Geneviève Cadieux, Landon Mackenzie and Lyne Lapointe

Galerie France Morin

In this exhibition, the evidence that Geneviève Cadieux, Landon Mackenzie, and Lyne Lapointe gave of the community in which they work and show was strong and comprehensive. The cultural specificity of Montreal—a city in relative isolation from the comparatively uniform sheen of what lies west of it in Canada—makes for heady fare.

Of the series of “Illusions” that made up Cadieux’s show, Illusion No. 5 is the most successful. Each “Illusion” consists of a number of large Plexiglas sheets bearing life-size photographic images of a woman in a leotard. Their surfaces abraded and then treated with dark blues and blacks, the panes are placed in a row and adorned with neon rods—some behind them, some in front, and some, as in Illusion No. 5, fastened to their surfaces. Although in all the pieces the slender line between “body as gesture” and “body as carrier of gesture” is inadequately defined, Illusion No. 5 has a cinematic quality which is not dependent on the movement of the photographed body. The still rectitude of the standing figures and of the vertical bars of neon attached to each panel reduces kinesis to a delicate state of implication by situation. Photograph and bar are placed differently in each of the four panels; the similarity and relativity of light and body shimmer against each other in their underlined sequentiality. There’s nothing like potential movement for a close shave with discreet eroticism, and it is this that lets Cadieux off the problematic hook that dangles menacingly between any camera and the female form.

The I’m-not-okay, you’re-not-okay-ness of the other two studies, both of bodies in contortion, is too literal. Unfortunately, states of mind cannot be evidenced by the mere physical presentation of the person undergoing them. Illusion No. 5 is the only work here that manages to evade a reduction to a figure/ground relationship, and consequently it holds together its elements, its images, panels, and lights––elements which in the other pieces are divided and conquered by the loaded representation of the body of a woman.

Landon Mackenzie’s “Lost River Series” of paintings, of a river in northern British Columbia, also follows a sequential pattern. Within the paintings there is affectionate allusion and homage to the kind of earlier Canadian landscape painting that tended to cut off its awe just to spite its realism. Mackenzie’s paintings are not landscapes, however; they are more like mystery plays unfolding on a tundra. The planes of the large dark canvases often seem to include aerial views and horizon lines at the same time. The forms are generalized—animals drinking at water’s edge could be dogs or bears—but their relations are oddly specific: the pool from which they drink becomes a lake when seen in scale with the mountain forms that surround it. There is a topsoilness to the work—things are hidden in the land, hidden in water. The cave-drawing animals, unmanageable beasts, are some of them wounded, some of them trapped, most of them unconscious of being observed, and impossibly human in the animism lent to them by Mackenzie’s representation.

The most outstanding individual work here was a large sculpture, one of the three untitled pieces that comprised Lapointe’s exhibition. Three wooden tripods, oversized and culled from some turn-of-the-century land speculator’s kit, stand in awesome defense of a tarpaulin which hangs behind them. The tarp is laden with phosphorescent pigment, three thick marks of which are mnemonic of huts, with a gestural curl of smoke emitting from each. These dolmenlike, generalized dwellings appear again as luminescent talismans, one on each of three small slate plaques cradled in the crotches of the looming tripods. The tripods themselves are reminiscent of Viollet Le Duc’s speculative drawings of the original human shelter—three trees lashed together at their summit.

The gallery is in darkness; an intermittent and silent light flashes at the foot of the tripods, illuminating the tarp. This light is retained by the phosphorescent pigment, as if the piece were memory itself. The viewer becomes spectator to the specter of the piece as it is veiled and illuminated. The little houses become charms for each other, conspiring to create around the piece itself the atmosphere of the frail and temporary clemency of dwelling and its implied body.

The need for shelter is the fall from grace from the union of mind and body. We are implicated in the piece at the moment of the creation of memory, at the moment of the recognition of mind as separate from body and capable of arresting the continuum to which the body is infinitely vulnerable. Lapointe’s sanctuaries name this recognition, bringing us vertiginously to its origin, and it is with tribal memory that we attend each flash of light before the piece.

Martha Fleming