Virginia Trieloff

The Power of the Canvas II

Home | About | Newfoundland | Barbados | Gallery | Contact

Michael Rachlis - Untitled (Rosacea)
Alfred Ng - Green Tomatoes
Irene Pappas - Untitled 1

Renowned painter and curator Virginia Trieloff sends over the catalogue for the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) 2014 Alumni Exhibition with an invitation to attend the opening. I thumb through the pages and am intrigued but not bowled over. Then, in a moment of clarity, I recall my reaction to Francis Bacon's paintings - the reproductions were interesting but the actual objects were emotionally breathtaking. Miss V would never steer me wrong so we set off to the Gladstone Hotel to see what the alumni are creating.

To the right of the entrance hangs Erin Loree's "Wanderer." In the catalogue it is an abstract beauty; in person it is a psychedelic three-dimensional mesmerizer. The globs of thick colour jut out of the canvas and defy one to pass by without savouring the visual tactileness.

Looming over the main gallery and facing the bar is Michael Rachlis' "Untitled (Rosacea)" that is huger than the dimensions listed in the catalogue can convey. Once again a reproduction fails to convey the sheer emotion of the actual canvas.

Photographer/collaborator Raul Da Silva is tasked with replicating this power: a Herculean task that he undertakes with his usual precision and self-effacing skill. Miss V is a diva-like delight who floats through the throngs to point out the unique qualities of each work on display.

"We get hundreds of submissions," Miss V explains. The process of winnowing down is painful but the jury - composed, for balance, of a present professor, a retired professor and an art star - deliberates, dissects and makes heartbreaking decisions.

"Forty percent are recent graduates," she marvels. "Some date back to the '70s. A half dozen of them will push forward. Most will have to get jobs. Even the OCADU staff are practising artists but have to teach. I can't make a living from my art and have to consult."

She stops and her voice takes on a throaty huskiness. "Look at this." We are in front of Alfred Ng's intricate watercolour papercuts. "Look how the light plays through them. The shadows are so sexy." 

They are.

Elaheh Koneshlo's mixed media "Goodbye Me" creations are startlingly vivid; the brushstrokes on Stan Olthuis' "Study for Carmen" make the provocative dress leap off the canvas; Anna Snyder's "1000 Islands #1" leaks spores of tantalization into the very air; the wit of Carol Pasternak's "Peace by Piece" unfolds in detailed frame-busting sweetness; and it is only by examining the detailed depth of the wax photo transfers of Marina Hanacek that one plummets into the depths of despair of the human condition.

We pause in front of the sculptures of Jeannie Pappas. They are comic, disturbing and delightful. "Look at the detail," trills Miss V, reaching calmly into the art itself pull out a tiny skull from the Styxian/Tim Burton-esque "Untitled 2" for examination. "These are exquisite."

They are.

The details in the artworks are overwhelming and what were images on the page become entire worlds to be explored. One can wander for as long as one wants and always find something new to discover. A tiny ghost in CA Way's "Backupway" lures me to peruse the rest of the canvases and rewards me for the effortless effort with multiple surprises. Miss V will never lead one astray, only to an opening of the mind.

The 2014 OCADU Alumni Association Exhibition continues until Sun, April 6 at the Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen St W.