Saturday, February 27, 2010
That's John Luna who curated the show. He is explaining to me that if I wear Rachel Evans' mask for 48 hours chances are my eyes will adjust to the parascopes that are inside them. I think I'd be eaten by a predator before that, or wander out onto the road.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
I met June last Friday at the "Fantasy Island" opening at the Slide Room Gallery. She has three paintings in that show, and this show will open this Friday (busy lady). There should be a Vibrant Victoria article soon to follow - stay tuned. As I was writing it, I realized I had seen her work before, and that I really liked it! I wrote about it after I had been to the VISA Open House. Please come on out this Friday to take a look at June's work.
"An installation of objects exploring themes of nostalgia and hand-made versus mass produced. The objects are created from left-over craft and home project materials saved from destruction by combining them into hand-made, hand-sized preserves. The intimate sizes and tactile materials make the viewer want to touch them. In contrast the objects are attached to mass-produced kitschy plaques and pennants that are designed to produce an artificial feeling of nostalgia."
By the way, take a look at the revamped Ministry website. It's super glam!
Ministry of Casual Living
1442 Haultain Street
Opening night Friday February 26th seven o' clock
Show runs till Tuesday may 4th
Don't be an Amos! Opening night should be experienced at the gallery, not at home!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
To learn more about Brian visit the Deluge website.
Join us for "wetlands appreciation" night February 19, 7-9 p.m.
Mike Andrew McLean
Ministry of Casual Living
Opening nigh Friday February 19th seven o'clock
Show runs until February 23rd
Don't be an Amos! Opening night should be experienced at the gallery, not at home!
"I avoid going to openings - not a good time to experience the art work - but as you can imagine I have been to more art shows in this city than any other person living or dead."
So don't be a wet towel and stay at home. Get outside, make some friends, talk about art with strangers and share ideas!
Thursday, February 11, 2010
I could construct an amused response to each of Robert's passages-in-response-to-Marlene's-constructive-critiques, but will instead focus on what I am most qualified to discuss- his specific thoughts on my show with Jon Tracy at Deluge. In the interest of making sense to Robert, this is going to be long, and I thank you in advance for reading on if you choose to.
Firstly, I've just gotta say that the fact that Robert doesn't receive a "coherent thought" from my work is somewhat intentional! My "layers of information" have nothing to do with "the randomness of it all," as Robert says. (Did he actually read and digest our statement?) Instead, much of my work in the show instead comments on the impossibility of objective understanding, as our show statement explains, and the interesting aesthetic SIMILARITIES between diagrams invented to convey completely different types of data. I assembled preexisting diagrams in different (handmade, painstaking, intricate, what have you) ways to suggest their failure to transmit information "universally," to draw attention to their aesthetic properties, and to represent the continuum of human discoveries, and the accompanying human attempts to encapsulate and share those discoveries in useful ways. All in all, I have set out to translate a small slice of already-visualized human knowledge into an even greater visual experience. I think this is interesting and worthwhile. Plus, many viewers arrived at this and other similar interpretations on their own.
Also of note is that I assembled 48 diagrams dating from the 1700s to the present in one unified collection. I think that, contrary to what Robert suggested, one probably does have to go to a gallery to experience this.
One last note about my own work is that some of my paintings use existing diagrams' aesthetics to construct new, more subjective receptacles for meaning. I would have loved to explain to Robert at the opening the information each has been individually designed by me to contain.
The specific drawing of Jon Tracy's that Robert mentioned, the "two virgin Marys, one listening to the abdomen of a Neanderthal..." in fact shows the newly-discovered human ancestor Ardipithecus ramidus, which was all over the news in October. I'm surprised Robert didn't make the connection. The importance of this discovery is that "Ardi" shows, according to a paleontologist, "that the last common ancestor with chimps didn't look like a chimp, or a human..." but is "... some funny thing in between." I believe the significance of pairing this female ancestor with the mother of Jesus CAN be deduced with careful viewing. Our show statement describes that Jon's work marries disparate elements to suggest the nature of globalization, which in turn implies cultural clash and recombination- in this case, the meeting of advanced scientific discovery and religion. This work also communicates Jon's own recent abandonment of his faith. The stage-like background and arrangement of the figures, the multiple Marys, Ardi's dominant posture compared to the Marys' submissive postures, the Marys' acknowledgement of Ardi... all of this visually speaks to Christianity as a tampered-with, perhaps staged event. I have interpreted most of this from the work on my own, and believe Robert could have too if he had wanted to.
Lastly, I'd just also like to point out that the message of Robert's quasi-impressionistic landscape paintings is not "getting through to me" either, and in fact, they seem hopelessly mute.
Finally, I would like to say that I'm very glad my regular community is that of San Francisco and the greater art world, where the culture of critique tends to be ripe, vibrant, and multi-perspectival. Robert's column would never fly in mine or many towns, and I find it funny and surreal but nonetheless interesting that Robert, Marlene, and I are even having this conversation. Lastly, I'd like to thank Hailey for providing this forum, and hope my loooong comment here is welcome.
John Luna responds to the Amos review and responce to Bouchard's letter.
There has been a fair amount of talk about your recent review of work at Open Space, Deluge Contemporary Art and The Slide Room Gallery (“Some art leaves you scratching your head”, in the Times Colonist, January 25th, 2010), and I confess I have been eavesdropping. I want to take up a few points from the review with you, as well as a reply you wrote to Marlene Bouchard (reprinted in full below), who wrote to you on the subject of the review. I apologize in advance if it seems unfair to take up the reply from a private correspondence in this way, but I would cite the truism that a critic is obliged to conduct his education in public, and add that some of the areas of your writing which I take exception to are ones in which I feel a personal rather than professional agenda is coming through.
First let me say that I thought it was good of you to write back to Ms. Bouchard, promptly and at length. I’d like to look closely at a few points you made in your reply. I hope these quotations won’t seem taken out of context.
"It must be easy to imagine that I don't pay attention to the art world you inhabit.But please be aware that, as well as attending each of the exhibitions (Caleb's twice), I have read the press releases and artists statements from all these shows, and that I have been able to listen to the artists statements and see the openings on http://www.exhibit-v/.I avoid going to openings - not a good time to experience the art work - but as you can imagine I have been to more art shows in this city than any other person living or dead. Mostly I have written very positive comments in more than a million words which I have published in the Times Colonist. And I give considerable thought to what I am going to say before I wade in and offend readers such as yourself."
I wanted to quote you at length here because I think that there are important misconceptions to avoid on both your side and those of some of your detractors. One problem is the common complaint that the critic hasn’t looked thoroughly at work or lacks crucial background information in formulating an evaluation. This is a problematic complaint, because there is no telling how much a rigour a critic has applied to looking at art, even if he or she gathers every scrap of information possible. On the flip side however, I would point out that commenting on how many art shows you have seen does not necessarily promise insight on your part. Exposure and information gathering is a critic’s professional obligation. Citing your accumulated body of experience doesn’t alter your success or failure in negotiating effectively between the artwork and your reader.
There is a bigger issue, however. Lack of imagination or a narrow preconception can render any amount of exposure to artworks a confirmation of one’s prejudices rather than a challenge to them. I’m afraid I think that this is reflected in your itemizing of ingredients in both the Deluge and Slide Room Gallery shows. From your letter:
"Two virgin Maries [sic], one listening to the abdomen of a Neanderthal... two dancers with their top halfs replaced with collage...Layers of information surround us everywhere, always. Is it necessary to go to a gallery to think about the randomness of it all?"
"A circle of pencil radii on black paper... a skull drawn on black paper... coloured construction paper cut in radii... pie slices of coloured felt on the floor. In his speech he mentioned that the 12 stones might represent the twelve apostles."
I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with this kind of inventory as a writing device. Lots of critics use it to reflect the fragmentary experience that an intimate encounter with artwork frequently entails, a sense of alienating, even offensive disjuncture of parts that don’t seem to logically assemble themselves into continuity. When the critic runs down such a list, it momentarily robs the work of its power to surround (an environmental experience becoming a linear narrative, as it were.) It can also be a very good way of making sure nothing has been missed, a flat-footed calling out of devices that cuts short the mystification that sometimes attends our response to the new. Many writers use it as a dramatic introduction to more involved interpretation.
As a painter, however, I’m sure you’d agree that the material facts of almost any artwork alone are not what make the work engaging (‘hmm, I see R.A. has used a stroke of cadmium red here next to another of yellow ochre…’) It is relationships that matter: juxtaposition, closure, defeat of expectation, call and response, replication, ambiguous attachment, implied depth, etc. I often tell students to think of the forms in their work as both nouns (‘red blob’) and verbs (‘seething’, ‘revelling’, ‘attacking’, ‘absorbing,’ ‘placating.’) To list an inventory of artefact without using your imagination to react to what the inventory does, how it works, is to never even begin the process of seeing how it might fail to work.
The problem is that I really don’t see you trying to engage with the phenomena you inventory (at least not in print.) It is as if citing such a demonstrably heterogeneous mix were itself justification for a refusal to take up the task of writing about it with attention. Try this: make a similar inventory of artworks you cherish. Not only is this revelatory (‘gosh, why is there a well-groomed spaniel in Rubens’ Raising of the Cross?’), but it also reveals the tendency for inventories to break things up into parts that can’t be appreciated unless in terms of imagined wholes. By not working on behalf of assembling a whole vision, you are in effect submitting that no such vision exists. After such a claim, why even begin?
Do all artworks deserve to be considered as wholes? Let’s look at the next fallacy, the notion of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ criticism as praise or blame:
Bouchard: you have failed to use your power as a community arts representative to infuse our current situation with positivity and backbone.
Amos: It is not my task to be a cheerleader.
First, we ought to look at Ms. Bouchard’s assertion that you as the critic ought to supply “positivity and backbone,” to “encourage” artists, and your defence, “It’s not my task to be a cheerleader.” Equating a “positive” approach with being a “cheerleader” invites a dangerous fallacy, that of the critic as one who either celebrates or denounces work. Bouchard has not demanded that you celebrate the work, per se. ‘Positive’ can imply other things than being ‘uncritical’, and does so in most uses in our language. Positive can generally mean pro-active, participatory and affirmative (affirmation by no means excluding difference of opinion or constructive calls for change or transparency.)
Positive or pro-active criticism assumes that the art is doing something, is participating with its audience and context in seeking out its fullest potential. Positive criticism encourages by virtue of making a constructive effort to discern and interpret that potential. Contrast this model with what could be described as ‘negative’ criticism…so called not because it is negative in a broad sense (mean spirited or destructive) but because it judges a work in accordance to its deficit to a preconceived model. Negative criticism seeks to liberate an art that is perceived as needing rescuing or protection. The paternalistic curtailment of the work’s potential by the negative critic is imagined to be ‘for its own good.’ The abuse being covered up is an insistence upon preconceived models of what the art ought to be. If the work fails to meet them, it fails to be anything at all.
The question is: can you be accused of covering up a model or agenda, a set of biases or prejudices that cause you to constrain your involvement with the art you write about?
To get to the heart of the matter, I’d like to quote a succession of excerpts from your letter. I think you would agree that they are not atypical. Please note that all italics are my own.
Am I the only one who believes that art should communicate, visually, a coherent thought? Or is the desire for such resolution passé´?
The Bomfords referred to the Bamberton connection frequently but does art always need to explained in an "artist's talk"?[And]
Unwillingness to draw conclusions often seems like a cop-out. Resolving your ideas is so much more difficult.
Who are the Masters of Fine Arts speaking to? If they learn neither technique nor an ability to communicate clearly, art will be a hermetic study, of less and less relevance.
[And, from the original review]
[Jess Wheaton and Jon Tracy] belong to a certain sector of the art world in which it is considered a sell-out to actually make sense.
It is very common for artists and viewers in regional areas to fall prey to any number of versions of what Australian-born art critic Robert Hughes once called ‘the colonial cringe,’ The fear that other authorities in larger centers know more about art and what we experience must necessarily be a second-hand and trickle-down. One version of this cringe is to defer to these perceived authorities, to pass on received language undigested, developing a jargon of assumed validity without firsthand experience. I suspect that this is the kind of attitude you feel that you are fighting against.
Many of your comments (a reference to your viewpoint possibly being “passé”, the unnecessary quotes around the phrase ‘artist’s talk’, and the prophetic tone of “art will be a hermetic study”) suppose a set of conventions that you feel need redressing. These conventions would seem to include authorities that might judge something as fashionable or passé, artists who for some reason are compelled to make art that doesn’t make sense (there’s another fallacy), and “artist talks” that contribute unnecessary information when the work should stand alone, and a general current sweeping art in one direction, ‘hermeticism,’ because of a general lack of technique and clear communication, a resolving of ideas. I hope I am not limiting you as a writer to say that I think this is an agenda you would be willing to own up to. If it is not, I can only assume that you imagine it to be your reader’s.
The irony is that the way you approached this article actually confirms rather than combats ‘the colonial cringe’. For instance, your review implies that there is little separating the installation at Open Space from a child’s tree fort except high minded language. In the end, this criticism still cedes power to some absent authority figure by proposing that your imaginative involvement need go no further than the vague reverie of the review’s introduction because deceitful language lies in wait on the far shore. Rather than challenge the authority of that language by supplying a constructive interpretation of your own, you imply that the installation’s content has been unworthily inflated by the fact that both artists possess MFA degrees. It is a posture of disingenuous disengagement, a signal characteristic of a review that obstinately fails to acknowledge that the art is completed in a social encounter in which everyone takes on a responsible role. I’ll finish with an anecdote to illustrate my point.
Your review interested me because I attended the opening and heard the talk and found the connection between the means and the subject matter problematic. I too thought the construction was impressive, but felt challenged to connect it to the information about Bamberton. I was excited by the drama of the installation (everything from Jones Town to Joseph Conrad came to mind), but felt at a deficit to relate to the Bamberton concept because, admittedly, I don’t know the whole story, and wondered in any case if it could relate to the structure in any way other than as local colouring.
The talk itself was frankly unremarkable, the artists too dazed I suspect from the intense process of recently installing their work to shift gears that quickly into detached commentators (this is a common occurrence at openings, stage jitters aside.) So then why hear the talk? Well, there are other cues besides language, of course. It spoke volumes to me to see the way that the two artists were supported by their parents and family, the subtle body language that united two generations who clearly had very different ways of being involved in this issue.
The unity and discrepancy of parents and sons made me think about the boyhood content you allude to in your review, and whether it was not after all part of the way the installation worked. There was an aspect of play involved, as if the overall matrix were a drama or game, and several stations functioned as both episodes in the play and the evocation of the players themselves…the board room with its oppressive low ceiling and monolithic table, the overseer’s shack with its prudish, paired chairs, the pulpit that communicated a sense of Jury-rigged authority. Odd, eventful moments (like reaching the top of a rickety catwalk to see an Open Space attendant huddled over his computer desk) opened up the building’s history and mingled it provocatively with the history of the venue. To watch the way attendees at the opening moved through the space, momentarily robbed of their usual social configurations, to see the piece being played as it were, like an instrument, by a game crowd, took longer than “twenty minutes of pondering.” It was also not something you would have been able to experience watching the opening on the internet. This is what it means to be a participant.
These were only impressions; I needed an ordering structure to attach them to. The structure was experiential: not located in the facts of the installation alone, but in the rhythmic repetition of walking the planks and climbing the ladders, with and without company. Later, other notions about the authority of the public space as real or supposed, about the herd attraction to reinvented space (both in the gallery and in up island development), and about historical re-enactment as inevitably pastiche, began to form in my mind and colour my experience. I can’t ascribe all of these thoughts to any one agent.
There were points of the show I found less resolved (the interior space filled with pamphlets seemed incomplete to me for instance), but the overall vision was something that I could apprehend and become involved in. Its connection to the real events at Bamberton was not a priori, as you seemed to expect in your review and letter, but something formed during and after experiencing the show in its own right, through imaginatively projecting those impressions back onto the land use dispute and related tangents provoked by the encounter. I was more involved that interrupted, and in becoming involved I was changed.
Bouchard: that is truly what the role of and arts writer is, to act as a binding force in the fabric of the community, to be present, to engage, to continuously learn and research and in turn showcase the strengths and pose questions about the weaknesses.
Amos: I guess you didn't like the questions I posed.
In closing, I hope the account of the opening of Bamberton: Contested Landscapes serves to illustrate a fuller definition of what Ms. Bouchard meant when she referred to ‘a binding force:’ to borrow a painting analogy, a binder is also a vehicle. It isn’t your questions we take exception to, but your failure to pursue them with conviction.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
February 19 - March 15
Slide Room Gallery
2549 Quadra St
Opening reception - Friday, February 19 at seven thirty
Curator/artist talk - Friday, February 19 at eight
Thanks for taking the time to respond to my article.
It must be easy to imagine that I don't pay attention to the art world you inhabit.But please be aware that, as well as atttending each of the exhibitions (Caleb's twice), I have read the press releases and artists statements from all these shows, and that I have been able to listen to the artists statements and see the openings on http://www.exhibit-v.ca/. I avoid going to openings - not a good time to experience the art work - but as you can imagine I have been to more art shows in this city than any other person living or dead. Mostly I have written very positive comments in more than a million words which I have published in the Times Colonist.And I give considerable thought to what I am going to say before I wade in and offend readers such as yourself. that is truly what the role of and arts writer is, to act as a binding force in the fabric of the community, to be present, to engage, to continuously learn and research and in turn showcase the strengths and pose questions about the weaknesses. I guess you didn't like the questions I posed.
"there is a dire need for encouragement and reinforcement in Victoria due to recent arts cuts and the economy. you have failed to use your power as a community arts representative to infuse our current situation with positivity and backbone."
It is not my task to be a cheerleader. Most of these shows attracted a wealth of uncritical attention elsewhere.
"mfa studies should be regarded as valid like any post graduate study, people are serious about what they do and that's the bottom line."
Who are the Masters of Fine Arts speaking to? If they learn neither technique nor an ability to communicate clearly, art will be a hermetic study, of less and less relevance.
"the bamberton show has so many highlights, specially about comments on corporate takeover of land."
So the artists said, repeatedly. But I wonder what the Bamberton connection is (except for the photocopies pasted onto the wall of one of the silos). As I was considering the pulpit, prisoner dock, bleachers and the ramps, I thought that this construction might as well have referred to organized religion or to sports in society. The Bomfords referred to the Bamberton connection frequently but does art always need to explained in an "artist's talk"?
"i believe the york hotel show may have been more about the community coming together and completing a project."
Certainly it was a noble project. But do we need to champion inferior work with special pleading (homelessness at some point). Or could this exhibit really have addressed the issue of homelessness in some more engaged way - as have other shows on the subject (Elfreda Schragen, Jody Patterson)?
"the paintings at Deluge .. resolve did not seem to be an issue, i understood it as layers of information, possibly layers of wireless, unseen, bordeless information that we seldom stop to think about."
Two virgin Maries, one listening to the abdomen of a neanderthal... two dancers with their top halfs replaced with collage...Layers of information surround us everywhere, always. Is it necessary to go to a gallery to think about the randomness of it all? Unwillingness to draw conclusions often seems like a cop-out. Resolving your ideas is so much more difficult.
"the premise for caleb speller's exhibition...speaks about the self in a physical, often times disconnected world."
What do you mean by this? A circle of pencil radii on black paper... a skull drawn on black paper... coloured construction paper cut in radii... pie slices of coloured felt on the floor. In his speech he mentioned that the 12 stones might represent the twelve apostles.What does it mean to you?
What if I wrote this email "as layers of information, possibly layers of wireless, unseen, bordeless information"? I believe that I have to think through my ideas and communicate with my audience. But often the shows I go to fail to communicate, need special pleading or require further explanation by the artists. Am I the only one who believes that art should communicate, visually, a coherent thought? Or is the desire for such resolution passe´?
Very occasionally I feel the need to point out to artists that their message isn't getting through to me.I hope that you will find a forum to express what is getting through to you.
Hi Robert Amos,
I am writing to remind you that you are one of the only Arts Writers in Victoria.Although I feel you made some valid observations about the work you've cited, the article "some art leaves you scratching your head" written on January 24th is poor and pessimistic.It displays your disconnect to the arts community in Victoria.
The way an exhibition appears from one perspective: checking it out once, is a limiting and disengaged angle. asking the artists questions, researching their practice, making links with possible social, economic, environmental or political issues, returning to the exhibitions to view the works further and showing up at openings and artist talks are also part of it.that is truly what the role of and arts writer is, to act as a binding force in the fabric of the community, to be present, to engage, to continuously learn and research and in turn showcase the strengths and pose questions about the weaknesses.i feel you've done the artists a great disservice and have insulted their intelligence because you have not done your homework.
i'm not sure if you know this but many people are upset about the article, there is a dire need for encouragement and reinforcement in Victoria due to recent arts cuts and the economy. the artist run spaces you've paid a visit to are struggling to maintain enthusiasm and remain in operation. you have failed to use your power as a community arts representative to infuse our current situation with positivity and backbone. "dissing" fancy language that develops due to mfa studies is closed and discourages growth. arts language develops like any other discipline's whether it be science, math or music. mfa studies should be regarded as valid like any post graduate study, people are serious about what they do and that's the bottom line. it boggles me that someone such as yourself would illustrate such a negative tone about studying art!
the bamberton show has so many highlights, specially about comments on corporate
takeover of land (historical, current, and ongoing issues). i had the opportunity to speak with Nathan last saturday, he was in the gallery available for questions, his childhood was completely encapsulated with this issue. i believe the construction is linked to that. i believe the york hotel show may have been more about the community coming together and completing a project as a group who shares a common thread. you could ask Yuri, the curator, i'm sure he's easy to contact. using the phrase "as unsatisfying as listening to someone tell you their dreams" to describe the paintings at Deluge is a shortcut to attempting a true interpretation of the work. how much time did you actually spend with Jess Wheaton's drawings? resolve did
not seem to be an issue, i understood it as layers of information, possibly layers of wireless, unseen, bordeless information that we seldom stop to think about. the message is simple, strong and clear and ignites the imagination.
i know that you are a painter and this may be what you are most comfortable writing about but installation work is often just as embedded as paint. conceptual art is important. representational art is also important and the two can work together to create powerful messages. the premise for caleb speller's exhibition is focused and engaging, he has made up his mind and the exhibition speaks about the self in a physical, often times disconnected world. i went to his opening and artist talk, he was available for questions.
the fact that the art leaves you with a case of esthetic indigestion is a sign that the work is strong because it is far from being a one liner; an easily grasped message. the works demand engagement, not a new concept in the history of art. we need to take the time to really think about things, specially in an instantaneous, quick gratification
society such as ours. if you had titled the article "this is how i felt when i walked through that day", i would support it as an individual's initial response.in efforts to be constructive, i felt compelled to write you this note and hope that you have an open mind about the above comments. the above response represents one day of honestly thinking about what you have written.
i challenge you to write another article about the same
marlene bouchard - concerned community member
When I was a child I built a treehouse with my friends. We called it "the fort" and it had spy holes, a crow's nest and a table made from old boards which we had scavenged.
Cedric and Nathan Bomford are no longer children, and they have access to power tools and more scrap lumber than we could drag home. Their big "fort" at the moment fills up Open Space (510 Fort St., 250-383-8833, until Feb. 20).
Their fort has bleachers and a pulpit, ramps and silos and a picket fence. And, since they both have master of fine arts degrees, we'll have to consider these structures as "site-specific installations that function as sculptural work" according to a recent press release. "The work reveals an interest in how architecture informs our experience and choreographs social interaction."
When did architecture not do that? Indeed this playland, concocted by a couple of fun-loving wood-butchers, is an amazing intervention into Open Space. It brings to mind the wooden bleachers that were a permanent feature there in the late 1970s when the same room was a performance space. About five years ago, a reconstruction of a derelict shack from Bamberton was installed in this room.
One of the Bomfords' constructed rooms has, pasted on its inside walls, photocopies of press notices relating to the proposed developments at Bamberton. Other than that, the connection of these wooden ramps and ladders to Bamberton eludes me.
- - -
The Victoria Fine Arts Festival is a grand name for a group show staged in the otherwise vacant space which was once the lobby of the York Hotel (705 Johnson St., 250-891-1901, until Feb. 27). The show is subtitled "an exhibition of artwork by people who have experienced homelessness."
The nine exhibiting artists are, of course, doing their best. Ian Morris's obsessively detailed ink drawings of an ancient tree emerging from snow are worthy of attention. I learned that he is the man who chalks copies of old masters on the sidewalk in front of Murchie's. Vicky Bailey's prints and paintings are also attractive.
But I am puzzled. Are these artists to be given special pleading because, at some point, they "have experienced homelessness"? Or are we to judge the art for its power to inform and inspire us? The theme of homelessness is rarely evident in the work and, without that special pleading, much of what is on show is of only passing interest.
- - -
Deluge Gallery presents Division of Labour, by Jon Tracy and Jess Wheaton (636 Yates St., until Feb. 13). As these are not collaborative works, the title doesn't help me understand what's going on. And after 20 minutes of pondering, I walked away confused and disappointed by the lack of resolution in this work.
At first, Jon Tracy enticed me with canvases richly painted, depicting figures set in a deep pictorial space. The largest centres on a hugely foreshortened character looming at me from under a tree. The character has apparently ripped the head off a puppet, which may have been taken from the box at his feet, which still contains something like a ginseng root. Tracy's paintings change the subject whenever the going gets rough. It is as unsatisfying as listening to someone tell you their dreams.
Jess Wheaton seems even less willing to resolve anything. One little painting shows a lens from a pair of binoculars sitting on a sort of swirl of grey. Another offers four white cubes set on a hexagon. These artists belong to a certain sector of the art world in which it is considered a sell-out to actually make sense.
- - -
And Caleb Speller can't make his mind up at all. His current show at the Slide Room Gallery in the Vancouver Island School of Art (2549 Quadra St., 259-380-3500, until Feb. 15) lured me by the promise of an installation of staged photographs set in Cathedral Grove. In addition he has set up a guitar between two piles of bricks; pie-slices of blanket material laid out in a circle on the floor; and a batch of drawings that hope to make a virtue out of aggressively bad technique and irresolute subject matter.
I came home with a case of esthetic indigestion.
Holy crap! Doesn't that sound like fun?
VanHalentine's Day Dance Party
Saturday February 13 at 9 pm
Ministry of Casual Living