Rope+Thread=ism Exhibition


Rope and Threadism
Rope and Threadism – Photo Taymaz Valley

Walking up the steps of St-Brigide de Kildare Church in Montreal, I was faced with an entrance structure bound by ropes, a gateway of some sort into our future located simultaneously in our past. As I walked through the gateway, a harmonious chorus of angelic tones welcomed me into the space; this fortuitous event however was purely happening by chance, as the singers for the special event at the Rope+Thread=ism exhibition were preparing their show.

The Church produces a sanguine and calm effect when one walks in, as the light coming through the colored glass windows makes sure you know this is a grand place demanding humble piety from all pilgrims. That is precisely why the organisers of the exhibition Amy Lilien and Atiq Kamel, from the IQ Gallery, have brought their concept into this space.

The idea of ism is being placed under the microscope here, and you are being taken on a journey from the classical to the avant-garde so you can question your understanding of all art movements in the past. This exhibition highlights the much debated question of continuity in art and history, and requires further contemplation on the subject.

The notion of continuity in human evolution and civilization undoubtedly has much evidence to support it. Just like natural selection, civilizations progress into a much more apt frontier by adapting to circumstances surrounding them; as Herodotus put it: “Circumstances rule men; men do not rule circumstances.”


Rope and Threadism
Rope and Threadism – Photo Taymaz Valley

When it comes to Art, many have observed that it cannot be improved upon. One cannot say that Impressionism was an improvement on academic painting, or Abstract Expressionism trumps Cubism. Each art period was a direct result of its milieu; each new ism in art was simply a new way of looking at the socio-economic and political factors the artists were exposed to at the time. What they expressed were products of their time and not improvements on previous artists. However, the way they expressed it can be seen as an evolution.

Pablo Picasso once said: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child”, though he neglected to mention that Raphael had less opportunities to paint like him because of the scarcity in equipment, technological advances, discoveries of primitive art and social consciousness. Picasso and modernism was born from the freedom those artists had to experiment with art. The collages, assembled sculptures, pottery, photography and all the other tools that the avant-garde artists had access to paved the way for them.

One must not forget the Collective consciousness of the viewing public. Shocking as it might have been to see a cubist painting in 1920s, the public had been familiarized with notion of breaking academic rules by the Impressionists, and in turn Delacroix and Manet had done their part to open doors for those Impressionists. So continuity in Art becomes fathomable when one takes into account history, science, technology, psyche and other progressions in society; and although the subjects of those artworks are not improvements on previous generation, the means can be.


Rope+Thread=ism Exhibition
Rope+Thread=ism Exhibition – Photo Taymaz Valley

Amy Lilien and Atiq Kamel have transformed a grand religious building into an utter modern space where the bravery of contemporary art can be observed without being overshadowed by relics of the past. It is far too simplified to say there is a progression from the classical to the new here, because as luck would have it they weren’t allowed to hang the work on the walls, and so they have made a decision to place all of the artwork on the floor; so now, they do not need to compete and are separate entities.

The artwork on the ground makes us feel as if we are looking at the beginning which at the same time is our future. We have gone around in a circle, yet infinity of our art as subjects of our time becomes apparent. What we have here is timeless, and challenges our preconceived rationalities. History has lent a hand and each thread has played a part in this rope to produce an outstanding contemporary show.

Rope+Thread=ism Exhibition at St-Brigide de Kildare Church 1151, rue Alexandre-de Seve, Montreal is on until July 14th 2012

the eye David Altmejd’

The Eye by David Altmejd

David Altmejd’s The Eye standing tall and towering in front of The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has been well received by most critics in the city, and I being a fan of the ghoulish macabre couldn’t help liking it. I saw it being installed and watched it being unveiled, breathing a sigh of relief on discovering something other than a pair of hearts or a massive bronze cow on its hind legs.

The Museum took a chance with a young artist and they deserve all the praise they get; and they haven’t over reached. The sculpture described Modern by the Museum is also old fashioned with a hint of classical to it, and by classical I mean following the academics.

Resembling a melting, decaying, rotting David being consumed by a multitude of hands, it also has a Surrealist aura to it, albeit Dali’s version of Surrealism inspired by more of a nightmare than a dream. There are religious elements to the piece and Altmejd doesn’t deny it, comparing it to the Eye of God glass pyramid residing on top of The Louvre, despised by so many Parisians as an eyesore.

Apart from Michelangelo’s David reference, the angelic wings give it that heavenly perception, although more like a fallen angle here on earth. Never the less, the sacred aspect of the work is fully on display and references to afterlife is rife within the piece, which at the same time confirms and denies all the academic notions of beauty.

Religion boasts the monopoly on beauty and the art scene has been moving away from it ever since Modernism by trying to destroy it through what has been labelled as ugly but true. The word “beautiful” sends shivers down spines of many artists, and they fear it, because consequently their work would be marginalized and deemed unimportantly banal.

Beauty has been associated with the divinely encompassing, chocolate boxy designs which are there to calm prosaically rather than inspire intellectually; and to combat this artists took refuge in abstraction and the macabre. However, as years have passed, the same word expressed in hushed tones is now being said about modern art.

We are no longer shocked by them, now we embrace them as striking and full of life. Heavenly bodies and immortal divinities are no longer the only accepted beautiful creatures we can depict. Even fallen, disfigured, decomposing angles burning in hell are now found beguiling by the public.

So the jig is up, the fat lady has sung, we are now finally moving toward a secular society where beauty can be found everywhere and not in churches and holy buildings, right? I’m afraid not, well not yet.

One only has to look at the ever growing Ultra Realism academic movement to see reverts back to mixture of Classicism and contemporary life. Classicism which inspired Renaissance and Baroque periods, so adored by the academics, was a Greco-Roman process of depicting Gods and Mythology and the return to it means a return to those ideologies.

You could simply attribute this phenomenon to the financial difficulties we are experiencing; after all, throughout history, in times of economic hardship artists have always returned to Classicism. Even Picasso, señor Modernism had a period of neoclassic paintings after the end of the First World War amidst the French financial crisis.

But I fear our problem has deeper roots. People are more and more taking sanctuary in religion in backlash to widespread of extremism and political instability in other countries. We have observed the recently deceased devoutly religious artist Thomas Kinkade become the most famous American painter of our time, selling work all over the world, even shamefully to this once naïve art enthusiast.

It seems you cannot become a President or a Prime Minister if you reject the Almighty, and now artists are careful to hit all bases by giving their work a dash of the heavenly, because Museums are set to attract visitors, and so now they have to be conservative.

The visually beautiful is becoming the goal for most people prompted by fashion and movies, and now divinely beautiful is once again in the cards for art. However, for how long I won’t venture a guess, but the sooner gone the better.

Looking at the David Altmejd’s sculpture I cannot help but to notice the golden bronze purposely chosen by the artist, and I think here stands a very expensive guarding angel for creativity’s modern church: The Museum of Fine Arts.