Abstract City Hall: a city seen in part and in whole

I’ve posted several articles  on the work that The Willow Arts Community (whom were recently honoured, along with Rodman Hall, at the OAAG Awards) and they’re an active group with various projects ongoing. Hopefully you attended Songs From The Willow, or the reception at RHAC when a number of works both visual and aural were shared by the Willow Community members.

Earlier this Fall, one of those works was located to a new (and hopefully permanent) home at City Hall in downtown St. Catharines. Located on the second floor (a prime area for people to encounter the piece, and the vivid colours and expressive nature of the work(s) will surely capture the distracted attention of visitors), Abstract City Hall is a product of many hands. The large painting offers various impressions of the city, and for being a collaborative construction possesses a unity that makes it a dramatic and strong work.

Just past the stairs at 50 Church Street, “Abstract City Hall was created during a two-hour acrylics art class. Prior to the lesson, the instructor Mark Roe, multi-disciplinary artist and active Willow Arts Community member— took a photograph of City Hall, enlarged it and divided the image onto 18 reclaimed boards…They began by looking at famous artistic works that pushed the boundaries of visual arts, colour theory and technique. Each member was then given reclaimed art board with what appeared to be a random geometric design as a starting point. The group used the fundamentals they had learned to produce an abstract piece of art. Unknown to the members, the 18 art works when exhibited together would create one large collaborative abstract art piece of St. Catharines City Hall.”

Further: “The idea was to go beyond a two-hour acrylics art class and to reveal to the Willow Arts Community Members that they are a unique part of a larger picture. This exhibit reflects how local government, a national arts organization – Rodman Hall Art Centre, and individuals living with mental illness/addictions can come together to celebrate diverse artists in the community.”

There’s architectural references in the work, but also flat shapes and more painterly forms that are less about capturing a site than sharing an impression; when the work was installed at RHAC in the lecture room, along the back wall, it acted as an ecapsulation of Rodman and the Willow as a space that involved and was created by many. Architecture is, in many ways, the most abstract of art forms as it often is meant to express and contain ideas as much as people, and through its functionality also helps us to define our world, our city, both as it exists in physically and how we exist in relation to it.

But I’ll offer a final comment (after the admonition to go and see it, repeatedly, as we all know that the city – or how we are, or how we intersect with it- changes quite often):

aethereal Spirit
bright as moving air
blue as city dawn
happy as light released by the Day
over the city’s new buildings —

Abstract City Hall is on display at St. Catharines City Hall, at 50 Church Street, in downtown St. Catharines for the forseeable future. Head upstairs to experienc Motion: the 2018 Juried Exhibit from the City of St. Catharines, as it also offers multiple interpretations of the city (including a focus on the Burgoyne Bridge, which has become a locus point for discussions of mental health and how we, as a community, support people in that situation). All images are courtesy of St. Catharines Culture, and the quote that I end this piece with is Elegy for Neal Cassady by Allen Ginsberg (from The Fall of America).

Posted in Politics, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Moving Through Space: Motion at STC City Hall

I am a walker. When I’ve lived and visited other cities or towns, I make a point of exploring in this manner, seeing things and being within a space, to know a place. This was entertaining when I’d visit the thrift shops in Detroit, or when I was in Banff, for different, yet related, reasons. That’s a factor in responding to Motion | The 2018 City of St. Catharines Annual Juried Exhibit that opened late September and runs until March (2019) for several interlinked reasons.

Many of the scenes depicted by the artists in paint or photography or textile are part of “my city.” Mary Burke’s A City on the Move is a fragment of St. Paul Street I pass through often (as I’ve frequented Plan B, which is prominent to her composition). Morning Rush, by David Rose, offers a vignette of Geneva Street that’s another of my “routes”, and the unique architectural fragments of that Welland / Geneva intersection (with the Golden Grill, that I remember passing as a teenager living here, decades ago) are rendered in a way that alludes to the title: roughly, with no excessive detail, like a blur in passing as you move. Full disclosure: when I visited the St. Catharines Art Association recently David had one of my favourite pieces for the group critique, a work that evoked winter light and a sense of nostalgia.

My favourite work right now – perhaps, as there’s another in close competition for that, and I reserve the right to change my mind, as often happens with exhibitions that are on display for long periods that I revisit – is Quin McColgan’s photograph Downtown. It dates from 2015 and offers a very different view than many of the other landscapes that dominate Motion. Taken from several stories above St. Paul, this is a less “optimistic”, less “charming” portrait. The colours and the prominent decay and wear in the street and buildings are, frankly, more the St. Catharines I know, that I live and walk – move, if you will – through. (With some of the incidences of violence recently in the downtown, there’s the usual chorus of the death of said space, both specifically and in other urban areas in the region. As someone who lives and works in that space, I’ll quote Susan Musgrave: “Sometimes it seemed they hadn’t really died so much as I myself had become a ghost….” The subtle and quiet tones of McColgan’s works suggest a less celebratory scene that many of the artists have chosen, for Motion.)

The exhibition is on the 3rd Floor of City Hall at 50 Church Street in downtown St. Catharines: this hallway space works very well – surprisingly – with several of the works, but more on that in a moment. The curatorial call / statement is this: Motion called upon artists to consider what movement of everyday life in our community looks like. This exhibit provides the audience with an opportunity to consider what the process of movement means to them in their community. How does it feel? What does it sound like? What objects or infrastructure enable this transportation? Fifteen local artists demonstrate what Motion in the City means to them through their work.

Unsurprisingly, Motion favours painting: also unsurprisingly, the Burgoyne Bridge is a favoured subject. But before I offer some thoughts – both positive and perhaps a bit more edged as to the prominence of that landmark – on works like Zoom or Crossing, I’ll cite another “bridgework” and the piece previously hinted at, that competes with McColgan, for me. Gillian Dickson’s Truck on Skyway blends hints of abstraction with some modernist forms to produce an atmosphere that makes it the most accomplished painting in Motion. The manner in which the bridge can dominate the skyline for a person on the ground is present in the monolithic rendering of the supports and the bridge, and the sky is bright yet seems to shimmer, perhaps with a humidity and concrete asphalt heat so common to Niagara summers.

But the bridge that appears most often here is Burgoyne: this can be interpreted in terms of how its white “bone” (like ribs, or spine, perhaps) arched installation has been the subject of many pictures and advertising / tourism moments in Niagara. A bit less positive: the recent report regarding massive budget overruns and how that demonstrates a Petrowski, a Caslin, if you will, of self serving incompetence in Niagara civic governance employs the Burgoyne as a “landmark” in a way other than physical (some have called it, in various social media spaces, a ‘white elephant’, but that’s a bit unfair).

It’s on people’s minds, clearly. When I began writing this response to Motion, it was before two individuals in less than a week had attempted to end their lives by jumping from the bridge (I’m reminded of one of my favourite writers, Timothy Findley, whose characters often struggled with such issues, saying that the “insane”, perhaps suicidal, person is not someone who has lost their reason, but lost everything EXCEPT their reason…).

In light of these events, again, the bridge takes on a different sense, a different personality, something that is both an icon of positivism but also a space of despair….

Some of the depictions of the bridge are more about the movement – the motion – implied by its formal aesthetic, as much as how many (like myself) welcomed its opening so I needn’t go through the muddy snow and seasonal slushy mud by the creek to visit Rodman Hall. Jennifer Gruhl’s digital photograph, with rich reds and deep blacks, titled Zoom is more dynamic than Marge Dorant’s painting Crossing (but Dorant has the flat blue sky and bright white steel in an equally abstract composition that makes me think of the many times I’ve walked that bridge and seen the flat blue sky and the shining white steel).

Other artists explore alternate visual interpretations: Marinko Jareb’s Box Trick Model has his usual enjoyable irreverence, but also has a personal history to it that will make you smile.

Like all City Hall exhibitions, Motion is on display for an extended period (it closes March 15th, 2019). In the brief period the show has been on display, events in the city – as with Burgoyne, for example – have changed how I see it, and interact with it. I’ll be visiting again, as more things happen, to see how the show “moves” in a similar, or different, responsive manner.

Posted in Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We Are Fiction Non Fiction: Avery Mikolič- Rourke

It will come as no surprise that I don’t always behave in the prescribed manner in gallery spaces (perhaps this is because, at an early age, I absorbed Atwood’s idea about how galleries are such serious, dour spaces that seem too sanitary, like someone’s gone around spraying air freshener to eliminate the smell of blood..and I’m not referencing Istvan Kantor, if that means anything to you).

At the last In The Soil Fest (2018) Rhizomes may have been the most successful I’ve experienced in exploiting the physical space to benefit the art / artists. One of these was an installation by Avery Mikolič- O’Rourke intended to explore “the mediating effect of personal documentation on the experience of memory and self-identity”, evocatively titled This Here Proves: We Are Fiction Non-Fiction. Ushered into a more comfortably domestic scene than others in Silver Spire, I found myself in a small kitchen space with several people, amid numerous small televisions, and, to my discovery, a camera that was filming and showing us “in real time” on another monitor, in the space. The video loops weren’t immediately accessible or interpolated as “art” by the several women in the space with me, and they began to talk among themselves about everything BUT the art. I decided to watch the videos, but also watch them interacting, or choosing not to interact, with the videos. It was also a fascinating experiment in how none of us thought to open the door and leave the cramped space (okay, I did, but I was being #artcriticvoyeur), and we waited for Avery to return to “let us out.”

 

The descriptor regarding Fiction Non-Fiction: this “is the most recent iteration of an ongoing series of video installations that mine personal and family home-video as a way to explore the complex and labyrinthine concepts of memory and identity, as filtered through- and effected by- our attempts to capture and record our lives…This project aims to provide viewers with a new perspective on the genre of home-video as well as their own practices of self-documentation and presentation. Through the sharing of parallel familial histories, as seen captured on film- a simultaneous mix of both the candid and performed- viewers are invited to engage with these unfiltered memories, to look into these lives and reflect on their own histories. The work questions, in a confrontational albeit roundabout way, the function of memory in an age of photographic and video documentation, the role of this documentation in the performance and construction of identity, and asks: how has the camera changed your life?”

This wasn’t the first time I’d encountered Mikolič- O’Rourke’s work (a recent performance by Fourth Way, at Warehouse, was enjoyable aurally but with the masks worn by himself and his bandmates it transgressed into Georges Franju Eyes Without A Face territory, fascinatingly horrifying…and I’ve joked in the past that another endeavour, Senegal AstroTurf, may have given me audio rug-burn, ahem). An artist who can be described as multimedia – or interdisciplinary, as both terms are appropriately vague and inclusive – Avery “has…since 2012 [been] producing work that combines performance with documentary [and] the artist is interested in exploring the many perspectives within singular moments, the relationship between memory and documentation, and the complex beauty of the banal.”

I sat down to chat with him this past month, though it seemed a bit funny, as Mikolič- O’Rourke and I have had many conversations, encompassing the frustratingly ahistorical nature of much cultural production / consumption, how artworks work – or don’t – from one media format to another, and he has, on occasion, soothed your intrepid #artcriticfromhell with the assurance that what we were about to experience is “neither performance, nor art.”

When I asked him, as a point of beginning, to describe his work briefly, perhaps with less an eye to detail than language designed to intrigue, he spoke of how he’s often examining the detritus and minutia of daily culture, both as it pertains to “pop culture” but also within our surroundings (average daily life acknowledging his demographic and how who we are is often defined by these things). We revisited his piece in ITS, but also another work – TMBS_remix003/511 – that shared aesthetics / formal concerns, and even some of his painted works, such as Refuge Triptych or Smoke Break.

In his practice, he often follows the concept, the idea, and that defines what medium is employed to fully realize the artwork. And, some pieces may stretch over several media before completion. TMBS_remix003/511 is a series of image transfers in a large wall work that originated as a small video clip, exported at 24 frames / second, then arranged digitally in a grid format. The “stills” are sized out and printed on standard sheets, in a monochromatic frame by frame rendering. This “silly, random” video shot behind the bus terminal shows a simple plastic bag blowing, floating in the wind. In some ways this was so cliched and uninteresting, but also quite stunning aesthetically (an amusing contradiction, “documenting” the irrelevant that becomes a rare unexpected moment of beauty and amusement to be examined, to be broken down into segments and “fractured” – not in a pejorative sense but more-so in terms of examining it second by second, “breaking it open” to try and understand why the scene entices and attracts).

The rows of the “same image” offer minute changes that are difficult to see (revealing everything in the end strips it of movement and is – again – contradictory), and despite the “fracturing” of the video into components more is concealed than revealed. By dissecting this memory into a visual autopsy, Avery is trying to determine why this is interesting to him. Returning to the work in Rhizomes, which was a series of unmediated, unedited video that is almost like a photo album that we examine later, searching for why we took that unimpressive, banal shot, these pieces were “intuitive shooting, intuitive responses, intuitive exploration of the video.”

Some of the footage in Fiction Non-Fiction was his own, some from his parents though he commented that there was a randomness in both “sources.” In some ways this filtered into the interactions in the smaller space in Rhizomes, where there was “repeat value” of the scenes looping, and also what Avery called a “choose your own adventure” quality (if you’re familiar with that youth book series) in how viewers might consume or construct the works. Alternately, a memory can also be said to change every time you access it (consider Susan Sontag’s idea that with photographs, we’ve externalized memory, made our memories “dependant” on an object outside ourselves. How does video “play” into that? If you’ve happened to see some of artist Sandy Middleton’s photo collage works, where found photos are stitched together, based upon similarity of pose or scene, what does that say about an image – an object – we associate with “truth”? Returning to video, how many court cases – whether the infamous O.J. Simpson one, or many others – had what seemed “clear” video documentation, yet resulted in verdicts opposite what seemed to be “captured”?)

There’s something disconcertingly but undeniably erratic and perfunctory about the images, whether moving or still, or in the translation (with the suggestion that some things may not survive the process, or are changed, radically, in the steps) from one to the other. To come back to the musical performances that are also an intrinsic part of Mikolič- O’Rourke’s practice, and the aforementioned masks that are the latest example of performative gestures by different groups he’s collaborated with, I want to cite Jacques Attali‘s theories of music. Essentially, Attali postulates that performances are unique, and more “true”, than a recording, which is codified, set, and dead: live performances shift with the musician and the audience, and exist more so in memory, in a personal “examination” of the event. That primacy, that privileging of a moment, no matter how facile and fleeting, is seen in both the fleeting ephemera of TMBS_remix003/511 but also in the oddly personal moments of Fiction Non-Fiction.

There’s a totemic, intensely referential nature of the image(s) employed by Avery, but there’s also an implicit degradation of the same image(s) as it / they are transferred into different forms: not so much factual as imaginative retelling.

The ideas that intersect in his work can also be seen in past installations, such as his work in Invasive Species (installed in the MIWSFP) or Site-Seer or Time and Space, both which were interventions in the STC downtown. Some of his video production work can be seen in Sweet T’ar or Last Night I Slept in My Car (both links will take you out to YouTube, that space which has forever shifted video art, artists and consumption) to give you a further idea of his aesthetic and attitude. From there, you can see a few more things he’s done and is doing online, and engage further with Mikolič- O’Rourke’s unique, yet also strangely banal, aesthetic.

All images are courtesy / copyright the artist, and are (from top to bottom) Installation shot of This Here Proves: We are Fiction Non-Fiction, TMBS_remix003/511 and O9_31_17. The header image is Refuge Triptych.

Posted in Artist Features, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I am difficult, so often: a response to hatred and hate mail

This article is appearing at my blog, not at The Sound, for a reason that will become clear when you’ve read the piece. This is on me, no one else. Your intepid #artcriticfromhell owns who he is and what he does, with good intentions often gone awry, but no one else need be concerned with it unless they so desire, and sometimes that has complications that are difficult. After all, I was “let go” from an ARC that falls over itself to jabber about “reconciliation” but oh my, you surely can’t call out one board member’s employer for a pattern of serious, serial institutional racism, oh no.

And that isn’t okay nor just nor right (where’s my unicorn?), but I am here now because of that, and that is a good thing. The world is what it is, I have voice and freedom that many would envy and perhaps do better things with, so let us move on.

But let us focus on what matters here, and now.

I greatly enjoy Patrick Crummey’s articles in The Sound. I often find he cuts to the point with a clarity often missing from most political commentary in Canada, and sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t, but I’m proud to be published in the same paper (the same way I was often embaressed by my “peers” in FUSE, or Canadian Art Magazine, but was very proud to be associated with The Planet for their series on the First Nations University in Regina, or the courage of my editor there to run my pieces about institutional racism at the University of Saskatchewan).

In Patrick’s piece, he refers to a piece of “hate mail.” It came to me, and Chris Illich, as both our emails are out there for the readers, and I enjoy being a public face of The Sound. So, in light of that, I want to add a few things to Patrick’s reference to the hate mail, including how I engaged this person further, and how, in the end, I shut him down like the ignorant piece of filth that he clearly is, and surely continues to be, but, thankfully, elsewhere. Or perhaps I scared him enough to help him mind his manners. We do, they say, live in the best of all possible worlds.

But before we begin, let me offer hate mailer’s email and name, which is Andy ‘Hector’ McDonald and andyautoservice@hotmail.com ; the one was clear in his various messages with their fetid obscene rage that was almost impressive in its excess, and the latter came with a bit of research. You might think I’m being inappropriate here, “doxxing” if you will. But my experience with hate mailers is more extensive and varied than either Chris or Patrick (or I could be wrong, and I welcome them correcting me).

During my time in Saskatchewan one right wing Klan focused group tried to recruit me, then tried to scuttle me, and I’ve also received hate from artists I’ve panned in word and person that has been interesting (and often anonymous), and has made me draft and enact responses that are – as here – very effective.

A digression, offering examples of my experience: Having an “artist” complain to you for ten minutes about a review, then asking them what part they took issue with, and having them respond that “I haven’t read it” was met, by me – only once – with a “well, why don’t you go and f**k yourself, as I spent more time on your work than you did on the review, and you’re obviously wasting my time.” Word got around of my inability / unwillingness to suffer self aggrandizing egoistes.

Alternately, I once had an hour long argument – in the best sense – with a painter in Saskatoon, over the legacy (or not) of Emma Lake, and Greg Hardy knew his history and aesthetic, and we both came away wiser and with respect for each other.

So, when I found The Sound’s hatefan on Linked In, with the same email and other stats, I happily emailed him and my words were “Hey, can I connect with you on LinkedIn so everyone can know how proud you are? I’ll share your stuff ALL OVER.”

I didn’t hear back from Andy McDonald after that. He shut up, stopping up his verbal bile. Completely.

andyautoservice@hotmail.com is his email, again, just to be clear.

His LinkedIn page is here: and here’s a screen shot. The Web page is nothing but a placeholder so don’t mind it.

Now, surely some of you are “oh, but Bart, why didn’t you just ignore him? Oh, aren’t you stooping to his level?”

And yes, that was an option. But here’s the thing: people like this are cowards, and when bleached by the light of day, often run away and hide. And well, your intrepid #artcriticfromhell must be honest: I am often the “designated asshole” as I told a friend, an amazing writer I’m also chuffed to know, when she thanked me for slapping down with vigour some fool who felt the need to troll her online.

When we tolerate idiots, we are tainted by them. When we tolerate threatening hate speech from assholes, and don’t call them out – literally, as I did with Andy McDonald here – they get bolder.

That cannot be allowed to happen. If you’re so sure of your views, own them. I’ve NEVER written under a psuedonym, and grant no one else the same privilege if the sole reason is to hide behind a controversial opinion. You’re entitled to an informed opinion: no one is entitled to ignorance.

I have nothing but contempt for cowards. And if I may, if there’s still doubts, would you like to read his emails? Well, here’s his sweetness in the Andy.first and then the Andy.one installmants. You go. Enjoy.

Posted in Politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Conor Mac Neill’s Tall Tales (and Tails)

I will offer a disclosure, before I begin to talk about Conor Mac Neill‘s Canadian Myths and Legends. As a child, and still now as an adult, I am always reading ghost stories and accounts of monsters, so when I walked into the gallery space (one of two, at Niagara Pumphouse), and saw an image of Ogopogo or – more exciting to me – Sarah Ann Tracey, I was not only intrigued as an arts writer, making my first visit to the Pumphouse, but had that moment of keen joy you often experience, as a child, when confronted with something exciting. Its not accidental – and I wasn’t at all surprised – to find out Mac Neill also has produced a childrens’ book and is an animator. The night of the reception, he had copies of his latest book on sale, as well.

I’ve joked before about synchronicity: since my return to Niagara, I’ve also spent a great deal of time on Youtube, watching old CBC / CTV shows about the ghosts of Niagara, or the ghost ships of Niagara, and one of the papers I contribute to, The Sound out of St. Catharines, has tapped into a local urban legend / mythology with a column on The Screaming Tunnels. All of this, in certain ways, makes me an ideal audience for Canadian Myths and Legends, despite my age (some have argued I have never grown up, ahem).

Another portrait, James Andrews, also has a “ghosts of Niagara” resonance, as he is another “casualty” of the Great Lakes, like Edmund Fitzgerald, or the Great Lakes / Michigan Triangle or the Black Dog of Lake Erie or South Bay Bessie. Mac Neill described the show as two different bodies of work, and its installed in such a manner in the space, with Sarah, with Commodore Andrews and several others as portraits along one wall, and The Tail of Ogopogo, Old Yellowtop, The Gaasyendietha and The modern day Wendigo grouped together, like to like.

The modern day Wendigo

Before I offer Conor’s own words and some further impressions of my own, I want to add one more intersecting element.

The evening of the reception, Mac Neill spoke about how, as a child, his family moved from Ireland to Newfoundland. This caught my attention for two reasons, though really one that unites both places, with ideas of folklore and stories (and Mummering in Newfoundland) told to you as a child that you still cherish as an adult (a side tangent: as a child I watched some CBC thing, narrated by Gordon Pinsent – a Newfoundlander, if I’m not mistaken – about a ghost ship in NOTL, and how one of the sailors, one night, saw the headless ghost of a past captain, murdered by a jealous husband or jilted lover, I disremember, but the image of the headless uniformed body walking nonchalantly – or floating, to be exact – above the deck, to the horror of the crew, is still vivid. I must find that show, to watch again…).

The Gaasyendietha

One of my favourite books is American Gods by Neil Gaiman: one of his characters, Essie Tregowan came to mind, during Mac Neill’s brief talk about his works. As a child, at the start of her sad – or perhaps simply human, which is funny, in light of monsters and legends – story, Essie could never get enough “tales of the piskies and the spriggans, of the black dogs of the moors and the seal-women of the Channel. And, though the squire laughed at such things, the kitchen-folk always put out a china saucer of the creamiest milk at night, put it outside the kitchen door, for the piskies.” Later, in the “new world” when she’s old the hot Virginia sun can barely warm her, she thinks of how her daughter “Phyllida’s children would come to Essie for tales, and she would tell them of the Black Dog of the Moors, and of Raw-Head and Bloody-Bones, or the Apple Tree Man, but they were not interested; they only wanted tales of Jack—Jack up the Beanstalk, or Jack Giant-killer, or Jack and his Cat and the King. She loved those children as if they were her own flesh and blood, although sometimes she would call them by the names of those long dead.”

The Tail of the Ogopogo

Its worth noting that the person in American Gods who tells Essie’s tale, Mr. Ibis, comments at some point that one must trust the story, if not the story teller.

In his statement for the show, Mac Neill also cites the following, from D. Abraham: “There is no better way to understand a culture deeply than to know and appreciate its mythos, its stories, its dreams. Indeed, many of the symbols in our dreams are universal, or at least culture-wide, symbols whose meaning is invested in the mythic stories that they inhabit. And there are those who believe that these symbols and these stories are encoded in the very cells of our species’ DNA.”

Sarah Ann Tracey

Sarah Ann Tracy stands in front of a somewhat dark background, and even if you didn’t already know that she supposedly extends her short life by haunting Fort George, you’d surely get an eerie sense from her portrait. But she’s not frightening: I’m reminded of the poltergeist that inhabits the Marr Residence, which I used to live next door to, in Saskatoon, and they only became fussy when the Historical or Heritage group meeting became overlong, and I can’t fault that. Her large eyes are striking, and the whorls of her hair and her toy cat make her, on the one hand, just a small girl like any other, but the ethereal light, and her story, tell us otherwise.

Other scenes are more active, more vibrant in colour. There is a contrast of play and seriousness, a mix of myth and legend and a tongue in cheek contemporary re imagining – retelling – of some of the older stories.

I am loathe to offer too much about the specific works, as they have a joy, a vitality, that you have to experience in person. His process, a painterly approach to digital printed on canvas serves the works well (one might imagine several of the “portraits” sitting above a mantlepiece in a home). As well, there is an aspect of this show, this work that is collaborative with Mac Neill’s son, Declan, and he has smaller, expressive works also in the gallery space (in considering the work by both Mac Neills’,  I was reminded of how many books for children are important to adults, whether the obvious, like Edward Gorey, or one that I read as a boy, Norval Morrisseau‘s Legends of My People: The Great Ojibway, where his images enchanged me as much as the tales, like why the birch tree is ‘scarred’).

This comes back to an idea that informs much of Mac Neill’s work: there is a child like wonder to it, a child like sensibility to it, but that’s not saying its “childish.” In fact, there is a sense here of the importance of stories we learn as children, and repeat to our children, and how, as he illustrates, literally and metaphorically, that is important to many of us, whatever our age.

The exhibition Canadian Myths and Legends is on display at the Niagara Pumphouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake until November 28th (247 Ricardo Street). Gallery hours are Tuesday – Sunday from 11 AM to 4 PM and his book is on sale at the gallery. All images are copyright the artist. You can see much more of Conor Mac Neill’s practice in various media here

Posted in Artist Features, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment