You still have two days to catch Trevor Gould‘s exhibition Belief has no Reason: Watercolors 1996-2013 at Galerie Hugues Charbonneau. Trevor Gould is originally from South Africa and moved to Montreal in 1980, where he now lives and works. The artist’s South African heritage informs much of the work in this retrospective of watercolours, focusing on themes such as colonialism, the Other, and cultural appropriation.
Walking through the exhibition feels like leafing through the journal of a 16th century European explorer: the gallery walls are filled with a menagerie of exotic animals, foreign plants, and plantation labor scenes. Gould’s brush stokes are quick and the compositions are left open, allowing the viewer to fill in the details. One interesting point of note in this exhibition is the exchange of gazes. While the viewer is looking at the exhibition (under the intent stare of nine watercolours of monkeys on the back wall), the exhibition also explores the concept of the colonizer’s view of the Other. The entire room is an intercession of gazes which provoke a challenge of the mainstream narrative of history and culture domination.
In the series Universal Fairs, Trevor Gould refers to museological practices which present and frame art, and the institutional classifications of what should be considered art. Exotic animals such as giraffes, elephants, monkeys are objectified and placed on pedestals or under observation glasses to be scrutinized by the (European) viewer. These watercolors are a nod to the past practice of European circuses where the Other was displayed as a “freak” or a “monster,” positioning the colonizer as the superior being.
This exhibition is a challenge of the narrative of mainstream history. The nine monkeys mentioned before, for example, make you conscious of your own gaze. Another example would be the character, faded yet still present, of a Klux-klux-klan member with his terrifying white hood. This symbol of xenophobia reminds us as viewers to be aware of our own cultural lens.
Trevor Gould makes an important contribution to the discourse of cultural appropriation in a post-colonial world.
Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, space 308
Belief has no Reason: Watercolors 1996-2013
March 1 – April 5, 2014