DeWinton artist doesn’t aim to please
Wednesday, Jan 10, 2018 06:00 am
A DeWinton artist doesn’t care who he pleases with his exhibition at the Okotoks Art Gallery.
Manny Blair’s exhibit Pleasing Everybody All the Time, a series of brutalist architecture (characterized by massive and fortress-like structures) atop garish fabric is less about being aesthetically pleasing and more about making a statement.
An artist’s reception will be held at the gallery Jan. 13 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and the work will be displayed in the large gallery until Feb. 24.
“I fully expect some people to go, ‘Christ, that’s awful,’ which I’m absolutely fine about,” Blair said. “Part of the notion of pleasing everybody is that I can’t fail because if people hate it I’ve achieved my objective. If people love it I’ve achieved my objective.”
Politicians seek to please everyone all the time, which is futile, Blair said. That notion inspired the exhibition.
Blair spent the past two years working on it and will hang about a dozen of the pieces, some as large as four-by-eight feet, in Okotoks’ public gallery.
He paints layers of colours and shapes that represent architecture on fabric and reworks the images using power tools to sand, scrape and burnish areas of the painting.
“I get some really chintzy, quite horrible fabric that you would stereotypically see in your grandma’s living room curtains or bed spread and paint on modern structures,” he said. “It’s the contrast between the chintzy fabric and brutalism structures – that polarity between the two motifs I think is quite obvious.”
Blair has a background in landscape architecture and a fascination with structures and built environments.
“As a landscape architect I like the big, bold structures,” he said. “I’m a fan of brutalism as an architectural style. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea.”
Blair said there is often a preconceived notion that architecture and art should be pretty, but he disagrees.
“The old CBE building in downtown Calgary is always on the chopping block to get demolished because people think it’s ugly,” he said. “It’s a fantastic example of brutalism architecture, which is important to Calgary as a vernacular of the 1960s and ’70s. There is no rule to say it has to be pretty.”
As he worked to create the pieces in the exhibit, Blair said when he felt about 90 per cent satisfied with what he created he saw that remaining 10 per cent as an opportunity to alter it.
“If you do any more you might ruin it, but if you don’t do any more you know it’s not finished,” he said. “I will put artwork away for a week or a month and forget about it. Because I’ve forgotten how much work I put into it, I don’t care about the outcome and I’m more likely to take a risk. I lost track of how many hours I put into it.”
Blair said he is more willing to take risks than he was in the past to make a bigger impression with his art.
“It was a difficult transition for it to be very controlled and precious about the work to taking more chances,” he said. “You train your brain to go, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ Often, it’s not as bad as you can imagine.”
While Blair is more prone to take risks than in the past, he isn’t careless.
“There is still an aesthetic quality that you want to preserve,” he said. “There is a threshold or a standard that you apply because you’re a manufacturer.”
Blair has discarded about half of his pieces because he wasn’t satisfied with how they turned out.
“You either just get rid of it because it’s been destroyed or you paint over it and start again,” he said. “You make mistakes and you learn from it. It’s something you can’t really control what the end product is.”
Blair was born in the United Kingdom and studied at various art colleges and universities around the world. He has a master’s degree in public art.