a, Arts & Entertainment

The introspective and the aesthetic

The temptation to force similarities is there, but the styles and aesthetics seem decidedly different.

Upstairs, blurred dreamlike photographs of the Danish landscape are in a room adjacent to motorcycle-inspired sculptures. A floor below, photographs with sharp geometric angles hang across from colour-coded diagrams with a sociopolitical focus. Similarities between these four pieces are few and far between.

“These are four solo shows in one single space,” notes Ève De Garie-Lamanque, a curator at the Montreal gallery, Art Mûr. Though its November exhibition might be without a unifying theme, all four pieces adhere to the gallery’s general philosophy—that is, aesthetics alone do not suffice; art also needs to provoke thought.

This is particularly clear in Nicolas Grenier’s exhibition: Proximities. His oil paintings explore the dystopia in society by showcasing the absurdity behind its current structure. After spending four years in Los Angeles, Grenier grew increasingly aware of the city’s strong social contrast. His studio was located in Skid Row, where the visible presence of a large homeless population served as a stark contrast to the city’s more affluent regions.

“Many people associate L.A. with Hollywood and celebrities,” comments Grenier. “They often overlook the working class.”

In his piece, We Enjoy the Proximity of Others, a colour-coded diagram depicts the division of society through political affiliation. Though the categorization seems neatly organized, the piece’s irreconcilable tone mocks the strain of integrating a broad socio-political spectrum into a simple diagram to create “a well balanced community.” The diagram serves as a legend to a larger oil painting of urban arrangements. The desolate landscape guides the viewer’s attention to the shell and structure of society, leading the viewer to question the ideas of integration and mindless adherence to the current societal framework.

Next to Grenier’s work is Jakub Dolejš’ The London Set. His photographs hold an enigmatic quality: sharp angles composed of glass, mirrors, lights, and occasional chromatic bursts all twist perceptions. Photographs like Smoke and Mirrors hint at deception, but Dolejš suggests that his work is more about empowering the viewers. His images carry clues to render his work less abstract and more contextual, but the opus requires the viewer to unravel its mystery. The observers themselves choose what to see, depending on their mental and physical state.

Ewa Monkia Zebrowski’s en passant also features photographs, though largely of a different nature. In contrast to Dolejš’ strict, static structures, Zebrowski endows her images with a natural fluidity and dreamlike movement that resemble distant memories. Soft, blurred hues of the Northern Danish landscape mimic a half-painting half-photographic appearance, creating an image that seems equal parts memory and reality. Time, travel, and impressions all merge to create a sense of self against barren and powerful countryside scenery. Pinned to the wall on thin paper, her photographs evoke a different feeling from those of Dolejš’ that rest behind shiny glass and dark frames.

In addition to paintings and photographs, Art Mûr’s exhibition also includes a sculptural installment. Brandon Vickerd’s Chopper features sculptures inspired by the mechanics of the motorcycle. Having shared a studio with a custom bike shop, Vickerd noticed how many of the bikes remained “unrideable, yet beautiful.” The artist explained “in art, there’s often the debate between form versus function.” Vickerd’s work mainly centers on the former, with a whisper of the latter. The bare essentials of his abstract works diverge from their motorcycle origins, but the metals, steels and car paint still possess a dormant speed and power reminiscent of the sculptures’ ancestry. The sleek elegance of his work captures a craftsmanship that, in our age of disposables, seems too often forgotten.

With four distinctively different styles, Art Mûr’s November exhibition caters to diverse artistic tastes. However, each show relies on a combination of thought and sight that supports Art Mûr’s philosophy. The enjoyment of the exhibition not only depends on the visual experience, but on the questions and ideas that each work stimulates.

Art Mûr’s fall/winter exhibition line-up runs until Dec. 22 (5826 rue St. Hubert). 

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