Yesterday I headed east to see a show at the Pentimento Gallery on Queen. I was very excited to see the show, and the gallery, and John Rait, and my trip was well worth it. Please note I have shamelessly borrowed some images of the opening night from the Pentimento blog to better illustrate my points.
My companion (gal pal Colette Stevenson) and I went to see Brotherhood – an exhibit by G Elliott Simpson, and got to spend some time with the fantastic John Rait, who I like more every time I meet him.
About the exhibit – my God it was fantastic. Like a good art patron I read the statement about the work – it discussed the idea that although we claim we are becoming an even more open society, we are becoming even further enmeshed in the concepts of groups and tribes. Where do you belong?
Geoff has some extremely beautiful men (and one woman) posing for him. Each piece was a photograph of a person posed – they were photographed in body paint – the example is next to this paragraph. I was immediately drawn to the eyes of each subject – see how the paint is lessened around them? It completely draws you in, making you wonder who is behind both the creation and the pose. All pieces were named things that seemed to have a religious bent, my favourite being “Sacrament“.
At first view of this photo you may think, “My God, can’t people stop texting long enough to even enjoy art??” Here’s the best part – they ARE enjoying the art. Each piece in the show has a QR code below it., and each code takes you to a different weblink about a type of cult, a religious experience etc. It was fantastic. Just as you thought you’d “gotten everything” about the piece, it allowed you to take a step further into it with a bit more information. It was a fantastic experience, allowing you an even deeper glimpse into the work itself, generating more conversation about it. Marvelous.
John was telling me that some folks at the opening immediately viewed the show as “pornographic” – not based on the subject matter, but on the subjects themselves. I disagree. I could see how one might go that way, with photos of beautiful barely dressed men, but the show is so much more than that – it’s a shame that anyone would stop at that point and refuse to go further. The Catholic imagery takes that a step further – I think depending on how “good” a Catholic you are, it might come across as offensive. (Given that I was delighted with being right about “which” Sacrament it was, jumping up and down yelling, “I was right!!’ you can tell just how “good” I am…) I told John it was like being on a big art game show, trying to figure out where the QR codes would take you – down the rabbit hole indeed. Good art creates controversy.
While we were there the artist stopped by to take some shots of the work (Item: Thing #54424 I love about Toronto – the artist stops by.) and we had a LOVELY chat. Geoff is a warm gracious person, and it’s always great fun to be able to converse with an artist about his work when it’s not opening night and they’re not being pulled to and fro. I will be watching for his work again, and now we’re Facebook friends so that should be easy to do.
Before Geoff stopped by, we were having a lovely conversation with John – about art, art students, the idea of art in a global marketplace, broad far-reaching ideas that funnelled right down to his neighbourhood. It’s always a delight to find someone so supportive to students of art, who wants them to succeed and more importantly is helping them do so, whether it’s through contacts, or school lectures or just plain helping. Even moreso – he just does it. We had a great chat about some of the characters in he neighbourhood, what goes on around his gallery and who he loves Leslieville.
All in all it was a marvelous afternoon of art and ideas and interesting people. I highly recommend you check out Geoff’s work and of course – the gallery.
You may recall that yesterday I supplied a textbook (well, Wikipedia) definition of the word pentimento. Based on that definition, I thought I had a good handle on why the gallery is named that. John zipped upstairs to find a book by Lillian Hellman – Pentimento – in which she looks back at some of the people who, wittingly or unwittingly, exerted profound influence on her development as a woman and a writer. The reason for the gallery’s name is right on the first page. And here you go. Have a lovely day.