There’s nothing mediocre about ATELIER PUNKT

•December 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

If you’re looking for an out of the ordinary gallery-going experience, you’ll have to look hard to find Atelier Punkt. At the locked door to 5333 Ave. Casgrain, the advertised address, you will be directed by a small notice to the backdoor entrance on avenue Gaspe. From there, you will make your way through a series of horror movie hallways and stairs in your search for the gallery. Best to carry a compass—or, perhaps be trained in the Jedi force—in order to navigate the concrete maze before you (tip: the gallery is on the second floor to the left of the staircase.) Two small rooms no bigger than my living room make up Punkt, but, the space is used to its full potential.

Atelier Punkt

 I’m somewhat apprehensive when I do finally arrive at the strange and intriguing universe of Atelier Punkt for my second visit. I first heard of the space this October and attended the opening night of the installation “Off and On” by the infamous Roadsworth. That night the formidable gallery mistress, Melinda Pap, made more of an impression than what was on the walls. I encountered Pap in the gallery’s back room smoking and lamenting the state of the Montreal art scene, while a crowd of street-art enthusiasts crawled all over the place.  Sure, the installation was good, but I guess Roadsworth’s post-street-art-guerilla stuff seemed ‘out of place’ in a gallery. That’s not to say that Punkt is not an ideal space for such art and indeed Pap is trying hard to make it exactly such a place where art and design can come together. It’s just that I’m a purist about his work. I was there in the days when cross walks became zippers over night.

Pap was surprisingly frank with me, an unknown blogger, about her distaste for ‘art wonks’. So it was with some sense of Déjà vu that before Pap entertained my questions again, I listened while she let off steam. A lack of civic appreciation for the kind of design that is being conceived and displayed by the artists affiliated with Punkt is her main beef with this city that makes a fuss about its cultural prowess. She makes no bones that Atelier Punkt is showing the best stuff in Montreal, but isn’t getting the credit it deserves. “This is Art and this is design” she says of the work that is displayed there. This flirtation of the one moniker, ‘artist,’ with the other, ‘designer,’ seems to be what interests Pap and her members most. And what’s on display at Punkt is good, for the most part living up to Pap’s claims of Punkt’s international repute. Whether or not the state of the Montreal art scene is as dire as Pap claims, however, I’ll leave to another day.

Boutique Punkt, on until December 23rd, is a fundraiser for the Atelier and a showcase of member’s work.  I fell immediately in love with the paper-cut collages of Annie Descôteaux. She employs a child-like style that at first glance conceals the unnerving subject matter. Descoteaux fashions a carnal feast—an ‘offering’ if you will (I’m stealing here from a title from one of her works displayed on her website in the ‘viande-meat’ section:  In one of the collages, women’s heads are mounted on platters, flanked by steaks. In another, a banquet of reproductive organs and breasts are garnished and presented for the eating. While Pap was talking I couldn’t help but peek over her shoulder at the one of the little girl whose skirt is being tugged off by a pack of wolves. Awoooo! If I’d had the cash, that’s the one that would have come home with me.

Likewise appealing for the eyes if not the sitting are the chairs of Etienne Hotte, a designer with a flair for the asymmetric line. Three chairs from his series, ‘Frédérick’ are shown, one in matte steel, one in reflective steel and the third in red spandex, woven and tied around the frame. Hotte claims on his sleek website that his aspiration is ‘to find poetry in his work’ ( What kind of poetry, I wonder, would one find on the odd angle of a Hotte chair? Something with the ever enticing interaction of a strict set of rhythmic rules, and a sense of playfulness, I think. I wasn’t blown away by Hotte’s stuff, but it’s likeable.

Though not officially on display, if you linger long enough you might also be able to get a tour of Pap’s own chair designs: a feather chair, and a portable, aerodynamic “picnic seat” for the city dwelling bottom, both of which I coveted. For the show, she’s made a wicked red dress entirely from meticulously folded pieces of fabric, mirroring Hotte’s ‘oragami’ mood. According to Pap, the Quebec actress, author and theatre director Marie Brassard has her eye on it for an upcoming performance. I also leafed through Pap’s art books of prints in the back room, which proves she is an artist of many talents.  Pap’s blog is worth poring over too: She has a particular penchant for Japanese designers.

Other gems of the show include the slide carousel of “truths of modern life” by Marc-Antoine K. Planeuf and Jean-Francois Proulx; graphic designer Karine Cosset’s photos of ‘found detritus’ (I can never get enough of that); and the lamps of Alexandre Berthiaume, whose other luminous designs, to be found on the website,, are endowed to my delight with such names as ‘chicken-ass’ and ‘drunk.’ The lamps on display at Punkt might have been called “that black plastic thing I accidentally melted on the stove, and then turned into a lamp”. Or perhaps he might have come up with something snappier than that. I didn’t ask.

Also worth checking out is the work on show by Julianna Espana Keller. Three photographs of an inverted head of a woman are true to Keller’s typically creepy style of portraiture. Each portrait offers the viewer a different perspective on the bust of the woman, the final of the triptych resembling a kind of astrological map of the corporeal. They suggest death, and resurrection. What else can I say but that her work is ‘edgy’; like for example the piece she created for RAW or Operation Rapid American Withdrawal 1970 – 2005, an extensive multimedia art event that was exhibited in the Ice Box Project Space at Crane Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA from September 2nd – September 25th, 2005. The photo-realistic offering to that show bore the title, if people were forced to eat what they killed, there would be no more wars.  Let me just say that this piece makes Descoteaux’s ‘meat-heads’ look ever more like child’s play. Take a look for yourself:   A self-described “passionate mile-ender”, Keller appears to be a wide wanderer and a multi-tasker. She’s presented her installations, photography and performance work internationally, is a part-time Faculty member of the Painting and Drawing Department of the Studio Arts Program of Concordia University, leads the Digital Photography Program at The Visual Arts Centre in Westmount, is represented in Montreal by Galerie Art Mûr, and a member of all kinds of art collectives. In other words, she’s the kind of artist it’s hard not to know about and yet this is the first I’ve heard of her.  I’m glad to now be in the know.

 Before heading out into the blizzard of a Montreal evening I asked Pap about the name of the Atelier. I wondered if the name makes some reference to what the photographic theorist Roland Barthes called the punctum. The punctum is defined as the wounding, personally touching detail in a photograph, which connects the viewer personally with the object or person within it. Most famously, the word is associated with the photograph of a young man, Lewis Payne, who tried to assassinate American Secretary of State W. H. Sward in 1865 as part of a Lincoln assassination conspiracy. The photographer Alexander Gardner photographed Payne in his cell, where he was waiting to be hanged. The ‘knowledge that this man is about to die’ is the punctum: that ‘thing’ in the photo that affects us deeply. Is that concept the origin of the gallery’s name? Not so, Pap says. “Punkt is what my mother always said when she finished a sentence. Punkt!  Point final.” So it is that Pap carries on what seems to be a family tradition of saying it like it is, making a strong point and not caring what anyone thinks about it.

As I mentioned, the Boutique is a fundraiser, and there is some reasonably priced stuff for sale. You might have a friend who’d appreciate a plaster-cast Quebec license plate, for example. Or, if you’re the fun loving type, there are some designer skipping ropes to be had. I don’t know why, if Pap’s lament is true, that Montreal is not in love with Punkt. It’s got it all: an obscure location, a talented set of members, and a mission to critically engage with the role of designers and artists in the city. The group show coming up in January, opening on January 14th, Pap describes as “interpretations of Black.” I’m intrigued, and will certainly make a point of going, as should you.


A sneak peak into other people’s bedrooms

•June 4, 2010 • 3 Comments

“The bedroom, then, is the province of condradiction. A place that serves intimacy as well as it does isolation, it accomodates the extremes of human experience. Because whether you call it dreams and sex, or solitude and imtimacy, these are the experiences that the bedroom accomodates with the most grace, the walls that form both a narrow cloister for the soul and a gateway to a wider sphere of human exchange” (from, The Geography of Home: Writings on Where we Live by Akiko Busch)

As a preview to the upcoming exhibition, entitled “Where is Culture?”   to be coorindated by the Cultural Studies program of Edinburgh University, I want to post some of the photos I’ve been taking of other people’s bedrooms.  I’ve asked 5 people, of different genders, ages, nationalities to allow me to visit them in their bedroom and take pictures of both the room and its occupant.  Each person expressed some mild discomfort about being photographed in their bedroom. I asked people not to prepare for my visit and while some did, others left their rooms as they were.

 The experience of entering another’s bedroom is always somewhat exciting. There is the feeling that one has been invited into the secret domain of the occupant, a place not only physical, but emotionally and psychologically charged. Sometimes I would attempt to photograph something that seemed to me poignantly intimate, like an overflowing ashtray or the bathtowel hanging on a hook only to have the occupant cringe and declare, “oh! It is not usually like that! Don’t photograph that!” These seemingly innocuous experiences have led me down what will be a longer path of thinking about the filth and the dust and the dirt of our lives. Why do we shun it? What about it is inherently embarrassing?

And what can we tell about a person, or a person’s relationship to place and space by their bedroom…?

Bedroom #1

Photo M. Thurston

Bedroom #5 

Photo: M. Thurston

Bedroom #4

Photo M. Thurston

Land and Construct: Lily Mead Martin’s Abstract Architecture

•April 26, 2010 • 1 Comment

There is something eerie and beautiful when an artist’s work reflects my obsessions and preoccupations. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that Lily Mead Martin’s latest drawings have had such a self-affirming effect; she is the kind of artist whose work demands (but ever so gently) that you get on her wavelength. Some time ago I wrote about her show at the Mohair Salon, Traduire Fleur, which took place one chilly winter night in my mini gallery in Montreal, QC.  On opening night, the gallery walls  transformed into a dream-scape garden that cocooned the many gallery goers.

Since moving to Edinburgh in September, I’ve been exploring and writing about the intimacy of architecture and of late, an American photographer named Francesca Woodman, whose photographs are haunting playscapes of the thresholds and boundaries of and in the house.  (Photo Gallery of Woodman’s photography here:

So, when I saw Lily’s latest work I couldn’t help feel like she was speaking to these discourses that have been occupying my mind space. Lily wrote to me that,

“They are abstracted architectural plans, set over an ideal landscape space…The two ideas, land and construct, come from an interest in the natural…what architectural both severs and creates. They are abstracted because I didn’t want to make suggested plans for houses, towns, cities, as much as illustrate how I have been seeing construction as something more ephemeral than we usually consider… The ground acts as a sieve for our constructed dreams.”

She will be having a show of all new work in Halifax, Nova Scotia at the Anna Leonowens gallery, opening on June 21st. I know you will be seeing more of Lily’s work in years to come. I will bask in the small glory that  you read about her on Carrotfarm first.









Out of Focus Intuition

•January 31, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There is something that I’ve always found very attractive about the out of focus photograph, perhaps for the same reason that abstraction is teasing and evocative, like a ghost in the machine.  But, why are images evocative at all? How do we make the translatation from vision to imagination? After viewing an online lecture out of Columbia university about the need to marry the neurosciences with the humanities, I was up last night lying in bed thinking about which side of my brain controls the different aspects of my interactions in the world.

So, I’ve been scanning my photographs for the ones that evoke these questions of the elusive connection between emotion and the visual. For me anyway these photographs are visual poetry, or the brain teaching me how to feel.

Perhaps what we are most attracted to in an abstract image of any kind is the moment of discreet clarity that may be within it. What is in focus, what shows itself in the chaos?

 If you want to check out that lecture it is the first in the series: science + art=


•October 1, 2009 • 2 Comments

Much delayed, I am declaring a new theme. It is, “Something Urban This Way Comes”. Because I can, I have decided that the first two additions to the carrotfarm urban dictionary (copyright of the actual Urban Dictionary is hereby ignored) will include this rather gut-wrenching short piece by Halifax’s Howard Beye, and one of my own photographs from the city of Edinburgh. Pretty please, send me more things to fawn over. You know you have stuff you wanna send. SO do it.

The Shot Rang Out 

Oh it was me and the shot rang out once or twice or was it thrice. I can never tell, I am not used to the gun at all and when it goes off it jars my ears to such a fever pitch that I can’t tell how many. Or how far. But far enough because the running man stopped running and fell forward face down in some mud, Only a little mud puddle actually, however deep enough to drown in if fallen in face first as this man had. But I don’t think that drowning was his worry then. I wished he hadn’t looked at me funny like that. I told him I didn’t like it and how I wanted him to stop but he just kept on, so I took out my gun which is quite large given I have such a delicate bone structure or at least that is what my momma told me time and time again, but I don’t understand cause I can’t keep the weight off and I am pretty heavy and lumbering. I lumber around weaving from side to side as my weight shifts. So I think that I must be bigger boned than what my momma always insisted. I took out my gun and said that if he didn’t stop he would pay and he didn’t stop so I stepped up to him and proceeded to wack him a couple of good ones with the butt of the gun. He started to run and I just leveled my pistol and started pulling the trigger until he fell down. Self defence was what I claimed but cold blood is what they brought down in the court house that day. I tried to tell them about the kids in school but they paid no mind. Did I tell you the view from my window is heaven when the moon is full. 

Howard Beye 2008



Ladies who know what they want 

The Apres Post:
Check out this blog. I heart.

A New Category for Y’all: “Amazing people I’ve shared cake with”: Carl David Ruttan!

•August 12, 2009 • Leave a Comment

When I first met Carl it was by chance after a Jazz Fest show. I remember being very grumpy about the fact that Resevoir “does not make martinis.” In fact, I’m still grumpy about that. But, sipping on my lame excuse for a whiskey sour, we got talkin’ bout his art and now I am tellin’ you to dance your fingers this way:

His website makes me so happy and so sad that I missed his recent “finissage.” Thus I  feel blessed to have been gifted a collage magnet by him from the distroboto at Zoobizarre (who DO make a yummy Guinness and Cider mixed drink btw…). And yes, I got to eat cake with this awesome artist at a recent house party. Damn, I’m lucky. 

What could be in this cute little box?

What could be in this cute little box?


Oh! It is an amazing little magnet!


you know what to do

Dancing Down the Condo! (this is cute)

•June 26, 2009 • Leave a Comment

My friend and arty Halifax girrrl Garity is spreading the love of this video, coordinated by Ben Gallagher and Filmed by Lucas Dambergs. They send this message with their moves:

Spring is here and we love it! Our city is awake, and it’s time to celebrate. But celebrate what? As our city crumbles they tear it down and build it anew. Our favourite spots cease to exist. What can we do to honour the places we love and resist their transformation into bland offices and condominiums? Rip it up with wicked mad dance styles! After all, this city is our dance floor”

Those of you who have been to Hali (where cool stuff like the Anchor Archive live) will recognize the locales and maybe even the dancers. Those of you who keep wistfully telling me about your dream of a trip out East whenever I tell you that’s where I’m from should get a move on.