Local artist takes Lofty View of his hometown in challenging exhibit

One-man bands Mississippi Grover and P.S. I Love You complement Jeremy Mulder’s unique and colourful perspective on Kingston

A section of Jeremy Mulder’s large, chaotic “21 With a Faith in Friday Night.”
A section of Jeremy Mulder’s large, chaotic “21 With a Faith in Friday Night.”
Paul Saulnier of P.S. I Love You matched Mulder’s art.
Paul Saulnier of P.S. I Love You matched Mulder’s art.

Concert/Fine Art Review: Lofty Views @ The Artel until Sept. 28

Jeremy Mulder may have settled down in Kingston for the time being, but there’s no place to settle your eyes in most of his works on display in Lofty Views. Taking the incredible density of memories that collect in a hometown at their most visually literal, Mulder’s bright, collage-influenced paintings contain so much detail, it’s impossible to absorb it all.

Mulder’s paintings are challenging, but in a conversational rather than confrontational way. Their personal, lyrical titles and usually human subject matter, as well as the sheer volume of things happening on the canvas, immediately begs viewers to put together a narrative or relate it to their own experiences.

Some of these conversations, however, are friendlier than others. “Letter To a Brother” contains detailed but intelligible faces, bodies, alarm clocks, automobiles, and other ephemera, filling in the gaps with clusters of small daubs of paint that resemble confetti. The painting’s celebratory feel and gentle direction of the eye invites the viewer to spend time trying to identify the characters and piece together the story that the titular letter might be trying to tell.

The tightly packed lines and colours in “Flower Baskets, Back Seats, and Barking Dogs Over Our Fallen Apollo Creeds” are much more difficult to look at, without a clear visual focus and with more incoherent, overlapping detail. Some of the faces in the painting are distorted or baring their teeth.

“My Malingerings, Midnight Monsters, and Morning Remedies” is vaguely unsettling due to its heavy use of flesh tone in undefined shapes and sketchy partial nudes, underneath long drips of paint. It’s an excellent example of Mulder’s capacity to reward an attentive viewer through his detail, with a charming near-caricature of a bulbous-nosed man with an orange mohawk at its margin. It also provides a focal point in a nude woman with a roughly sketched face and a window in her forehead. The window is part of the apartment building behind her, which appears to be the Princess Lofts above The Brass.

“21 With a Faith in Friday Night” takes up a large section of wall at four by eight feet, and knowing that Mulder is from Kingston, easily suggests a night out observing the Hub. The many faces in the painting are often composed of smaller, intricate patterns and even smaller faces, with lots of dark reds, vibrant yellows and bright purples. The barely-controlled visual chaos, in this case, seems to serve a clear purpose in communicating the painting’s meaning: expressing the noise, intoxication, and overwhelming human volume of its subject matter.

One of the most emotionally evocative works in the exhibit is “Self-Portrait (Scully Beanz with a Cold Fish on His Sleeve).” Faces come out of trees and houses, with a weary-looking feminine face as the focus. Dark blue lines surround her eyes, complementing the sky blue in the rest of the painting. In the background, part of a nude female body is visible under a cow skull. The cold fish, rendered in bright yellow and green in the bottom left corner, looks relatively cheerful in comparison.

Friday night’s opening attempted to pair Mulder with musicians who complemented his work: two one-man bands from Kingston, P.S. I Love You and Mississippi Grover.

P.S. I Love You wore makeup recalling an emo version of KISS, with a glittery silver cloud on his forehead sending lightning bolts down his cheeks. His four-song set, plus an encore cover of Modern English’s “I Melt With You,” mostly consisted of chunky meat-and-potatoes guitar chords with an endearing amount of distortion over a drum machine. The lyrics were as difficult to understand as some of the more obscure details in Mulder’s art, and P.S. I Love You’s use of the strobe light throughout his performance was as headache-inducing as squinting at Mulder’s paintings for long periods of time. P.S. I Love You appeared nervous and reserved during most of the performance, but loosened up a bit on “Death From Below,” which was clearly aware of its similarity to Death From Above 1979 and also incorporated a keyboard and bass.

While certainly a likeable act that naturally fit with Mulder’s art, the concert’s main attraction was Mississippi Grover. Greg Watson’s alter ego took the stage wearing his trademark plain black suit, with his hair in two long braids and a cow skull on top of his drum.

Mulder seems fascinated with the human face, while Mississippi Grover’s focus is more generally anatomical—whether it be on household vermin, pets or human corpses. Playing twangy garage licks on his guitar and singing in a gruff voice that suggests he might eat finishing nails for breakfast, Grover made it through four songs of crazy swamp blues, including the crowd-pleasing and plane-free “Snakes In My House,” as well as a cover of Little Willie John’s “Leave My Kitten Alone.” Unfortunately, before Mississippi Grover could share any more of his freak-folk tales about zombies or hot dog milkshakes, the show was cut short due to a noise complaint at 10:40 p.m. It was a disappointing though not shocking conclusion to the evening—the risk of noise complaints comes with the territory of playing a show at a cooperative art gallery in a residential neighbourhood during Frosh Week.

Lofty Views runs until Sept. 28. The gallery is open on Thursday and Friday from 2-7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m.

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