Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sofra Displays The Taste of Elsewhere*

Although most restaurants adorn their walls with art to aid the digestion and experience of their patrons, not many will actually have art openings where they clear out a section of the floor and operate outside of regular business hours. Sofra Authentic Turkish Cuisine opened its doors this past Father’s Day afternoon to celebrate the first ever art exhibition in its short two-year history. Featuring new works by local artists Cesar Alvarez, Alison Service and Kelly Johner, the exhibition focused on works inspired by travels from abroad, honing in on the senses of colour and light as filtered and experienced in far away lands.

Image courtesy of Chandra Johner

Alvarez, who exhibited meticulously cut steel slabs in his MFA sculpture exhibition last summer, reveals his softer side with a series of watercolours from Spain, Italy and France. Construction of form and depth of space continues to be a dominant theme in Alvarez’s work, with an inherent interest in unlocking the interior. An alleyway bends through light and stone and the obstruction of form reveals itself through bursts of diverse colours and condensed constructions.

Along the walls with Alvarez are the complimentary works by Service, who graduated with her BFA last year in painting and who also works at the restaurant. While Alvarez highlights the real, Service dilutes the form with an abstraction of idealized remembrance. Anonymous bodies, stylized and near, walking towards you and away, are infused with light in space and only mildly textured. Contrasted next to the people-less portraits of static buildings, the transient flow of blurry bodies makes sense.

Rounding out the exhibition and the scale of formal realism to formal abstraction, Johner’s wooden sculptures give weight to the room as an exhibition space. A perfect companion to the aged and sanded wood floors along with the Aegean colours of bronze and burnt orange, Johner’s sculptures continue to bridge the formalism traditionally alive in steel through the fragility of wood. Working with discarded oak barrel slats, which in their history have already been distorted by the hand of man by cut and singe, Johner is refashioning these pieces towards their imperfect presences.

Organized by Johner’s daughter and co-owner of Sofra, Chandra Johner looks to reach out to the arts community that already makes up a large section of her clientele. Much like her mother, she is up to the challenge of bridging two worlds, the service and the artistic, and with ambitions to exhibit more works by local artists, only time will tell if Sofra will appease the appetite of both food and art lovers alike.

Show runs until July 12, 2008

*First published in Vue Weekly, June 12 - 18, 2008

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