Art beyond the canvas

Nick Petrillo / McGill Tribune

Down on St. Catherine, a block east of Foufounes Électriques, is Cease It 2, a pop-up art gallery sponsored by Montreal’s CEASE art collective. Seventeen featured artists have taken over Fresh Paint’s open floor space for a free exhibition that’s open to the public.

But before observing the installation, the building alone presents some remarkable qualities of its own. The gallery space looks like an abandoned warehouse at first glance. The cold, concrete floor is left exposed, the doors are propped open with cinder blocks, and the cracking brick walls suggest the building has fallen into a state of disrepair. The distinct smell of paint hits you quickly and powerfully, since much of the art was created on the spot as little as two weeks ago. The building’s impression of urban decay by no means detracts from the art. On the contrary, it was the artists’ intent from the beginning to incorporate the building’s unique features into their work.

Among the first floor pieces is Adam Vieira’s “Maple Syrup Can,” a Warhol-influenced pop art laminated to windows that read “Pure Maple Sizzurp” in the identical lettering of Quebec’s staple product. Nearby is Nathan Brown’s “Regulator,” in which the room’s collapsing fireplace serves as the palette for a black ghostly figure that spans the height of the 15-foot wall.

Perhaps the eeriest piece at Fresh Paint is Zilon’s aptly labeled “Enter at Your Own Risk,” which transforms a small room into a dark cavern littered with cynical, fortune-cookie length commentary on the state of art. These quotations are packed with disgust at art’s monetization and hold little optimism for its salvation: “Pica$$o, Pri$on = mu$eums, Van Gogh waz not A nut ca$e (you are!!)” are a few memorable examples. The smell of spray paint intensifies by the stairwell, which is fully adorned with paintings along the railing leading upstairs. The second floor prominently displays Regimental Oneton’s “Marilyn Mural” of aerosol, acrylic, and latex components, another clear homage to Warhol but with a 21st century, urban aesthetic.  

There are more displays within the two vast floors of Fresh Paint. Some of them are simply affixed to the wall, but nearly all of them stretch beyond the normal limits of typical wall space, creeping up to the ceiling, onto the windows, or even sliding down under your feet. The messages within the paintings are powerful, and audiences won’t have to look hard to find hints of anti-consumerism, nihilism, and other modern art fare in a good portion of the pieces. But most importantly, the exhibit’s main goal is to present art that cannot be observed from a single vantage point. Because of this, anything within the confines of the building is fair game. One should also consider that these pieces, as meticulously crafted as they are, most likely are not permanent. Another temporary gallery will eventually occupy this floor space, leaving these pieces to be taken down, thrown away, destroyed, and lost forever. 

Cease It 2 runs until Nov. 26 at 180 St. Catherine E. 

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