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THE NEXT 7 DAYS:     EVENTS (10)     +     OPENINGS (10)     +     DEADLINES (2)     +     CLOSINGS (14)
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Sky Glabush
April 15, 2009

When I studied art in the 90s, Jamelie Hassan’s work was required reading. I remember seeing a billboard in Saskatoon that she created for the influential exhibition The Post-Colonial Landscape. It read: "40 tons of nuclear waste was fired by the coalition forces into Iraq during the Gulf War.” She recently staged the piece again in Cuba except this time it read: “400 tons of nuclear waste. . . “  

Jamelie Hassan, ä, 2009, neon, black ceramic tile mounted onto plywood
Hassan’s work is as relevant today as ever, maybe more so. Her multimedia installations, ceramics, drawings, paintings, and photo-based work have tirelessly grappled with issues of cultural identity, displacement, translation, resistance. Through a politically charged and prescient unpacking of language and communication, often informed by the negotiation of her Arab heritage within the context of growing up in London, Ontario, Hassan explores the pressing concerns of our time with an evocative and poetic voice. At the Far Edge of Words surveys thirty years of her work at Museum London and is also traveling to the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Center in Vancouver. Although widely respected and acknowledged for her contribution to the visual arts in Canada, I think this show will cement her reputation internationally, which she rightly deserves.
Jonathan Forrest, Paper Hat, 2009
I first met Jonathan Forrest when I was seventeen and scrambling to familiarize myself with painting. He warned me that exposure to certain acrylic colours can lead to testicular cancer and to take care - some good advice indeed. I prodded him relentlessly about his paintings and how they were made and what they might “mean” and if his work was about “colour theory.” He replied with his usual economy and hint of perturbation, “No, it’s about colour feel.” Twenty years later, the conversation is still about colour's expressive potential.
Forrest’s exhibition at Michael Gibson Gallery entitled Power Play is his most direct and visually commanding work to date, and also his most personal. In the somewhat tender painting Paper Hat, he is explicit about both his artistic lineage - tracing its roots through Constructivism and the work of fellow prairie artists like Eli Bornstein and Bill Perehudoff - while making poignant allusions to childhood and fatherhood. In his words, it is “a whimsical image, an acknowledgment of painterly ancestors, a reference to childhood memories, and a nod to family disappointments and unfulfilled hopes.” Forrest is packing a lot in here. If he wasn’t such a fine painter, I might say too much, but his grasp of abstraction is expansive and he demonstrates time and again that he is able to continually add to this language with ever increasing clarity and depth.
Toni Hafkenscheid, Tree and House Ottawa, 2006.
An interesting, yet somewhat forcibly assembled show, Toy Soldier, is now on at Forrest City Gallery. The show presents the work of Toni Hafkenscheid, Bruce Montcombroux, and Todd Tremeer, all of whom deal with picturing the condensed and abbreviated nature of the miniature. The exhibition grapples with the ways in which images have the unwitting capacity to reduce experience into something that can be digested, poured over, and manipulated. In the case of Hafkenscheid, his panoramic bird's eye view uncannily transforms the world into something surprisingly close to a model train set. His photo Diggers effectively shrinks a large bulldozer into what appears to be a toy in a sandbox, resulting in the unsettling effect of both distancing and aestheticizing the destructive nature of an enormous construction-site, while also creating a detached visual summary that distills experience into a contained meditation. Perhaps only for purely idiosyncratic reasons, my favourite piece is a small house photographed at night. Hafkenscheid's process makes the house feel even smaller, but does not diminish it. The picture simply hovers between a convincing, familiar presence and the artificiality inherent in all photographs.
Bruce Montcombroux draws images of abandoned cars and planes that have been repurposed through a kind of post-apocalyptic construction into living pods and survivalist spaces of that relatively familiar sort. He also makes models that offer up an imagined picture of the future as a warning or oblique criticism of the present. His miniatures are more wrought and physical than those who rely upon models that can be purchased from a catalogue, but like T&T and others, the work is heavily indebted to Kim Adams.
Todd Tremeer, Sarajevo 1992, 2007.
Todd Tremeer, who has recently returned from a jaunt in Europe courtesy of the Joseph Plaskett Award, sifts through archives and museum displays to make paintings from the "official" record of military history. There is far too much fetishization of the exact specificity of army regalia and fighter planes and tanks for me to believe that Tremeer is after a pointed critique. The real success of his work is his ability to harness a kind of hobbyist's fascination with history into a poetic reportage of the theatrical museum tableau; that is, he brings all the curiosity and exactitude of a war reporter to the constructed stage set of the museum and in this way does, in fact, create a convincing representation of the process of representing war.
Sky Glabush is a writer and artist living in London Ontario. He is an Assistant Professor in Studio Art at the University of Western Ontario.
Jamelie Hassan: At the Far Edge of Words continues until May 30.
Michael Gibson Gallery:
See website for current exhibitions.
Toy Soldiers: Toni Hafkenscheid, Bruce Montcombroux, Todd Tremeer continues until May 1.



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