Culture | Saturday morning cartoons, grown up

Galerie ABYSS exhibits local talent

The well-known Montreal tattoo parlour ABYSS has a reputation for more than just body art, doubling as an art gallery dedicated to contemporary pop culture. Galerie ABYSS exhibits a new crop of local artists each month, displaying the work of both street and gallery artists side by side. Its current exhibit, “The New Cool,” solidifies the gallery’s role as a curator of new Montreal art, bringing us the the latest works of four up-and-coming artists.

Local artists Andrew Da Silva, Jimmy Baptiste, Waxhead, and Bezo will share the space for the rest of the month, each bringing their own adaptation of traditional cartoons and comics to ABYSS’ walls. While their styles and technical approaches vary wildly, the artists create continuity between their work by flattening their colour palettes, resulting in an old-school animation vibe.

In an interview with The Daily, Da Silva mentioned the substantial influence of 80s and 90s cartoons from his childhood on his current work. But the characters he creates now aren’t rated E for everyone. In a piece titled All the Cool Kids Doing It a cheeky skeleton in a hoodie stands nonchalantly inside a metal trap. Wading through a glass of red liquid is a nude woman with the word ‘Molly’ written across her stomach and a Facebook ‘like’ hovering underneath it. Similar Instagram notifications and Twitter follower tickers are sprinkled throughout the rest of Da Silva’s canvases.

While their styles and technical approaches vary wildly, the artists create continuity between their work by flattening their colour palettes, resulting in an old-school animation vibe.

“My work is very satirical,” Da Silva explained. “I have a love-hate relationship with [social media]. I think my generation is too caught up with [it], obsessed with [it], so I poke fun at it.” Da Silva’s clever use of recognizable icons to critique social phenomena renders his work equal parts relatable and biting.

Across the gallery, Jimmy Baptiste’s artwork departs from the cartoon aesthetic to a more comic book style. His figures break away from Da Silva’s flatness and explode across the canvas with undulating arcs of delicate watercolor and spidery lines of pencil and ink. Inspired by anime and tattoo design, Baptiste focuses primarily on the female face, manipulating facial features to explore a full range of emotions. In a large piece titled Spring, four women’s faces share the canvas with birds and flowers. Instead of reproducing a stock image of spring, Baptiste creates substantial movement using flowing strands of hair and his calligraphy-esque signature as a repeated motif, invoking the tumultuous winds of the season.

Waxhead’s zany vandalisms of vintage photos line the wall alongside Baptiste’s work. While Waxhead’s whimsical characters can typically be seen peeking out from behind street corners and hiding in the alleyways of Montreal, they appear in Galerie ABYSS in a form much easier to take home.

According to the artist, the works on display are primarily produced during the winter. In preparation for the confining winter months, the artist jokes that he breaks into homes and steals vintage family photos in order to paint over the faces with his own creations. The miscreant can also be found haunting flea markets and thrift stores for his next mark.

Bezo completes the show with his cartoons-on-acid style. A piece entitled Cupcake painted on a roughly cut oval acrylic panel depicts a male figure with empty eyes in bright overalls staring at a cupcake. A yellow skull mask covers his face and a green crown hovers over his head. The figure’s arms twist into knots and stretch impossibly far in opposite directions, creating a sense of depth. The figure is part pathetic, part absurd, and elicits a strange empathetic emotion from the viewer. The rest of Bezo’s work borders on the edge of terrifying and intriguing, fitting in well with the rest of the show’s adult cartoon vibe.

As a singular unit, the aptly-named exhibit accurately takes the pulse of what’s new in the Montreal art scene. The small gallery in Griffintown is must-see for anyone who likes to keep tabs on local talent.

“The New Cool” runs at Galerie ABYSS until June.