White oil paint sculpted into cloudlike masses, a hidden-away gallery, eclectic blend of paintings, drawings, and sculptures, and a fusion of Aboriginal and Western cultures are among the forms of art you’ll encounter if you venture into the Art Gallery of Mississauga’s current exhibits.

The AGM is currently holding three exhibitions, each unique unto itself and completely different from any art I’ve seen before. The first exhibition on display is Fiona Kinsella’s oil paint exhibit, entitled Pushing Paint.

Have you ever slathered icing onto a cupcake to the point where there’s more icing than cupcake? Kinsella’s sculptures, crafted entirely from white oil paint, resemble that exact image. However, Kinsella’s sculptures are far more artistic than your average cupcake topping.

Considering herself a mixed-media artist, Kinsella blends painting, sculpting, and performance into her work. From Kinsella’s perspective, oil paint has artistic potential beyond the flatness of a canvas. Equipped with nothing more than a palette knife, she manipulates large masses of oil paint in a performative manner to craft her sculptures.

The process of creating these sculptures is a physical one. Kinsella must work both with and against the paint, particularly its weight and viscosity, to craft her work. After morphing her sculptures, Kinsella often returns to finished products months later to reinvent their compositions.

When applied thinly to a canvas, oil paint can take weeks to dry. When used in the vast quantities that Kinsella requires for her sculptures, the paint can take years to completely harden. Keeping that in mind while walking through the dozens of pieces in the gallery, I was amazed by the amount of time invested in the series.

When I first entered Kinsella’s exhibition, my immediate response was to touch the sculptures. But considering there was a class of children also touring the gallery, I kept my hands in my pockets. The dried paint appears slick on the surface, yet it also gives the appearance of having a spongy texture. The display includes some sculptures that are morphed into smooth, tidy shapes, and others that are also erupting with texture.

The pieces rest on small podiums or hang in frames on the walls. The white frames are a creative touch, as they give the sculptures an appearance of popping from the walls in an uncontrolled, foamy rage. Some of the sculptures are nearly indistinguishable from icing on a cupcake, whipped cream, or the foam on a fresh latte.

Stepping further into the gallery, you’ll find Claire Scherzinger’s cross-disciplinary compilation of paintings, drawings, and sculptures entitled The Zenith of My Understanding is Like Water in a Thimble. This exhibition is tucked away in the gallery’s XIT-RM Project Space—a small room off the main gallery—so it’s easy to miss if you’re just passing through.

The title plays on Scherzinger’s quest to “know everything about everything” in the realm of painting and drawing. Yet as the title suggests, this quest is futile. Nonetheless, with this exhibition Scherzinger explores the relevance of painting, drawing, and sculpting and how these three artistic mediums exchange information when in the presence of the other.

I’ll be honest: this is one of those exhibitions that require a deep appreciation and understanding of visual art in order to fully grasp its significance.

The walls of the small room are speckled with several paintings and drawings. In the centre of the room is a collection of sculptures—some painted silver, others smeared with Pleistocene, and one dusted with a black powdery substance—displayed on a multilevel beam structure. At a glance, the room appears sparse with artifacts. Yet when you examine the sculptures and canvases up close, you can view their intricacy on a deeper level.

Scherzinger’s idea of melding artistic mediums into a single display creates a dialogue with Kinsella’s multidisciplinary sculpture-painting exhibition in the adjacent room. Conceptually, the two displays complement each other.

The final exhibition, Change Makers, interestingly combines elements of Western and Aboriginal cultures in an attempt to re-evaluate the relationship between the two groups. The display includes work by Shuvinai Ashoona, Wally Dion, Melissa General, Amy Malbeuf, Outi Pieski, Wendy Red Star, and Nicotye Samayualie.

The first piece you’ll encounter in this exhibition is Dion’s large, motherboard-looking sculpture hanging against the wall. Dion crafted this piece, “Icosahedron”, from recycled circuit boards, enamel paint, and wire. Although “Icosahedron” resembles a large circuit board from afar, the surface betrays an elaborate pattern when examined closely.

Dion’s modern sculpture faces the exhibition’s next piece: a life-sized Aboriginal tent titled “Hideaway”. Crafted by Pieski, this rectangular tent hangs in the centre of the room. Pieski composed this design with colourful materials such as quilts, yarn, wool, and more. If you move close, you’ll notice detailed patterning on the outer walls of the tent. One side has two holes cut from the quilt, the edges stitched and the holes filled with cotton and other material. From the mouths of each hole, tassels of thread hang against the quilted wall and extend to the floor.

Along with many other well crafted art forms in the exhibition, Change Makers nicely harmonizes the values of a modern Western culture with the natural and traditional aspects of Indigenous lifestyle.

Pushing Paint, The Zenith of My Understanding is Like Water in a Thimble, and Change Makers are all on display at the AGM until April 10.

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