marble

    Shuvinai Ashoona and Shary Boyle’s collaborative exhibition Universal Cobra, currently on view at Pierre-François Ouellette Art Contemporain, is one of the best gallery shows I’ve seen this year. The project emerged from time the two artists spent together in Cape Dorset. Ashoona’s drawings are complex, beautiful and insightful, and while I’m not always a fan of Shary Boyle’s practice, the works she has included in this show, particularly the sculptures, are among her best. The two artists have also created a number of collaborative drawings where their heterogeneous styles lusciously compliment one another. Catch this symbolic of example of “Nation to Nation” collaboration before it closes on Dec 19!

    In Justin Trudeau’s riding of Papineau, artist Chris Lloyd made the run-up to election day that much more interesting. Between his subversive tongue-in-cheek infiltration of the local Conservative riding association, to becoming the official Tory candidate for Papineau, his resignation, and return as an Independent candidate, Lloyd’s project engaged and challenged the democratic process and the Conservative Party in particular. Plus seeing his “Chris Lloyd for Papineau” signs around the neighbourhood, delightfully illustrated by artist Clément de Gaulejac, was an added bonus!

    I first found out about the Entrepreneurs du commun’s Monument to the Victims of Liberty in the SBC’s dense and engaging exhibition Talk Show. The collective’s multi-platform project is a counter response to the Harper government's Memorial to the Victims of Communism. Consisting of an open call for proposals, exhibitions, a symposium, walks, and other events, the Entrepreneurs du commun’s project thoroughly explores the instrumentalization of the concept of liberty in relation to the idea of commons. Now with the new government pulling their funding, the collective might just get their wish.


    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.


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    My mother was a gardener and my father was a sailor. The relevance of this didn’t occur to me until about twenty minutes into my visit to Katzman Contemporary to see Patrick Mahon's exhibition Nonsuch Garden. She liked to keep her feet on the earth while he liked to ride the waves. Their differences seemed irreconcilable and their pastimes rarely overlapped, but on reflection – and with the aid of Mahon’s spliced together collages of greenery and rigging – they had more in common than I ever realized.



    Patrick Mahon, Nonsuch Garden Wall Panel (Diagram), 2015, digital image collage on wood panel

    Their respective working surfaces might differ, but gardeners and sailors are both engaged in the task of bending the free-for-all of nature to their will. The degree to which this will is imposed can differ depending on sensibility or temperament; it can be a collaboration or a wrestling match, and it never ends in triumph – the mortal must inevitably stand down. However, in those moments of engagement, the gardener measures the seasons, orders the arrangements, and trims what exceeds the design. The sailor calculates the direction of wind and current, predicts the weather patterns, and charts his routes. Both either find or apply an order to their world and the best of them – the artists among them, not the tyrants – forgo domination for a touch of freedom.



    Patrick Mahon, Nonsuch Garden Sail/Botanical #1 (Cornflower), 2015, digital print and stenciled resin paint on plexiglass

    Mahon doesn’t so much capture this (because that would be oppressive) as open a window onto it. His photo-collages on wood panels foreground the medium, enlarging images until they break down into pixels. Then he cuts out each individual pixel to mix shrubbery into sails like a botanist breeding a new plant or a sailor splicing rope. A pair of prints on glass are portholes that layer 19th Century vessels over invasive plants to highlight the colonial narrative that is already embedded in the language of both garden and sea, and an inescapable part of their history. There is a lot of the past here, not just my personal past but our collective, global past. What might look abstract and aesthetic is in fact historical and any sailor, gardener, or artist worth their salt will be well aware of their heritage. Without it, you can’t predict the future.

    The centre of the exhibition is a collage exploded into three dimensions and created in collaboration with an artist named Dickson Bou. Slats are woven into rough panels and suspended by ropes and clamps to a support beam that stands in for a mast. Here the artists leave earth and water to evoke wind and air. They achieve a precarious balance working with the tensile quality of their materials to create something temporary, fragile, unnatural, and moving. That’s what I see here and I expect it’s what my folks thought as they enjoyed their respective dominions.


    Katzman Contemporary: http://www.katzmancontemporary.com/
    Patrick Mahon: Nonsuch Garden continues until December 19.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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  • 12/17/15--05:12: 2015 Critic's Picks
  • It might be year-end burnout talking, but 2015 has seemed like less than a banner year for art in Winnipeg. There were modest highlights, certainly, but these came punctuated by some discouraging setbacks. The building that housed C Space got shut down in August. RAW closed after five years in June. The WAG is still full of Greek sculpture. The programming at Urban Shaman has been worrisome, to put it mildly. Even Plug In scaled back operations, running just three major exhibitions and moving its offices into former gallery space.

    Elsewhere things were fine, I guess? Everyone loves Martha Street. Platform’s shows were thoughtfully curated and beautifully installed, if a little lifeless. The Maison des Artistes has been kookier than usual, but I’m kind of into it. Anyway, there were plenty of spaces to put a hopeful spin on things, so here are three...



    Ming Hon, Chase Scenes #1-58 (photo: Karen Asher)

    After a few off seasons, Aceartinc. perked up this summer beginning with Ming Hon’s riveting and complicated Chase Scenes #1-58, followed close on its heels by a terrific Craft Council group show and Andrea Roberts’s menacing Yolk of Menial Light. The gallery’s announcement this fall that its Flux space would become a juried venue for emerging artists was one of the year’s most welcome developments, and the product of its first Indigenous Curatorial Residency, a promising four-person exhibition curated by Niki Little, is set to kick things off in 2016.

    After a tumultuous first year, a rebooted Actual Contemporary worked under new director Alex Keim to reposition itself, diversifying its roster and tailoring its exhibition program to be more responsive. The gallery co-sponsored the fall’s massive, multi-venue ceramics symposium, staging a punchy little satellite exhibition by gallery artists, and it just hosted Video Pool’s sprawling Age of Catastrophe, easily the year’s most ambitious group show. The new year sees plans to make the most of gallery space with concurrent shows by Ian August, Erica Mendritzki, and Grace Nickel set to open January.

    Last up, Also As Well Too is the apartment-based artist book library willed into existence by Alexis Kinloch, whose gumption puts the rest of us to shame. In less than a year, the library has built a collection of over 250 donated artist publications and long-term loans, which have already travelled to partner venues around the city and across the prairies on a six-city Western Canadian tour featuring performances by Ray Fenwick. All this – in addition to the workshops, speaking engagements, book launches, and production-oriented artist residences – makes me think I should stop complaining and take a hard look at what I’m doing with my life.

    On that note, catch you in 2016. I’m going to bed.


    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.


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  • 12/17/15--07:01: 2015 Critic's Picks
  • The email that rocked Toronto’s art community and sent shivers across the country landed smack dab in the middle of the year on an otherwise innocuous afternoon in June. Jessica Bradley Gallery was no more. Sure galleries come and go, but this one was at the top of the heap and the shuttering caught many (even, it seems, some of the gallery’s artists) by surprise. The possible reasons for the closing were widely discussed over the summer, but even after Bradley broke her silence, the answers people wanted to hear weren’t forthcoming. The gallerist’s business is her business, but the public’s interest was not so much gossip fodder as the concern that if she could go down, what’s holding up any of the equal or lesser galleries. I’ll be the first to admit that the economics of art baffle me, but money makes the world go ‘round and if one of the seemingly central generators of said motion suddenly grinds to a halt, then basic survival on all levels becomes even more of a worry.

    On the flipside, there were also plenty of positive developments with a mini-exodus to the wilds of Dupont (followed a fraction of a second later by condo developers), MOCCA announcing its new digs way out west (where I live), two separate proposals for a Toronto biennial (too nineties, if you ask me), upstart spaces like Younger Than Beyoncé and Autumn Gallery emerging, and (this just in!) the redoubtable Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and University of Toronto Art Centre rebranding to combine forces under the twin curatorial powerhouses of Barbara Fischer and Sarah Robayo Sheridan. The Six (as Drake says) is definitely not dead yet.



    Marlon Griffith, Ring of Fire

    The most joyous art event of the year took place on a blisteringly sunny day in August when a willfully heterogeneous group representing the smorgasbord of cultures and communities in the T-Dot gathered under the aegis of AGYU curator Emelie Chhangur and the artistic vision of Marlon Griffith to parade – literally! – down University Avenue in his years-in-the-organizing Ring of Fire. They were greeted and followed by a bounty of familiar faces from the art community and surrounded by confused, delighted, and patient drivers representing the city's ubiquitous traffic community (aka the Car People). The parade wound up – literally, again! – at Nathan Phillips Square as part of the opening ceremonies for the Parapan Am Games (the cultural component of which also included the mammoth multi-venue The Flesh of the Worldexhibition curated by Amanda Cachia and appreciatively reviewed by me in the current issue of BorderCrossings).

    Finally, while I still bemoan the loss of Ydessa Hendeles’ Foundation every time I pass by her old space on King West, the gap in Toronto's private patron art parlor sector has been increasingly occupied by the modest but precise programming at Scrap Metal Gallery by their in-house custodian Rui Amarel. The year began with a genius group exhibition titled Somebody Everybody Nobody that included memorable works by Danh Vo, Miroslav Balka, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres alongside Canadians like Jason de Haan, Lois Andison, and Shannon Bool. It ended with the return of Paul P and an intriguing assemblage of paintings, furniture and rugs. In between were feature exhibitions for the Images Festival and Contact Photography Festival, and an artist’s residency by the incomparable Hazel Meyer– which I unfortunately missed, so I’m currently kicking myself. I’ll have to be more on my game next year.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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  • 12/17/15--01:48: 2015 Critic's Picks
  • BlackFlash 32.2 feature artist Scott Fitzpatrick’s live DIY filmic experiments using film loops, projectors, and appropriated designs and patterns were a highlight of the magazine’s launch in April. His treatment of the medium in these expanded cinema performances and the nuance of each investigation became evident through borrowed imagery and experimentation with colour, texture, and shape. The speed, pulse, and duration of each piece revealed a kind of submersive tempo. The most challenging and pleasing performances of the night was Dingbat’s Revenge– a black and white overlapping of skulls, computer symbols, and various icons – delivered in a rapid fire, anxiety-inducing, yet hypnotizing sequence.



    Robin Brass, Hot As The Sun: Homage to miškotē pizihki, 2015 (image: Debra Piapot)

    Without a doubt Tribe Inc.’s 20th Anniversary take-over of Saskatoon (Treaty 6 Territory) was the exhibition of the year and emblematic of their dynamic history and ongoing vision as a nomadic and experimental artist-run organization. Wanda Nanibush’s curated exhibition Fifth World (including Sonny Assu, Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, Scott Benesiinaabandan, Jordan Bennett, Nicholas Galanin, Ursula Johnson, Sonya Kelliher-Combs, Meryl McMaster, Skeena Reece, Travis Shilling, and Charlene Vickers) was the last show at the fifty-year-old Mendel Art Gallery. With artists working through social, political, and cultural inquiry, Fifth World marked a fitting end and harkened the new consciousness behind the concept of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Fifth World. Simultaneously, Tribe Executive Director Lori Blondeau organized Dana Claxton: Revisited at AKA artist-run, Bear Witness: The Ultimate Warriors at Paved Arts, the billboard project Don’t Speak by Edward Poitras, and four panel discussions over two days in May. The cumulative series of events resulted in a powerful exchange throughout the city, ending with Robin Brass’ performance Hot As The Sun: Homage to miškotē pizihki. Accompanied by Blondeau, Brass piled heaps of bee pollen every few feet down a back alley (behind the AKA/PAVED building), scuffing and kicking her way through the pollen, she then laid within a circle of golden rocks and slung dandelions at the sun. The pollen in the alley lasted for months into late summer.

    Finally and totally at random one Saturday, I looked up and saw a plane drawing patterns in the sky. A few days later I learned they were commissioned drawings by Dana Claxton, Brendan Fernandes, Karilee Fuglem, Dagmara Genda, Alison Norlen, and Adrian Stimson performed by aerobic pilot Stefan Trischuk. To use the sky as an impermanent surface and exhaust as material necessitated considerations of boundaries, locality, and ephemerality, while allowing the artists to explore place, Indigenous knowledge, and interrelationships. The Sky is the Limit, curated by Sandra Fraser for Remai Modern, was a surprising and fleeting gesture, finding resonance in its impermanence.


    Tarin Hughes is a curator based in Saskatoon where she is the Executive Director of AKA artist-run. She received her BA in Art History from the University of Waterloo. Her recent and upcoming curatorial projects include Maggie Groat & Barbara Hobot: Untitled (new visions) at AKA, To Space To Place at Schleifmühlgasse 12-14 in Vienna, and a pending project as curator-in-residence with 221a in Vancouver.


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  • 12/17/15--03:40: 2015 Critic's Picks
  • Even though it was outside the province in Moncton, one of my favourite exhibitions of the year has to be Sam Kinsley’s Drawing on Economy at Galerie Sans Nom. Her drawings on white expanses of paper create massive landscapes formed from seemingly countless individual marks. This countlessness is an illusion created by the process she uses to make self-portraits based on numbers that reflect her standing within economic systems. The number of marks is preset by the artist’s numerical value in dollars and cents. Mass, a humongous scroll of paper that undulated on and off the gallery floor, is perforated with pinpricks. Each prick represents a single cent of accumulated debt. Emulating the data cloud governing our lives, Kinsley’s drawings bring form to our numerical avatars. The cloisters of marks generate organic clusters – a swarm of insects, a grey cloud, an island in a white expanse. They create communities and give the viewer a sense of camaraderie in knowing that we are more than a sum of our parts.



    Howie Tsui, Musketball!, 2012, pinball machine, replica musket ball

    An early highlight of the year arrived at the beginning of 2015 when a collection of macabre medical imagery filled Dalhousie Art Gallery. Curated by Cindy Stelmackowich, the group exhibition Anatomica mapped depictions of the body through numerous media by multiple artists from Garry Neill Kennedy’s conceptual paintings to the all-too-literal knitted sculptures of Sarah Maloney. In particular, the awe-inspiring intricacies of Lisa Nilsson and Howie Tsui were engrained in my mind for the year to follow. The beauty of her anatomical dissections built from quilled paper was detailed to stunningly beautiful extremes. He sunk in with a dark sense of humor and the skilled lines of his ink drawings on animal hide velum. Tsui also topped the show off with Musketball!, a pinball machine game based on injuries inflicted in the War of 1812.

    Towering panels of quilted textiles lined the walls of Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery in Dorothy Caldwell’s remarkable Silent Ice / Deep Patience. Galaxies of tiny marks made of individual stitches and painted lines covered the cloth assembled from numerous panels of fabric, large and small. Her massive works are a culmination of detailed research in mapping natural dyes and pigments, and their relation to materials, stitching, and line work. This in-depth process is revealed fully to the viewer by an archive of specimens and recorded tests on small rectangles of material and paper. Caldwell offered us a macro and micro view into the achievements of her craft. Her archive provided all the knowledge needed to fully explore the universe of tiny moments stitched into the large panels.


    Anna Taylor is an artist, crafter, and organizer sitting on the board of the Halifax Crafters Society. She is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @TaylorMadeGoods.


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    I hang around with children pretty often and I think I learn more from them than they do from me. Not in a direct way like they're instructing me, but through epiphanies that register when dealing with their resistance when I attempt to instruct them as a parent or a teacher or a grown-up. The resistance bugs the hell out of me, but I also admire it because it means they're asserting their independence. It makes them more human and less just a reflection or a projection. When I see children involved in adult art making, I worry about them being used as props or stand-ins for adult voices and concerns (though if that's my problem, why aren't I worried about adults being used as props in the same works?). They are handy little defamiliarization devices that can render something funny, cute or disturbing (or all three in the case of my wife's recent video of our four year old singing along to Drake's Hotline Bling in the backseat of our car) or they can recontextualize something taken for granted to be heard anew (like in Gary Hill’s video of his daughter reading Wittgenstein).



    Liz Magic Laser, Kiss and Cry, 2015, single-channel video

    All these thoughts ran through my head when I escaped the full infant onslaught that is the pre-Xmas rush and ducked into Mercer Union to see Brooklyn-based artist Liz Magic Laser's exhibition of two new videos, both of which feature child actors in lead roles. To navigate my ethical response so I could get to my aesthetic response, I texted Darren O'Donnell, who left a career in theatre to pursue a career in relational work that often features young people as key collaborators. His first foray into this realm some ten years ago, Haircuts by Children, earned him a couple accusations of simply exploiting kids (and the last time I saw him he joked about his teenage collaborators eventually turning on him), but the gist of the piece was a desire to empower children and give them agency, thus inverting the relation of authority between majors and minors.

    Laser's videos are also concerned with power relations as played out by two sibling figure skaters who recite quotations concerned with the status of children as oppressed or revolutionary figures (in Kiss and Cry) and a self-possessed girl who leads a troupe of adults through a series of public speaking exercises (in My Mind is My Own). The latter work is more evocative as the content of the exercises sneakily alludes to a whole slew of potential antagonisms that eventually turn the class into a bizarre form of group psychotherapy. The featured work plays up political ideology alongside the exhausting training of the young athletes to compete ostensibly as adults (they aren’t having any fun out there on the ice). The artist is wise to use competitive sport as a setting for this work (particularly one that has the added layer of a highly theatricalized performance) because it is an arena for wrenching childhood away from the young and placing demands on them that turns leisure into work (I speak from my experience as a father of a competitive gymnast).

    In the end, the children in these videos aren’t even children. They are child actors taking on adult roles to represent the fascinating and troubling idea of the child as a paradigm for adult idealization. I find this more troubling than fascinating because it seems to perpetuate the exploitative nature of the relation. However, the inversions that Laser has incorporated through layers of artifice deflect that response, so I’m left feeling queasy, which I think is the point.


    Mercer Union: http://www.mercerunion.org/
    Liz Magic Laser: Kiss and Cry continues until January 23.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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    As deep winter sets in, with the holidays fade behind us, and there is little respite until spring, Sarah Anne Johnson’s Field Trip at Division Gallery gives us work that is all about blissed-out escape. The exhibition, docu-menting the pastoral heterotopian revelry of a summer music festival, fills the large exhibition spaces with Johnson’s euphoric retouched photographs.



    Sarah Anne Johnson, Yellow Dinosaur, 2015, Chromogenic print

    Field Trip is some of Johnson’s best work to date. Bacchanalian youth float down rivers, camp out in the woods, experience hallucinogenics, share amorous exploration, carouse, and party. Despite the Arcadian setting, Johnson’s documentary-style shots don’t exclude the beer cans discarded amongst the flowers and her own interventions on the photographs – including cut-outs, glitter bombs, and cartoonish over-painting of faces – enhance the sublime feeling of the experience with all its beauty and abjection. Some works are not as successful as the majority of others; in the last room in particular I felt I had seen the same thing done better in earlier rooms. But all in all this series offers, with humour and sensitivity, a nu-anced and overtly subjective study of its subject matter.

    I would also add that the simplicity of Field Trip is much stronger than other more multidisciplinary series Johnson has produced. A selection of her previous Wonderlust series, for example, is presented in a small space within the exhibition at Division. The small in-coital figurative sculptures set amongst the pho-tographs don’t add much for me. I often sense the quite compelling content explored by Johnson can be diminished by the distracting tweeness of her three-dimensional work – whether presented as sculpture or documented in photo. Whereas her altered documentary photographs offer more complexity, maturity and satisfaction without losing an irreverent, personal, and playful quality. Field Trip does more than doc-ument the escapist exploits of others; it creates a sublime space into which viewers can escape.


    Division Gallery: http://www.galeriedivision.com/montreal/exhibitions
    Sarah Anne Johnson : Field Trip continues until January 30.


    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.


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    TRUCK, arguably Calgary’s best known artist-run centre is starting 2016 with a set of cracker exhibitions: ambitious new work from Calgary performance pioneer Rita McKeough and Toronto-based artist Niki Boghossian’s first exhibition in Western Canada. At first glance it is an odd pairing – one is an extremely established artist and local hero, while the other is just starting out her career. As it turns out the work resonates nicely off each other, and on second thought I endorse the strategy of using well-known artists to lure audiences to galleries so you can also hit them with strong emerging work.



    Niki Boghossian, Sacred Circle, 2015

    McKeough’s new interactive installation Veins is a room-sized affair in which one must take off their shoes before entering the environment. On either side of the two lane highway dividing the space are projections of leaf/animal hybrid faces, kinetic sculptures resembling snakes, and drums beating themselves. A black toy train and a tiny oil well reinforce the connections drawn between pipelines, asphalt, train tracks, and the highway. On my visit, the installation was unfortunately, not fully functional – a crucial sound component was in the process of being fixed, so I hesitate to comment further, but suffice to say this is a tour de force and I will be back to experience it in its entirely. McKeough’s double-barrelled playful/scathing approach seems to be in top form. Additionally, Anthea Black’s excellent essay on the installation is the best gallery take-away I’ve had in some time. Her linking of the wilfulness of nature to that of the wilfulness required to be a female artist with a long career was particularly resonant.

    Niki Boghossian’s installation instantly raised my post-tech glitch spirits. A series of low plinths housed an array of found and hand-made objects, primarily strange and pretty ceramic, which created an altar-like composition. Salt was incorporated throughout in various forms – my favourite being the strange yet utilitarian salt that is added to domestic water softeners arranged in a circle on the floor, dusted with ash from incense. Quiet, subtle but clearly invested in the power of the natural world, Sacred Circle is a much-needed reflective space that also manages to heighten the maximalism of McKeough’s installation.


    TRUCK Contemporary Art in Calgary: http://www.truck.ca/
    Rita McKeough: Veins continues until March 5.
    Niki Boghossian: Sacred Circle continues until April 2.


    Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.


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    Peter MacCallum has been dealing with object-oriented ontology since well before anyone ever coined such a phrase. He is a human camera, assiduously documenting things – stores, concrete factories, the street – in the world (but mostly Toronto) for decades and doing the utmost to erase himself in the process. There is only ever the faintest whiff of expression in his black and white (but mostly grey) photographs, which is all the better to leave the air free for cold hard truth.



    Peter MacCallum, Skyline Series, From 20 Vanauley Street, Sixth Floor, May 1991, 1991, silver print from film negative

    But the truth in his Skyline Series, now on view at Diaz Contemporary (but closing on Saturday, so get down there now!), is neither cold nor hard nor certain. You don't have to go back to the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus (he of the metaphysics of flux) to know that everything changes. MacCallum makes it counterintuitively clear through the rigorous attempt to keep his subject steady. Eleven pictures of the same cityscape from the same angle from the same position (and three earlier ones of roughly the same scene taken from a different vantage point) make for the most perverse exhibition I've seen in a while. It presents itself as the refusal of novelty in the embrace of vision. Within its account of the changing (and not changing) horizon of the downtown core, it documents the pursuit of a different kind of truth, one that has to do with sustaining a practice of observation. MacCallum is an empirical purist relaying the objective truth of what's out there.



    Gordon Peterson, NN-01, oil on canvas, 2011/2013

    Paired with the series of photographs of the same thing are a series of paintings of the same thing by Gordon Peterson. I like things I don't understand and just as MacCallum confounds me in his directness, these paintings are a good example of an artist (and then a critic) responding to a giddy “Why?” (or better said, “Why not?). These earthy abstractions look like things – bannisters, vines, drapery, or degraded daguerreotypes – that have moldered in a wet basement. They flicker in and out as figure and ground refuse to resolve. They resist direct viewing, seeming to play with the light as would a reflective surface. They ain't pretty and some feel unfinished, but that instability is what holds your gaze. There is no high contrast or dramatic gesture or energy as associated with action pairing; in fact, they all seem weighed down by gravity, tendrils dragging to the bottom of the frame and the colour scheme washed and bleached and muddied until grey. I've begun to class paintings by the type of person I imagine living with one. A sort of interior design crossed with psychotherapy. These intense, complex, not show-offy, determined canvases deserve their equal.


    Diaz Contemporary: http://www.diazcontemporary.ca/
    Peter MacCallum: Skyline Series, 1979-1992 continues until January 16.
    Gordon Peterson: The Next Next continues until January 16.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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    Sounding the Ultraviolet, Laura Piasta’s exhibition at Access Gallery, did not catch my attention at first. There is something underwhelming or perhaps even inhospitable about encountering such cleanly displayed discrete objects. Were it not for the soft-shaded lavender plinths that support them, the overall austerity and neatness might have betrayed the stock of histories that materialize in the space. Here, material behavior and histories are more evocative than their surfaces. Here is an exhibition that relies on the unseen.



    Laura Piasta, Sounding the Ultraviolet, 2015, installation view

    Acoustic Panel with Fringe is a large black textile monochrome woven by Piasta using sound-absorbing mineral wool fiber. Shown adjacent to it is Magnetic Jean Jacket, a denim jacket embalmed in magnetic paint. The materials she uses in these works have reactive potential – they absorb sound to negate it or exhibit the subtext of invisible natural forces. Although there is no apparent sound to demonstrate the monochrome’s hidden powers, the artist draws attention to the other work’s literal magnetism with a cluster of small metal sundries that cling to an earth magnet on the sleeve of the garment. The result is a secular, yet satisfying, magic trick to witness.

    The discourse of “material intelligence,” according to the curatorial essay, has a West Coast resonance. However, in historical proximity to artists like Gathie Falk and Liz Magor, Piasta’s sparse sculptures – minimal, monochromatic, repetitive, and controlled – fixate on communicating the magic of properties and combining poetic meanings, rather than experimental juxtaposition.

    This concern with material properties, their potential, their temperament, and their integrity is not geographically specific. The artists of Arte Povera used matter to covey a historical condition and imbued dirt and lettuce with mortality and grit. The complexion of Sounding The Ultraviolet is kind of the opposite. Magor has said that she is “against ideas,” but how about a sculptural index of whimsical histories (banana phone, Spanish printmakers drinking on the job), a network of loose meaning, manifested on lavender plinths?


    Access Gallery: http://accessgallery.ca/
    Laura Piasta: Sounding The Ultraviolet continues until January 30.


    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.


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