Runs until August 26
"We dont really expect many of these pieces to sell," says Jim Jewitt, manager of Quab Gallery, describing this months exhibition WAR. "Many of these paintings are meant to be seen. The artists are not too worried about the money. It is part of the duality of trying to survive as a commercial gallery we want to sell the art of course, but we also want to present art with an edge."
Quabs WAR exhibit, which runs until August 26, is an exhibition of pieces that reveal and investigate the consequences and issues of human conflict, war, death and power. It is just a matter of coincidence that this show has opened during the very divisive conflict in Lebanon between Israeli forces and the Hezbollah.
"This is not a political show," says Jewitt, "We have planned this show for months and our show has nothing to do or say about the current conflict. It is about the realities of war. We were a bit nervous at first and considered having the show placed away from the front of the gallery, but decided to stick to our original plans."
People who have seen the works have appreciated the more disturbing elements of the pieces within the show. Those who have experienced conflict and the many horrors of war have been finding the artists works engaging and have said so to Jewitt.
The strongest pieces, and the ones that haunt the audience long after leaving, are the paintings of Toronto artist Maya Kulenovic. Born in Sarajevo, Kulenovics paintings in WAR reflect an intimate appraisal of the visceral, grotesque nature of the body and the mind caught in the violence.
Two of her pieces, Still Life with Napalm, and Still Life with Shrapnel, examine the human body in war. An unblemished childs body, scarred on one side by napalm burns and the vulnerable reclined pose of a womans torso with shrapnel scars are disturbing not for the wounds, but for the intimacy and loving attention to the physical presences. Lethargy does not look at the victim, but the murderer. It is the body in a defeat of exhaustion from killing endlessly, "a devil, sick of sin." Kulenovics The Great War, is a painting that recalls the new ways of maiming made possible with 20th century weapons it is of a man without a face, shown in profile. Kulenovics works are honest approaches to violation and injury, without wallowing in brutality.
Posed against the dark meditations of Maya Kulenovic, are the soldier paintings of Scott Waters. His subject matter is military society and the hyper-masculinity of soldier culture. His works are almost comic depictions of the soldiers life, a closed society both ordinary and surreal. His Enemy for the State is a simple oil portrait of a man who will fight and maybe die for the country that trained him, in the most banal of poses holding a bottle of pop. Waters pieces peel the lid off the public perception of myth to reveal boys who are not quite men, trained to kill, in a world of casual violence, guns and awkward vulnerability.
War and all its attendant horrors of pain, destruction and atrocity cannot be captured on a canvas. It is the details, the minutiae of conflict, of life and death that Quabs WAR brings into focus in this exhibition. It makes for powerful art, disturbing, haunting, and difficult to ignore. WAR reminds the viewer of just how far removed we are from the reality, and we are implicated by that distance. Maybe thats why the paintings arent expected to sell.