Bats fuel ‘cultural factory’

Tenant exhibit unites Artel residents through art and their fear of bats

Artel tenants (from left to right) William Weedmark, Raffaela Vidinha, Michael Davidge, Shizuka Aoki, Rebecca Soundant and Isaac Gillis gather in their house’s living room and art gallery that is currently showing the group exhibit Bats In Our Belfry.
Artel tenants (from left to right) William Weedmark, Raffaela Vidinha, Michael Davidge, Shizuka Aoki, Rebecca Soundant and Isaac Gillis gather in their house’s living room and art gallery that is currently showing the group exhibit Bats In Our Belfry.
Photo: 
Rebecca Soudant’s ‘(mom and) Pop Art’ is a study of the family as ideal while playing with the pop art medium.
Rebecca Soudant’s ‘(mom and) Pop Art’ is a study of the family as ideal while playing with the pop art medium.
Photo: 

When orchestrating the details of a group exhibit, a curator will often find him or herself overwhelmed with the endless possibilities of creative show-naming. An imaginative title could be evocative of substance, medium, and art form, or a vague connection between underlying themes intent on reiterating a not-so-subtle concept. Or it could just be catchy.

Luckily for the residents of the Artel—a local arts venue that doubles as housing accommodation for six artists—this process was simplified when they chose not to name their exhibit after its subject, but rather, an issue that unified them all: a fear of their resident bats.

“We have a bat problem,” said Michael Davidge, an Artel tenant.

“I think they’re in the walls. They’re a part of our life here,” Bill Weedmark added, laughing.

Bats in our Belfry, an eclectic and intimate exhibit that previews Saturday night, can attribute the inspiration of its title to the lively nightlife of these nocturnal housemates, yet the influence stops there.

The second all-tenant exhibit in the Artel’s two year history, this showcase features the diverse creativity of its six residents, each operating within their own chosen medium.

“This show is significant because the Artel is now in its second year of operations, so this crew here is part of the second generation—and really, it’s the first time we’ve done something like this,” Davidge said. “The exhibition in that sense has brought us together as a group, as the work is all very different and individual.”

“Yet we’re a collective,” added tenant Rafaela Vidinha, ArtSci ’09. “It’s all individual but we’re still part of a unified group.”

Browsing the Artel’s intimate gallery, the tenants’ differences in artistic method and creative inventiveness is the most salient feature of this exhibit. The effect is profound, immediate and unavoidably enticing.

Davidge’s “Denial” is a bold, unabated visual expression of words against brick wall that is intrinsically dependant on its working space for its effect. Upon first glance, the work could easily be perceived as a permanent accessory to the studio walls, yet its strength of visual execution and the contrast with its brick wall canvas provide an intriguing allure.

“Usually what I like to do when I show work is take the space that it’s being shown in into consideration,” Davidge explained.

“A lot of the times the nature of the work is such that it needs to be created in the space that it is exhibited in, and at the same time […] when the exhibition is over the work actually has to be destroyed in its taking-down, so it only really exists in the period of time that the exhibition is.”

In contrast, Rebecca Soudant’s “(mom and) Pop Art” is, as its title implies, an accessible piece in both artistic style and subject. Concerned with family and its significance as a commonplace theme, and debating what constitutes a healthy promotion of it as an ideal, Soundant’s piece is materialized in the most commonplace medium: pop art.

The loving and idealized family portrait’s bright colours are contrasted with fast food, a staple of pop culture. Sand-covered candles spill out of a KFC bucket and litter the area surrounding the canvas, providing a provocative association. Both as an appreciation and a healthy examination, Soudant’s contrasting work is strikingly familiar, yet sensibly questioning.

The variety of accessibility and contrast continues with the assorted works. Weedmark’s “Detail” is a vivid photographic documentation of litter, with its bleak statement resonating through its clever compositions. Others include Vidinha’s “Execution of Eve”, a token of guerilla-style videography focused on the subconscious streams of her inspirations and ideas, Shizuka Aoki’s “Restless,” an expression of interest in life-drawing through the juxtaposition of paint and pencil, and Isaac Gillis’ “Works in Progress,” a tribute to the cyclic nature of art and the recurrence of old works and ideas.

The diversity of experience is what draws the spectator in with this exhibition—a guarantee of engagement through the accessibility of its works.

“If any person were to come in, since there’s such a variety they should have some sort of relation to one of the streams, or an appreciation,” Aoki said.

“It’s a collage,” Vidinha said.

“A microcosm of the diversity of our culture,” Davidge added.

Personal expression is paramount, manifesting itself in everything from experimental videography to a multi-medium canvas, yet the experience of the Artel still traces itself through these artists and, ostensibly, their work.

“The Artel is all about discourse and how art prompts discussion and community,” Vidinha said. “You know, a cultural factory.”

Sharing the jitters for bats and a love of art, the new generation of tenants understands the significance of their space and its affect on their lives, work, and latest exhibit—an experience best described in Vidinha’s own words:

“It’s a wild, wild ride.”

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