Michael Markowsky: Faster Than the Speed of Sound
Jan. 17 to March 21
“My long-term career objective is to go to the moon by January 2030, stand on the surface and make a painting,” said visual artist, Michael Markowsky.
It is a totally unique and ambitious goal for an artist whose practice embodies those very traits. For 17 years, Markowsky’s main method and art practice revolves around creating artwork in motion, while travelling through landscapes. Most people stop and try to take in and freeze as much of the outside environment as possible, he does the opposite.
“We all experience landscapes while moving through them. We are used to seeing it through the screen of a window, yet so few artists try to describe what that feeling is like,” Markowsky said.
Six years ago Markowsky applied to the War Artists Program. In his application, he described how he wanted to be a passenger in a fighter plane and draw his experience. He was accepted into the program. He met some resistance at the onset, and it took him about five years to convince the skeptical powers that were to agree to his project.
He had to undergo all the rigorous safety training and health tests that any other pilot would be subjected to. After he was cleared, Markowsky found himself in the cockpit of a CF-18 fighter jet with a pad of postcard-sized paper, bound together with a binder ring and a pencil (and probably a few spares).
He spent about a minute to a minute and a half on each drawing, all while travelling the speed of sound, no easy feat.
“When I was up in the plane, flying around, for the first hour and fifteen minutes I was totally in the moment, just drawing furiously. Then the pilot said were going to head home,” Markowsky said.
“Two things happened: I started thinking, oh I’ve really got to remember this moment because I’ll never get to do this again. Then I started feeling a little queasy, we were doing flips and turns, and going the speed of sound. Then I started thinking, what the hell am I going to do to communicate this feeling? My first thought was that it had to be big. Because that experience is huge, overwhelming and intense.”
Markowsy’s goal was to convey the experience of flying in a military jet to people who would otherwise never have the chance. The work had to be immersive, intense, overwhelming and massive, to match his experience.
What he produced conveys his description to a tee. Upon walking into the cube, the viewer is hit with three massive abstract paintings that cover the walls. Bright and vibrant colours are juxtaposed together to create a kind of visual disorientation and pressure. A swirl of colours makes it difficult to focus on one painting for too long.
Even though this work is focused around military planes and takes place in that setting, Markowsky insists that his work is “not political in any way, whatsoever.” His intention from the onset was to capture and express an experience.
“On one level, this work is purely visual and sensorial. I want people to come and see things and be overwhelmed. This is kind of what your senses feel like, being overwhelmed and bombarded. [That flight] was such a strange and surreal experience.”
But that isn’t where his project ends. Currently there are two model planes hanging in the middle of the gallery, both made from wood. Markowsky will be occupying the gallery space and building a model CF-18 plane from wood and canvas. For the duration, it will be a working studio, open to the public.
“I’ll be cutting and building, it’ll be loud and stuff will be all over the place. My part of the KAG is free, so people are welcome to come by and see how far I’ve gotten,” Markowsky said.
“By the end of it, there will be a plane that people can sit in and view the paintings. I’m transforming the gallery into my studio. People with strong feelings about art or military, I’d love to chat with them.”
Visibility and communication with the public is vital to Markowsky’s practice.
“I think too many artists hide away, making work. Then they wonder why art isn’t really part of the discussion anymore. You don’t see artists on Jimmy Fallon or in People magazine but you see musicians, dancers and actors,” Markowsky said.
“I’ve devoted my life to art and then you start thinking does this even matter? Does anyone care about this? I feel like it’s important to be visible.”
Anyone interested in surreal, vivid paintings, military jets, or asking Markowsky about his campaign to paint on the moon in 2030, is encouraged to stop by for a visit.
Pam Hall: Housework(s)
Jan. 17 to March 14
“Can an act of labour undertaken by three women with three ironing boards, 450 aprons, an eight- foot square pinning table and three sewing machines in one 40-hour work week be considered art?” Asks Newfoundland-based interdisciplinary artist Pam Hall.
Questions like this are embedded throughout Hall’s exhibition, Housework(s). It’s a collection of work, stemming from five solo shows – some independent, some through extensive collaboration with other artists and community members, reaching over a span of ten years.
Although the works are taken from a vast time period, there is a common and very vocal theme, visible in all areas.
“[There’s] a wonderful connective thread, [that was] not intentional in the beginning. In this case, it’s the house.”
In Hall’s earliest collaborative work in the exhibition, Marginalia, she and fellow artist Margaret Dragu committed to creating “memory cloths” on one square foot of fabric every single day. Over four years, 4,000 squares were made.
The memory cloths are sewn together, and draped over a secured, hanging structure of a house. The work is captivating and interactive; the viewer can pull back the curtain-like cloth strips and step inside, to find even more squares staring back at them.
Because they are not sewn together and affixed to a wall, the cloths drift and flow ever so slightly, giving it an airy feel. The squares depict a plethora of individual ideas, so many that true examination of the work could take hours. Among many others, expressions of patriotism, depictions of fishery work, housework, sexuality, anger, nature and family can be found on the fabric.
According to Hall, this work serves as “artifacts of correspondence,” part of a social contract between two artists based on a commitment to connection and communication.
It was through the creation and examina tion of the memory cloths that the symbol of the home materialized in Hall’s and Dragu’s work.
“In our daily correspondence the house became a kind of shorthand, it appeared everywhere. A symbol for home, a kind of arrow that pointed to community. The house emerged from the beginning,” Hall said.
Dressing Up Works
Transitioning over to Dressing Up Works, Hall takes the theme of home and asks, “Where does a woman’s work end?” The structure of the house is identical to Marginalia, with the important distinction being the materials used. Sewn together and hanging from the structure are colourful, feminine aprons – the epitome of housewife attire.
“[They are] decorative, sweet, wildly feminine, really dress up aprons that women often put on, not to work in, but to serve their work. I call them bedroom aprons because women’s work does not always end in the kitchen. If you know what I’m saying,” Hall said.
This work is delicate, beautiful and flawlessly sewn together. But beyond the aesthetic surface layer, what does it mean? It calls into question the role of women in the home. Not only are women expected to do the bulk of the work, but they are expected and often required to look pretty while doing so, hence the use of neatly pressed, wrinkle free “bedroom aprons.”
Perhaps my interpretation is light-years away from Hall’s artistic intention, but the fact that I am asking a question and working towards a conclusion is precisely the reaction Hall wants from her audience. She aims to “turn provocation into invitation” in her artwork.
A Wish and a Prayer
Found again is the now familiar structure of the house, but in this instance, it’s constructed with an even more collaborative material. Tiny strips of white fabric with different messages scrawled across them are tied across the netting, creating the walls.
Viewers at the KAG are invited to contribute to this growing project. Hall set up a “wishing wall” on a large section of fishing net. Viewers take a thin, white “prayer rag” and write a wish or prayer on it and affix it to the netting.
Throughout the course of the project, Hall rearranged some of the wishes and spread them across the netting. In doing so, she read every single one.
“A lot of them are wishing for other things for other people. A lot of them are for people who are ill, or gone. [There are] wishes for understanding across difference, gay rights, it’s all there. The last time I counted there were about eight different languages.”
A layered soundscape plays in the background as another dimension of the work. The sheer size and amount of the wishes is impressive. It points to a community and human solidarity in the form of hopes, wishes and prayers.
A Wish and A Prayer reminds us that no matter what age, social position, or condition, there are none among us who doesn’t have some unfulfilled wish.
In this exhibition, gallery attendees can take a journey through ten years of Hall’s work. The trip revolves around social commentary and meaning making through provocative questions. Hall has a clear-cut definition of the function and purpose of art and posits that it holds just as much meaning in the labour of creating as the end result.
“I don’t think art is frivolous and decorative. That’s not my generation. I don’t think it’s only done by dead white males. I don’t think it’s only for the art market. I come from the ‘60s. I want art to do some work, when I say the work of art I mean the labour of art. I don’t mean the object,” Hall said. “Not another fabulous consumer commodity that will be sold by Damien Hirst for $9 million. I’m not saying that’s not art. I’m saying it doesn’t speak to me, or anyone else, and if it does, it’s usually through the price tag.”
Hall aimed to, and succeeds in turning provocation into invitation in Housework(s).