Refreshing, dynamic, inventive – these adjectives should be used to appropriately describe Arsenal Montreal’s latest exhibition on multidisciplinary Canadian artist, Marc Séguin (b. 1970), called Marc Séguin: Atemporalités. The curatorial approach and display to his artistic practice reconsiders the ways in which a solo exhibition ought to be produced. A visual artist, as well as a literary writer and filmmaker, this survey exhibition focuses on the ideas and topics of Séguin’s literary works, which fundamentally structure the layout of the exhibition: La foi du braconnier (2009), Hollywood (2012), and Nord Alice (2015). The curators selected the visual artworks of his practice, which they perceived to thematically relate to his novels, essentially creating a dialogue between his pictorial and literary works.
A passage from each novel is presented on a large sheet of paper, delicately hanging from the ceiling; the timeless themes from each story, such as love, heartbreak, and spirituality, bleed into one another. La fois du braconnier centers on the relationship between human beings and the unpredictable cycles of nature through the story of a hunter in the wild, seeking to discover the spiritual. Black-and-white paintings of religious icons, such as a crucified Christ and Pope John Paul II, hang in relation to this story, as well as a large charcoaled depiction of a cathedral in ruins.
Hollywood trails the memories of a man who lost his wife by gunfire, and escapes the scene as he takes refuge in an old couple’s residence. A painting of a headless classical nude within a yellow background is confronted by a modernist nude, and the depiction of a back of a woman with a bleeding heart are some examples of chose works relating to the story.
Nord Alice tells the account of a surgeon whom escapes heartbreak by moving to a small town with unforgiving weather conditions in Nunavik. Here, one is encountered with a softly painted landscape, and a canvas portraying a man holding the leash of a coyote (actual taxidermy) who morbidly stands over the body of a woman.
Marc Séguin: Atemporalités invites the viewer to interact with Séguin’s artistic practice – to discover and create their own connections between the literature and the artworks. The interactivity is further emplaced through the dynamic display of the paintings; they are hung from the ceiling rather than against the wall, and dispersed across the gallery appearing as though they are floating timelessly in space, following the title of the exhibition. A dialogue is established between the works as they either face each other, are placed in opposite directions, or simply face towards different areas. Effectively, in as much as the artworks interplay with each other, the viewers can interact with the artworks by approaching them closely and moving around them. Additionally, large silk banners are strategically placed as they cut through the space; they divide the exhibition according to the novels, which inevitably guides the viewer through the gallery. Few artistic institutions curate artworks in such a fashion by including the direct relationship with the written word and a non-traditional hanging.
I would highly recommend this exhibition, especially to frequent exhibition visitors; it really is a breath of fresh air.
Marc Séguin: Atemporalités continues at the Arsenal (2020 William) until March 11.