Brendan De Montigny: The myth of the material


Astro Boy, Brendan De Montigny, mixed media on board

Ottawa-based artist Brendan De Montigny tackles the question of our generation’s frenetic consumerism

Objects like Star Wars toys, Lego blocks and Ghostbusters, Hulk Hogan and Astroboy figurines are like divinities in the past of many late-20s to 30-something North Americans. Ottawa-based visual artist Brendan De Montigny certainly grew up on a steady pop diet of these and other entities, but he’s not about to enshrine them in a golden shroud of nostalgia. Far from it. De Montigny literally takes these objects apart in his upcoming Recording Device exhibit at Wurm Gallery.

“The toys I’m working with express something from my generation, but I would say I’m really interested in showing a nihilism, a grotesque fetishism, that results from the worship and tribute of these objects,” explains De Montigny. “It’s based in consumerism – something that starts at birth, culturally, for us – and I wanted to speak about that. I think there is a fear that results, particularly as adults, when we have that existential crisis; when we work out that the cultural value that we place on these objects, and the cultural fantasy, never really comes to fruition.”

From slicing apart his vintage Star Wars toys to creating overwrought and somewhat disturbing painted versions of recognizable television icons, De Montigny stresses the mythology, and subsequent falsehoods, of many of our childhood toys. In one painting, Wookie and Child (With Gold Boba Fett), De Montigny captures the confusion of a child holding a figurine depicting a well-known Star Wars figure.

“I think there is a lot of unresolved fantasy that is spoon-fed to us from day one by the companies that make these toys, and it becomes a perverse worship, a fetish if you will,” says De Montigny. “In Wookie and Child, the mother is covered in fur. Is it the mother that gives the gift to the child? And how does the child project that appreciation onto the toy and back to the mother? I’m interested in that gleaning, those moments where things get conflated and confused, both in the aesthetic language and the meaning itself for the viewer. I basically want to make people feel really weird, ruffle a few feathers.”

Brendan De Montigny: Recording Device
@ Wurm Gallery/Invisible Cinema (319 Lisgar)
Vernissage: May 18, 8 p.m.