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  • Hridya Chaudhary

Seeing Through – Proletariart 2019




  1. workers or working-class people regarded collectively (often used with reference to Marxism).”


Not an official word, ProletariART is a word play on proletariat, a word Marx invented, loosely translating to art created by anyone and everyone working (read: anyone and everyone feeding actively to materialism and capitalism.

CBU Art Gallery has been hosting Proletariart since a few years now and has always been received enthusiastically. The opening of Proletariart 2019 on 2nd November, was greeted by artists, families of artists, non-artists, families of non-artists alike. This exhibition, which includes 66 pieces in lots of different mediums, including but not limited to, drawings, photographs, and mixed media installations, is a local event put together by the works of local people. Anyone and everyone who was willing to put their vulnerability up on the walls of the art gallery was allowed to submit; there was no selection process, no tears and critiquing, just passion and hard work. 

Art pieces were adorned on all the four walls of the gallery and seemed to resemble a gravitational arc. Carefully placed with/without a story, or chronologically/non-chronologically will forever be a mystery. 

Politics seemed to be a striking theme of the exhibition (which is not surprising, considering the times we’re living in). Just as you enter, you are welcomed by two highly political pieces, a drawing by David P. Stephens and a sculpture called the Golden Child by Stephanie Steele. The latter seemed to be a marvelous depiction of poverty and hunger (possibly, especially in African communities). The Finger by John Lannon came across as a hilarious reaction to the world burning around us, it’s filled with the perfect amount of rage. George Orwell would be very proud of this painting, just saying. Another political pieces include Silence by Jagdeep Singh Sandhu, and How to Stop Being Perceived? by Nadia O’ Neil. Swimming in the Big Pool by Kristi Farrier may also be interpreted as being political as I can only imagine the streaks of red as fishes swimming amidst blood.

Stephanie Steele, Golden Child (mixed media, 2019)

The exhibition also featured a painting by Greg Davies, the curator of the gallery himself. It also includes a few collective pieces by the Relays Youth Organization, Harbourview Montessori Students & Onni Nordman, and more. The piece by Class Acts Drama School’s Theatre Arts Class involved public interaction as the on-goers were prompted to look inside (the lady’s) purse for a tiny secret BTS.

(L-R) Class Acts Drama School’s Theatre Arts Class & Gee Stewart, Venus (embroidery, 2019)

Portraits and self-reflection seemed to be another major theme. Self Portrait by Mellisa Kearney really captures your heart, especially if you identify as a woman, and reminds you that no matter how simple, you’re a goddess, even if you’re sitting in your pjs crying (angel) tears. Venus by Gee Stewart and Missing you by Sue Reeves are two ethereal pieces that transport you away from the world of realism to the world that only exists in your head. Hotline by Gillian Davies is our precious mermaid, Ariel in tears which highlights the nature of reduction of elements; everything must come back to what it once was. Another aggressive yet soft piece was Fantasy Bond (Separation @ 33) by Lis Yorke, I say aggressive because it was successful in reaching out to me and forcing me to listen to it, and I say soft because what it was actually saying felt like a soft poison whisper that might send me to sleep. In conclusion, I loved the juxtaposition of the first glance vs. the last glance. 

Lis Yorke, Fantasy Bond (Separation @ 33) (oil and pastel on canvas, 2019)

Proletariart as a collective whole, explores the depths of your mind and heart, and also all the corners of whatever you’re suppressing to feel, or aching to see, or dying to listen. The show runs from November 2, 2019 to January 17, 2020, go feed your soul if you already haven’t. 

Disclaimer: I believe art is whatever you want it to be. Your perception and my perception may overlap, or it may not overlap. Whatever the case might be, I don’t mean to question/challenge anyone’s opinion. I went in with a fresh set of eyes without knowing how/why these pieces were made, or what’s the history/backstory behind each of them, or what the artist is trying to convey. 

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