Visual arts professors’ exhibits showcase a broad range of media

Four visual arts professors from the Faculty of Fine Arts are showcasing their work in local, national and international venues this fall.

Professor Nell Tenhaaf is participating in thelivingeffect, a group show on view at the Ottawa Art Gallery until Jan. 30, 2011. Curated by York visual arts alumna Caroline Seck Langill (MFA ‘98), the exhibition investigates “the essence of life” in works created in a broad range of media.

Tenhaaf’s contribution, titled Push/Pull, is an interactive sculpture with artificial intelligence (AI), created in collaboration with Professor Melanie Baljko from York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering. The work occupies a circular space 18 feet in diameter with a five-foot sculpture at its centre. The sculpture is built with a wood frame in four panels which are covered in brass wire mesh that support optical cable and LED light panels.

The LED lights are amber if controlled by human presence and yellow if controlled by the AI. Humans and the AI interact in conversations of light and sound, controlled by the visitor’s proximity and movement around the sculpture.

Professor Katherine Knight‘s documentary film about Newfoundland-based performance artist Colette Urban, Pretend Not To See Me, screened last week at the Festival Temps d’Image in Lisbon, Portugal, and at the Globians Doc Fest in Stuttgart, Germany. It was also presented last month at the Citizen Jane Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri.

Pretend Not to See Me features 13 enigmatic performance artworks by Urban, re-staged and shot on location on the artist’s remote Newfoundland property. The film made its Toronto premiere at the Reel Artists Film Festival earlier this year (see YFile, Feb 25).

Right: Film still from Katherine Knight’s Pretend Not To See Me: Colette Urban performs Bare. Image courtesy of Site media Inc.

Both the artist and the filmmaker were present at the showing in Missouri. Urban introduced the film with a live performance of her work “Hoot”, and Knight led an audience question-and-answer session following the screening.

Professor Janet Jones will exhibit a selection of paintings from her DaDa Flow, DaDa Delirio and Solo series at Marine: A contemporary art salon in Los Angeles, California. Her work is on display until Jan. 22.

Left: Jane Jones’ DaDa Delirio #4, 2009. Oil and acrylic on canvas

In these series, Jones investigates a new form of the sublime that she dubs the “techno-sublime”. Using light and thin layers of fluorescent colour, the artist infiltrates dark and cavernous urban spaces, turning the ominous into the illuminated while underscoring the “ecstatic blur” of technology.

The works hover between “skin and screen”, showing almost no evidence of paint texture or brushstroke. Inspired by black-and-white photos that Jones takes of seemingly public spaces, such as the lobbies of multinational corporations and the hyperlit passages on the Las Vegas casino strip, the imagery represents places that are everywhere and nowhere.

Hot on the heels of her exhibition in Printopolis last month (see YFile, Oct. 18), Professor Barbara Balfour is opening a new site-specific print media installation about champagne at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre. The work, titled The Farewell, will be on display at the York Quay Centre until Jan. 2.

Above: Barbara Balfour’s The Farewell, 2010. Champagne on watercolour paper

Named after the term for the aftertaste or “finish” of champagne, The Farewell consists of three parts: blends, bubbles and stains. With champagne or sparkling wine as the substance in question (and in some cases a physical presence in the work), these prints and residues allude to the future, the present and the past. More specifically, they refer to the blending of wine preceding fermentation, the presence of bubbles savoured in the moment and what remains when it is over.

The bubbles, ideally persistent for as long as it takes to drink a bottle of champagne, are at once festive and a melancholy reminder of the transitory nature of all things. Over the course of time, there will be good years and bad years – both in vintages and in life. Inevitably, there is “The Farewell”.

Concurrently with Balfour’s show, the work of several other York artists will be on view at Harbourfront Centre’s York Quay Centre. Recent graduate Jennie Suddick (MFA ‘09) is a part of the exhibition unREAL, which features works by a group of artists who challenge, alter and construct worlds that are their own, yet still maintain ties to conventional perception. Art history PhD candidate Sally McKay is co-curator of the Too Cool for School Art & Science Fair, a series of engaging installations that explore the intersection of art and science. Alumnus Gareth Lichty (BFA ‘04) is one of six artists in the show. Both exhibitions are on view until Jan. 2. For details, visit the Harbourfront Centre website.