Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tribute to Leonard Cohen: opening

Last week was the vernissage of my most recent show, a collaborative celebration of the life, music and poetry of Leonard Cohen. Most of the twelve participating artists were there, and the many visitors took advantage of this opportunity to talk to the artists about their work.

Portrait of Cohen, Eric Mannella

Visitors are greeted by this haunting portrait of Cohen. In the words of the artist,
"This painting explores the idea of light revealing form, using a baroque model of lighting where the light source is a single beam. Emphasis is placed on a veristic likeness of the poet while conveying an introspective portrait of a deep thinker."

When Paper Becomes Poetry, Joanne Keilo

At the entrance to the show, these three large works by Joanne Keilo make a strong impression on the viewer. Made of dried paper pulp, they reference script with their calligraphic shapes. The choice to forego glass in the mounting left the works vulnerable and fragile, in keeping with Cohen's aesthetic of celebrating human imperfection and frailty. Keilo wrote:
"Cohen laments. Rather than bypass the glory and the pain, he permits himself to sink into it. He emerges through his poetry, through his songs, through his prose. In 'Beautiful Losers' Cohen writes 'How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?'
"In my series 'When Paper Becomes Poetry' I beat the fibres for over eight hours in a Hollander beater. The overbeaten pulp is then placed in a squeeze bottle. Songs sung to me as an infant and as a child are formed from the pulp in the bottle and are written and re-written in spiral form. The lullabies and songs are finally transformed by the drying process when the pulp ultimately shrinks and undulates as it wishes, much like memories. This series confronts and transforms the subtle body of the baby's experience from paper into a kind of visual poetry." 

Also by Joanne Keilo were these five works
from her Close to the Bone series,
comprised of large "leaf skeletons" incorporated
into paper pulp. Detail shown below.

Imperfect Vessel, Mona Turner
36 x 24

Writes Mona Turner, about her painting, above,
"Cohen's words, 'There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in' remind me of the Japanese art of Kintsugi, repairing cracks in pottery with gold. This art form celebrates a beauty that is imperfect, and impermanent. The crack, the imperfection, becomes the source of new ideas, of growth and change."

Diaspora, Heather Dubreuil
acrylic collage and paint, 20 x 20

My contribution to the original Leonard Cohen exhibition at the Rigaud Library is shown above. The theme of this first exhibition was the fragment of Cohen's lyric, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Diaspora relates Cohen's words to the issue of mass migration and the global crises of refugees.

From the series First, we take Manhattan, Heather Dubreuil

For this current show, I contributed six "radical collages" from my recent series, originally titled City in Ruins. These dystopian cityscapes were made on 10 x 10 wood panels with layer upon layer of collage and paint, each layer altered by sanding to "deconstruct" the image.

I have tried in my way to be free, Heather Dubreuil
hand-dyed linen, cording and stitch, 24 x 24

This final photo, above, shows another of my contributions to the exhibition. It was meant to represent the tension between our needs for autonomy and for belonging. Its title is borrowed from the lyrics of Cohen's song Like a Bird on the Wire.

On a recent weekday visit to the show, I was delighted to see a class of schoolchildren, seated at tables in the gallery, engaged in their own visual interpretations of Cohen's words. The show Inspiré par Leonard Cohen at the Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges will continue until January 22, 2020. 


Margaret said...

I can't pretend I've ever understood Cohen or his work, but some of it strikes a definite chord (no pun intended). And the work on exhibit in tribute -- it's simply lovely, and lovely in its simplicity, which is interesting indeed vis a vis a subject who, I think, was so very complex.

Heather Dubreuil said...

That's a very perceptive observation, Margaret. There have to be more than 40 works in the show. My piece in linen, "I have tried in my way to be free" might be the simplest, in that it is quite graphic, but the underlying idea is complicated in the way that our feelings about autonomy/belonging are complicated. Another painting, by Maureen Slattery, looks like a lovely study of atmospheric light over the sea. But then when you read the artist statement about "how the light gets in", you understand how in its simplicity it relates to Cohen's lyric "there is a crack in everything". You've given me something to think about!