Dali Up Close, Masterworks of the Beaverbook Gallery, & Sobey Prize Finalists @ WAG

I had a lovely afternoon at the WAG this week, upon my daughter's prompting that she wanted to see the Dali exhibition. She first discovered her love of both Surrealism and Pop Art during our many forays into the Tate Modern (I will admit, for a 10 year old she has reasonably refined taste in modern art). The Dali "up close" exhibition is coupled with two others -- Masterworks of The Beaverbrook Gallery, and the finalists for the Sobey Prize.

Entering the gallery, we first experience the Masterworks, which range in taste and vintage, however focused heavily on English painters (making sense, given their collector). That said, there were a few notable pieces for my taste, including a stunning Turner, and some Matisse sketches which I very much enjoyed. Walking through the gallery with a 10 year old girl, we made it a point to find the paintings by women - unfortunately only 4 in the full collection (including a stunning Emily Carr). While we are unable to turn back and change the facts of art history, much like those of literary history, we can promote in our youth an awareness of the conditions for making art, and for women in these historical periods.

Given the focus among the Masterworks in earlier periods of the 20th century (and before), the unashamed colour in Dali's work stood out starkly. Dali's work was, unsurprisingly, stunning. The richness of of colour coupled with the provocative themes was fantastic, as expected. Perhaps unexpectedly, however, was the pure gleeful joy of the Moustache series of photographs, which (hopefully) reminded us not only that serious art need not be so serious, but that even artists grappling with monstrous questions of physics and faith can be silly, and oh so human.

The final featured rooms were the Sobey Art Prize finalists. I was most struck by the pieces by Nadia Myre - the sewn canvases, showing both words and physical manifestations of decay were really beautiful and haunting. Similarly, the text-centred work of Neil Farber and Michael Dumontier was thought provoking.

On a related note, I must say that I'm really enjoying the arrangement in the permanent collection, which recently has begun to situate some of the oldest and newest pieces in the collection beside one another - what is striking is the parallels in shape and colour this brings out. Definitely worth having a look at!

Vacant Circumstances: this and something else - Dong Kyoon Nam @ Aceartinc

Dong Kyoon Nam's solo show at the Ace Art gallery is a collection of 5 installations, each of which uses common household items in a provocative way, calling attention to our reliance on objects and the frightening control they can have on our lives.

The most striking pieces for me were Event Horizon and Just Once.

Event Horizon consists of clock timers and fluorescent light fixtures mounted on a long wall, and a short bit of the perpindicular wall adjacent to it. The lights glow down on the wall, reminiscent of hip nightclub lighting, but as you approach the installation, the incessant ticking of the clock timers grows louder and louder, to a point where it is overwhelming. It immediately called awareness to our obsession with time; i caught my thoughts wandering in that direction, and had to remind myself i wasn't in a hurry. What is even more interesting is that upon hearing the ticking, even walking to other parts of the gallery where I had previously stood unaware of the sound, the sound resonated (whether actually or just in my head I couldn't say).

Just Once is created of two tall fans, clicked on and facing toward one another, wrapped in white extension cords. I could not help but think of the fans as two lovers, facing one another, trapped in embrace. The human quality of these two fans pushing at one another non-stop triggered thoughts of the constant barrage of sound and intensity we often throw at our loved ones, without pause to listen and take them in.

This is an excellent show, and it is free - so I highly recommend you check it out!


100 Masters @ WAG (until September)

I was simultaneously overjoyed, and disappointed with this exhibition. On one hand, it was very exciting to see the pieces, curated from galleries across North America, showcasing major and influential Canadian artists alongside the world's masters. The innovation of someone like Emily Carr  stood out like a beacon, and the piece by Wanda Koop was oustanding, pulling focus in the room.

At the same time, and perhaps only because I have been lucky enough to see the famous works by many of the international painters, I was left feeling disappointed in the selection for those artists. I actually said aloud "why would they choose that Gainsborough", and although the Monet was lovely, it paled in comparison to some of his more infamous work. Granted the VanGogh was every bit the energy-filled frenetic canvas that his work is, and the Matisse was outstanding.

In a way it almost felt as if the less exciting works were selected to help the Canadian artists stand out more. Disappointing, because the Carr, Koop, and Thompson would have shone regardless.

I suppose that my overall assessment is that if you haven't been lucky enough to visit the world's major galleries, then this will be a fantastic exhibition, providing an excellent opportunity to see many masters and learn more about Canadian artists in the context of the world scene. If you have, then you may not find it as engaging.

My Winnipeg: There's No Place Like Home @ PlugIn Gallery

This was my first visit to PlugIn since their move to downtown, part of the University of Winnipeg buildings. Exhibition aside, the space itself is very exciting. Comprised of a cluster of oddly shaped rooms in part of the triangle shaped building, you get to weave from one room to the next as if exploring, each nook and cranny filled with installations, quotes, and light.

The first part of the My Winnipeg Project, There's No Place Like Home, focussed on the myths relating to this city. Those funny things about Winnipeg that to an outsider seem absurd; toboggan races turned awry, maps highlighting childhood homes, greasy spoons, and mythical beasts of the prairie. Some of the pieces (for me) failed to engage, however this may be due to the overwhelming enjoyment I got from the toboggan video, and the mythical map. Unfortunately, due to the layout in the furthermost room, I wasn't able to see who the artist was for each individual piece, which is unfortunate.

I look forward to checking out further installments of the My Winnipeg Project through the winter months.

Winnipeg Now @ WAG - to 30 December 2012

An exciting exhibition which showcases local artists of the younger generation who have been stirring things up not only in the Canadian Art scene, but internationally, Winnipeg Now at the WAG reminded me of all the reasons I am proud to say I am from this frigid and isolated island in the prairie. The imagination, curiosity and daring exhibited in these pieces is outstanding. Each piece I encountered while moving through the exhibition struck me differently, however the resounding commonality among them was the ability I feel each would have to find itself included in a major gallery of modern art, such as the Tate Modern or Hayward Gallery.

Some individual pieces stood out for me specifically.

Sarah Anne Johnson's (title unknown) made me want to sit underneath its stratosphere for hours. My eye danced around the sculpture as it loomed over my head, colours bursting.

Michael Dudeck's pieces from his Baculum Cosmology call into play ideas of liveness, nature, and human relationship to this; the body mummified but with pipes and cables emerging from its form was haunting, and called to mind similar ideas in Damien Hirst's work, challenging our perceived supremacy over nature and science, and ultimately our mortality. I am saddened that I missed his live performance with the pieces, and only hope I can catch this in the future.

Finally, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millian's Bedtime Stories for the End of the World intrigued, due to the idea of a comfortable, relaxing space in which pre-recorded stories are heard. Similar to my own work (Autel) this pushes us to see storytelling as art, and to truly audit what we are taking in, even in seemingly everyday scenarios.

I strongly recommend taking this exhibition in, for a sense of the intelligent and sophisticated work being created by fellow Winnipeg artists.

Photo: Michael Dudeck Religion project