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 PontariniAidan 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.

Caroline SteeleOnline 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.

Born in Sept-Iles and raised in Quebec, local Verdun artist Katerine Darveau uses her limitless imagination, engineering experience, and natural talent to create some of the most fascinating tableau sculptures and naturally beautifying jewellery imaginable.

Spending her teenage years in solitude, Katerine learned to develop an elaborate imagination, finding refuge in her dreams and spirit, and allowing her to surpass the borders of the average world. Creation has always been an insatiable need for Katerine. Her fascination with science and energy led her to study electrical engineering. After completing her diploma, and working a few years as a Project Director, the desire for artistic freedom could no longer hold her back, and in 2007 she relocated to Montreal to pursue her dreams.

Using her artistic tables as a motor to propel her own inner transformations, Katerine began superimposing her artistic displays and integrating movement in a circular form. This circular support symbolizes totality and completion; the infinite possibilities that open windows into multitudes of parallel universes, where everything is in order, structured, and calculated, creating a perfect equilibrium.

Katerine’s work is spiritually enlightening as well as self enhancing, giving us the strength and desire to reach within ourselves to discover and take hold of both who we are and who we would like to become; it allows us to combine both these things, making our spiritual goals promising and attainable.

The three dimensional and natural appearance of her artwork is brought upon with the fusion of her imaginative representation of mineral and vegetable textures with animals. Katerine adds intense colour combinations to complement and complete her pieces’ purity with energy, thereby bringing the hybrid creations to life. Apart from the aesthetic attention and beauty of her art, she also implants subliminal messages within her work, engraved inconspicuously with her own symbolic language that evolves along with the art itself.

Her work has been displayed at the 2010 Transmorphologie Exposition and at the 2011 Mois de l’Histoire des Noirs, and she was a finalist at the Concours d’Art de la Ville de Quebec at the Musée National des Beaux Arts de Quebec in 2004. Currently, her pieces are displayed at the Fromagerie Copette and Cie, located on Wellington Street in Verdun, and she will be one of the many artists presenting their artwork during the Verdun Sidewalk sale in August.

 

All photos Courtesy of Katerine Darveau

So we’re talking beauty, eh? I’ll tell ya what’s beautiful: a vernissage. It’s a word I’d never heard before moving to Montreal, which isn’t all that surprising since french kissing is about as French as we get in Halifax. Sure, I’ve been to opening nights at art galleries before this year, but “opening night” lacks all the glamor and excitement that vernissage conveys. While opening night conjures up images of velvet curtains and stage fright, vernissage is equated with such beautiful things as free wine, tiny h’orderves, crowds of art enthusiastic and bite sized cupcakes with fluffy strawberry icing!

Tuesday night found me amidst a variety of interesting art forms, an electric crowd humming with energy and some really adorable pink cupcakes (so trendy). The vernissage for Beauty in Obsession at Galerie Rye was in fact, aesthetically pleasing. The title of the exhibit caught my eye when I was checking out the Art Matters website—we’re constantly slapped in the face by societal concepts of beauty, our own definitions of beauty, and our own unachievable beauty ideals and obsessions.  The concept behind this exhibit was to “engage our pursuit of beauty while displaying the aesthetics behind the artists’ obsessions in their artwork, questioning our obsessive nature and the potential beauty in it.” I got a chance to talk to some of the artists about their works, as I took in the variety of subjectively beautiful art that the exhibit presented.

When I saw a bunch of zines hanging from the wall I got really excited (I have this weird love affair with zines). Kelly Pleau was the mastermind behind these mini zines, entitled Montreal Beauty Marks. I started to flip through one, and it took me a minute to realize I was looking at a magnified image of someone’s forehead zit. A zine of zits—genius! I mean face it, everyone gets them so why not celebrate the little bastards! Kelly told me she was inspired by Iain Baxter’s zine, Vancouver Beauty Spots. She said the cover looked to be a landscape and, given the title, she thought it might be a compilation of Vancouver’s most beautiful areas. Then she realized she was actually looking at an up-close photograph of porous skin, and instead of flora the zine was celebrating beauty marks! I found Kelly’s display to be a refreshing take on beauty—and a really fucking cool idea.

Although she had left before I had the chance to chat with her, Julia Waks’ work, The Good News and The Bad News, was another eye catching display. Four rectangular wooden boxes hung from the wall with pink tulle and tubes of red and pink lipstick around the edges. Fabric, ribbon, lace and disassembled lingerie slathered in pink and cream paint covered the canvas surface of each box. I thought the torn fabrics and savagely slapped on paint was an interesting contrast to the soft, girlish colours. The lipstick tubes were especially pertinent, seeming to represent societal ideals of beauty and the idea of beauty as a performance.

Jeffery Togerson played with the idea of gender as performance through his enlarged photographs. He asked four of his friends to pose as pin-ups to echo pop culture iconography, and for each friend this meant something different. He pointed to one of his prints and told me that it was a female friend who was posing James Dean style, while another male friend had an elaborately made up face of makeup—linking together the concept of gender as a performance and beauty as a performance. Ah, smart art!

A stunning charcoal portrait drew me in with alluring eyes that were so realistic I actually couldn’t look away. The portrait was done by Sara Antis on gold wrapping paper, and slightly snipped and ripped with scissors. Sara told me how she thinks the solitary gaze of a portrait doesn’t need to be explained or deconstructed—it just is, and in its simplicity lays its beauty.

Beauty in Obsession is an amazing collection of student art that runs until March 19 (last day for Art Matters)…you’ve got a little bit of time left so if you haven’t checked it out, GO! Also, starting April 1 Galerie Rye presents HIP! Portraits of Cool, a collection of counterculture portraits by Canadian photographer Art Perry. Ranging in hipness from Lou Reed (so damn cool) to Patti Smith (LOVE) to Nick Cave—even to Princess Di—this exhibit promises to be awesome.

Catch the vernissage on April 1 from 7-11pm…oh man, here’s hoping for bite sized cupcakes! Galerie Rye is located at 1331A Ste. Catherine Est, a few steps away from Beaudry Metro.

Photos by Hania Souleiman