Local painter’s exhibition debuts

IT’S EASY TO call our society addicted to communication. We live in a wired age, only a text, tweet, or ping away from someone, but regardless of how connected we may be artificially, Ottawa-based painter Peter Shmelzer believes we are more isolated than ever. His new exhibition High Value in Hard Times, which is showing at La Petite Mort Gallery, questions this phenomenon and our addiction to social media.

“The show was produced almost subconsciously. I had this idea about the modern world, how confusing it is, and how we’re very much alone in it and [yet] far more connected than we ever have been in the past,” says the Toronto-born painter.

“[It’s about] Facebook [and other social media] and this anonymous connection we all have. You know, having thousands of friends on Facebook and just the way in which we’re connected without having much in-person contact with each other.”

Although this may seem like an oxymoron to some—we’re more connected than ever yet, at the same time, we’re even more isolated—according to Shmelzer, it’s this phenomenon that he was trying to convey through his paintings.

“[Social networking] creates the semblance of connection without really sharing any real information. It’s just a lot of information that doesn’t necessarily elucidate a personality or make us feel we understand anyone better,” he says.

Shmelzer has used oil paintings to display his concept about social media. Although his idea is abstract, Shmelzer describes his paintings similar to the “Annunciation”, a famous painting by 13th-century painter Jan Van Eyck.

“There’s a lot of figures seated in the foreground with other figures floating behind, very much reminiscent of historical religious paintings,” he says.

“There’s this sense of being alone but being visited by aspects of other personalities without them really being present in the room with you. It’s almost like having an artificial environment around you.”

Catch High Value in Hard Times at La Petite Mort Gallery (306 Cumberland St.) opening this Friday until Oct. 30.

—Sofia Hashi