Art Preview: The First Thursday of Art Central

By Paul Jarvey

Last Thursday played host to a warm reception at Art Central, where exhibitions showcased everything from far away fashion to the seductive art of the space’s various artists and galleries. While the show may lack unity and the odd purist could be spotted rapidly backtracking in confusion, many surprises were revealed within the bright lights of this amalgam of bare brick and commercial enterprises. As part of the First Thursdays initiative, Art Central opened its doors to invite the city to look at the exhibit, accompanied by the lime-and-salt sounds of Los Morenos and, not to mention, complimentary refreshments.

For those who missed the opening last November, Art Central is a three-story concrete knot of art galleries and artists’ studios, complete with caf├ęs, a framing studio and the bookstore, Uppercase.

“We’re really trying to showcase books that can’t be found anywhere else,” says Janine Vangool, Uppercase’s founder and the creative force behind Vangool Design. “I’ve personally chosen every book here. They’re all unique and interesting.”

She’s definitely succeeded. The tiny space is also home to Aaron Leighton’s Irreverent Canadian Superheroes, a photo journal compilation exploring home-made American bomb shelters and Martin Venezky’s unique tribute to ephemera, “It is Beautiful… Then Gone”.

Uppercase faces the studio of Marina Mirnaia. Originally from Moscow, Marina brings a vibrancy to her abstract work, although it’s far from non-representational. The studio resonates with color, scattered about are works in progress and finished pieces humming with vivid representation. “They are symbolic of the tension between what is and the desire for what can be imagined,” explains Marina, drifting between paintings of figures and still-lifes which methodically melt into impressionistic compositions.

Only a few steps away, the Quebecoise voice of Marie Josee Roy’s “Falling” occupies Quab gallery. Cold metal figures float suspended overhead. They hang above mirrored floors and warmed by human curves, but tense with the weight of the metal forming their bodies. Arc-welded metal sheets and wire form their patchwork skin, then chained interminably to the ceiling to restrain the descent into their reflections. Human and iron, emotional and motionless. Marie Josee Roy’s two dimensional work is similarly expressive. Minimalised portraits in bronze and black speak of the internalized emotions infused within the suspended figures.

Streams of well-dressed patrons and hipsters lead downstairs to a pottery studio operated by Keith Kostuchowski. His ceramics are a compromise between the functional aesthetics of many contemporary ceramicists and an imaginative organic influence apparent in how his works crawl with tendrils and tentacles. Kostuchowski combines functional design with a child’s aesthetic interpretation of glazed aquatic nightmares.

And that’s just the tip of the creativity within. Art Central hosts over twelve artist’s studios, a handful of varied galleries and the imported fashion sense of Shisomiso Clothing. If you missed out this time, Art Central hosts First Thursdays every first Thursday of the month this spring. While Art Central may not be Fifth Avenue, First Thursdays may just be the opportunity many of us need to share in Calgary’s rapidly growing fine arts community.

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