Mile End thrift shop gets a natural makeover

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When I turned into the open doorway of Citizen Vintage, the well-known Mile End boutique, I was greeted by a warm light and the cozy hum of French female artist Cgo’s intimate exhibition, “Enfants Sauvages” (which translates to “Wild Child”). Complimentary craft beer and vegetarian snacks welcomed all guests and the small thrift shop provided a close, intimate setting for the display. Her pieces lined the walls, placed perfectly above the beautiful second-hand clothing that Citizen Vintage has for sale.

Her collection of artwork was made up predominantly of prints. Constructed with curved black lines and dotted shadows, her style bears the influence of traditional marine tattoos from the 1800’s. From the perspective of an outsider, any of the graphic prints—mainly done on paper or wood—would have translated quite well onto the skin. In fact, the artist, with whom I was lucky enough to speak, had countless tattoos peppering her arms and neck. Much of the ink had been tattooed by Cgo herself, and each piece, she claimed, told a special story about her past.

Cgo most notably draws her thematic content from the spiritual side of nature, often representing First Nations culture in her work. The pieces almost felt like visual representations of oral traditions; they are replete with mystical creatures, celestial bodies, and water imagery. There were even physical pieces of nature incorporated into the exhibition: tree bark, rocks, and branches were scattered about. Many of the prints show hybridizations of humans and nature, emphasizing our tumultuous but beautiful and symbiotic relationship with the earth.

In my conversation with her, artist Cgo explained her own profound relationship with nature.

“Even if I live in a city, I am still aware of it, it makes me feel reborn,” she said. “It makes me feel better.” 

And within the Montreal cityscape, Cgo is still moved by an integral vitality that is seemingly ever-present.

“[The city] is dynamic, especially with its art and culture. It’s a big mix; it’s very fluid,” she explained.

Cgo revealed another telling detail: after an injury and trip to the hospital this year, she found herself finally integrating colour into her artwork, which was previously confined to black and white. Her existence is based on her visceral connection to her surroundings, which funnels directly to her art. Against the backdrop of a concrete city, her perspective is refreshing.

Cgo’s art is on display at Citizen Vintage (5330 Boulevard Saint-Laurent) for the remainder of this month.

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