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Montreal
Tammer El-Sheikh
Time, Lines: Drawings from Concordia (1948-2017) at Foundation Guido Molinari
September 27, 2017

In his 1846 review of Delacroix’s works Charles Baudelaire gushed: “My heart is full of serene joy… I am selecting my newest pens… so happy do I feel to be addressing my dearest and most sympathetic subject.” Gallons of ink were spilled in this 19th Century art-world “bromance” in love letters favouring the colourist Delacroix over “draughtsmen” like Ingres. For the critic, while “pure draughtsmen are philosophers… colourists are epic poets.” Drawing was a mere tool in the service of a truly imaginative art of colour and powerful feeling. The 28 artists in Time, Lines: Drawings from Concordia (1948 – 2017), currently on display at Foundation Guido Molinari, suggest an equally expanded scope for recent adventures in drawing. Co-curators Francois Morelli and Eric Simon cast drawing as a stand-alone discipline. For Morelli, the works on view are organized into three categories: the mimetic, the non-objective, and the inter-medial. For Simon, they testify to the durational and unpredictable aspect of the discipline. The exhibition also shows how nimble drawing has been in its responses to art-historical and pop-cultural movements, and in its shuttling between personal experiences of time and political experiences of space.



Trevor Gould

Upstairs, mimetic or representational works contrast sharply with non-objective or conceptual ones by Francoise Sullivan, Yves Gaucher, and Betty Goodwin. Beseeching, politicized bodies force their way onto the page in works by Marion Wagschal, Marigold Santos, Sophie Jodoin, and Trevor Gould. Wagschal’s Self-Portrait as Martha Raye casts a weary gaze through pools-for-eyes at naked, hooded, or tarred and feathered figures by Santos on an adjacent wall. Jodoin’s stunning picture is of a woman with achondroplasia who leans forward, as though out of a Diane Arbus photograph, to claim a bit of the viewer’s space and more dignity than the circus provides. Beside her, Gould’s watercolours reflect on the politics of race, gender and human-animal relations in post-apartheid South Africa. He calls the works allegories, part of a series in which “death, the devil and the fate of the world are explored” in fine, shaky and bleeding lines. In his Hidden Truth, a devil in slacks and a business shirt, and a slouching man wearing a Balaklava rest their hands Ouija-style on a globe showing the African continent.

Downstairs Peter Krausz, and Matt Shane and Jim Holyoak create conflict-ridden spaces in sweeping landscapes, casting the viewer in an ambiguous position. Karausz’s 987 Sierra de Ronda shows muscular, craggy peaks and thick brush in an immovable scene. Shane and Holyoak’s collaborative drawing The Beasts of Lake Moeris is inviting by comparison, but not without its hazards. Between diminutive and faintly rendered beasts in the foreground, which pose no barrier to viewing, and darker clusters of buildings and pointy little volcanoes spewing ash clouds in the background, we linger in the middle distance with swirling lines of forest fires and twisted trees.



Patrick McEown

Patrick McEown’s Disenchanted shows a skinny longhair with an electro-conductive finger firing up a light sign that reads “DISENCHANTED” across a brooding and cracked sky. What the artist calls a “generic Teutonic anti-hero, updated for the 21st Century… half Sturm und Drang, half tongue-in-cheek… a little Black Metal and a little Dan Clowes” is in a familiar bind, either willing himself out onto a barren cultural and natural landscape or ejected from it. By way of these and other referential detours, McEown returns us in this work to the moment of Romanticism that so excited Baudelaire, but with the excitement severely curtailed. He casts a suspicious eye on unquestioned values placed by Romantics like Delacroix in France and Goethe and Schiller in Germany on the life of the emotions, on interiority as a source of spiritual and intellectual strength, and on individualism. McEown reminds us that the 1800s brought us the sublime in painting, poetry and philosophy, as well as the plunder of colonial wars and the concomitant rise of global capitalism.

McEown’s strong note of disenchantment is echoed in the installation of Sarah Pupo’s inter-medial work. Her re-enchanting drawings and videos are set up in an old bank-vault with polished steel bars. What Was a Wild Night, a stop-animation music video made for the singer Nina Nielson opens and closes with spinning mandala-forms and paper-cut Mashrabiya patterns. Between these animated curtains a procession of creatures – from killer whales and magpies to black birds without chests or heads, and curly-fingered human arms cut off at the elbow – moves to Nielson’s lyrics, telling a cosmic tale in picture-fragments about the union and alienation, and the falling away and weightless rising of people and things. In a Rocking Chair, a music video made for the band tUnE-yArDs we hear rainsticks, primitive percussion, and ecstatic harmonizing as beings from Pupo’s world flit, hover, and spin through the frames. For a few seconds an Ouroboros winds like a plastic snake-toy through a grid of cut-out faces. Flashing red tongues in masks recall the crazed expressions of the Maori Haka. A face cries in reverse, black tears streaming up into the eyes instead of falling from them. Or, in another variation on the theme of tears, a Maritime scene, complete with flooding and a canoe in the shape of conjoined thumbs unfolds inside the eye of a Cyclops.

Like Pupo’s stop-animations, much of the work on view conveys the choppy and discontinuous but unbound power of the drawn imagination. Perhaps nowhere more than in Pupo’s projections for the vault is drawing deployed in spaces that both house and threaten it. It provides access to the fractured space of post-apartheid South Africa in Gould’s works, to the troubled natural spaces of Krausz, Shane, and Holyoak’s landscapes, and to the dystopian space of a waning Romanticism in McEown’s picture. Simon approaches Baudelaire’s rapturous tone in a description of the temporality of these drawings, and of falling into them: “It is my hope that the exhibition will awaken… the desire to slow down, to linger and to let yourself be led by the nose with amazement as the unforeseeable unfurls around you.”


Time, Lines: Drawings from Concordia (1948 – 2017) continues until December 17.
Fondation Guido Molinari: http://fondationguidomolinari.org/en/events/current/
The gallery is partially accessible.


Tammer El-Sheikh is a writer and teacher based in Montreal. His art criticism has appeared in Parachute, Canadian Art, ETC and C Magazine.

 

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