It’s been a busy year for Yunus Chkirate. Earlier this month the Montreal born (and based) artist opened his latest (and highly successful) show, Le Triad at his own gallery space on St. Laurent Boulevard. Le Triad, his biggest and most ambitious show to date, is a multifaceted collect of work spanning three mediums, which, from conception to creation, was six months in the making. I sat down with Yunus a couple of days before the exhibit opened to chat about his work and the inspiration behind it. Sure, we talked about art and influence and all those things but we also candidly veered off topic to discuss everything from Paris to terrible handshakes. Read on. It was a cool and drizzly Saturday afternoon when I headed out to meet Yunus at his newly christened, Le Triad Gallery on St. Laurent. By the time I reached the gallery space from the metro, one of my shoes (a favorite pair) was squeaking and started to fill with water (you can imagine the positive thoughts running through my head as I climbed to Sherbrooke…). When I reached the address, the window of the space was covered in flyers and browning paper, which led directly to a curiosity about what I was walking into. Looking at my watch I was a little early but I figured I’d burst in anyway. I pushed in on the door and it grinded open a little more quickly than I expected, and in doing so, getting the barking attention of a large dog in the process.
Fortunately for me, everyone, including the dog, was friendly and inviting and quite happy to see me. Yunus smiled as he came over to reassure me that the dog was harmless, he shook my hand and welcomed me into the space. I smiled confidently (while quietly thanking God the dog wouldn’t take a limb) and looked around too see a plethora of glorious colour bursting at me from all angles; I was going to need a moment to settle in but I was already captivated and curious about what I was seeing. He would tell me this later but being so early, I caught him a little off guard. His agent, and very good friend, Kat Couric took my jacket while he left to brew up a pot of coffee, letting me explore the work he was about to expose. Once the coffee was on he joined me again and started explaining to me what Le Triad was all about. It all began as his time in Sydney, Australia was coming to an end. He had spent several months working out of Sydney with minimal contact with friends back home. It was distance created between his friends and himself that led him wanting to do a project that involved some of his favorite people and explore what friendship and its stages meant to him. The show features triptychs of several of his close friends and himself at different stages of the friendships. The exhibit also features a dozen interesting printed photographs that are further defined by strokes of paint that render them even more emotionally captivating. They also tie into a video he produced which adds depth and more questions about how we interpret the work. Yunus has a lot of experience under his belt but this is his first show that combines his painting, photography and videography. Wanting to bypass the gallery system, he also wanted this show to be done on his terms, allowing greater freedom and creativity. As an artist he has two wear many hats. From running a business to being creative, the balance found between both isn’t always easy but it does bring balance.
After touring the space and having him explain the exhibit we returned to the front of the gallery where the coffee machine finally beeped, letting us know our coffee was ready. He poured up two cups and we headed to the oversized, and very comfortable mauve couch to chat some more. Getting to know Yunus, I discovered we have a lot in common. We enjoy a strong handshake and we also have the same level of tolerance for those people who barely feign interest when they are engaged in conversation in any social setting. Well all know who they are; those people who look over your shoulder when talking to you to see who else is in the room and how they can be of service. Yunus artistic work is engaging in its own right but I found the artist himself funny, warm and inviting.
After working on this exhibit for more than six months, Yunus delved into the habit of having a cigarette (like most Montrealers have in the past). Moving towards the door so Yunus could grab a puff from a cigarette, we also discovered yet another connection, our common love of Paris. “Days like today remind me of Paris”, he said as he pulled his brown sweater closer. The autumn weather outside was still drizzly and misty with wet leaves, freshly fallen on the damp ground. People walking up the main had their collars turned to the chill in the air and I had to agree that the felling of Paris, a city of artistic inspiration, was right at the doorstep. Shortly before leaving we made a promise to keep in touch. Our lovely friend in common, Jillian had set up the meeting and she knew we would hit it off right away and we did. I believe art is something that you have to see face to face to really appreciate. Writing this article about my visit with Yunus has been one of the most difficult of my career. Not because I didn’t know what to say but instead because there was so much to cover. It’s my hope that the pictures shown here will reach out to you and this story of my first visit to the gallery, for the first time, will hopefully touch you and inspire you to see this for yourself.
Standing in front of a piece of work is a deeply personal experience that can’t be copied or pixilated. The exhibit closes on the 6th of November and for the next few days, the entire collection will be together for the last time. I encourage you to get out and see Le Triad. Yunus has been present every day since the exhibit opened and he has gotten rave reviews. Not just because of the art but also because of his warmer than warm welcome.
Photography courtesy of www.yunuschkirate.com