Friday, 26 September 2014

Three Shows at DEFSUP: Mavourneen Trainer, Paula Thiessen, and Me

     On one side of the sad old Eaton’s building, still a giant waste of space where the telemarketers operate in order to disturb the peace of thousands of Canadians every day, there is a medium sized gallery space in its basement on its Park St. side that is its saving grace, maybe where the building’s last bit of soul exists.
      Here, the Definitely Superior Art Gallery is back in action this fall with three artist’s shows before its mega blockbusting Halloween hit for the city, The Hunger.
     All three shows represent an incredible amount of work done over a number of years with artistic imagery that is identifiably unique to each artist.
     Mavourneen Trainer’s show titled Chambers employs the use of Photoshop, but for those unfamiliar with the computer program, creating an image as detailed and using as many references as Trainer does is a lengthy process. Photoshop’s use of layers allows image after image to be place over top of one another other, and for each layer to be individually altered in hundreds of ways, allowing a creative person to shape entirely new worlds from combined images.
     First the images have to found, gathered, assembled and applied. It’s painstaking work, filling up dozens and dozens of computer files. The results of four years worth of work are stunning. “People don’t realize the amount of work you put into an image. It’s the equivalent of a hand drawing,” says Trainer. Trainer spent four years creating the imagery making making it her own. “I wanted to parody an etching to avoid the garishness you get with most Photoshop images. I put filters on many of the images to get rid of the poster look and to make them look more like etchings.”
     What got Trainer started on this series was “an image I did called Unforseen, of two caribous butting heads. I placed them in a cement room and I really liked the idea of a closed space for content, a chamber.”
     And with the death a few years ago of a close friend, Trainer ran with all encompassing themes of youth, aging and death. Fairy tales are referenced and nearly every image contains imagery from famous historical artists.
     Paula Thiessen’s black and white photography, taken over a 25-year period is featured in Gallery 2 and called Peeps Show.
     On three of the walls are images of a few strangers, but mostly people in her life, a few that some viewers will recognize. The images make for a sensitive and endearing display of human faces, revealing all sorts of subtleties like hope, love, apprehension, joy, thought, etc. Thiessen writes, “I admit that I am one of those people like many others, who feels compelled to document the people and scenery around me through photographs.”
     Thiessen does this in a way in opposition to our “selfie” culture. “I’m interested in spontaneity and trying to capture something about a person you wouldn’t see otherwise in a still photograph, that might reveal a hidden aspect of a person.” This is a consistent element in Thiessen’s work.
     The subject matter featured on the specially painted red wall is different in tone. “The way they’ve been framed, with a camera, ads to it grittiness,” says Thiessen.
I am attracted to photographing people, mostly because they offer me a greater margin for chance. A picturesque mountain lake is not going anywhere, but the person being photographed is often moving, occupying various environments, emanating different moods, may evade the camera, may become someone else in front of the camera, or may be completely oblivious to it.”
    In Gallery three is my own work, illustrations painting in alkyds and oils for an upcoming children’s picture book, Lara Wood. Special thanks go to the Ontario Arts Council for funding a good portion of its creation.

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