Trying to determine the source of inspiration for an artwork is a complex journey. The creative trajectory often appears random and strange because we attempt to make direct connections between the artistic result and the original motivation. When seeing something incongruous the mind attempts to sort out a pattern and, if connections are not immediately apparent, a common response might be to think, That’s weird, and leave it at that.
Not for the artist. The inconsistent and the absurd are often the stimulus for creation. Making connections between seemingly disordered or incompatible objects or events sets up an ideal breeding ground for creativity. When a person or thing appears in an unexpected context, seemingly misplaced, the faulty logic or framework begins to percolate in our imagination. How do we respond when things are not as they should be? Well, it is wonderment. It is weird.
These eight artists create work through a process of trial, error correction and mix-up. They are playing with perception and expectation. This exhibition celebrates the way that all art is weird and wonderful. The title Weird is not meant to demean the work or call into question the value of the creative process. It is an attempt to explore what is really at the core of all invention and insight. Stop, stare and question. Isn’t it all weird?
– Patrick Macaulay
Head, Visual Arts, Harbourfront Centre
I am trying to find the right questions. I attempt to do this by layering visual adaptations of internal discomfort and assumed knowledge. I often use found objects as visual and emotional stimuli and pose mundane or conflicting miniature scenarios on top to create a relatable – but surreal – environment in order to augment awareness of perception.
– Jesse Bromm
Jesse Bromm graduated from Sheridan College’s Crafts and Design Program, majoring in glass. He has exhibited across Canada and in the United States. In 2011, he was accepted into Harbourfront Centre’s Artist-in-Residence programme and awarded a scholarship.
Home is where we go to lie down after work, where we store our possessions and adorn the walls with some kind of kitsch we find comforting. Home as an idea is fleeting, it is in constant change and may be singular, multiple or non-existent. We are vulnerable and unrooted without it. When this place is stripped bare it becomes devoid of its past meanings, transformed into an empty shell with only echoes and diffused daylight. Home can be a strange or unfamiliar place.
Nathan Cyprys is an emerging artist/photographer based in Toronto. He holds a BFA in Photography from the Ontario College of Art & Design University. His work is often personal as it explores the ephemeral, alienation and transitory states. Whether shooting in a sterile studio or documenting the North American landscape, his imagery always roots itself to his own understanding of the human condition.
He has been the recipient of the McCain Post Graduate Residency through Ontario College of Art & Design University, was named BlackFlash Magazine’s 2012 Optic Nerve Winner and was a selected photographer in the 2012 Flash Forward Festival.
I began to explore embroidery during my graduate studies at the University of Victoria. I became fascinated by the material physicality as well as its extensive history. Duck with Wheat was completed during a recent residency in Iceland. The artwork examines motifs of abundance and nostalgia. In it, a bountiful harvest appears to explode from the back of a lone duck. The duck meets our gaze – a subtle Mona Lisa smirk spreading across its long bill, as if to ask “Do you really want to make me a part of your harvest?”
The arrangement is grounded through a faint hatching that defines a table. This table dissolves into the background and in effect the viewer’s space, drawing together the imagined world and our reality. The work reflects a desire for reassurance and control. They are the same desires that shape our individual understanding of what is real, true, and authentic.
– Robert Hengeveld
Robert Hengeveld is a contemporary embroidery artist living in Toronto. His work explores the strange juxtaposition between the aggressive, stabbing action of embroidery and the tender and endearing nature of his subject matter. He is also the author of The Affectionate Assault of the Embroidery Needle and Pierced Through the Heart: The Therapeutic Nature of Embroidery. His work has been shown extensively across Toronto and is held in numerous private collections.
My work explores the complex relationship that humans have with nature and their own physicality. It is influenced by the history of Christianity, martyrdom, and the monstrous body. Animal heads are duplicated and pushed together, limbs are absent or obscured, faces are reduced, masked or perforated. Creatures have collided and edged into a world outside the boundaries of the everyday. I am interested in studying beliefs around nature and how people categorize, consume and attempt to control the natural and animal world. Motivated by the peculiar, overlapping and unsettling images that were vivid in my Catholic childhood, I have been experimenting with hybrid objects that invite encounters with the grotesque. Assembling my own slip-cast menagerie, I play with forms of domestication, sanitation and restraint. Masked, hooded and bandaged animal forms interact with each other, and become a rich territory to mine ideas of faith, repression and pleasure and their relation to the physical body.
– Janet Macpherson
Janet Macpherson earned her BA from York University, and studied ceramics at Sheridan College. She holds an MFA from The Ohio State University where she also was employed as a lecturer in the Department of Art. She recently held a resident artist/faculty position at Sheridan College, and is currently an Artist-in-Residence at Harbourfront Centre. In 2013, Macpherson was a recipient of a research and creation grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, and is currently working towards an exhibition at the Ontario Arts Council in Toronto, and a solo exhibition at the Sculpture Centre in Cleveland, Ohio.
The environments in my paintings are usually imagined, but familiar, places. I want to suggest efforts to contain, control, manipulate, or avoid circumstances as evidenced in highly groomed and domesticated environments. The implied narratives usually reflect a deep-seated desire for comfort or beauty or distraction.
I choose to paint with oil. It is fluid and messy and it often does not behave. It is a rather serious medium with an enormous history, but I like to coax and cajole and use it to render images that are at once irreverent and laden with serious subtext. I like moments in painted surfaces that can be alluring, impulsive, seductive, and irrational. I want the viscosity of the medium to reveal passages of control and chaos all the while evoking a sense of beauty and ambiguity in a sea of paint.
– Ian McLean
Based in Sarnia, Ontario, Ian McLean studied at the University of Guelph and has exhibited widely at several public and commercial galleries. Recent solo exhibitions include Forest City Gallery (London, ON), Glenhyrst Gallery of Brant (Brantford, ON), Loop Gallery (Toronto). He is a recent recipient of an Ontario Arts Council Mid-Career Visual Artist Grant and his work is found in collections across Canada.
Ian McLean is represented by Loop Gallery.
Balogna and cheddar cheese, sold by the slice or pound, were staples of the “grocery and confectionary” stores that were once scattered and nestled into the residential row housing of downtown St. John’s, Newfoundland.
I’m guessing these small neighbourhood convenience stores collectively had their descriptive title abbreviated to “Groc. & Conf.” by some anonymous sign company designer in the 1960’s, and the name caught on. I wonder if anyone knows the truth of it.
Our neighbourhood Groc. & Conf. was on Bond Street. I remember one evening a guy came running in, “Give me a slice of bologna, George,” slapped it into his mouth andate it, ordered another one, paid and took off. Even George, who gave us the impression he had seen just about everything, grinned.
– Steve Payne
Steve Payne was born in Newfoundland and currently lives and works as a photographer in Toronto and Harbour Grace, Newfoundland. He has exhibited in private and public galleries in Newfoundland, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Québec, New York and Hong Kong. His exhibited works include Taxi Stands of St.John’s, Motel, Landfall, House Music, Haiku, Seas of Leaving and Front.
My current studio practice considers the continuous process of transformation that materials and objects undergo throughout time. I create abstract, unidentifiable objects that evoke or depict a sense of the transient through the creative and constructive process and the overall sculptural form.
I am interested in the evocative and emotive qualities of colour and its potential to direct and inform the viewer’s understanding of the work. I often consider the materiality of colour: the superficial qualities of applied surfaces versus colour that is intrinsic to the material itself and solid throughout.
Sculpture defines a direct physical relationship between the viewer and the objects that they encounter and a conscious use of scale reaffirms that relationship. I make work that is relatable to the human body in scale to reinforce the physicality of material within my work.
– Derrick Piens
Derrick Piens received his MFA from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX) in 2007, and BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art & Design University in 2005. He has participated in numerous solo and group exhibitions across Canada and the United States, including; Sentinels (Dallas Contemporary), trans/FORM: Matter as Subject > New Perspectives (Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto), Summertime In Paris (Parisian Laundry, Montréal), Skipping Stones (General Hardware Contemporary, Toronto). His sculptures are included in numerous private collections in the United Kingdom, New York, Montréal and Toronto as well as the permanent collections of Meadows School of the Arts, Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX) and the Claridge Collection (Montréal). Piens’ solo sculpture exhibition, When Things Collide, is currently on view at the University of Waterloo Art Gallery (UWAG), until October 26.
In our endeavour to control nature we have mentally partitioned our world into spaces for us and spaces for the wild. Because of this distancing, we perceive nature like the other; a force that is intriguing and terrifying, peaceful and threatening. We are the only creature capable of studying our world from a distance, through a lens. Through zoos, museums, television programs and binoculars, we are offered a chance to view the spectacle of nature as set on a stage, stripped of its menace and savagery. However, the distance the lens provides also removes the deep-seated, spiritual feeling of an unmediated experience of the wild. It doesn’t hold any enduring gratification, because the fear-inducing unpredictability is the very source of our enchantment.
– Darren Rigo
Darren Rigo was born and raised in rural southern Ontario. The relationship he formed with the local landscape heavily informs his work. Now living in downtown Toronto, he regularly returns to the local, natural landscape to photograph and collaborate with the land that means so much to him. His work draws from this personal history and dissects the ways we are connected to nature and to each other.