Traditionally 'feminine' crafts meet contemporary art at new Montreal exhibit

A new Montreal exhibit attempts to bridge the gap between traditionally "feminine" crafts and the world of contemporary art, offering a critical look at the era in which we live.

Singular mythologies, staged at 1700 La Poste, features artists Anna Torma, Marigold Santos, Claire Labonté

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      A new Montreal exhibit attempts to bridge the gap between traditionally "feminine" crafts and the world of contemporary art, offering a critical look at the era in which we live.

      The exhibit, entitled Singular mythologies, features the work of three female artists of varying backgrounds.  

      Isabelle de Mévius, curator and executive director of 1700 La Poste, arranged the works on three floors of the gallery in a juxtaposition of the myths and realities which can influence an individual.

      "I think these three artists have a singular way of doing things and that's why I put them together in this exhibition," she said.

      Hungarian-born Anna Torma chooses the traditionally female art of embroidery as her medium — embroidery being considered a craft and therefore not regulated as much as fine art was in the Hungarian People's Republic. 

      This allowed Torma the freedom to create socially challenging works before eventually fleeing the regime in 1988 and immigrating to Canada.

      In the case of Marigold Santos, an artist from the Philippines, the theme of displacement merges with fantastical creatures of Filipino folklore, which appear as both beautiful young women and demons, depending on the time of day.

      'She assimilates metamorphosis myths into her own story of constantly shifting,' said curator Isabelle de Mévius of Santos's history influencing her contribution to Singular mythologies. (1700 La Poste)

      Her work is displayed in the dark basement under florescent lights to enhance its dream-like quality.

      The works of Claire Labonté are found on the gallery's main floor and one spans 20 metres as a tapestry-like narrative.

      Each incorporates molecular images and fantastical creatures which she weaves through her work intuitively, de Mévius said.  

      Helping artist promote themselves

      After passing the tapestries related to childhood, the theme of adulthood appears. Here, an adult in female form. 'The kind that has to please, and all her ornamentation,' de Mévius said. (Elysha Enos/CBC)
      De Mévius founded La Poste, located on Notre-Dame Street in the city's Southwest borough, to give primarily Quebec-based artists a chance to be shown in a gallery and have a book made of their work.

      In the process, the artists are given an important tool for self-promotion — something that can be a challenge for artists, de Mévius said.

      "If they don't have enough documentation, it's difficult [to become known]," she said.

      The gallery is self-funded, which her gives her the freedom to choose the artists and themes she's interested in.

      This means she doesn't have to ask funding bodies for their approval before moving forward with an idea.

      "I'm happy because I don't have to say, 'can I do this?'" de Mévius said.

      Gallery 1700 La Poste on Notre-Dame Street West is the restoration of Postal Station F, built in 1913. It was restored by executive director Isabelle de Mévius working with architect Luc Laporte. De Mévius said it took four years to bring the space together. (1700 La Poste)

      Singular mythologies runs until Dec. 18 and is free to visit at 1700 Notre-Dame Street West.