Drawing Month in Vancouver

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Bruce Pashak, Dionysus in India I, oil and graphite on canvas

I had to be in Vancouver on Tuesday so I invited Mrs. Stepford to come with me as company for the long ride. I had a couple of chores to do.

I had to pick up some photos at the Big Box department store in Coquitlam and, in Vancouver,  mats to frame my entry to the Painting on the Edge exhibition.

Let me do a plug for my favourite framers. They are great people and reasonably priced – Final Touch Frames on Fourth at Quebec Street. While I was there, I looked through the pre-cut mats in search of a bargain and true to form, always I found a few 8-ply acid free ones to take home. I love matting things up in 8 ply.

We had the rest of the day to explore the galleries, a rare treat in itself. This month ,  it was Drawing Month – a celebration of drawing in lieu of paintings – in several of the best commercial galleries in Vancouver. Even the Burnaby Art Gallery had a focus on drawings with an exhibition of B.C. Binning. He was a founding professor of the School of Architecture at UBC. For a biography, B.C. Binning is in Wikipedia and there is a separate site through Google for images, though few are drawings on it.

I’ve seen this latter exhibition three times now, it is so good. It’s just drawings, but such good ones. I took Elizabeth to see that exhibition today and she came away with a new understanding of the excitement of drawings. Binning’s are so direct, curiously incorrect (anatomically, realistically incorrect), but so spot on that they are a delight to inspect.

On Tuesday, though, we had a list of about six galleries to go to.  We started with the Elliott Louis Gallery especially since Mrs. Stepford had studied with Bruce Pashak who figured largely in the  exhibition. I had seen his studio with her at the Parker Street Studios in the Downtown East Side both before and during the Vancouver East Cultural Crawl. I was just as excited as she about seeing his work in a gallery setting.

The Elliott Louis Gallery has moved recently and now can be found a block  east of Main Street below Great Northern Way in a warehouse district. Both the Elliott Louis and the Catriona Jeffries Galleries are here, side by side, with exciting contemporary work.

Bruce Pashak’s drawings are full of things to look at. First of all, he has a stunning sense of draftsmanship. In the largest of his works, a diptych, there were two panels about six feet by four feet. The entire canvas area is prepped with gesso and paint and then Pashak draws in graphite on top of this preparation.

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Bruce Pashak, Equivocal Litanies, Oil on Canvas 64 x 96 inches

In the centre is a female figure, lithe and beautifully formed wearing a diaphanous garment.  At her buttocks is an apparatus that appears to be a bustle, from afar, but on close inspection is a complicated image which I tool to be a bird-wing’s skeletal structure morphing as it descended the picture plane into a network of roads like on a map. Is this bird’s wing an implication of angelic status?

A bird hovers before the woman’s breast, beak perilously close to the nipple, creating a tension, conveying an uncomfortable physical sensation to the viewer of how that might  feel if the two actually made contact.

A third of either end of the two panels is collaged in a rather Rauchenbergian abstract composition incorporating  dribbles of coloured paint, letters and paper cut-outs.  On the right hand panel just left of this abstract statement  are several animals drawn in graphite,  stacked one on top of each other  in a totem pole fashion – rabbits, fish,  salamander, snake, a duck and new born puppies. Each is so fitted together so that it appears to be copulating with the one above.

It’s a bizarre but beautiful collection of images making the viewer somewhat voyeuristic at the latent sexual tension in it and at the same time, there is a tremendous peacefulness in it as if the woman and the bird have been frozen in time forever for our close inspection of natural and youthful beauty.

The piece is full of dichotomies. In the technical execution of the work,  the loose, expressionistic outer edges of the panel opposes the tight realism of the animal totem, the bird and the figure. In the subject matter, the realism of the central images compete with the random-seeming, loose and non-representational ones on the far edges . But the integration of drawing techniques and painting techniques marry seamlessly. The Drawing/painting reads well as an image from afar and provides intricacies and fine detail to be enjoyed when close up.

Pashak’s figure images appear to be drawn from  Greco-Roman or Renaissance imagery. He executes them in graphite directly on the canvas. In other drawing/paintings in this exhibition, the faces seem to be constructed in a grisaille technique with fine layering of a light grey glaze built up to produce a refined, anatomically-accurate image. It looks almost like a pale black and white photograph, but is finely hand crafted.

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Bruce Pashak Dionysus in India II Oil on Canvas, 16 x 12 inches

Several of Pashak’s images were included in this exhibition. Themes run through them, with turbaned heads, skeletal structures, historical referencing and his attention to human anatomy.

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Andrew Tong, Ring-a-ring-a-Rosie,  Pencil on illustration board, 8 x 7 inches

Andrew Tong showed small illustrative drawings that depict nursery rhymes – Ring-a-Ring-a- Rosie, Little Miss Muffet, Humpty Dumpty, and Mary Mary. These are not sweet children’s illustrations. There is a twist of horror just under the surface. In Mary Mary, the figure is gently holding  a fly in her hands as if it were an offering. Her head and torso are correct, but after a minute of inspection, you see that the legs coming out of her skirt are spider’s legs. Humpty Dumpty has a flying fish hovering above his head. In one image there is a broken and dismembered doll tucked discretely at the bottom for a person to discover after they have ingested the primary image in the drawing. In another, there is a hand crawling out of a large sea-snail’s shell. One of the figures is wearing a gas mask.

Tong’s drawings are uniquely drawn in graphite on paper. They are crisply detailed and clean, like exquisite miniatures and reminiscent of Hieronymous Bosch.

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Scott Plumbe, Farm House, pencil on paper, 8 x 10 inches

Scott Plumbe also is drawing minutiae in small perfectly executed graphite drawings. In an eight by ten inch drawing called Farm House,  he has depicted an interior with bushel and woven baskets stored on shelving. The weaving on each basket is described in the finest of detail, as is the wood grain on the end wall.  They are simply amazing, technically, in their hyper-realism but so complete  that there is little dreaming or thinking to be done after first view.

I much enjoyed Carolyn Stockbridge’s series of Blue Cloud drawings. There is a series of about six images on 26 x 20 paper, each containing a blue cloud. Beneath the cloud is a garden.  In one, there is a shower, complete with a bathroom shower head streaming water into the ground, nourishing the plants, and continuing directly down under the ground to become roots. In another there is a rock garden, not in the traditional sense, but with a quirky sense of humour, Stockbridge piles pebbles one on top of the other like plant stems and like Inushuk, the Inuit standing stones. A garden tool, an edger, connects the blue cloud to the soil, acting as a tree trunk so that the cloud is both cloud and tree. There’s a lot of delightful cleverness and visual punning in these drawings.

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Carolyn Stockbridge, Blue Cloud and rock garden, mixed media, 26 x 20

Her work is inventive with a keenly personal iconography as is Nancy Boyd’s. It’s supported by excellent drawing skills,  so that where precision is required, both artists  are able to meet this challenge, but where they chose to use loosely described or abstracted marks, there is an equal measure of liberty in the mark making.

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Nancy Boyd Against the cold #9, mixed media on drawing paper,  38 x 25

Nancy Boyd’s series is called Against the Cold. A plant with long sword shaped leaves is wrapped at its base in a blanket to protect the roots from the cold. The drapery of the cloth wrap is described tonally in soft graphite only and then the  plant is line drawn in graphite and coloured with light green watercolour washes. Four of a series of ten drawings are on display,  each approximately 26 x 20 inches.

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Nancy Boyd, After Muybridge: Animals in motion, graphite on paper, 21 x 37

Another of Boyd’s  series, After Muybridge: Animals in motion spins off the work of Eadweard Muybridge, an early photographer fascinated by motion. Muybridge was challenged to prove whether or not a horse ever undertook unsupported motion during his gallop. Muybridge devised a method of making simultaneous photographs as the horse ran, there by providing the first proof that the horse actually did lift all four limbs off the ground as part of its running motion.

In Boyd’s work, she uses two stuffed toys connected by a string and pulls one up while the other one descends. She records five positions as the toy elephant and the toy rabbit rotate through this rotational process. The toys have personality. In the first and second positions, the elephant seems to be helping the rabbit down. In the third the rabbit seems to be helping heft the elephant up and in the fourth the rabbit seems to be worrying about whether or not the elephant will make it. In the fifth, the elephant is now up and rabbit seems to be exhausted from the endeavour.

In After Muybridge No 2, Gibbon turning While Pinned a toy gibbon turns, again in a series of five images.  The drawing is impeccable. The shadows add to the strength of the composition. There is no hesitation in her work. It’s beautiful.


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Teresa Sapergia, Untitled (Deer), graphite on paper, 58×32 inches

Teresa Sapergia draws large. Her magnificent unframed works are of animals, with graphite as the medium.She explains herself thus: ” I am interested in that fleshy body that lifts, falls, hovers and searches for its own likeness, a figuration that wants to find similarity within an image made of marks and dust.   The transient form that is at once animal, magical, fantastical and ordinary.

A reminder of Durer’s famous rabbit, Sapergia’s  rabbit drawing is the only one of her six drawings in the exhibition that is static.  Her drawing, Hawk and Owl, faces one raptor against the other in flight, caught in an angry tension of fight. She is adventurous in her use of her medium, as much drawing with it as with the eraser that takes away what she has already drawn. It gives a lively, dynamic feel, echoing the dynamic spirit of the animals she chooses to portray.

The deer drawing is unusual with only the leaping deer appearing. There is no context to help the viewer “place” the animal. I rather like this elliptical approach where the view is asked to participate in the imagery. What has frightened the deer? The drawing, again full of tension, demands that the viewer contemplate where the feet will land and will the deer find purchase on the ground for the next adrenaline filled leap, because this animal is in flight for it’s life.

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Teresa Sapergia, Three Wolves, detail, graphite on paper, 58 x 96 inches

In Three wolves. again there is no context, no extraneous background; and the drawing is filled with aggressive tension. The mark making is literally pounded onto the surface, then some removed again with eraser to create a dynamic, bristling fur texture. The viewer is face to face with three nasty, hungry wolves at eye level.  Eat or be eaten!

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Derek Dunlop, Palm I, mixed media on paper,  30 x 22

Derek Dunlop draws in a post-modernist elliptical manner, as if traced around an object. He is drawing with subjectivity, borrowing his images from various media including television news and reality programs.  His drawing is the antithesis of Scott Plumbe’s. There is no particularity. In fact, most of the imagery is difficult to read and his artist statement does not seem to be compatible with the imagery.

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Jeremiah Birnbaum, The Irony of Protection II, charcoal on  canvas 24 x 24 inches

Jeremiah Birnbaum also has an artist statement that does little to explain his imagery.  Only in his comparison to passport photos does the statement link to the work. Four large drawings, each with one frontally pose face, drawn on gessoed canvas stare back at the viewer in a lifeless expression. Tonally, the images have a very limited mid-range and compositionally, I found them unengaging.

Lastly, Mandy Boursicot exhibits several drawings in a French Ninteenth Century Academic style of the studio masters’ anatomy lessons. There is no question. Boursicot knows how to draw. She draws with precision and accuracy but for me, idea is missing.  In her artist statement, she speaks of the importance of shadow and things to come.  I see beautifully crafted figures in a Century old style. I think Boursicot has much to offer, but it is, as she says, in things to come.

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Mandy Boursicot,  Valentina seated, graphite on paper, 17 x 10.5 inches

This is an exhibition not to be missed.  It represents several methods of drawing, running the gamut from abstract to hyper-realism and passing by the illustrative, which, by the way, I have no trouble including in Fine Art when it meets the quality evident in this show.  It is on for the most of August.  Try to find time to go there. And if you are a buyer of art, you may just find something within the means of your pocket book. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have one of these in your own home to marvel at?

To see all the artist’s work available at the Elliott Louis Gallery, you can link to:

http://www.elliottlouis.com/


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4 Responses to “Drawing Month in Vancouver”

  1. suburbanlife Says:

    Great review of this show, Kay! I concur with you on most points except on Jeremiah Birnbaum’s work. I deliberately didn’t read the artist statements, figuring that i engage so fully with each artist’s work that i do not need their words. Birnbaum’s work is amazingly beautiful in that graphite doesn’t gather that shrill sheen it does sometimes in drawings, although these drawing may have been silver-points. And what engaged me in these works was the subtle wooing of a lover’s eye – an intimacy that invited scrutiny of the drawn marks and erasures with layers of thin gesso to revel in the finely woven hatched layers of marks. The kind of fascination this yields might propel me to part with my scant shekels. i do so much love work that invites close scrutiny which yields no easy answers.
    Many Boursicot’s drawings are so 18th century in sentiment, even to the coy sexuality of the realist nudes and the drawing-lesson clarity of the faceted dark-light planar studies, that i turned away from them in distaste. They have shown the nude as an entry into harmeless sensual fantasy, which is pretty boring in itself. They reminded me of dirty French postcards, brought down a notch or two. Yawn, but good technique, nevertheless. I like to see technique in service of meaning – as in Bruce Pashak’s work. Now, to me, that is killer stuff! G

  2. Drawing Month in Vancouver « ars longa; vita brevis | Design Graphics Says:

    […] Continue reading here: Drawing Month in Vancouver « ars longa; vita brevis […]

  3. Kristi Says:

    wonderful post! I very much enjoy your art reviews!

    • lookingforbeauty Says:

      Kristi,
      Thanks for the kudos. I stopped by your web site and find your work quite uplifting. Congratulations.
      For any of you reading through these comments, just click on the kristitaylor.com and you too, can see Kristi’s work.
      K

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