Art and the City June 23, 2012
It was nearing eleven on on the morning after the spectacular and successful Brewery Awards at the Montreal Art Centre. Quite the event by the way, live music, multiple bars, fabulous beer, great art, lots of beautiful people. I was in my studio on the third floor, squeezing out my paints when a wonderful voice filtered up to me. Moved and intrigued by it, I ventured down to discover that it was Oswald practising his Hallelujahs. There he was on roller blades, sweeping up, getting ready for the next event and happy as a lark. As I found out soon enough, he’s auditioning for a gospel choir.
I must say, he’s very good. He was hitting all the right notes and giving me goosebumps. I caught his eye and he skated over to me trilling away – if a baritone can trill – he sounded very professional indeed. Inspiring. I told him so, and asked if he wanted a coffee which he did, and I went and got us a couple of cups. We sat down and started talking, of course. Someone once told me that coffee used to be banned in the sixteenth century because it caused subversive and excitable talk. Well, that isn’t exactly the case with us, but it turned out to be pretty interesting for me as we got onto the subject of music and art, which Oswald seems to know everything about. It would take an awful lot of space to transcribe our conversation but the general theme we stuck to was how music and art can package a confusing world for us.
Through the senses, human beings learn about life. And through perception, observation and experience, we develop our individual identities. That’s how it works and always has, according to Oswald, and I agree. Hearing and sight, unless these senses are impaired, are the main ways we humans perceive the surroundings we find ourselves in. They function differently from one another but through each we perceive the same world. We learn more through these senses than we do when we enjoy food or aromas or even touch. This is because (and this is open for discussion – remember, it’s just old Oswald and I holding forth over a couple of cups of coffee) of the very deep ideas and emotions they conjure up. Hearing and seeing, while giving us the most information about the world we live in, also give us an equally rich view of our inner and personal worlds through music and art. These senses have taught us to make music and art, and, in turn, also to enjoy and understand music and art made by others. Art and music became magical and mysterious forces which our ancestors used to try and connect what they saw and heard in the world around them with the emotions that were conjured up by their personal and collective experiences in that world. As our human race evolves, as we each individually evolve, new emotional experiences arise. Whether these are ghastly or sublime, exciting or commonplace, art and music can help us make sense of them. At their best, they bring us relief, beauty and hope. When we listen to music and look at art, or make music and art, there arises the possibility of experiencing a deeper sense of life so that we can relate what is going on in the world around us to what is going on within us.
Through music, we can actually hear sorrow, or cheerfulness, or any range of emotions through the organization of a highly developed blending of musical styles and genres, key changes, chords, metre, and melody. This same ephemeral way of experiencing life is available through art as well. The arrangement of tones and colours, composition and subject matter, ideas and events of the times and environment accords with something both external and internal. Especially now, as twentieth century abstract art has shown that the same abstraction of feeling one finds in music can also be produced through art.
Whether so called “hi-brow” or “lo-brow”, art and music can evoke an ephemeral quality to speak to us through our senses, conjure up feelings and ideas that are elegant and complex, earthy and playful but always deeply spiritual in the sense that our personal emotions are being tapped into and we are able to be moved by them to thought and/or action. Gospel then jazz, particularly have pointed this out. From suffering, courage, faith, hope and love, and because of the history of the last few hundred years and a rapidly changing American society, this music became accepted and loved for the universality and truth of the emotions and ideas it expressed, and the sensuous beauty of the music itself. However deep or shallow our feelings, it’s almost impossible for them not to be affected by it.
The woman next door says that when she is sad she always listens to the blues, and then feels much better. I turn on the sweet and lively enthusiasm of Aretha Franklin when I need to get into the housework, and cool fifties jazz to transform the kitchen into a fantastic bistro while preparing an evening meal. Oswald listens to all kinds of jazz, he says, for there is a different mood to each, and the list is now endless – ragtime, cool jazz, avant-garde jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, modal jazz, free jazz, Latin jazz in various forms, soul jazz, jazz fusion and jazz rock, smooth jazz, jazz-funk, punk jazz, acid jazz, ethno jazz, jazz rap, cyber jazz, Indo jazz, M-Base, nu jazz, urban jazz and on and on it would seem.
We all have personal preferences, but then there is music and art in the company of others. Choirs, artists communities, concerts, performances, group exhibitions: the present age offers a synthesis of art and music, abstract and concrete, traditional and experimental, personal and communal, religious and secular.
Speaking of which… next Saturday, during the Montreal Jazz Festival, the Montreal Art Centre is hosting a grand fundraiser for the Union United Church, called Art, Jazz and Gospel: Expressing our Soul. It is in aid of very necessary renovation and repair of their building. Oliver Jones is going to be there signing autographs. Skipper Dean, Claire Jean Charles, Julian Macintosh and Continental Rhythm will all be giving live performances, and maybe there will even be a jam session if we can get enough people to join in with their talents. Art Centre member artists have been very generous donating pieces for a Silent Auction in aid of a wonderful landmark and resource in our local community.
You may have noticed this historic church, located at the junction of St. Henri and Little Burgundy on Delisle and Atwater. They have a long and impressive history, particularly of community involvement. In 1907, a small faction of Black men and women hailing from parts of Canada, the United States and the Caribbean, established a new church with a treasury of $1.83. These days, it not only meets the needs of its own congregation but provides psychological, social and economic assistance for all and any in the larger community, regardless of colour, creed or religious affiliation. It is a key part of the fabric of Montreal society, and members of local communities have come to depend on it for help and advocacy in terms of housing and social justice as well as support services to alleviate poverty and hunger, to improve the quality of life for seniors, and to educate and equip young people for the future.
The Union United Church has produced and nurtured the likes of Reverend Dr. Charles H. Este, Oscar Peterson, Dr. Oliver Jones, Dr. Juanita Westmoreland Traoré, and Joel Anthony of the NBA Miami Heat Basketball team. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu left their footprints within its hallowed walls. This iconic institution is a beacon in the community and, although not officially designated a heritage site, it remains a “Building of Interest” to the City of Montreal which is actively involved in the rebuilding process. Whether you are out enjoying the Jazz Fest or looking for a wonderful evening away from the massive crowds, please come by and help raise the roof of the Montreal Art Centre (and eventually the Union United Church – but in a more literal way!) with song, refreshments and good cheer!!
As Oswald and I drained our last drops of coffee talking about the Art, Jazz and Gospel event, he told me he is planning to come and wants to get Oliver Jone’s autograph. I told him he could have mine too – on a piece of art – for a price! “Halleluiah!”, he said, and skated off, humming.
Go to my blog to see check out the Montreal Art Centre’s artists’ artwork on the website to get an idea of what will be up for auction. The festivities start at 6pm: The concert is from 7 – 9, refreshments 6- 8, silent art auction 6-9. $10 at the door or $8 in advance (website). See you there!
The Union United Church is also holding their 105th anniversary celebration, at 4 pm, July 8th at Oscar Peterson Concert Hall. 7141 Sherbrooke W. Dr. Oliver Jones will be playing the opening music, and Dr. Cindy Trimm is keynote speaker. $50 admission. All welcome. 514-932-8731. www.unionunitedchurchmtl.ca
Georges Laoun Opticien Exhibition on two themes by artist Barbara Tolloczko. Inner Landscapes – abstract drawings, reminiscent of landscapes and containing elements of intracellular structures, serve as a metaphor for our inner selves. Fleeting Moments – miniature abstract drawings inspired by moments that unexpectedly enchant only to disappear almost immediately are mounted in a way reminiscent of a butterfly collection. Opening: July 18, 5 – 6:30 Exhibition: July 4 – 30. 1396 Sherbrooke W.
McCord Museum Living Landscapes by photographer Alexander Henderson. June October 14. 7th annual outdoor exhibition on McGill College Avenue – 25 large-format 19th century photographs of some of Canada’s most stunning landscapes.
Canadian Guild of CraftsMoving From Centre The latest work of renowned Montreal ceramist Audrey Killoran. Catch the last week – till June 30. 1460 Sherbrooke West Suite B. 514 849-6091. http://www.canadianguildofcrafts.com
Festival International Montréal en Arts A major exhibition and live art presentations taking place during 5 days. Outdoor Art Exhibition, performances, installations, video projections, live painting and multimedia show. Close to 140 artists in visual arts, multimedia arts, cinema, performance art and installation from here and from abroad. June 27 – July 1. St Catherine E between St Hubert and Papineau.
Montreal Art Centre
Art, Jazz and Gospel June 30, 6 – 10pm – Fundraising Silent Auction of our artists work will be held, with live musical entertainment and refreshments. Performing that night will be Continental Rhythm, Skipper Dean, Claire Jean Charles and Julian Macintosh. Oliver Jones will be making a guest appearance, available to sign autographs. $8 pre-booking/$10 at the door.
Chronologies. Thursday June 5th 2012 from 6pm to 10pm A visual art presentation featuring the works of two artists with diverse subject matter and styles. A feast for the eyes. 1844 William. 514-667-2270. http://www.chronologics.ca/the-artists.php
In the Heat of Summer – Call for submissions. This show is open to artists working in all media; two- and three-dimensional works are accepted. The exhibition will be displayed at the Centre’s galleries from August 11 – 25. Deadline for submission of your artwork, July 10.
A Head’s up – Labour Day Weekend Open Art Festival to be held Sept 1 – 2.
Seeing Through Clothes – Open Studio with live model in costume. Every Monday – 6 – 9. $10. Coffee, tea and cookies.
If you are an artist, or an aspiring one, looking for a home then the Montreal Art Centre is for you! Visit the Centre’s website at www.montrealartcenter.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information on becoming a member artist with your own studio space, and about classes and events. Or visit the Centre at 1844 William Street, Montreal, Qc H3J 1R5. (514) 667-2270. Catherine Wells is an artist, art teacher and art therapist working at the Montreal Art Centre. Her website is artandmind.ca. She can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog Art and the City at www.montrealartcentre.com/blog
If anyone wishes to announce a Montreal art event in this column, please contact me at the email address above.