VOLUME 1 | ISSUE 16 | Leigh Cooney on Display

by: Sasha Ormond

I am not a visual artist.  I cannot drop names.  I cannot discuss various genres.  I cannot dissect a painting, using pithy commentary nor can I back it up with any kind of formally educated terminology.

This being said, I feel I am a good person to tell you what art you should consider taking an interest in!  Objectivity and a separateness from the visual art world give me an interesting armchair view of things that may or may not be ‘meaningful’ and worthwhile in terms of your time (the waste-ability factor) and money (the unavailability factor).  Wait, should we begin a discussion about the subjectivity of art right now?  Because I can do that.  No.

As someone who knows so little about the technical roots of most art, Pop-art has usually been something that I overlook.  Literally, I have never much liked looking at it, regardless of its social/economic/societal/relevant commentary.  Visually speaking, I’ve never been particularly moved by its presence.  Please keep in mind – disclaimer here – I am one person with a very small and uneducated opinion.

Leigh Cooney is someone I would suggest looking into.  Perusing.  Taking a gander.  Seeing.   He has been labeled as a Pop-art (Pop –Folk art) creator, but to my fresh and unaware eyes, there is something more to his work than this overly boxed in arena would imply.  A certain depth that can’t seem to be ignored despite the bright colors and seemingly obvious pop culture feel.  As much as there is a glaringly obvious statement about the current cultural climate, there seems to exist, just under the surface, a more personal message:

Here is an oil painting of a caricature of Charlie Brown.  But wait.  If you look a little longer, here is the artist, telling you something, giving you something, a little piece of himself.  A peek into his ideas about isolation, psychology, humanity and otherness, somehow done (a very hard thing to do within this arena and medium, I would imagine) in a resonating and relatable way.

Learn more about Leigh Cooney, the Irish born Canadian here, http://www.leighcooney.com/about-leigh.html.

Then, go and have a look at his latest work, chosen to be funded by The Ontario Arts Council Grant (another solid reason to check it out and support this amazing local community), which is showing for the better part of the month at The Chrysalids Theatre, (formerly, The Gig Theatre), in Kitchener.  137 Ontario Street North, to be precise.  A little gem in our lovely town that has been a venue for some incredible acts in the past.

More on the incredible space and its fantastic events here, https://www.facebook.com/TheChrysalids

As someone who is not easily grabbed, I can safely say, these paintings grab you.  There is no looking away, even if you are only looking at an oil on canvas of a hot dog.  There is something unsettling and unnerving about them which is only intensified by the otherwise unassuming and pleasant genre/medium of choice.  It is comparable to a childhood memory of your grandmother telling you she will be taking you for ice cream, putting you in the back of the station wagon, summer breeze blowing in, sun shining on your face, only to pull into the parking lot of your family doctor, walk through a long hallway made of mirrors and be forced to get your yearly vaccinations.  These paintings are your ‘oh so cool, teenaged, pot smoking, anarchist cousin, who thinks that proper family gatherings are the best place to bring up ideas about our impending mortality and the masks we all wear and tells everyone to WAKE UP before he storms upstairs and slams the door, leaving all of the adults laughing uncomfortably at the perfectly set, pink dining room table’.  These are my favourite kinds of people.  These hypothetical cousins.

If you like seeing things, really seeing them and are comfortable with the un-comfortability of life and ‘truth’, or even just enjoy the perspective of someone other than yourself, then Leigh Cooney is for you.  This is my uneducated and totally ignorant opinion.  

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