The Vernissage

Friday evening was the opening of the theme exhibit I was participating in.

This art gallery is an interesting space. An approximately 40 feet deep rectangular room, a separation has been installed approximately 2/3rd of the way in. This serves as extra space to put up paintings but can also permit two different shows at the same time by different artists.

Going in, I looked around for my artwork. The room was filled with about 60 paintings and photographs of various sizes, most overwhelmingly yellow as the theme of the exhibit called for.

When I didn’t immediately see my work , I realised at once that the Janet, gallerist, had installed my paintings on the back side of the partition. I was a bit disappointed with this choice because you could not see my work right away when walking in but on the other hand, it gave me a whole wall to myself which made my artwork really pop. I saw that I was also in good company in the back part of the gallery where other quite interesting, even impressive artworks, were hanging.

In the front section, everything that was strikingly yellow was featured and in the large window, two small pieces were installed. I wondered about this but realised that by putting up smaller work, people strolling outside could easily see all the way to the back of the room and may be enticed to come in.

While seemingly similar, each vernissage has its own ambiance, its own vibe. Contrary to last year when I first showed there, I sensed Janet was somewhat nervous even if the atmosphere was fun and the room filled with people. What might have contributed to her uneasiness was the presence of an intrusive older, and quite weird photographer. It didn’t seem like she had hired him but he took it upon himself to take hundreds of unsolicited close-ups of everyone, including the few children, invading our space and making us uncomfortable. He was disrupting the mood.

He wasn’t alone. An old, witch looking lady, maybe his wife, was also taking pictures. She looked full of confidence, talking to everyone and inviting them to pose for her.  At least she was asking!

I think Janet might have thought the couple intrusive to the guests during an event  she was responsible for.

The rest of the crowd was your regular busy vernissage crowd, with some people talking animatedly while others were sulking in corners, holding their little plastic glass of wine between nervous fingers and looking around for someone to talk to, for a friendly face, but thinking in advance that it would be hard to approach anyone.

The family and friends were there to support their loved ones, which is always much appreciated, and were having fun telling stories and basically having a small party at the gallery. Some others were looking at the art and commenting with their partner or friend, trying to imagine what the artist was thinking while creating, critiquing the composition or colors, the medium, the size. Some others were carefully examining details of artworks that seemed more intricate. Most people attending looked like they were having a good time.

As for the artists, well a lot of us are basically loners. The process of creativity demands long periods of introspection and it is not easy to break this pattern, especially in a room full of strangers. Critique frequently turns into criticism. It is often what we fear at the beginning of our journey. What will they think of what I am trying to express here? Or am I even trying to say anything or simply enjoying the play of colors and light on my canvas?

Despite this, it is important that we, as artists, whether painter, writers or performers, put ourselves out there, find venues to exhibit and try to explain where we are coming from, what motivates us, what we perceive. And it’s fun to interact after being closed up in our studio. Each time, we learn something new, something of value that we can carry either in our work or as a life experience to move forward.

After each vernissage now, I have renewed determination to create my own thing. I am happy with my work, with my research and dedication to the technical aspect of it, with the way it is evolving and the surprises it brings. I enjoy sharing with other artists but also sharing myself with each piece of art, putting a little bit of my soul on canvas.

And the more I see other artists’ work, the more I find that my creations are really special and different. Just like I would not want to be anybody else, I don’t want my art to resemble anyone else’s.

Even though it is sometimes difficult to tear ourselves away from our work, the occasion of the vernissage generally supplies us with good exposure. And we usually walk away from these evenings with a renewed sense of purpose and a reminder of our own uniqueness.

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