The University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Art Gallery have a close physical relationship as Sandy Hill neighbours, and they are also intimately related programmatically, as we see in Le rendu, a new exhibition on the fourth floor of the gallery. Le rendu presents the work of five recent graduates of the Master of Fine Arts program at the university.
Ongoing faculty review and intense peer pressure are integral to any MFA program. It is thus virtually guaranteed that for more than two years these five artists have been asked and were asking themselves questions like: “Where is this going?” “What motivates this choice?” “What is art?”
In Le rendu, we see answers. Maxime Boisvert-Huneault’s installation makes an old truth visible: we are of the earth, and return to the earth; we flower. Joel Secter’s composition displays the importance of order and tabulation. Neeko Paluzzi’s exhibit is drawn from his study of another’s unfinished work. Madeline Richards’ paintings float us into a vivid world of summertime swims. And Antoine O’Donoughue’s triptych asks darker questions of nightfall.
Maxime Boisvert-Huneault’s installation has its own softly shadowed alcove. Entitled La perle et la peau (the pearl and the skin), 2022, the work is a stylized sculpture garden. Walk inside. Here are two life-size male figures. One kneels at the feet of the other who lies on its back, high upon a dais, legs opened in a wondrous urological display of . . .
The bodies are terrains of soft pastel; their surfaces display aerial views of veins within and without—fields and rivulets drawn as finely as any MRI image. Both figures display mustachioed faces and life-size male genitalia. Both are bedecked in sparkles, as is the surrounding vegetation. Yes, the story of Lilith, Eve, Adam, and a missing rib or two might come to mind.
In a separate room of the gallery, Madeline Richards hung five large oil paintings on three walls. The fourth wall is windowed and looks out onto the Ottawa cityscape. The installation is entitled The World Made Strange, 2022. Sit for a moment. In this setting, we see Richards’ paintings as non-specific memories adrift in pretty summer waters. In Untitled (pool), 2022, for example, a thin blue arm is bent in backstroke. So, too, is the figure afloat in UntitledÊ2 (on grief), 2022. Here, no one demands that anything more be done today or tomorrow; let us just float.
In another room of the gallery, we find Neeko Paluzzi’s multi-media installation, Tales of Hoffmann, 2021-2022. The work is an homage to composer Jacques Offenbach’s operetta of the same title, premiered as an unfinished work in 1881: the composer had died a few months earlier. Alone on a small shelf is a white porcelain doll’s head: a found object. On the wall opposite is an ink drawing entitled Olympia, 2022. It might well be a veiled shrine to the maidenhead. The melody we are hearing in this room is Offenbach’s Birds in the Arbour, also known as The Doll Song.
Joel Secter has two sculptures on view: Stock Cart, 2021, and Polish, 2022. In both, we see materials of work yet-to-be. Stock Cart is an old, well-used pushcart. Its 24 compartments display bits that may become something — e.g., red thread, white paper, exposed film, and blue letters. A Bates Royal Automatic Numbering Machine sits atop the cart. Nearby, the artist’s ironic arrangement of three floor sculptures is entitled Polish. The artist notes that the piece arises from his study of vintage hockey lapel pins and masculinity.
Antoine O’Donoughue’s large oil and acrylic paintings on wood form an awkward nighttime triptych. Remember the long nights of lockdown? The Molson, 2021, was ever out of reach. Is that Humphrey Bogart over there on the left assuring Ingrid Bergman, “We’ll always have Paris” Casablanca, 1942? No, it is Grimes and Elon Musk, 2022. Hard to avoid bizarre thoughts walking alone in the dark. Witness Frankentoine, 2022.
More might be said about the work of all. See for yourself. The Ottawa Art Gallery is right in the neighbourhood, at 10 Daly Ave.
Le rendu / The rendering
Curated by Stephanie Corbo, University of Ottawa, and Rachelle Dickenson, PhD.
Ottawa Art Gallery
10 Daly Ave.
Free. Wheelchair accessible.
Open Tuesday, Wednesday,
Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.