Ordinary lives

Make Work and Blanket Statements show at Actual Gallery

Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber

Everyday objects and generalized phrases are what you’ll find at Actual Gallery this month, as  gallery director Lisa Kehler pairs two different exhibits by three different Winnipeg artists.

Make Work comes from Kristin Nelson, who received her Bachelor of Visual Arts from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver before moving to Winnipeg in 2004. It serves as a of follow-up of sorts to her Make Soft exhibit, which was just shown at RAW Gallery last month.

“Make Work identifies my interest in the relationship between manufacture and making as a culture or movement,” Nelson says. “The value of work, in a general sense, is also explored.”

Many pieces were created by weaving on a floor or computerized loom, while others feature cross-stitching and photography. Nelson has replicated ordinary items such as legal paper, graph paper and lined paper. There are photographs of her paper towel collection and depictions of vacant factory buildings.

“I have been drawn to these mundane subjects in part because of their ability to be so present in our daily lives, yet to also be near invisible and to some extent disposable,” she says. “I am exploring the way in which we treat these everyday consumer goods.”

Nelson has been working on some of these pieces since 2012; it features some work from her Master of Fine Arts thesis, which was completed this year at Concordia University in Montreal.

“I hope that the audience will enjoy the work in its simplicity,” she says. “I have always been interested in highlighting people, places or things that often remain invisible.”

The other featured exhibit is by Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber, who co-founded the now defunct Royal Art Lodge and met when they were studying at the University of Manitoba.

Titled Blanket Statements, the exhibit features 16 pieces and is mostly based around text, which is perhaps fitting due to Farber’s childhood interest in comic books.

“We really focused in on the text, which we’ve been doing for a while, but this exhibit feels more pure in that way,” says Farber, 39. “There’s some little jokes and some other little witty things that we’ve tossed in there too.”

Nothing is Better Than Nothing features a simple sketch of a pencil while We are a Community, We are a Salad is more intricate. You could stare at it for hours since it’s so colourful with lots of cartoonish-looking people filling the canvas. There’s even what even appears to be octopuses if you look hard enough.

Other pieces are much more text based, with statements such as Mom is God and In the Sweet Pie and Pie being pretty much all that you see on the page.

“My favourite thing is that this is a smaller show, which we don’t always get to do,” Farber says. “It’s pretty concise and lean. You can get through the whole show quickly and it’s pretty easy to understand.”

Published in Volume 69, Number 12 of The Uniter (November 19, 2014)

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