Ricochet / Sean Weisgerber

Several years ago, when Jeremy Hof won the RBC Painting Competition, some damned his work as sculpture, and thus “ineligible” Frankly, the history of art is often the friction between that which is currently “endorsed”, and that which fractures it: when something becomes the mandate, in art schools and academia, it can become banal taupe. Real art acknowledges the past, with an uneasy confrontation of its failings.

This applies to the works of Sean Weisgerber, in the latest Artists by Artists at the Mendel, titled Ricochet, in two ways. Weisgerber was long listed for the RBC award last year (only the second ever from SK). The more exciting correlation is that the three works he’s presented could be described as painting, or installation, or sculpture, (even an element of craft and furniture), or simply making art with form and space as your concerns, and not worrying about stifled academic pedants.

Thrill is the first thing you’ll see as you descend the stairs: running floor to ceiling, the piece seems to grow out of the wall, the flat black extending out horizontally onto the gallery wall proper. Weisgerber’s works are physical: wormy or antennae-like spikes, moving out from the surfaces, somewhere between an organic growth and a viral infestation. His palette is restrained, privileging form over colour. In Electric Mud, the monochromatic tentacles seem almost industrial, in their clean delineation between black and white: and they seem to spill out of their frame, in a Cthulhu worthy manner. Unlike many works that play upon sensual aspects, I’m not interested to touch these: in fact, the textures seem alive, and a bit aggressive…

At the end wall, far right, is Hot Bloom: it’s the piece that pushes the strongest against assumptions of painting, and the obsession we still have with either the illusion of 3D picture box space (painting as a “window”) or Monet’s assertion of how its just gobs of coloured paste on a flat surface, or Greenberg’s “purity”. You’ll also bang your head on it, if you’re not careful. The work projects outward, on what could be described as a grey, metallic tongue, that is as much part of the work as the “boxes” it proffers out to us. The wooden cubes (three, increasing in size as they move out from the wall, towards the end of the projection) have more of the dark feelers coming out of them, pointing upwards (like a plant, growing, perhaps, or a fungus, due to their black/grey, almost moldy, globby look).

Sean Electric Mud   Sean Hot Bloom

Ignore the works by the “mentor”, Marie Lannoo, as I’d echo a local painter that if you’ve been to the Toronto Art Fair, you’ll see others doing the same thing better. The brief statement on the wall acts as either challenge or entitlement, depending if you looking at Weisberger’s engaging works or Lannoo’s trite ones. I propose ignoring it, as it seems to suggest that, too, privileging the art above words.

Weisgerber’s art acts as an adjunct – perhaps a contemporary voice – to the painted works upstairs and the questions of history and abstraction therein. These works act as a punctuation mark, a closing, perhaps, to that larger conversation.

A Word July 23 2014 Darren Copeland + SL IV

This week’s episode of the A Word marks the end of the generous (and appropriate, in my opinion) coverage of Sounds Like IV Audio Art Festival, for which CFCR 90.5 FM deserves praise, your donations and for listeners to purchase a membership. They are one of the main spaces in the city for cultural coverage, and considering the station runs on the blood of volunteers, this makes it even more notable and praiseworthy.


Sounds Like IV Audio Art Festival begins tonight, this Thursday evening, and runs until Saturday night. The person I chat with on this week’s show, Darren Copeland, will be performing with Ashton Francis that final evening, and we have an enjoyable conversation about his work and some of the ideas behind it. Many of these ideas surfaced in conversations with Shawn Pinchbeck or Peter Fleming, also performers at this year’s SL, and you can still listen to those shows online. This week’s episode of the A Word can be heard here.


Street Meet 2014: some thoughts, some pictures


The panel discussion that happened as part of Street Meet II was unexpectedly engaging: it was, in many ways, and to quote several people, the antithesis of the stilted, smug conversations that happened at MAIMBY (amusingly, one of the participating artists in SM 2014 described that – MAIMBY – as “horseshit”). It was led by Keeley Haftner with Sterling Downey, Melissa Proietti, Indigo, Sirvis, and Laura Hale.

Regrettably, it wasn’t as well attended as one might hope: whether this was due to an exhaustion with discussions regarding public art, or other reasons (there was significantly less support from aka, this year, and I regret to say that this incarnation of SM was sometimes a shadow of its previous self…), several excellent points were made.

Perhaps one of the linchpins of the intelligent nature of the discussion was that issues of class, disenfranchisement and gentrification were all on the table. As well, one of the panelists wasn’t an artist, which helped to keep any conversations from moving into irrelevant territory, willfully forgetting the “public” in “public art.” I don’t believe the word “education” was used once.

I’m not interested to give a larger synopsis of the panel: it was smart and funny and honest, and I don’t feel the need to take a scalpel to a cadaver to find out what went wrong, like I did with MAIMBY. But I do want to pass on a few excellent points that were made.

One of the artists commented that when you see more of an imposition of “art” in an area, instead of involving the community, its of the same sentiment as how “you can enjoy this [artwork] until you can’t afford to live here anymore, and then you’ll just have to move out.”

That’s a sentiment that many who have seen themselves displaced from 20th Street, in Saskatoon, can agree with. This also played into considerations regarding structured environments as the only place to “experience” art, and how its very clear that some social classes are not welcome in these sites. The debate about the use of the term “graffiti” vs. the term “mural”, and the mainstreaming of the idea of public art in ways that may geld its original intent and content were also touchstones of conversation.

One idea that came up at MAIMBY that was spoken of at SCYAP, where SM’s panel occurred, was the ephemerearllity of public art. Laura Hale’s piece, which lasted barely any time at all, served to break the tradition of the “object” and exists solely as the “experiential memory.” The image at the top of this entry was taken at the end of the first day it was installed. Hale personified the more relaxed, less “Modernist” approach, as she was amused that when the stacked ice was knocked over by one member of the public, another unknown one (or more) re assembled the piece into a new form.

In this manner, aspects of ownership, or lack thereof, where iterated: “Once its done, you walk away from it and its no longer mine.” Even the privileging of the conversations with the larger public during installation, over the object itself, served to remember the “public” in these endeavours. Some other ideas – such as the roles of Google Street Art, making some pieces more accessible than desired, and taking the “joy of discovery” out of the process, were considered and argued about, in a respectful manner.

The various images below are from the three day festival. The top image is from the aforementioned panel discussion at SCYAP, and all the rest are from the walking tour of Street Meet Artists, and a few of the participants in the SM 2014 talk / tour. Some works – like the seated figured in the back alley off 20th – are still there, while others are long gone.

The last stop was a personal favourite, hence the plethora of pictures from that: I enjoyed it not just for the variety of “official” languages on the Emergency Public Art Kit, but also for the choice of site, with the detritus of the failures of past public art projects in this city. Others are Laura Payne, with her video installation in the SSO window space, a work by Indigo, and a fellow SM 2014 Talk / Tour participant, on four legs.

I should also add that the same day I decided to post this entry, this story was in the Star Phoenix, and it reiterates some of the ideas that make public art worthwhile.
















Summer Fest II: even more about Sounds Like IV

This is the second of the two episode focus on Sounds Like IV Audio Art Festival (many thanks to CFCR 90.5 FM for their support), and features some audio from Myriam Bleau, some information on workshops and a conversation with Peter Fleming, PAVED’s keynote artist.


The show can be heard here now, or you can listen to it tonight on CFCR at 6:30 PM.

A Word July 17th 2014

This week’s radio show: I talk about the new location for Alt Art Depot, exhibitions at the Frances Morrison and void galleries, and some updates and information on Sounds Like IV Audio Art Festival. A few things I didn’t mention include the workshop that is happening with PAVED’s artist in residence, Darren Copeland and that Myriam Bleau’s performance has been shifted to the first evening (Thursday). This week’s episode of the A Word can be heard here.

I should also add, as a teaser, that this upcoming Monday’s Summer Fest radio show will feature a conversation with Peter Fleming, PAVED’s keynote artist for SL IV. You can now also see all the workshops that are happening as part of SL IV, and remember that a festival pass will get you into the events as well as the workshops.



Summer Fest: all about Sounds Like IV

The first of a special two episode focus on Sounds Like IV Audio Art Festival, on CFCR’s ongoing Summer Fest program, can be downloaded here. You can also listen to it tonight on CFCR, or stream it at their web site, tonight (Monday) at 6:30 PM.

Myself and Shawn Pinchbeck have a conversation about his work, and I play some excerpts from Ivan Reese and Scott Smallwood. Next week’s show is looking to be a conversation with Peter Fleming, and some more teasers of the artists featured in this year’s festival.


A Word July 10 2014: Leah Taylor and GUS

This week’s show is a conversation between myself and Leah Taylor, the curator for the exhibition GUS on the University of Saskatchewan campus, which is an interesting variation on the spotlight that the University gallery turns on Kenderdine every few years. You can listen to us chat here, and if you’re hearing this show before Thursday afternoon, there’s still time to check out Tea & Conversation at the Kenderdine Gallery, an adjunct event around this show. All are welcome, and when we were chatting off air, the allusion to Linda Duvall’s Tea Gone Cold, and how that plays on familial history, is a subtle but intentional thing.


A few updates to pass along: over the next few weeks I’ll be hosting a few episodes of Summer Fest on CFCR, with a special highlight on the upcoming Sounds Like IV Audio Art Festival. Those will be airing Monday evenings, for July 14th and 21st, but I’ll also have them here on the A Word blog.

You may have heard of Nuit Blanche Saskatoon: this is something that is being spearheaded by Sean Shaw and a number of individuals, and their deadline for participation has been extended. Everything you need to know can be found here.

Submit, as we’re not all board members that get inappropriately invited to be part of an event, despite mandates re: conflict of interest.

A.F.L. Kenderdine, also known as Gus

Every few years, the College Galleries on the University of Saskatchewan campus mount an exhibition of the paintings of A. F. L. Kenderdine. If you’re unacquainted with his work, you surely know its ilk: muddy, somewhat bland colours, “idealized” images of nature, and a suitability for the most conservative of hotel rooms. In the larger narrative of painting in Canada, this is the antithesis of some of the daring (for its time – remember, we’re talking nearly a century ago) work of the Group of Seven, despite being decades later.

Frankly, I see Kenderdine in the same framework I see Perehudoff, as regionalist mimesis, a purely derivitive action. Perhaps I’m also being harsh about the necessity for artists to look beyond their immediate environment. This is welcome residue from my conversation with David Thauberger about “prairie painting”, perhaps.

In light of that, what Leah Taylor, curator of GUS at the Kenderdine space, has done is a refreshing, if unconventional, fracture.

But I must add a stipulation: I spent significant time with the U of S collection. When in conversation with those of a shared experience, all were intrigued at Taylor “pulling back the curtain” and offering a different view of Kenderdine the man – or really, any view of the man at all.
Like any archival exhibition that exposes aspects of an artist whom we assume we’re already “familiar” with, it’s challenging. Taylor presents for us the “repository of documents and ephemera from the family archive of Augustus F. L. Kenderdine, known to many as Gus. Looking beyond the canonical legacy of Kenderdine the painter, this exhibition offers a glimpse into the private life of Gus. This archive is comprised of materials that range from journals, correspondence, letters, photographs, to travel souvenirs and pipes”.

Gus 7a

On a purely superficial level, I’m reminded of Troy Gronsdahl’s exhibition More of the Same at the Frances Morrison Library space last year. That was charming in its sparseness and the delicacy and execution of the objects, and was utterly meaningless to you if you knew nothing of the subject.

This isn’t a criticism (as it can allow for a fluidity of interpretation by the viewer), but a statement of my position as a critic whom sees art as a conversation, not an empty lecture. Frankly, I applauded one of my critical brethren recently when she dismissed the apparent need to invest more effort in the work than perhaps the “artist” had…heresy, I know. I also recently butted heads with an “artist” who bleated I should write about the “art” and nothing else, and they’re a Queer performer who, once separated from the ideolgoy at play, is as meaningful as an echo…Kenderdine’s colours aren’t the only “muddy” things, here.

But with GUS, I feel like I’m getting unprecedented access, private and intimate. It’s allowing me to round out some edges, so I see Kenderdine as a person, and see the ways in which he manifests in his works, and maybe why and where they’ve succeeded, or failed…
The tiny photographs that are framed on the wall, or in the display cases, carry that notion that Timothy Findley espoused in his Governer General award winning work, The Wars : “…sometime, someone will forget himself and say too much or else the corner of a picture will reveal the whole.” These images imply they hold something that we can’t dare miss, and demand our attention.

Gus 9a

There’s none of Kenderdine’s paintings with their elaborate, “art historical” frames (literal or metaphorical). There is a portrait by Nickolas de Grandmaison, highly realist in the charcoal and direct gaze of the subject. The clean white – almost antiseptic – space has several vitrines that are organized under the following overlapping umbrellas: family, travel, the war, and life in Saskatchewan. More words from Taylor:  “The Kenderdine archive reveals a particular history embedded within a social, political and cultural context, and Gus’ positioning within that historical framework”.

Gus 4

She cites Michel Foucault, one of the great thinkers of Post Structuralism. He’s one of the main architects of the notion of doubt that so necessarily undermines the brash, and often erroneous assertions of Modernism. His work on societal attitudes about insanity, for example, still speak very clearly to how meaning is a mercurial construction. After all, how long has it been since being queer hasn’t been smeared as a mental illness, and yet sociopathic greed is considered “responsible”?

Foucault (as cited by Taylor) says of the archive that it “emerges in fragments, regions and levels, more fully, no doubt, and with great sharpness, the greater the time that separates us from it: at most, were it not for the rarity of the documents, the greater chronological distance would be necessary to analyze it.”

Gus 10a

Its also very humanizing: a funny sketch of Hitler (with the amusing scrawled comment of not being done from “the model”), his chain mail epaullettes, some correspondance and other detritus fill the cases. The few works on the walls seem almost dwarfed by the frames – like something minor, left in a drawer, forgotten, but now given pride of place, but not really sure of its role within that discourse. These are remnants and mementos of travel, and of a life lived (that seem deeper than his paintings, bluntly).

Gus 6a

But I don’t really think this is “Art”. Years ago, a fellow student spoke of how she felt that much post modernist artwork was really research, at its core. There is a mirroring, one might say, between Modernism’s obsession with an external “purity” or “real”, as though we’re all in Plato’s Cave, and post modernism’s obsession with how all structures are contextual and limiting, and are only “factual” on a personal, fluid level.
Or Kenderdine attempted to paint the “perfect”l landscape of Saskatchewan, and this exhibition splits apart that ideal with a personal narrative that belies any notion of “universality.” And post modernism is a critique that relies upon that which it splinters, as it wouldn’t exist without its bane (I almost miss all the rusted Doug Benthams that used to infest this city that has vanished of late. But I don’t).

Gus 1

This is a portrait of A.F.L. Kenderdine, as surely as any image he might have painted while looking at himself in mirror and the image by Grandmaison can be seen as only the most obvious or literal version. Or, perhaps more exactly, it’s a portrait of Gus, without all the art historical and institutional barriers to mount, or filtering our understanding.