Social surveillance

The Artel’s new exhibit Reflections in Time presents the work of a convicted killer

Peter Collins began painting and drawing Reflections in Time while in segregation at a Bath, Ont. where he’s prison serving a life sentence.
Peter Collins began painting and drawing Reflections in Time while in segregation at a Bath, Ont. where he’s prison serving a life sentence.
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No matter where you enter Reflections in Time, there’s an overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia.

The walls of the Artel are crowded with the artwork, enforcing a common theme — imprisonment. This isn’t a surprising choice considering the artist Peter Collins is a social justice activist and political artist who created the exhibit while in segregation in a Bath, Ont. prison.

In 1983 Collins was convicted of shooting and killing a police officer in an attempted bank robbery. He has been in jail for 29 years serving a life sentence. He has applied for parole five times since becoming eligible in 2006, but has been denied each time.

Reflections in Time evokes an unsettling feeling of being watched. The artwork is full of cameras and barbed wire runs from one painting to another, seeming to imprison the artwork to the walls.

Birds sit on security cameras behind barbed wire, caged in the paintings.

This is Collins fifth art exhibit and his first in seven years since the 2004 work Bound and Gagged was exhibited in Montreal, Toronto, Halifax and the Sleepless Goat Cafe in Kingston.

Montreal-based radio host Dee LeComte, who organized the first art show for Collins in 2004, spoke at the Artel reception on Feb. 23.

LeComte played a recorded message from Collins at the reception, which featured about 40 people including Collins’ friends and family. In the video, Collins discussed the expanding prison system, illegal isolation procedures and thanked those who made the art exhibit possible such as CFRC, the Artel and his family.

“As you will notice most of the work in this show has its base in the prison experience and that’s because I wanted to try and reflect some of this prison experience out in to the community,” he said.

Reflections in Time is at the Artel until March 11.

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