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School's OUT

Recent art school grads and current students make a big impression off-campus

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Art school provides some of the most focused attention many artists ever get, but it doesn't last. Every artist-in-training eventually has to face the public.

This April's BFA Graduating Exhibition at the University of Manitoba showcased nearly 30 emerging artists, transforming the Art Lab building into a four-storey gallery. Fortunately for anyone who missed it, current students and recent graduates continue to make an impact off-campus over summer holidays.

Last month saw the inaugural Junkhaus exhibition, a one-night-only affair exploring "sublime consumer minimalism," the seven-artist collective's esthetically restrained, defiantly bratty brand of off-label conceptual art. C Space, a rental gallery co-directed by 2013 grads Rowan Gray and Michael Mogatas, has hosted an impressive run of shows since the fall, including Restricted by Comfort, classmate Jeanine Saurette's recent exhibition of minimal, meditative upholstery foam sculptures.

Opening last week, Aceartinc.'s annual curated student show offers a chance to catch up with six of Winnipeg's most promising new artists. Together they cover a lot of ground:

Junkhaus contributor Hannah Doucet's photos of impromptu still lifes and tableaus typify the indifferent formalism that's found traction among younger, "post-Internet" artists. Her precarious arrangements of scrap lumber, scribbled-on bedsheets, real and artificial greenery, computer printouts and battered plinths revel in their own impermanence.

Katrina Mendoza brings a light touch, poetic sensibility and calculated nonchalance to her Untitled Landscape, a wall-oriented installation of laser-cut acrylic, vinyl graphics, and artificial turf. Underneath a flat red sun, needle-like raindrops fall amid indecipherable glyphs and squiggles; a fragmentary checkerboard of Astroturf laps gently at baseboards. Captioned with a 12-line poem in place of materials and dimensions, the work strikes an evocative balance between abstraction and representation, the virtual and the physical, the remembered and the real.

Vladimir Kraynyk's skilfully rendered oil paintings offer a contemporary gloss on surrealism and geometric abstraction. Transfixed combines CGI aesthetics and Old Master techniques, rendering an impossible tangle of polished steel and spun glass in limpid, luminous glaze layers.

In All of Those Years, a series of 10 full-colour silkscreen prints, Mariana Mu±oz Gomez drags a straightening iron through her "unruly" hair. Moving down the line, the cyan, magenta, and yellow layers separate into glitchy bursts of overlapping afterimages before realigning again, unruly curls intact.

Silkscreened images become articulated paper dolls in a stop-motion animation by Alison James. We listen as a group of friends piece together the events of a drunken house party in a giggly, sweary voiceover, watching as the jittering figures act out the conflicting accounts. Mu±oz and James each tie their respective concerns (daily struggles with appearance and identity, the fallibility of memory) to form and process. The results are at once whimsical, poignant, and smart.

Nicole Flynn's vaguely sinister CAGEOT is the lone freestanding installation. Viewers step into the black interior of a roughly-finished wooden crate, recalling a shipping crate, an outhouse, a coffin, or a confessional booth, where they're met with a gentle cascade of cool air and a slow trickle of water. Ice cubes on an overhead grate gradually melt from the heat of a single bare bulb (and the viewer's own body), draining through slats in the floor into an outside basin. I took the work as a reflection on themes of climate change, commerce and personal responsibility, but viewers are left to draw their own conclusions.

Aceart's student show closes next Tuesday, but I doubt this is the last we'll see of any of the artists involved. An exhibition by 2014 BFA graduate Alana MacDougall reflecting on her experiences as a cancer patient is up at C Space until Aug. 1, and rumour has it there's another Junkhaus show in the works.

Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg based artist, writer and educator.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 24, 2014 C14

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