Wednesday, 23 January 2013

3 New Shows at DEFSUP Gallery

The Definitely Superior Art Gallery on Park Avenue is currently hosting three art exhibitions in their gallery, running till February 9. This Saturday they have a fundraising fashion show at 8pm at Black Pirates Pub in downtown Port Arthur.

The Derelicte 5 fashion show is a must see. It mixes the practical with the fantastic where local designers show their latest fashions, interspersed with wonderful creations and performances by local artists who spend weeks creating elaborate costumes that are both brilliant and humorous works of art. Bring your camera! Live bands, belly dancers, raffles, and DJs stoke the pace and spirits throughout the night. For details, go to Seriously, this is a fantastic show.

In Gallery One at the DEFSUP galleries, local artist Ann Clarke’s works are featured in a show called Groundwork. Clarke is a professor of fine art at Lakehead University and a distinguished member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Clarke’s smaller paintings hold together as finished colourful works. They are fun and have a sense of play about them, but the larger paintings, similar in style, fall apart. With Clarke’s smaller works the eye can find a focal point more easily, and rest for a moment. With the larger works, it’s as if two biological entities were trying to eat each other. As disharmonious compositions, the clean and colourful 1960s Op art sections appear to be dropped randomly on 1970s woolly rugs. The effect is jarring, but could be intentional. It’s hard to tell.

When there is no focal point, and no subject in a painting the eyes dance aimlessly around, as does the mind, which goes wandering, trying to relate what is seen with what is known outside of the art world, looking for a story. Often that story can be found either in the written description of the work, or from the Acoustiguide audio tour that a museum might provide, or in the life of the artist.

Paintings such as Clarke’s can only be judged by what is on the picture plain as there are no references to subject matter, nor any visual clues or history suggested, unless you can compare these aesthetics to another artist’s aesthetic choices. But this is more of a game for art aficionados requiring an extensive knowledge of modern art. The result is that appreciation for this kind of art is limited, where approval for one kind of aesthetic choice over another is similar to a choice of what’s in fashion or not.

Playing with aesthetic styles without resolution or a human subject, theme or action can give the appearance that the paintings are part of a learning process, as if the artist is still in school. Which is why many contemporary artists tend to stick to one style. This is great for marketing purposes, but can show commitment, which most fine art students are taught reveals maturity on the part of the artist.

Which leads to Bob Chaudri’s collection in Gallery Two called Redux 13, a sampling of Canadian contemporary artists. The artists’ works that Bob has collected over the years are famous for their very individual styles, styles immediately recognizable as belonging to particular artists because the aesthetics are so distinct and the artists are pretty much dedicated to one style for their career. Again, subject matter is limited, but the feelings generated from mystery, doubt, anger, ugliness, humour, and occasional beauty, make this little eclectic show interesting and a good sampling of the kinds of modernist works that were produced in the 1990s and beyond

Gallery Three features video projections of some amazing work by contemporary artists that stretch both terms “engineer” and “art,” mixing the two wildly. The creative people here are referred to as “technical poets” and it’s an apt description for some mind-boggling imagery and ideas. The massive “thing” that walks on the beach, for instance, is fascinating, but also unsettling. You’ll love it or find it creepy, but you won’t forget it. 

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