Friday, 10 November 2017

Sam Shahsahabi and Christian Chapman at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery

     Sam Shahsahabi has created a series of works for his show, Beneath the Reflection, at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery where copper acts as a canvas on which enamel paint and acids are applied to create patinas of varying colours. Inspired by Persian poetry and postcolonial philosophy, Sam states, “I wanted to explore how in my personal life I came to learn about East and West and if there are any windows of opportunities to bridge the two.”
     Sam got his BFA in painting from Azad University in Tehran, his MFA at York University in Toronto and then after several years of working and exhibiting he began teaching in the Visual Arts department of Lakehead University.
     “Most of my work in the past ten years concentrated on the division of mankind and its environment and the fact that these days we mostly learn about distant cultures through media and brief news feeds in social media.” Concerned that meaningful understanding of different cultures is disconnected by cultural stereotypes he also looks for healing. “I try to create positive works, which have literal and conceptual healing powers by employing the power of copper and sacred geometry.”
    Whether mystical powers actually come into play and influence the viewer of Sam’s work or not, the inspiration has resulted in unusually interesting wall hangings and sculptural pieces with detailed traditional patterning and colouring. What little imagery there is, flowers and oil rigs, contrast some of the beauty and the ugliness, the growth and entropy of our world. This makes for a worthwhile show that has the physical weight of sculpture with details that add to the suggestion of meaning.

     In gallery three are two works by Christian Chapman, a small print that is humorous, yet a bit hard to decipher, and a very large acrylic painting that makes a big statement. Called, The Time is Now, and Yesterday, and Tomorrow…, Christian continues to explore themes mixing the worlds of the indigenous with the colonialist in this show called, Fight For Your Life. Christian employs the Woodland style, often inverting and subverting subjects and styles using humour combined with a critical voice, often allowing for multiple interpretations. 
     This new large work is less open to your interpretation. It is whimsical in its use of sea creatures and cartoon-like approach, but like an oversized political cartoon the painting is clearly making a comment on the fate of indigenous people in Thunder Bay; the location given away by our Sleeping Giant resting in the background. 
    The painting incorporates one of the world’s most famous paintings, The Raft of the Medusa, by Théodore Géricault. In that work an incompetent captain, given the position of captain as a result of nepotism rather than experience, runs his ship on rocks at sea forcing surviving crew members to build a raft from parts of the ship. It was nearly two weeks before they were rescued, but not before some starved to death, some were murdered and others resorted to cannibalism. 
    Homaged and allegorized for political and social statements by many artists this version by Christian faults the captains of our community for their failures, either through inattention or incompetence that has resulted in increased racism, the four year torture of indigenous man in prison, and an inordinate number of suicides and murders. 
    The painting isn’t a master work, but it gets close. It’s missing the specifics to truly hit home with a hard message or multiple messages, but one can’t fault Christian for not getting into the details. For him it must hit home too much. It must hurt. When speaking of the painting during the opening night for his and Sam’s show, in front of a large audience, or when responding to questions for this article, Christian is reluctant to get into details. And he doesn’t need to. The painting speaks for him.
     Both shows are on display at the Definitely Superior Art Gallery at 250 Park Ave. till November 11.

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