Gilles Morin’s artistic toolbox consists of four different paintbrushes:Photoshop, ArtRage, Painter, and Studio Artist – all of which are unconventional for the creation of an ‘academic’ painting but very modern taking into account the trends of the 21st century.Equipped with an infinite array of color choice and the ability to produce shocking and cerebral works – Morin creates artwork as a commentary to the daily events of our life.
Located in the Cell Gallery at Gallery 1313, the show, Mystification: Digital Paintings, seems to challenge the viewer at first sight. Challenge them in the terms of strong colors – magenta pink, blood red and royal blue – that seem to jump out of the unframed prints bewildering the onlooker. It is so much that catches the eye that we don’t know what to focus on at first: what wall, what painting, what layer of the work. All the works have multiple layers of objects that together make up the final composition. For instance, lips from one face, eyes from another, a suit and a tie, rainbow halo, and bloody eyes are grouped together to create the portrait of an astrologer. It is the artist’s intention to make the audience think about the theme and subject of each piece. Highly personal, each piece evokes a feeling of familiarity because of its juxtaposition of layered objects.
Before talking to Morin himself, I decided to sit down and analyze the painting that had caught my eye, in the corner of the wall, that seemed to mix portraits of different beings. The forehead of a tiger, the chin of a man, glasses, minute numbers of the clock – I started making up my own narrative. It reminded me of our origin and double nature. As time went on, animals evolved into men, but the inherent nature of man still can be aggressive. There is a beast in a man and a man in the beast. The dual personality of a human being is baffling as a continuous repression of the animal is still there, still trying to fit into society as ‘normal’ and ‘appropriate’.
Morin watched as I sat and stared at the print for over 20 minutes, scribbling in my journal. He waited eagerly for me to finish interpreting the piece and took up conversation. One thing I had missed he explained, is that facing death for some people is harder than for others. Animals on the other hand don’t have that dichotomy – they live in a ‘better time’, the time of youth. There is an important juxtaposition between the way humans and animals see time, he said. Death is something I failed to infer from the painting, but that is the beauty of the multi-layered works; each viewer picks up on different objects, different hints and reaches his own conclusion.
Perplexity and the complexity of human nature are the main themes of the show. Beautifully contrasted, one wall contains three portraits of religious subjects:an Archangel, Jesus, and Mary, facing four pieces illustrating the assault on the female body. One of those women is crucified, with her genitalia ‘crowned’ by a thorn crown and an inflamed head of hair.
“Crucifixion, agony,” is Morin’s angry response to the kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls by the Islamic group Boko Haram in Nigeria. He explained he had heard the news on the radio and became absolutely enraged.“What does it say about men?” – he contemplated through our conversation – “The portrayal of the woman evokes a sense of anger and pain, but there is also hope represented by the leaves at the bottom.” Indeed, there is a contrast to the main theme as the pastel green, yellow and red leaves sporadically covering the ground bring nature into the composition and attempting to give the hope of survival.
The complex and highly emotional nature of human beings is spotlighted by the layering of low resolution photographs, allowing Morin to create “experimental and spontaneous works.” At first glance the juxtaposition of elements seems chaotic and unnecessary, but as you spend more time looking at them in the small gallery, you come to understand the different references in the artwork and their aim to challenge your perceptions.
*Exhibition information:October 12 – 23, 2016, Gallery 1313, 1313 Queen Street West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sun:1 – 6 pm.