Wish You Were Here / review by Bart Gazzola

Wish You Were Here: 23 Days at Sea
Review by Bart Gazzola for The Sound STC
December 2016

Many artworks employ an aesthetic of experience: intending to communicate the understanding of an event or occurrence that the artist has undergone / endured, or alternately that is worthy of recounting in a space of examination and consideration, like a collaborative act of remembrance. The current show at the Niagara Artists Centre, Chapter 1: Twenty-Three Days at Sea, is of that ilk.

The four artists that occupy the gallery space (Nour Bishouty, Christopher Boyne, Elisa Ferrari and Amaara Raheem) have a starting point that’s communal, but each brings their own understanding and history to this unique residency project. “Time stands still in travel” and thus we have slim vignettes of multiple intersecting experiences. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes not.

Twenty-Three is a unique project. Its relevant not just for considering how a cultural space can continue to foster creativity amid the madness of late capitalist frenzies of Vancouver real estate. Access Gallery in that city is the genesis of not solely this exhibition, but several “chapters” to come.

It also disrupts assumptions about “place.” In the Canadian “narrative”, place taints everything conceptually. In the post colonial / post modernist / post factual world, it’s yet another means by which we de / construct experience…

The descriptor: “In December 2014, Access Gallery….issued a call for…a highly unconventional artist residency, offering selected emergent and experimental artists passage aboard cargo ships sailing from Vancouver to Shanghai. Crossing the Pacific Ocean takes approximately twenty-three days, during which time artists will be considered “in residence” aboard the vessel…two candidates [would] inaugurate this multi-year project by setting sail in late summer 2015. [What] we had initiated was not simply an artist residency, but a powerful framework through which to address the complexity of our contemporary condition. The cargo ship — sailing across a vast and “empty” space of the sea, nearly always invisible to those on shore and yet inextricably threaded through all our lives — seemed to offer a near bottomless container for the imagination, for narrative and for cultural critique.”

The gallery is divided foursquare with the artists’ respective works separated (almost like a map). Boyne’s delightful installation Geneva, immediately to your left as you enter the Showroom space, mirrors a far table of photographs (gloves are provided for your perusal of the stacks of  glossy, large prints) and objects, immersed in an overpowering, almost unpleasant audio fog, at the far end of the room, from Ferrari. Her works is Untitled (“To stay in the hold of the ship, despite my fantasies of flight”).

Boyne’s work has a guileless quality. Partly because his many “ships” and “nautical” objects, like a child’s field of toy soldiers, have a playful nature that invites handling. There’s a simplicity, a starkness, to Geneva (wood, paint, brass) that evokes a long trip across a vast expanse, the isolation and loneliness of this, the emptiness and the understandable joy when you recognize a fellow traveller, in another ship, that passes you on the waters. Some of the “ships” are delicate and detailed, others are rough facsimiles of “boat”, like with any act of travel or movement that is so vastly abstract that we need to incorporate it into our imagination to understand it. Colour is sparse here (blocks of orange, cones of dark blue) as most of the pieces are beige with a touch of detail, some easily fitting in your hand. Others are tiny and could be lost on the floor, like a drop in a wider ocean.

This minutiae, this construction of meaning through repetitions of small “pieces” (a visual diary) connects to the personal narratives of Amaara Raheem, from lists of items (titled Time, Body, Things) or her soft, watery video (titled submerged) that seems as self reflective as it is oddly ambiguous (is it swimming or drowning? Leaving or arriving, or simply in an interstitial space in between?).

The video projections of Nour Bishouty also engage in first person narratives, tales told. Her inkjet prints from the series Shifting Surfaces, however, are more immediately engaging: the monochromatic images are vague and abstracted, but lovely in their delicate white frames.
These are all “practices defined by a perceptible and sustained state of “seeking” bodies of work produced in response to their voyages, along with published reproductions of their logbooks kept while at sea.” These are interesting enough to peruse separate from the exhibition, or to skim before / after the gallery space.

The excessive, almost aurilly abusive pulse of noise in the back of the gallery, in Ferrari’s work, is an honest replication of her experience. It has the veracity of repeated violence: perhaps in that respect its most successful in small doses, and like much audio art, plays with pushing the comfort of the “listener,” but regrettably I’ve little desire to sift the images or handle the objects on the table while I also gain a headache.

Twenty-Three is an interesting response to an immediate reality: whether the displacement of cultural spaces in Vancouver, or a site that is often “outside” artistic consideration (Mandy Barber, a U.K. based artist once produced an entire series about “public spaces that are owned by no one”, and many of these were / are spaces of travelling). But as the first “chapter”, I look forward to future work produced through these residencies that evoke more interest and engagement.

<< This review first appeared in The Sound STC >>

EMERGENT ART / review by Barbara Bucknall

EMERGENT ART
Review by Barbara Bucknall

When I look at the current show at NAC  by Justin  Pawson  and  Geoff   Farnsworth, the term “Emergent Art”,  which I found quite baffling when I first came across it, begins to make sense to me. These pictures seem to be emerging from the artists’ lower depths like improvised jazz pieces, without regard for standard categories such as “representational”, “abstract” or “surreal.” These categories are mixed.  The representational faces that look out at us from what seems like a rupture in an abstract surface, in Justin Pawson’s paintings, seem to belong to the world of fantasy and science fiction, and a very aggressive world at that. The titles are no particular help in identifying this world. Steve Remus compared them to the quite arbitrary titles attached to jazz pieces when I commented to him on this.

I think the picture by Justin Pawson I found most striking is “Babel” because the title is such an obvious non sequitur. When you hear the word “Babel” it is natural to think of the Tower of Babel, with the builders, stricken by God for attempting to reach the heavens, opening their mouths to offer incomprehensible fragments of speech, the languages having been divided. But the huge dark red face which dominates Justin’s painting is alone in quite a pleasant, appealing abstract area, with light, cheerful colors that in no way suggest Divine Retribution, while the mouth is tightly closed. It is such a severe face– my companion said it looked like Joseph Stalin–that it seems to be expressing condemnation rather than enduring it.

I said in my last Blog that Amber Lee Williams seemed to be engaging in soliloquy rather than inviting dialogue. Here we seem to be listening to two soliloquys harmonizing with each other. The comparison to jazz comes to mind again. Geoff’s paintings are less immediately self contradictory than Justin’s, but here too the line between abstract and representational is blurred, the two styles being broken into squiggly fragments, while the titles, such as “Amygdala Unit”, are equally disconcerting.

The one of Geoff’s I liked best was “Satori in Red and Blue”, which shows a male figure in a red coat and blue  boots standing in a snowy backyard.  The term “Satori”, which is applied to a sudden burst of consciousness after Zen meditation, seems appropriate, given the ordinariness of the scene.  “Before Enlightenment you chop wood and carry water.  After Enlightenment you chop wood and carry water.”  But for all I know, Geoff’s intention may be just to pull our legs.

But I now have another artist to mention. While I was viewing the above paintings at NAC  I was invited to step round the corner to Melanie MacDonald’s sale.  There I picked up the catalogue for her show “Scraps” at the Niagara Falls Art Museum, which I had unfortunately been unable to attend.  The introduction pointed out the sheer novelty of her completely unironic approach to the commercial art of an earlier time as it had been preserved in scrapbooks.  She really elaborates on that earlier vision on a very large scale.  This too can count as Emergent  Art because it is so surprising and unexpected, a completely new departure.

My final comment comes in the form of a poem I wrote some time ago about an experience of my own.

THE DOOR

We come to the door and find it locked.

No answer to our call.

But picking the lock we think should present

No difficulty at all.

However if we with craft

And cunning machinery come

To pick the lock,

The intricate tool refuses,

The skilled electricity fuses

And we are forced to stop.

But then one day we are wandering,

Lost in a dream:

The door stands open wide.

Without volition

We find we have stepped inside

And gifts are in our hand.

The unknown glory lights unbidden

Our purpose and our land.

REVIEW: We’ve Forgotten Where Our Hearts Have Been

We’ve Forgotten Where Our Hearts Have Been
Carrie Perreault
Review by NAC Member Barbara Bucknall

When I went to see Carrie Perreault’s show at NAC I was struck first of all by the emptiness of the room. It became quite clear very rapidly that this artist is not interested in producing beautiful objects to decorate private or even public rooms.
As Carrie states in a couple of barely visible statements isolated in the middle of large framed sheets of white paper, absence is itself a form of presence or presence is a form of absence or maybe one might say that the best way of being present is to be absent or to be absent is to be present. I failed to make a note of which way round this was put, but all the interpretations would be equally valid.
Next to these two framed statements were a pair of fringed flat cushions in a rather dull colour embroidered with the message that the artist did not expect to make much money by her art but if she did she would purchase more feathers to compensate the people who purchased the cushions. The precise nature of this message apparently escaped the artist as she was recording it, for she embroidered the word “life”, put a slash through it and substituted the word “live”. As Alice’s White Knight would put it, meaning trickles through her and our brains like water through a sieve.
Next in line came a series of small, unassuming photographs which, while in colour, did not seem to be recording anything in particular in at all a striking kind of way. This series was interrupted by two things and continued on the opposite wall. The first interruption consisted of the legend ‘We’ve Forgotten Where Our Hearts Have Been’ painted in large black letters on the wall. This seems to present the basic meaning of the show, but where in fact our hearts have actually been may or may not be indicated by a procession of marching modelled white feet that fills up the rest of the wall, or else by the photographs.
Natasha had told me that Carrie  was also a performance artist. I asked her about this and understood her to say that at the reception Carrie had performed a one person show called “Impossible Conversations”, moving about to different parts of the gallery. I was sorry I hadn’t been able to be there. As I was cogitating over all this, a light dawned: Carrie was trying to produce the same effects as Samuel Beckett by naming the things it is almost impossible to express.
I was unable to speak to her face to face but was able to leave a message on her answering machine asking if she really did have an affinity with Beckett as I thought she had. She called back very interested in Samuel Beckett for a long time.
We went on to have a pleasant chat about him. I reminisced about my first encounter with him. At the end of my last year at the University of Illinois, before coming to Brock, I had to teach “Waiting for Godot” as part of a course in French literature in English translation. When it came to the point, I was unable to think of anything to say about it so I just read out a critical essay to someone else had written. When I finished one of the students remarked that he had come across “Waiting for Godot” in another course, where the professor had not attempted to say anything about it. Instead he had instructed the students to spend the hour meditating in silence.Carrie remarked that one of the reasons why Beckett is difficult to talk about is that he is often funny but in such a grim context that to laugh would be like laughing at a funeral. I said that that reminded me of a Freudian slip I had once made. While on a trip I turned up at a Catholic funeral and the priest asked me if I would be staying long. “No”, I said, “I’m just passing on”. Carrie asked if the priest had laughed and I said “No, he just didn’t know what to make of it”.
In a Beckettion context that is the usual reaction, which is why Carrie Perreault’s show had me think of Beckett. For a while I had been reduced to silence by her show, just as we two professors had been by Beckett.
Not that Carrie would claim for one minute to have attained his stature. As she said to me as soon as the subject came up, “Those would be very big shoes to fill.” When she talks about herself she says she’s “an advocate for human witnessing” which takes the form of “meditative gestural acts”, perhaps this is a little too serious and when she makes and artist’s statement she might do well to be more like Beckett and lighten up a bit. I understand that although Beckett’s critics were initially stricken dumb, he has now been analyzed more than anyone but shakespeare, but on the subjects of his own work Beckett was always very modest and unpretentious.

#20 (final post)

This is my final post. If you have been following along thank-you kindly. You can continue to follow me here-

www.chrisboyne.com
http://chrisboyne.tumblr.com/
instagram- @christopherboyne – @white_chev

Thank-you,

Christopher Boyne

#19 > CORDITE COVE

Here is a screen capture from new video work titled cordite cove and a text to give some insight

CORDITE COVE

Christopher Boyne, 2014

 

During a winter storm in 1942, the steamship Clare Lilley ran aground while waiting for a pilot to assist in entering Halifax Harbour.   The ship was fully loaded carrying steel tube, aircraft tires, a deck load of machinery and vehicles, and over one thousand tons of munitions including cordite pellets (multi-perforated smokeless powder grains). Most of the valuable cargo including the machinery and vehicles were salvaged immediately but most of the munitions were left to sink in the hold of the ship. On the sea floor, the ship eventually broke in half exposing this dangerous cargo to the tides and currents. In the mid 1960’s, Navy divers recovered over 600 bombs from the site but to this day, millions of pieces of cordite still litter the seafloor.

Cordite Cove itself is very small about the size of a tennis court. There are steep rock cliffs on three sides and the Atlantic Ocean bare to the horizon on the other. The beach is covered with course pebbly sand. The forest leading to the cliffs is scraggly and thick with brush and fallen trees and cutting a path is very difficult. The cliffs are steep but a natural pathway leads down to the pebble beach. You must time your passage through the lowest section of this pathway with the rolling swells coming in off the Atlantic or you could get swept into the rocky ocean.

On the beach, digging through the sand, you will find the small pellets of cordite. You can collect maybe a hundred pieces in half an hour if you were quick and focused with the work. I used to go when I was a kid to collect the pellets in glass jars.

We would burn the cordite to feel its heat and watch its white-hot glow. It burns at a very high temperature and I remember it being able to melt itself into asphalt. Evan and Colin and I would melt action figures with the little pellets, stick them in the entrance-ways of anthills and load them in film canisters or pill bottles making bombs that never worked. Mostly, we would make ‘cordite rockets’ by tightly twisting a piece of cordite into a small square of tin foil. We would lay this tin foil packet on top of a piece or two of cordite and light the whole mess with a match. The pressure would build inside the foil and the piece inside would take flight shooting through the air burning in a white flash. The rockets would fly in any direction.

Recently I visited Cordite Cove with two of my oldest friends. I filmed the two and myself as we searched for cordite amongst the sand and pebbles. Though we all participate in the hunt, it is Colin’s focus that is the most intense and of the greatest interest. He shares his technique with Donald who quickly loses interest and gives up to skip rocks over the waves and talk about cars and sailboats. I too mostly give up focusing instead on Colin’s commentary and the beauty and rawness of that place. Little pings are heard in the audio as Colin drops piece after piece of cordite into the glass mason jar and a big sweeping noise comes as he uses his feet to push the top layer of larger pebbles away to reveal the cordite rich smaller pebbles and sand below.

I see the project not so much as a document of cordite cove the place and its history, but something that chronicles the shared history of a group of boys: boyhood, brotherhood, pranks, pyromania, love and dirt.

#18 > reflection from Jamie Campbell

reflection from Jamie Campbell

When Tom Boyne casts a story, you’ll surely get tangled all up in it. I mean this. He has charm, and a strong jaw line. He is an example of a confident man. You will not catch him hesitate.  He tells every story as if he has told it at least one-thousand times prior. Some, I am sure, he has. Each is delivered with perfect pauses, and flawless flow.  You’ll sink in, you’ll settle. He will reel you in.

If he was a fisherman and the story was his only bait, then it would be no great surprise that he caught so many god damn blue fin tuna in just three days.

Chris Boyne, however, is a different man than his father. His delivery is much more subtle. He depends on nuances, and inconsistencies, and fabrication, and exaggeration. Poetics are more important than facts. The sentiment of the story outweighs mere delivery. When Chris Boyne tells a story, it is lasting.

He is the hook – the object that represents the grandiose tale. His stories are the ones that sit on a shelf, overlooked by most. If you are not careful, or the type willing to seek them out, they are easily missed. I can assure you though, that they are some of the most thoughtful and honest around. I’ll say it again, when Chris Boyne tells a story, it is lasting – but you must be prepared to listen.

 

Jamie Campbell is an artist currently living in Toronto, Ontario.

website- http://www.jamiecampbellphotography.com/
blog- http://jamiecampbellphotography.tumblr.com/

 

#17 > Cape Island Boats

cape_island_boats_01Cape Island Boats

The boat my dad was on when he caught the two bluefins was called Lucky Strike. I did not have pictures of that boat or any specific information to base my design for the model on so I settled on the ‘every-boat’ of Atlantic Canada – the Cape Islander.

The Cape Island boat originated on Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia in the early part of the 20th century. Two families claim credit over the design. The Atkinson family of Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia is most commonly credited. The family continues to build boats today for commecial and recreational use. The other claim to the design of the boat comes from the Kenney family also of Clark’s Harbour.

Modern boats are made of fiberglass and have been updated through the years but interestingly, the overall hull model is really the same. The boats are made to be tough and strong and last up to 20 years. Cape Island style boats are sometimes referred to at ‘Novi’ boats. The boats are traditionally painted in bright colours that sometimes coordinate with the colour of fisherman’s houses. The boats are seen throughout the Maritime Provinces.

— Chris Boyne

 

 

 

 

#16 > North Lake, PEI

I found this interesting pictures of a 1248 lbs bluefin caught by Larry Manranksy in North Lake, PEI. I immediately recognized the structure the fish is hanging from and the ladder from the pictures of my dad with his tuna.

 

— Chris Boyne

#15 > Blue Fin Fishing Nova Scotia

15_c_boyne_flu_fin_fishing_01#15 > Blue Fin Fishing Nova Scotia

Sport fishing for tuna began in Nova Scotia in 1935 when Michael Lerner and his fishing guide Captain Tommy Gilford successfully landed five bluefin by rod and reel. The two had heard about the abundance of tuna in the waters around Wedgeport. Wedgeport became the Sport Tuna Fishing Capital of the World and attracted famous visitors including Babe Ruth, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ernest Hemmingway.

Sport fishing for bluefin continues in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Dwindling stocks or altered migration patterns has changed the fishing in the Wedgeport area. Most sport fishing today is carried out in the waters between Eastern Prince Edward Island, Northern Nova Scotia and Cape Breton.

The world record for bluefin fune was caught in 1979 by Ken Fraser off Auld’s Cove Nova Scotia. The fish weighted a massive 1,496 lbs and was over 10.5’ in length.

The longest contest between man and bluefin occurred off Liverpool Nova Scotia in 1934 when six men taking turns fought a 796lbs tuna for sixty-two hours.

— Chris Boyne

 

Bluefin Rodeo Wedgeport, Nova Scotia 1950s

Tuna Fishing in Wedgeport, Nova Scotia 1940s

part I

part II

#14 > THE CRAFT WITH A PROVED REPUTATION!

THE CRAFT WITH A PROVED REPUTATION!

EVERY MODEL IS GUARANTEED!

Interesting old literature from Star Yacht. ‘Guaranteed to Sail’ but it is complicated.

Star Yacht boats are very simple but the principles of sailing still apply. Windward—sailing against the wind. Reaching—sailing at right angles to the wind. Trimming sails. It is very important to me that these boats work in such a real way.

 

14_star_yacht_guaranteed