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"People and Their Digestions"
Ryan Sluggett, "People and Their Digestions," 2005, acrylic and oil on canvas, 57 x 80.25 inches.
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Ryan Sluggett, "The Relators," 2005, acrylic and oil on canvas, 47 x 62 inches.
RYAN SLUGGETT, Monsters and Their Niches
Nov 24 — Dec 22, 2005
By Wes Lafortune
As an artist, Ryan Sluggett is part philosopher, part storyteller. With paint brush, pencil crayon, pen, and spray can, he expresses his views about the world not in cold academic terms but with an almost childlike awareness.
Originally from a suburban neighbourhood in Calgary, and now living in Vancouver, Sluggett brings a disarmingly appealing wit to his artwork. The title image of his exhibition at Trepanier Baer Gallery, Monsters And Their Niches, tips us off to Sluggett's sensibilities. This musing in gouache, pencil crayon, and ink on paper shows the monsters in walled recesses similar to Renaissance frescoes of saints. Conceived as assemblages of bling, the Cubist-like figures have apparently returned from the world of consumerism where they have had their fill of society's woes. Aroused, bloated, and perhaps a bit perplexed, these cartoonish monsters have probably encountered the characters from another of Sluggett's works in this exhibition — the malaprop-titled The Relators.
Standing in front of partially built condominium towers, one of the "The Relators" is meeting up with would-be home buyers at an unnamed development site. With his hand outstretched — a handshake? a grasping gesture? — the salesman and his minions regard the transaction as promises made and money exchanged in the name of progress. In the distance, a construction crane pokes skyward as a bystander walks away from the scene — at least for now.
In Platform Two, another scene of urban living plays out. The figure in the centre of the frame anxiously checks his watch for the time, obviously late for a very important meeting, while the rest of this mass of humanity appears resigned to the fact that their train may never come in.
Sluggett succeeds in communicating his ruminations on consumption where other artists often fail. Instead of taking a didactic approach, he employs humour, eye-popping colour, and distorted perspective to make the point that we are all busily embracing a culture that sacrifices human qualities in favour of instant gratification and the best value per square foot.
Fascinated by the history of art and all of its players, the recent Alberta College of Art and Design graduate has also included a 14-minute animated video as part of the exhibition. Using more than 8,000 digital still images to create Diderot's Indulgent Vistas, this is the 24-year-old artist's take on the French philosopher's immersion in a Claude-Joseph Vernet painting.
Schooled in the canons of art history and philosophy, yet fascinated by the scenes that play out in front of his eyes every day, Sluggett portrays a whimsical world where all of the monsters look very familiar.