© Michael Morais

 

Sometime in 2009, I was given a recording of my father performing some of his poetry on CKUT-Radio McGill, accompanied by music he’d chosen.* The recording was a bit rough – it had been transferred from an audio cassette from around 1989 or 1990, a year or two before my father died.

I started playing with it on my laptop and composed some music around it. It was like a stream opening up, with me creating one piece after the other over the course of a day. I wanted to make a soundscape with the rhythmic patterns of my father’s voice and cadence, as well as his poetic presentation. I wanted to have the beat go back and forth, creating a kind of call-and-response effect.

I ended up dissecting the poetry, highlighting some words, not wanting to disrupt the meaning but putting my own take on them. I turned parts of the poems into choruses and repeated other parts to emphasize certain lines or words. I wanted the music to reflect the content.

These pieces I created so many years ago have been quietly biding their time in my old computer files. Now seems like a good time to let them out.

Here is my sampling of a medley of my father’s poems, which includes excerpts of “Old Lady as I Entered the Metro”** and “Robbed in a Country I Cannot Afford.” The original recording was of my father performing these poems in 1990 on the program “Breathing Fire,” hosted by Robert Harding.

 

 

ROBBED IN A COUNTRY I CANNOT AFFORD

(Saying Goodbye in a Hostel)

Me feeling sorry for you
feeling sorry for me
makes me feel worse
than you think
we can live together
suddenly by the bootstraps
kicking up our heels
in Kentucky
fried kids
letting our hair down
once and for all
have a really healing
hoe-down
South naturally
on smoky blue grass
rolling mountains of it
beneath the bright diamond skies

For goodness sakes
don’t cry, Vickie Lee
the air is warm and rich like fur
the moon burnished gold
here in Jerusalem
the rabbis say
even the streets
where tonight I will sleep
are holy

© Michael Morais

 

My father wrote plays and short stories as well as poetry. This is my spoken word/music fusion of excerpts from his short story entitled “A Collector of Many Things.” Part of the story is included below.

 

 

Heavy with her presence, everything seemed to fade, the flowered
curtains, walls, table, chairs, stove, fridge, and kitchen sink into grey
almost shapeless forms blurry around the edges as though giving up
matter molecule by molecule detaching themselves drawn by magnetism
gravity magic or some chemical process silently through space then
disappearing through the pores and orifices within her body. Her
being like a black hole absorbing everything within proximity. He
felt that space itself was being drawn into her – vast distances
closing – the whole universe consumed. Into her eyes he could not
look at her, or even in her direction, and holding his own tightly
closed he wondered what on earth was she doing here – then suddenly
realised that she had said both alone and in front of witnesses why
she was here – she was her for him – and now, was confidently waiting.

He opened his eyes with the frightening awareness that if he
did not act immediately he might soon disappear. He swore not to give
in, and in an effort to resist he did the only sensible thing left within what he feared were his already diminished powers . . .

 

Excerpt from “A Collector of Many Things”© Michael Morais

 

My father’s seminal poem nicknamed “Semen stick together” was dedicated to his friend and fellow writer Dan Daniels, who was a merchant marine seaman. Here’s what it sounds like with my music stirred into the mix.

 

 

Excerpt from “For Semen Everywhere” © Michael Morais

 

Here is my fusion take on it “My Aunt Tillie,”** performed by my father in 1990 on CKUT’s “Breathing Fire,” hosted by Robert Harding.

 

 

 

© Michael Morais

 

Spoken word/music fusion and samplings © Gavin Morais

 

The writings featured in Gavin’s music will be published in an upcoming collection of his father’s work.

For more on Gavin Morais’ art, visit his website.

 

 

___________

* My father’s radio performance in 1990 included Joan Armatrading, Memphis Slim, Tom Waits, Timothy Buckley and an unidentified dub artist.

** The first and last poems sampled here, “Old Lady as I Entered the Metro” and “My Aunt Tillie,” were published in the student newspaper The Link Magazine on March 27, 1981.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

Displaced Garden is the latest work of Montréal-based Iranian artist Anahita Norouzi, exploring the legacies of botanical exploration, plant-collecting and documentation inherited from colonial scientific expeditions. Taking the form of a photographic book containing 18 cyanotype impressions of plant specimens, the project results from a collaboration between the artist and eight refugees from the Middle East and Africa. The participants were invited to ask their families in their home country to mail the artist dried plants native to their land, but categorized as “foreign” and “invasive” in Canada. These “invasive” species are indeed amongst the most common in Canada, bursting through asphalt and thriving in alleys and roadsides.

The series portrays each specimen individually and in the state in which it arrived by mail, showing signs of damage and deterioration caused by transportation. Featured alongside the blueprints are postage stamps and postcards attesting to the species’ cross-continental journey, and short texts referring to the histories of war and colonialism that have shaped the countries from which the samples were collected.

Through this work, Norouzi comments on the processes of botanical extraction from colonies around the globe that drove the expansion of Western scientific knowledge and territorial conquest, while at the same time reversing the roles and subverting the colonial gaze. Here, immigrants from once-colonized countries are the ones collecting and transferring plants from their native land to the West. Norouzi chooses to reappropriate methods of botanical photography in order to engage in a decolonial reading of its history.

(Introduction by Julia Eilers Smith)

 

The Morice Line was a defensive line that went into effect in September 1957 during the Algerian War of Independence, fought between France and the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN). The line was 460 km long and sealed off Algeria’s eastern and western borders to prevent FLN guerrillas from entering the colony from Tunisia and Morocco. The centre of the line was an electric fence 2.5 m high that carried a 5,000-volt charge for its entire length. On each side of the fence there was a minefield, heavily mined by the French—with a density of one landmine per metre—for a total number of 11,064,180 mines. The use of alarms, radars, checkpoints and anti-personnel landmines made the Morice Line impenetrable.

Following the end of the war in1962, extensive efforts were made by the new Algerian authorities to clear and dismantle the Morice Line. Decades after the conflict came to an end, the Morice Line continued to cause casualties among local Algerian populations. It is unclear how many civilians have been killed or wounded by landmines. According to the Algerian newspaper El Acil, there have been more than 40,000 victims of mines since the country’s independence. In October 2007, French Army General Jean-Louis Georgelin finally handed over maps that detailed the extent of the contamination and the exact locations of the mines. The French government had been in possession of the maps since the ceasefire in 1962.

Algeria eventually joined the Ottawa Treaty, which bans the use of landmines, and agreed to the obligations of the Convention. In 2017, Algeria finally announced that after decades of work, it had fulfilled its mine clearance obligation under the treaty.

 

 

 

 

In January 1899, the UK and Egypt (a British protectorate at the time) signed an agreement and established the shared dominion of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, defining “Sudan” as the “territories south of the 22nd parallel of latitude.”

In November 1902, the UK drew a separate “administrative boundary,” intended to reflect the actual use of the land by the tribes in the region. Bir Tawil, a grazing land used by the Ababda tribe located above the 22nd parallel, was placed under Egyptian administration. Similarly, the Hala’ib Triangle to the northeast was placed under the British governor of Sudan, because its inhabitants were culturally closer to Khartoum. The discrepancy between the straight political boundary established in 1899 and the irregular administrative boundary established in 1902 has resulted in Bir Tawil currently being claimed by neither country, and the Hala’ib Triangle being claimed by both.

The Hala’ib Triangle is an area measuring 20,580 km2 located on the coast of the Red Sea. With the independence of Sudan declared in1956, both Egypt and Sudan claimed sovereignty over the area. The area has been considered a part of Sudan’s Red Sea state, and was included in local elections until the late 1980s.

Although both countries continued to lay claim to the land, joint control of the area remained in effect until1992, after the unsuccessful assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during his visit to Addis Ababa. Egypt accused Sudan of complicity and strengthened its control over the Hala’ib Triangle, expelling the Sudanese police and other officials. The Egyptian government converted the village of Halayeb into a city and launched various civilian projects, which have been under construction ever since. In 2010, Sudanese president Omar Al-Bashir claimed that despite Egypt’s de facto control of the Triangle, the area still rightfully belonged to Sudan.

In 2014, a 38-year-old farmer from Virginia named Jeremiah Heaton laid claim to the Bir Tawil land, to make his daughter a princess. The United Nations did not recognize Heaton as the legitimate ruler of Bir Tawil, as only individuals who have lived on a territory for years can assert sovereignty over that land.

 

 

 

 

The Congo Pedicle—meaning little foot—is the southeast salient of the Congolese territory that cuts deep into neighbouring Zambia and divides it into two lobes. It is an example of the arbitrary boundaries imposed by European powers on Africa, without considering pre-existing political and tribal territories.

After a decade of dispute between the British South Africa Company of Katanga, from the north, and the Congo Free State ruled by King Leopold II of Belgium, from the southwest, Zambia’s formal northern frontier boundary was legally signed in the Anglo-Belgian Treaty of 1894. However, the Lake Tanganyika Cape, mentioned in the treaty and described as a reference point for the division of the land, planted the seeds of subsequent border disputes. British maps showed the boundary meeting at Cape Chitankwa, while Belgian maps showed the meeting point far south of Cape Chitankwa, thereby cutting deep into assumed Northern Zambia territory.

The Congo Pedicle has been a major hindrance to Zambian development since its independence in 1962. It cleaves the country into two lobes of roughly equal size and cuts off the eastern and western parts of the Northern Province from the country’s industrial and commercial hub, the Copperbelt. Transportation is another major problem. Traveling from northeastern to central Zambia is not too difficult if one crosses the Pedicle, but getting around it is arduous, with the Bangweulu wetlands standing in the way. The pedicle itself has also remained isolated from the rest of modern-day Congo and is consequently underdeveloped, except where mining occurs, for which the pedicle receives no share.

 

 

 

 

The Moroccan Western Sahara Wall is a 2,700-km-long structure, running through Western Sahara and the southwestern portion of Morocco. It separates the Moroccan-occupied areas (the Southern provinces) on the west from the Polisario-controlled areas (Free Zone, nominally called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic) on the east.

The fortifications consist of sand and stone walls or berms about 3 metres tall, with bunkers, barbed wire, electric fences and an estimated seven million land mines. The barrier mine belt that runs along the structure is thought to be the longest continuous minefield in the world. Military bases, artillery posts and airfields closely monitor the Moroccan-controlled side of the wall at regular intervals, and radar masts and other electronic surveillance equipment scan the areas in front of it.

Morocco gained independence from France in 1956. Inspired by the idea of creating a Greater Morocco, the government claimed all of Spanish Sahara as a Moroccan land. Saharawi nationalists had meanwhile formed the Polisario Front, seeking independence for the Spanish Sahara, and began a guerrilla campaign. An International Court of Justice ruling on the matter in October 1975 rejected the Moroccan claim to the Spanish Sahara, and stated that the Saharawi people should be allowed to determine their own future. Morocco thereafter sought to settle the matter with military force—in November 1975, it conducted the “Green March,” as thousands of soldiers forcibly crossed the Morocco-Spanish Sahara border. The Polisario troops that had declared a Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic based on the boundaries of Spanish Sahara thus started waging a long war against Morocco.

Morocco and the Polisario Front signed a ceasefire agreement in 1991, ending the war, with Morocco retaining control of areas west of the wall, and the Polisario controlling those located east. However, to this day, the dispute over the borders has remained unresolved.

 

 

 

 

Between 1920 and1923, France and Britain signed a series of agreements known as the Paulet-Newcombe Agreement, which created the modern Jordan-Syria and Iraq-Syria borders. It was an amendment to what had been designated as the zone of French influence in the Sykes-Picot Agreement.

The Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret 1916 treaty between Britain and France that defined the border of the French Mandate for Syria and Lebanon, and their mutually agreed-upon spheres of control in an eventual partition of the Ottoman Empire. The agreement allocated to Britain control over what is known today as southern Israel and Palestine, Jordan and Iraq, and an additional small area that included the port of Haifa to allow access to the Mediterranean. France was granted control over southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The logic behind this division was to award the roads to Syria and the water resources to Palestine.

Although the European powers withdrew after WWII, the “artificial” borders that they created remained. These borders negated the UK’s conflicting promise of creating a national Arab homeland in the area of Greater Syria in exchange for the Arabs’ support for the British against the Ottoman Empire. Each country expected the land to remain in their hands, which seems to be what the British had promised them.

The latter also broke their promise to the Kurds to make provision for an independent Kurdish state. The 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which officially settled the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Allied forces, made no such provision and left the Kurds with minority status, scattered throughout southeastern Turkey, northwestern Iran, northern Iraq, and northern Syria. This has led directly to numerous genocides and rebellions, along with armed conflicts in Turkish, Iranian, Syrian, and Iraqi Kurdistan until today.

 

 

 

 

On August 6, 1914, the French and British invaded the German protectorate of Togoland in West Africa and began the West African campaign for WWI. German colonial forces withdrew from the capital, Lomé, and the coastal province, to fight and delay actions on their way to Kamina, where the Kamina wireless transmitter linked the government in Berlin to Togoland, the Atlantic, and South America. The German defenders delayed the invaders for several days, and finally surrendered the colony on August 26. They demolished all the radio towers and destroyed the electrical equipment before abandoning Kamina.

Two years later, in 1916, the victors partitioned Togoland into British Togoland and French Togoland, which cut through administrative divisions and civilian boundaries. The French acquisition consisted of roughly 60% of the colony, including the entire coastline. The British received the smaller, less populated and less developed portion of Togoland to the west.

In May 1956, as part of the decolonization of Africa, a referendum was organized in British Togoland to determine the future of the territory. The referendum was held under UN supervision and gave two alternatives to the people: to unite with the neighbouring country of Ghana or to continue to be known as a Trust Territory until neighbouring French Togoland had decided on its future. Independence was not listed as an option. The Togolese Ewe, a dominant ethnic group native to Togoland, preferred amalgamation with French Togoland. However, the result was reported to be 58% in favour of integration with Ghana, and 55% for unification with French Togoland. Despite concerns over the lawfulness of the referendum, the area was united with Ghana as an administrative region.

Nowadays, the result of the transfer of Togoland to Ghana is that many Togolese people keep one foot on either side of the border, living in Ghana by night and working in Lomé by day.

 

 

 

 

After Tunisia gained independence in1956, France remained in control of the city of Bizerte and its naval base, a strategic port on the Mediterranean, which played an important part in French operations during the Algerian War.

In 1961, Tunisian forces blockaded the naval base in hopes of forcing France to evacuate its last holdings in the country. France had promised to negotiate the future of the base, but had until then refused to remove it. Tunisia was further infuriated upon learning that France planned to expand the airbase. After Tunisia warned France against any violations of Tunisian air space, the French defiantly sent a helicopter. Tunisian troops responded by firing warning shots. In response, 800 French paratroopers were sent in as a show of force. When the transport planes with the paratroopers landed on the airfield, Tunisian troops engaged them with targeted machine gunfire. In response, French jets supported by troops thoroughly attacked the Tunisian roadblocks, destroying them completely.

The following day, the French launched a full-scale invasion of Bizerte. Tanks and paratroopers penetrated into the city from the south, while marines stormed the harbour from landing craft. Tunisian soldiers hastily organized civilian volunteers and engaged in heavy street fighting with the French, but were forced back by vastly superior French forces. The French overran the city on July 23, 1961, and left some 630 Tunisians dead.

Tunisia appealed to the United Nations, but the UN was unable to carry out any sort of substantial action against the French. The French troops occupied the city until the fall, but did not abandon its naval base until late 1963.

 

 

 

All artwork and images © Anahita Norouzi

For more on Anahita Norouzi’s work, please visit her website.

 

 

 

Red Nets, Digital painting © Sharon Bourke

 

Works of art reveal themselves to me, rather than my creating or composing preconceived notions. (I’d call them vague notions that I feel for some time without defining them, sometimes for a long time.) I believe each work belongs to itself and to each viewer. The viewers (and I too) interpret each work of art uniquely. Viewers reveal many details to me that I didn’t realize were hidden there, if they so desire, and I’m always fascinated. They’re like messages.

I wondered about sharing this in my piece, as it is not really a technique… it’s more a communion with the atmosphere, which I think everyone has — children have it without hesitating a bit as to how to depict what they see or feel. Leave it to teachers (often wonderful teachers!), to rely on art techniques taught to them by inventors (often artists themselves), or whole cultures (Degas when not painting ballerinas, or Picasso the sculptor, or Japanese artists in origami).

 

Master Juba’s Dancing, Acrylic on canvas, 18” x 24” © Sharon Bourke

 

In my early school days, I was frequently sent out of class and instructed by the teacher to draw pictures on the walls of the hallway in chalk. Since I didn’t consider myself one of the school’s artistes, I thought I was being punished (don’t ask me why). In hindsight, I think I was bored in class and had been given something, anything, to do.

I did not think of doing visual art on a regular basis until my middle age while visiting my maternal relatives on the Caribbean Island of Nevis. Palm trees and an ocean vista were close at hand, as were coloured pencils and paper at my great-uncle’s little shop. In my self-taught way I tried to capture the scene.

 

Warm Day, Sweet Fruit, Acrylic on canvas, 20” x 16” © Sharon Bourke

 

Sometime later, I finally attended Pratt Institute in Manhattan and took classes in drawing, painting (watercolour and acrylics), and the basics of computer use and coding. Later, concentrating on computer arts, I taught myself the digital ways to apply colours, varied sizes and styles of brushes, and how to overlap layers of transparent and opaque sizes, shapes, and strokes to create abstract digital compositions.

In the 1980s, a long period of study became available for me at the Ruth Leaf printmaking studio in Long Island. I concentrated on hard-ground etching which involves using an extremely sharp-pointed steel engraving needle to draw on zinc or copper plates coated with a hard ground. The plates are then run, one by one, through a printing press. (To see an example of my prints, see Duo, an etching featured in this issue’s editorial.)

I continued printmaking at the legendary Bob Blackburn studio in Manhattan, and with Stephanie Navon Jacobson at the Great Neck Long Island Program (which offers many arts programs for adults) and the Art League of Long Island.*

My other self-teaching endeavors at various stages in my life were in collage, monotype printmaking, wood burning, and Suminagashi, a decorative technique catching floating inks on waters’ surfaces with “rice” paper.

 

Knocking At My Heart, Digital painting © Sharon Bourke

 

Much of my art, as in Collard Green Rhythms, Antibes, Master Juba’s Dancing and Warm Day, Sweet Fruit, is celebratory and inspired by nature and everyday life. However, certain themes of social awareness can be found throughout my work (poetry and visual art) and my activities.

Red Nets, while expressing the movements of the sea, also was a product of a meditation on the damage done by overfishing and the blood engendered by it that runs through the sea.

Dance Around the Earth is a tribute to Carmen De Lavallade, a black modern dancer and educator who, while still insufficiently appreciated, was a soloist with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and who subsequently founded her own dance companies and continued to perform onstage well into her eighties. The sweep of red in the painting is her skirt as she dances on international stages.

 

Detail of Dance Around the Earth, Acrylic on canvas, 20” x 20” © Sharon Bourke

 

The Amadou Diallo Diptych (presented in an earlier issue of Montréal Serai) is a memorial divided between a section of darkness and violence, chaos, and a section devoted to Diallo’s suffering. A bleeding hole drips with his blood from the unwarranted barrage of police bullets that killed him in front of his Bronx, NY home on 4 Feb., 1999.

Long Island, where I live, is known to be one of the most segregated areas in the U.S.A., and the formation of the Long Island Black Artists Association in 1968 was made in answer to gallerists who stated that they did not know any black artists existed on Long Island. LIBAA creates its own exhibition opportunities to this day, and galleries remain largely as they were, except that they do know now that we exist. As a group, we paint a variety of subjects, as any other artists would do. To do otherwise would ghetto­ize our art.

 

Collard Green Rhythm, Acrylic on canvas, 20” x 16” © Sharon Bourke

 

In my poetry, the social themes that I address are black rage, feminine domestic abuse, class differences, and, alas, an ever-growing body of anti­war poems (including the one that follows). My poems have appeared in three specifically feminist anthologies: Songs of Seasoned Women; Tamba Tupu: Africana Women’s Poetic Self-Portrait; and Grabbing the Apple: An Anthology of New York Women Poets.

 

Antibes, Digital painting © Sharon Bourke

 

When I have not been painting, writing, and educating myself, I have participated in many marches and rallies in Washington, D.C. and in front of court houses and prisons in New York City. I ran the Housing Accommodation Desk at a major Black Power Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, worked at two non­profit organizations (United Negro College Fund, and LISC – a grants­making organization for community­-run developments nationwide), worked in a clerical capacity at the United Nations Secretariat, and devoted three years of my working life to the cause of Black Studies, at the Institute of the Black World, in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Goings On, Acrylic on canvas, 22” x 28” © Sharon Bourke

 

So, there you have perhaps an insight into the person behind the art works. If you read the anti­war poem, maybe you will know more than all of the above. An embrace of solidarity to you all.

 

IN LIEU OF A SALUTE

Standing in a parched meadow
she waves her lily instead of a flag.
Her brown­spotted white flower,
where did it come from?
How did the flag come down?

Medals are strewn about,
looking like bottle caps after a game,
squashed faces awaiting the broom,
and here comes the sweeper,
tired, pushing though his back aches.

Here too the newest chevrons
worn by sergeants in a comedic army,
children shuffling in mock parade
without drums or tanks or guns,
but with pots, pans, grave memories.

Stars from all the aeons
wink at us from a deepening blue.
It is evening, earth empty of song.
Leave a plaque to remember all,
him, her, them, me, you.

Leave a plaque, a flower,
or the name of someone you love
scratched into dry, windswept ground,
Leave your mark below the monument
eroding above.

 

Slow Motion, Acrylic on Paper, 22” x 28” © Sharon Bourke

 

* Stephanie Navon Jacobson now also teaches at St. John’s University in Long Island. You can find her gorgeous prints and paintings on many online sites.

Ruth Leaf went on to work in California for some years. Both she and Bob Blackburn are now deceased. They are fondly missed by hundreds of talented printmakers.

 

 

Detail of Lake Gadisar © Ajit Ghai


Artist’s Statement

All through my training in sketching and painting, I was inspired by Bargue and Gérôme’s Cours de dessin to reproduce what I saw in real life and the natural world. Included below is one of my sketches (2016) of Bargue’s Plate I, 63:

 

Sketch of Bargue Plate I, 63 © Ajit Ghai

 

The following three paintings are from photographs I took on my trip to Rajasthan (India) in 2012. They are all done in oil on canvas.

 

Lake Gadisar was built in 1156 in the sandy district of Jaisalmer that lies in the heart of the Thar Desert. This spread of water in a region surrounded by treeless sands exists as an essential anomaly that once provided water to the entire city.

 

Lake Gadisar © Ajit Ghai

 

The painting Rajasthan Camel Herders, Jaisalmer is reminiscent of an ancient form of transportation that has survived for centuries. It is as old as India and neighbouring countries. The desert sands that blow in the wind know no barriers and tell few stories. They are eternal.

 

Rajasthan Camel Herders, Jaisalmer © Ajit Ghai

 

Jodhpur Fort Wall depicts the flat and narrow walls of the famous Mehrangarh Fort built in 1459 by Rao Jodha. What you often see in pictures is the large and imposing structure of this fort, but the painting below depicts the extent of what I saw between two walls. The narrow stretch of blue, the distant gold, and the flight of birds is what has existed for centuries.

 

Jodhpur Fort Wall © Ajit Ghai

 

 

 

 

After we learned to live with the plague, we learned to survive without the city’s darkness, thanks to the curfew.  It is clear what we have lost in this pandemic: lives, loved ones, health, jobs, businesses, fearlessness, spontaneity, the gift of company, culture, simplicity, reasonably priced food, and affordable resources.  What we lost in the curfew was just as prized and worth invoking.

 

When Langston Hughes writes that he is “Black like the night is Black,” he tacitly compares White skin to day and suggests that both day and night are complementary and essential, not superior and inferior or in a relationship of enmity.  There is no day without night, no night without day, yet for months we lived in the eternal light of the sun and LED bulbs as if the coronavirus lurked in the starker nocturnal shadows of a cruder mind when it was just as prevalent during the day in schools, factories, posh and humbler shops, planes, metros and buses.

 

What I lost in the curfew was poetry without charge, the velvet hush of a foggy evening, the dreams and fertile night/mares dusk summons forth, the fading warmth of defeated humanity in bars, the silent magic of that first snow falling against the glare of a streetlight, the defiant life of mannequins in shop windows, inspiring us into desire and resistance.

 

Darkness matters; it is in cooling, sensual obscurity that we grow resilient against the glare and assault of aggressive light. It is in the freedom of nightfall that we imagine better days.

 

Photos © Marie Thérèse Blanc (all photos taken pre-curfew)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs to Nowhere. 19 © Naghmeh Sharifi (Oil on Panel, 8″ x 10″), 2020, created as part of the Phi Centre’s Parallel Lines Virtual Residency

 

When interviewing artists after they have completed a certain project, there’s always the feeling that everything they wanted to say has already been conveyed with brushes, paint, chisels—or the keys of a piano. The famous cliché that “writing about jazz is like dancing about architecture” haunts the conversation.

Indeed, Naghmeh Sharifi, who happens to be an extraordinary writer as well as a painter, began the interview with the disclaimer that once she articulates something visually, it is harder to express herself in other ways.

Yet the curiosity to learn about what it’s like to participate in a site-specific residency in the time of the pandemic (when the site is one’s home or studio) yielded precious and intelligent insights about her own experience of this shared, global context.

The work displayed in this issue was created in the context of The Phi Centre’s Virtual Artist Residency entitled Parallel Lines: https://phi-centre.com/en/post/en-parallel-lines/

 

Souvenirs to Nowhere. 03 © Naghmeh Sharifi (Oil on Panel, 8″ x 10″), 2020, created as part of the Phi Centre’s Parallel Lines Virtual Residency

 

Conceptual self-portraits

At the beginning of the pandemic, when exhibitions, art classes and cultural events were cancelled, there was the question of what was essential, a feeling of irrelevance. “Does what I do matter? How much does it matter? Does it even mean anything?” Naghmeh would ask herself. Like everyone else, she struggled with productivity and even a sense of purpose, but the residency helped by providing some context and structure to her work.

As an artist, though, it was crucial not to fall into the trap of a themed or dated assignment. Her work has always focused on the place of the body in the world, and as the world became smaller, the body as inhabited space became bigger.

“In light of the current pandemic,” she writes, “my initial investigation into transforming notions of nostalgia has become a self-identification with the spaces I am restricted to. These images record the instances of confinement such as isolation, anxiety and self-care.”

This series, then, is a lot about discovering different ways of inhabiting and reimagining domestic spaces and daily objects. The lamp that looks down at her, the overflowing ashtray or the change of the seasons outside are thus reframed as conceptual self-portraits.

 

Souvenirs to Nowhere. 16 © Naghmeh Sharifi (Oil on Panel, 8″ x 10″), 2020, created as part of the Phi Centre’s Parallel Lines Virtual Residency

 

The colour of faraway places

 These paintings are part of an existing body of work in which Naghmeh uses the colour blue as “a measure of distance” and focuses on themes of memory and disappearance.

Naghmeh’s initial choice of blue for these monochromatic paintings is due to the vibrancy that this specific colour exudes. However, her parallel readings of Rebecca Solnit’s book A Field Guide to Getting Lost provide more context for the scientific notions and psychological affects of blue as the perceived “colour of faraway” and of nostalgia.

 

Souvenirs to Nowhere. 13 © Naghmeh Sharifi (Oil on Panel, 8″ x 10″), 2020, created as part of the Phi Centre’s Parallel Lines Virtual Residency

 

Snapshots of nowhere

Rather than painting through layering, Naghmeh’s technique consists of wiping the paint off: “Through removal and erasure of the paint from the surface of the canvas initially covered in blue, the final imagery appears as the result of an uncovering.”

Naghmeh likens this process to photography. There are echoes of developing photo negatives, the tension between positive and negative space, and all that lies in between, for sure.

But beyond the technique itself, these paintings “provide a collective album of souvenirs to nowhere.” People take pictures of mundane things to make albums, she says. So in this case, her canvases can be considered allusions to having to stay put.

This is how a moment in the bathroom turned into a reflection on hair, on how such a beautiful thing can be grotesque at the same time.

 

Souvenirs to Nowhere. 14 © Naghmeh Sharifi (Oil on Panel, 8″ x 10″), 2020, created as part of the Phi Centre’s Parallel Lines Virtual Residency

 

A painting is not a display of pixels

 “I don’t count video as interaction. I don’t feed on people’s energies in video calls,” states Naghmeh, unsurprisingly.

Regarding the experience of showing her work online, she says that in a way, she feels it is more accessible to the world at large. And indeed, as an immigrant, this way of recording her work and her creative process has given her twin sister in Germany the same experience as somebody who lives next door.

 

 

Her paintings, however, don’t photograph well enough to do justice to the effect of her work when seen in a physical space. But even if they did, once a painting becomes a cluster of pixels, identical in various ways to so many other images that flood our screens, does it make sense to expect the same kind of commitment from viewers as from those who actually attend an exhibit? Or does it all become almost generic, swipeable content that people “flip through” rather than experience?

 

Souvenirs to Nowhere. 02 © Naghmeh Sharifi (Oil on Panel, 8” x 10”), 2020, created as part of the Phi Centre’s Parallel Lines Virtual Residency

 

In her current body of work, time is marked and given material expression by the light and the way it moves inside the apartment. The paintings are not displayed chronologically, but a keen observer can tell which was created in winter and which in summer, offering a visual calendar of sorts that shows the passage of time. It reminds us, perhaps, that this moment too shall pass, and we will be able to coexist differently.

 

 

 

 

Urne Adobe © Diane Denault
10″ x 13″ Grès, fil kanthal, bois flotté

 

À travers mon travail avec l’argile, j’explore les notions d’identité et de territoire. La mémoire, le legs, la tradition, tout comme l’espace que j’habite, m’amènent à me confronter au temps qui se dérobe. J’aborde le thème du “passage” dans une série de longues barques posées sur des socles, qui suggèrent des traversées et des voyages intérieurs. Ces sculptures évoquent des transformations cycliques entre les différents états qui marquent nos vies.

Depuis quelques années, je poursuis également une recherche sur l’urne en tant qu’objet d’art et de rituel. Par ses fonctions profane et sacrée, l’urne me transporte dans une dimension qui transcende ma propre existence et celle de ceux qui me sont chers.

 

Urne crin de cheval © Diane Denault
10″ x 12″ Grès, fil kanthal

 

Maritime III © Diane Denault
28″ x 24″ Grès, acier

 

Maritime IV © Diane Denault
24″ x 16″ Grès, acier

 

Speed dating © Diane Denault
24″ x 10″ Grès

 

Poisson boîte © Diane Denault
17″ x 14″ Grès, fil kanthal, acier

 

La Forêt © Diane Denault
5″ x 36″ Grès

 

Horns © Diane Denault
24″x 11″ Grès

 

Diane Denault est céramiste. Elle travaille l’argile, la tourne, l’assemble et la soumet au feu par cuissons successives. Après des études de deuxième cycle en urbanisme et en aménagement du territoire, elle a découvert la céramique à l’occasion d’un voyage en Afrique de l’Ouest. Elle a appris le tournage au Québec auprès du potier d’origine japonaise Kinya Ishikawa, poursuivant ensuite seule son exploration de l’argile et de ses modes de cuisson à basse température. Elle a participé à des classes de maîtres avec des céramistes du Nouveau Mexique et de la France. En 2010, elle a ouvert un atelier de sculpture et de tournage à Val-David dans les Laurentides. Ses recherches sur les textures l’ont amenée à privilégier les techniques de raku et d’enfumage pour leurs effets aléatoires et leurs qualités tactiles et esthétiques.

https://alterido.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Familial bond
clay, pigments, oxides, glaze
sculpture # 1 approx. 12″ x 10″
sculpture # 2 approx. 6″ x 5″
© Madeleine Chevalier

 

Artist Statement:

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die… for the harder I work, the more I live.” This is my mantra, which encapsulates the intensely and sometimes uncomfortable feelings I explore when I’m creating in clay. When I am working on a new sculpture, it feels as though it’s coming from places deep in my subconscious, the clay helping to shape and reshape my inner self. Frequently I feel that I have uncovered blocks of unwanted emotions, after which I feel newly free and happy. Sometimes this exploration exposes shame, or pain, or anger, despair, even death – and always, intimacy.

I let my intuition guide me and I am often surprised at the result. I use pigments, colours and glazing – layering, removing, adding, subtracting – in order to nuance the rawness of each piece. This process melds, for me, my visions of identity, loss, anxiety and loneliness. I want the experience of my work to be excruciatingly intimate, so that the viewer is in it with me. I believe that only when we remove the glossy surfaces we display in our public lives, allowing ourselves to show our nakedness and vulnerability, only then do we try to live with courage and authenticity.

In my works you will experience with me, and beside me, a life and art in progress.

 

Reflection of the boy
mixed media
clay, pigments, glaze
glass mirror
approx. 7″ x 4 1/2 “
© Madeleine Chevalier

 

Naked and alone
mixed media
clay, pigments, glaze, glass, water
approx. 16″ x 10″
© Madeleine Chevalier

 

Molded by trauma #1
clay, pigments, oxides
approx. 7″ æx 4″
© Madeleine Chevalier

 

Molded by trauma #2
clay, pigments, oxides
approx. 10″ x 3″
© Madeleine Chevalier

 

Look at me in the eyes
mixed media
clay, pigments, oxides, glaze, metal
approx. 48″ x 8″
© Madeleine Chevalier

 

Hold on to the fantasy of forever
sculpture #1 clay, smoked fired
sculpture #2 clay, pigments, oxides, glaze
sculpture #1 approx. 14″ x 5″
sculpture #2 approx. 16″ x 7″
© Madeleine Chevalier

 

Highly Unstable – Standing Solid
clay with oxides, pigments and glaze
approx. 20″ x 6″
© Madeleine Chevalier

 

Dissociative
clay, pigments, oxides, glaze
each approx. 12″ x 4″
© Madeleine Chevalier

 

 

 

 

 

Contemplation, St-Hippolyte, 2014 ©Anne Marie Noël

 

Réflexions de l’artiste

La photographie est entrée dans ma vie à l’adolescence et s’y est taillée une place unique. Suivant les traces de mon père, passionné de photo, je capturais tout ce que mon oeil curieux trouvait beau. Mon Minolta argentique ne me quittait pas. La chambre noire de l’école était mon repaire tranquille, ma deuxième maison.

Aujourd’hui, 25 ans plus tard, jeux de lumières, silhouettes, contrastes et textures, sont autant d’éléments qui attirent mon regard et m’inspirent. Appareil en main, mon œil devient un capteur de poésie visuelle. Je m’émeus devant un ruban de brume, un lac sans ride, des fleurs gelées, des enfants rieurs, un personnage rêveur, des ombres sur la neige, le crépuscule…

Mon expérience photographique est d’abord un rendez-vous avec moi-même, pour ensuite devenir une immersion dans le vécu du sujet, une rencontre avec l’autre.

Bon voyage à travers mes images.

Découverte, Cuba, 2011 © Anne Marie Noël

 

Origine, Rimouski, 2014 © Anne Marie Noël

 

Métamorphose, Estérel, 2017 © Anne Marie Noël

 

Courage, Hawaii, 2014 © Anne Marie Noël

 

Résilience, Népal, 2016 © Anne Marie Noël

 

Réflexion, Népal, 2017 © Anne Marie Noël

 

Offrande, Népal, 2017 © Anne Marie Noël

 

 

 

Andreanne Bouchard_Des cornets comme des fleurs 2015-09

 

 

Le projet des cornets s’est amorcé en 2013 alors que l’artiste avait fixé sur sa bicyclette un petit atelier de sérigraphie. En déambulant dans les rues, cette installation avait pour but de sortir l’atelier des murs et de permettre aux passants de découvrir la sérigraphie tout en prenant part à l’impression. Pour l’occasion, la matrice à imprimer était un cornet de crème glacée. Il s’agissait d’un clin d’œil au ice cream man à bicyclette, présent dans les parcs en saison estivale.

Cette image du cornet de crème glacée et ce petit atelier à vélo ont donné matière à réflexion puis est venue l’idée de dénaturer l’objet. Le champ de fleurs est ainsi devenu un champ de cornets de crème glacée multicolore et la bicyclette champêtre a fait place à une bicyclette-atelier. Cette œuvre fut présentée à Arprim lors de la Nuit Blanche 2014. Encore une fois, les visiteurs étaient invités à imprimer leur cornet et à le déposer dans le champ afin de mieux le garnir.

Andréanne Bouchard réutilise plusieurs fois les mêmes images/objets dans son travail; elle leur fait une place d’œuvre en œuvre, tels quels ou retaillés. Les cornets ont été exposés sous forme de tapisserie (Atelier-Galerie Alain Piroir-2014), de balconnières (Cirque du Soleil-2014), de chute de glaces (Espace Projet-2014), d’installation ludique (Centre Pauline Julien-2015) et finalement sous forme de fleurs pour agrémenter un petit jardin de la rue Marquette en septembre 2015 lors des Journées de la culture à Montréal.

Au total, plus de 3000 cornets et boules de crème glacée ont été imprimés, découpés, pliés, collés et chiffonnés.

 

Andreanne Bouchard_Des cornets comme des fleurs 2015-09
Des cornets comme des fleurs 2015

 

2014-03_BouchardAndréanne_Champdecornets_Arprim-6
Champ de cornets 01 (crédit photo Caroline Cloutier)

 

Andréanne Bouchard_champ de cornets 201403 (crédit photo Caroline Cloutier)
Champ de cornets 02 (crédit photo Caroline Cloutier)

 

2014-03_BouchardAndréanne_Champdecornets_Arprim-4
Champ de cornets 03 (crédit photo Caroline Cloutier)

 

tapisserie de cornets 2
Champ de cornets

 

tapisserie de cornets 3
Champ de cornets

 

Chute de glaces_Espace projet
Chute de glaces – Espace projet

 

Les cornets_Centre Pauline Julien
Les Cornets – Centre Pauline Julien

 

Originaire de Causapscal (Québec), Andréanne Bouchard est diplômée du baccalauréat en Arts Visuels et Médiatiques (UQAM, 2005). Elle a ensuite entrepris des études en Design Graphique (UQAM, 2010) afin de parfaire sa recherche picturale et satisfaire sa curiosité dans le domaine de l’imprimé. Font partie de son expérience artistique une résidence à Open Studio à Toronto et deux participations à la Biennale Internationale d’Estampe Contemporaine de Trois-Rivières. Ses œuvres ont entre autre été vues dans plusieurs expositions collectives et plus récemment à ARPRIM, à l’Atelier-Galerie A.Piroir ainsi qu’au Centre Pauline Julien. Elle est membre active de l’atelier Graff à Montréal depuis 2005.

La sérigraphie est omniprésente dans le travail d’Andréanne Bouchard, bien que ce soit le dessin qui structure ses œuvres. Que ce soit par des installations avec impression sur papier, par le collage ou par l’estampe plus traditionnelle, l’artiste recherche constamment un équilibre fragile dans ses compositions. Quelque part entre chaos et la finesse, l’artiste dévoile un univers subtil qui joue avec sa propre frivolité.

 

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Portrait of Nina Simone, heart blazing, on Jeanne Mance St., by Montréal street artist (and jazz singer) MissMe, who describes herself as “an artful vandal.” For more on MissMe, go to her website at http://www.miss-me-art.com/. (Photo by Jody Freeman)

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Anonymous mural photo of South Asian school girls on an industrial building in the old textile neighbourhood of Mile End (Casgrain St.) (Photo by Jody Freeman)

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Mural by Hsix (Carlos Oliva) honouring Lea Roback

Lea Roback, portrayed here as a young union organizer in the 1930s in this unsigned mural in Montréal’s Mile End. She fought for women’s, workers’ and immigrants’ rights – for social justice and universal access to education – and was active in the peace movement. Even into her 80s, Lea was always turning up on picket lines and marches, and she encouraged young people in their social activism and artistic endeavours. On her 90th birthday, the Lea Roback Foundation was created to award scholarships to socially-committed low-income women in Québec. http://www.fondationlearoback.org/home.htm (Photo by Jody Freeman)