Artful Musing

Morrow’s battlefield nudes softened | Weisz Keeps Up Romance | Thompson’s eco-focussed art

Andrew Morrow’s paintings have, for years, dealt explicitly with sex, violence, and history. The images of nude, fornicating people in battlefield scenes were often inspired by contemporary pornography. Yet, the paintings have an epic tone softened by a tongue-in-cheek quality.

A Forehead Though, by Andrew Morrow
A Forehead Though, by Andrew Morrow

These days, the mood has changed. A new body of work from the Chelsea artist is being exhibited at Patrick Mikhail Gallery – a Montreal showcase for several top Ottawa-area artists – from Feb. 18 to March 29. Titled Ten Paintings Small, the works on paper have a softer, more romantic look to them, compared with Morrow’s previous works. This is because the people depicted in the paintings tend to be inspired by images harvested, not from contemporary images, but from 19th century sculptures or erotic photographs. Even explicit photographs from the late 1800s tend to have an innocence about them you won’t find in contemporary genital-centric Internet pornography.

Garnet, by Andrew Morrow
Garnet, by Andrew Morrow

There is no over-arching theme to the new works. “They’re about painting,” Morrow declares. Viewers must create their own storyline when confronted by these 19th century warriors and maidens either frolicking or fighting amid spectacular scenery.

Viewers Create the Narrative

Tavi Weisz creates mysteries on canvas. He is best known for brutal and disturbing paintings depicting his life in the Romanian army along with the ghosts of his homeland’s totalitarian dictators.

His new body of work is a different kettle of fish. An exhibition of Weisz’s new paintings titled Keep Up the Romance is being shown at Galerie St Laurent + Hill from Feb. 9 to 22. The canvases are filled with mysteries but ones far more lyrical and far less autobiographical than the paintings inspired by the artist’s demons in Romania.

The new works tend to show people, alone or in small groups, standing in the centre of the canvas. They are surrounded by lush jungle. There are some dark patches but generally any gloom in these dream-like paintings is over-powered by the predominance of bright tropical colours. A recent trip to Cuba, Weisz says, may have had an influence on his palette.

“I’m taking daily life as a subject matter and commenting on middle class values,” says Weisz. “I’m focusing on the banality of life.”

The paintings, however, are far from banal.

One painting, The Last Good-bye, shows a group of eight women inspired by a photograph he found, possibly of a group of First World War nurses. They stare intently at the viewer. They make one feel a little uncomfortable. So, what is happening? It’s up to the viewer to create a narrative for this painting.

The Last Good-bye, by Tavi Weisz
The Last Good-bye, by Tavi Weisz

Likewise, another painting shows a well-dressed man – a dandy from a photograph in Budapest – walking by an attractive nude woman who had modelled for Weisz. The man ignores the woman, who looks rather perplexed at the man’s lack of interest. Again, one feels there is an intriguing storyline here. But what is the story? Again, it’s up to the viewer.

Weisz’s figures are often inspired by people he sees in photographs, either found ones or others he himself has taken of strangers on the street. These people are removed from any context and then reborn in an impressionist style in some painted mystery.

This is Weisz’s first exhibition at St. Laurent + Hill, one of the city’s leading contemporary art galleries. It is a move up for the 47-year-old painter. His mysteries are definitely worth exploring.

Even Art Should Be Sustainable

As an environmentalist, Outaouais artist Stefan Thompson does not just talk the talk; he walks the walk.

Ask Thompson about his eponymous exhibition at Wall Space Gallery Feb. 9-28 and he barely mentions the subject matter — his trademark animal faces displaying often startling emotions.

Stefan Thompson's Wolf Team
Stefan Thompson’s Wolf Team

Instead, he talks about his materials; importantly, nontoxic, organic materials.

“The work will be done on recycled plywood surfaces and recycled paper,” Thompson said in a January interview. “I’m also trying some new things where I’m creating at least one large heavy canvas by pasting together many recycled cotton textiles with wheat paste. I also cover the recycled paper, plywood and other things with cotton and wheat paste (organic wheat flour cooked in water). As with all my materials, they are nontoxic and either recycled or homemade. The paints will be mostly egg tempera and some oil. Egg tempera is also very simple – egg yolks and homemade nontoxic pigments (carbon, iron oxides) and water. The oil paints are made with linseed oil, nontoxic pigments and orange extract. I also will be using a fair bit of soot that comes from burning beeswax and tree resins.”

“It is my hope that with this, and with all my shows, that a certain awareness [will be] transmitted about materials. I hope that it gives inspiration to other creators to make their work with recycled things and new materials that easily return to the earth and are collected in a sustainable manner.”