Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery | The Coast Halifax

Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery

‘Third Elbow’ bends painting, portals, planes of perception and disappears July 14

Mitchell Wiebe's exhibition Third Elbow is in its final stretch at the Saint Mary's University Art Gallery. See it before it disappears on July 14.

If you plan it right, you’ll be able to catch Mitchell Wiebe gallery-sitting his own show at the Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery in Halifax’s south end during its final week. His exhibition, Third Elbow, has been up since April 23, has been extended twice and will finally disappear next Sunday, July 14. Wiebe, the artist, is also a part-time gallery attendant at SMU. If you have a chance to visit Third Elbow Tuesday July 9 or Friday July 12—you’ll have a chance to meet the artist himself. Don’t miss out.

Wiebe fills the gallery space with his playfully vivid, mischievous and phantasmic paintings and structural space making, collaborating with artists Kayza DeGraff-Ford, Craig Stuart Love, and more to achieve the exhibition’s overarching theme of reframing painting. “That was the loose idea I had about including these artists because I wasn't sure what they would bring, but I knew that it would be cool and work somehow–and it does, it chimes with it.”

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (14)
Facebook / Saint Mary's University Art Gallery
Collaborative piece between Mitchell Wiebe and Kayza DeGraff-Ford, who both like to riff on the idea of portals.

Born in Calgary, Wiebe works in painting, music, performance and installation. He describes himself as bouncing around, but always having multiple series on the go. For example, pointing to work in the SMU gallery, Wiebe says “these are portal shifters, which are a different series, that morphs various things,

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (10)
Lauren Phillips / The Coast
Find the quotation mark portals within the painting.
but then some works are allegorical, like this Neil Young type of feathery-cape character."

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (4)
Lauren Phillips / The Coast

Over at the opposite end of the main gallery room are parts of another “patchwork painting” series

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (11)
Lauren Phillips / The Coast
that relates to a similar series which explodes from the painting’s surface into floating painted blocks that wrap colour around six sides which then are flattened back into flat paintings in the smaller side gallery, which Wiebe has labelled “Angel’s Pit” or  “Angel Spit,” depending.

Wiebe is an MFA graduate from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD). He has lived in and made work in the cold-war era bomb shelter, the “Diefenbunker,” outside of Debert, Nova Scotia and has shown in both group and solo exhibitions across North America, including the group show Oh, Canada at MASS MoCA in 2012-2013. His paintings are found in collections across Canada, the United States, Germany and Italy. Wiebe’s paintings hang in the office at SMU Art Gallery where Wiebe sits as gallery attendant. They were collected by the gallery before he started working there, from his first exhibition out of grad school that just so happened to be at SMU.

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (3)
Lauren Phillips / The Coast
Armpit slit passage into Angels Pit side gallery.

Today, Wiebe is showing at two galleries in Halifax simultaneously. His Third Elbow show at SMU and his “exhibition-as-occupation” show, VampSites, which opened June 8 at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS). When Wiebe isn’t gallery-sitting his show at SMU, he’s at his studio within his show at the AGNS making work live and exploding the concept of a “finished” exhibition.

The show at the AGNS has been travelling for four years and the curator there, Pan Wendt, had suggested, “Why don’t we have simultaneous venues when this show opens?” Despite the AGNS show being in the works for longer, the SMU show opened up first because the larger gallery had been closed for renovations over the spring. Since it reopened with Wiebe’s exhibition, though, the two shows have been able to run alongside each other for nearly a month, as if in call and response.

“I’m so happy with the way it worked out,” says Wiebe. “You’ll see the first iteration of things, like there's a structure in the [AGNS] show that I was thinking about, and then there’s another kind of structure within the space [at SMU] where I felt that this membrane could become its own autonomous thing in space.”

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (9)
Lauren Phillips / The Coast

It’s a ribbed, transparent structure that flows through one third of the largest gallery room with cut-outs for looking at specific paintings through which, by doing so, offers optical illusory effects like flattening 3D objects into nonexistence on top of slicing lines into work displayed on opposite walls.

“Riffing on what's happening in these paintings with the blurry stripes, I was thinking about this painting particularly being seen through this cut-out in the membrane,” says Mitchell pointing at one of the largest of his paintings seen through an oval cutout in the hanging transparent structure.

“There's something really bizarro that goes on when you look through the other side.”
click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery
Lauren Phillips / The Coast
Artist Mitchell Wiebe through a hole in the membrane.

Wiebe was asked to run a show at SMU alongside this long-planned opening at the AGNS. Director of the AGNS Sarah Moore Fillmore suggested to Wiebe, "You always work with other artists–why don't you curate a show within your own show?"

“I said, ‘That's a great idea’," says Wiebe. “So, that's what got those wheels going.”

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (6)
Lauren Phillips / The Coast

Late artist Cliff Eyland is in the show as well, with an assortment of his three-by-five paintings on display from Wiebe’s personal collection, SMU Art Gallery’s collection and fellow show artist, Stuart Love’s personal collection. Wiebe is pointing to his own two Eyland three-by-five paintings.

Wiebe says the SMU Art Gallery’s interim director Pam Correll was instrumental in pulling this show together, but that he chose the other artists to include and the “general format of the elbows.”

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery
Facebook / Saint Mary's University Art Gallery

As for the name Third Elbow, Wiebe says it’s like a conversation between three people that are suggesting different things to one another. “It gets away from the binary,” he says, “and it’s also like third-hand news.”

Describing how he conceptualizes his show, Wiebe says “creating the work is not creating a context but creating the environment—that becomes the show—but each painting also has its own autonomy.

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (12)
Lauren Phillips / The Coast

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (8)
Lauren Phillips / The Coast
Corner detail in Angels Pit side gallery.

“I'm just letting them take on their own inspiration—sometimes it's about trying to figure out how to make this painting work—but mostly I just wait for the paint to tell me what to do.”

People in Halifax have just one week left for the rare opportunity to visit Wiebe—as gallery attendant of his show at SMU and as artist-at-work at the AGNS—at simultaneous shows before Third Elbow closes. The gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 12pm to 5pm. Be sure to plan your visit.

click to enlarge Last chance to see artist Mitchell Wiebe’s show at SMU gallery (5)
Lauren Phillips / The Coast
Detail from one of Wiebe's paintings.