Publié le 18-04-2013
Texte français à venir très bientôt!
By John Pohl
Jean Fortin, curator of Gallery D, had a brilliant idea just after buying the building across Amherst St. for his gallery and the art-loving dentists who do their drillings under the same roof.
“I decided on this a month and a half ago,” he said just before the vernissage of Expo D on Feb. 23. “Cedric took over the basement.”
Or rather Cedric and his DÉCOVER partners gave the rooms and hallways in the basement over to more than a dozen artists to make art installations. The result was something between a funhouse, an art gallery and a madhouse.
Fortin’s artists, including Zilon, who gave a painting performance at the opening, were upstairs, while EN MASSE’s murals pointed the way down the stairs to a central area that led into the dens of the DÉCOVER artists.
On the stairway, Clément Yeh was trying out for the EN MASSE team by drawing an iconic image from the Akira series of Japanese anime. I don’t know if he passed the test, but he was in his element: “The energy from the collective of people is addictive,” he said.
EN MASSE’s Jason Botkin had his own room full of soft-edged monsters on plywood cut-outs. The last I looked, a gnome was eating a glowing object that was growing out of the ground.
I inspected the premises a week before the opening, on the afternoon of the vernissage and again a few days later to observe both the process and the results.
Mélany Fay had an alcove in which she mixed paint and objects to create an installation that showed a man on top of a woman in a sexual position. But Fay pointed out that a collar around the woman’s neck wasn’t being held by the man – it was hanging free, and she insisted the theme was not necessarily sexual but about vulnerability.
“I’m not made out of wood,” she wrote on the wall, an expression that refers to a man’s sexual arousal. But the joke was this: the man is depicted as fashioned from wood.
Phil L’animal had a room in which to create the myth of his own birth. A clay fetus in the sink, a string of painted butterflies going to the ceiling, the skulls of goats, painted masks and symbols on the wall: Phil said he worked 125 hours on his installation, and slept in his room four nights.
“I chose to be an Indian,” he said. “I created my own tribal group.”
Melsa Montagne said she and Sophie Wilkins created a universe of femininity with sensitive paintings of women’s faces. Sophie also likes to commemorate animals before they become extinct, Melsa said.
But their femininity is assertive: “It’s better to live one day like a lion than a hundred years as a lamb,” says a sign on their wall.
Les enfants de chienne live their art as they walk the streets in their denim jackets with the insignia of their art club in biker-like letters.
Le Baquet, Davidson, Candy and Ti-Bras acted out the myth of the starving young artist who is unrecognized in their own time by drinking Jack Daniels, starting at 7 a.m. and then taking their art portfolios to gallery directors, they told me. They all have individual practices but their group thing is to have fun and confront what artists have to do to make it in the art world.
“We are a doorway to art,” one of the club’s officer said. “We talk more to regular people than art people. We help people understand conceptual art.”
Some of the “regular” people they encounter are police officers and real bikers. “We have more trouble with the police than bikers in wearing our colours,” he said. “We are stopped and questioned, but we just have to talk a bit and then they understand.”
Mathieu Connery works for Publicité Sauvage, giving him access to lots of posters, which he used to make collages on the white walls of his room. Created in collaboration with Labrona, a true staple in the street-art world, the room featured Labrona‘s painted pyramid of people and animals surrounded by 3D patterns that are in most of Connery‘s work.
Mathieu said he owes a lot to the help and guidance of a CEGEP teacher, now deceased.
The floor had a fresh coat of paint that wasn’t too permanent, and a child added the perfect touch by scratching images in the floor that mimicked what was painted on the walls.
NADine Samuiel and Marie-Claude Meilleur mixed the sacred and profane in an installation that included ritual objects, drumsticks and a Mandela totem with votive lights at its feet.
“Too much spirituality kills the spirit,” NADine warned. Another maxim: “You have to remove ego to interact with people.”
NADine is the co-founder of the Ligue d’improvisation picturale de Montréal, which she translated as the Painters League of Montreal.
Etienne Nixon said he studied graphic arts at UQAM and discovered the work of Robert Crumb, an underground comic’s hero of the 1960s, and Winsor McCay, creator of Little Nemo at the turn of the 20th century.
Nixon made an installation of drawings in flat pinks, greens, yellows and blues, and maquettes that project from the walls and “give materiality to my drawings.”
I was betting that the reptile maquettes, which project into the room at eye level, wouldn’t survive the vernissage, but I was wrong. One week later, the four reptiles were proudly jutting out from the wall.
The Wzrdz Gng’s installation had an ominous beginning. Sebastian Millar said he filled a fire extinguisher with paint and sprayed it around the room.
“We don’t have a plan, we’re just making an environment we’d like to be around,” Millar said, adding that the group would give purpose to the holes that were already in the walls of their room.
Their no-plan worked, in a surprising way. They painted childlike figures and bunnies with big eyes, adding a gothic touch with a low-hanging chandelier.
Guy Boutin, one of Montréal’s first graffiti artists, made an all-over room of cartoonish figures and symbols in bright colours. “I just go with an idea,” he said. It seems the artist could have continued work on the room forever if there wasn’t the looming threat of the opening night!
Zoltan Veevaete was busy, he said, “creating my own world from things in the real world.” His installation was about power and had a portrait of Nicola Tesla, who said that one day, electricity would be free.
The style of Veevaete’s installation was a mixture of medieval art, when forms and shapes were made without knowledge of perspective, and Russian constructivism, when perspective was irrelevant.
Sébastien Gaudette had a shallow space to fill, which he did with mannequins, beer cans and shredded paper. The crowning touch was a severed head titled L’artiste inconnu.
The Empy Can collective, with Olivier Bonnard, had an installation with a cat with a monstrous face as its centerpiece. Triangle designs covered the cat’s face. There were characters in silhouette and paintings, some of them on the back of skateboards hanging over a mini half pipe constructed from recycled floor boards.
Philippe Chabot, a student at UQAM interested in the contrast of textures and how things interact in space, created a sculpture that a painting would be if it had a third dimension. He constructed a room within the room where his sculpture could be viewed as a geometric abstract painting. From a spot marked on the wall – with a stool provided to help reach the recommended eye level – the elements in the construction came together – lines on different levels joined – to form a painting.
Christofur Ross created a series of fantastical cartoon scenes on three paintings that fit onto the walls of a tiny room, with the paintings expanding on and over the walls.
Was the vernissage a commercial success? Maybe. I saw, written on the wall: “Tatoo lamp $20,” followed by “Vendu. Cedric has the $$$.”