It was difficult to get past the intimacy and into the art in this group show, where every artist was unique and known in their own right. From the patriarch, Gabor Szilasi, and his seminal, black-and-white photographs, to Michael Merrill’s fish-eye paintings on sculpted heads… through Doreen Lindsay’s prints and photos, to Andrea Szilasi’s powerful, manipulated photographs… Amongst them a series of small photograms, Andrea’s small format works combining contact prints, collages and photograms. These were different from her larger images, and seduced the viewer with their miniaturized, magical world.
Just as endearing, and rarely seen, were Merrill’s gouache on paper sketches of Andrea, glimpses caught unbeknownst to the model, loosely painted bijoux.
But what was most surprising was the ease with which these diverse works of art communicated. It would be facile to lay it down to family ties (to use the title of the exhibition), but in reality it was the curatorial talent of the gallery’s director, Joyce Millar, who organized and hung this unusual exhibition.
While including some of the better know pieces, like Andrea’s large-format woven photographs (Figure in Lake), and large colour nudes of her partner, Michael; powerful, black-and-white portraits by Gabor Szilasi; she also presented Doreen Lindsay’s touching selection of sepia-toned pictures from her 1977 J’existe series (Mother and Child, Sleeping Beauty, Self-portrait, Hands).
These emotionally charged images reflected to a large degree the underlying theme of this exhibition, hidden in the title, the intimate family ties that bind this talented group together.
Echoes could be found in such fragile works as a small portrait of Andrea by Doreen, more of an ink blot made of Liquid Light on glass, a mere 23 x 18 cm in size. Or in Merrill’s gouache of Andrea (Shower), also but 14 x 18.5 cm.
Intimacy eroticizes could be found in Andrea’s photograph of her and Michael’s studio, with the young couple making love on a couch. It is the nature of the artist, to stand in as model, and both Andrea and Michael have done their share of posing for each other. Here, with the camera set on timer, they are captured together in a black-and-white interior shot.
The image that seemed to unite the family was a 1986 photograph of Gabor taking a picture of Doreen taking a photograph of Andrea in the garden of their house. The result is hanging beside it, titled aptly Andrea in Garden. It’s a blue-toned cyanotype, a ghostly, shadowy image of the lying girl. Ethereal, otherworldly, it resembles a page from a fairytale book.
Deceptively accessible, Family Ties is in fact a rare opportunity to see how works of art can draw from each other, how diverse styles can still communicate, and how quality will trump quantity every time.
The task of selecting works for this complex exhibition must have been daunting, but Ms Millar, who has been planning it for a long time, accomplished it with flying colours.
In the closing of her catalogue introduction, she writes: “Defined by chance, place, and time, all our lives are shaped by an indissoluble bond – our family ties.”
May 7 to June 19, 2011
Stewart Hall Art Gallery Centre culturel de Pointe-Claire
176, chemin du Bord-du-Lac / Lakeshore Pointe-Claire, QC
Tel.: 514 630-1254