Volume 92, Issue 9

Thursday, September 17, 1998

service with a smile


Grass greener for Grenier

Dipesh Mistry/Gazette

SWEATIN' UP A STORM. David Grenier closets his best knits in his display at John Labatt's Visual Art Center.

By Christina Vardanis

Gazette Staff

"Hello," comes a greeting from a couch sitting in the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre artlab. "Welcome to the space!"

And that's exactly what masters of fine arts graduate artist, David Grenier, has created. Space. A space symbolic of lifestyle and personhood, a space to wander and explore, a space that blurs black and white issues, but most importantly, a comfy space to sit.

The most distinguishing element of the exhibit, entitled Homo sweet homo, strikes before the artlab is actually in sight. The scent of fresh grass saturates the hallways of the Visual Arts Centre, leading visitors to Grenier's "space" by the nose. This is no aura-creating insence, or faux perfume. Grenier actually laid sod to cover the interior of the artlab, which is now flourishing into a lawn needing water, light and regular mowing.

The walls are sporadically covered with '70s-style "nature-esque" wallpaper and sketchings, texturized by stitchings and metallic pins. A dim, blueish-white light creates the effect of moonlight or an early dawn. This is an intimate, romantic environment that maintains the ambiance of a wide open field.

On a white couch, settled nicely to one side of the space sits Grenier knitting peacefully and talking freely with each new inhabitant of the space. Visitors can find him on the couch daily from 11a.m. to 4p.m., where he knits an abstract diary of daily events into sweaters.

"Creating my own space had a lot to do with claiming territory," Grenier explains. "I wanted to remake a space for homosexuality. In here you experience inside and outside simultaneously. They are no longer concrete, you have to look at the grey area."

The opening of the show last Friday was a testament to the message Grenier hopes to convey – he has invited you into a private environment in which all who tread can feel comfortable, making it a home of their own.

"People were laying on the grass, really talking and kids were doing cartwheels," says Grenier of probably the only opening to resemble a backyard party more than a studio.

"It's really a tactile show you feel your way through," he adds. From the echoing murmurs of other observers to the feeling of grass tickling your feet, each person can take some possession of the space and become a part of the sculpture. Grenier has constructed the pinnacle of the interactive process.

Every element of Grenier's space holds some autobiographical content, which inevitably triggers your own stroll down memory lane. The vestibule of the artlab is home to Confessions of a sweater fag, consisting of stacks of sweaters and window drawings. These articles of clothing and pictures knit together the viewer's memories, while suggesting each of our pasts are not so different.

"It really forces people to recollect on their own collections," remarks Grenier of the instant connection people feel with his art. "It's strange how something that doesn't belong to you can bring you back to yourself." To get Grenier's story, more effort is required.

"Things are placed within the space to slowly unveil [themselves]. When you meet someone for the first time, you don't know everything about them right away."

Grenier will admit that Homo sweet homo stems primarily from his own vague recollections of childhood. "I seem to remember ugly green wall-to-wall carpet and weird wallpaper," he jokes. "The funny thing is that at the end of [the exhibit's run], this space will be a memory too."

David Grenier's Homo sweet homo and Confessions of a sweater fag is at the John Labatt Visual Arts Centre artlab and vestibule until Sept. 25.

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department: gazette.entertainment@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1998