SATURDAY, NOV. 21, 2015
Experimentalism, universality MANGAN’S MUSIC BRINGS ENERGY, LIFE EXPERIENCES BY LANA MICHELIN ADVOCATE STAFF
Two-time Juno Award-winning musician Dan Mangan just released a new album about the importance of fighting through sedation to achieve awareness. He’s also a new father. Coincidence? Maybe not, said the Vancouverite, who sees parallels between his recent life experience and his album, Club Meds. “When you’re with a newborn child, nothing else in the world matters. You have to be so present holding a weekold baby,” said Mangan. At the same time, “your little, precious being” saps you of energy and robs you of sleep, he admitted. “It’s exhausting!” Various metaphors can be slapped onto Club Meds, the sometimes brooding, experimental album that Mangan recorded with his band Blacksmith. He and the group perform on Wednesday, Nov. 25, at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre. While Mangan aimed for a “universality” in his lyrics, the song, Mouthpiece, contains the line “Question period is over. Don’t you feel it? I do. It’s a puppet show…” He admitted feeling disenchanted with Canada’s former Tory government. “When your democratic process has something called a Question Period,” shouldn’t it be incumbent of politi-
cians to not make a mockery of it and actually answer some of the questions being asked, he said. And isn’t it a form of sedation when members of the public buy into ideas that have been “dictated from the top down,” without the benefit of science or scrutiny, he added. But Mangan points out that Club Meds isn’t about politics, but different aspects of human nature. Even the CD’s title can refer to the tranquilizing effect of the holiday resort experience. When you think about it, he added, it’s interesting that people like travelling to different countries without having to deal with unfamiliarity. The all-inclusive resort is “like a whole beach full of people with their heads in the sand — they’re surrounded by people who look like them, and the only locals they meet are giving them drinks…” Mangan stresses he makes these points observationally, not critically, because he understands the need for escapism — to turn the channel when another horrendous ISIS story comes on the news. But continuously living in Lalaland is not healthy, he said. “You have to pull you head out of the sand every now and again” — which is what Club Meds is about. The singer feels his previous folk style has evolved to something that “sounds completely unique, like we’re adding our own voice to this pile of music… I can’t think of another band that sounds like this record.” Music
Dan Mangan performs at Red Deer’s Memorial Centre on Nov. 25 murkiness often mirrors its sedation theme on the CD. “It’s funny. On first listen, it sound… dark and chaotic. But I think it’s a grower… After a handful of listens I think people will feel the joy that’s also in it,” said Mangan, whose album has been getting some four-star ratings. The musician, who studied sociology and English at the University of British Columbia, had been reading Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and The Handmaid’s Tale — and feels ideas from both books about dystopian societies spilled over into his songwriting.
Mangan and his wife were also fascinated by Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science, by Will Storr. It examines various belief systems around the world and explores why humans are more loyal to their personal beliefs than to facts. The idea of mental sedation once again comes into play, said Mangan, who questions whether there’s a physiological need for us to “tell stories to ourselves” make sense of life and reinforce our role as protagonists of our own existence. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunworks exhibit showcases scenery and surreality BY LANA MICHELIN ADVOCATE STAFF A vase of lavender floats mysteriously over an open suitcase. A anxious bride arrives in unfamiliar rural surroundings. A birdbath stands abandoned in a wintry garden. These are some of the intriguing subjects in Scapes, Stills and Martha, a joint art exhibit at the white gallery, adjoining Sunworks in downtown Red Deer. The seasonal scenery by David More, surreal still lifes by Doug Williamson and Prairie portraits by Vivian Bennett are painted in distinct and disparate styles. Yet the three artists’ works were brought together by the gallery’s curator Brenda Hucal because they represent different aspects of our lives, said Sunworks manager Ann Langille. “They’re about who we are, where we live, and… what we love.” The ‘who’ is apparent in the colourful abstract-expressionist portraits by Vivian Bennett. The Central Alberta artist depicted people from vintage photographs, or photos she took herself of friends in period dress. Each painting in Bennett’s “Martha” series tells a story of a woman who came to live in the Prairies. In Martha’s First Day of Marriage Wasn’t So Hot, a lady in a bright green hat and too-small suit jacket stands uncomfortably in a farmyard. Like many city-raised women, this Martha didn’t know what she was in for when she agreed to move to the country, said Bennett. “There’s this sense of ‘holy crap. Where am I… and how am I going to milk a cow?’” The harsh loneliness of 1940s-era Prairie life one of her ongoing themes. But many of the transplanted women portrayed by Bennett eventually found beauty in their Prairie environment — as did the painter, herself. Bennett is an Edmonton-born former store-display artist, who now lives near Buffalo Lake. In her Well, Thought Martha, Here We Are Back at the Farm Again painting, a seated wife with her hands in a mixing bowl seems almost content.
The ‘where we live’ aspect of the exhibit comes from More’s impressionistic paintings of his backyard garden in Benalto. The retired Red Deer College visual arts instructor has been painting his wife Yvette’s garden, Benhaven, for years, watching it become “a piece of art, itself.” More, who had a solo show at the white gallery last year, said he likes how the flowers, trees and shrubbery take on various appearances at different times of year. “I try to capture the moment,” he added — even if it means standing on a ladder to gain a different perspective, or sitting on the grass to get a lower vantage point. His dynamic brushstrokes in Winter’s Rhythms, Benhaven convey a blustery snowstorm, but More also sees a “nestling beauty” in the winter garden’s sheltering bushes. Winter Bath, depicts a similar dichotomy with a summery birdbath in a wintry environment. These paintings are contrasted with verdant and idyllic summer gardens in The Blue Table and Shadow Bridge. Flower-themed still lifes, painted in old-world, hyper-realistic style by Williamson, contain the “what we love” aspect of the show. But it’s not a simple love affair with this subject matter, since there’s often an uneasy complexity to the symbolic elements in Williamson’s paintings — especially in his largest surreal work, Essence of Lavender, which shows a floating vase over an open, satin-lined suitcase. The real suitcase that inspired the painting is owned by Alberta artist Rita McKeough. And since one of McKeough’s latest artworks involves a pasture and cows, Williamson paid homage to her by including these in the background of this work. He also depicted lavender in a central suspended vase because there were actual sprigs of lavender in the suitcase. “I think her father had put it in there,” said the Red Deer-raised artist. Williamson, who studied at Red Deer College and the University of Calgary, invites viewers to take away whatever meanings they find in his paintings — including Loose Thread and Magnesia, which focus on small blooms in
Photos by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff
ABOVE;Martha Expected Redemption, by Vivian Bennett currently on display in the exhibit titled Scapes, Stills and Martha at White in Sunworks. RIGHT: Loose Thread, by Douglas Williamson. repurposed bottle vases. There’s a Victorian look to their dark backgrounds that semi-hide fallen leaves. The Calgary-based artist, whose detailed works were featured at the white gallery last spring, is happy to be paired with More and Bennett in this show. He feels the downtown gallery is helping “bring a higher level of arts and culture to the city.” Scapes, Stills and Martha continues to Jan. 3. email@example.com
Newfoundland folk legend Ron Hynes dead at 64 BY THE CANADIAN PRESS ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Acclaimed singer-songwriter Ron Hynes, Newfoundland and Labrador’s “man of a thousand songs,” died Thursday after a brief battle with cancer. His family says he died shortly after 6 p.m. while receiving treatment at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John’s. He was 64 years old. Hynes long referred to himself as the “man of a thousand songs,” a moniker he coined in an endearing folk song that speaks of the lonely, shabby side of being a singer. But he is perhaps best known for his song Sonny’s Dream, a lament about a mother worrying about losing her son to the sea. The song, written in 1976, has been covered by other artists so many times that it has become a latenight anthem in many corners of the globe. In St. John’s, many friends and fans
took to social media to recount stories of the sometimes gruff and mischievous performer, some of them saying it was fitting that the city was plunged into darkness by a power failure as news broke about his death. “The lights went out downtown,” tweeted comedian Mark Critch, a fellow Newfoundlander. “St. John’s is dark tonight and so it should be.” Singer-songwriter Alan Doyle described Hynes online as his “musical hero” and “The greatest songwriter I ever met.” Comedian Rick Mercer, another Newfoundlander, described Hynes as the “poet laureate of Newfoundland and Labrador.” Newfoundland filmmaker Mary Sexton recalled how her camera developed a problem when she was filming a documentary about Hynes as he toured through Ireland, where Sonny’s Dream is widely thought to be an Irish classic. “I brought the footage home, sent the film to the lab and found out we
had a camera leak and all of the band and Ron had halos around them,” she said in an email. “I do believe in fairies ever since … Mostly I remember his talent, his songwriting and he always had a smile and a hug for me.” In a 2007 interview, Hynes said an addiction to drugs had almost killed him four years earlier. “Once you’re addicted, you’re addicted for life,” he said at the time. “It’s not like you have a cold for a weekend and then Monday morning you’re feeling a whole lot better and all those germs are gone.” Hynes often confronted his demons in song. Even in Man of a Thousand Songs, the jagged, dark side of his life comes out in the lyrics. “He got a friend in the backstage alley, got just the thing to make the night move along,” Hynes would sing, a wellworn fedora always part of the act. Hynes is also famous in his home province for a moving tribute he wrote for the 84 men killed in 1982 when the
offshore drill rig Ocean Ranger capsized in a violent storm off Newfoundland. The haunting lyrics of Atlantic Blue capture a profound sense of loss that endures in Newfoundland to this day: “What colour is a heartache from a love lost at sea? What shade of memory never fades but lingers to eternity? And how dark is the light of day that sleepless eyes of mine survey? Is that you, Atlantic Blue? My heart is as cold as you.” Born in St. John’s and raised in Ferryland, Hynes was founding member of The Wonderful Grand Band and later released seven solo albums. He won several East Coast Music Awards and was a Juno and Canadian Country Music Awards nominee. Hynes was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2012, but he kept the disease at bay until this fall when he confirmed it had returned, this time to his hip and lung. He was rushed to hospital earlier this week.