Good luck finds the will & the way

So, turns out you’re one of the lucky few whose art will be shown in the Chinatown REMIXED festival in May and June. Not that you get to choose where. That’s the jury’s duty, fixing you up with a venue—the jewellery store, soap-making venture, laundromat.

Pumped, you fly down Somerset Street West to investigate. You draw open the great wide door of India Grocery Store, a corner store not on a corner, but a convenience store with a Chinese video rental and pizza joint either side. You like this spacious place with its high ceilings.

You walk the aisles, inhaling an exotic mix of cumin and rose incense. You see milk and butter, pappadums and lentils, along with jalapeños and Peruvian purple potato pudding mix. Plastered on three walls above the shelved goods are movie posters of cool Hindi dudes with shades. (“Two brave men battle each other . . . and paradise burns.”)

This is the spot where you’ll show the world what you’re made of. After introductions, you follow owner Chit Singh as he points toward the front. The narrow strip above that great wide door is the only free spot. There’s no hope your just-finished large paintings will fit.

Thus Shannon Willmott’s involvement as artist with Chinatown REMIXED began.

Shannon Willmott with her new paintings for India Grocery Store. Foto courtesy of the artist

Shannon’s painting comes out of the classic modernist traditions of, for example, Robert Motherwell—one of the New York School in the 50s and 60s—and fellow American and, slightly later, scribbly-scrawly artist Cy Twombly. Works from others, too, give Shannon “strength and feeling through the representation of what? Some colour and some line.” These more recent influences are the calm, water-suffused paintings and drawings of Meredith Pardue from Austin, Texas, and those of Philly-born Mary Ann Wakeley, scritchy-scratchy and nervous.

Back to the one long strip at the India Grocery Store. Not exactly the virginal pure-as-snow gallery in your mind’s eye, is it? But Shannon revels in the unexpected. And now, she’s excited. Because now, she’s returning home to paint new paintings. A whole new series to fit in that rather odd and oddly-shaped exhibit space on high.

At her apartment, she digs out her brushes and paints, unwraps her new wood panels, then sets up a kind of studio. From her makeshift atelier, Shannon reports, “Well, now there’s no more living room for a while. But better for me to work. Otherwise, I’m always dreaming.”

Chance, perhaps even luck, has worked its way with Shannon. However, it’s that out-and-out doggedness of hers that turns mere possibility into the real done deal.