All photographs by Jacqueline Young
Lisa Kehler Art + Projects is proud to present This Must Be the Place (Home Pt.2), a group exhibition featuring work by Peggy Kouroumalos, Claire Milbrath, and Sherry Walchuk. Each artist has created work offering different, personal visions of what ‘home’ looks like. The exhibition includes 17 oil paintings and 8 pencil crayon drawings. This is the first exhibition for each of the artists with the gallery.
Lately, home has become a contentious concept. Well, to be honest, it always has been. One’s sense of belonging is manipulated by many things; memories, a sense of familiarity, people, ideas, or geographic elements. Following This Must Be the Place (Home Pt. 1), where each artist who is either from, or currently resides in Winnipeg contributed artwork that specifically drew inspiration from their geographic location, Home Pt. 2 takes a more conceptual approach to the subject of home. Kouroumalos has created a series of oil paintings culling through the nostalgia of her youth. Music, magazines, books, posters, clothes: all are fodder for her paintings of what could have doubled as her bedroom in the early 90s. A closet door plastered with posters of icons – Robert Smith from the Cure, Jesus and Mary Chain, Sid and Nancy –washed out and faded in the same way we now recall those memories. In another work, a five foot oil painting to be precise, an unmade bed is flanked by graffiti on the wall, a Ghoulies poster, and a mess of clothes scattered around the floor. A series of ten book jackets which were informative to the artist’s development in her teens have been reimagined, and stand as a sort of link between her younger self, and the creative mind she holds now. Nostalgia is clearly the key to Kouroumalos’ sense of home.
For Claire Milbrath, while nostalgia also guides her work, hers is less obviously connected to her past. Milbrath has created a world centered on the character Poor Gray. First imagined when she was a child, she would draw him on scraps of paper and napkins around the house growing up. Poor Gray is a character trapped within the confines of what Claire is able or willing to paint. He's an anxious man, with nothing other to do than act out the banalities of his world: waiting, resting, reading, and talking on the phone. He's lethargic, wealthy, homosexual, and a smoker. The scenes in which he is painted are reminiscent of the great rooms of the Milbrath’s childhood home and the gardens surrounding it.
Sherry Walchuk’s work is intensely personal in that it evolved from her watching her aging Grandfather deal with the realities of having to move into a personal care home. Walchuk’s work is always intrinsically linked to the personal in that she often uses it to trouble shoot familial issues as they arise; from a series of works made specifically in response to her dad in 2013 to this series of personal care home drawings. The pencil crayon drawings are her solutions to the feeling of helplessness, or of displacement that occurs when the elderly are forced to let go of their homes. Walchuk reveals: “I thought that the people would want to be either inside a previous space of theirs or that they would want to be outside, close to nature (because now they were inside all the time and also because I felt like this would give them a sensation of more space/of infinity and it would be the most calming).
Next, the shape of the structures began to change. I had finished a residency in Banff and I thought- what would I want to be if I were in a hospital or home? And I wanted to be a rocky mountain. The structures went from a box around a bed, to individual structures around individual sites: the gurney, the wheelchair.” The works are always exhibited in plastic binder sleeves, which in a sense, provide their own little home for each drawing.
About the Artists
Peggy Kouroumalos is an artist from Toronto, Ontario, currently living in Montreal, Quebec. Through the representation of re-counted personal memories or invented open-ended narratives, her interests’ lie in creating a point of intersection from various influences from the past; art historical, cinematic, literary or cultural. By working in a free associative manner she explores our cultures voracious appetite for collecting and consuming objects and images, creating her own visual language with a combination of elements driven by recurring themes of death, desire, alienation and transformation.
Kouroumalos studied drawing and painting at the Ontario College of Art and Design and graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts at Concordia University. She has exhibited her work since 2006 in various solo and group shows in Canada, the U.S. and Europe.
Claire Milbrath is an artist and editor-in-chief of art publication ‘The Editorial Magazine’. Milbrath grew up in Victoria BC. She currently lives in Montreal in an apartment with her two best friends, and spends most of her time laying in bed painting or doing the layout for her magazine. Untrained in art, her work possesses a beautiful child-like quality as well as being comic and nostalgic. She is inspired by the naïve painters, Henri Rousseau and Seraphine Louis.
Milbrath's work is deeply informed by the Naive painters in its disregard for the rules of perspective and human form. Her body of work is centered around the character of Poor Gray, an aimless, wealthy, anxious man. Her work explores themes of gender, challenging our concepts of masculinity by depicting Gray as vulnerable, feminine, and homosexual. Humor is key in Milbrath's work.
Sherry Walchuk lives in Mission, BC, and Montreal QC, where she completed her MFA at Concordia University.
Walchuk's practice emerged from her experience taking care of her grandpa, who wanted to die because he couldn’t make anything anymore. As a result, her work is grounded in sincere, vernacular attempts to form meaning through making: acts of puttering, fake-making and home renovations. Her work is also about care-giving: it proposes potential solutions for her family member’s problems and works with and for them. Teetering between hope and despair, wrestling with profound doubt, the work becomes about trying. Ultimately, the humanity in her spaces, objects and drawings allows us to find humour in our own fumbling attempts to move through the world. They create spaces that force us to be present in the insecurity of being and doing. The point is to make vulnerable, and to give pleasure.