There is Here

 Posted by on April 4, 2014
Apr 042014
 

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When I asked friends in Ottawa and local Winnipegers what places I should see during my trip to Winnipeg two weeks ago, many of them mentioned checking out artist-run centre aceartinc.

Their current exhibition was an installation by Robert Taite, called There is Here. The singular photo of the exhibition (not the one above) on the website featured geometric shapes such as squares and parallelograms, so my curiosity was piqued.

I’m really glad I did check it out; there was so much more than that one photo.

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From the aceartinc website:

Taite will install a number of recent works in response to the architecture of aceartinc. and thereby continue his investigation into the relationships and tensions between painting, sculpture, architecture and the body.

Taite constructs sculptural paintings that are experiments in simple formal and material possibilities. When the pieces (often unfinished) start to pile up in his studio, their original, individual purposes get muddled and lost as they are recycled to solve problems created by new assemblages. This process continues in the gallery where its space becomes a blank canvas, a new arena for construction and placement. The work alludes to other spaces, other worlds, but inevitably self-destructs into the here and now.

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When you walk into the room you’re immediately greeted with various colourful shapes and pieces on the walls and on the ground. At some moments it seems like some intentional order has been given to each sculpture, at other moments it seems like you’ve walked into a painting that’s exploded.

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I loved that it was dynamic yet at the same time motionless. You could choose to walk through the installation or admire it from afar.You could choose to view the sculptures as standalone pieces, but you could also pick and choose to view objects together and in relation to one another. Or you could group all the objects in the gallery together and view it as one large work.

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I went hunting for exhibit labels or some descriptive context around the piece.  One of the aceartinc co-diretors explained there weren’t any of these traditional descriptors. And there would be no public artist talk. Instead, he invited me to contact Taite, who was giving individuals guided tours. (If I had been around Winnipeg longer, it would have been great to hear his perspective.)

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The show at aceartinc. runs until April 4 (today!), but you can see more of Taite’s work on his website.

Signpainting in Winnipeg

 Posted by on April 2, 2014
Apr 022014
 

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During my trip to Winnipeg a couple weeks ago, I ventured into the Exchange District, not knowing very much except that it was an area that had been designated a National Historic Site in Canada. So I expected a lot of old buildings that Jason described as “you’ll feel like you’re in Chicago“.

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It did feel like at times that I was in Chicago. But I was surprised to find so many buildings featured amazing large-scale sign-painting. It’s an amazing collection that I have yet to see anywhere else, comparable to the Wynwood graffiti murals in Miami.

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I don’t know much about sign painting, but I was so enthralled that I did a bit of research when I got back and learned more from reading this article on the historic murals in Winnipeg.

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Before digital billboards, ads were painted directly to the bricks of the building’s exterior. Over time, many of the murals have been left to the elements, leaving behind faded “ghost signs”, often for products or companies that no longer exist.

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As buildings changed owners, some murals were painted over or modified, like the Pepsi-Cola mural on Notre Dame Avenue and Albert St.

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My trip reminded me of Sign Painters, co-directed by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, which tells the story of how the craft of sign painting has faded away, but is now experiencing a renaissance in the United States. Having brought Faythe’s documentary Handmade Nation to Ottawa, Sign Painters is now on my list of must-sees so that I can find out more about process and how the craft has changed over the last century.

SIGN PAINTERS + COLOSSAL from samuel j macon on Vimeo.

Montreal Flaneuse

 Posted by on March 28, 2014
Mar 282014
 

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Here’s a few snapshots from my visits to Montreal this past winter. It reminded me that this is the city where I learned the art of flânerie

But in a 21st century sense. In between being a female spectator as well as a participant in navigating the city.

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I moved to the Montreal as a university student at the turn of the century. Walking and public transportation were the main ways I got around; I could minimize expenses to get from point A to point B.

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Instead of large arcades, I discovered new independent shops, cafes and restaurants.

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Instead of gazing only at grand feats of architecture, I also stopped to examine the shapes and colours of residences and eccentric store fronts.

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I developed an addiction to signage, typefaces, street art, and posters, like these handprinted ones by Popolo Press.

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It was in Montreal that I learned the city was one huge canvas to observe and examine, but could also be shaped through individual and community efforts.

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Winnipeg Bound

 Posted by on March 19, 2014
Mar 192014
 

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Marcel Dzama, Winnipeg Map (2007)

Today I headed to Winnipeg for the first time ever!

Sure, it’s nicknamed “Winterpeg” since it’s one of the coldest parts of Canada. And I’m visiting in March, and during one of the coldest winters ever.

But over the years, I’ve heard so many great things about the city’s art and culture scene. If creative types like Marcel DzamaThe Royal Lodge and Guy Maddin are from here, then you know there’s gotta be something happening in thie city.

My Winnipeg, directed by Guy Maddin (2007)

Montreal in Lights

 Posted by on March 17, 2014
Mar 172014
 

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It’s funny how a short trip out of the city can get your creativity going again. For the last two months, I’ve been experiencing some serious cabin fever (maybe you have too?) So we decided to  pack our long underwear, two sets of scarves, our warmest pairs of socks and head to Montreal for a couple weekenders to visit some of our fave neighbourhoods, bars, eateries and shops.

Having lived in Montreal for four years, one of the things I love about the city is its love of art and culture. You have your established institutions, but at the same time you’ll find it in the unlikeliest places. At night, disused and corporate buildings become blank canvases for art installations.

In the winter, the city lights up as part of the Montreal en Lumiere festival, a way to distract you from the cold winters. Kind of important for a city where a large majority of people walk from place to place.

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The second weekender was for Nuit BlancheEven on a snowy night, the streets were packed with people moving from one street to another. Since everything is free to enter, there were major lineups to some of the places we wanted to check out (SAT, Mutek, Bar Vinyl), even when we went back a second time around 2 a.m. We were able to visit the Musee d’art Contemporain to view the Collages show currently on.

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The last stop for us during Nuit Blanche was at one of our fave bars, Laika, up on St-Laurent Boulevard, where one of our friends, Cristobal was DJing. It was a fitting way to end the night, since their visuals were based on dazzle camouflage, which for us was a huge influence in re-conceptualizing and redesigning the Spins & Needles look a few years ago.

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The first time we visited was for Igloofest, a winter festival that brings together electronic music fans to “dance under the stars” at Old Port.  One of my fave elements was the dance floor in a geometric igloo, constructed from what looked like shipping containers and dozens of Rubix-esque with lights that changed from purple to blue. Plus the marshmallow roasting stations were a great touch.

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