2022 Overzealous Fine Art Exhibition Juror: Katie Wilde
One of the reasons I love Overzealous as an art show is that it focuses on what can be gleaned from a raw visual interpretation. It’s not the only way to appreciate art by any means, but I appreciate the challenge, and the lively, egalitarian feel this approach brings. We don’t care if you’re famous, or formally trained, if you’ve made art for 30 years or 3. We do get excited to see what you can make, and how your work can make us think or feel. My remarks are a ‘cold read’ and I do not presume that my interpretations reflect the artists’ intent. Yet isn’t that how most art is experienced ‘in the wild’? We often don’t know who made it or when, even how, or what the artist called the work. I don’t even know the names of applicant artists until after I have made selections for the show. As a juror I simply see an image of the work that was submitted, along with its title, medium, and any statement the artist chose to include. When I remark on the work of this year’s award winners, I try to answer the question: what does the art say to me when it speaks for itself? Katie Wilde
Category 1: Oil, Acrylic
First Place Margaret Stawicki Journey Oil - 48x96" I had hoped seeing Journey in person would measure up to the potential I sensed in it from the digital version I saw while reviewing submissions. It surpassed them. I felt it in my chest the moment I walked into the gallery to see the show in person for the first time. The artist's approach to composition and brushwork is sensitive and restrained, demonstrating an incredible economy of brush. This is a term I learned from one of my university professors and it always stuck with me. It means there are very few marks that actually make up these figures. Without any rendered detail, they are still so recognizable, the right one in particular appearing elderly by the mere suggestion of a flat cap and stooped posture. The clever use of shadows provided me with an instant clue to the fact that they’re people and not just specks, as well as setting a mood of transition times - long shadows could be dawn or dusk. This diptych makes bold use of composition, with these teeny tiny figures in this enormous space. And it’s necessary, this contrast. The enormous sense of isolation (or potential), of peace (or desolation) absolutely requires it. The suggestion of ground in the brownish areas across the bottom is also important, as is the tonal variation within the white. Together they create a lot of possibilities of what this space might be - sand, or sky, or something more metaphysical - a point of departure, or destination. The artist has to trust in themselves to - communicate so much with so little, and in the viewer - to extrapolate meaning from these carefully selected cues. To me, Journey is less a portrait of thesetwo people (or perhaps it is one person at two moments in time) than it is a portrait of the space and time around them.
Second Place Kyle Yip Dream Painting F3 Acrylic - 48x48" Dream Painting F3, is somewhat less of a cold read since the artist did submit an artist statement with their application. What the artist is doing here is really hard to describe, but they are clearly committed to both the process and the product of creation. What looks like a digital work on screen is actually handmade, with exhaustive devotion to concept, to geometric precision and to removing - by hand - visual evidence of the ‘hand of the artist’. On my first cold read, I thought this was in the wrong category. I assumed it was a digital work, but it is, in fact, hand-painted. I sensed a code might be hidden in the repeated forms, but failed to decrypt it. After learning the story behind how and why it was created, I felt a connection between this suggestion of a code, and the internal logic or meaning that our dreams often seem to possess, that rarely survives waking. This painting IS from a dream, as the artist describes in their statement. Paintings, or at least clear and detailed images come to him while asleep. He is able to study them while still sleeping, even waking up multiple times in a night to make notes, sketches and measurements. Later, he recreates them in the studio. Much of his practice - that is the conceptual elements behind his work - explores ideas about the saturation of visual imagery in our world, and the influence of marketing on our waking and sleeping minds. Regardless of concept, though, the artwork is visually striking from a distance, and intriguing in detail up close.
Third Place Jesse Unsworth Begonias On A Ledge With Vines Oil 29x36" http://www.jesseunsworth.ca/ The very straightforward title, Begonias on a Ledge with Vines, belies the fact that there is more to appreciate here than the subject matter. From a distance, the geometric, sweeping puzzle piece of a shadow shape flatly overlays the composition, obscuring the window planter box beneath. Yet each object element - each leaf, petal, stem, or brick, remains completely rendered in the same active brushstroke. Upon closer examination, it is clear that each area is carefully sectioned from the next, and only within each section is the brush free to move about somewhat wildly. Across the entire piece there is impressive consistency in these seemingly random squiggles. To me this suggests an ongoing thoughtfulness to his practice, including developing the skill to physically manage the brush in this lively yet controlled way, one which fosters harmony between chaos and order. I am totally enamoured with the fine, grainy texture of the substrate showing through. It seems to me quiet and proud, effectively working as a mortar throughout the composition, if each area of paint was a brick. Overall, this work embraces paint BEING paint, and treats painted light as a phenomenon under the control and direction - not of nature, but of the artist - an attitude I am completely behind. The rejection of realistic colour in favour of a limited palette, the bold choice of an abstract shadow that refuses to bend as it falls across the shapes beneath, and the careful attention to adjustment of hue and value under the shadow all lend a deeper seriousness to the feeling of this work.
First Place Debbie Near Trees For The Forest Ink 9x36" Forest for the Trees is all about the mood, for me. Monochromatic, it reminds me of how our colour vision fades in the dimness of a thick forest as dusk falls. Part of what makes this hazy mood work is that the artist has resisted the temptation to render edges of forms in great detail. If we seek to map out every edge of a tree’s trunk or find a clear boundary between the deer’s body and the vegetation, defined edges become elusive. Yet the forms feel very real and recognizable. The deer’s sweet, dishy face, shiny eyes and nose make it seem young and bright and innocent, even vulnerable, half hidden among dewy ferns. Can I actually see any dew there? I cannot, and yet I seem to feel its presence. This is another great example of economical brush stroke, where rhythmic lines and washes dominate, and with the right suggestion of space and form, our brains fill in the rest. I also want to acknowledge how well presented the triptych is. Works in ink would often be behind glass, and this is instead mounted on panel, unencumbered by glass, which offers a nice opportunity to get a close look at the surface textures. The colour temperature of the thin white frame has the same warmth as the paper substrate, and the artworks are actually emerging from the frame. As they protrude, they subtly take priority, rather than being sunken in as is more common in framing. The frame supports the work, only just as much as it needs - no more.
Second Place Matthew Ferguson Tricep Study Watercolour 12x9" The curious and inventive Tricep Study is so carefully and patiently rendered, forming a very believable blend between things mechanical and biological. In many ways, the human body behaves like a machine, and brilliant engineers still struggle to match the achievements of millions of years of natural evolution. The tricep muscles as a bundle of cables seems so sensible as to be almost naturalistic. Within the red strands, the rhythmic composition is both highly organised, and organically irregular. It rarely fails to delight me when one medium can mimic another, and Tricep Study hits the mark on that. This watercolour looks so much like a graphite and coloured pencil, or pen and ink work, even etching. While the subject matter and composition may seem a bit cold at first glance, the contrasting hot red muscle fibres and the delicate rendering of shadow transitions lend a tender feeling to this piece. I can't help but feel that it was lovingly constructed.
Third Place Jane Baran refugee Mono Print Ink On Paper 15x12" I am drawn to optical illusions, and refugee to provide me with an ongoing one. To my eyes, the mesh texture across the middle appears like a factor of the paper itself, as though charcoal was lightly rubbed on bumpy paper, and only picked up on the raised portions. Even though under close examination the paper is quite smooth, my eyes keep trying to tell me otherwise. The texture loosely resembles a chain link fence. Naturally, the title reinforces that impression. There appear to be figures on each side of the fence, but the lack of details as to faces or even clothing prevents me from guessing the direction or focus of any figure’s gaze. They also appear non-specific as to gender, age or ethnicity, reading simply as “people”. In some ways I find this a moving comment on our shared humanity. Yet every person’s life experience, including their refugee experience, is unique - something we do well to remember. That this piece denies me the ability to identify clues of individuality among the figures is a source of useful discomfort for me. Lastly, I appreciate that a monoprint requires a certain willingness to invest time, take risks, and dare to hope that the one-off creation on the plate will transfer in the way you intend. You must build while you can, then take a leap.
Category 3: Photography, Film, Digital, etc.
First Place Patrick Stieber The Sound Photography 32x24" The Sound is a quiet piece, a modern surrealist construction rich with references. Magritte’s Castle of the Pyrenees, and the film Arrival come to mind. There is something very silent about this image, and although the title may simply be a reference to a body of water, for me the dual meaning heightens the quiet by contrast. Stillness is embodied by the very few ‘characters’ (a term I use to encompass both animate and inanimate objects or figurations in a scene). An object resembling an oil drum sinks into the ground, while the enormous rock hovers above the sea, defying gravity. The two make a goldilocks of the third figure, the person who stands flatly on a pale area of ground. Or maybe this middle ground is purgatory. The presence and implied gaze of the figure builds a narrative moment, and helps me put myself in this scene. How would I react? What might happen next? Perhaps waiting for a sign, some communication, or a shift in the action. Or for the person to make a decision.An understated sci-fi aesthetic and subtle narrative convey uncertainty about the future. Neither hope, apprehension, defiance nor resignation clearly dominates. As an art object, the artefacts of process leave me happily baffled. Where do the bubbles come from? Are they part of the digital image or a unique factor of printing? In two areas there are rainbow puddles reminiscent of the rippled phenomenon that appears when a laptop screen is pressed in by a wayward thumb, or the distortions caused by taking a digital photo of a similar LCD display. How did they get there? The “vignette filter” esque shadow along the top of the image, and lack of physical overlap between the ‘characters’ offer hints at the possibility of old school darkroom ‘photoshopping’, while teasing that with the right app, this image could as easily have been made on a smartphone.
Second Place Douglas Stratford Perception Digital 24x24" The too-aptly titled Perception offers a playground of optical effects. For instance, I noticed when I look from the side of my eye I can no longer see the green; the rainbow palette reduces entirely to pinks and purples. When I stare at the sharp black dot surrounded by blurry concentric rings, a narrow vibrating x appears across. And if I look at just the right spot with just enough relaxation in my eye muscles, the rings seem to double and twist on themselves. Of course, no movement is truly happening but my eyes perceive there to be changes and shifts. Resembling a target, or an eye, it sometimes seems to look at me in return. In the gallery, I kept walking back over to it. I wanted to see what other tricks it could play on my eyes, what else it had to offer in the way of these surprising experiences that feel right on the edge between physiological and psychological. This digital work is memorable not only because it is simply visually striking, but because it possesses a well of potential.
Third Place Aidan Frenette Stasis 3 Emulsion Lift In Resin 23x23" Stasis 3 is described by the artist as an emulsion lift embedded in resin. While I am familiar enough with the practice of embedding one or more objects in liquid resin (that then hardens to a clear plastic), I did need to look up the term ‘emulsion lift’. I discovered it refers to the first part of a photo transfer process, wherein the photo’s paper backing is soaked and gently removed, leaving a translucent, flexible film containing the pigmented component. At this point it can be transferred flat onto any number of hard surfaces, after which the photographic image would still be discernible. But rather than do this, the artist has allowed the emulsion lift to crumple, curl up and obscure itself. It becomes a specimen-like object, three dimensional and no longer a vessel of photographic communication. What we see in the gallery is not the emulsion lift in resin, but a larger-than life photo of that combined object. Enormous fingerprints visible on the surface of the resin block provide a clue to scale, suggesting that it is depicted at maybe six times its true size. Such a sumptuous sculptural object is frustratingly flattened in this documentation, but through this difficulty it gains a new flavour of intrigue. Like a spiral instead of a circle, it doesn’t return to the point of origin by becoming a photo of an altered photo, but slips by it, ultimately headed in a new direction. Questions such as what the resin object really looks like in the flesh, or what - if anything - the lifted photograph originally depicted, remain. All that said, were a viewer to know nothing of the process by which it was made, this photograph of intricate rhythms and arresting contrasts would remain in and of itself compositionally enigmatic, containing so much potential for interpretation of the abstracted form.
First Place Alison Galvan Senior’s Aquasize Acrylic, Mixed Media 4 x 3.5' www.theartofalisongalvan.com Seniors’ Aquasize is all too relatable. Who hasn’t had an air bubble in their swimsuit, had their boobs fall off to the sides, or felt our normally weighty body parts rise up to float while in the water? This mobile sculpture reminds me that air is a fluid medium, and these figures are perfect to be suspended in it, rather than sitting on a plinth or buried in a sculptural approximation of water. Hung as they are, above eye level, we get to literally look up to these awesome people! The active, irreverent postures and expressions are perfectly formed in non-serious, mottled texture and colours bright but not garish. The artist’s consistent approach to detail keeps the characters far from perfect and polished without becoming sloppy. Despite their exaggerated forms, they feel real, in sort of spiritual verisimilitude, if not literal, resulting in a strong marriage of style and subject exactly right for this piece. It really seems to celebrate the imperfect, variable nature of bodies, to exclaim that it's what we do with them, the places they take us, and the experiences we have in them, that truly matters.
Second Place Pat Tadier Doodle Wood 36x26x21" Doodle has the feeling of clarity that emerges from ongoing experimentation.. There is something ‘automatic’ in the Dada-ist sense, about the doodled lines around the arm. The caricatured face, picasso-esque deconstruction of features, and bold colouration give it high energy. As do the outrageously kinky lashes, almost aggressively irreverent, wriggling like Medusa’s snakes as they dare you to blink.. The implied makeup, even with the red lips and big lashes, somehow doesn’t feminise the figure as much as one might expect, or at least it reads to me as a performance à la Cirque du Soleil, where any gender could be under all the face paint. With the help of over-the-top costuming, a lot can be hidden in plain sight. The character’s upturned chin and gently lifted middle finger set a mini scene for me, in which they flatly reject the reactions and judgements of others. This I find quite satisfying.
Third Place Janet Byrne Winter Stained Glass, Copper, Lead, Solder 17x18x5" Winter is a cleverly offbeat take on a vase, unusual yet overall fairly serene in composition. It sure wouldn’t hold a great volume of water, and the scale of it tempts me to stick my arm through its parallel holes. Perhaps the fragility that glass embodies, the reverence that stained glass connotes, intensifies this forbidden idea. Chalk it up to the call of the void, I suppose. It is always a delight to see an artistic medium stretched beyond the form familiar to most audiences, and here the artist sidesteps expectations of a flat pictorial stained glass window scene in favour of creating this rewardingly perplexing sculptural vase. Formally speaking, the different choices of transparent and semi-opaque swirled glass are quite lovely, creating rhythmic action, feeling bright and bold for all that they’re contiguous in colour scheme. A few dashes of warm orangey contrast anchor the cool hues, and the repetitive narrow rectangles that form the sides reintroduce order and give the eyes a place to rest without boredom. In tune with the title of ‘Winter’, the colours, textures and use of negative space evoke for me the breaking up of ice in spring, or the incompleteness of arctic sea ice. The tone of blue is almost tropical, yet I recall that very cold water, glaciers, and icebergs get a certain turquoise glow too. The vase contains several moments of intrigue, such as one (top left in the photo) where the lead appears to escape the role of holding glass panes together, instead emerging to live out a dashing little life of its own in a widening gap.
Category 5 - Wall mounted sculptures, Textile, Fibre, all Material arts, Mixed Media, etc.
First Place Jennifer Tsuchida Into The Deep No. 1 Felted Wool, Silk 30x9" http://jennifertsuchida.weebly.com/ Into the Deepis such a satisfying work. It appears impressively solid in its meticulous construction, especially considering it is composed of soft materials. Fun and attractive, yet almost alarmingly brightly coloured, it contrasts the comfort of a stuffed toy against an implication of myriad potential dangers, such as those signalled by the colours of a poison dart frog, the alien shape of a deep sea toxic lifeform, the utility of knobby appendages possessed by a microbial friend (or foe). As with Tricep Study, we get another taste here of delicate precision, where almost mathematical shapes yet possess a variability that feels highly biological. It is peculiar, and touchable, in a push-pull, ‘probably shouldn’t’, curiosity killed the cat (but satisfaction brought him back) kind of way.
Second Place Heather Nagel You Are What You Eat Felted Wool, Fibre 32x21" You Are What You Eat is undeniably creative and bold. At the risk of being too on the nose, I must say: it’s very Overzealous. The figure has no clothes besides shoes, yet is made of, and emerging from, textiles. No actual plant material appears present besides the chair. We are provided with a humorous, somewhat awkward viewing angle in the crop of these bare legs. That said, they seem to be in the process of being consumed by vines, so are they truly bare? And if you really are what you eat, as the idiomatic title proclaims, are the vines now human? Is everyone felt? As fun and funny as this piece is, there’s a little bit of the sinister at play - the roots peeping through the toes gives me a visceral physical feeling in my body, as if roots are growing out from between my own toes. The idea of consumption by a parasitic being is a horror I share with most of humanity. On the other hand, when I die I want to be eaten by plants and worms, and there’s something very lovely about giving yourself over to that. To relinquish your body and ego is, in some philosophies, entwined with ideas of transcendence. It can be easy to get too serious about these things though; the contentedly crossed legs and floral vibrance in this piece keep bringing me around to a place of brightness and joy.
Third Place Patrizia Brasch Frayed Nerves Tile, Glass, Fabric 24x12 http://www.patriziabrasch.com/ Frayed Nerves features a varied rainbow of florets cut from the artist’s own pandemic mask fabric scraps, as well as many donated by mask-makers across North America and Europe. Too close for comfort, they all face out, cramped and claustrophobic. Like windows in an overcrowded apartment building, they feel to me almost institutionalised. Colourwise, they are aesthetically balanced out, scattered in nearly even randomness, except for a vertical column in the centre. Here they are all red and black. By using intentionally blurred vision, relaxing the eye muscles, it’s possible for a viewer to reveal a symmetrical pair of dark hook shapes, placed roughly where two singular dots would be on a domino. There are many possible interpretations to this, but the idea of distancing, of tension between health and social order is certainly present.
People's Choice Gold Hill Congratulations to Eric David! Thank you to everyone who voted for their favourite piece.
2022 Overzealous Poster Contest Congratulations to Donnalee Stewart Thank you to everyone who submitted their posters.
2022, 2020, 2018 Selected Works, posters and Fine Art Books are all for sale.
2022 "Perception" Overzealous Fine Art Exhibition May 9 to 29 Art Space Connect Gallery 56 Neilson Dr, Toronto, ON Phone: (416) 622-5294