BY DUNCAN WELLER
ART ON THE EDGE
For another nine days you have the opportunity to see Definitely Superior Art Gallery’s 28th anniversary members’ show featuring established artists and novices from the age of 17 to 80, working in all styles from the relatively traditional to the modern.
Gallery director David Karasiewicz’s jovial and expressive mannerisms go into overdrive as he extols the benefits of visiting the gallery.
“The quality of the art is really, like, being produced on a higher level. It looks like a juried exhibition,” he said. “In the last two years, we’ve noticed that these shows are getting really good, at such a high level that people are acknowledging it.”
Karasiewicz describes how a writer for Canadian Art Magazine was impressed by the current show, comparing it to shows in bigger cities. Regular tourists and business people, who are also art lovers, return yearly to check out the members’ show.
“They even admit that they like the art here in Thunder Bay more than where they’re coming from,” he says, cracking a wide smile, referring to Ottawa and Hamilton. “We just assume that big cities have great artists, but we really do have a burgeoning scene with talented artists.”
Familiar names include Candace Twance, Patrick Doyle, Kamila Malek, Julie Cosgrove, Mark Nisenholt, Ruth Tye McKenzie, Linda Dell, amongst others. With established artistic careers built upon years of mixing personal expression with styles choices you can play the fun game of name the artist.
These works and those of the newcomers are equally worthy of collecting. Martin King is destined to have an established artistic career at some point. His work ethic is phenomenal. And his work, like that of Aranka Golphy or Eli Castellan, falls into a funky category of work reminiscent of lowbrow art, serving to add to the established mix creating a more than usual dynamic show.
The Die Active Art Collective has an exhibition in Gallery 3 titled I Will Not Write On Walls. To play against expectations, even in a contemporary art gallery, they moved away from their usual street art and work that typically hangs on the walls by somewhat inverting the presentation. Where it is generally understood that we are not supposed to touch the art, to the point that security guards will come running at the sound of the warning alarm in a major gallery, the Die Active collective has asked that you trod on their work. If it gets damaged, well, so be it.
David Karasiewicz happily walks across the canvases on the floor describing an unusual opening attended by about three hundred people where about 60 per cent were quite happy to tread on someone’s painting. The sensible and cultured 40 per cent can be congratulated for restraining themselves - or be chastised for their lack of spirit. It does take courage to walk on someone else’s work.
“Canvas is pretty forgiving,” comments Karasiewicz, frowning as he examines the paintings without holes, tears or boot marks. About 50 different young artists from the ages of 14 to 30 were involved in this project. Working with a similar colour palette and approach, they covered their works with little aphorisms written in black.
There is a commentary here that suddenly reveals itself if you stand on a painting. It’s almost as if you are denigrating the statement itself, like stepping on a Canadian flag. To step on one of these artists’ statements generates an eerie feeling, as if you are stepping on a person’s freedom to express themselves. There is a dignity that is removed by having the works strewn on the floor.
This approach to art invokes reflection very quickly. As simple as it seems, this method of presenting art is quite profound. And the black balloons, with bits of art dangling from their streamers further add to the contradictions. Balloons are for partying and celebration, but it’s a rather odd celebration of trampled art.
This is a very clever show.
Both shows are on at the gallery at 250 Park Avenue in Thunder Bay’s north core until July 23.
Duncan Weller is a writer and visual artist. His work can be seen at the Sweet Escape Cafe and Bakery. You can comment and make suggestions by writing to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.