Visual arts: from sororie to sorcery

More than once a year, private galleries can be criticized for only responding to demand by offering salable works. Wicked prejudice. Because the most conscientious art dealers also like to take risks. Three exhibitions provide proof of this.

On the fourth floor of the Belgo building, in three rooms, there are not only works to see. These are worlds that we visit. The neighboring galleries McBride Contemporain, Patel Brown and Laroche/Joncas are offering exhibitions in the form of installations at the end of the season, with all that entails in terms of projects: objects as desired, variety of techniques, subdivided spaces and a penchant for metamorphosis of the place.

If works are still for sale (there are watercolours, gouaches, plasters, prints, a video…), the exhibitions are more of a context than a marketing. They are an integral part of the artistic proposal.

Coincidence or not, these three exhibitions are the projects of three women, whose practice has an important social impact. The general coating (shimmering colors, translucent curtains, cozy furniture…) and an inclination for the representation of bodies establish a dose of very appropriate intimacy.

A welcoming sisterhood

The watercolor works that Rihab Essayh exhibits at McBride Contemporain represent the community of women on which she relies, or would like to rely. Both real and fictitious portraits, the set is accompanied by a device of sewn and hand-dyed curtains which give the gallery the air of an alcove.

The drawings, rather delicate, with floating figures (no location markers), testify to the artist’s affection for his model, even if purely imaginary. Sorority of Three and Sorority of Four show a dance or a meeting, while Glove of Soft Power 4 reproduces two disparate gloves in mutual aid position.

At the end of the course, in an almost closed space equipped with armchairs, a video reconstitutes a danced ritual. Everything is more heavy and mannered, making us forget the poetic lightness of the drawings. These expressed very well the idea that art is a source of well-being, a silky and protective universe in the face of ambient violence.

Free bodies

At Patel Brown, a Toronto gallery with a foothold in Montreal since this fall, the level of intimacy is up a notch. Mia Sandhu’s works on paper have an erotic, even voyeuristic tenor, as the title of the exhibition suggests, see you see me see you.

The installation looks like a retro living room in a private residence. The center of the gallery is occupied by a rug in earthy hues and geometric shapes, an upholstered armchair and other pieces of furniture. The decorative program includes foliage, oriental motifs and even a fireplace hearth, painted in a slight trompe-l’oeil.

It is in this atmosphere that female nudes are exhibited. A common feature characterizes them: the heads are covered in black, which emphasizes the anonymity of the models. The impression of a sado-maso experience or an abduction situation quickly fades, as the scenes are free of violence. One of the series Waxing and Waningby the exuberance of its floral motifs, is rather poised and tender.

The question of identity and a reflection on “cultural hybridity” are at the heart of the practice of the Toronto artist of Punjabi origin. In her way of representing femininity, including motherhood (well present round bellies), she confronts sexual freedom and pornography, reveals as much as she veils. At the same time universal and not very uniform, united and liberated, these women seem to respond to those policies which are still trying, from Iran to the United States, to legislate on bodies.


The third exhibition borders on violence a little more. Already, the installation of Gabrielle Lajoie-Bergeron stages the excess: one wanders among a panoply of objects (on pedestal, on the ground, in the air), with ambiguous use. Simple decorative figurines, flower vases and household utensils? Not sure.

There is a contrast between this festive decor, of joy, and the uneasiness that one feels, with the impression of arriving after an evening whose “Happy Birthday darling” still hangs on a curtain of garlands. Contrast… or masquerade. The title of the exhibition, Mascharefers, by its Latin etymology, to witchcraft, but also to the desire to conceal or alter reality (or its image).

Details here and there end up revealing a dramatic tenor – “Marked by hate”, one reads on a scribbled cover. And there are the drawings on which the eyes end up stopping. Rape scenes more than orgies, fields of ruins more than carnival landscapes… The Rape/Swan Song draws the sad portrait of an elite whose reputation is not only due to the works they collect.

Lajoie-Bergeron’s comment is itself filtered by all sorts of trickery. Her Maschaof which this presentation is the third version of a project presented first in Quebec and then in Washington, bewitches as much as it horrifies.

As With All Warriors of Love

By Rihab Essayh. At McBride Contemporary, through December 17.

Seeing You, Seeing Me, Seeing You

By Mia Sandhu. To Patel Brown, through December 17.

Mascha: Happy birthday darling

By Gabrielle Lajoie-Bergeron. At the Laroche/Joncas gallery, until December 17.

To see in video

We would like to say thanks to the author of this article for this awesome content

Visual arts: from sororie to sorcery

Our social media profiles here , as well as other pages related to them here.