“You Will Be Offended”

“You Will Be Offended”

Malignant, Oil on Canvas, by Patrick John Mills

Group art show brings together abstract, figurative and sculptural art with a unifying message to break down walls

Three internationally collected and award-winning local artists – Patrick John Mills, Jana Jaros, and Keith Busher – are coming together in a group show to be held at the Art Factory Warehouse in Renfrew from May 5th until June 10th. Titled, “You Will Be Offended”, the curated exhibition is an invitation for viewers to revisit the true purpose of art, to embrace the emotions evoked, and to learn more about something they may initially resist. The goal is to remind us that discomfort leads to growth, and curiosity is more powerful than judgement.

Keith Busher, working on one of his Precious Mutations sculpturesThe interplay of Busher’s sculptural creations, Jaros’s figurative work, and Mills’s abstract expressionism sheds light on the implications of current social trends such as online censorship and cancel culture which block public discourse and promote intolerance. Busher (pictured right), a multimedia artist working from his studio in Perth, notes: “Socially and politically, we are in a cycle wherein everything needs to appeal to as many people as possible. This means ‘success’ is now defined as mass appeal – rather than allowing something that is polarizing to be motivation for deeper understanding.”

Mills, an abstract expressionist well known for dramatically thick oil paintings such as the Malignant series in this show, points to the trickle-down effect of increasing social pressure to be neutral and “politically correct” on the world of art. He says: “The juried democracy of art has watered it down to a family friendly, PG version of what is deemed acceptable. But life is complex, and to only permit the visual expression of art as sunsets and birch trees is a disservice to the beauty inherent in the struggle of living.” Mills explains that while there is a place for images of flowers and trees, it should not be at the expense of other expressions that are more raw, bold, or emotionally confronting.

Jana F Jaros, working on her Within Reach paintingAfter all, asks Pembroke-based artist, Jaros (pictured right), whose figurative pieces experience repeated online censorship, what is the role of art and the artist in our society? And whose yardstick is being used to determine for us what we are allowed to see? She says: “If we look to most public art spaces for the answer, you will see a limited scope of artistic style that appears to be complementary to a generalized ideal. But art is not decoration, and it is not created for the sole purpose of saleability. If my art sparks a feeling, a conversation, or a thought process in an individual, they should be allowed to have that experience and reach their own conclusions.”

Busher, whose striking sculptural selections are intended to communicate difficult topics, similarly worries about the current trend to “sanitize” art, and points to a two-fold loss for the viewer. He says: “Recently, Michelangelo’s iconic statue of David – widely considered to be a masterpiece of the Renaissance era – was deemed ‘controversial’ and ‘possibly pornographic’ at a Florida middle school. I’m not just concerned about the obvious cost to young people who are robbed of the opportunity to experience a classic work of art, I’m concerned that the voices of a few would lead to a complete rebranding of such a perfect work. Why are we always rushing to avoid very natural feelings of discomfort or offense? Where does it end?”

Indeed, the social costs of sanitizing art are widespread – it is a subtle form of censorship that both causes and contributes to dysfunctional communication between people with differing viewpoints. Jaros explains: “I remember a time when it was possible to share space with people that I didn’t agree with. But these days, in our hyperconnected, digitally obsessed world, the rise of ‘keyboard warriors’ and anonymous ‘fact checkers’ has created an air of hostility. You can find yourself bullied or completely obliterated, simply because you hold an unpopular opinion or because you fail to comply to arbitrarily imposed ‘standards and guidelines’. We have forgotten how to talk to each other.”

Patrick John Mills, standing in front of one of his Malignant oil paintings.Art is typically the forum where we should be confronted, provoked, and provided with an opportunity to sit with a new idea or emotion, and to determine for ourselves what this teaches or reveals. Art is not to be translated, nor do we need protection from that which is visceral or raw. Mills (pictured right), who has used his art to publicly share and communicate his journey with cancer, underscores the importance of art to convey and connect human experience: “Life includes suffering. Suffering such as depression, mental illness, addiction, abortion, suicide… These are human experiences that both inspire art and are expressed in art. This type of challenging art is an opportunity to take you out of your comfort zone. And in today’s world, it is crucial that we create space for both beautiful and challenging experiences of ourselves and others.”

Coming full circle on the purpose of the group show, Mills asks: “Is being offended always a bad thing? Or is your experience of ‘being offended’ an opportunity for you to have a deeper conversation, a deeper reflection, to learn, and possibly better understand something?” Overall, this memorable group show encourages the viewer to be uncomfortable and to embrace multiple viewpoints. The artists hope to stimulate social dialogue and to encourage connection, reminding us of the inherent value of curiosity before judgement.

Opening night is May 5th from 5pm to 8pm at the Art Factory’s Warehouse Gallery at 11 Bridge Street in Renfrew, and all three artists will be available. Regular exhibition hours are Wednesday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm until June 10th. Admission to the exhibition is always free.


About the venue: Art Factory (www.liveloveartfactory.com) is a 10,384 square foot factory in Renfrew, Ontario. The unique space brings together an Art Gallery, Art Supply Store, Art Studio, Art Classes, and Event Venue. The Art Factory’s Warehouse is a unique, multipurpose space for both exhibitions and classes. The ambitious Art Factory project has been imagined and established by Artist & Owner, Patrick John Mills.


[The red “Malignant” painting featured at the top of this article is done by my love and husband, Patrick John Mills. Patrick is an internationally renown painter and poet, and his abstract expressionist art is raw and powerful. The best place to learn more about him / connect with him (other than by visiting the Art Factory in Renfrew) is on Facebook.]