Friday, 18 April 2014

3 Shows at DEFSUP Gallery: Adam Makarenko, Amy Swartz, Dr. Bob Chaudhuri's Newly Collected Works.

A quality some artists have could be compared to obsessive-compulsive disorder, which includes a manic desire to repeat actions and creatively arrange objects. The Definitely Superior Art Gallery is hosting three shows, two of which feature artists dedicated to detail in an obsessive manner than is very intriguing, uniquely artistic and definitely worth checking out. Also worthy of your ocular pleasure is the continuing bulging collection of a local obsessive art lover Dr. Bob Chaudhuri.
     Former Atikokan/Thunder Bay resident and now aspiring famous Toronto artist, Adam Makarenko in his show Miniature Frontiers goes in for mimicking reality in much the same way that train hobbyists do with miniature landscapes, except that Makarenko’s miniature dioramas are most often a means to an end, a photograph. One particular photograph, of bees, was so intriguing it kick-started his career, winning him a major prize.
     Gallery director, David Karasiewicz, describes Adam as a modern renaissance man, which sounds like an oxymoron, but accurately describes Adams multiple ventures into sculpture, photography, painting, music, and video. His work is a blend of traditional art, fine art, and popular art. Most artists would be happy with success in one field, but Adam has the ability to do them all well and to combine them successfully into music videos, one of which was nominated for a Juno Award. The results are quite beautiful and often create a wonderful sense of awe by way of contrast of large and small scales. The images make you question what is real and at what scale that reality might exist.  You are even encouraged to take your own photographs of one particular piece.
     More artist than entomologist, Amy Swartz, a Toronto-based visual artist is less interested in the insects she uses as a base for her subject matter and more in how the insects can be used to stir our emotions to create an eerie reality that at times seems cruel, yet humorous.
     If you’ve seen the disturbing ending of the 1958 movie The Fly, where Vincent Price’s character spots a fly with the miniaturized human head and arm of his friend Andre who screams, “Help me! Help me!” that may give you a sense of the tragic that Amy Swartz can stir up in your mind. 
     Then think of an army of flies with human heads. Or imagine a crowd of insects protesting or butterflies with little animal heads. Just as popular culture in the form of B-movies or CSI can make great moral statements using fantastical and depraved concepts, so can contemporary artists, even on a smaller scale with a lower budget.        
     This is what Amy does well, but with a twist. The imagery she creates has the feeling of intellectual weight because her work is displayed in glass cases, the formal setting of an entomologist’s collection as found in an insectarium or museum. The sense of eerie is enhanced by the scientific quality of the pieces. The cold and almost heartless world of display cases contains the bizarre and funny world of insects on parade or protesting or fighting or just being plain weird for weirdness sake. The sacrifice the insects made to have their bodies indignantly altered seem more worthwhile as a result of the artistic and scientific mix.
     Dr. Bob Chaudhuri has been collecting worthwhile works of contemporary art for many years. This show reveals the additions to his collection. Works by acclaimed Canadian artists with different approaches to image making make for a unique show that allows those of us who don’t get to the bigger galleries to see what the contemporary world of fine art has to offer. The mix includes an etching, paintings, collage, acrylic on deer skin, a watercolour, sculpture, graphite, ink, photography, and ceramics.
     Jen Dyke’s “Sales are Down” is a humorous collage which is unusual for it’s use of perspective, achieving a story telling quality. Greg Pace’s ceramic piece titled “Music” as a whole might be considered “art,” but each individual piece is as traditional in its function as any plate or mug. However the work is incredibly beautiful all the same, certainly worthy of being called art.
     The paintings on drums by David Wilson and our own Christian Chapman, who also has a very cool print in the collection from a new series of works, titled Bezhig, bring First Nations voices to the show.
     Wonderful drawings by Dougall Graham for a piece called Marijuana Seven cleverly contrast a quality of sexiness to dull instructions on how to make joints. The drawings looks like Don Draper’s sketches for a pitch to create advertising when smoking pot might become legal one day.
     Get out to see this shows quickly as the last day to view them is the 26th this month. After you’ve seen them, you’ll certainly have something to talk about.

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