By Paul Gessell
Tavi Weisz is a man of few words. He even refused to speak to the large crowd at the recent vernissage of his powerful and sometimes startling exhibition of paintings — the first artworks to be shown — at the relocated Karsh-Masson Gallery in Ottawa City Hall.
I tried to interview Weisz once and gave up in frustration. The conversation just kept hitting dead ends. Thankfully, Stefan St. Laurent, who was charged with writing a short catalogue essay on Weisz, is far more patient than me. St. Laurent spent four hours poking and prodding Weisz until the stories emerged that explain his remarkable paintings in the exhibition titled One Last Time.
Most of the paintings are influenced by the experiences of Weisz and his family in Romania, during the Second World War, the Holocaust, and the Romanian Revolution of 1989 that saw the fall of the Nicolae Ceausescu regime.
In those days, there was mandatory military service for Romania’s ethnic Hungarian population, people who tended to be considered as “undesirables” by the Romanian majority. Weisz was one of those “undesirables” and was forced to spend a very difficult year in the army.
“He has never forgotten the humiliation and destitution of being stripped bare and given one uniform to wear for over a year of government-sanctioned slavery,” writes St. Laurent.
Memories of that year in the military, along with the experiences of older family members, repeatedly influence the works in Weisz’s new exhibition. In many of the paintings, we see the artist standing naked confronting Nazis, Communists, and other villains in the life of the artist and his family. The paintings are disturbing for a stranger and are surely cathartic for the artist.
The show continues until Jan. 12. But don’t miss the Jan. 11 closing party at 7 p.m. and a chance to view Weisz as performance artist. The Netherlands is still talking about a performance piece he did there a few months ago. It involved a flag, paint splashed everywhere and some racing around. For Weisz, actions speak louder than words. (more…)