On Saturday, the Canadian Art Foundation hosted its first-ever Montreal Art Hop. A similar, annual event has been held in Toronto for many years by the Foundation, which also publishes Canadian Art magazine.
I took advantage of the Hop to follow a guided tour of six galleries in the Belgo Building, 372 Ste.-Catherine Street West. Built in 1912 to house a department store, the six-floor building has gone through several incarnations, including as a centre of showrooms and offices for the rag trade. Currently, it is known as one of the largest concentrations of contemporary art galleries in Canada. Almost forty galleries can now be found in the Belgo Building, some private, some government-supported, some no-commission, and some artist-run. It even has its own weekly bulletin.
Part of the fun of visiting the Belgo Building is stumbling upon something unexpected, and that's how I felt about the work of Sarah Bertrand-Hamel at the Joyce Yahouda Gallery, a great "find" which wasn't even on the tour.
Bertrand-Hamel is currently finishing a Master of Fine Arts at Concordia University in Fibres and Material Practices. The guide to the show reads, "The artworks ... consist of handmade paper created by Sarah Bertrand-Hamel through which the artist manipulates fibres, colours, textures and translucency. Stitches, folds or wrinkles become lines, letting drawings ... appear. Inspired by Gee's Bend women's contemporary quilts, Greco-Roman mosaics and medieval stained glass, the paper artworks are engaged with architecture.... An important aspect of her practice is fragmentation. The fabric scraps, the stone tesserae, and the coloured glass bits are here replaced by paper pieces. Whether it is with her pencil or sewing machine, Sarah Bertrand-Hamel draws. Fascinated by impermanence and singularity, the artist creates images that she repeats and reinterprets, fragments and recomposes. She is interested in transitions and shifts between these images."
The three works on view were made of small pieces of paper, stitched together by machine, with threads left untrimmed. They were stretched taut inside a framework of raw wood.
The Belgo Building seems to be the kind of place that rewards the casual visitor with many such interesting finds, and I plan to go back again soon.