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Bazaar Magazine Kuwait March 25, 2008

A concoction of Canadian art

When seven award-winning artists come under one roof, the exhibition of their works becomes more of a celebration. By Deepa Pant


It was the coming together of Kuwait and Canada in the cultural field, thanks to the initiative of Reza Doust and Al Fanar Art Gallery. The art exhibition entitled “Canadian Art Exhibition” explored the vision and aesthetic of seven artists: Reza Doust, Debi Grupe, Mohsen Khalili, Maurice Spira, Richard Tetrault, David Walker, and Joyce Woods. These top representatives of Canadian abstract and figurative painting exhibited over fifty large canvases that render nature, tranquil, seascapes, landscapes and still life in heart-warming colors and stylistic diversity. The exhibition ran from March 16 to March 24. The artworks were neither mundane nor conventional, and the exhibition was a real treat for those who appreciate and make art a part of their life. Each painting endeavored to open a window on the countless interpretations to the eager viewers. His Excellency, Mr. Denis Thibault, Canadian Ambassador to Kuwait and Mrs. Isabel Rodriguez Alonso opened the exhibition. Ambassador Thibault spoke with passion about the importance both of Canada- Kuwait cooperation in the cultural field as exemplified by the eclectic exhibition. The exhibition opened to a full house, with dignitaries, art aficionados and enthusiasts in attendance. Artists Reza Doust, Joyce Woods and Richard Tetrault along with the curator Patrick Montgomery were also present at the occasion. An artist of diverse talents, the spectrum of Reza’s creative genius encompasses many hues and dimensions. One may call it a nostalgic journey into the past since most of Reza’s paintings are based on his childhood memories. Doust displays spontaneity and freedom of brushwork. He employs a limited range of hues but the result is engaging. His paintings border on abstraction and impressionism and his artworks on display indicate a leap forward in his evolution as an artist. "Most certainly, my present styles of image- making are in complete contrast to the strict discipline of traditional Persian miniature art and calligraphy that I learned as a youth." Debi Grupe’s unique work in monotype prints and her mixed medium works have been used on movie sets. Vancouver based abstract artist Grupe’s imoods are aptly reflected in her byte sized paintings that she creates with the intermingling of various colors in a free play. Her style speaks of absolute freedom. There is a candid sparkle in her work and as you examine Grupe’s work carefully, layers of meanings begin to unfold. A muralist, a decorativee artist as well as a scenic artist doing private commissions and working in the film industry, Joyce Woods’ art is her way of attempting to find a balance in her life. She likes to paint portraits, gardens, fields, forests, and beaches and island scenes. Says Woods, “the light, stillness or activity and mood with paint language, remains my constant endeavor.” She manages to capture the essence of calm and serenity in her works. Woods' graceful compositions provide insight into the exuberant spirit of this nature lover. Her artwork has been widely exhibited for over 20 years throughout Canada, the USA and Europe. An avid traveler, Woods is quite a linguist too. With her knowledge of Urdu and Arabic, Woods likes to incorporate Arabic letters in her work. Recently Woods has embarked on creating her Clothing Series of monoprints, etchings and oil paintings. For Richard Tetrault it is about art that mirrors life. His paintings, prints and murals offer a glimpse of the contemporary urban landscape through an open window. His City-Feather - 2001 - acrylic/canvas/wood - (184 X 178 cm) on display was an apt example of his belief. There is a sense of struggle and overcoming difficulties in his work. In his artist statement Tetrault says, “Living in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver has shaped both my choice of materials and the focus for my work. The immediate urban environment and its shifting terrain is a collage of images and encounters that are both edgy and full of a primal vitality. This provides me with the starting point for most of my paintings and prints. I find visual narratives within this landscape, and at the same time improvise on observed reality, exposing the layers that can be found within the seemingly commonplace.” “I often work directly on location, improvising on observed reality using a range of mediums, including acrylics, ink, collage and pastel. Larger works developed in the studio are acrylics on canvas, wood panel or paper.” Based in Vancouver, he has exhibited extensively both locally and internationally. Maurice Spira’s works have a sensibility, surrealistic touch and great style. This grand old artist succeeds splendidly in connecting with the viewers through his beautiful still life and landscapes. “Though I continue to experience a deep ambivalence over the very concept of “civilization” while at the same time noting a certain macabre and comic quality to our lives, paradoxically, I still strive for “order” in my own works. This artist doesn’t own a car, computer or a television…just an answering machine, discloses the curator. Spira likes to work outdoors and paints directly. An avid gardener, he grows his own vegetables. David Walker was painting and drawing as soon as he could hold a brush “Nature and the wonder of life has always been a source of inspiration and joy to me.” In his art, his primary inspiration is to capture the beauty and sense of wonder that life and nature can inspire. "Even everyday events and sights can be deeply evocative and moving. The images allude in a non-literal way to the biological processes of symbiosis and adaptation in which simple life forms influence one another and sometimes combine in unexpected ways to create new forms," says David in his art statement. Mohsen Khalili’s work offers a refreshing departure. His refined geometric abstractions and visual textures are highly meditative. The images are spartan, rhythmic and almost throbbing across the board. He fuses the everyday with illusion and the result is soft and tranquil. “Sometimes from here and there, from within the everyday humiliations, from within the buried memories, certain images appear," he explains. An art gallery amidst high-end shops may come as a surprise to most, but Reza Doust promptly asks, “Why not shop for some art too?” with a smile. “As a private, nonprofit organization, the Doust Little Gallery was created to integrate art into the everyday lives of the community. Most of the visitors were not art patrons, but are at the Fanar mall to shop and enter the gallery out of curiosity” The exhibition was certainly one of the best art shows in years in terms of diversity and styles. Curator Patrick Montgomery said it was “a wonderful opportunity to showcase a glimpse of the changing face of contemporary Canadian art." “This small group of seven painters and the assembled work offers up a rich and meaningful collection of what the creative process renders as artists continue to use paint medium to interpret the world around them."