Untitled (New Visions): Maggie Groat and Barbara Hobot at AKA Gallery

The last installment of my Three Gallery Shows You Need to See in YXE is Untitled (New Visions) by Maggie Groat and Barbara Hobot, curated by Tarin Hughes.
(* if you want to see it in person you need to act fast, it’s last day is Feb 28th!)

I really like this show but it’s kind of hard to talk about. A mystique. Groat’s and Hobot’s work weave together throughout the gallery in a quiet dialogue with each other. While observing this show I get the feeling of a quiet mysticism. The mood in the gallery feels stark, peaceful and profound. The silence is heavy. The gallery is made up of a collection of objects and artworks that all contain feeling / memory or imagination / association. Quite an interesting thing to let your mind loosen a bit and let these objects (in some cases artifacts) speak to you as they are speaking to each other. Maggie Groat functions like an artist shaman as she collects and organizes objects and collages that carry spiritual weight and memory while pulling to the references to natural and supernatural world. Barbara Hobot creates beautiful objects that appear like found oddities from the natural world. Lots of her work looks likes tree bark, but peculiarly curved, plastic and hand painted. By mixing Groat’s found objects and Hobot’s made objects the exhibition as a whole shifts between real and imaginary as the viewer grasps faint traces of distant memories and associations.

Curator Tarin Hughes explains that the show was inspired by Elaine Scarry’s Imaginary Flowers: Perceptual Mimesis (Particularly Delphinium) where she states that the presence of a flower triggers dreams, ghosts of recognition, and memories. Tarin delivered with this show as the presence of the objects carry meaning and associations in reality, memory and your imagination. Engaging with this show is almost like chasing the curious feeling of deja vu.

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There’s a closing talk by curator Tarin Hughes Saturday at 2pm. Try and check this show out if you have the chance!

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IN THE MAKING at College Art Galleries, U of S Campus

In this next segment of 3 Gallery Shows You Need to See in YXE we are looking at In the Making at the College Art Galleries.

In my opinion, the College Art Galleries (located in the ground floor and 1st floor of the Admin Building on the U of S campus) have repeatedly and secretly been the best gallery shows in Saskatoon. Strangely, the College Galleries are often overlooked by the general public. If you appreciate art, In the Making needs to be seen.

Organized by Alberta College of Art + Design as an alumni show, the curator Diana Sherlock took a different approach. Rather than a broad survey of ACAD alumni, Sherlock looked at artists that have practices where their craft is merging with digital media/ technology. As an artist, I think about this all the time: is what I’m doing completely outdated? Should I be using technology to assist my process and/or be tied to the product? Does using technology (over completely handmade/ analogue) affect the worth of art? All of this is completely relevant and pretty interesting. Despite these art philosophy questions I ask myself, there are some really beautiful and intriguing work to check out.

Upon entering the lower gallery you are greeted with Dean Drever’s “Pass the Hat” which is a stack of laser cut papers to resemble a totem. To my recollection of Diana Sherlock’s curator talk, Dean Drever first made the totem out of wood, 3D photographed it and entered that data into the program that laser cut thousands of individual pieces of paper that were stacked to create this piece.

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Along the wall on a shelf you’ll see a 10 piece china set Handle Series by Jenna Stanton. These were created by a 3D printed cast with the lips / edging hand finished. These porcelain vessels look perfectly made by a combination of machine and human hand.

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Perhaps the most visually captivating sculpture is Brendan McGillicuddy’s Overtone. McGillicuddy designed this work using computer modelling software with the intent of using CNC machinery to mechanically produce it, but found that the machine couldn’t make it to his finishing standards. So he hand milled it, which is pretty amazing (I also like the custom made base that it rests on)

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There’s a small room in the back of the gallery with a blue lit globe of liquid, Here in this room is a bit of fun. The dark room with the blue light gives a cool ambient mood and you’ll soon discover that the globe reacts to sound. Every sound made in the room is echoed in the globe by bubbles in the liquid. While I was viewing it, there were small children having a blast clapping, talking fast and yodelling to the globe. One creative boy laid under the globe and stared straight into it explaining that he felt like he was being abducted by aliens! Make sure you break typical gallery conduct and have some fun interactions with this piece.

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I was captivated with a picture that appeared to look like a modern minimalist painting on a super glossy finish. The edges of the white lines in the work were intriguing to me. No wonder, it wasn’t a painting but photo.

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^Ward Bastian was a glass blower that used photography to document his work. He fell for the images he made and began to create special glass works for the purpose of his photography practice. What you see here is Highlights 02 which is light reflecting off of black glass in a black room. Pretty cool stuff.

Many of the works in this show beg you to ask, “is the process more important than the product?”
For most of these works the products are amazing and by learning about the process they gain additional worth. There are some in this exhibition that are process driven.

For instance, the work of Hyang Cho. Hyang Cho listened to audio English translated version of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. And what a trial! While listening to the audio-book she attempted to transcribe it word for word on a giant scroll of Stonehenge paper until she ran out of room (over 6 times!). Hyang Cho tested herself in a performance aspect to become machine-like herself. Though maddening to think about attempting a task like this, there’s something interesting looking at her work compared to the original German version of the book. Does this serve as a document of her recollection of the book and how much is lost from the original version through translating, listening, transcribing.

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It’s difficult to see this from the picture, but the writing is interesting. She kept straight and neat but lots of it is illegible and a form of shorthand. It’s also super long.

I’ve only gone through a few of my favorites. There are still 2/3 of the exhibition worth discovering for yourself.
Up until April 11th, In the Making is a show that you can’t miss!

3 Gallery Shows you Need to See in YXE -Wanuskewin

There’s been a lot of talk these last few weeks from people in Saskatoon, including our city council, expressing concern about Saskatoon not having an art gallery during the period of the Mendel closure and the Remai opening.
(The Mendel is closing its doors June 7th and the Remai is expected to open Summer/Fall 2016 http://www.thestarphoenix.com/entertainment/Move+Remai+Modern+more+than+year+away/10757291/story.html)

Now don’t get me wrong, I am definitely going to miss the Mendel Art Gallery and I am extremely excited about the Remai Modern Art Gallery; but Saskatoon has other art galleries…and they are awesome. There are currently some great exhibitions at AKA Artists Run Center, U of S College Galleries, and Wanuskewin Heritage Park that you shouldn’t miss.

Today Wanuskewin

Did you know that Wanuskewin has not only one, but two art galleries?

Wally Dion’s show “Polygon” is up in the smaller gallery. You might be familiar with Wally’s previous work “Star Blankets” where he fused technology with tradition by creating star blankets out of computer circuit boards. His new work in “Polygons” is exciting. Polygon can be separated into two areas of study both are sculptural paintings that explore colour and pattern. In one series he cuts and layers colored paper to create work that is fascinating to inspect. They remind me of Frank Stella’s early work but with a twist – loud colours and relief make them optically engaging to view.

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His other work in Polygons are geometric wall sculptures that are a beautiful mix of raw and polished. The frames are raw plywood with a super glossy vibrant painted interior. The sculptures feel modern and fresh while still feeling like they carry references to tradition, Neo Tribal maybe.

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The larger gallery at Wanuskewin is “Eco Indian”  with art by Michael Belmore, Amy Malbeuf, Mary Longman, Tanya Harnett and David Garneau. Stepping into the great hall I was floored, with beautifully tall ceilings and excellent lighting the great hall is the nicest gallery room in Saskatoon. Eco-Indian is a contemporary exhibit challenging Aboriginal stereotypes examining Aboriginal worldviews and environmental relationship in a modern context.

I was captivated immediately by Amy Malbeuf’s huge sculpture. Using a massive apparatus she displays stretched animal skins pulled tight but floating across the far gallery wall 15 feet high by 40 feet long. The animals are native to the plains: beaver, coyote, muskrat, rabbit, fox but have safety vests sewn into them. What does it say? I’m not sure exactly, but I was rethinking our relationship with our natural wildlife. We exist in this place but rarely think about or encounter these animals whose land we have displaced. Yes, immediately I thought about road kill but I also thought about “safety culture” where we are sheltered from and ignorant about wilderness and wildlife.

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David Garneau had a video playing of a native man dressed as a clown washed the oil from a dead owl. Clowns are creepy and circus music is even creepier, but this video was worth watching. An owl is symbolic of wisdom and guidance but has also represented Aboriginal people. The act of washing the slimy oil from an owl is uncomfortable to watch but timely considering Canada’s current political agenda. Oil centered economics and continued growth of the tar sands despite environmental warnings and upheaval about destroying indigenous lands fits into the dialogue of this clown film.

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Michael Belmore has a sculpture of a fawn laying dead on the gallery floor. The fawn is a beautiful piece of work. The clay has a rusted patina on its surface with hints of glowing bronze in the interior. Upon inspection, the fawn is cut into strange segments. Could be about society’s disregard and rude attitude towards nature for hints of profit, I’m not sure. But it’s a piece of beauty.

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There’s sculptures by Mary Longman and photos from Tanya Harnett but I need to leave something to be discovered.

Located just 5 minutes out of the north end of the city, Wanuskewin is totally worth the trip.