Arts

Art professor holds new abstract exhibit at Shenkman Arts Centre

Photo by Gerrit De Vynck

UNIVERSITY OF OTTAWA visual arts professor Dr. Michel Luc Bellemare is turning the world of abstract art on its head—or at least approaching it from a new angle.

His new exhibit at the Shenkman Arts Centre, entitled Democracy/Totalitarianism, is an intricate array of vibrant colours and sporadic patterning that will be on display until March 4.

Bellemare says he’s using abstract art as an instrument to “explore current political issues.” The philosophy of abstraction is what first drew him to his art form.

“It is completely open to interpretation and is multi-dimensional, meaning that it can work and be meaningful on many different levels, all at the same time,” he says. “It is the singular art form that is the most abstract, avant-garde, and philosophical of all the arts.”

Bellemare coins his style as “super imposta,” which refers to the heavy application of paint on his works. It’s highly dense and very textured, and many people describe it as more sculpture than painting, he explains.

One of Bellemare’s pieces titled “Democracy” features a mosaic of red, black, and white in what appear to be chaotic splotches but which still seem to form an eerie synchronism.

“Nothing on the canvas is given special treatment,” says Bellemare. “Everything is about the equality of the picture plane.”

Bellemare’s work makes a statement while still allowing the viewer to formulate their own impressions about what the theme—in this case, democracy—entails. Bellemare encourages his viewers to be introspective about their understanding of democracy.

“Can democracy become its opposite, totalitarianism? Is there such a thing as democratic totalitarianism, a mixture of two opposing concepts?” he asks.

Another prominent piece, entitled “The basic political goal in any modern democracy is the police-state (conservatism) or the artist avant-garde state (liberalism),” invokes similar introspection. The piece is divided between bland splotches of sandy brown and multicoloured checkered boxes. Bellemare explains that the significance of the painting is to showcase “the ideal socio-political model for conservatism and liberalism, the two political tendencies in this country and in any modern democracy.”

His philosophy is “to create art by any means necessary,” and that’s exactly what he does—with gooey oil paints and a significant amount of glitter for good measure.

Bellemare’s works have been on display at a number of galleries throughout the city, including the Art Flow Gallery in Chinatown and the National Gallery of Canada. He’s also appeared on CBC Radio and Babillard Radio.

The original exhibit at Gallery 115 in the U of O’s Department of Visual Arts was supposed to be held at the same time as the Shenkman exhibit, but has been put on hold until late spring.

Bellemare will be available for a meet-and-greet session at the Shenkman Arts Centre on Feb. 17 from 1 to 3 p.m.