The new must-see art exhibition in Ottawa is Post Neo at Studio Sixty Six, running until June 9 at the gallery’s new location at 858 Bank Street, Suite 101, in the Glebe. This captivating affair features two extremely openminded, experimentally driven contemporary artists who dare to say things differently and deserve all of the praise they get.
Julia Campisi and Manon Labrosse are not your run-of-the-mill commercial artists trying to sell you some new versions of old ideas. Rather, they are chipping away at conventions, breaking them down and letting art grow organically out of the shrubs that taken over the ruins. Bertolt Brecht once wrote “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it,” and this couldn’t be truer with the work of these artists.
The exhibition banner “Post Neo” is more than a reference to the endless new isms in art history, it is a position, I dare say a proposal, to go beyond the novel. The pieces here are worth seeing, not for their orthodox quality, but what they communicate to the viewer. You are left questioning your outlook. Where do you really stand on the issue of women’s objectification? Where do you stand on life and death?
More notably, however, is the fact that both artists are conveying the need for the journey rather than a definitive endpoint. As if the process of discovery is far more paramount than the finale. Isn’t that how life should be viewed? For too long you have been anticipating the curtains, never fully enjoying the play. You don’t judge a symphony by the final notes, so why are you so worked up about the end of life?
Julia Campisi gives us old photographs, expectedly mundane and subdued in black and white tones, now stained with brushed golden yellow paint, signifying the change in our perceptions. We are disturbed and shocked by images that should have provoked a sense of nostalgia. Images otherwise so ordinary that our sinister take today brings a sense of shame and embarrassment. Women feature predominantly in the works, and you cannot help but seeing blatant objectification. The question is whether we have really advanced socio-culturally. Are we any better today? Because back then those old “fools in old-style hats and coats” thought they were progressively on top of their game too.
Manon Labrosse gives us a journey into the unknown, and we are not sure whether it is an enchanted forest, purgatory or afterlife. Shadows and roots take over, and the deep colours surround you in a warm glow. You surrender and let the work play your senses, no longer anxious about time, death and being lost. Morphing shapes and colours comfort you, and maybe you are crossing. Maybe you are turning into a tree in a forest. Maybe other dimensions are forcing your existence into being. Why be frightened of the unknown? Can it be anything other than this? One thing is for sure though, if nature has taught us anything, nothing is ever lost, only transformed, so enjoy these few moments in the transit.
Post Neo featuring Julia Campisi and Manon Labrosse will be at Studio Sixty Six until June 9th at 858 Bank Street, Suite 101.