Northern Lights

Various Artists

October 6 - November 4, 2006

Northern Lights

Curated by Board Member, Christine Charette and Curator/Director, Dermot Wilson, this exhibition brings together new works to our Permanent Collection with works seldom exhibited and several complimenting works by emerging artists from the North Bay region. The group show celebrates celestial phenonmena, the eccentric, the occult, our Northern skies and several artists that we see as northern ?lights?.

Cameron Armstrong is represented here in North Bay by the Joan Ferneyhough Gallery. His paintings tend to build depth in definite (almost graphic) layers. Fields of colour establish a middle ground, while deep, slightly blurred ?projections? of figures or faces or objects glow within a black backdrop. Into these layers and encroaching upon them are: doodles and graffiti-like markings and symbols, scratched lines that sometimes denote perspective or architectural elements and comic book or popular imagery. In The Practices of Rebel Prey, we see a graphic novelesque depiction of ?Meta-boy? (a character drawn from the artist?s iconography) and some rabbits as translated from illustrations in a Beatrix Potter text.

Cocco Russell Falk is a relative newcomer to the North Bay area who has quickly made her mark here. Important to these works are the artist?s attention to the personal and spiritual in everyday life, an openness to chance and to immediate feelings and a willingness to consider many media when completing an art work. The largest canvas contributed for this show Simple Ending, creates, as in Armstrong?s work, strong distinct layers of imagery and depth and also touches somewhat on graffiti and naïve figurative imagery. But it is in the composition of the work where Ms. Russell Falk excels. The straight forward composition of the landscape or the primary image is complicated and ?unbalanced? by the addition of foreground figures, dissected symbols and words at the edges of the work and other devices. The works seem to balance calmness and tranquility with an encroaching confusion and eccentricity.

Brent Kluke is North Bay?s quintessential ?street? artist. He works only on recycled, collected and scavenged materials: beer posters, thrown out television sets, used furniture, found scraps of paper, etc. Upon these found surfaces though are art works that expand upon age-old painting traditions and that are redolent of both art history and Brent?s view of contemporary life. The works are chaotic and multi-layered and in these ways they respond to the works of Russell Falk and Armstrong, but the attention to German Expressionism, Surrealism, Post-Impressionism and other traditional schools of art lends a coherence and balance to these colourful, dynamic paintings. The curators for Northern Lights & Other Celestial Expressions were also taken with the fact that several of Kluke?s works seem directly related to our central theme. As if, in a world of chaotic colours and constantly shifting facets, there is always, above us and around us, a spiritual unity. That unity is art itself.

Pulsing and whispering through the space of this exhibition are sounds generated by Christine Charette. This 19 minute long electronic symphony was specially created for the exhibit and is meant to knit together the contemporary half of the show with the works from the Permanent Collection. Galleries are often silent spaces for contemplation. The sound piece seems not to pierce the silence but to harmonize with it and to create subtle interior landscapes and to provide a soundtrack for our contemplations. The intent with this fourth component of the exhibition was to bring contemporary practices and methods closer to works created over the past six decades from our collection, to somehow allow the works to be in tune with each other.

In selecting works from the collection, the curators were looking for works that had seldom been seen in the gallery, that possessed an ethereal or celestial expression, or that ?understood? the crisp skies and cool weather that accompanies our remembrances of the Northern Lights. The first work one encounters in the exhibition, Sous-Bois by Stanley Cosgrove is an interesting example because it seems to fall furthest from our stated themes. In fact, this piece sets us up for the story. It places us in a familiar landscape in the early evening. We are passing through the woods to a clear place where the skies will open up to us and reveal the drama of the Northern Lights. And even as we linger in Cosgrove?s woods the scene starts to become magical, the brush strokes take on different meanings or conjure sprites and spirits. The painting is a gateway leading from the everyday to the mystical.

The curators for Northern Light and Other Celestial Expressions would like to thank the three featured artists: Cameron Armstrong, Brent Kluke and Cocco Russell Falk for their wonderful works, the Gallery staff for their hard work to mount the exhibition and the WKP Kennedy Gallery for the use of their wonderful collection.

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