Paul Gessell pens a glowing review of Mr. Marok’s exhibition Explorations and Excavations: the Lights and Shadows of Gatineau Park, in the March 15 online edition of Ottawa Magazine.
It doesn’t get much better than this, and here are three of the best passages from his article: “Marok’s vision of the park is contained in a superb exhibition of paintings at La Fab in Old Chelsea”; “The unsettling painting of the Booth home burning could have been lifted from the pages of an illustrated horror novel. Marok has clearly found his stride with these paintings” (The real horror story is the NCC’s appallingly inept management of Gatineau Park); and who could ask for better praise from the veteran art critic: “This is one of the best exhibitions La Fab has ever held.” Mr. Gessell clearly conveys his impression that Mr. Marok is an artist who is at the top of his game.
The artist says he chose the subject of Gatineau Park "to examine its magnificent landscapes with a critical eye, and highlight some of its contradictions... to convey both the fragility and beauty of the natural world, as well as the need to protect it as a moral and spiritual force in the lives of those who enjoy it.”
An important theme running through the show has to do with incompetent park management, a view Mr. Gessell seems to reject when he writes that the NCC has a “supposedly blasé attitude towards historically significant mansions,” and a “supposed wanton attitude towards the building of new houses around Meech Lake.” Well, I didn’t imagine that the NCC bulldozed historically significant buildings like Shady Hill (in violation of Mackenzie King’s will), Stone Acres, and the Booth cottage, or that it torched Alexander House at Meech Lake. Nor did I imagine that every master plan ever written has clearly underlined that private property development is to be seriously proscribed, and that, despite this, the NCC has allowed construction of 131 new houses in Gatineau Park since 1992, ten of them at Meech Lake since 2006...
As well, Mr. Gessell underlines that “the outspoken and anti-development [Jean-Paul] Murray has many critics.” While this is no doubt true, I’d be delighted to point out who those critics are, as well as underline that their criticisms are mostly self-interested and unfounded, that they are merely smokescreens used to camouflage the NCC’s pathetically incompetent management of Gatineau Park. Or mask the failure of politicians, federal, provincial and municipal, to enforce laws, regulations and policies inside the park. To name them: Mélanie Joly, Wills Amos, Greg Fergus, Chelsea councils, et al. The press should be asking these people why they're aiding and abetting destruction of Gatineau Park. Voilà la vraie question. But that, I suspect, is a topic for another day...
In the meantime, and in any event, Mr. Gessell does an outstanding job praising West Quebec's finest artist, and he gets wholehearted applause from me for doing so.
Explorations and Excavations: The Lights and Shadows of Gatineau Park continues until April 2 at La Fab, 1–212 Old Chelsea Road. The Centre is closed Monday to Thursday. Hours are: Fridays, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.; Saturdays, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Sundays, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Click on the link below to read the Ottawa Magazine article praising Mr. Marok's exhibit.