By in Previous Exhibitions on October 8, 2008

Sweet. Popopstudios’ show ‘Sugar’ to open this week


Guardian National Correspondent

Sugar with its wide properties as both granule and sentiment, prepares for its latest role – the theme of an upcoming show at PopopStudios Center for the Visual Arts.

On October 24 the gallery will open its doors to the interpretation of the substance by 17 artists in its first invitational show “Sugar.”

From the medical to the maudlin, sugar evokes both serious and light-hearted circumstances. In one piece each, the show’s wide variety of artists are asked to speak to sugar as much as they do to their own creativity.

The “Sugar” artists include Stan Burnside, Lillian Blades, Heino Schmid, John Beadle, Holly Parotti, Toby Lunn, Obediah Michael Smith, Chantal Bethel, Jackson Petit, Jackson Burnside, Susan Moir-Mackay, Dylan Rapillard, Marie Jeanne Dupuch, Anya Antonovych Metcalf, Antonius Roberts, Claudette Dean and Christian McCabe.

“Sugar … became interesting in terms of a medium, in terms of it being something that you could use, in terms of your process,” explained John Cox, artist and PopopStudios proprietor, of the theme. “It also had other connotations in terms of language and culture and how people talk about sweet things. There’s a sensual quality to that.”

After toying with the concept of the show’s syrupy theme, once temporarily dismissing the theme as too narrow, Cox settled on sugar when he observed its wide connotations in the media. Sugar – much more than a beverage or pastry sweetener – was being discussed as a source of energy; and the lack of control of it, a deadly force in the lives of many. “I thought this could be interesting,” said Cox.

Just as open to the diverse roles of sugar, some of the show’s artists have used the theme to show more than one side of the simultaneously material and intangible substance.

“I find that with the name ‘sugar’ … you as the artist have to absorb that and then see what kind of imagery you come up with from your own point of view,” said Claudette Dean. The artist described her piece – a diptych that shows both the sweet and “dark side” of the theme. Images of flowers in bloom and a couple in love are tempered by those of hypodermic needles and wilted petals, all surrounded by the pervasive sweetness of sugar cane. “Sugar cane really stood out in my mind a lot,” she said.

Dean also savored the opportunity to produce work centered on a pre-set theme but from her perspective. “For me it was really neat having to come up with something that really comes from my point of view,” she said. “It’s a good exercise.”

Opting to go with the deleterious effects of sugar on the body, artist Dylan Rapillard offers a canvas of women who’ve had their fill of sugar. Obese figures, one with rotting teeth, are caught in a sugar frenzy before a background covered in cotton-candy pink.

“I started out by researching sugar and seeing the negative effects … that sugar has on human beings,” he said. “The main three things that happen with human beings in regards to sugar is obesity; destruction of teeth, rotting of teeth and diabetes. So I decided to go into obesity and rotting of teeth,” he said of his painting, a scene in which, he said, “people are essentially feasting on sweets.”

PopopStudios Center for the Visual Arts officially opened in January with an ambitious exhibition schedule that Cox feels it has largely fulfilled. “Sugar,” a show that marks the beginning of the end of a busy year for the Center, is “exciting” in the acceptance of the invitation to participate by the 17 artists who will exhibit work.

“We feel pretty good,” said Cox. “The willingness of the artists to participate in a show like this is largely reflected in their comfort level with the gallery and with the curatorship of the show. I was very happy and flattered that these guys said that they would participate.”

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