Upon entering the space of Gallery B-312, the viewer is confronted with Francis Arguin‘s architectural forms. Francis Arguin is a multidisciplinary artist focusing on performance and sculpture. He moved to Québec city after leaving his home in Abitibi, and obtained a double baccalaureate at Université Laval (Québec, QC). In the series Constructions Discutables, the artist focuses his attention on architectural vocabulary. Reinterpreting the shapes in urban architecture with simple and accessible materials such as wood, cardboard and paper, the artist reflects on urban shapes and on their reliability and aesthetics. All the sculptures in the room call on architecture we see everyday: bridges, hotels, domes etc. The project emerged from the artist’s realization that urban shapes can sometimes be particularly ugly, yet such a part of our environment that we do not see them anymore. The titles are obvious, even without checking the title listings beforehand I figured them out pretty easily. Yet, the titles chosen by the artist are first of all Untitled, referring to the ultimate naming of abstract art, suffixed by a more descriptive term. The sculptures indeed do not represent the subject with accuracy or realism, but with enough structural resemblance that anyone can recognize it. This for me is a statement on the state of urban architecture: the strength and reliability of the structures as well as their aesthetics are questionable. Constructions disputables indeed! As a Montrealer, I can definitely relate to this statement.
Adjacent to this is a smaller room where the viewer encounters the work of Marie-France Tremblay. An entire wall is devoted to a mural-collage entitled Le Quai (2013) where scenes of water-related activities are multiplicated in a two-dimensional space. Tremblay plays with repetition and scenes from the everyday. The material used (paper) as well as the replication of motifs calls upon the tradition of the wallpaper: covering a wall with paper and a repeated pattern as decoration. This strategy gives a sense of flatness, increased by the uniformity of a striped light brown background. The simplicity of the design suggests a certain innocence yet when looking at the scenes more closely the viewer is filled with a sense of unease as most of the water activities take place from manholes. In addition to that, hanging from the ceiling is the sculpture installation Brochets (2013) which represents a group of fish caught in a net. The fish are hand-made and look like a child’s stuffed toy. The sense of childhood innocence, however, is short-lived as the viewer comes to realize that some fish have two heads or are half gutted. The scene is more a nightmare then anything else.
Both of these artists use their art to create scenes of ordinary life with a twist. For me, they help the viewer take a closer look, not only in the gallery setting but also in their everyday environment. The low number of artworks in the gallery forces the viewer to slow down and take in the details of the works in which the message is hidden. In addition the subjects of the artworks are related to our everyday concerns: the state of the food we eat (are the fish we eat two-headed, will we become two-headed from the fish we eat?) or the architecture that surrounds us, its solidity and reliability are put on the stand. The way the subject matter is treated, such as using Abstract Art characteristics or childhood related styles, helps make the message clear and strong, almost chocking, to the viewer. This exhibition was a pleasant surprise, challenging my daily use of urban spaces and engaging reflexions on human interaction with the environment; urban as well as natural.
Galerie B-312, space 403
Francis Arguin: Constructions Discutables
Marie-France Tremblay: Le Quai
May 30 – June 29, 2013