Last week I attended an exhibition at The VAV Gallery a student organized exhibition space located in the Visual Arts building at Concordia. Human Error was a mesmerizing exhibition that brought together Aidan Pontarini and Caroline Steele and showcased some surprisingly fresh and ground-breaking paintings. I say surprisingly because I was not expecting to see such mature work being produced by couple of students. Yet there they were, occupying the walls with such vigor that they demanded attention and admiration.
Aidan Pontarini, who is a photography major at Concordia University and also the Art Director and Production Manager for a magazine called THE VOID, has produced some splendid photographs, and I can see him becoming a well-respected contributor to the field; however what I see in his paintings go beyond respectable and marginally good. These paintings are spectacular and so in your face that you abandon your sense of social convention and feel powerless in front of them.
Aidan Pontarini work catch you off-guard, because from afar they look like innocent cartoon figures and you approach them with the same giddy as a child spotting Pluto at Disneyland. Yet when you reach the painting everything goes awry, and you realize you are not safe anymore and Pluto might as well be a zombie Goofy, half decayed and missing a leg. Sure there is humor in these paintings like the use of the word FACK; however they are anything but lighthearted.
Aidan’s works are not cartoons or Pop art, even though the inspiration for them might have roots there; they are contemporary wonders that force you to look for narrative that is not there, leaving you doubting yourself and your senses. I was left wanting to see more, and even though it is not my place to dictate any sort of direction for an artist, I do think it would be a tragic loss if these paintings are not pursued and exhibited more widely.
Caroline Steele’s work equally deserves much praise and I have state that they were completely different from Aidan’s work. The technical aspect of Caroline Steele’s paintings puts them on par with old masters, yet visibly new. I have a feeling she will become known as a painters’ painter, because her works are so complex that I’m afraid her intention might be lost on the ordinary public. But I have to say that even with the works’ multifaceted qualities, they manage to look beautiful and the colors are so vibrant that people will be attracted to them even though they might fail to understand them. These are moot points of course because either way she will have a fruitful future as an artist and will receive a great deal of attention from critics.
Online Caroline Steele expresses her desire to find the relation between the human and mechanical production with the concept of error in mind: “While keeping the history and condition of art in mind, my work relates to the dichotomy of man and machine producing art, to what would happen when one uses the language of the other for reproducibility, and about the creation of new images through human errors when utilizing its technology.”
Indeed what make anything we create original are the errors that occur in the process, and our flaws are our undeniable connection with humanity. The question remains whether machines can create a flawless piece of art? Or whether by creating the machine we have automatically created a flawed design that can only replicate our mistakes?
What would happen if we allow a machine to create another flawless device? Or is that too impossible because our example no matter how hard we try will contain a certain number of errors?
A perfect specimen eludes me, as rightly it should. I think if we delve deeper into quest for perfection we will unwittingly reach the ideology behind God and all that that nonsense, so I prefer to stay down here with the earthy imperfect mortals and express my utter bewilderment at the level of maturity and excellence in Caroline Steele’s work.
It has been a long time since I was this excited about a painting exhibition and I have to say that I was blown away by Human Error at The VAV Gallery. Very well done to Concordia for once again producing such wonderful artists and I do hope I see more of their work.