Thursday, February 26, 2009

Out Today: Shary Boyle Q&A, Patrick Bernatchez Review UPDATED

A couple of things I've been working on that are out today:

A Q&A with Toronto artist Shary Boyle on her upcoming show at Jessica Bradley Art & Projects. I visited with Boyle in her studio for this and I have great anticipation for the finished work. It's one of those times you wish photos were available sooner but also kind of not, in order to keep the aspect of surprise for self and others. Published in the National Post today, with text after the jump too. [UPDATE: The hard copy of the Post ran one of Shary's images, White Fright, upside down. Great apologies to the artist; a correction ran today.]

A review of Montreal artist Patrick Bernatchez's first show in Toronto. With this one I have to say I struggled with having been impressed with Bernatchez's 2008 show at Skol in his hometown, and less wowed with this presentation, which focuses exclusively on video. (I also might live to regret my Prozac reference, but such is life.) Out today in NOW.

Image of Shary Boyle's porcelain Bat 4 from Jessica Bradley Art & Projects

Monkeys seen, monkeys done
Leah Sandals, National Post
Published: Thursday, February 26, 2009

Though she often identifies with the underdog, Toronto artist Shary Boyle is one of Canada's major creative mavericks. Whether she's sculpting delicate porcelain spiders, drawing heartrending comics or creating movie magic on overhead projectors, Boyle impresses with a trademark insightful insanity. Now, as her newest show opens in Toronto, Boyle tells Leah Sandals why she gives her underworld the upper hand.

Q Your imagery can seem quite surreal. What inspires you?

A I have a pretty intuitive process, and often I'm not quite sure where my images are going until after the fact. Images sometimes come to me when I just wake up. Sometimes they come when I'm thinking about a certain subject, whether it's an emotion, a situation in a relationship or an observation about humanity or family or sexuality or gender. My mind processes that by creating an image that expresses my feelings non-verbally --but also much more accurately, more holistically.

Particular things can inspire, too. I was walking through Kensington Market recently and someone had thrown out a whole box of National Geographic animal encyclopedias from the '70s. I'm really interested in primatology and anthropology, so looking at those exquisite photographs inspired a whole bunch of imagery around monkeys. Musician Bonnie Prince Billy asked me to do some tour T-shirts recently, and they ended up all being monkey-based because of that.

Q What are you showing in this new Toronto exhibition?

A It's a range of work, from two years ago to the present. It all somehow revolves around the idea of the cave. The cave can be a dark, ancient kind of place you find shelter in, or it's a place you can be trapped in, and meet something really terrifying. It usually signifies fear, but it can also symbolize warmth and safety. For instance, there's these little portraits I made of chandeliers on really black paper, and they have a glowing light, almost like a firelight.

Q I've seen you focusing on bats recently. Does that relate?

A Yes. Over the past year I've been doing a lot of research around bats, because some kind of disease has been im-pacting bat colonies on the east coast of America. Thousands have died and scientists are really perturbed. Bats have also always been really fascinating and beautiful to me, but so misunderstood and repulsive to most people. There's so many varieties and their faces are almost like orchids, which I also love. They have that same kind of random and symmetrical intricacy.

Q In the past, some of your art has focused on feelings of shame. Do you ever worry you might run out of that driving force as you work through it in your art?

A No ... no worries there! As with any artist who deals with difficult subjects sourced in trauma or pain or embarrassment, I have to think, "Well, am I cultivating those feelings to continue my practice and I'll never be able to get out of it?" But I'm still interested in being human first and that means evolving and developing. Still, I also feel I have a duty to talk about things that are difficult or uncomfortable or come from pain, because that's so repressed in our culture.

Q You've sometimes depicted women who are consumed by their clothing. Is the status of women a conscious concern for you?

A I'm hyperconscious of female identity, of female roles, of expectations or assumptions about women. A major point of my work is to try to explore that and present contradictions or hypocrisy that I don't feel is being addressed in other forms of media. I'm trying to build something so young women in particular will have another model of experience to look at that reflects them better.

Q What's next for you?

A Well, speaking of that very subject, I'm presenting a paper at the Jane Doe Conference at the University of Ottawa on March 7. Jane Doe was the activist and feminist who took on the Toronto police department to change legislation on sexual assault in Canada. I was invited because I did the illustrations for the Jane Doe book that came out about five years ago.

After that I'm going to Switzerland for Fumetto, an incredible festival of comic and alternative arts ... It's going to be a pretty big project, and I'm really excited.

Shary Boyle's newest exhibition opens Saturday at Toronto's Jessica Bradley Art & Projects (

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