Beautiful monsters

Fourth-year BFA students Donald Chan and Carlyn Bezic’s exhibit Cut & Paste explores collage through a variety of mediums

Tabloid culture, noise rock, love and artistic self-exploration are inspiring for Bezic and Chan.
Tabloid culture, noise rock, love and artistic self-exploration are inspiring for Bezic and Chan.

I have a confession. I’m 20 years old and I’m still afraid of monsters.

Yes, the under-your-bed, peeking-out-of-your-closet, slithering-down-the-drainpipe kind. Luckily, two fourth-year BFA students at Queen’s have found a way to make the monstrous and the grotesque beautifully compelling.

Donald Chan and Carlyn Bezic have invaded the main space of Stauffer Library’s Union Gallery with their multi-medium exhibit, Cut & Paste. Entering Union Gallery proposes a conundrum. Where to turn first is a challenge—the pieces are intricate, colourful and thought-provoking. Both exploring aspects of collage through construction and deconstruction, the connections between Chan and Bezic’s work are weaved throughout their pieces to create Cut & Paste.

It’s clear both artists aren’t afraid to take active risks with their explorations. Their artistic chemistry is particularly evident in their collaborative piece “Mutations 1-10,” though each of their work additionally stands strongly on its own.

A waterfall of varying purple shades, “Mutations 1-10” cascades down the wall depicting an ink and rice paper intermingling of limbs and figures. Attached to the wall by thread, the “Mutations” move with the breeze of the space, falling from ceiling to floor.

The pieces effectively alternate in a pattern around the room, one by Bezic and then one by Chan, proposing for the viewer the points of intersection, commonality and difference between the works.

Moving counterclockwise around the room I encounter a variance of colour, theme and mediums. My eyes flowing over the bizarre bodies, many-limbed monsters and unsettling scenes, the distortion, or lack thereof, of the figures in the works only further pushed me to attempt to decipher their meaning. This speaks to the pieces’ ability to stimulate the viewer in the way their work breaks apart constructions of images, rearranges them and re-builds them, creating a contradiction in the constant search to uncover new meaning and commentary, asking viewers to reflect on themselves as well.

Chan’s “The Red Lamentations of an Evil Heart” speaks to this point, a loud and fiery piece bringing to life the inner workings of the dark side of human nature. Suggesting darkness or an assumed evil within all of us, the despair and fright of the distorted figures in the piece ultimately calls to the power of love to both heal and protect.

Chan’s skill in developing lines and creatures that transform into other figures or images is also evident in his “We were Born in the Sea of Fools.” A sea of turquoise, blue, purple and yellow, the piece has an overwhelming sense of movement across the page, the tree and root-like images wrapped around small almost human bodies add to the monstrous sense of the work in the way Chan has created beings both fitting seamlessly with the acrylic and oil painting, yet holding a sense of displacement from where they originally came.

The fact that Chan included this piece speaks volumes—he pointed out in his artist’s talk on Wednesday that it wasn’t his favourite. Through this, viewers may see how Chan’s work strives to be as honest as possible with the inclusion of all aspects of both his exploration and discovery.

Bezic’s ink and graphite “Simulations 1-28” at first glance is a curious personification of various body parts. One after the other, the legs, noses, hair and arms seen in the drawings have been manipulated—a representation of the artist’s mandate and interest in the process of collage, reworking and redefining. In their artist’s talk, Bezic explained the way she uses tabloid media and celebrity culture as a prime point of reference in her work. Through her breaking apart of bodies ultimately rendering them more monstrous, she illuminates Hollywood’s hidden agendas and the cultural texts that surround her.

In her piece “She Did,” Bezic calls to the tabloid ritual of deciding which celebrity wore the same dress “best,” the congratulatory and accusatory nature of the phrase is a compelling one for both the artist and the viewer.

In a similar vein, Bezic’s “Untitled” places viewers front row center to the culture in which Bezic’s work captures. Flashing lights, beautifully posed women and celebrity sparkle is depicted in the work with geometric and organic shapes complementing the bodies in the frame. The women represented in the magazines are the center of attention, reflected in a distorted and mutated environment where the monstrosity of the ideals of the celebrity “It-Girl” are highlighted.

In their re-working of objects, Bezic and Chan have pushed their mediums in innovative, complex and personal directions. Curing me of my fear of, at least artistic, monsters for the time being, Cut & Paste will undoubtedly leave viewers wanting more of their charmingly distorted depictions of bodies and creatures.  

Cut & Paste shows in the main space of Union Gallery until Nov. 28. The reception for the exhibition is tomorrow at 6 p.m.

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