Opening Up to Art Exhibitions

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(glimmer ‘zeppelin’ by Alison Norlen)

I have been a better artist this past week.
How you might ask?
Well, I made some time to see some exhibitions.

It is well known among my artist friends that I suck at attending shows.
Mostly this ineptitude is reserved for art openings. But, to be honest, if I don’t attend the opening, I am likely to forget about the exhibition until after it has come down. I know that it is wrong, I know that I need to support my community, I know that I should be aware of the work that is out there, I know that the internet is not the same as the real thing…but I don’t wanna.

Until now, now I wanna!

I am trying to turn a new leaf.

It was never about a disinterest in the work, more a fear of social gatherings.

This week I attended the opening for Blue Republics new exhibition ‘Crystal Palace’ at Deluge Gallery. It is an installation based work, which transformed the space through the organization of objects and the use of painting and drawing on the walls and floor. At the opening, visitors were forced into a corner and against the wall by the spread of objects. Moments of drawing on the opposite wall, were close enough to be intriguing but far enough away that you strained to see them. It was an interesting use of the narrow space of Deluge Gallery and I am glad that I went to see it. In an out of the ordinary turn of events, the artists weren’t awkward . They were courteous and friendly, making sure they talked to everyone and giving me a new model for how to act at my own openings, that will hopefully transpire in the future.

Normally, I am awkward at openings…as many of us are. There are too many social interactions going on and I am always unsure where I fit. The gallery owners, the curators, the featured artist, the established artists, the emerging artists, the desperate artists, the scenesters, the writers, the critics, the art collectors, the art fans and the people there by accident. All of these in a usually small space, with a small glass of wine and big expectations. This is what scares me. More often than not, the need to see the work and the need to be seen, are overwhelmed by a desire to hide under a blanket with a cup of tea or a bottle of wine.

Yesterday I saw an exhibition that I would have loved to have attended the opening for. It was at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and is a group exhibition titled ‘Traces’. Ed Pien, Alison Norlen and Daniel Barrow are the artists featured in this drawing exhibit, which uses the gallery space as well as the gallery walls. I am always excited to see an exhibition entirely dedicated to drawing. Even more so, when the artists working with drawing are not afraid of installation and sculptural elements. Drawing is so integral to our lives. Almost everything we have created as human beings has existed at some time as an idea that was communicated through a drawing. We have all, at one time or another, made a drawing. As a doodle or a portrait, in a game or as an instruction, drawings communicate in ways that words cannot. This exhibition used the whole space of the gallery. Projectors, mylar, wire, rope as well as pencil and paper are put to use by these artists and I am once again excited about drawing!

Of course, seeing an exhibition at a time other than the opening is a different experience. Going along with a friend, we were able to talk about the work with no one else around. We could sit and look for as long as we wanted and there was no pressure to socialize. The key to experiencing any exhibition fully is to see it twice. At the opening you get to meet the artist, talk with people and get a glance at the work and how it functions in a crowd. A second solo visit allows you to sit with the work, ponder it, move around it and decide what you think and how you feel. Of course, not all shows will make you want to go again but I am going to try. After all, if I cannot do this for others how can I expect someone to do it for me?

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