When Danièle de Fontenay wrote her artistic director’s notes for Usine C’s 2017-18 theatrical season, she was inspired by the work of Alana Barrell, an emerging artist living with schizophrenia. Alana is thrilled to be invited by the theatre to open her second exhibition, THE SHORTEST PATH from November 28 2017 – January 18, 2018 at Usine C (1345 Avenue Lalonde).
Alana, 34, titled her second show based on a quote Danièle referenced in her season opening, “art is the shortest path from man to man” by André Malraux. In her artistic director notes, Danièle speaks movingly of the artist’s work, saying “Alana’s canvases overflow with bright colors and turbulent shapes, in a style that is raw and appears at first naïve. This painter embraces a diversity of a thousand fantasies. But under this broth of life, behind this bestiary fair, is woven the isolation, torment, and vertigo of the illness. Her art is an outlet, a daily struggle to undertake the next day with courage.”
The success of Alana’s previous exhibition, Wild Characters, gave her the drive to pursue art as a career. “I was so excited and couldn’t believe I sold so many paintings,” she says. “I use bright colours because it’s important to me that people feel inspired and happy when they look at my pieces. I’m thrilled that people connected with them and wanted to bring my work into their homes.”
Alana splits her time between living with her mother, Julie Hessler, in Verdun, and with her sister, Liesl Barrell, in NDG. “It’s incredible to see how far she’s come,” says Liesl. “As a family we’ve watched her face all these tremendous challenges, and yet she perseveres. Her painting has always been a vital part of that continued recovery, but it’s humbling and moving to finally see people responding and connecting to her work, and to watch Alana being recognized by the community. Danièle’s foreword to Usine C’s season, where she draws inspiration from Alana’s pieces to contextualize their entire lineup, is the greatest gift one artist could give another.”
For her part, Danièle is keen to showcase these pieces as a triumphant display of how art can bring hope in the face of adversity, how it serves that highest of purposes as a public good and a societal necessity. “Artistic expression must have no limits, neither censorship nor contempt,” she states. “Alana allows herself to go where no one else would dare. She reveals fears, fantasies, and traumas, she interrogates death and buried impulses. It is that universal language which alone can connect us beyond our differences, which I invite you all to share with us.”
THE SHORTEST PATH
November 30, 2017 from 5 to 7 PM at Usine C
1345 Avenue Lalonde, Montréal, QC H2L 5A9
November 28 through December 22, 2017
January 9 through January 18, 2018
Tuesdays – Fridays, 12 PM – 6 PM
Also open on theatrical performance days
Usine C at 1345 Avenue Lalonde, Montréal, QC H2L 5A9
ABOUT ALANA BARRELL
Born in South Africa, Alana Barrell grew up there as well as in Canada, Singapore, Ethiopia, and Brunei. Diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 15, she could no longer attend school and faced an uneven and lifelong road to recovery from multiple episodes. Alana returned to Montreal in 2005, and in 2012 she entered the CAP program (Centre d’apprentissage parallèle de Montréal) to hone her artistic talents, receiving instruction in sculpture, oil painting, and mixed media among other techniques. She has presented her work in multiple group exhibits of naïve art, as well as her first solo outing, Wild Characters, presented as part of the MENTAL HEALTH AMBASSADORS series in March 2017. Alana’s work has been covered by The Montreal Gazette, CTV Montreal, Global TV, and more.
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ABOUT USINE C
Since 1995, Usine C has been a dynamic creation and performance center in the Center-Sud district of Montreal. It has two 440 and 120-seat theatres, a rehearsal studio, an exhibition hall and a café.
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