Bewabon and Travis Shilling are painters from Rama First Nations in Orillia. The brothers follow the same path as their late father Arthur Shilling. A curated collection of Arthur Shilling’s paintings are on display now at the Art Gallery of Peterborough.
Nadia McLaren, an artist and friend of the brothers, selected a number of their paintings for an exhibition to run concurrently with their father’s exhibition. Bewabon and Travis also share their late father’s studio. The two relish in the fact that they “share light with dad.”
Bewabon graduated from OCAD in 2001, and Travis, in addition to painting, is also a filmmaker and playwright. Both have exhibited their arts nationally and internationally. Their exhibition at Christensen Fine Art, simply titled Shilling, is their first Peterborough show.
McLaren curated some 10 paintings by each artist.
Bewabon’s collection is mostly comprised of works from his Field Series Revisited.
However, McLaren begins the exhibition with paintings that were evidently composed prior to this series. Landscape with Tree is the inspiration for the later series. In the bottom third of the canvas are short brush strokes of oranges and browns; a solitary tree is dwarfed by the sky above.
In Early Landscape, Bewabon uses the same technique of short, single brush strokes or dabs to paint what looks like an autumn landscape. Now, however, these dabs of color comprise three-quarters of the canvas.
Finally, the Field Series is entirely abstract. While the color motifs of orange, yellow and brown recall those frequently employed by his father in #8 and #4, Bewabon also explores the relationship between these colors and different shades of blue in #5 and #7.
The result is a feast for the eyes. The colors dance on the canvas and our eyes are simultaneously drawn to the repetitive brush strokes, the possibility of a pattern and the tactile quality of the paint (some of the strokes leave more paint than others).
The works also draw attention to the process and materiality of painting itself.
Travis’s paintings are a different sort. These works aim to tell a story.
The Bear depicts a hunter and his trophy. Out of this dead animal emerges what may be its spirit. This bear-spirit has donned a mask and is walking upright away from its shell.
Bear and Man shows the latter floating on a chunk of ice accompanied by the former, or the reverse may be equally as true. The bear looks askance as the man appears to be drinking bottle after bottle of alcohol.
Travis’s interest in the bear anthropomorphized takes its strongest form in Untitled. Here it appears a bear has mobilized an old film camera to document something in the woods, perhaps whatever has happened to cause the smoke in the background.
This canvas evoked the idea of a possible documentary film shot by animals rather than humans. Imagine then, a documentary not presenting the effect of capitalism on animals, such as the destruction of habitat.
Instead, the story in this canvas might ask us to consider the effect of capitalism on human beings as told from the perspective of animals. Such a thought experiment is frightening.
McLaren chose to exhibit the Shillings’ paintings side by side. It was worthwhile to see their distinct styles and painting techniques. Bewabon and Travis have set themselves apart from their father as well as from each other.
The layout of Christensen Fine Arts certainly directs viewers to view specific paintings and spend less time with others.
The ground floor exhibition space is spacious and welcoming and the top floor, complete with a couch and studio, should allow spectators enough time and relative privacy to view the larger canvases at length. Unfortunately two painters were hung on the stairway.
Pop into Christensen Fine Arts to see the paintings for yourself. Hours are weekdays 10a.m. to 5:30p.m., and Saturdays 10a.m. to 4p.m. Shilling runs until March 31.
For a review of the opening of Arthur Shilling’s exhibition at the AGP, see “Arthur Shilling and more at the AGP” on trentarthur.ca.