ARTFUL BLOGGER: “The Financier” — best Odyssey Theatre performance in 28 years

BY PAUL GESSELL

Photo by Glen Hartle

The Financier, performed by Odyssey Theatre at Strathcona Park, from Tuesday to Sunday at 8 p.m., and weekend matinees at 3 p.m. Photo by Glen Hartle

 

The very stylized form of theatre known as commedia dell’arte is an acquired taste. And, heretofore, I had not acquired a taste for costumed, masked actors preening and strutting on stage like it was the 16th century. But if all commedia dell’arte was like the new Odyssey Theatre production of The Financier, I could become an addict.

The Financier is the best thing I have ever seen performed by Odyssey in its 28 years as Ottawa’s prime outdoor theatre troupe. The set and costumes by James Lavoie are dazzling. The perfectly timed physical comedy, including some wacky dance numbers, is hilarious, thanks to “baroque choreographer” Marie-Nathalie Lacoursiere. The madcap storyline is totally ridiculous. (And that’s a compliment, by the way.)

Laurie Steven, the director of the play and the founder of Odyssey, surely deserves much of the credit for this winner. Of course, it helped that Steven had a great cast, notably Alanna Bale, who played the dual roles of chambermaids Marine and Lisette. Bale stole every scene in which she appeared. Her two roles demanded exaggerated gestures and overly dramatic delivery of dialogue and Bale was so polished that she often left her fellow actors in the dust.

The plot is a comedy of manners by Alain-Rene Lesage and first performed, in French, in Paris in 1709. Fans of Moliere’s Tartuffe will undoubtedly love The Financier or, as it was called in French, Turcaret.

At the centre of the story is The Baroness, played by Chandel Gambles. The Baroness is poor, but beautiful — and an outrageous flirt. One minute she is cozying up to the rich, ugly financier, M. Turcaret (Andy Massingham), and the next moment all her attentions are lavished upon the handsome impoverished The Knight (Atilla Clemann).

All players, including the servants, are greedy schemers, trying to determine the easiest way to fleece M. Turcaret. A diamond ring, a love letter, an IOU, and other props are constantly appearing and disappearing and being tossed from one character to another like hot potatoes. And then a long-lost wife appears and the plot takes off like a rocket into outer space.

In the laugh-a-minute second act, The Financier becomes a total farce. The set is demolished. Actors remove their masks and rip off their costumes. They suddenly look very contemporary. The greedy schemers, they seem to say, are still among us.

The Financier continues outdoors at Strathcona Park in Sandy Hill until Aug. 24. Performances takes place Tuesdays through Sundays at 8 p.m. Tickets from $24. Pay-what-you-can on matinee weekends, which start at 3 p.m. Wise members of the audience bring their own lawn chairs or at least a cushion for the hard wooden bleachers. And arm yourself with insect repellent against the mosquitoes.

Visit their site for more info.

 

Photo by Glen Hartle

Photo by Glen Hartle

 

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER: “Have a great Latter-day!”

By PAUL GESSELL

The Book of Mormon

There is nothing sacred in The Book of Mormon.

Likely Ottawa has never laughed so hard. There’s a campy Christ; a Hitler disco-dancing in Hell; a murderous African warlord with a name too racy to repeat here. OMG!

This Tony Award-winning musical from the company Broadway Across Canada, and which is currently playing onstage at the National Arts Centre from July 15-27, is perhaps the most politically incorrect production to pass through town since the tart-tongued, cross-dressing Dame Edna Everage last visited, tossing gladioli and insults at the audience. Mormons are mercilessly caricatured in this musical. Ugandans are racially stereotyped. Baptism assumes sexual overtones.

It is difficult not to feel guilty laughing at all the jokes. After all, the jokes are mainly at the expense of people who are pretty serious about their religion.

I kept thinking: What would a Mormon think of this? So, once home, I Googled that very question and found news stories quoting some supposedly important Mormons as saying that the success of The Book of Mormon during the last few years has increased interest in the religion and people are now more likely to answer the doorbell when two fresh-faced, young men in white shirts and black ties come calling with promises of everlasting paradise. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has even been known to buy ads in playbills of The Book of Mormon.

“People will become more aware that we’re a Christian church, that we’re not a cult, and that we don’t force our views on anyone, but that we’re happy to share them with those who are interested,” Elder Steven Bennion, a top church official, is quoted as saying.

Now, that makes me feel better. It’s great to have a religion with a sense of humour — which isn’t always the case. Back in 1979, there was outrage from various pockets of the Christian community over a movie caricaturing the life of Christ in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. And we all know about the sense of humour demonstrated by fatwa-invoking Muslim ayatollahs.

The plot of The Book of Mormon involves two naïve young American men — Mormon missionaries — who are sent to rural Uganda. The Ugandans aren’t interested and the missionaries make no converts until one of the young Americans spices up the evangelizing by adding elements from science fiction and The Lord of the Rings. For example, sinners in Mormonland get sent to The Fires of Mordor. The Ugandans become intrigued. They get baptized. And that’s when the problems really begin for the two Mormon missionaries.

In the end, this is a feel-good musical in the vein of Hairspray — except in The Book of Mormon, it’s a fat boy, not a fat girl, who emerges as the hero.

It is simply a perfect production. The songs are catchy. The dance numbers rock. The set changes are magic. Everybody leaves happy. As fat-boy Elder Cunningham would say: “Have a great Latter-day!”

The Book of Mormon

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER: National Gallery show reveals how Gustave Doré’s 19th century illustrations haunt us still

By  PAUL GESSELL

Gustave Doré, Oceanids or Naiads of the Sea, c. 1878 Oil on canvas, 127 × 185.4 cm Lawrence B. Berenson

Gustave Doré, Oceanids or Naiads of the Sea, c. 1878
Oil on canvas, 127 × 185.4 cm
Lawrence B. Berenson

Gustave Doré is hardly a household name. But this 19th century French artist is the main attraction this summer at the National Gallery of Canada’s exhibit Gustave Doré (1832-1883): Master of Imagination. So, take a look. You will be pleasantly surprised to realize you have vague recollections of having seen his work before. Hundreds of times.

Doré was a prolific and talented illustrator. He produced illustrated copies of many great works of literature, including Don Quixote, The Bible, Dante’s Inferno, Paradise Lost, and many traditional fairy tales.

The images (or their spin-offs) he created for these books are still regularly seen today. Some of the mythical creatures in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, Lord of the Rings, were lifted straight from Dore. Or the Puss-n-Boots-like character in the Shrek 2 movie? Dore did it first. Or remember Charlton Heston as Moses in the Hollywood blockbuster The Ten Commandments? The scene in which an angry Moses smashes the tablets with the commandments was inspired by Doré. On and on it goes. He is even given credit for inventing a relative of the beast we know as King Kong.

Gustave Doré, The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism, 1868 Oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm Art Gallery of Hamilton, Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, 2002 (2002.33.18)

Gustave Doré, The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism, 1868
Oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm
Art Gallery of Hamilton, Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, 2002 (2002.33.18)

The 100 or so works in the National Gallery summer-long show include film clips allowing visitors to see the uncanny and repeated use of Doré-like images in popular culture throughout the 20th century and beyond. No other 19th century artist has had such a strong influence on pop culture today.

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ARTFUL BLOGGER: nichola feldman-kiss installation displays horrific images from 2011 massacre in Sudan

By PAUL GESSELL

nichola feldman-kiss, until the story of the hunt is told by the lion / facing horror and the possibility of shame, 2011-2013, sixty-one digital photographs, three-channel sound composition, electro-luminescent back-light media, Duratrans media, loud speaker system, plastics, wood, electronics, and custom software, installation view, Terms of Engagement: Averns, feldman-kiss, Stimson, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, 26 April–10 August 2014. Photo: Paul Litherland.

nichola feldman-kiss, until the story of the hunt is told by the lion / facing horror and the possibility of shame, 2011-2013, sixty-one digital photographs, three-channel sound composition, electro-luminescent back-light media, Duratrans media, loud speaker system, plastics, wood, electronics, and custom software, installation view, Terms of Engagement: Averns, feldman-kiss, Stimson, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, 26 April–10 August 2014. Photo: Paul Litherland.

The curved backlit photographs glow as they spiral heavenward from the floor of the darkened room. It is as if some whirlwind has just passed through, disturbing what had once been a neat arrangement.

The photographs are fragments of lives disappearing into the gloom. From a distance, the installation looks peaceful and inviting. Until, that is, you realize what is pictured in these photographs. Then the arrangement becomes horrific because the images are of corpses, skeletons and spent armaments – reminders of a 2011 massacre in the Sudanese community of Kaldak.

This installation by Ottawa artist nichola feldman-kiss is titled “until the story of the hunt is told by the lion / facing horror and the possibility of shame (Jonglei State, Sudan)”. It can be seen at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston as part of the nationally touring exhibition Terms of Engagement curated by the University of Ottawa art professor Christine Conley.

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ARTFUL BLOGGER:  National Gallery unveils a giant faked photograph of Canadians storming Vimy Ridge

By PAUL GESSELL

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William Ivor Castle (Great Britain, 1877–1947), 29th Infantry Battalion advancing over “No man’s Land” through the German Barbed Wire and Heavy Fire during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 1917, printed 2014, ink-jet print, 320 ◊ 610 cm. Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa (a001020).

 

The star attraction of a new photography exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada is a fake.

The photograph by William Ivor Castle shows Canadian soldiers storming Vimy Ridge in 1917. This is an event among the most important in our history. It was a battlefield victory in which Canada was suddenly perceived as having evolved from a dependent colony to a vigorous sovereign country.

Castle’s panorama, at 11 feet by 20 feet, was billed as the largest photograph in the world when it was first exhibited in Grafton Galleries in London in 1917 and then sent on tour to Canada. Crowds lined up on the street to get a peek. Then, the fake photo went into storage for almost 100 years.

At the time, the photograph was dubbed The Taking of Vimy Ridge, although the National Gallery now calls it 29th Infantry Battalion advancing over “No man’s land” through the German Barbed Wire and Heavy Fire during the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 1917. And the National Gallery’s print of this photo is slightly smaller than the original. 

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ARTFUL BLOGGER:  New Elgin Street gallery will put a smile on Stephen Harper’s face

BY PAUL GESSELL

The new gallery at is a bright, airy space.

Ajagemo, located at 150 Elgin St., is a bright, airy space that is also suitable for musical performances. Pictured are Eleanor Bond’s “IV converting  the Powell River Mill to a Recreation and Retirement Centre” (background) and Kim Adams’ 3-D tabletop miniature town called Artists’ Colony.

Stephen Harper likes the Canada Council for the Arts. Since first being elected in 2008, the Conservative government has always favoured the Canada Council over other agencies. While museums and other cultural organizations have tended to experience cuts, the Canada Council’s budget has generally grown although its current parliamentary appropriation, frozen in 2012 for three years, is $181.2 million. Still, a freeze is better than a reduction.

The prime minister has never really said why he likes the Canada Council. Maybe because the agency is efficient and puts most of its money into the hands of real artists rather than public servants.

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ARTFUL BLOGGER: Sex pots and other crafty delights at the Carleton University Art Gallery

BY PAUL GESSELL

Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Marc Courtemanche from the Outaouais community of L’Ange-Gardien is an artist, but also a magician, as revealed in the installation called The Studio he created for Carleton University Art Gallery.

The installation looks like a carpenter’s workshop. But it is really a magician’s workshop filled with life-sized objects. The difference is that the “wooden” chairs are actually ceramic. The same goes for the wheelbarrow in a corner. Likewise, the “wooden” handles on hammers and other tools neatly arranged on “wooden” boards nailed to the wall. Even the piles of “sawdust” on the floor are ceramic shavings.

The Studio is one of several artworks in the Carleton exhibition called Making Otherwise: Craft and Material Fluency in Contemporary Art. The six artists in the exhibition all produce work that hovers in that grey zone between “art” and “craft.” Most of the works assembled by Carleton curator Heather Anderson are daring and have a touch of whimsy.

 Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (detail, 2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.


Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (detail, 2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Works traditionally called craft are all about the material used. The term craft also implies that the object is functional, or at least is rooted in functionality. A porcelain vase is an example of craft. It may be beautiful but it still has a function — a purpose — in this case, to hold a bouquet of flowers.

An idea is the central focus of art, which should also have some transformative powers. Think of Tom Thomson’s painting Jack Pine. It has no purpose except to be art, in this case, a painting of a solitary tree in the wilderness that has been transformed into a symbol of Canadian fortitude in battling the elements.

Carleton’s Making Otherwise presents objects that could be labelled art or craft. Courtemanche has assembled a realistic looking carpenter’s studio. But he has transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary by fashioning the objects, not of wood, but of ceramic.

Vancouver artist Paul Mathieu has created very ordinarily shaped porcelain vases and bowls and, then in a twist, sent the china to China to be covered in erotic hand-painted scenes. (Isn’t everything outsourced to China these days?) Think of ancient Greek vases depicting erotic scenes but, in this case, the scenes on Mathieu’s vases are showing very contemporary people and situations. Mathieu, not surprisingly, is the author of the book Sex Pots: Eroticism in Ceramics.

Janet Morton of Guelph does amazing transformations with wool, surely a craft material if there ever was one. One Morton video in the show is of a man playing a tuba. But as he plays, the tuba is slowly being covered by wool being knitted by invisible hands. In reality, the man began playing a wool-covered tuba. A video was then produced in which a strand of wool was pulled to unravel the wool-covered instrument. By playing the video backwards, it appears the tuba is slowly being encased in wool. Yes, that’s art.

Other artworks in the show include very artful quilts produced by Richard Boulet of Edmonton, stunning embroidery by Sarah Maloney of Halifax and “baskets” woven to become human portraits by Ursula Johnson of Eskasoni, N.S.

Making Otherwise continues at Carleton University Art Gallery until Sept. 14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER: “New” Museum of History “opens” with sinking exhibition

By PAUL GESSELL

What was once the Canadian Museum of Civilization has opened its first major exhibition since becoming the Canadian Museum of History and, if this is an indication of what will come in years ahead, one must surely shout “bravo” and “encore.”

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Framed black and white poster commemorating the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, May 29, 1914.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart, 2012

The exhibition is called Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland. It opened on the 100th anniversary of Canada’s most tragic peacetime maritime disaster: The CPR ship, The Empress of Ireland, sank in the early hours of May 29, 1914 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Rimouski, Quebec. Of the 1,477 people aboard, 1,012 died, including 133 children.

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Florence Barbour (Second class) , Travelling with her mother, Sabena, and her sister Evelyn. Fate: Florence Barbour: Survived. Sabena Barbour (mother): Perished.
Evelyn Barbour (sister): Perished.
© Canadian Museum of History, IMG2012-0381-0001, Philippe Beaudry Collection

 

 

The story of the ship and its sinking is told in an exhibition rich in artifacts, photos, first-person accounts, drama, sorrow, and just the right amount of informative text panels. It is such a rich experience — a great big multi-media window into our past, our history —that it will become the gold standard for future historical exhibitions at this federal institution.

The Empress of Ireland left Quebec City May 28, 1914 at 4:30 p.m., 90 minutes late, bound for Liverpool in England. It was the beginning of the ship’s 96th trans-Atlantic voyage. Since its first crossing in 1906, the Empress had brought 100,000 immigrants to Canada. That means wide swaths of Canadians today have a familial link to that doomed ship.

Fog Bell of the Empress of Ireland, the “piece de résistance” of the CMH collection.  ©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

Fog Bell of the Empress of Ireland, the “piece de résistance” of the CMH collection.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

 

Artifacts from the ship in the exhibition include many acquired in 2012 from a private collector and diver, Philippe Beaudry. They include the ship’s bell, fancy china, menus, various brass fittings, bathroom fixtures and mail being carried by the Empress. Audio recordings relay first-person accounts by survivors and by those who mourned them. Period photographs, newspaper stories, and other bric-a-brac from the era supplement the artifact collection.

Model of the Empress of Ireland; note the wire stretching between the masts fore and aft which allowed radio operators aboard the ship to communicate with other vessels and wireless stations. ©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

Model of the Empress of Ireland; note the wire stretching between the masts fore and aft which allowed radio operators aboard the ship to communicate with other vessels and wireless stations.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart

 

The passengers travelled in first, second, or third class. The first class passengers had luxurious suites with private bathrooms, their own dining room, music room, and library. They were served dinner at 7 p.m. Second class ate at 6 p.m. Third class had to wait, sometimes until 9 p.m.

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Selection of first and second-class dishware from the Empress of Ireland. Third class items were far less embellished.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

 

After dinner on the evening of May 28, a group of Salvation Army members en route to a convention in England gathered around a piano in the social hall next to the second-class dining room to sing songs. The less pious headed to the bar or smoking room. Two poker games continued until midnight in the first-class lounge.

At 12:50 a.m. on May 29, the ship encountered fog in the St. Lawrence and reduced speed. Less than an hour later, the Norwegian coal vessel the Storstad was spotted almost 10 kilometres away. The fog worsened and, at 1:55 a.m., the two ships collided. The exhibition provides a dramatic minute-by-minute account of the trajectory of both ships.

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Porthole of the Empress of Ireland, the damaged glass tells a story.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

The Storstad tore into the starboard side of the Empress to a depth of 5.5 metres. The result was a gaping, 32.5-square-metre hole. The force of the impact killed several passengers instantly. Within 15 minutes, the Empress sank. An inquiry called soon after placed most of the blame on the Storstad.

Henry George Kendall  Captain  Fate: Survived  The Commission of Inquiry supported his version of events, blaming the captain of the Storstad for the catastrophe.  © Canadian Museum of History, IMG2013-0168-0139

Henry George Kendall , Captain. Fate: Survived. The Commission of Inquiry supported his version of events, blaming the captain of the Storstad for the catastrophe.
© Canadian Museum of History, IMG2013-0168-0139

 

The chances of survival for the Empress passengers depended upon where they were housed on the ship. The higher up, the better the chance. Thus, 41 per cent of those in the higher first-class rooms survived. Only 19 per cent in second and third class lived.

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Egildo Braga (Third class) , Travelling with his wife, Carolina, and their son, Rino. Fate: Egildo Braga: Survived. Carolina Braga: Survived. Rino Braga: Perished
© Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Courtesy of Ernesto R. Milani

The townsfolk of Rimouski turned out en masse to help the survivors, offering dry clothes, food, and shelter. The dead were piled in a commercial hanger at the wharf. Note of warning: the exhibition includes a horrific, enlarged photograph of the bodies in the hanger.

News headline on the sinking of the Empress from l’Action sociale, 29 May 1914, published on the day of the disaster.  ©CMH, photo Marie-Louise Deruaz.

News headline on the sinking of the Empress from l’Action sociale, 29 May 1914, published on the day of the disaster.
©CMH, photo Marie-Louise Deruaz.

The exhibition is a joint project with the Halifax-based Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Expect to see more cooperation between the retooled Gatineau museum and its provincial and regional counterparts across the country.

And no, the museum will not just be showcasing Canadian history, despite all the predictions from those opposed to the remake of the civilization museum. Next summer, the main exhibition will be The Greeks – From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great. It will include 500 treasures from Greek antiquity, including a bust that is the only known image of Alexander the Great created from life.

Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland continues at the Canadian Museum of History until April 6, 2015.

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Transformed Outaouais school

By PAUL GESSELL

Plate by Maureen Marcotte

Plate by Maureen Marcotte

Deer, coyotes, and wild turkeys all come sniffing around. Some nearby residents can be seen taking their goats for a walk. The ghosts of children past surely play on the rusting teeter-totters behind. The Gatineau River is just a hop, skip, and jump away.

We’re talking about the Farrellton Artists’ Space, a one-year-old co-op located in what once was St. Joseph’s Elementary School in whistle-stop Farrellton, a 10-minute drive north of Wakefield on Highway 105.

The red brick school closed about seven years ago and was largely unused. Then, last year, a group of artists in the Wakefield area approached the owner of the school, the Commission Scolaire des Portages-de-l’Outaouais, with an idea. The French-language school board was extremely supportive and agreed to allow the artists to transform former classrooms, labs, and offices into studios.

The rent is far cheaper than for equivalent space, if such space could be found, in Wakefield, Gatineau, or Ottawa. The creation of artists’ studios is definitely a smart re-purposing of a vacant building. But all is not perfect — the roof leaks. Nevertheless, the artists are thrilled with the space. Some even live close enough to walk to work every day.

Heart by Hannah Ranger

Heart by Hannah Ranger

In the daytime, the large, former classrooms-turned studios are filled with natural light. Compare that with, for example, Enriched Bread Artists in Ottawa, where members of the collective work out of small, dimly lit cubbyholes. And EBA does not have a waterfall in the backyard nor do wild animals visit it.

After a year of operations, the Farrellton artists are ready for the world to visit what is definitely the most bucolic art laboratory in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. Consequently, there is an open house Thursday, June 5, starting at 7 p.m. and again on Sunday, June 8, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Some of the area’s top artists are among the 21 currently renting space in the old school. They include the pottery duo of Maureen Marcotte and David McKenzie, fibre artists Hannah Ranger and Diane Lemire, and painters John Barkley, John Marok, and Stefan Thompson.

Some of the artists use their studios in old classrooms to hold art classes. Painter Nathalie Poirier holds regular life drawing classes, while Kathryn Drysdale is mainly pre-occupied with dyeing wool, but also uses her space to offer painting classes.

Many of the artists produce work in more than one medium and use the Farrellton studio for part of their art practice and a home studio for work in a different media. Marok, for example, just does goache paintings at Farrellton and oil paintings at home. Janice Moorhead paints at Farrellton and creates her glass artworks at home.

The co-op is hoping to turn one area into a darkroom for use by all of the tenants (and maybe outsiders in the future). A joint print-making facility is also on the drawing board. Maybe one day there will be an official art gallery.

Painting by John Marok

Painting by John Marok

Farrellton Artists’ Space is located at 42 Chemin Plunkett in Farrellton. Head north from Wakefield on Highway 105 and, just before the bridge across the Gatineau River at Farrellton, turn left onto Chemin Plunkett. Drive past St. Camillus Church and the concrete block parish hall and pull into the parking lot in front of the former school. Visit here for more info.

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Paula Murray’s ceramic installation offers enlightenment

By PAUL GESSELL

Sanctuary

Paula Murray’s “Sanctuary,” ceramic scrolls. This work is part of Connections, an exhibit of her work at Centre d’exposition Art-Image in Gatineau — until July 19

Enter the Gatineau gallery, Centre d’exposition Art-Image, and immediately you feel like you are inside some zen-like holy of holies. All is serene in this meditative environment. Loops of 95 suspended handmade ceramic scrolls, resembling a bamboo swinging bridge, lead your eyes from the floor, across the room, and upwards toward the far side of the gallery, where a raised sun-like circle adorned with hundreds of tiny bent ceramic strips is the prize for those seeking enlightenment. All the objects gleam in a monochromatic, slightly off-white colour. They simultaneously look fragile and enduring. The fire-hardened scrolls are covered in hairline fissures that look like some ancient hieroglyphs. On a nearby wall, more scrolls, representing trees, stand upright on a shelf. On the other side of the room is an exquisite bowl, seamed with hairline cracks, and serving as a symbol of the repository of human knowledge.

This unusual ceramic installation is called Connection and it is the creation of Paula Murray, one of the region’s leading ceramic artists. Murray is known for expanding the repertoire of ceramic art and, with Connection, has taken several giant steps forward. It is her first major installation and she hopes it won’t be the last.

In Connection, Murray sees the bridge as “an invitation to cross over from the individual to the universal, the opportunity to connect with the unknown, or a new way of thinking,” says gallery director Marie-Helene Giguere.

There is an intense spiritual quality to Connection. Murray, a Baha’i, says spirituality infuses much of her work. “I am interested in all the diverse ways of knowing and how cultures acquire the knowledge that serves to advance their unfolding civilizations,” Murray says in an artist statement. “Four thousand years ago, the Mesopotamians recorded their truths on clay tables that, once fired, could not be altered. Spiritual texts such as those recorded on the Dead Sea Scrolls have shaped society throughout time.”

“As an artist, I see that immersing ourselves in nature inspires us to follow our intuition, our gut feelings. This installation offers a poetic metaphor for the continued search for meaning, for deeper understanding of each other and ourselves, how all existence is ultimately connected, creating a bridge from the individual to the universal. Every porcelain scroll I make writes its own story, with its own language mysteriously appearing, inviting us to grasp its meaning.”

Connection continues at Centre d’exposition Art-Image, 855 Boulevard de la Gappe, Gatineau, until July 19. Visit here for more info.

Paula Murray's "Peace Studies," porcelain on aluminum.

Paula Murray’s “Peace Studies,” porcelain on aluminum.