Perhaps the first exhibition opening I attended upon my arrival in Niagara (if memory serves) was by Emily Andrews, at Niagara Artist Centre, approximately four years ago. I had literally gotten off the bus less than 24 hours earlier: her collage works were evocative and eerie, and in their additive, constructed nature were definitely more than the sum of the parts. I wrote about it here: and I’ve encountered her work in a number of different exhibitions or places (such as the mural on Black Sheep Lounge, in Welland, which I visit whenever I visit that city).
In the past few months, she had one of the better works in the Walker Industries Art Competition show at the Pumphouse in NOTL, and she’s also one of the artists in this year’s juried exhibition at City Hall in downtown STC (opening later this month), as part of the annual city exhibition. This time the show was based on the theme of Transformations, and is titled the same (it’s on display for some time, so go see it on the 3rd floor, as there’s several other excellent artists in this year’s survey). Coming up more quickly is the Niagara Falls Night of Art (happening this Thursday, September 19th, from 6 – 10 PM), and she’s one of the artists in that exciting event (with an installation titled Mind Your Six). I’ve only been a few times, but it’s one of my favourite Niagara events, with music and art and other interactive activities.
But you have the opportunity to experience more of Andrews’ works in another venue right now, in St. Catharines.
Andrews has debuted a new selection of paintings at Niagara Artist Centre – the opening reception is the same weekend as the Culture Days cacophony of events, and is one of the events you want to be sure to attend – in the Dennis Tourbin Members Gallery (DTMG). BUT the show is on display right now, and you can see the link on social media here.
This endeavour is ‘her latest series of paintings entitled Strange Happenings & Rare Findings. The opening reception will be held on Saturday September 28, 2019 at 7pm and will feature live music from local musicians Rita Visser, Matthew James Blake, Joel van Vliet, Thunderclap!, and Electric Wildlife. In keeping with the artist’s dreamlike style, this exhibition includes a collection of surrealistic oil paintings that explore an alternate dimension through unlikely and curious scenarios. The first new series of paintings for Andrews in five years, these works feature scenes that blur the line between reality and fantasy.’
A Plot for Revenge may be my favourite, continuing her anthropomorphizing of animals into human environments, complete with suits and ties and what I see as a fancy ‘boardroom’ space, with its mantle from a fireplace in the background, between the two figures confronting each other. The firearm ‘at rest’ on the table and the human skull suggests, in an updated memento mori, that ‘what you’ve done to us, we will now do to you.’ Alternately, Fish Ascending A Staircase perhaps pay a tongue in cheek (fish outside the fishbowl) homage to Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, but the Fish (note the capital) are ascending more languidly, more leisurely: they own this house, and as the seas rise with Global Warming, they’ll thank us for this ‘new’ house in their larger bowl. I can’t help but feeling that the dinosaurs in Relay of Eons are arguing, either about who gets to choose what they’re watching on television (like squabbling siblings in the rec room), or perhaps they look at the satellite image being shown and know that what comes up must come down (beware of meteors, ahem, you might say). And, although I’ve become more of a dog person of late, Quality Family Time makes me think of the tendency to treat pets as children, and I favour this (#artcriticfromhell once irreverently declared that he’s good at teaching, as I’m good with animals, even if it means using a spray bottle for negative re enforcement).
There’s an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ element at play here (perhaps the dinosaurs in Eons are singing, like the Mock Turtle Soup song, or the Piggy song, from that druggy tome), and this always makes Andrews’ works entertaining; especially as this is paired with an aesthetic execution that is accomplished. This perversion – I say in a positive manner – of painted photo ‘realism’, as in her work in the NOTL Pumphouse show, can pull you into the composition, and make you wonder just what exactly is going on, ‘in there.’
Strange Happenings & Rare Findings is on display right now at the NAC. The opening reception takes place amid the cacophony of events and activities on Culture Days Weekend. But go visit it beforehand at 354 St. Paul Street, as her work merits a specific visit, and frankly deserves repeated interactions, as you try to determine just what is going on in the worlds she illustrates for us.
You can see more of Emily Andrews’ practice at her site, including her musical projects. The image at the top of this article is Nathaniel, by Andrews, and was her work in the juried Walker Industries Art Competition at the Niagara Pumphouse. All images are courtesy the artist’s website
Bart Gazzola (also known as #artcriticfromhell) is an arts writer/critic who has published with Magenta Magazine, Canadian Art, New Art Gazette, Galleries West, PrairieSeen, Long Exposure and BlackFlash (where he was Editorial Chair for 3 years). He is Assistant Editor at thesound.rocks and a frequent contributor to various cultural spaces in Niagara.