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What a Day in the Bay: The Bonavista Biennale

View from the Fisher's Loft Conference Centre in Port Rexton

The Bonavista Biennale opened on August 17th, and we attended the launch this past weekend. This festival, which is on until September 17th, features acclaimed contemporary Canadian artists with programming impressively integrated into the Bonavista Peninsula. Our itinerary was jam packed as we cruised along the Discovery Trail soaking in art and the stunning landscapes of the Newfoundland coast.

One day was certainly not enough, and we recommend giving yourself as much time as possible to take in every outstanding location and artist. On our daytrip we squeezed in visits to Trinity, Port Rexton, Port Union, Maberly, Elliston, and Bonavista, but there is even more to see! So far, some of our favourite sites included Site 9, the Bonavista Wellness Centre, Site 14, the Maberly Lookout, and Site 16, the Coaker Factory Building.

Prolific Canadian artist Michael Snow’s video “Solar Breath (Northern Caryatids)” is projected over a window in the centre, and it creates a new, false window scape of a curtain flying in the wind. The curtain blows towards the viewer, offering them a glimpse of the green world outside, only to be sucked back onto the mesh screen by a gust of wind. The film is calm and almost meditative, but builds a curiosity and desire to pull the curtain aside and reveal what is being hidden.

Walking across the hallway revealed a mesmerizing video diptych by Matthew Hollett. “A House By the Water” shows computer rendered houses falling weightlessly into a stunning Newfoundland seascape. The brightly coloured houses completely submerge and occasionally bounce back into the sky. The paired video, “A City By the Sea” captures running water shimmering with house-shaped lights. The two videos contrast each other perfectly to create a captivating scene for viewers.

Dil Hildebrand’s work “E Unibus Pluram” is hung on the framing beams of the Bonavista Wellness Centre and the transparent nature of the room is a good fit for the multilayered paintings. The depth in the large pieces drew us in, a depth created from the integration of their frame’s panes of glass into the work itself. Both the larger works and the small collages on display seem simultaneously built up and deconstructed, a feeling that is mirrored in the exposed architecture of the building.

The photographs of Ned Pratt on display in the adjacent room contrast with the rough aesthetic of the space, making their clean lines, perfect symmetry, and minimal colour palette immediately apparent. Pratt’s way of capturing artificial structures interrupting pristine landscapes is satisfying and almost impossibly perfect. The places photographed are so anonymous they almost urge the viewer to solve the mystery of each location.

When we arrived at the Maberly Lookout Will Gill's installation was almost missed by our unexpecting eyes. However, when peering over the steep cliff’s edge, a small seafoam green chair sitting on solid rock and surrounded by water can be seen. Watching the waves pommel the familiar shaped chair that is somehow so sturdy and unmovable is a powerful, moving, and almost unreal sight. Water crashes over the rock, soaks the chair and even makes it disappear entirely. Because of this movement, no two photographs taken of this chair will look the same, and “The Green Chair” is completely mesmerizing.

Doug Guildford’s work can be viewed in Port Union at the Coaker Factory Building. His work is on the second floor, and it is also not immediately apparent because he sculptural pieces fit into the raw, rustic aesthetic of the room flawlessly. The works hang from the ceiling, sit like rugs on the floor, and interact with the antique furniture and tools in the room. Each piece conveys a unique personality and the preserved appearance of the space heightens their mysterious magic.

Visit the third floor of this building and you will see more of Will Gill’s work. In this location, delicate paintings with fluorescent orange blobs and soft colourful lines hang in frames on the walls.

The Bonavista Biennale combines the best of everything. It merges a baycation and a contemporary art experience. It joins the exploration of an art crawl and the opportunities of a month long festival. As well as exhibitions and installations you don't want to miss, of which we've mentioned just the tip of the iceberg, the coming month is also full of exciting workshops and performances. The one-of-a-kind Bonavista Biennale is successfully celebrating local talent while engaging Newfoundland and Labrador with the Canadian contemporary art community.

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