Critical Review: Life and People at the Western Front

Written By: Alexandra Hill

Edited By: Mona Min

Barry Dupé, Lorna Mills, Mark Delong: Life and People @ the Western Front, September 12 – October 25, 2014

The Western Front recently exhibited a show featuring the latest participant in their residency production program. This exhibition featured visual artist Barry Dupé who created a video piece during his time there and which this exhibition is centred around. As the title suggests, the theme of this show involves concepts around what is described as hum drum, the mundane, and the everyday. Along with Dupé, Mark Delong and Lorna Mills contribute their works to this exhibition. Being considered as a group show, the pieces by these three artists clashed in my mind and were not curated in a way to promote a sense of unity or conversation. Overall this exhibition lacked flow and cohesion, one could find interest, however, in the content of the pieces created by the individual artists.

Paintings/collages by Mark DeLong. Life and People @ Western Front. Photo by Ash Tanasiychuk

Paintings/collages by Mark DeLong. Life and People @ Western Front. Photo by Ash Tanasiychuk

When one first enters the Western Front’s small gallery space, one is faced with Delong’s wall pieces and Mills’ video work. The wall pieces consist of heavily layered collages of vintage Hockey News pages, paint, and unidentifiable bits of detritus, many of which involve ingredients from his kitchen, which are all imbedded in a thick layer of resin and framed deep set in wood. The nine works measuring approximately 12 X 10” are placed across form Mills’ video piece, which consist of three screens sitting on top of each other to form a tall plinth-like structure. The three screens display Mills’ chosen medium of an animated GIF, found footage that is shown in its raw pixelated form. Layering many GIFS on top of one another, Mills creates a constantly in motion but repetitive and mesmerizing visual experience.

 

Behind a wall that divides the small space where Mills’s and DeLong’s works reside, Dupé’s 22-minute video work is projected in its own small private viewing space. The typical rectangular plinth for sitting lies in front of it. The video itself involves a small cast of people, some of whom I recognize as local artists, interacting with each other in awkward and odd-looking everyday exchanges. It is shot to reveal the imperfections of the participants and give it a very raw look, the redness in the actor’s faces contributes to this. The interactions and exchange of conversation sound recognizable, but they are staged in a way that is awkward and unfamiliar. The scenes of this video are set and staged in the building that it is shown in, creating an association between the setting the viewers are placed in and the where the scenes are unfolding

GIFs by Lorna Mills “Party Manners (series)” Life and People @ Western Front.  Photo by Ash Tanasiychuk for Vandocument.

GIFs by Lorna Mills “Party Manners (series)” Life and People @ Western Front. Photo by Ash Tanasiychuk for Vandocument.

The individual pieces in and of themselves are an intriguing exploration of found materials and materials of the everyday. I can see how DeLong and Mills’ pieces create a dialogue around the use of the commonplace object, utilizing materials found in the home and images one would find on the Internet. I cannot quite grasp, however, the attempted conversation between these works that share a rough and thrown together aesthetic, with the clean high definition quality and the script-driven video work. Dupé’s work bounces off the ideas of the surrealists’ notions of the subconscious. He works off of automatic drawing and writing to create pieces that use language and imagery. This, compared to DeLong’s and Mills’ abstract collages that lack the use of language or a recognizable narrative, creates a rift between composition and conceptual nature. The first two artists provide a snap shot and compilation of the everyday and create a superficial spectacle of human consumption, Dupé attempts to go into the layers of reason underneath that are the cause.

Barry Doupé, video still from Life and People, 22 min, HD video, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

Barry Doupé, video still from Life and People, 22 min, HD video, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

Life and People as a show meant to create a conversation between these three artists work, as I have said, lacks cohesion. The content of each artists’ work is not curated in a way to make a well enough connection and association between them. Group shows are meant to create relationships and new dialogue to pieces that would not usually be experienced together. This show, however fails to do this, not taking the content of the works into enough consideration. The independent pieces in and of themselves, however, are interesting investigations into the use and manipulation of the everyday to hoist it into dialogue with contemporary and conceptual art.

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