Text by Trevor Kiernander
What does it mean to create something fresh, something new, something unique, in a time and place where one has access to virtually anything that has come before, and when content is shared instantaneously on a global scale? Social media platforms have changed our behaviours at an exponential rate, while almost each and every one of us can be monitored to the tiniest of our actions, and the ownership of this data is constantly under threat. Advances in technologies have often signaled the death of certain media (most often painting), but how do artists react to an overabundance of readily accessible powerful digital cameras on our smart phones, 3D printers, and the like?
Fresh Paint / New Construction is an exhibition providing an extensive survey of some of the newest and most interesting work coming out of the art programmes of fourteen Canadian universities. As mentioned, young artists have a global platform upon which to showcase the fruits of their creative labour, but nowhere will you find as many inspiring works in the flesh, than Montreal’s Art Mûr.
Now in its fourteenth edition, Fresh Paint / New Construction is testament to Art Mûr’s commitment to exhibiting Canada’s top emerging talents, and is an ongoing project that has proven to be the launching pad for many artistic careers over the past decade and a half. Among the largest private contemporary art galleries Canada, Art Mûr is one of the few commercial galleries, if not the only one, to hold such an exhibition, and on such a scale.
For many years, most mediums have been moving past their traditional formats. Artists working in the “expanded field” are no exception, as seen with the selected artists on view here. The artist’s practice often pushes the boundaries of the usual while still retaining a strong and clear message, perhaps even more so. Arianna Richardson’s (NSCAD) sculptural assemblages, almost incorporating certain painterly sensibilities, combine a variety of plastic-based and other industrial materials that address the over-abundance of consumerist waste in our society. The paintings of Lauren Pelc-McArthur (Concordia) combine numerous styles to mimic the digital world but are painted using such mediums as holographic pigments and iridescent paint so that they cannot be photographed accurately, combatting the abundance of “screen friendly” painting, in turn taking control of her viewer. Tiffany April’s (Ottawa) dissolving paintings, using acidic, monochromatic colour combinations informed by the digital realm, sketch out but also erase the subjects at hand.
Philip Kanwischer’s (NSCAD) awkward photomontages are a result of his relationship with digital technology, turning our gaze towards our relationships with animals and our environment. The advancements of technologies that allow us to better express these important messages, are the very same that are destroying the world we are striving to protect. The faceless identities of Fanny H-Levy’s (Laval) ink and graphite “Fantôme” series can be read as a grid used for facial recognition, her lines plotting the featureless alien landscape of what we assume to be a portrait, but of whom? Their sci-fi quality brings to mind one of the scenarios in Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Lathe of Heaven”, or an unrecognisable shroud of Turin.
And finally, bringing us full circle, are the installations of Iona Dragomir (Waterloo), who encapsulates her memories and other mundane objects from her life through drawing, ceramics, and print. “The Relevance of Old Love Notes”, made out of ceramic, not only makes you question the relevance of the original object, but also the relevance of capturing those letters in ceramic form. In Dragomir’s piece “This is the Way the World Ends”, reminiscent of Joseph Kosuth’s “One and Three Chairs”, is she making a declaration of the death of conceptual art, or is she comfortably aware of her own mortality, an acceptance of the state of the world in which we currently live in, with the very possible inevitability of “the end” happening in our lifetime? Let’s hope we stay fresh until that time comes.