This year’s Art Matters Festival is already underway. The event runs from March 8–22nd with venues scattered all around the city. The student run festival aims to join the emerging art community of Concordia University’s undergraduate students with local art institutes. All organizers, curators and artists exhibiting are Concordia students. The festival promotes growth, diversity, exposure, communication, and community.

The first official event was hosted event for the festival’s 13th edition was hosted at the Mainline theatre on Nuit Blanche, and another opening party featuring djs and video projections at Espace Reunion.  Artists from all disciplines are celebrated: visual art, dance, performance, music, and design are just some of the  expressions showcased by this year’s line-up. Come  celebrate the creative individuals that make up Concordia University’s population.

Here are all eleven exhibitions being held this year:

Assumptions are not derivative of accepted facts but of distant tales. -March 7 – 19 at Galerie Espace

Curio – March 8-22 at Coat Check Gallery

Erase and Rewind – March 8 – 22 at Studio XX

Ill Palette – March 8 –  22 at Eastern Bloc

Lab 353 Biologie Materialiste – March 8 – 22 at Espace Projet

Menagerie for Hair & Wood – March 11 – 17 at La Baraque

Nature/Culture – March 8 – 22 at Studio #427

Ruins – March 11 – 22 at VAV Gallery

The Tactility of Objects: A Retrospective – March 7 – 18 at Les Territoires

Youth Well Wasted – March 8 – 22 at BBAM! Gallery

Another F****** Exhibition About Identities -March 1 – 30 / Casa Del Popolo


For more information on curators and artists, attend the open house weekend March 16-17. 

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

It was another rain drenched evening. A small ocean of acidic slush formed between me and everywhere I needed to go, while threatening to spill into my impractical ankle high boots at every wrong step. With an hour until the gallery closed, I waded through Rene Levesque towards VAV Gallery to check out the last night of DEFACED. Rather appropriate that when I finally got to the gallery and caught sight of myself in the mirror, my makeup was a rain splattered mess of mascara splotches and foundation drips. Defaced.

Through photographs, video and instillation, DEFACED focuses on obscured or hidden subjects’ faces in order to reinforce the presence of body and identity. Oscar Oliver’s inkjet prints, titled Das Ed/Id stood out stark and strong against the bright white walls. Using the same male subject, each of the eight portraits shrouded the model’s face through various means. The first print featured slabs of raw meat draped across his face. Another print showed his head completely wrapped in gauze. In another he had wire wrapped around his head, like someone is about to paper mache him, and the print after that featured snippets of wet black hair—like the pieces that fall to the floor during a haircut—placed sloppily all over his face. Bawh. It’s only in the last portrait that the subject’s face wasn’t completely obscured, except for wire imprints and left behind scratches.

One of my favourite artists was Zoe Koke. Her three photographs titled Tell Me Yesterday, showcased one female model and was primary focused on the body, based in a living room setting, and hosted an antique couch as the prop. The model wore a bra and panties in each picture, showing her bare-skinned silhouette and hiding her face from view. In one portrait you could only see her head, although her face was obscured by a bright blue wig. What grabbed my attention and kept me in front of the photographs was that “lazy afternoon” vibe I felt from it. Koke captured a sense of bored playfulness, in one image as the model was draped over a couch and her legs were flat against the wall with her back on the couch in another.

Washed Up was another triple photography display showcasing the same nude female model. I found it particularly striking because in each picture the model was dropped into a city setting in a vulnerable pose. In the first photograph, she was curled in fetal position in a glass-windowed hallway. The second showed her huddled face down in an open grassy area, like a discarded baby alien dropped from the Mothership. In the third, most stunning, image the nude female was laid out in a gracefully exposed position—breasts facing skyward, arm behind head—in the middle of a damp concrete walkway, with street lamps illuminating puddles.

Erik Naumann showcased an array of vivid photographs with his piece The Rainbow Team. He displayed girls dressed in vibrant Harajuku fashion from the waist down. I was absorbed by the details of each outfit, the vivid colours and the way their feet were posed—a rare focus of a photograph!

Obscuring the subjects’ faces lets you view the photographs in a new way. Instead of being guided by facial expressions, you become more aware of other aspects—like a sepia colour scheme, or an antique couch—that also work to evoke emotion.

We all experience art differently—if anyone else went to see this exhibit, I’d love to hear what you thought of it!

Top Photo by Cindy Lopez

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