Everything is transformed | The duty

Everything is transformed | The duty
Everything is transformed | The duty

After a long period in darkness – eight months, the duration of two exhibitions – the Darling Foundry has regained its “colors”: the large room is bathed in natural light and shines from its high ceilings. That’s for the container. In terms of content, including in the small room, everything is (finally) homemade, after we left the programming to the care, first of the MOMENTA biennial, then of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Montreal.

The exhibition Replicas by Simon S. Belleau, worn by Milly-Alexandra Dery, the appointed curator of the Darling Foundry, delights at first glance with the way in which it magnifies the main room. The Montreal artist and filmmaker did not go overboard in filling the place, even if it was the large dimensions that guided his choices, at least some of them.

In the same way, the works in the second exhibition resonate through their process linking dilapidation and reconstruction with the recycling and reuse that animate the art center of Old Montreal. Ecstatic Distanceby Torontonian-now-Montrealist James Gardner, is also a proposal from the founder and director of the place, Caroline Andrieux.


It is through a long structure made of aluminum tubes that Simon S. Belleau manages to appropriate the space entrusted to him. Suspended, almost imperceptible, as if it were a permanent element of the design, it highlights both the place (its luminosity and its emptiness) and the artist’s intention.

Replicas isn’t really about greatness and wealth, or beauty and purpose. Or, if she does, it’s through the gang. The theme is rather another, upstream: it is that of construction, of the process, of the accumulation of ideas and materials. The aerial structure mentioned above is thus a pile of tubes and fittings, before becoming a whole.

Through the dissonance between sound and image, the central work of the exhibition — the title video Replicas, constantly supplied with new scenes — is soaked in strangeness, subtly dissected. If the story around a dream is of little importance, it is because Simon S. Belleau displays in a more or less explicit manner a set of skills, tricks and phases specific to a cinematographic production, between his furtive figure at the screen (a hand, a shadow) and his indirect presence (his inaudible voice dictates the monologues to the ears of the protagonists).

The exhibition is of this nature — the appearance on the surface, the unsaid beneath it. The video device does not fit into one screen, but into a good twenty. Slightly spaced from the wall, the reverse side is visible: so many monitors and cables, identical and tirelessly repeated.

Layers and layers of paper (recycled posters superimposed) make up four sets of works placed on the walls. The artist organizes them to create bold mosaics of shapes and colors. In one of them, we recognize fragments of his video. Elsewhere, a sports agora and another policy are combined. Milly-Alexandra Dery sees “plays of ellipse and temporal phase shift” which introduce “visually the notion of echo”.

The acoustic phenomenon which repeats and dilutes, at the heart of the video as much as throughout this large room, serves as a metaphor for Simon S. Belleau to evoke the reality of artistic work. Artists invent little, ultimately, as what has gone before is a Source of inspiration. Creation is a network of ideas and knowledge that extends over time.


James Gardner is a painter. He works in oil and acrylic — a mixture in itself indebted to the histories of art. But he also plays with appearances. The exhibition Ecstatic Distance is not just about painting. In the center of the small room, around and with the columns of the place, the installation The Iconostasis (2019) — the only work that does not date from 2024 — is teeming with sculpted materials, some industrial (gabions, metal mesh), found objects, insulating foam and concrete.

On the walls, large and small formats offer incessant variations of what seems to be a story anchored in the past. The artist draws his inspiration from monastic sites in Greece and Turkey. Although we recognize here a halo (motif of holiness), there a place of meditation, the scenes are deliberately confused and strongly nourished by emptiness and traces – ghosts.

It must be said that each painting involves cutting, re-cutting, but also gluing and replacing its own scraps created during production. James Gardner is also, in some way, a sculptor. The recent Concordia graduate (2020) has exhibited this type of painting more than once. We will have to see if his time at the Darling Foundry will lead him to explore new avenues in the future.

It should be noted that the double program places artists represented by the Eli Kerr (Simon S. Belleau) and Nicolas Robert (James Gardner) galleries side by side. The two brands really seem inseparable: they have just established themselves on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, one door next to the other.

At the Darling Foundry, 745 Ottawa Street, until May 26


By Simon S. Belleau

Ecstatic Distance

By James Gardner

To watch on video



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