James North Supercrawl: October

I went out into the rainy night of Supercrawl with a resolution in mind: already grouchy over the shit weather and exhausted by preparations for next weekend’s Hands-On Hamilton Art Party for the Print Studio, I decided to simply enjoy the music and the mood as the lay pedestrian I am where such matters are concerned, and save the snappy feedback for whatever art I may find. What this means is that I still cannot identify this fantastic band performing at the Sonic Unyon stage (my best guess based on the Supercrawl website is that they were Olenka and the Autumn Lovers), but damned if they weren’t a brilliant blend with the urbanity and the rain.

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As inconvenient as the rain was, it did contribute to what was perhaps an unintended apocalyptic feel for Supercrawl (even the loud-mouthed corporate jackass who just wouldn’t shut up during the New Harbours performances at the Cathedral described the evening as “post-nuclear”). With traffic closed from Wilson to Cannon, the dividing road marker of James North was lined with fragile tents sheltering all manner of esoteric wares, from crafts to organizations to the Liberal Party of Canada. With its huddled merchants bundled into several layers of coats and ponchos and hats and mitts, all the scene needed was zombies, but apparently they’re not out until October 24th.

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By stint of bad timing (or again, maybe the rain), I wasn’t able to spot much of the visual arts activity promised in the Supercrawl promotions save those affiliated elements safely sheltered indoors. The only reassuring sign of familiarity was Dave Hind’s bizarre bicycle contraption making the rounds, though I liked it better at last year’s TH&B with a train of his reclaimed aluminum tree-scapes in tow.

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Because it offered a comforting blend of the Supercrawl’s music-heavy intent and the familiarity of every other month’s Crawl Classic, I found refuge in Christ’s Church Cathedral for the New Harbours Music Series – as an added bonus, it was also dry. I had difficulty following the first act from his perch in the side pews, but found the insularity more than compensated by the easy approachability of the second performance. With keyboard, guitar and a whole lot of pedals, Matt Henderson made for an endearingly awkward one-man band: self-effacing but unnecessarily so given his rock-solid performance.

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The final act at the Cathedral, Kingdom Shore, looked almost traditional in their string quartet arrangement: in fact, they were the first group I’ve seen perform at New Harbours using honest-to-goodness sheet music. They were, however, accompanied by two Apple laptops and a generous heaping of wiring that transformed the sound a bowed double bass string as the roar of a jet engine, a violin’s highest note as the whine of a falling bomb. When the ensemble exploded together into rapid notes, the strings sounded like the chaos of machine gun fire. I did mention the apocalyptic vibe at Supercrawl, right?

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In an evening already rife with the something-new, I had already decided to finally pay my first visit to the Artword Artbar in their new premises on Colbourne Street. By stint of that slight distance from the main corridor of James North, Artword was a welcome oasis of calm away from the grind-and-thrust of the Supercrawl. Its gallery is housed in the downstairs portion of the building, and is remarkably well-finished and intimate in scale; again, a curious contrast to the rest of the Crawl, but certainly not an unwelcome one. The space was well suited to Steven McCabe’s Sandinista Series of mixed media paintings, heavily textured things that invite and endure close scrutiny with positively sumptuous layers of red. There’s an earnest simplicity in McCabe’s imagery, but his application of colour and texture belies a skilled and nuanced maker at work.

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For all the intensity of McCabe’s paintings, my real preference was for the drawings displayed in a more awkward, curtained vestibule on the lower level directly at the foot of the stairs. Two narrow pen-and-ink works in particular were strikingly intense with blacks worked to a deadly density, relieved by paler passages in which unearthly caricatures move through strange architectures. The detail above also reveals a selective use of colour that restrains the wilderness of the drawings – both more elaborate and more open than any of the painted works.

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Space and painting seemed to preoccupy my mind for much of the evening, as the relationship between the two kept nagging at me while viewing Fool, Swimmer, Heads, Lover, Paul Ropel-Morski’s exhibition of large unstretched canvases at James North Studio. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Paul at work in his native setting at Centre Court Studios, and much of his free-form energy translates effectively into this installation. Pushing the very barriers of the gallery itself, they are too large to photograph in their entirety during your not-so-average Supercrawl; in an ideal universe, these would be displayed in a much larger gallery than what James North Studio allows, but there’s an intriguing sense of drowning before an image much larger than oneself to be enjoyed as they are now.

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While The Print Studio has carried forward Delio Delgado’s excellent Words, Disguises and Other Things in its main gallery, the members’ space has transitioned over to a new photographic installation with Luis Mora and Trever Ydreos’ Yes, I’m Analog. The accoutrements grouped amongst the various photo-based works demonstrate an emphatic devotion to analog photography to the point of fetishization – both drawings of cameras and the objects themselves are given pride of place alongside the images they produce. Clustered tightly together, the collective body of work pushes too close to the gallery lights in what is perhaps another prostration to the medium, but all these gestures are unnecessary given that the photographs are strong enough in their own right, with or without the analog agenda. The defiant ‘I SHOOT FILM’ slogan that repeats in the grouping is much more interesting when taken as a playful declaration of violent intent.

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For both excellent work and complete self-confidence of medium, the best exhibition of the Supercrawl was Drawn Thread at Loose Canon Gallery. With the gallery’s owner/operator buried up to his yellow rain coat in Supercrawl action, curatorial duties were handed over to Thea Haines, who pulled together three textile artists for a seamless presentation of fragile yet forceful works. In adherence to the show’s title, Amy Belanger, Amanda McCavour and Joanna Schleimer all demonstrate a primary concern for the manipulated line of the spun thread rather than the whole cloth, making for compellingly open works rich with imaginative potential. Easily the most stunning thing in the exhibition was Amanda McCavour‘s flock of threaded sparrows; hollowed out and hovering away from the wall, their beaks and claws pull at the threads between them with an energy that reads equally as the birds weaving each other and ripping each other apart. It’s a quiet work with tremendous energy, needless of noise or band-standing or rain.


COMMENTS / ONE COMMENT

hey, that first band IS olenka and the autumn lovers, I”m the cellist. thanks!

paterson added these pithy words on Nov 03 09 at 1:08 pm
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