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Opinion

Drawn together

Five local artists display studio work in intimate exhibition

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/1/2017 (1232 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

‘Drawing is an intimate act" begins the text for Au-delà/Furthermore, an impromptu gathering of work by five Winnipeg artists at the Maison des Artistes. It’s true in more ways than one.

Drawings record an artist’s actions and presence directly on the page, without relying on the depths and textures of paint or the camera’s mechanical intervention. Drawing is often a private practice, too. Many artists, painters and photographers among them, make drawings that rarely leave the studio, including many of those in Au-delà. The drawings in the show offer intimate glimpses — always revealing, sometimes uncomfortably so — into wide-ranging creative and personal processes.

Susan Aydan Abbott’s Mood Portraits.</p></p>

Susan Aydan Abbott’s Mood Portraits.

The exhibition is hung informally, with unframed drawings held to the wall with magnets, some with the ragged edge of a coil-bound notepad still attached. Spot illustrations and diary comics by Evin Collis do well in this relaxed setting. Whereas the artist’s paintings and sculptures are mired in sludgy regurgitations of Canadiana kitsch, the drawings have a welcome sharpness and authenticity. The comics in particular, made on the job at CP Rail, balance romantic ideals and imagery against trashy, tedious aspects of lived experience.

Susan Aydan Abbott’s Mood Portraits and Benj Funk’s frenetic sketches use familiar genres of expressionism and abstraction to bring inner turmoil to the surface. Their drawings also hang in loose groupings on the wall, but here a more polished presentation might have thrown the work’s unvarnished angst in sharper relief, giving it greater weight.

Assuming a pleasant, even institutional "look" can, in the words of feminist conceptual artist Mary Kelly, let personal, subversive work "slip unannounced into the great hall and ask impertinent questions of its keepers." Bev Pike knows something about this.

Pike is known for her virtuosic, mural-scale gouache paintings of shell-encrusted grottoes and landscapes unearthed in piles of laundry, making these airy montages of finely worked, demurely framed and matted botanical drawings a surprise in their own right. Pike’s careful observation and rendering puts her in the company of pioneering female botanists — the delicate tendrils in particular remind me of Anna Atkins’ historic photograms of British algae — while her subject harbours a cunning secret. Viewers will or will not recognize the series title, Drosera, as the largest genus of carnivorous plants, unassuming bog-dwellers that produce pearls of mucilaginous "sundew" to lure, ensnare and quickly digest unwitting prey.

Still, the show’s biggest reveal has to be the 15 mostly unseen and deliriously unhinged new drawings by Diana Thorneycroft. Unencumbered by the physical constraints of her better-known photographic and sculptural work, drawing seems to have let Thorneycroft’s unruly id truly off-leash. The results are as compelling as they are outlandish: fastidiously and colourfully worked in pencil crayon with the occasional glitter accent, her characters cavort through Prismacolor dream scenes in varied states of arousal and distress, unbound by rules of anatomy, gender, species, physics or decorum.

If after all that you need to take a step back a moment, you’re in luck: a concurrent exhibition of atmospheric landscape paintings by Emilie Lemay is on in the main gallery through February. A last-minute addition to the program on view for just a few weeks in the Maison’s Studio gallery, Au-delà closes Jan. 22.

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

Spot illustrations and diary comics by Evin Collis work well in the relaxed setting of the Au-delà / Furthermore exhibition.</p>

Spot illustrations and diary comics by Evin Collis work well in the relaxed setting of the Au-delà / Furthermore exhibition.

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