It’s summer, which means that it is once again time for Art Mur‘s annual exhibition “Peinture fraîche et nouvelle construction” showcasing the work of MFA students from across the country. This year’s edition was far better organized than last year’s disappointing foray. For 2015, works were often paired up in ways that were, if not necessarily evocative, at least made a great deal of formal sense. Either by accident or design, this also served to highlight the degree to which one can detect a set of consistent styles coming out of the country’s MFA programs. This is, of course, in part down to the curators’ tastes as well as those of grad school gatekeepers, but it still seems broadly accurate. What follows is a highly superficial glance at a few of the more memorable works.
Obviousness seems to be one of the more common traits. There’s something deliberately and brutishly dumb about a lot of it. For some this may well be strategic, for others maybe not. There is also a strange, undoubtedly unintentional, resonance with some of the stylistic conceits that were big with Figuration Narrative 40 years ago.
On the sculpture side, Andree-Anne Carrier‘s (UQAM) deflated objects (from water balloons to horses) wedged behind pipes or draped over them were effective in their simplicity as sniped emblems falling afoul of the gravities cruelties. Meanwhile, Denise Smith‘s (UofR) porcelain pieces of tiny comical disaster, occasionally ornamented with charity shop tidbits, have a certain charm while certainly being heavy handed in their intent as social commentary. Although Frédéric Laurin’s Christ crucified on the Facebook F probably trumped her on that score.
As for painting, Iris Fryer of Queens provided a set of nicely dark, slightly blurred out, images of interiors overlapping with exteriors. There’s a wet dusk look to them that’s evocative. They’re inoffensively moody and fairly attractive.
Jeremie St-Pierre‘s (UQAM) work appears throughout the show. When placed beside Jason Stovall (UWO), an eerie consonance between the two painters arises. St-Pierre’s work is loaded with figures from the American civil rights movement, labourers, jihadists etc. Little of that is on display in this show. Meanwhile, Stovall’s work is largely concerned with themes of gay life and identity. Whatever thematic concerns either might have, they’re mostly overshadowed by their style of painting. Each of them is symptomatic of what could be called the era of post-digital painting, where collage and internet sourced material combine with methods of paint application that suggest a surface world akin to the decaying VHS imagery uploaded to YouTube. Unlike the retro and nostalgic fixations of many of their approximate contemporaries, there’s something more keenly bleak to the world as they depict it.
The perplexing highlight of the show was the work of Christyna Fortin (Laval). Brash without being obnoxious, and so overtly stupid that they might really be very clever, her large glitter packed paintings have all the subtlety of a colouring book, something that their line drawing style clearly suggests.