Artists: Plum Cloutman, André Ethier, Alexandre Guay
Exhibition title: The ideal place is an open field
Venue: Projet Pangée, Montreal, Canada
Date: February 25 – April 10, 2021
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Projet Pangée, Montreal
Montreal, February 17, 2021 — This morning I was reading 25 Kites that Fly by Leslie L. Hunt, a book that covers simple kite constructions. Though the book is quite methodical, covering details of fabrication from various surface materials to the types of glue used, the author’s descriptions had the effect of transporting me to the moment of absolute joy that flying a kite can spark. In reality, I don’t think I’ve ever properly flown a kite, but that familiar sensation of wonder resurfaces on occasions when I have the chance to encounter poignant and uninhibited works of art. In The ideal place is an open field, the spirited paintings of Plum Cloutman (North Norfolk, United Kingdom), and André Ethier (Toronto, Canada), along with the candid ceramic sculptures of Alexandre Guay (Montréal, Canada), hold that rare quality of exaltation and fulfillment we experience when the kite, like a vigorous puppy, tugs at our tightly-gripped hands and soars into a bright blue sky.
The title The ideal place is an open field, was borrowed from Chapter V: “Hints on Flying”, expressing an idea that grounds Cloutman, Ethier, and Guay’s imaginative landscapes and characters: “It is much easier to give instructions on where to fly than it is to find a suitable place.” For Cloutman, returning to her childhood house during the pandemic offered a familiar and fertile space to pour her imagined observations, just as she had done as a child looking out of the same window. Through her eyes, we experience exhilarating encounters with friendly poodles in the clouds and witness a beautiful embrace as bodies emerge from bushes and shrubs, their images unravelling as shapes shift and wiggle into hallucinatory patterns that disperse as soon as we blink. Also dealing with altered mindsets, Ethier‘s painting Mushroom Mountains presents plump red mushrooms that bear similarity with amanita muscaria, a fungi known for its hallucinogenic properties when ingested. Beside the known state of euphoria it can bring, the psychoactive quality of magic mushrooms also invites us on an introspective quest. Trading this substance for paint, the artist’s most recent series of oil on canvas deals with internal landscapes that represent one’s struggles as a personal and solitary path that can lead to enlightenment. For Alexandre Guay, the plastic quality of clay, along with its infinite glazing options, offers the possibility to imagine a lighthearted world inhabited by mischievous tricksters. Showing off their acrobatic skills throughout the gallery space, our hearts can only soften at the sweetness and candour of these characters. Guay sees his practice as a way to give form to feelings of delight and love, making them even more visible for us to witness.
André Ethier (Toronto, Canada) works from his own subconscious allowing moments of beauty and tenderness to spark throughout his paintings. By examining personal views of his family and himself, Ethier constructs narratives that become rich and layered shared experiences. Ethier had recent solo exhibitions at Paul Petro (Toronto), Harper’s Apartment (New York), Derek Eller Gallery (New York), Honor Fraser (Los Angeles). His work has also been included in group exhibitions at institutions such as Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal and Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro.
Plum Cloutman (North Norfolk and London, United Kingdom) graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2018. Her work illustrates a world of imagined characters in situations that range from the tender and sad, to the absurd and wonderfully naive, in a scale that fluctuates from the minuscule to the monumental. Cloutman has exhibited extensively in both Edinburgh and London since her graduation and has been awarded the Catriona White Prize, the Lyon and Turnbull Prize, and was featured in the 2019 Royal Society of Arts New Contemporaries exhibition.
Alexandre Guay (Montreal, Canada) is a multidisciplinary artist currently studying in the ceramic and sculpture department at Concordia University. Since 2018, he has been an active member of the artists’ collective “Passage Secret”. Guay’s approach is spontaneous and reflects the energy he deploys while working through colours, materials and expressiveness and candour of his sculpted characters. This past year, he was part of group exhibitions at Promotheus Projects (Montréal), and Bruises Gallery (Montréal) and recently collaborated with the fashion brand Paloma Wool in New York City.
 Leslie Hunt was a kite-maker for the United States Weather Bureau. His book was first published by The Bruce Publishing Company in 1929.
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