Artful Musing

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Closing of Dale Smith marks a shake-up in Ottawa art scene

By Paul Gessell

These days, if you’re walking past Gallery 3 on Wellington Street, chances are you’ll see a few dreamy, large-scale paintings of float planes in the window.

These are the works of Sarah Hatton, a Chelsea artist who largely came to the attention of Ottawa art-lovers years ago through her annual exhibitions at Dale Smith Gallery. Alas, that gallery disappeared earlier this year and Hatton has signed on with dealer Pierre-Luc St. Laurent of Gallery 3 and Gallery St. Laurent-Hill on Dalhousie.

Float Planes by Sarah Hatton. Oil, resin on panel, 2011.

Hatton’s paintings at Gallery 3 are just one example of a major shake-up of the Ottawa art scene that followed the demise of Smith’s Beechwood gallery. Some of Smith’s other artists, including Julie Liger-Belair, Susan Szenes, Eryn O’Neill, and Genevieve Thauvette, also joined Pierre-Luc.

Patrick Mikhail Gallery in the south end of the city now represents two of Smith’s stars, Michele Provost and Jonathan Hobin — and Mikhail has big plans for marketing those two artists abroad. Mikhail is increasingly becoming a major player in the Ottawa art scene.

Smith alumnus Karen Bailey has participated in some recent multi-artist exhibitions at Patrick John Mills Gallery in Hintonburg and has moved her studio to The Rectory Art House in the Market where her work will on view at an open house Dec. 14.

Meanwhile, Joe Fidia is with Terence Robert Gallery on Sussex.

As for Smith, she wants to remain a presence in the art world but is not yet ready to announce her plans. Actually, she has been busy in recent months helping her former artists — they were more like her foster children — find new homes for their work.

As Mikhail puts it, while explaining his new relationship with Provost and Hobin, “Dale had a role in playing matchmaker.” Mikhail sounds very enthusiastic about his new artists. Provost is best known for her cheeky works in embroidery and Hobin for staged photo-art narratives.

“I’m really happy to be working with Jonathan and Michele,” says Mikhail. “They are both really great people and great talents.  I’m lucky to be working with them.”

Solo shows by both artists are being planned. As well, Mikhail wants to develop their work for the international market. But first, he will be adapting their work to a project called Patrick Mikhail Editions to be unveiled in February. This will involve a series of limited edition prints and original works from several of Mikhail’s artists, all priced at less than $1,000.

“And then we’ll be taking them both to the Montreal art fair known as Papier 12 in April 2012.  As part of our gallery’s booth and presentation, I also have plans to take them to Art Toronto in October 2012.  And then we have a presentation planned for Pulse New York.”

Meanwhile, within the St. Laurent empire, Hatton seems very enthusiastic with her new dealer. “We have not confirmed an exhibition date as yet, but Pierre-Luc is asking for more and more paintings and seems to be selling them as fast as I’m able to create them.”

So, while there are still tears being shed at the demise of Dale Smith Gallery by some artists and their customers, there are some threads of that story leading to what looks like some happy endings.