Archive for September, 2008

Never on a Monday

September 30, 2008

All photos posted on this blog are posted with the permission of the artists, and they hold the copyright. All rights reserved.

I was in Vancouver today looking after some business.  I finished earlier than I thought I would  so I took about an hour to look at current shows on Gallery Row just south of the Granville Street Bridge.

I parked just in front of the Diane Farris Gallery and when I got to the door, I was not permitted to enter. They were in the middle of changing shows. “We have a lot of glass around, you understand, and we are concerned about breakage,” said the nice young man who was contributing to the installation. I handed him my calling card and asked him to tell Diane that I had come by.

“Oh, you know her then?” he asked. “Well, come in. There are a few paintings in the back to see. But be careful of the glass. ”

Once in side the door, I could see why they might be worried about glass breakage! The Dale Chihuly exhibition that was going up and the art glass pieces were huge and delicious. At one end of the gallery, a series of Chihuly’s drawings were already up, flamboyant, direct and gutsy. If you can get out to see this show, it really will be worth it.  Just being in the presence of these monstrous, luminous vessels is awe-inspiring.

Next I walked down to the Heffel Gallery, primarily an art auction house. Again I met with an apology. The most recent auction exhibition had just been taken down and they were installing the next batch of work to be auctioned off. The only paintings left up were those that had not met the reserved bid price.
The Equinox Gallery was closed but it had a large Gordon Smith painting in the display window. His paintings are uncannily realistic in the small version, but when you see them in their large dimensions, they are very expressionistic and abstract. For his snow pieces, he works with a restrained palette of colours that is almost greyscale in nature so that when he throws in a  dash of leaf green, it sings. It’s like playing in a single note on the piano and then listening carefully as it slowly vibrates into nothingness. What resonates for me on his snow pieces is the way he has captured the silence of freshly fallen snow in the depth of the forest.

For examples of his work, take a look at the Equinox Gallery website at:

http://www.equinoxgallery.com/artists_index.asp?artist_id=34

Next, I walked uphill to the Atelier Gallery where the new show of David Edwards is on. I had come especially to see it. Unfortunately, the Atelier was also closed but one David Edwards painting hung in the window. I was really sorry not to see the rest of them.

David Edwards Working River, Oil on Canvas, 45 x 72″

The pictures posted on the Atelier’s website show the David Edwards’s genius in handling paint.  When I received the invitation, I could have been bowled over. Photo images that I have been collecting to do a series on urban landscapes could have been superimposed on the ones Edwards chose to paint and there would have been no difference. It was as if he had somehow gotten inside of my brain and extracted this series wholesale. He’s painted them with such luscious, painterliness that I wish I had done them myself.  Again, this painter appeals to my preference for a very restrained palette; and I firmly believe that an artist who can handle greys in all of their variations is a master of his craft.

His art website is noted below and links to the Atelier Gallery web site which has examples of his work for this exhibition.

http://www.davidedwards.ca/Welcome.html

I passed several other galleries and they were all closed, so I retraced my steps and went home. I was glad that I had seen Hycroft Gallery at the University Women’s Club of Vancouver earlier in the day. If I hadn’t seen a show in any other gallery, at least I’d had a good half hour viewing the works on display there.

Two photographers are showing – Wendy Deakins and Michelle A. Demers. There is also a showcase of hand made jewellry by Elizabeth de Balasi.

Wendy Deakins “Jackpot” Photograph (copyright)

Wendy Deakins has used a grid-like pattern to digitally collage photos of  plant forms together. She’s fascinated with nature and likes to look at it with a macro lense. It produces an interesting mix of imagery when she compounds photos of one single plant from different angles or different lighting.

Having singled out one of Deakins’ photos for this post, I realized how rich these photos are. As a note for the gallery’s hanging committee, I found that the space was too small for these photos. There is so much to be seen in a single photo that when they are grouped together closely, it’s overwhelming. I would have like to have fewer at a time with more spacing between them.

Michelle A. Demers “Anthurium” digital photography

Michelle A. Demers is also using digital photography to alter her photos. She enhances them by pushing the colour to  limits. They are rich and lively. I don’t really know how she accomplishes the transformation but they were stunning – crisp, crystal clear, colourful- and she has a way of emphasizing the rhythm of the petal edges to create a flow in the images that keeps the eye engaged.

Elizabeth de Balasi Seed Bead Bracelet.

Hycroft Gallery generally shows two artists concurrently and has a small display of hand crafted jewelry on display as well. For the month of September, Elizabeth de Balasi has had this coveted spot.

She crochets ropes of seed beads with a tiny number one crochet hook. The ropes are so precise and beautifully crafted it’s hard to imagine that they are hand done. Her web site only has a few images on it, but it will give you an idea of the jewellry she creates.

http://www.elizabethdebalasi.50webs.com/

Next time I have a business appointment in Vancouver, it’s going to be on a Thursday. Then maybe I can  steep myself in the work that is being shown in our very active artistic community.

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Elements of Design

September 28, 2008

After my years of study, I kept many of my text books. Although I had read them in University under duress during that time, I recognized that at some time in the distant future, they might make interesting reading. I’ve had a lifetime of work in between, not necessarily at art making which I love, but at mundane activities. Now that I have quit working, I have time to indulge in reading activity and recently came to this book called “Elements of Design” by Donald M Anderson.

Even if I had read it then, I would not have understood his concepts well. It has taken a lifetime of drawing and painting to fully ingest some of these principles and I’m still gathering them in and growing greater understanding of them, like a plant that has been growing and developing very well, thank you very much, putting out a few beautiful flowers, and then being watered by fertilizer rich liquid and blossoming heartily.

I have been meditating on some of his thoughts in the first few pages and stopped at this one, which describes the two dimensional mode of designing as compared to the three dimensional

Those who design in two dimension, … must master the various devices used to create the illusion of space. The consistent application and control of these devices is of the greatest importance in designing on flat surfaces. Here we have no real dimension of depth. Depth is an illusion. It is faked.

In my early twenties, I wanted desperately to be able to draw “realistically”. I worked and worked at trying to master representations of hands and feet, of figures and objects. I wanted to capture what I found interesting onto paper or canvas for others to marvel at. I suppose, had I ever been able to accomplish this feat,  I might have become one of those Realists of the Seventies that painted giant canvases of cabbages and fruit, or I might have become an illustrator. My abilities never reached those heights and I was forced along the way to come to terms with my inabilities, and to find another way of representing and making believable or readable, what I found worthy of drawing and painting.

With years and years of study and practice, I’ve come to embrace all kinds of art and to recognize the underlying principles of design are what hold me to appreciate a work whether abstract, representational or non-representational. I can love a Mark Rothko painting for his sheer love of colour and its rapport with another colour, as I can love a skillful illustrative and draftsman-like drawing of Andrew Wyeth. I can appreciate the wild angry expressiveness of Basquiat and the wild sensuousness of Wilhelm de Koonig. I can enjoy the chocolate box sweetness of the Pompiers in France and the Impressionists. I can work in a Post Modernist style or a Conceptual style for my own pleasure and then wonder how anyone else might find this kind of work valuable when it’s so personal and non representational.

During my second year in Rheims , France where I had the privilege of studying art in my late twenties I had an art epiphany. After a year of working at that which I had already learned in Canada in my art teaching courses, I finally realized that I had all the information and many techniques. I just had to integrate them and internalize them.

Of course I was learning new things as I went on, but the time I had to sort things out in my slow working brain was the critical turning point in learning assurance in my craft.

Internalizing, finally, that two dimensions can only ever represent an object and never can be an object, liberated me. Since I never was going to be able to reproduce what I saw, I might as well play with it.

I looked at a representational drawing in a new light. I asked myself the question each time I started a new painting or got stuck in working on one.

“Why was painting this picture important to me?”
“What is it about this image that makes it interesting – the texture, the shape, the composition, or the contrast of light and dark; the rhythm of the shapes or lines and forms, or the visual joke; the interrelationship of colours? Which of these elements needed to be emphasized in order to recreate the soul of the image?

If I couldn’t answer these questions, perhaps it wasn’t worth doing the painting. Sometimes I could be interested in more than one aspect of the image. For instance I could be highly interested in the composition and the tonal balance that helped created it, and at the same time interested in the colour relationships.

Once the important elements had been isolated and identified, it was much easier to organize how to state it in two dimensional form.

Take, for instance, a landscape where green trees and green grass are the primary subjects. I realized now that I don’t have to match the colours with nature in order to express the luminosity of the subject. As long as I have a limited range of greens to represent light, medium and dark tones, and use warm and cool colours to mix with the basic greens, I have the building blocks of the colour ranges and all the tonal values that I need.

I found that the more I simplified and found the elements, the better the piece succeeded. I found, too, that my paintings became more about the abstract qualities in them than about the image itself.

It was kind of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” scenario. I still haven’t decided if I look for subjects that fit into my understanding of composition and design or whether I take an image and fit it to that understanding.

Kate Bradford, Susan J. Falk

September 27, 2008

Fort Langley is a lively place on Friday nights. It was hard to find parking for the Fort Gallery which was our destination. It shines like a beacon when there is an opening on a fall evening. Once out of its protective circle of light, it’s deep black outside and difficult to navigate from car to gallery and later, back to the car.

Inside, the gallery is hopping with some of the elite of British Columbia’s artists and many relatively unknown but top notch visual artists – ceramists, painters, sculptors. This is a gallery that artists like to frequent for it’s friendly atmosphere, whether there is an opening on or not, and its high quality shows. The walls are painted a soft grey which is a perfect background to dramatically show off paintings. Art work doesn’t have to fight with a harsh white background.

This evening was the opening of a show for Kate Bradford and Susan J. Falk. For this exibition, Bradford showed ten small sculptures varying in height from six to ten inches high,  all a variation on a theme entitled Ridge. Each is a brushed aluminum block, some cubic, some in rectangular solid forms. Each one is incised or added to with variations. The main material is a pristine brushed aluminum with added metallic elements in copper, steel or brass. Where the  basic element in the design is severe, even austere, the additions , contrastingly, are irregular in form and somewhat frivolous in comparison. It’s a fascinating contrast. Given the base rectangular solid form they are begun with, they end up looking like very elegantly designed but quirkily, wrapped presents.

It’s very clear that Bradford knows her materials and lets them work for her.

Ridge, sculpture by Kate Bradford

Lighting is the key to making these sculptures realize their full potential.  In the sculpture pictured above, light comes from two directions and the small posts  weave shadows into each other, creating additional visual interest. The reflection and shadow cast by the block on its support, a uniformly black shelf, also adds interest.

These sculptures suit a minimalist context such as a classy office reception area or board room, or they would grace a refined urban home with sleek modern furniture. Kate Bradford’s attention to precision and simplicity is a strong point. Her variations on a theme demonstrate that her work fascinates her. She is not repeating her imagery but finding new visual joy in each separate piece.

Susan J Falk with one of her paintings, Arbutus Ridge, Oil on Canvas

On the surrounding walls, in great contrast to Bradford’s work, large canvases painted with liquefied oil paints depict arbutus trees in all their gracious fluidity. I was rather pleased with the warmth and liveliness of them. The imagery did not change materially from canvas to canvas, so it took an inspection of her web site to understand that, in this small gallery the viewer was too close up to appreciate that these canvases are meant to hang together in a huge architectural setting. They are all part of a same image – one large epic canvas. If you look at Falk’s website, you will see the work hung as a single work and it reads much better in a larger context.

http://www.susanfalk.ca/html/galleries.html

There is high impact on meeting these canvases for the first time. Fresh oranges, reds, burnt Siennas and yellows combine to define the light and dark of the trees. A subtle and less demanding ground roots the large trunks on the overall image. Between the branches, there are shots of pure magenta and cerulean or manganese blue giving the canvases a good cool balance to the fiery branches above.

Everything is freely drawn. There is no hesitation in Falk’s brush strokes. Nothing is overworked and the paint stays fresh as if it were just painted and glowing. This artist has all the skills and verve in her technical abilities to fill her paintings with the mood and the feel of these giant orange-barked arbutus trees.

Viewed as a whole, this month’s exhibition brings two completely contrasting artists successfully together. The expressionist feel of Falk’s paintings opposes the clean lined minimalism of Bradford’s scultures. The resulting effect was a balanced and interesting show. It’s on until October 5th.

If you are in the vicinity of Fort Langley, visit The Fort Gallery, at 9048 Glover Road; and if you have time to stroll through the town, you will be delighted by the pioneer atmosphere that has been maintained on the main street. There are lots of coffee shops and some excellent places to stop for lunch or have a fine dinner

Note:

An interview by Roni Haggerty  on Susan J. Falk’ website is located at

http://www.susanfalk.ca/html/statement.html

Kate Bradford has yet to create a page and I was unable to find anything about her, to date, on the Web.

More on old photos

September 23, 2008

Fencer (www.fencer.wordpress.com) commented on one of my posts that made me do a little more thinking about early photography; Suburban life (www.suburbanlife.wordpress.com) commented about an old family photo that I had recently scanned. They got me thinking about the pioneers at the beginning of the 20th Century who immigrated to Canada.

An earlier discussion on this blog concerned the early photographers’ use of the Golden Mean, the Golden Ratio or Divine Proportions, alternative descriptions of a geometrically based compositional method.

As I rummage through and scan family documents to preserve, keep,  and record the family history, I find a mix of professionally taken photographs and then lots of amateurish ones too.

I realized that the advent of photography launched an enormous revolution in the world of imagery. No longer was a middle class or poor family proscribed from having portraits of themselves done. Imagery became affordable for the common person. Previously, a person who wanted to record their family history in imagery had to do it through getting a portrait painted. This was costly (and still is) so most could not afford it. But in the 19th century as photography became more known as a method of recording an image, there were many who found the process fascinating.

Some became professionals, selling their photography from studio shops with props that looked like classical backgrounds for portraits. The sitter had to stay still so long in order to get a sharp picture that their poses looked very formal and dignified. Most photographs were posed with the photographer’s props – a beautiful Gothic styled chair, a rich pelt of wolf or bear; a background of some lovely painted forest. All the sitters took on the aisance and dignity of class that the aspired to (but often as not, could not afford).

As photography improved, people with a penchant for this avant garde method of image making and a modicum of chemical knowledge were able to develop and print their own photography at home in a darkened bathroom or a purpose built room. With the untrained eye, the quality of composition was somewhat haphazard, sometimes good sometimes downright bad. The photos were like our Reality TV programs – what ever was happening in the moment was recorded – but a little less artificially contrived.

The results of this amateur photography are interesting today because they captured a time in our pioneering country’s history with a candidness that had never been available before; and as a result, we have the privilege now, as in no era before us, where we can look back at what our parents and our grandparents were doing, where they were living and capture a fairly explicit feel for their times and their lives.

My grandfather and his brothers came to Canada from Holland in the early days of the 20th Century. They homesteaded in the Interlaken district of Manitoba and then moved to Winnipeg. Although they could provide food sufficient for their needs, cash was rare. Also the distances were great between communities.

I drove up to the homestead with my Mother in 1995. Some of the communities were fifty or sixty miles apart. In the early days, the only thing that connected them was the railroad. Prior to the railroad, people paddled boats or rode horses. The vastness of the country was daunting. There weren’t many maps to guide the way and when you got wherever you stopped, there was no restaurant awaiting you to freshen you up, nor a hotel to sleep overnight in.

Once the homesteaders settled in, they could not go down to the corner store and pick up some milk, flour or sugar if the larder was bare. When communities were established, a trip to the store might take a full day or maybe more, depending on season, the conditions of roads or the distance from the town where the store was located. Merchandise could be ordered by catalog and it came by train or by mail.

So when a young lad out in the wilds of Manitoba became enamoured by a hobby like photography, all the essential chemicals, papers and equipment would have to come from afar. Yet, my father’s generation was fascinated by popular photography and my collection of his photos makes me realize how the addition of photography opened up a whole new world to them (and now us).

I add “and us” because we can now go back and see for ourselves what our ancestors looked like, back as far as our great grandparent’s generation. A century ago, the middle class was only starting to be served by this extraordinary medium.

Note, in this photo just above, that there are several people assisting in the building of this church. I know it’s a church because some kind soul marked it on the back. That leads to another whole discussion of how the pioneers worked so cooperatively because they really had to. If you couldn’t get along with your neighbours, you were in trouble. You never knew when you would need them. And of course, you couldn’t just call in a contractor to build the church. The community was neither large enough nor diversified enough to afford those luxuries. Everybody helped. In our North American cities, much of that spirit has become lost.

And when I see how many formal studio portraits there are in this collection, it makes me wonder what was foregone in their daily living so that they could partake of the photographer’s service to preserve their image in sepia.

Father recounted that, in his family of six children and two adults, there were only seven plates. At dinner time, his mother waited until all had eaten and then she had her dinner. (Remember, there wasn’t a corner store to get another one from and don’t even think about why they didn’t use paper plates!). A plate was less important than an education in our family. Saving for an education was the most important thing. There had been a school teacher in every generation.

I don’t mean to say by this that our family was so dreadfully poor. Rather, the whole generation was cash strapped and they hardly had contact with stores. My father grew up in the Great Depression. Mark Twain’s saying that “We were all poor; but nobody knew it” was one that described the family’s position to a “T”. There was no cash for frivolities. But obviously, someone in the family had a camera.

Later, my father continued to be fascinated by photography. When stereoscopic cameras came out, he had one. Each new development in the manufacture of cameras had him envious of its promises for better photographs. He just had to have the newest thing. I realized eventually that that was his only folly. He was a thrifty, frugal man. Home, family, church, and education continued to be his priorities. Even in his later years, these remained most important. But next priority to tack on the list was Camera, and that too remained at number five on the list all his life.

The nature of photography has changed with the times. Photography is no longer a novelty. Subject matter, though, has changed tremendously. Yes, we still get group photos at school and group family photos; tourist shots, and landscape photos; but the sheer amount of photography we do is staggering. It’s not uncommon to go out in a day and take one hundred photos with our digital camera. Afterall, we don’t have to print them to see what we will get, so it costs nothing to take several similar photos and then to choose amongst them for the best one. Not so long ago, simply the cost of development and printing would have been prohibitive for such abandonment in our picture taking and our method of choosing a shot and ensuring that it would be good was far more careful than our current trend to covering each situation we want to with ten to twenty shots.

This last photo is of my grandfather working on his market garden just outside of Winnipeg in East Kildonan. Long gone are the farming days of this family. When I was in my thirties, my father pointed out that there were twenty-six university degrees held by the descendants of this man. We’re a long way from farming to earn our living; but there are a great number of us still fascinated with photography.

Finishing touches – Frisket

September 23, 2008

Back to the black-backgrounded hibiscus painting ….


I’m looking at the painting and see that I haven’t removed the Frisket. Frisket is a latex based liquid which is applied on with a brush, a stick or a pen. Once dry, it is no longer water soluble. It provides a resist area where it has been applied. When the painting is all finished, this rubbery substance can be rolled off either with an eraser like pad sold especially for this purpose, or just by rubbing it with your finger.

I’ve done this on my painting now and there are two pistils and all their furry things with dots at the end of them showing in stark white where the Frisket was removed. I need to integrate these into the painting. I want to keep the highlight, but I also want to make a transition between the rest of the painting and this white area.

If you look carefully on the fuschia pink flower where the pistil meets the centre of the flower, you can see the frisketed part that goes into the centre is painted black at the bottom. It was too long and originally went past the centre. Frisket areas – even if you have made a mistake in drawing it – is relatively easy to rectify. Once the black tip of my frisketing has been painted in, the pistil once again appears to issue from the centre.

With a fine brush – a number one or number 2 round with a good point – I painted a light tint of the main colour of the flower – both on the cadmium red pistil and on the fuschia pink pistil.  I paint the yellow tips in and the red ones at the end. I leave little bits of white – not many – to ensure there is a sparkle about these highlighted details.

Ta Da!

September 22, 2008

For those of you who follow this post regularly, you may recognize this watercolour by it’s description that I wrote recently about the process of creating a watercolour. If you didn’t catch that post, then here’s the web address to read all about it – there are two actually. Or, you can just work backwards in my posts and pick it up (Archive, August 2008)

https://artiseternal.wordpress.com/2008/08/28/anatomy-of-a-new-watercolour/

and

https://artiseternal.wordpress.com/2008/08/29/continuing-the-large-watercolour/

The thing that drives a prolific artist is that they are never satisfied with their work. In a spirit of self-critique, since I’ve had about a week to ponder on this image I have created, I’d like to tackle it again with a happier more uplifting colour for the background. Perhaps a French Ultramarine blue – one of my favorite colours; or a lime green, or who knows.

When I first saw this image and cropped it out of reality, I was looking at two beautiful hibiscus flowers, freshly picked from their tropical setting and placed without the enhancement of vase or other container, directly on the black lacquered coffee tables of The Pearl of the South Pacific reception area lounge. The simplicity was stunning. The air is so humid, the flowers do not wilt, once plucked, when out of water. There are so many blooms on the grounds of the resort that the flowers are simply renewed each day, fresh, and placed on these low tables in the entrance and sometimes are added to the bathroom counter in each room.  They are simply lovely. There’s no other word for it.

It’s the job of one of the housekeeping staff to go out and pick flowers. Nice work if you can get it!

My sister who can charm anyone inveigled this lovely woman to pose for us with the flowers she had reaped from the tropical garden. As usual, my sister who has a Masters degree in the teaching of French started to learn the Fijian language. With her face lit up in a mischievous smile, she said ” Kata, Kata!” waving her right hand as if gesturing in French for “Oo-lah-lah”.   Kata, Kata means Hot! Hot! and it was very hot and humid that day.

That set the flower gatherer to giggling and smiling. My best photo of our flower lady is a bit more serious.

The art of defacement

September 22, 2008

I sometimes start things and then don’t finish them.  I’ve a few drafts sitting in my blog files and this one, I’m sure, was in reaction to another blogger’s comments on the defacement of nature. I started it in March and then I don’t know if I incorporated it into another post or not.

I thought it might be worth just letting these thoughts go; so now, here they are, out of context from that which I’d been reacting to:

I too think that the defacement of park reserves and forests is wrong. My biggest peeve in this area is Mount Rushmore. Who in their right mind would think they had the right to carve up a whole mountain!
Changing subject only slightly, the desire to leave one’s mark (on trees, on abandoned train tunnels, on hard to access rock faces, graffiti, etc ) seems to be a human trait.
It just takes us longer to accept some of these “Art” forms. We rave over the Lascaux caves (I’ve not seen them in real life, but have seen plenty of pictures and the drawings are stunning). We go looking for native and aboriginal pictograms in many parts of the world; we treasure and protect them. Native sand drawings are another early form of “environmental” art.
The Innuit inukshuk – the standing stones – are another.
So it begs the question: Will the people of this era eventually come to terms with the underlying meaning that is inherent in the new works, just as the people of this era have come to accept the beauty in a van Gogh painting from a previous era?
I think that it takes time to understand, and whether I like something or not, I try to leave the door open so that I can learn, if learning is there to be had. I admire craft as part of a work of art and can accept some works on their level of craft even if I don’t like the concept or the final image.
And a final word in this rambling:
There are thousands, nay, perhaps millions of self-proclaimed artists out there in the world today. Some of them are noteworthy enough to be proclaimed on Wikipedia while still alive and working. Some will never be noted, never be seen until they are dead. Some are selling like hotcakes in the commercial galleries and aren’t worth the canvas they are painted on. These latter are decorative wallpaper for living room; go-with-my-couch enhancers. In a century from now, that whole jig may have changed: The unknown discovered and brought to the fore. The expensive above-couch paintings assigned to the thrift stores. Who knows what will be considered eternally, essentially worthy and lasting? Or fashionable? It’s a moving target and only time will tell.

The camera and the eye

September 17, 2008

I stopped by to read a post on the Internet about how the eye sees.

http://leisureguy.wordpress.com/2006/10/22/how-many-megapixels-is-your-eye/

and I left this comment:

“Perhaps all that we store as memory are Zipped files that will open and expand when we access them. Why else would it happen that we drive through our childhood neighborhood and all of a sudden an Archived file opens – say, building a pit fire in the back yard to cook a potato with your childhood friend – and then the file expands to remember the friend, the house, the parents, the chicken coop, the grass that wouldn’t light, the chicken wire fencing, other things that you did together….. etc, etc.

I remember the first time the camera operation was explained to me in terms of the eye in high school science class. Then, only a few years later, in University Zoology, the prof was explaining the eye in terms of camera operation!

Another thing about the eye that I find interesting is that once you lose your eyesight, say with macular degeneration for example, and you can no longer see anything, your mind can still conjure up images as if you saw them standing before you.

Now we explain a lot of brain functioning in terms of the computer.

Interesting, don’t you think?

The Rouge Gallery – Rossland B.C.

September 12, 2008

I’ve been in the Kootenay Mountains this last two weeks, mostly house painting, but unbeknownst to me, my calendar was marked with an opening to the Rouge Gallery in Rossland, B.C. It’s a brand new gallery, a cooperative of several Rossland area painters and craftspeople.

I just wish I had a similar turn out to one of my openings. There must have been 200 people coming to see this group show, men, women, children and even infants – a real family affair; a real community event. The gallery is small; people were spilling out into the street, engaged in conversations about the artwork, but also about family events and the Golden City Days. That started the next day with a parade and a lively rural Fall Fair complete with a harvest competitions for best baking, best produce and best home arts.

There were paintings hung at eye level throughout, and ten feet up, another row of paintings. There must have been about 70 works in all by 20 artists.

The Kootenay area is well known as an area with a mature artistic community. The work is highly individualistic and of good quality. Before I get into detail, I must say that I took photos of these works in the gallery under less than perfect conditions and the photos are offered here as pretty good representations of the individual pieces but the colour may be a bit off and I had to skew some back into shape in order to show the work as rectangular rather than the irregular quadrangles that I took.

Also, I may have missed mentioning an artist or two and if anyone from the Group Show can supply me with a photo, I’d be glad to update this post to include them.

So here goes:

On one hand, Anora Fisher paints small trompe l’oeil canvases – Books and Wine; Shenango Canyon; Bridge Lake. The compositions are perfectly balanced, the effects of light are perfect and the detail in the Dutch Master’s tradition, is amazing.

Left: Books and Wine Right: Bridge Lake

At the other end of the spectrum, there were some pleasant, dreamy abstracts (Spring Banks) by Claude Stormes, with little clue as to their inspiration except the title which left much up to the imagination. In these, there is no detail or specificity at all.

Claude Stormes

Louise Drescher is one of four artists driving the creation of this gallery. She managed the hanging of the works and prepared a fine wine and cheese nosh for opening night visitors. She is primarily known for her folk art paintings. Her commissioned work, a view of Rossland, maintained this style but showed her work moving towards a more subtle tonal range and rounded forms than her usual, flat shaped works. Huckleberries, another of her new works, followed on this trend – a new departure.

Left: L. Drescher Rossland Right: L. Drescher Huckleberries

Below: Ingrid Baker Shimmering Leaves

Ingrid Baker who has established her reputation on English style watercolour adapted to the local landscape, is moving forward into imaginative works in a new highly colourful and abstract style.

Stephanie Gauvin Rossland

There were several other landscape painters – Stephanie Gauvin’s work in a previous incarnation was quite expressionist and gestural with a Soutine-like quality to it. These new ones have more defined and flatter shapes and seem more calculated than her earlier ones.

I rather liked Jennie Bailie’s interpretive landscapes which are hard edged and linear in the detail. There is sufficient interest in the abstraction of the tree shapes with their curious texture and the mountain planes which have been reduced to four tonal values represented by individual colours. It works!

On the other hand, she showed two floral canvases whose compositions were uninteresting. Free-form splotches of colour pure hue represented the flowers that were just too unhappily accidental to retain me in the image. If this is a new way of working, it needs more attention to developing a good balance between positive and negative shapes in the overall imagery.

My favourite was a large oil painting by Lasha Mutuel. Backed by a clear blue sky, three women in highly decorative dresses stand passively. One holds a large Savoy cabbage in a highly realistic style as if it were a sacred offering. The realism of this object contrasts with the flatter, decorative aspects of the dress patterns and the flowers floating in front of another of the women. Her iconography is symbolist and outstandingly individual. She showed two other works Tara’s Boat and Adrift that were more illustrative than the large painting and while interesting, packed less punch.

I went back into the gallery two days later to take photos of some of the paintings, but the big one had sold. It was gone and in it’s place was another original composition, a woman very much like a portrait of Lasha herself, standing with a large ginseng or mandrake root in her outstretched arm. It appears to symbolize the male force and uprooting and the woman’s struggle to hold on for dear life.

Lasha Mutual

Andy Holmes exhibited several bright coloured paintings in mixed folk art and surrealist style. I found his Cycling Crow fascinating. A large black crow stands atop a red bicycle that is going nowhere. In the wheel where the spokes should be, a whole other story is going on, scratched out in a white line drawing.

Andy Holmes Left: Cycling Crow Right: Hundred Waters

Hundred Waters, a surreal portrait, is a take off on Friedensriech Hundertwasser’s style. While the imagery was very interesting there is progress to be made on painting quality and the recycled framing does not enhance the work.

Karla Pearce – Bouquet of magnolias

Karla Pearce displayed two large expressionist bouquets which were more about joyously moving thick paints about than about the specificity of flowers. I rather enjoyed these strong, direct works. There is a good command of colour in defining white and shadow which is not easy to do. She handles the tonal arrangement with ease. Her frontal approach to the bouquet could give her compositional difficulties with the background, but she has broken up the ground with large patches of colour – sky blue, grey for shadow, and white – that make the eye travel around comfortably. Despite the looseness of the painting, she has defined the flowers sufficiently that we know they are magnolias, no doubt about it.

There were several other works by Pearce, two of them in water media and some large canvases with landscape theme.

Jennifer Smith showed two large landscapes, Moss with Red Flowers and Rocks and Roots. Smith’s painting has a predominant linear quality with blocks of colour underneath. These large and highly detailed works show a maturity and uniqueness of style, a good command of composition and a sense of drama with the strategically placed red flowers. It’s because of them that the eye continues to shift throughout the painting, and they lend a warmth to an otherwise cool palette of colours.

I have to apologize for the quality of this photo by John Lake. There’s quite a bit of glare on it, but it was the best I could do. He had three photographs with a theme of the figure in motion. For a photographer to deliberately show three photos that are primarily out of focus because the figure was in action takes a bit of courage; but I personally like these very much. They make the viewer search for the figure; they have motion and dynamism to them.

” Daisies”- Charlene Barnes – Acrylic

Charlene Barnes showed a work entitled “Daisies”. You can see influences of Chagall with the flying daisies in the sky, and van Gogh, with the swirling sky and the thick paint. It’s quite pleasantly imaginative in the manner of the Post-Impressionist Naive in style.

Heather Good: Wild Flowers

Heather Good showed two large canvases, Italy and Wildflowers, with writing superimposed on an abstract image. The work shows a maturity and comfort level with experimental imagery, using bothopaque and transparent colours, with a good contrast of apparently free form strokes (almost dribbles) and controlled images. Her sense of colour is strong though subtle. What could have been a very cool-coloured painting is offset with warm oranges and reds and blues tending to warmth (the turquoise and sky blues). Despite there being few vertical elements in the painting, Heather quietly leads the viewer through the painting with a variety of different items – the white gizmos in the middle, the writing, the complicated orange and red passages. It’s curious because it defies some of the compositional standards and works in spite of that.

Sarah Zannussi’s blue and white pottery and Robin Otteranger natural coloured stoneware provided some works of form. There were a few felted works and woven blankets of beautiful tactile and visual beauty by Trish Rasku. I apologize to these fine craftspeople that I did not get photos of their work while I was there.

As I mentioned at the beginning, I was a bit surprised to have been invited to this show, but I was really pleased by the quality of work that was shown and I hope you’ve vicariously been able to enjoy some of it with me.

Gallery hopping on the Internet

September 5, 2008

When someone stops by my blog, I usually return the favour to see what they are writing. One of my visitors had just bought a painting from Sonya Sklaroff and was tremendously excited to have it. It was one of the Water tower paintings.

I’m on a work holiday so I found a bit of time to go looking at Sonya’s work. Here’s the web address for her.

http://www.sonyasklaroff.com/2008/Home.html

It takes quite a bit of time to look through her site because you have to activate the photos one by one (at least I didn’t find a quicker way) but it’s worth it.

Her chief subject matter is cityscape in New York. She has a water tower series, a series of city street and stores, a good selection of landscapes, interiors and portraits. If you know Edward Hopper’s work, you will find a link to that master both in style and theme.

I like the strong colour sense and the bold directness of her painting style. She has a great handle on light and shadow and uses them to create dramatic settings for industrial structures. Besides having vision (in this case, picking out a great image from her surroundings) she has has impeccable compositional sense. I can see her understanding of the abstract principles that make a painting work. I get the feel that she has passion for whatever strikes her visual interest.

In my opinion, two of the series don’t hold up to the high standard of her other work – the life drawings/paintings and the Tuscany imagery – although even these are still good.

I remember being in Seguret in the mid-’70s at an International Atelier for artists. It was the first time I was in France and the first time in Provence. Everything was new. I stayed for a month and only was able to draw from the rich visual surroundings for my art work in the third or fourth week. One needs time to digest what one sees; so I can understand that these Tuscany paintings are less solidly grounded than the rest.

I’m house painting this afternoon, so I have to go back to my four inch brush and the porch floor boards. In the meantime, if you drop by my site to read this, I invite you to take a stroll through a New York gallery via a visit to onya Sklaroff’s work on her web site. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.