Art collides with passersby

New ‘gallery without walls’ debuts in corporate thoroughfare

Visual artists and visual art fans know where to go in this city to find contemporary art. They’d gladly direct us to the many galleries and artist-run centres that house carefully curated exhibitions. But as vibrant as those spaces are there are many Calgarians who haven’t had the time or inclination to set foot in a gallery proper notwithstanding how much they may love visual art — and that’s where Art Forum Gallery steps in and meets those people in their daily lives.

“We are trying to bring the art directly to the people to you to me to others instead of forcing them to go to the gallery space” explains curator and gallery administrator Jacek Malec previously of Triangle Gallery and the Museum of Contemporary Art and now co-founder of Art Forum Gallery alongside architecturally trained designer Michael Rae. Art Forum Gallery isn’t and will never be a physical location in the city but is rather a roving contemporary art organization that seeks to bring its exhibitions to new audiences in unconventional spaces.

Art Forum’s inaugural exhibit Metaphoric Landscapes showcases work by Calgary-based artist and educator Dave Casey in the Plus-15 level of Eighth Avenue Place and is produced by SQ Commons. The “gallery” encircles an escalator enjoys natural light and is busy with people travelling between buildings.

“The formal element of us animating the space is an accidental collision with the passerby… this is actually to let them stop and think and slow down” says Malec. “There is that dialogue between the passerby and the object of work; as the gallery of the 21st century we like to deal with 21st century spaces.”

Casey’s work is a strong choice for this type of exhibit — one that is open to a multitude of viewers but also needs to capture their attention. Not immediately identifiable as belonging any particular “school” of art Casey pools intense colours together in his work so that his paintings are arresting even from across a hallway and yet also includes minute representational details that reward closer inspection. For example a painting that is primarily a softly marbled green includes a series of small panels depicting a horse-rider.

The exhibit ranges from an early abstract painting from 1965 to more recent works particularly a number of pieces made from a 2011 residency at the Bar U Ranch. In these you’ll see the same attraction to strong colours from inky blues to dreamy turquoises to hard expanses of red and gold.

“His works are rich in the method they indicate the odyssey of the artist from place to place to place from subject matter to subject matter to subject matter oscillating naturally around the traditional landscape and the evolution of that subject matter” says Malec.

Malec is excited about future exhibition possibilities in Eighth Avenue Place with its high ceilings and generous floor space suited to sculpture and installation. And the possibilities for Art Forum Gallery more generally are even broader — it might engage with non-visual artists; it will seek out other unconventional places (corporate offices malls high-end design stores to name a few) where Calgarians can meet directly with art; it will include accessible educational programming; and it’s likely to cast an eye to the international scene and bring in art from around the world something that Malec has experience with from his days at the Triangle Gallery.

In its various ways Art Forum Gallery will continue reaching out to a variety of communities both within and outside the art world. “This is one of the principle things of the Art Forum — to create that forum and sustain that forum” says Malec.