Intricate works will make you look twice

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Winnipegger Galen Johnson continues his mesmerizing examination of "architectural fetish objects" in his third solo exhibition, now on view at the RAW Gallery of Architecture and Design.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/01/2011 (4334 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipegger Galen Johnson continues his mesmerizing examination of “architectural fetish objects” in his third solo exhibition, now on view at the RAW Gallery of Architecture and Design.

A graduate of the Environmental Design program at the University of Manitoba who currently works as a graphic artist, Johnson explores hybrid constructions that occupy some fervid, fertile ground between the natural world and the built environment, between creation and destruction, evolution and extinction.

These intricate ink-on-paper drawings, filled in with impossibly fine-brushed metallic paint, draw you into a surreal world where you have to constantly re-evaluate what you see. Are those concrete forms or fish bones? Bricks and mortar or flesh and blood? Is that iridescent sheen an insect wing or a shard of metal?

Ruth.Bonneville@freepress.mb.ca Works by Miriam Rudolph on display at Martha Street Studio explore the idea of neighbourhood.

Johnson’s giddy use of scale makes things even trickier. On the one hand, the 29-year-old artist references massive engineering projects — hydroelectric dams, banks of old factory windows, the rusting hulls of freighters, green expanses of golf courses, blue stretches of reservoirs. On the other hand, he has the meticulous, slightly mad instincts of the miniaturist. These nine small pieces are obsessively detailed, packing ferocious energy into a carefully contained and concentrated space.

There are suggestions of the steampunk esthetic here, with remnants of 19th-century industrialism moving through what might be some flooded, post-apocalyptic future, but the works aren’t exactly illustrational. Each of their thousand component pieces is absolutely convincing, but they all add up to beautifully unbuildable structures, strange morphing mash-ups of the organic and the mechanical.

— — —

Miriam Rudolph knows geography. Her family was part of the Mennonite diaspora, and she was born and raised in Paraguay and then came to Manitoba, where her grandparents once farmed, to attend the School of Art at U of M.

Her solo show, currently running at the Martha Street Studio, is described as “cartographic,” but in these beautifully balanced, lucid prints — mostly hand-coloured etchings, along with some linocuts — Rudolph eschews the precision of longitude and latitude.

She uses instead a kind of emotional mapping, where idiosyncratic pathways create a sometimes playful, sometimes profound, always personal sense of place. For her Manitoba pieces, Rudolph relies on familiar markers for the rural scenes (flax and canola fields, hay bales and grain elevators) and recognizable buildings for the city (The Bay, the Legislature, the Roslyn Apartments), but she transforms them with skewed perspective and a quirky point of view. The artist — and the viewer along with her — seems to be floating over the landscapes and standing in them at the same time.

Galen Johnson's Extinction exhibit features works that combine architectural detail with natural structures.

Having lived and moved within three cultures (Canadian, Paraguayan and German), Rudolph is interested in the idea of home, and in the ways people take streets and buildings and make them into a neighbourhood, whether that ends up being a crowded press of vendors’ stalls in a market in Aregua or a parade at Art City in Winnipeg’s West Broadway area.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

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Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

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