Artful Musing

Recording artists get arty, painting Gatineau Park’s… houses? & more

We know they can sing. Many play guitar. And some even dance. But can they paint?

Ponder that question as you visit the exhibition, Art is Art, at the Ottawa Art Gallery Annex inside City Hall. The exhibition contains artworks created by 16 past Juno winners and is designed to help music fans get in the mood for this year’s Junos, in Ottawa, April 2.

Hugh Dillon, The Edge. Photo: Courtesy of the JUNOs
Hugh Dillon, The Edge. Photo: Courtesy of the JUNOs

The “artists” in the exhibition include such musical heavyweights as Leonard Cohen, Jann Arden, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Weeknd, Chantal Kreviazuk, Sarah McLachlan and Jay Malinowski (Bedouin Soundclash). Previous Juno winners were invited to submit artwork. These are the 16 who responded. Notably missing from the pack are works by Joni Mitchell (an accomplished painter in the style of Vincent Van Gogh) and the much exhibited photographs by rocker Bryan Adams. Apparently, they didn’t volunteer to submit artworks.

My favourite work in the show is by Buffy Sainte-Marie, whose altered digital photographs can be found in some top commercial art galleries. Here we see The Mohawk Warrior Contemplates His Future, multiple images of the face of a young indigenous man.

Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Mohawk Warrior Contemplates His Future, 1990-2012, Kodak Professional Endura Metallic VC Digital Paper
Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Mohawk Warrior Contemplates His Future, 1990-2012, Kodak Professional Endura Metallic VC Digital Paper

Second prize goes to Jay Malinowski for his painted triptych called President Eisenhower are you still there? Malinowski has presented a portrait of the former U.S. president three times. The image on the far left is clear; the image on the far right is obscured by dripping paint, as if the man himself was disappearing into the Twilight Zone.

Jay Malinowski, President Eisenhower are you still there?
Jay Malinowski, President Eisenhower are you still there?

Some of the works are amateurish but still have interesting backstories. An example is Jann Arden’s Mercy, a small painting of three stylized female figures that appear inspired by French artist Henri Matisse. These women represent the “angels” who help Arden care for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

All the artists should be congratulated for being “good sports” and baring their artistic souls even when their paintings or photographs leave much to be desired. Fans of Kreviazuk will undoubtedly be thrilled to see the self-portrait she painted. And so will the singer’s mother. Beyond that, most people will advise Kreviazuk not to quit her day job for painting.

Alongside Art is Art is a collection of photographs from Junos past, going back to the 1970s. The real keeper is a 1973 group photo of Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot, and Stompin’ Tom Connors drinking and smoking at a Juno reception. They look like teenagers who just happen to be en route to Canadian musical royalty.

Art is Art continues at Ottawa City Hall until April 16.

Lights & Shadows of Gatineau Park

For most of us, trees, hills and lakes first come to mind when thinking of Gatineau Park. Outaouais artist John Marok is different. He thinks of houses, the grand, old historic ones that have largely come and gone. And he thinks of the new Meech Lake mansions that park purists, such as his friend Jean Paul Murray, have come to loath.

John Marok, Percy’s Dream, Oil on canvas, 30” x 40”
John Marok, Percy’s Dream, Oil on canvas, 30” x 40”

Marok’s vision of the park is contained in a superb exhibition of paintings at La Fab in Old Chelsea, mere metres away from the park boundary. The paintings and the accompanying texts by Murray are meant to get you riled up at the National Capital Commission’s supposed blasé attitude towards historically significant mansions and its supposed wanton attitude towards the building of new houses around Meech Lake.

Now, the outspoken, anti-development Murray has many critics. But even if you are one, you can still enjoy Marok’s dark, haunted portrayals of old park houses, including the Meech Lake Road home of Percy Sparks, which burned to the ground in 2001, and the Kingsmere Booth mansion which caught fire when struck by lightening in 1973 and was later bulldozed. The unsettling painting of the Booth home burning could have been lifted from the pages of an illustrated horror novel. Marok has clearly found his stride with these paintings.

John Marok, Charred Ruins, Stone Acres, Oil on canvas, 12” x 36”
John Marok, Charred Ruins, Stone Acres, Oil on canvas, 12” x 36”

This is one of the best exhibitions La Fab has ever held. Explorations and Excavations: The Lights and Shadows of Gatineau Park continues until April 2 at La Fab, 1-212 chemin Old Chelsea, right beside St. Stephen’s Catholic Church.

Ongoing & Upcoming

Rehab Nazzal divides her time between Ottawa and Bethlehem. Working amid flying bullets in her native Palestine, Nazzal has gathered sound, video, photography and found objects to create environments that speak to the conditions Palestinians face in their homeland. The result is Choreographies of Resistance at Axe Neo-7 in Gatineau from March 15 to April 22.

Come face to face with art and soul at Cube Gallery in Face Time, a very strong exhibition featuring the human face and body by artists Katherine McNenly, Kim Cristopher, Ken Ryan, Kristy Gordon and Tony Clark. Until April 2.

Quebec painter Real Calder allows us to glimpse semi-abstract fragments of the natural world where land and water collide. Archipelago is at Galerie Montcalm in Gatineau from March 9 to April 16.