Untitled Art Society, January 14 to February 4
Opening, 7:00 – 10:00 PM, Friday January 14, 2011.
article by Jane McQuitty
I visited Calgary artist Leslie Bell on a grey, cold day in January. As the snow swirled outside the window, she made time for a pre-exhibition interview and review of her work in preparation. Planned elements of the Light Matter Research exhibition are new oil paintings and studies, stop motion animation and an installation of Mylar collage. Light Matter Research will be shown as Untitled Art Society’s presentation in the context of Triangle Gallery’s 7th Annual Winter Art Stroll theme “Québec Connection / Centennial Celebrations of Abstract Art.”
Leslie Bell is currently working as an abstract artist; this has not always been her path. Her development into abstraction was my focus as an interviewer, the aim—to give visitors a point of context. Our conversation was often illustrated by visits to Leslie’s online portfolio at http://lesliebell.ca/home.html .
An initial reading of Leslie’s artist statement (available with this exhibition) is that her abstraction departs from the 20th century model of reduction to essence. Instead Leslie writes “My studio practice is motivated by a fascination with infinite possibility of visual abstraction, both as a theoretic relational structure and as a means to explore metabolic growth and entropy through process.” Each presented work is one stop in a possible sequence. This is a kind of abstraction that is ephemeral, non summative informed by the image flux of time-based and digital media.
So far so good; however, permutations have a start in some point of origin. Not surprisingly for an artist evolving in a national art tradition dominated by landscape, her initial professional works sit under the subheading ‘landscape’ on her web site. The Radium series of canvases (presumably named after Radium, BC) dazzle. In each one the point of view is that of an eye embedded in the ground, lying on the forest floor, gazing at an angle to an off centre vanishing point to which pines or furs converge. The point of these canvases seems, as much as anything, an appreciation for complex system; the light of the sky seen through trees, light’s role in the eye’s perception of to the trees, and the tree’s role as distributor of light between the eye and the source of illumination.
The work at the exhibition is the product of a lot of reflection and studio work post this representative period. There has been a conscious letting go of what Leslie calls “service to the image” to work more intuitively and a feeding of the brain with knowledge that perhaps bubbles up in a blending of natural and unnatural (I mean fluorescent) colour and unfamiliar worlds of relationship that clearly have an organic reference. More familiar from the Radium series and its under drawing is a gestural marking idiom: clusters of small tonal glare spots, use of crenulated closed biomorphic lines, and radial tendencies, complexity, layering, depth, central light. Leslie maintains that in her very personal space light and light’s symbolic baggage survives through into abstraction. For Leslie, past an ultimate manifestation of mastery (see Radium 4 on her website), the intensive, slow recreation of object with recognizable identity was a limit to visual exploration. What was attractive in the subject matter turned out not to be exact rendering of its surface but its suggestion of a modelling idiom with a much wider applicability.
As I’ve written three paragraphs earlier, that there is 21st century permission given to Leslie’s abstraction by the here and now of its social conditions. One of abstraction’s traditions has been a paring away of detail in a quest to underline essence; another, an attempt to create a visual form of music. What seems again 21st century to me in Leslie’s paring away of the temporal anchor of a particular visual form is that it doesn’t simplify, instead it gives complex form latent aliveness.
Jane McQuitty is a Calgary-based artist/educator and free-lance editor. In 2003/04 she was Alberta College of Art and Design’s Governor General’s Academic Medal recipient and received her MFA at University of Calgary in 2007. In 2009 she co-curated Early Work, an AFA funded, intergenerational exhibition of thirteen Calgary painters held at Trianon Gallery, Lethbridge, and, most recently, worked as editor on the in-press artist’s book Pro Production.
SQ Art Projects Presents:
October 14 - November 14, 2010
Image: Entropic 2, 2009 By Leslie Bell
Opening Reception: Thursday, October 14, 2010
Artist in Attendance
SQ Art Projects is pleased to announce the solo exhibition of Leslie Bell’s work; Radiant Array.
Bell approaches abstract painting with a concentration and infatuation with potentiality. The abundance of possibilities and variations within complex organic systems and entropy fascinate and perplex. Bell’s exuberant brushwork and clashing colour palettes are reflective of this maelstrom of complexity. Bell’s frenzied forms are continually in stasis; neither collapsing nor expanding, infinitesimally without reference to beginning or end as opposing forces balance each other through composition.
Bell references chaos theory, quantum physics and post-structuralism in an effort to map the human mind and interpret the unstable flux of energy. Its potential formation in the physical is never realized, but instead is represented in the fanatic movement in between states of structured, organized thought and representation. With a palette that is awash in vivid colours mixed among muddied earthen tones, the spontaneous formations act together to push and pull the viewer towards an uneven ground of pleasure and doubt, destabilizing assumptions and reconfiguring abstractions into kaleidoscopic formations of colour and movement.
Leslie Bell is a Calgary based abstract painter and experimental filmmaker. She received her BFA from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2002, and her MFA from Concordia University, Montreal in 2009 and attended the “Cosmic Ray” thematic residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts also in 2009.
For more information regarding this exhibition or SQ Art Projects, please contact Emily Barnett at 403.809.4680 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
suite 100, 1604- 10th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Phone: (403) 457-5477
the running wild children with hair falling to the glue island floor,
ripping up hair threads from the forest floor, all wet and gluey, yellowed pulling sticky messes from the belly of the island.
sticky feet pull up pull up
threadbare hairdogs emerge from the wet mess
and run with the wild children
In contrast to the commonplace standards of seamlessness in popular cinematic effects like CGI, contemporary animation responds to a growing need and interest in the accidental and vulnerable, the low-tech, and the homemade. Viewers have become aware of the inclusiveness and tangibility of more human-scale animation techniques, where process acts as rupture and nonlinear motivator of narrative. Artists in turn have become aware of animation’s ability to operate in between other art forms, able to re-imagine the meaning of formal and conceptual boundaries. Similarly, the animations contributed by Leslie Bell and Kiarra Albina in ‘Painted Moon and River Teeth’ are in intimate relationship with their materiality, activating new spaces for both artists and viewers to explore.
Leslie Bell’s interest in animation relates to her practice in painting and installation, where subject is influenced by scientific, philosophical, and intellectual states of growth. For Bell, thinking about and visualizing painting is a meditative and creative state of suspension which has influenced her work. Also influential are multi-media artists who “are incorporating impurities or complex systems into their work, either as a generative function or as a simulation”, wherein there is an awareness of abstraction and representation not as definitive binaries but as a hybrid with limitless potential. Bell has described her paintings as ecstatic structures, while her animations are the means to move in and out of those structures while simultaneously changing their physiology. Taking on the role of the moon in ‘Painted Moon and River Teeth’, Bell’s animations evoke the world from behind glass, where an onslaught of raindrops are of swirling jellyfish of liquid color and inky orbs, later resembling the dizzy viewpoint of watching fireworks, each candied crystallization spinning slowly and sleepily, halved like inkblots in twinned orbits.
Kiarra Albina describes her animating process as grown out of original drawings which she then builds on intuitively, fueled by a personal symbology of extreme experiences which she has been exploring through a self-directed drawing practice. In her drawings, stories are about bodies, about what they emit, and of what is emitted to other bodies; exudations pulse, stain, and drip syrupy limbs; forms resemble marshmallow, dough, bubblegum, lumpy pillows, and wet snakes of hair. The hand-drawn and painted forms in her animation are an extension of the heavily saturated figures in her drawings, appearing like space-crafts as environments for bodies which dream of layers of themselves. These layers appear as occlusions of their original bodies, operating as beings designed solely for the purpose of fugitive communication with the objects of their desire. Albina has mentioned graphic novel influences as well as that of artists whose drawings situate themselves and their motivations within similar psychosomatic spaces. To Albina, drawing and animation have the ability to describe, evoke, and perform immediate experiences of emotions, physical states, and fantastical bodies which can both extend and live beyond everyday life.
Both artists have a similar interest in ideas of phenomena as events which continually build, evolve, and dissipate, not unlike the cycles and loops of animation which encapsulate narratives within narratives. This evokes writer Christian McCrea’s description of the complexity of animation’s spatiality as worlds which need not contain the integrity of a single identity, but are constantly re-envisioned by an inherent interior force. McCrea suggests this creates the kind of movement which often “eats the signs which stand between it and our pure physical response…repurposing the body’s final moment”. This boundary-less nature of animation is further discussed by writer Norman Klein, who describes animation’s particular ability to take on various states of physical and psychological fragmentation, making animation ideal for exploring “the loss of control, the loss of the past, the loss of representation” . In ‘Painted Moon and River Teeth’, the process of animation allows both Bell and Albina to approach their practice in cross-sensory ways, wherein drawings and painting leave traces through and beyond their materiality, and lodges in the memory of the viewer.
By Kim Neudorf
 Bell, Leslie. leslie bell. 15 August. 2009. http://lesliebell.ca/home.html.
 Bell, Leslie. Qtd.
 Albina, Kiarra. Qtd.
 McCrea, Christian. “Explosive, Expulsive, Extraordinary: The Dimensional Excess of Animated Bodies”. Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol 3(1): 9–24, 2008. Page 14.
 McCrea, Christian. “Explosive, Expulsive, Extraordinary: The Dimensional Excess of Animated Bodies”. Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol 3(1): 9–24, 2008. Page 15.
 Klein, Norman. The Vatican to Vegas : a history of special effects. The New York Press, 2004. Page 253.