Arbor Gallery hosts two textile exhibits

by Christopher Smith - EAP
Arbor Gallery hosts two textile exhibits
Brian Beavis’s artistic pursuits began with acrylic paintings, which swiftly evolved to take on a Mondrian style thanks to a friend. According to Arbor Gallery curator Sylvie Bouchard, his paintings are a salute to Mondrian. (Photo : Christopher Smith)

Two artists are jointly showing their textile-based art exhibits in the Arbor Gallery until October.

Brian Beavis and Carl Stewart have been pursuing art for years now, Stewart in weaving and Beavis with acrylic paints. Beavis started at the private day school his mother sent him to, where art was the only subject he excelled in. After leaving school, he lost touch with the art scene until his family emigrated to Canada in December 1962, where he started working in various bookshops.

Art didn’t come back into his life until 1970, when a friend got him a Mondrian acrylic book and he started dabbling with acrylics. He began to paint in his spare time, on and off until 2018, when repairing a radiator inspired him to pursue sculpture with twine and dowels, along with a more free-form abstract painting discipline.

The exhibition in the Arbor Gallery is his first and came about completely by chance while he was showing photos of his paintings to Arbor Gallery curator Sylvie Bouchard. He didn’t set out to be exhibited, but it was a happy accident all the same.

“Best said, my exhibition is a salute to Mondrian,” Beavis said. “I still can hardly belief that my work is on an art gallery. Since this is my first exhibition, nothing is for sale. If anyone is interested, I would be happy to make something new for them.”

As for his co-exhibitor, Stewart started in 1985 at the School of Visual Arts in Prince Edward Island. He had originally enrolled for Anthropology, but after setting foot in a weaving studio he knew that “this is where I’m supposed to be.” He immediately went to the registrar and transferred to the weaving program, which spoke to him on a fundamental level.

“I just think there’s some unique qualities in textiles that really lend themselves to discussing really difficult and challenging subjects,” he said. “For a long time, I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly those qualities are, and I keep coming back to the fact that they’re something so familiar to us. Every day, we get out of a bed covered in textiles, we get dressed in textiles, they’re around us all the time.”

His current exhibition hanging in the Arbor Gallery is called Wholecloth, a reflection on the memory of cloth. Weaving the long banners of fabric from recycled or repurposed textiles, Stewart asks whether the fabrics retains any vestiges of their previous lives. Does this patch remember being a sweater, warming someone in the cold months? Does that patch remember being part of a mattress, cradling the weight of those who have slept or even died on them? He deconstructs the fabric and these questions, weaving the fibers into new clothe and inviting viewers into a conversation about finding meaning. He worked on the exhibit for five years, saving every scrap of fabric he could get his hands on and sometimes stealing out to source more himself.

“I have three pieces of fabric woven entirely from the four to five-inch pieces of string from teabags. I estimate now that I’ve tied together probably 10,000 of those little strings that people have sent to me. I’ve got relatives and acquaintances sending me envelopes of those tea strings even still. On my loom right now, I have one piece of fabric woven from a fishing net, which because they’re knotted and not looped, you can cut them apart in such a way that you’re left with one long, continuous thread,” he said. “Earlier this year I found in an auction a World War II canvas tent, and so I took all the pieces of the tent apart, unwove the tent, and tied all of those threads together. I would go out at night and skin mattresses to weave from. I also turned the aluminum tops to pudding cups into threads to weave from.”

Stewart has exhibited his work across Canada and the United States. Most recently, he and two other artists showed an exhibit at Ottawa City Hall called Thresholds. His work featured 66 materials woven into the flags of countries around the world where homosexuality is still criminalized. His current exhibition, Wholecloth, will fly out to Prince Edward Island after finishing at the Arbor Gallery.

Neoplasticism and Wholecloth opened with a vernissage on September 9, where Beavis and Stewart explained their works and answered questions.

“The vernissage went well and the people who did attend, together with my co-exhibitor, Carl Stewart, were very complimentary,” said Beavis. “This really means a lot coming from a professional artist.”

The exhibits will be showing in the Arbor Gallery until October 1. On that day, Beavis and Stewart will host a formal closing talk where visitors will be able to ask questions about the two exhibits.

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