Inside, the Blackwood Gallery’s current exhibit curated by John Armstrong, asks viewers to reconsider painting’s engagement with the rooms we inhabit.

Armstrong says his inspiration for commissioning the artists to make wallworks was the fact that the mural in the North Building—made by UTM student Denyse Thomasos in 1986—was slated to be demolished (see “Campus construction jeopardizes Thomasos mural”, Oct. 28, 2013).

“The original plan for the exhibition was to include portions of the mural cut out of the walls during the North Building’s demolition,” Armstrong said. “But the demolition was delayed, and so that did not come to be [yet]. The mural is still intact; however, the North Building has been closed to public access as of December 20.”

The gallery painted its walls white for the exhibition. Mark Bell’s Reverse Obsolence (Deerfield Hall, 2014), chalk, and nail loom on the wall across the gallery’s doors. The straight black and gray lines envision what the newly constructed Deerfield Hall might look like in decay.

Sara Hartland-Rowe’s untitled piece spans the wall next to Bell’s piece. From the gallery entrance, you see large grey coins falling across the wall to the ground, ribbons of pastel rainbows shimmering on both sides of the coins, and squiggles on the rest of the wall. Up close, the squiggles transform into little figures. People kissing, fighting, pointing guns, and holding up enormous teddy bears populate the wall.

Hartland-Rowe says “the people pick her” and are part of a collection she’s gathered over time. “I live in Halifax, and I have a quiet, beautiful studio,” she says. “I’m in there on winter days—I’m warm, I’ve just had my breakfast, I don’t expect a bomb to drop. It’s so strange to me that I can be so comfortable, so safe while right now, somewhere in the world, there are a lot of people who aren’t sure at all.”

The words “Don’t be sad that it’s over; be happy that it ever began” lean against one of the walls in the e|gallery. Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky recreated a UTM student dorm wall covered in contemporary posters and knickknacks. Dark purple paint covers the mesh and plaster forms that make up the wall.

Also in the e|gallery is Denyse Thomasos’s Burial at Gorée (1993). Her paintings that preceded Burial at Gorée represented the 18th-century slave ships that transported and kidnapped Africans from the Guinea coast to landings along the Delaware River. Burial at Gorée depicts a holding area for slaves arriving in the Delaware Valley.

Armstrong moderated Inside Job Part I, a panel talk with artists Pierre Dorion, Sarah Hartland-Rowe, Maria Hupfield, and Rhonda Weppler on Wednesday, January 14 before the exhibition’s opening reception.

Armstrong will moderate Inside Job Part II with artists Mark Bell, Dorian Fitzgerald, and Trevor Mahovsky in the Annie Smith Mezzanine at Sheridan on Thursday, February 12 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Inside runs until March 2 in the Blackwood Gallery and the e|gallery.

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