A Conversation with Power Ball XIX Artists Daniel Barrow

Daniel Barrow, ‘Emoticons,’ mixed media (2010). Image courtesy of artist.

Since childhood, Daniel Barrow has found comfort in drawing. It has allowed him to export his internal visions while getting a handle of the world around him. Born in Winnipeg and based in Montreal, he works in projection, performance, animation, printmaking sculpture, and painting. All of his pieces, including sculpture and performance, revolve around his practice of drawing. Barrow is best known for his manual comic book and cinematic narratives, which are performance pieces given by overhead projectors. With these projected animations, he works through themes of fantasy, spirituality, empathy, isolation, and queerness. His installation was featured at this year’s Power Ball XIX: Stereo Vision.

Tatyana Wolfman: Comic books and films are some of your biggest influences. Which have had the biggest impact on your work?

DB: Daniel Clowes is without rival my favorite comic-book artist and the greatest comic book story-teller of our generation. I actually worry about the impact of his narratives on my own work, and try consistently to expand my reading list.

My tolerance for bad film is much greater than my tolerance for bad comic books, so I cast a broader net of influences and inspirations in film. Ronald Neame, Fellini and De Palma are some of my all-time favorite directors. My favorite movie of 2016 was Manchester by the Sea, and the best movie, for my money, of 2017, so far, is Get Out.

Music and literature also have had a huge impact on my work, along with art historical figures like Jean Antoine Watteau.

T: Your work mixes everything from rococo, surrealism, Greek iconography and contemporary culture. How do you choose the periods you reference and what do you hope to achieve with these combinations?

DB: I don’t at all map out how my references come together in my work. Nor do I have an artistic aim apart from following the freedom of my own imagination and making my work “better” in a very general sense. The piece I presented at Power Ball was specifically referencing Magic Lantern “slipping slides,” Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” and the clichéd cinematic ways of representing an erotic dream.

Daniel Barrow, ‘Trash,’ mixed media drawing (2010). Image courtesy of artist

T: While big movie studios push to get animation to look as real as possible, you use obsolete projectors to create comic book narratives. Why choose these antiquated technologies to tell your stories?

DB: A lot has been made of the fact that I consistently use “obsolete” technologies , and while I am in many respects a nostalgic person, I’m far more drawn to technologies because they are simple (many of which happen to be antiquated) and I am always searching for ways to expedite my process. I prefer working with a few people as possible – ideally alone. I consider my work cinematically ambitious, but my methods are more similar to that of a puppeteer. I love the idea of perfecting an animated gesture, but I prefer to focus my energies on pictorial depictions and story, and fast-track an animated drawing by manually moving it through a gesture and moderating everything as a live performer. The overhead projector allows me to do all of this very quickly.

T: Is having transparent/demystified mode of storytelling important to you?

DB: Being present in the room to moderate the telling of a story to an audience is important to me. I love the energy of a live audience and the relationship that can develop in real time between a performer and audience.

T: Can you tell us about the two pieces, “House on Fire” and “Learning to Breathe Underwater,” you installed for Powerball?

DB: Learning to Breathe Underwater is a composited, and projected image of a prince having sex with a mermaid on a canopy bed. It is made using three video projections and five overhead projections. The drapery of the canopy bed is projected through dishes of water animated by fans. The viewer uses an aluminum “slipping slide” (based on pre-cinematic magic lantern technology) fastened to an overhead projector to activate the act of intercourse, hence implicating themselves in the obscene gesture.

Daniel Barrow, ‘Learning to Breathe Underwater/House on Fire’ (2010).

House on Fire uses 3 overhead projectors to create the image of a large box of tissue. A large mechanized pinwheel suspended over one of the projectors provides a never-ending billow of Baroque tissue rising from the box. There are 10 cardboard-mounted slides piled next to another projector. Each features a 2-frame, “lenticular” animation of a pattern, which is animated only when the viewer drags it across the surface of the projector. The animations were almost all created by taking “compare and contrast” images from books on the history of pattern. Textbooks feature the image of a pattern of a 15th century Roman altar cloth, and contrast it with the image of a similar pattern found in Turkey a hundred years later. I used these textbook illustrations to create simple two-frame animations which then move in the template of the Kleenex box.

Daniel Barrow, ‘Learning to Breathe Underwater/House on Fire’ (2010).

T: Buddhism and spiritual transformation finds its way into a lot of your work. How does it play out in your piece Learning to “Breathe Underwater,” which is a re-imagination of Han Christian Andersen’s Little mermaid story?

DB: That’s true. Buddhism has had a huge impact on my life and imagination though I can’t think of a neat link to this particular installation.

T: The tissue box is a recurring motif throughout your work. I immediately thought of cum and tears. What does this object mean to you?

DB: I’m always attracted to images or objects have the potential of many psychological and cultural associations. Recently, I’ve been using images of toilet paper as a template for meaning. The manufacturers of toilet tissue, like Kleenex, seem to want to create an aesthetic that will defend against the function of the product – usually by conjuring notions of quilted comfort and feminine innocence. It’s invariably printed with lacy floral patterns and in Europe it can be difficult to find tissue that is not perfumed. Kleenex is something a viewer could variously associate with any number of distasteful body fluids, crying, illness, comfort and sex. I’m also drawn to the simple contradiction of forms – the unraveling patterned cube with a baroque flourish rising from the top.

T: In the pieces, viewers can choose the pattern of the tissue box and are the driving force for the prince to penetrate the mermaid. Why have the audience get involved?

DB: I think I’m trying to lend my position as a performer to the viewer, while still controlling the gesture. I am always also trying to create a more intimate experience of story and one of the ways I do that is to implicate an audience in a story gesture. The only way for the viewer to see the act of intercourse is to animate it herself – presumably with a live audience watching.

T: Anything exciting planned for the summer or new projects coming up?

DB: I’m currently working on four different stories for projection performances. I have an exhibition at Open Studio in Toronto in the fall which will also launch a new silk screen. I am in the final stages of an animated short and I am also working on a number of new sculptural pieces. I anticipate having a lot of new work to exhibit in 2018. I only wish I could clone myself to get it all done!

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A Conversation with Alice Maclean

Photo by Andrea Vahrusev

There’s a poetic quality of capturing fleeting moments in Alice Maclean’s watercolors. A quality neither too subtle nor outlandish that resembles in sentiment Ezra Pound’s In a Station of the Metro; it’s as though Alice not only sees the faces in the crowd but understands what it is about them that needs conveying.

Alice was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and studied biology at Dalhousie University before she ventured into fine arts. She’s studied and lived in Paris and Scotland and now lives in Toronto. The mild manners of the Atlantic’s small town and the confidence of metropolitan life she’s come to know are found in her soft spoken yet assured answers. I recently had a chance to meet with Alice at her studio and talk about her latest series, Impermanenceand her career.

Photo by Andrea Vahrusev

Hoon: You studied science at Dalhousie before studying fine art. How did you come to make that decision? 

A: It happened in an unplanned way. I was finishing my undergrad in biology and found that I was not enjoying my time at Dalhousie, so I kept thinking, How can I make this last year better and what would I really like to do? There was this quiet voice inside that just said I’d really like to take a drawing class. The class didn’t even count as an elective. The teacher was very supportive and she continuously urged me to go to art school full time. For a long time I didn’t agree with her because I was worried about money and was fatigued with undergrad. But what ended up happening was, she set up a meeting with the chairman and he gave me entrance to the school based just on my portfolio.

So I went into art school with the intention of doing just one year and was thinking about scientific illustration where I can use my science background. But once I started to learn more about painting, I felt that I connected more to an impressionistic style and decided to do four years at NSCAD.

H: Did you also paint or draw as a child? 

A: I don’t remember taking many art classes in high school or junior high — there really wasn’t much support for that. But I did draw as a child and my mom she still has framed drawings of mine from early on. She herself is very creative so I grew up always doing something creative, like drawing on walls, etc.

Photo by Andrea Vahrusev

H: Does your understanding of science inform your work today?

A: I think it does. I was thinking back to what it was like when I was studying biology and all the lab works involve observing and drawing; some of my favorite classes were concerned with ecology, which is about looking specifically at animals and plants. At those moments, you’re really looking closely at, investigating something. I think in my art that kind of observational and investigational approach is applied to people.

H: Tell us a little bit about your creative process. 

A: It’s changed recently. In the summer time, while I was doing a two-week residency on Toronto Island,  I decided to focus just on watercolor mostly because it dries quickly and is more accessible for projects that need to be done more quickly. It changed my process a lot. I started to document people I met on the island and drawing from that: I’d go around and be around the community and take a lot of pictures of people I knew and people I didn’t know. Then I’d go over the photos. It’s hard to say but there is some connection I feel when I think that someone is showing a kind of unmasked version of themselves; you can catch people being a bit vulnerable, or showing the reality of their emotional state at the time. I look for those candid moments where I think I get a reaction and think, There’s something more there. So I’m not interested in documenting sports or yoga poses — I’m more interested in people when they are not aware.

It was important that when I ask for permission I’d make clear that I wasn’t about their identities. There are sometimes clues — in later ones you can tell the subjects’ genders and whatnot but some of the very first ones were really abstract. It was about posture and capturing the moment than anyone’s identity.

H: Would you say that there’s a thematic continuity between them? 

A: At the time, I was reading a lot about archetypes and shadows; aspects of a person’s persona that they don’t want revealed. That was really what sparked all of the works. That’s why I don’t really want to document people’s identity so much because archetypes are shared mythologies that we all can take on and inhabit ourselves. It’s more about shared experiences. I see something in someone else that invokes in me a kind of vulnerable, familiar human experience.

Photo by Andrea Vahrusev

H: Tell us a bit about your latest series, Impermanence

A: Impermance is a bit of a departure. I began to think less about the archetypal aspects of ourselves and more about impermanence as an idea, the constant flux and change found in nature. Emotions and physical bodies are constantly changing and it inspired me to look at things differently. I also just started to think about how water color itself is in constant flux and I allowed it to have a lot of say in the final pieces. The materiality of watercolor — the water and pigment mixing on paper and changing through evaporation — fit just so perfectly with the concept of impermanence.

H: What was the transition from oil to watercolor like?

A: There are some links but they are very much different. I’m still informed by all the time I spent with oil, mainly in that I will block in the image, use monochromatic first layer. and work on top of it with more color. But what I get to do with watercolor is, I get to be a bit looser and more spontaneous. With oil, I felt that I was in control of it all, but with watercolor, I get to have more of a conversation with or an exploration of the material.

H: Is there a reason for choosing numbers over descriptive titles for your pieces in Impemanence?

A: It seemed more practical. Previously I would name the paintings after the person or with a description of the person, like say, ‘the girl in the blue dress.’ But with Impermanence, it was less about the individual and his or her individuality and so the numbering made more sense in that they are all titled Impermannce. It seems to fit all of them.

H: Series as a whole rather than as individual pieces.

A: Yeah, I think so.

H: Do you paint everyday?

A: I would like to be painting everyday but it’s not something I can always manage. I can’t force it and there are other responsibilities as well. When I was doing the residency I was painting everyday.

H: How long does it take you to finish a piece? 

A: I really don’t know because I’m always working on a number of them at the same time. There have been paintings that came about in a day and they are special for that. They were clear from the start and just happened. I would say that most of the time, I work in layers, so I go back at least a few times until I feel that it’s become completed. It’s a funny thing to know when something’s done.

H: You are originally from Nova Scotia and you now live in Toronto, and you’ve studied abroad in Paris and Scotland.

A: I moved to Paris to study for a semester and that was mostly to experience a lot of visual works in the flesh. Growing up in Nova Scotia, I didn’t have that many opportunities to see a lot of paintings in person. So in Paris, I spent a lot of time going to museums and looking at art. I also walked all over the city. That’s where the watercolor work all came from. Looking through all of the photos I took in Paris I started thinking about how bizarre it was to have all these strangers in my pictures. The same goes for Scotland. They’d often be in the background of something I was actually trying to take a photo of. When I travel, it puts me in a very observational space. I’m connected to who I am in a different way, away from my comfort zone. You become more observational and it visually informs my paintings.

H: Are there any subjects or ideas you’d like to explore in the future? 

A: I’m not so sure. At the moment, I want to do a project based on a rural setting and an urban setting and to compare them. But I’m not exactly sure what this will look like. I’ve also been thinking about compositions that involve more than one figure and compositions of people from different places — they wouldn’t have shared a moment in reality but become a composition that can perhaps tell a narrative. And I want to explore the materiality of watercolor and work on it on different types of papers.

Alice Maclean’s latest series, Impermanence, was on view at Souvenir on Dundas West. She was recently featured in Toronto’s Artist Project. Impermanence and other works by Alice are on view on her website here and on her Instagram page here. Continue following our arts & culture coverage on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

The Most Stylish and Stunning Drag Instagram Looks of 2017… So Far

Ever since the rise of social media and queer-centered programming such as RuPaul’s Drag Race (airs Fridays at 8 pm if anyone is interested). The global appreciation for drag and drag culture has shot to astronomical heights over the last few years. However, drag has been an important form of entertainment and expression since ancient times. These days, drag and drag culture have expanded to become a very inclusive and supportive network of artists that bring their own styles and flavours to the broad spectrum of drag culture. For this round of Top 10 Instagram Moments, we’ve found a group of queens and drag artists whose stunning personal styles and personas have made for some really amazing Instagram moments. Here are the most stylish and stunning drag moments of 2017 so far!

@ALLABOUTVALENTINA

Valentina‘s has quickly stolen the hearts of drag race fans and social media perusers alike. With her infectious personality and uplifting optimism, Valentina has already shown herself to be a clear front-runner among the shows pick of stunning queens… and only two episodes too! Apart from her showstopping appearances on Drag Race, Valentina recently appeared on Access Hollywood for an interview about her career and experiences on drag race. It seems that this queen is making herself right at home in the spotlight where she belongs.

 

@RYBURKE

A staple of modern club kid culture, Ryan Burke is the go to Instagram account to follow if you’d like to see everything from Leigh Bowery inspired costumes to high fashion glamour looks. This look right here really encapsulates what Ryan is all about; graphic avant-garde looks are what she does best!

@BIGANDMILKY

Milk is another queen that came from the new era of club kids. Her conceptual, and more recently, gender fluid and androgynous looks always have either a political or social motive behind them. Recently, Milk showed the world just how she felt about her home country’s current president. Now, this look isn’t the most glamorous, but it serves to show that drag can be more than just female impersonation. It can be a cry for justice and truth in uncertain times.

 

@SASHAVELOUR

It seems like this season of Drag Race is going to have it’s most recognisable, copied, and envied queens of all the seasons. One perfect example of this is Sasha Velour. This New York city drag icon has been the face of Brooklyn for years now. Proving that New York produces some of the best drag acts in the world. And for good reason, just look at her fashion sense. It looks like she has Manhattan oversized Comme Des Garcon realness on lock.

 

@SIGOURNEY.BEAVER

The most beautiful thing about today’s drag scene is that inclusivity has become a main focal point for many of the world’s queer havens. In the past, drag itself was a strictly cis white male profession., now, drag has evolved to include everyone. No matter their age, body shape, skin colour, religion, and gender. Yes, that’s right, even gender too! Never has there been such a rise in women taking interest in drag like there is now. Take the ever stunning Sigourney Beaver. Who’s out of this world glamour and curvaceous body were the perfect mix to create this picture perfect Jessica Rabbit meets Daenerys Targaryen outfit.

 

@PEARLIAISON

Queen Pearl is part of the iconic Drag Race alumni of season 6. Along with winner Violet Chachki, Pearl is regarded as one of the most original and iconic drag queens in recent history. Recently, Pearl drag persona has evolved from vava voom blonde bombshell to fully realised drag artist. In this look, you can see her vast theatrical influences. Pearl has everything covered here, from Venetian carnival sleeves to a gorgeous Midsummers Night Dream headpiece.

 

@PEPPERMINT247

Peppermint landed her rightful place on this list for something extra special and important. Peppermint is actually the first contestant in Drag Race history to enter the competition as a transwoman. Unlike other contestants on the show who began their transitions after their appearances on the show, Peppermint walked into the workroom as a proud (and exceptionally stunning) transwoman of colour. Here we see Peppermint giving a taste of black culture and beauty, 1980’s flare, and New York spunk all in one.

 

@RYANXHEMMINGE

Like I mentioned before, Drag and Drag culture are no longer identified in a singular form. These days, everyone can express their individuality through makeup and costume. Take Instagram user Ryan H. Who’s stunning makeup looks go far beyond the realm of his Instagram makeup artist contemporaries. I definitely think CoverGirl should open up another more spot on their Cover boy roster for this uber-talented lad.

@CREMEFATALE

More and more women are finding empowerment in their sexuality and femininity by doing drag. Queen Creme Fatale is one of them. With some of the most outrageously beautiful and versatile painting skills. Here we can see the extent of Creme’s skills, serving a high fashion, high glamour club kid fantasy.

@URBANDECAYCOSMETICS

Lastly, we have Urban Decay Cosmetics. Who have realised that queens aren’t just an entertainment highlights anymore but they’re also great business women and marketers as well. With the launch of their  Makeup Meltdown and Rehab cosmetics products, Urban Decay invited queens @THEONLYALASKA5000, @JIGGLYCALIENTEOFFICIAL, @SUTANAMRULL, and @KATYA_ZAMO to test drive their products to see if they work to prep and wipe away the toughest of makeup looks.

Novella’s April Toronto Art Guide

For the month of April, we invite you to consider perspective: new perspectives or looking at something from a different one. Art is allows us to engage with perspectives we may not normally encounter, to use metaphor as a way to connect and understand. While these exhibitions are all vastly different in content, they will really make you consider your own point of view in contrast with that of those around you.

FEMME FUTURE: WRESTLING WRESIDENCY (MARCH 27TH—APRIL 9TH)

It shouldn’t be too hard to see wrestling as a tool for storytelling. Consider the luchadores of Lucha libre from Mexico: the masks, the dramatics, the history. Wrestling is, at its core, bodies interacting with other bodies and communicating through movement.

The League of Lady Wrestlers aren’t aiming to tell stories in their exhibition at the Gladstone Art Hut, but their goal is to convey ideas about feminine identity and empowerment through wrestling performances set up in the hut and a documentary by one of the league members. Intrigued? We certainly are.

Find more information here.

VPN TO IRL (MARCH 31ST—APRIL 29TH)

Think, for a moment, about every relationship you have online. Now consider what would happen if your interactions within those relationships occurred in real life. That’s part of the thought process behind the group exhibition at the Xpace Cultural Centre this month. The interactive exhibit, a collaboration between Ronnie Clark, Marlon Kroll, Sophia Oppel, and Timothy Truong, aims to construct a new reality around participants based on connections and constant feedback. The installation is looking at something we are only just beginning to skim the surface of in our own society: the ethics of the Internet and its consequences in real life.

Find more information here.

NAOKO MATSUBARA (APRIL 1ST—22ND)

Japanese artist Naoko Matsubara will be the featured artist at Abbozzo Gallery for the month of April. Matsubara’s reputation as a skilled printmaking artist precedes her, with accolades from Carnegie Mellon University and a previous teaching position at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Matsubara’s work is absolutely stunning and demands to be seen in person. Luckily for us, we’ll have the chance for a whole month.

Find more information here.

FOR THE LEFT HAND ALONE (APRIL 1ST—29TH)

Most of you are probably familiar with the phantom limb; the idea when the person who loses a limb is haunted by a feeling, maybe an itch or an ache, where the limb used to be. In her video exhibition at Trinity Square Video, artist Karilynn Ming Ho examines the phantom limb sensations as unrequited longing, as a way to navigate an increasingly disembodied world and our relationships to representations of bodies that are not genuine.

Find more information here.

[EXPLETIVE DELETED] (APRIL 5TH—16TH)

Think of a curse word. Right now. Maybe you can say it out loud, or maybe you can’t, because swear words hold context and connotations when used. Your character is usually reflected negatively by the curse word. But what about when we really need to say one?

We live in very strange times. Letting loose some expletives is, frankly, one way to cope with the madness of our current world. This is what visual artists Diego De La Rosa, Abbey Laura Pauline Gagnon, Greg McCarthy, and Dermot O’Brien are looking at in their group show at Gallery 50 this month. Through their own media, these artists will respond to the swear word-inducing times we live in.

Find more information here.

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Novella’s February Art Guide

February is a month of storms. There are certainly the literal kinds; the snow squalls and ice storms and blackouts that always seem to find Canada in the months where spring is but a touch of warmth in the back of our minds. But there are other storms we find ourselves in, both political and personal. To fight these destructive forces, there are organized protests, raised awareness, and education given wherever it can be found.

This month, we invite you to consider awareness and perspective through art. The list we’ve compiled of our choices of exhibitions this month are tied together by an idea: It’s time to hear histories that challenge the dominant canon and time to look at our culture from a different perspective.

NASTY (JANUARY 21ST-MARCH 4TH)

With major events unfolding in the United States, this exhibition at the Daniel Faria Gallery is more relevant than ever. This all-female exhibition takes that now infamous phrase “nasty woman” (of course referring to Hillary Clinton, the woman who wanted to run a country) and expands upon it until the sheer ridiculousness of the phrase cannot be ignored.

This is a time when “nasty women” are everywhere: threatening to men in positions of power, unapologetic in their outrage, and unafraid to be depicted as ugly. Nadia Belerique, Valerie Blass, Shannon Bool, Aleesa Cohene, Kara Hamilton, Kristine Moran, Jennifer Murphy and Elizabeth Zvonar use their respective disciplines to play with images of women and gender at a time when every new step forward for gender equality is met with belittling rebuttals.

Learn more here.

PORTALS (JANUARY 21ST-FEBRUARY 23RD)

Gallery 555’s current exhibition is another show with female creators with works tied by one of the art’s most prevalent themes: transformation and new beginnings. With an all-star lineup featuring award-winning artists Amy Bowles, Rebecca Chaperon, Anna Pantcheva, Kate Puxley, and Stacey Sproule, this show promises a visual feast of gorgeous contemporary art, but it will also ask questions and make the viewer consider their own transformative experiences as well as the possibility of new, untouched spaces within the mind.

Highly recommended to anyone feeling a little existential lately.

Learn more here. 

WORKWEAR (JANUARY 21ST-APRIL 23RD)

When we consider jobs, we consider the uniform. Every position has one, whether we are conscious of it or not. Some jobs have an easily recognizable uniform that is in and of itself an icon — consider firefighters, doctors, and garbage collectors. Some have more conceptual uniforms, but when you put a group of people with that job in a room, the patterns become clear — consider teachers, government workers, and fashion retailers who reflect the brand aesthetic.)

As part of their winter exhibitions, the Harbourfront Centre has gathered the work of 39 designers to present workwear in our modern world. They explore uniforms’ inherent ties to power and position by creating uniforms for invented, hypothetical jobs for a new, hypothetical society.

(If you’re like me and have a habit of examining the wardrobe choices in Black Mirror a little too closely, I have a feeling this will be the show for you.)

Learn more here.

SHAME AND PREJUDICE: A STORY OF RESILIENCE (JANUARY 26TH-MARCH 4TH)

For a long time, Canada has worn the “nice guy” label with such national pride. We put ourselves above the United States and Europe with our supposed peaceful history. Really, our history is just as wrought with people and government continually doing wrong towards Indigenous peoples as any other country. This is not a new concept, but it is still not being acknowledged enough.

Kent Monkman’s show at the University of Toronto Art Museum is a bold acknowledgment of the elephant in every room, the airing out of Canada’s dirty secrets. Monkman’s incredible solo project uses paintings, sculptures, and historical artifacts to tell the story of Canada’s history from pre-confederation to the present, all through the eyes of the Indigenous people.

Learn more here.

GRIEVING EMPIRE (JANUARY 27TH-MARCH 18TH)

A Space Gallery’s multidisciplinary exhibition has Canadian artists telling stories of the violence and control of imperialist forces in colonial states. The exhibition includes works by Kahdija Baker, Livia Daza-Paris, Michael Greyeyes, John Halaka, Siamak Haseli, and Gita Hashemi. The works span across media and continents but are all representations of the experiences of the colonized. The works are meant to be representations of “revolutionary grieving,” according to the exhibition’s webpage. Based on that description alone, I imagine this will be an exhibition that will not only be emotionally harrowing but an education for every person who attends.

Learn more here. 

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