First Friday Double Feature: Outward Art

Therapeutic testimony from two local artists showing on home turf

There is an incredible concentration of artists in Winnipeg. Last week's Nuit Blanche celebrations revealed the city’s voracious appetite for art.

But Winnipeg’s visual and performance art community opens its doors the first Friday of every month. First Fridays offers the opportunity to engage with artists and their art in the myriad of galleries and studios dotting the Exchange District and beyond.

This month’s First Friday Double Feature profiles two deeply personal collections in deeply personal spaces – each taking comfort in showing on their home turf. On their own terms.

Painter Jordan Miller founded the cre8ery nearly 12 years ago. In collaboration with her partner, filmmaker and musician Dave Swiecicki, she’s amassed an intensely autobiographical multimedia experience titled Under the Influence.

Transferred onto birch panels, a set of Swiecicki’s high-contrast, saturated photographs and composite images ooze Manitoba rural-gothic. A set of collaborative, collage-style image transfers follow. The sepia cycle plays out a duet between Miller and her grandmother’s doll. Miller’s accompanying statement revolves around maternity in boldly vulnerable strokes.

This demonstrative journey is tied together by a short, chaptered film permeated with the same aesthetic. Miller performs a series of symbolic rituals in search of catharsis for Swiecicki’s cameras.

Captured in fragmented and crisply focused slow motion, she buries herself on a beach to be reborn, she embraces new light she discovers hidden in a dark wood, she is nearly drowned in a body of water. Swiecicki’s score is full of nature-film drama – a histrionic sonic frame of primal percussion and orchestral grandeur.

Miller’s paintings offer a counter-balance in their abstract impressionistic lyricism, leaving more to the imagination. With broad, large-scale acrylic works and more concentrated etudes on YUPO paper, her experiments in vivid spectra bulge and bubble with colour.

Fundamentally, Under the Influence is a conceptual representation of Miller’s life. She, like many artists, processes her own struggle through creative externalization. Though this body of work begins in that struggle, it’s certainly not where it ends.

Painter David Kehrer moved his work into a top-floor studio at 75 Albert St. about three years ago. Though he’s not one to explain himself, Kehrer’s titles offer a modicum of insight into the artist’s expressionist, (largely) nonrepresentational process. He offers First Fridays audiences an opportunity to experience his works in the space they’re created.

One of the largest works in the studio is a cotton-candy coma up close. A whimsical impression of the polychromatic life-sized ice bear emerges as perspective retreats. turn walk spring cold last air with Jane turn is immediately sentimental. The girlish pink core framed in glowing yellow radiates youth and nostalgia.

Other works linger in a darker world. A tall and slender strip of burlap titled never the less hangs from a pipe easel. The displayed surface is dark, nebulous and studded with light, while concentrated vertical strokes of black and blue brightly lash its splotchy backside.

Another double-sided work on canvas is suspended unstretched from the ceiling. Heart beat is strung on one side with pangs of red atop a galaxy of faded splatter. The other side is fully saturated with bloody colour and weighed down by a congealed figure.

There is no obvious narrative, only glimpses into Kehrer’s stream of consciousness. Each piece, single- or double-sided, carries an outsider’s compulsion. His technical language is instinctive and its evolution its own.

Under the Influence runs until Oct. 9 at the cre8ery (125 Adelaide St., 2nd floor). David Kehrer’s studio is open to the public First Fridays (75 Albert St., unit 504). Visit firstfridayswinnipeg.org for more listings

Published in Volume 73, Number 5 of The Uniter (October 4, 2018)

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