Friday, April 8, 2011

Loved: Betty Woodman @ the Gardiner, Marian Bantjes @ Onsite at OCAD

Let's face it, people. There is a lot of crap going on in the world that's depressing. Earthquakes, wars, violence... those are three topics that will conquer my inner sense of sunniness pretty much any day of the week.

So, given the amount of pain floating around in the global ether, I'm capable of being especially awed by works that leave me with a renewed sense of joy and hope.

In the past few weeks, I've taken in two such shows that especially evoked this effect: Betty Woodman @ the Gardiner Museum and Marian Bantjes @ Onsite at OCAD. My reviews of these (plus one of Sanaugaq, an intellectually illuminating little show at UTAC) are up at Posted Toronto and will be out in tomorrow's National Post print edition.

An excerpt:

Betty Woodman at the Gardiner Museum
111 Queen’s Park, to June 5
Betty Woodman is one of those rare artistic geniuses who melds critical insight, masterful skill and joyful exuberance. Her ceramics both elevate and deconstruct the high-art legacies of Matisse and Picasso, cracking their old-school paintings open with longstanding tensions between image and object, art and craft. Woodman’s knack is best demonstrated by her wall-long Ceramic Paintings Pictures. Their colourful depictions of flowers in vases are full of classic Matissean “luxe, calme et volumpte.” But the vases in these paintings aren’t just pictures — they’re actual vessels sitting just in front of the canvas, split in two as if to underline the supposed boundary between image and object. Even cheekier are Woodman’s small porcelains named after art-historical greats: Chardin is a platter with messy, loose gold slashes; Manet is a teacup in cobalt, turquoise and green; Picasso is a plain white plate. My favourite work, Odyssian Dreams, has dozens of painted clay shards hung on a wall so that the negative space between reads alternately as body and as vase — to me, a tart twist on the outdated notion of a vessel (or ye olde ur-vessel, woman) as an emptiness simply waiting to be defined. As with most shows at the smallish Gardiner, the main shortcoming is not being able to see more works. Nonetheless, in a troubled world, Woodman’s work is a balm — a reminder that beauty and progress can still exist, and maybe even coexist.

I realize that part at the end about women and vessels is more me than the artist, and a bit out there. But it's honestly what I got to thinking about on the spot as a result.

Also, if you love the Woodman works like I do, you may want to check out this audiocast of her lecture at the AGO earlier this year.

Read on at Posted Toronto for the Bantjes and Sanaugaq details.

(Image of some of Woodman's Ceramic Pictures from Frank Lloyd Gallery)


Ingrid Mida said...

Ah thanks for this post. I feel like seeing some sunny uplifting art and now know where to go.

Leah Sandals said...

Thanks Ingrid! I look forward to hearing what you think.