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This article was published 31/12/2015 (1512 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Going through my review folder this month, it looks as if I covered something like 70 exhibitions this year, while missing quite a few others — a number that surprised me. While nearly all these shows were nice to see, there are really only a handful that I find myself revisiting again and again, or wishing that I could.
Craig Love, a wildly inventive and productive painter, doesn't show nearly often enough. This year, thankfully, fellow artist and local luminary Wanda Koop was on hand in the studio to offer a nudge out the door and a second set of eyes. A string of visits resulted in O Cuckoo, a buoyant 10-year selection of Love's smaller "easel paintings" at Cliff Eyland's Library gallery in September. The semi-abstract canvases peppered with text fragments were the most rewarding kind of nonsense: pointless to describe, like something just on the tip of your tongue, they left me happily dumbstruck.
Another prolific and sometimes baffling Winnipeg painter, Mélanie Rocan's Beautiful Disasters at Actual Contemporary, also in September, lacked consistency, but the emotional clarity and dazzling complexity of its standout works more than compensated. Blazing in the Sun, a retina-searing, pastoral panorama convulsing with violent brushwork and butterflies, and Crowd in Suspense, a funny, frank, surreal, and entirely too-real unveiling of artistic vulnerability, will stay burned in my memory for some time.
Abstract Objectives, the WAG's ongoing survey of (mostly) Canadian abstract painting since 1950, caught me wonderfully off guard. Despite having what sounds like the most boring imaginable premise, the show is a riot. Smartly curated by Andrew Kear, cleverly sequenced and delightfully crowded, its close, unfussy staging and approachable but informative texts all contribute to a familiar, convivial atmosphere that I don't normally associate with formalist abstraction. I'll certainly be back before it closes in May.
Though there seemed to be fewer than in past years, 2015 saw a handful of other engaging, thought-provoking curated group shows. Organized by the Manitoba Craft Council, curated by Sigrid Dahle and hosted by Aceartinc., Play, Precarity and Survival was a smart, sensitive examination of ceramics through the lens of global cultural and economic exchange. Lavishly installed at Actual, Video Pool's Age of Catastrophe brought together nuanced and provocative artistic responses to the mounting crescendo of man-made and natural disasters. Mammo'wiiang To Make Change at Brandon's AGSM highlighted proactive responses to the conditions of colonialism, emphasizing performance-based and interactive works that engage deeply and honestly in collective memory, dialogue and action.
Quieter solo exhibitions probed subjective experience, leaving their own indelible marks. Scott Benesiinaabandan's novel, architectural installation of digital photographs at Platform in June proposed that selfhood emerges where public and private acts of resistance intersect. The Yolk of Menial Light by Andrea Roberts, recently at Aceartinc., hinted darkly at the ways identity is constructed and demolished by social and technological scrutiny, while Aleksandra Domanovic's current show at Plug In weaves a compelling if cryptic feminist mythology from threads of political history, internet technology and science fiction. Most quietly (and most indelibly for me), A Certain Distance, an exhibition of superficially restrained but intensely focused drawings and video by Sylvia Matas at Lisa Kehler Art and Projects, poignantly tried to apprehend the universes that exist on either side of a second-storey bedroom window.
And lastly (taking us to 11, if you're counting) Dany Reede's sad-sack funhouse of an exhibition at Graffiti Gallery was just the sweetest (and most ambitious, most sustaining, most welcome) thing.
Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist, writer and educator.
Updated on Thursday, December 31, 2015 at 10:32 AM CST: Replaces photo, adds photo