MV artist exhibits in Bancroft during April

Carson Lake seasonal resident Joseph Muscat is a professional artist whose work has been seen in group and solo exhibitions throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and South America – including at the former South of 60 Art Gallery in the Barry’s Bay Railway Station. His latest exhibition “Yet There We Are” is currently at the Art Gallery of Bancroft where we spoke with the artist at the vernissage on Friday, April 5th.

The mixed media works on display catalogue the artist’s response to the pandemic. Muscat told The Current, “My studio is my refuge.” He explained that, pandemic or not, he is always working and making art, so in that sense coronavirus did not affect him on a day-to-day basis. But the impetus for this exhibition was indeed the pandemic and he spent much of that period at his Carson Lake cabin. He explained, “As soon as the pandemic hit, I had just finished a series of work.” That meant that as an artist he was faced with a blank slate while considering what to do next. Like all of us at the time, Muscat was inundated with all the media images of coronavirus – that ubiquitous round shape with spikes. He said, “It hit me like a ton of bricks … I’m going to turn these into flowers. Put a positive spin on it.” The result in February 2021 was his series of paintings called Florentines. Above: Muscat poses with some of his Florentines.

Then followed a darker time period “where we knew we were up the creek.” In March 2021 he started a second series of paintings he called Cabin Jitters. Canadians are all familiar with the cabin fever that hits at the end of winter, when humans and animals are breaking out in anticipation of spring. He used images of cabins, trees and animals with hints of gestures. He said, “Animals had been free to run, we hadn’t, and I used animal shapes as inspiration.” The last two works in this series are kinetic using clockwork mechanisms “having a slow rotational movement like the second hand on a clock, mimicking the slow drag of time when time stands still.”  

Cabin Jitters 9 – mixed media/kinetic painting by Joseph Muscat.

The third part of Muscat’s work on display is called Waiting. By April 2021 he concluded “we were in a timeless waiting game mode” as the world waited “for vaccines to arrive or for the scourge to disappear.” Muscat used images of furniture and his cabin on Carson Lake, with animals “loitering among these props.”

This is the first time Muscat has exhibited at the Art Gallery of Bancroft. When this work was selected in late 2022 he had entitled it “Are We There Yet?” but as the time arrived to mount the display Muscat decided to invert the title to “Yet There We Are.” Changing it from a question to a statement, he explained, “describes the present situation which clearly confirms that the pandemic is behind us, but the aftereffects linger.”

You can see the exhibition until April 27th at the Art Gallery of Bancroft, 10 Flint Avenue, Bancroft. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 4pm.

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