Jarring faces

Intimate Theatre presents artwork mixing the playful with the haunting

Interruption by Shary Boyle was made in 2006 out of polymer clay, paper, gouache and thread.
Interruption by Shary Boyle was made in 2006 out of polymer clay, paper, gouache and thread.
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Spending the afternoon inside Agnes Etherington Art Centre added a sinister feel to an otherwise beautiful day.

The gallery’s exhibit Intimate Theatre brings together six contemporary artists who play with the boundary between the fantastical and the disturbing.

Study for Diary for K #3 isn’t the first piece you see upon entering the gallery, but it dominates the exhibit. Sophie Jodoin’s charcoal work depicts K, a dwarf. Despite K’s small stature, her large portrait makes it seem like she’s peering down at you — watching as you move through the gallery.

Equally jarring is Ron Giii’s Untitled, which depicts a human resembling a Mr. Potato Head, with mismatched hands, arms and head. The creature is holding a long needle. It’s unclear. But the expressionless eyes of the creature make me sure I don’t want it near me with a sharp object.

Giii’s second piece in the exhibit is Snow in Beirut, depicting a faceless person, whose head is just a blur of black. Strings are attached to the hands and feet. But is the puppet an innocent child’s toy or a devious means of control?

The exhibit constantly probes the question of whether the artwork is depicting good or evil. I continuously had to go back and study pieces again, each time leaving with the assurance that the piece was innocent before becoming disturbed a few minutes later.

It’s most clear in Shary Boyle’s Interruption. The clay figurines, seem like a child’s school project, but as you stare deeper and become entranced in the vortex of the tree stump you start to wonder what you’re seeing. The figurine carrying the small child becomes less motherly and more sinister.

Marcel Dzama’s three untitled pieces were the most unnerving to face. Dzama is known for creating strange hybrid creatures, like his piece in the exhibit that shows a woman-bear hybrid who is holding four guns — one in each paw — shooting at eight heads floating above.

Eleanor Bond’s The Cloudy Spectre of Detroit Hangs over Winnipeg is the only piece in the exhibit without a human depicted — yet this piece is the most personal. Bond created the piece to show her frightening fantasy of what Winnipeg’s proposed stadium complex would look like if it was built. The swirls of black and muddled purple create a morose scene, where no object is visible amongst the blur of colours.

While all the pieces balance innocent imaginary with the disturbing, there still doesn’t seem like an over-arching theme connecting the works together. One faceless person doesn’t connect to a free-falling head.

Intimate Theatre is at Agnes Etherington Art Centre until May 27 in the Frances K. Smith Gallery.

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