Eye-catch­ers in 2012,

Ot­tawa’s vis­ual art scene really popped last year

Ottawa Citizen - - FOOD - PETER SIMP­SON

Ididn’t see ev­ery ex­hi­bi­tion in the Ot­tawa area this year, but I did see many. Here are the shows in vis­ual arts that I re­mem­ber most fondly from the past 12 months ...

1 Nuit Blanche (Sept. 22): The overnight fes­ti­val of con­tem­po­rary art in­stal­la­tions, spread through­out the city core, had a smash­ing de­but in the cap­i­tal. Thou­sands of peo­ple milled through the streets to see the work of hun­dreds of artists un­til well into the next morn­ing. Big Beat high point? At the cor­ner of Rideau and Sus­sex was Genevieve Thau­vette, the young, idio­syn­cratic Ot­tawa pho­tog­ra­pher, dressed as Marie An­toinette in a gi­ant cake singing La Mar­seil­laise and Mon Cher Ami all night long. Her per­for­mance em­bod­ied the ex­u­ber­ance and fresh­ness of the night. Nuit Blanche or­ga­niz­ers proved the event held an­nu­ally in cities around the world can work in Ot­tawa, be­cause the pub­lic in­ter­est is huge.

2 Three in­stal­la­tions (Na­tional Gallery): Through­out the year came a tri­umphant trio of tem­po­rary in­stal­la­tions at the Na­tional gallery. Janet Cardiff’s glo­ri­ous Forty Part Motet, with 40 voices on 40 speak­ers, re­turned and was again ide­ally set in the Rideau Chapel. Chris­tian Mar­clay’s 24-hour video The Clock was built of imag­i­na­tion, am­bi­tion, and thou­sands of short clips from film and tele­vi­sion, wo­ven into a day­long odyssey of fa­mil­iar scenes made oddly strange. Chris­tian Jankowski’s one-hour video Cast­ing Je­sus is a sub­ver­sively straight­for­ward record of a cast­ing call for ac­tors to play Je­sus Christ at the Vat­i­can, with pa­pal of­fi­cials pre­sid­ing over would-be mes­si­ahs like re­al­ity-show judges, catty re­marks and all. (It’s now show­ing at the gallery.)

3 Van Gogh: Up Close (Na­tional Gallery): Some peo­ple told me they didn’t go to the gallery’s big sum­mer show be­cause it lacked the Van Gogh block­busters — no Starry Night or Por­trait of Dr. Ga­chet. How silly is that? Those peo­ple missed an ex­hi­bi­tion that showed how Van Gogh’s work, in just a few years, went from be­ing stu­dious and de­riv­a­tive to be­ing free-spir­ited and enor­mously in­flu­en­tial. In­cluded were grand works by any mea­sure — Al­mond Blos­som, Wheat Field with Sheaves, Iris — and they helped to pro­vide in­sight into how Van Gogh be­came pos­si­bly the most fa­mous artist in the world, more than a cen­tury af­ter his death. 4 Sail­ing Through Time (River Build­ing, Car­leton Univer­sity): Ot­tawa sculp­tor David Fels took the trunk of the 300-year-old “Brighton Beach Oak,” a tree beloved by res­i­dents in Old Ot­tawa South un­til it died and was cut down last year. From a sin­gle block of wood Fels carved Sail­ing Through Time, a swoop­ing, bil­low­ing colos­sus — more than 12 feet high and weigh­ing hun­dreds of pounds. It’s an elo­quent, beau­ti­ful ex­am­ple of Fels’ unique and pro­found re­la­tion­ship with wood.

5 Joe Fa­fard & Rus­sell Yuristy (Cube Gallery): Joe Fa­fard and Rus­sell Yuristy are old friends, and their work in the ex­hi­bi­tion Prairie Com­pan­ions was mu­tu­ally com­ple­men­tary. Yuristy’s draw­ings and Fa­fard’s sculp­tures round up a menagerie of an­i­mals domestic and wild, and the stars of the show are Fa­fard’s wild horses. They are mag­nif­i­cent, just like the larger ver­sions he has out­side the Na­tional Gallery.

6 Marc Ner­bonne (Ga­lerie St-Lau­rent + Hill): The Gatineau artist, now in Mon­treal, pho­to­graphs road­kill and uses the im­ages in mul­ti­me­dia paint­ings of an­i­mals. Some are ghoul­ish, some look al­most nor­mal, but all are stun­ning and highly orig­i­nal. In his ex­hi­bi­tion No Med, at St-Lau­rent + Hill, and in the Lo­cal Flora group show at SAW Gallery, Ner­bonne cre­ated a dark an dis­turb­ing world.

7 Ex­treme Self (SAW Gallery): Ja­son St-Lau­rent’s de­but ex­hi­bi­tion as cu­ra­tor at SAW Gallery brought to­gether self-por­traits by artists cast in ice-cream (Theo Pel­mus) or sub­merged in swamps (Anitti Laiti­nen). Suzy Lake stood mo­tion­less in the for­est, 2Fik cast him­self as gay Mus­lim man, and Chris Bur­den made TV ads that took self-pro­mo­tion to new lev­els. The show was hi­lar­i­ous, tragic and provoca­tive.

8 Jonathan Hobin (City Hall Art Gallery): Hobin’s metic­u­lous pho­to­graphs of his grand­par­ents, ti­tled Lit­tle Lady, Lit­tle Man, made voyeurs of all who saw them. The cen­tre­piece was a large, proud por­trait of the cou­ple in their Sun­day best, re­mark­ably life­like when printed in UV ink on alu­minum pan­els. Most chal­leng­ing were the im­ages of Hobin’s grand­mother on her death bed. They were lov­ing por­traits from a pho­tog­ra­pher with a dis­tinct eye.

9 Amy Schissel (Pa­trick Mikhail Gallery): Ab­stract art is like a force of na­ture, and the artist’s job is to con­trol that force just enough to make it co­her­ent. Amy Schissel paints im­ages of cy­berspace, of the In­ter­net, cast as a swirl of vi­brant colours. Her show Sys­tems Fever at Pa­trick Mikhail Gallery showed that the con­cept works bet­ter in large for­mat than in small, but left lit­tle doubt as to why she was short­listed for the RBC Cana­dian paint­ing prize.

10 Ma­jes­tic (Na­tional Gallery): Michel de Broin’s gi­ant sculp­ture, made of lamp posts up­rooted by hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in New Or­leans, is play­ful and pro­found, and the best part of the Builders bi­en­nial of con­tem­po­rary Cana­dian art. Ma­jes­tic is sober­ing and up­lift­ing at the same time. It was in­stalled only re­cently and if I’d had more time to spend with it might be higher on this list. Re­gard­less, it’s imag­i­na­tive, re­flec­tive and ac­ces­si­ble — ideal for an out­door piece at a pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion.

A few other things that de­serve spe­cial men­tion from the Ot­tawa art scene in 2012 ...

I won’t soon for­get see­ing Howie Tsui’s works on the War of 1812, from draw­ings on deer hide to a re­fur­bished pin­ball ma­chine. Kristy Gor­don’s por­traits at Cube Gallery showed a young artist who con­tin­ues to probe, to learn, to im­press. Lorena Zi­raldo’s paint­ing She Whis­pered, at Wal­lack Gallery in Novem­ber, was as good as any I saw in a com­mer­cial gallery in Ot­tawa this year. Adad Han­nah’s video in­stal­la­tion the Bour­geois of Calais, at the Ot­tawa Art Gallery, was desta­bi­liz­ing and com­pelling. Fi­nally, An­drea Stokes’ ex­hi­bi­tion at the Hin­ton­burg Pub­lic House was a mov­ing record of her young daugh­ters, and their lives in the wake of the sud­den death of their fa­ther. It was art as both ther­apy and tes­ta­ment.


Life is Beau­ti­ful was the theme of Nuit Blanche, the all-night con­tem­po­rary art fes­ti­val that had a smash­ing de­but in Ot­tawa in Septem­ber. Above, fans take part in Tavi Weisz’s Study of Staged Ex­u­ber­ance in the By­Ward Mar­ket.


Chris­tian Mar­clay’s in­trigu­ing in­stal­la­tion The Clock, at the Na­tional Gallery, com­bined thou­sands of short clips from film and tele­vi­sion.


The Na­tional Gallery’s block­buster Van Gogh ex­hibit in the sum­mer of 2012 fea­tured some spec­tac­u­lar works.


Joe Fa­fard’s fan­ci­ful horses roamed a de­light­ful show at Cube Gallery.


David Fels cre­ated a ma­jes­tic sculp­ture from a rot­ting 300-year-old oak that had to be cut down in Old Ot­tawa South.


Jonathan Hobin’s lov­ing, in­ti­mate por­traits of his grand­par­ents were re­mark­ably life­like.

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