Soul Sessions celebrates communal creativity

Soul Sessions, a mixed media vernissage produced in collaboration with École Publique, a Montreal student artist’s collective, and Turning Point, a musical distributor/collective, celebrated the diverse talents of the city. The event featured a bizarre but wonderful combination of painting, photography, film, and live art. On the eve of the Sept. 7 event, every inch of Deneb.es, a music venue located on Saint-Laurent boulevard, was filled with artworks and other curiosities—from a barber’s chair sitting conspicuously by the door to a bowling ball painted to look like a person wearing a ski mask. 

Visual artist Pamela Andonian was one of several artists taking part in live painting as the guests milled around the gallery. 

“It’s my first time painting in front of people,” Andonian said. “Watching someone else paint is so entertaining, it’s like watching a sports game.” 

Andonian’s canvas featured a cross-legged woman, her face and chest unfinished but still bursting with character. 

“I’m very often drawing this woman, not exactly a self-portrait, but an extension of myself,” Andonian said, pausing to take in her painting from a distance. 

Two short films were being projected onto a wall in the middle of the venue. One, entitled If We Had Met Sooner by Joshua Lennon, Alexa Rhynd, and Isaac Vaccaro, was a brief but effective series of shots of a man and a woman, never on screen at the same time but with an implied emotional connection. The film emulates the style of a long forgotten home video, evoking a feeling of nostalgic regret from its unnamed, unspeaking characters. The other, Bagstory by AKRE productions, was lighthearted and unambiguous compared to its counterpart. The film focusses on the peculiar journey of the eponymous bag. The small black purse transferred hands from character to character, and with each transaction, the audience’s curiosity about what may be inside gets more intense. 

Ana Maria Marcu was the artist responsible for one of the most vivid and personal works showcased at the event. Marcu projected an original film onto a lively, colourful painting entitled nudité, oiseau, & arc-en-ciel (libération), by Mephisto Bates. The film showed a split screen, one side depicting Ana at her most raw and vulnerable, quietly crying while browsing her phone, the other showing her at her most empowered and joyful, dancing by herself, completely content. The film depicted a wealth of complex emotions into just a few minutes. It’s impact was elevated by the space itself, a small area secluded from the other works with white walls covered in colourful painted shapes. The resulting effect is a uniquely nostalgic and childlike atmosphere, reminiscent of simpler times, that contrasts the tone of the film. 

Despite the multidisciplinary nature of Soul Sessions and École Publique, the vernissage connected a broad artistic community.

“It’s a place for any kind of artist– filmmakers, visual artists, anything—to share their work all in the same place,” Tristan Surman said, one of École Publique’s organizers. 

Even the music, DJ’d by members of Turning Point, contributed to the overall atmosphere, inviting viewers to stay and watch the artists at work for hours. École Publique hopes to host plenty more events that celebrate local artists, each time with new talent and an entirely different ambiance. 

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