Sunday, May 10, 2009


Michael Willems
*New* Gallery

Michael Willems, Art Photographer, and Photo-Journalist spent one year documenting the lives of Kim and Robert. To look at this couple, at first glance, they seem to be a perfectly normal couple, albeit with significant age difference, he being several years older than her. Other than that nothing seems amiss, until you walk through one year of their lives as documented in this exhibit. You see they are both recovering junkies.
The most difficult part I have found about writing this article is to do so without going into the pathology of the subject matter. This after all is an Art exhibit, and I chose to view it as such. What Michael has done is created several images that when linked serve as a slow motion documentary. However each piece also stands alone. There are some of the images that if viewed without the overall context escapes the context, and are actually beautiful portraits of two beautiful people. As a matter of fact the one thing that initially disturbed me was that when I viewed each piece separately, I was not disturbed. Michael and I discussed this, and his take is that the exhibit shows that, even as junkies they are still complex humans, not just the emaciated lost in the world heaps of human excrement that we as a collective consciousness think of the addicted amongst us. Indeed there are moments of playfulness and child like abandonment portrayed in the individuals that they are. There is an image of Kim praying and I asked Michael with every bit of cynicism I could muster. "Is she really praying or is she posed?" To which he retorted that nothing was ever posed and he always had his camera at the ready. Are the images toyed with on a computer, again, no. Yet I still have to get through the beauty of these images. As a painter I saw many of them as Dutch masters, with soft endearing light. Never does Michael want you to fear his subjects, but to compassionately draw you into their world. One element I think would have added another dimension to the show would have been a spontaneous sound track, and not the 60's drug laments from the Artists' I-Pod. A little bit of their world recorded as they naturally dialogued day to day. All in all, an effective exhibit if you are not fooled by the beauty of it all.
*new* gallery
906 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M6J 1G6
Wed-Sun 1-6