The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has never sounded so good: Rock Show: At the intersection of music + art has arrived on the gallery's fourth floor, described as an exploration of "the influence of music as subject and subculture on contemporary visual artists and their art." Included in the show are works by Carl Beam, Thierry Delva, Greg Forrest, Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg, Eleanor King, Annie Leibovitz, Craig Leonard, Lisa Lipton, William Robinson, Tom Sherman and Jan Pottie and Mitchell Wiebe.
Many of the artists whose works are on display for Rock Show are also practicing musicians, suggesting that the link between music and art can often be more than simply conceptual. Lisa Lipton was a member of the (sorely missed) band i see rowboats and performs as FRANKIE; Mitchell Wiebe is an accomplished painter (his dream-like "Dust Devil" anchors one side of the space) and has fronted iconic Halifax bands Cat Bag, Soaking Up Jagged and Pastoralia. Eleanor King---whose installation "Endless Practice" is perhaps the exhibition's most physically striking element, a floor-to-ceiling stack of drums anchored only by its internal tension
---drums and sings in Wet Denim.
"My art influences my music and vice versa" says King. "For me, they act as different conduits to express similar ideas. Sometimes it's easier to just get to the point in a pop song, sometimes I need to make a monumental wall-painting. On a practical level, working in the art studio is a generally solitary act, while music is mainly in collaboration with my amazing bandmates from Wet Denim... Sometimes a drawing will become a score for the piano, sometimes a rock song becomes a manifesto." Those two worlds can often collide---released in November, Wet Denim's self-titled album features a detail from King's drawing "Worm Hole" on its cover. At last year's OBEY Convention, Wiebe's fantastical paintings hung behind a blacklit secret show from Each Other. Overlaps like those point towards a relationship between the visual and the aural that is becoming increasingly evident in both the Halifax arts community at large as well as some of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's recent acquisitions. For David Diviney, curator of exhibitions at the AGNS, it was an "apt starting point for a fun summer show."
He was right---Rock Show is a lot of fun, a modest but engaging exhibition that truly invites a personal response. Fittingly, some of the pieces on display include both aural and visual components: two short films---Paradise City by Lisa Lipton and Alley 9 by Tom Sherman and Jan Pottie---play at opposite ends of the gallery, while sound clips of King drumming accompany "Endless Practice" and fill the rest of the space.
Taken as a whole, these sounds coalesce into a beautiful noise that provides a lovely backdrop for consideration of the other works. It's a diverse collection that is threaded together by its shared appreciation of music.
There is also a distinct local voice running through Rock Show, a sense that Halifax provided particularly fertile ground for many of these artists to explore the meeting of art and music. "I think because we're so isolated from other major cities, we develop our own weird vocabulary that is informed by our contemporaries elsewhere, but is ultimately unique," says King. "That's why there's a Halifax sound. There is a Halifax sound to the art that is made here too, largely influenced by NSCAD."
"Halifax is awesome... I'm thankful to be a part of such a rich and brilliant community of makers and performers."
Rock Show: At the intersection of art + music
To September 28
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
1723 Hollis Street