Young artists go outside in | The Coast Halifax

Young artists go outside in

For the young artists in SMU Art Gallery’s Pulp Fiction, institutional approval has never meant as much as their DIY communal spirit.

If you threw together a stack of comics, zines and scrappy drawings from across the country, you'd find a complex web of friendships, school ties and social networks underlying it. That's what curator Corinna Ghaznavi found when putting together the show Pulp Fiction, opening at Saint Mary's University Art Gallery---uncovering an interconnected community of artists "working in their living rooms with their friends, drinkin' beers and making art."

Featuring Marc Bell, Peter Thompson, James Kirkpatrick, The Lions, Amy Lockhart, Barry Doupe, Liz Garlicki, Jason McLean, Seth Scriver, Shayne Ehman and Jennie O'Keeffe, the artists in the exhibition make work that stems from drawing and graphic art, but the contents of the show take the form of drawings to installation to sculpture to animation. All strongly influenced by a DIY ethos, the artists' other influences include comic books, science fiction, graffiti, found objects and more traditional art.

Originally curated for Museum London in Ontario, Halifax is the third stop for the exhibition. Ghaznavi summarizes it as focusing on a community of Canadian artists working since the 1990s, "working outside the structure of art institutions...artists who sidestepped the whole usual way of doing things." She cites the success of Marcel Dzama and the Royal Art Lodge, and the influence of Winnipeg artist Paul Butler's "collage parties" as examples of artists both working outside gallery structures and in a communal manner.

The tightly knit communities behind the work are evident---when James Kirkpatrick is contacted for an interview, he tries to coordinate a time when fellow exhibitors Jason McLean and Peter Thompson will be hanging out at his London, ON house. The exhibition initially aimed to look at young London artists, and grew from there. Along with exhibitors Bell, Lockhart, Scriver and Ehman, Kirkpatrick studied at NSCAD, which has strong ties to the London art scene due to students who also studied at London's Bealarts. Many of the artists have lived or live in Vancouver as well, taking the networking from one coast to the other.

Kirkpatrick is installing his installation, "lots of people saying hello," when we meet at the gallery. His art is as much of a collage as his life: the work covers almost every medium, creating 3D works, paintings, zines, illustrations, performances and rapping as Thesis Sahib. He runs through every bit of his piece in the show, where he found certain pieces of wood, how he came by a well-worn love letter from Brazil, what experiences travelling in South America inspired a set of maracas. The overall effect is ceremonial, almost mythological: a humanoid figure holds skull maracas, an animal-size mummy case reposes in a vitrine-like cupboard, and a shadowy figure starts to take shape on a wall.

Though he's kept his home base in London since graduating from NSCAD, Kirkpatrick has had music and art shows in the Maritimes in the past few years, and will return next month to do a residency at Sackville's Struts Gallery and a performance at SMU with Peter Thompson on February 18. They perform as Brain Trust, an electronic dance/noise two-piece music act---also the name of a book they published recently. "It's basically a musical version of the collaborative drawings we do," Kirkpatrick says. "Sometimes it's fast, sometimes it's quiet, sometimes it's got little scratchy bits."

The little scratchy bits that make up Pulp Fiction come together gradually. "When you see one drawing, it maybe doesn't hold up on its own," says Ghaznavi, "but when you see 14 artists working in the same start to piece together the story."