Archive for August, 2009

Golden ears from the Alouette dike

August 15, 2009

#1 089 small

cut against a bank

of  cumulus

the granite grey slopes

bared by the summer heat

lie, languid as lions

after a saharan feast


thick wads of cloud

inch across the sky

unruffled by the breeze

that whispers

in the marsh grasses


Drawing by the banks of the Alouette

August 12, 2009

Golden Ears mountain small

For forty days and forty nights, we had no rain and then, the night before last, we had rain in abundance. Such abundance! The earth needed it so badly, and all the plants.

It rained all day yesterday and into the night, resting from time to time, giving me those little windows of opportunity to take the compost out to the composting bin and to run the recycling out to the sidewalk for morning pick up. It was a day of chores.

During the night, it must have pelted down with a great deal of force. All the flowers were bent to the ground. The Phlox are entirely ruined. The Buddleia, the butterfly bush, with its long stems and thick purple torches were also bent to the ground, sodden with water. The white Hydrangea – same thing.The Fireweed, too, was making obeisance to the earth.

Mid morning the sun came out and by late afternoon, the stems of the Buddleia (named after the Reverend Buddle) were slowly returning to their graceful arches.  The Phlox was upright, but all the petals were gone; the Fireweed forgot to come back up – I’ll simply have to cut them down. They won’t recover.

At ten this morning, Irene, my new art student came. The weather was too variable to have her drawing outside. Thick black clouds were still in the sky, but moving east. If we had painted outside, there was a good risk that one of these ogres treading clumsily across the sky would dump a bucket of water on their way, so I set up the easel for her in the sun porch.

Later in the afternoon, when I was finally alone and lunch made and over, I decided to go down for a walk, my sketch book tucked into my pocket. Now the clouds were white, like giant sails, still moving majestically across the sky in Armada formation; but the patches of blue between them were considerably greater and there was no longer a risk of getting drenched.

I did more drawing than I did walking today as I recover from a wee knee sprain. Today was the first day in about six since I’ve been able to contemplate a longish walk, because of it. I went slowly, absorbing the wonderful smell that wet earth releases when the sun re-emerges. At the mid-way bench, I sat and drew these clouds and the dark shadows that they cast on the mountains below. The mountains were dwarfed by them!

#1 089 small

The shadows explain so much about the shape of the mountains, their curves, their dips, their rises.  You don’t see the forms half so well when the sun is shining full tilt.

When I finished that one, I went as far as the first bench where I could see the whole of the Neaves Road Bridge and I stopped to draw it.

Neaves Road bridge

On the way back, I saw that lovely thistle that I took photos of a week ago. It’s gone to seed, and what a beautiful seed it is.

#1 116 small

McDining – Privacy laws

August 5, 2009

There is no image to accompany this post. You will see why.

A couple of days ago, I posted my latest watercolour called “McDining” and if you look back a couple of posts, you will see a modified image of “McDining”, the object of a legal question.

I was uncertain as to my right to publish the painting since I had taken a photo of a man eating at McDonald’s without his permission. He had no idea that I was photographing him.

I have since altered the photo in Adobe Photoshop so that the face is missing. Anon is eating at McDonalds!

Over a late evening cup of tea at Mrs. Stepford’s place last night, I had a chat with her husband a well respected lawyer in town who is quite aware of legislation and precedence on this subject.

“I thought you guys knew this stuff a long time ago,” he exclaimed, chiding us on our ignorance concerning privacy laws. He explained:

Military and police have the right to capture a person’s image without their permission. It’s in the best interests of law enforcement and the public good.

But an individual is not allowed to take a picture of another individual without their permission and they may not publish it without the subject’s express permission.

“Well,” proposes Mrs. Stepford in support of my cause, “what if she took the picture before she asked permission and then asked him if she could take his picture afterwards, and he agrees. Couldn’t she use the picture?

Mr. Stepford is completely disgusted with our moral turpitude. No means no!

We run through a number of scenarios:

If a model is hired to be painted by an artist and takes money for it, it is assumed that he or she is giving permission in the process.

If you ask someone before you take the picture if they mind if you do so and they are willing, then you can take their photo, but if you want to paint them using the photo for reference, then you must also get their permission to use their image in the art work.
This applies to photographers, including the press who must ask permission before publishing a person’s picture that hits the six o’clock news.

So I guess my McDining is confined forever to my own private viewing. I could take a risk and show it, says my lawyer friend – a risk that might end up with a $20,000.00 fine if the owner of the profile decides to sue for the breach of his privacy.

Well, maybe a few friends will see my painting, McDining. And maybe, like Roger Bacon, I could distort the faces; or like those pop-up books we had as children, put someone elses face on the image, someone I know, who gives  me permission for the use of their facial image. Or maybe take some self-images to put in place of the colonel’s head.  It might be quite surreal.

I haven’t given up on my McDining image. It’s just got me thinking.  I shall try it again in another configuration.

Nygren and Nurmi

August 3, 2009

Nygren Judy  flower on black small

Judy Nygren, Flower, Acrylic on canvas

All images on this post are copyright of Judy Nygren and Terry Nurmi and posted with their permission.

It was hot last night and boding not well for a good turn out at the Fort Gallery but I was determined to go there.  The advertising for the current show looked interesting and I was keen to get out of the house. With this heat, I’ve been laying low.

Everyone was quite surprised, then, to see the excellent turn-out of people braving the heat and humidity to see Judy Nygren’s and Terri Nurmi’s show.

I had an interesting chat with Judy. I liked the images, especially where her objects seem to disintegrate into the background, confounding edges, providing ambiguities to explore. Where does the object start and where does it finish?

I asked her whether or not there was a unifying idea behind the images – there were a few paintings depicting different images of the same teapot; and several pictures of fluid looking flowers. In the second exhibition room,  one painting stood out from the others as more anecdotal and perhaps imbued with more meaning.  It is a picture of a swan flying and a woman astride the bird’s back.  The woman’s foot is thrust forward and pointed, clad in a ballerina’s toe shoe.

Nygren Judy Swan and rider small

When I remarked upon the shoe, Nygren informed me that she was a dancer and hence the connection within her iconography. I suggested references to Leda and the Swan, but she had not consciously thought of that. I mentioned that it looked like the woman was flying away to freedom and looking back whence she came.

Nygren thought that this was an apt interpretation of the images, but confessed that she still hadn’t worked out what the two faces were about.

“Perhaps your old self at the back and the new self going forward? I suggested.  She didn’t know. Couldn’t say. Maybe.

Nygren spoke of  her year of personal changes, the failure of a close relationship and a year of falling apart and assuaging the catastrophic feelings with the healing act of painting.  I pointed out the apparent disintegration happening in the imagery.  She nodded, but confessed that it must have come subconsciously, since she hadn’t set out to express that. To the contrary. The act painting had lifted her out of her concerns; taken her to another more peaceful state of being.

I also noted an unravelling that occurs in many of the images. Same response. But she nodded her head in agreement – her life had felt like it was unravelling.

Nygren’s works are full of strong colour. There are several that contrast an almost khaki colour background with strong cadmium red objects.  She is working in acrylic and her facility with the medium is obvious. She can paint fine line and defined areas cleanly and clearly and conversely, she can bring subtle blendings of colour into play.

One of her themes is flowers which, for leading edge paintings is always considered something of a slippery slope, edging into the too-facile.  As one university professor reportedly said, “If you are going to do flowers, it damn well better be very different.”

On this subject, I found Nygren’s flowers visually quite interesting and engaging for their liveliness. They are formed from a build up of black line-drawings with coloured infill.  They are  rhythmic. They virtually fly through the picture plane with the meanderings of their fluid forms and shapes. Rhythm, in all of her paintings, is one of her strengths, and motion.

Some of them reminded me of a painting I saw in an exhibition that gathered works from the era moving out of realism and into abstraction. It was one of the first images that confounded borders of things, the inside and out of them. It was a bottle and it had been describe only by what wasn’t there – the air around it and the air inside of it.

It might have been Mondrian in his search for more a spiritual description of things or Georges Braque in his analytical search, beginning to develop his ideas of Cubism. I’ve forgotten the name of the artist, it was such a long time ago.

Nygen Judy Turq teapot small

Some of Nygren’s images are easy to read; others need your full attention. There are four or more images of a vessel, presumably a teapot, mostly in red, but one is described with a coloration of turquoise or cerulean blue. In one of these, the viewer is disoriented. What is the object they are viewing?

“A hookah?” my companion of the evening ask. Judy Nygren is just behind her and answers, “Someone said it looked like a vagina. She’s a midwife, so she’s seen a lot of them. No! I never thought that when I was painting it; though I can see the resemblance now. It’s the teapot. You are looking at the spout.”

nygren judy teapot 2 small

It all kicked in as she said it. It was simple. But we are not used to looking at things from a different point of view. On consideration, this was one of my favourites from this show. Everyone’s contribution to how they saw the picture made it richer for me.  After all, the painter is only one half of the art equation. If no one views it, Confusion says, does it really exist? But the viewer is not obliged to see in it what the painter put in it. More often this is the case. Each person brings their own experience to the dialogue of art.

Nygren Judy Bowl with tulips small

Nygren’s works are happy and uplifting, colourful and engaging. Before the end of the opening, several works had been purchased and that is an excellent thing to have happen.

Terri Nurmi is a very different artist. She too has had some challenging life events that have led her to create her imagery. Her artist’s statement is so beautiful that I will reprint it here.

I woke up & went to the bags that held her things … just to smell them. The wonderful aroma of her was dissipating. I wondered how many more smells I would have before she was gone.

“about face” is an exhibition that refers to change. To the shift of identity that happens to all that experience the loss of a friend or family member. This shift requires change. The two are interwoven.

The phrase “about face” is most ambiguous. For me, the work entitled, “Blueprint II” refers to my own shift of identy through the loss of my twin sister. At first, working towards this exhibit, I attempted to paint images from her things. But soon realized that previous bodies of photographic work, inadvertently referring to our relationship, were also beckoning for closure.

As I was speaking to her, Terry described her images as blueprints and the series is entitled Blueprints II of which thirteen are shown. They commemorate her twin sister in a series of images entitled with nostalgic names – Dried Roses and Boostier;  Green Negligé; Lingerie Bag;  Humming Bird and Wire Sculpture;  Pearl Button;  Klimpt;  Bleeding Heart;  Flying; Forget me not;  Houseboat;  I Hope You Dance; Wedding Ring Quilt; and Baby Stuff.

The images are imbued with deep emotion but are more conceptual in composition than Nygren’s. Where Nygren’s subconscious had flirted with the themes of disintegration, she has not intentionally set out to do so. On the contrary, Nurmi’s works quite consciously set out to explore her feelings directly. The images are composed of tokens, relics, remembrances of things she has shared intimately with her sister.

Nurmi Terry Misfortunes

Where Nygren has let loose her images and they fly exuberently, Nurmi’s seem to be  consciously gathering in, codifying, cataloguing and nostalgically preserving them in a clarity that will continue to evoke for her the loss of a loved sister. They are a still and very beautiful archive. A deeply felt testament.

These are printed works under glass. At the exhibition, I was unable to get excellent pictures of them. In particular, Blueprint I, an ambitious and meticulous work  subtitled Misfortunes, a five foot square assemblage of wood, plexiglass and 99 folded fortunes, was always being inspected by one of the visitors to the exhibition. In any case, even if no one was in front of it, the glare from the gallery lights would have made it impossible to properly photograph.  It is adventurous, not only in scale but in idea.

Nurmi Terry Misfortunes detail small

Terry Nurmi Blueprint I Misfortunes, detail

Each of the folded fortunes recalls a childhood game we played where a sheet of square paper was folded into further squares creating a three dimensional form that could be manipulated with thumb and forefinger. Along with a chant about one’s future, the fortune teller would variably open and close these cones and when the chant stopped, that would be one’s true fortune. The fortunes had been filled in on the facets of paper with girl-child wish lists – happiness, names of desirable boyfriends, friendship, good luck,  and some disasters too – a scolding,  school detention. With our childhood innocence, there was nothing too ill lurking beneath the paper corners. Not like death, cancer, accident and other griefs of great harm and destruction.

In Blueprints II there are fourteen works shown. Most are about eight inches square and all a somewhat gloomy blue colour of the cyanotype.  Yet, there is a bittersweet beauty, a lost beauty, for Nurmi.  Shared femininity is at the core of it and intimacy of twin sisters – lingerie, maquillage, love tokens from evenings out, and  articles of cherished clothing.

Nurmi Terry Green Neglige small

Terry Nurmi, Blueprint II Green Neglige

Nurmi Terry Bleeding Heart small

Terry Nurmi Blueprint II Bleeding Heart

Nurmi Terry Humming bird and wire structure small

Terry Nurmi, Blueprint II Humming bird and wire structure

Nurmi Terry Flying small

Terry Nurmi, Blueprint II Flying

One last note on Nurmi’s imagery:

In each one of Nurmi’s images exhibited, the composition is unique to the piece. The subject matter is different in each piece. There is little repetition here. This speaks of a very fertile mind, visually. It is to be honoured and celebrated. This is an amazing body of work.

My photos lack the characteristic blue colour of the cyanotype; I’ve adjusted them as best as I could from memory. Some have glare on them from the glass, as well, but they are sufficient, I hope, to nudge you down to the Fort Gallery to see them.  It’s a very engaging exhibition.

By the way, I looked for their web presence and the Fort Gallery is the only place for either of them. Here’s the web address.


August 3, 2009

Have I been too silent lately? Must be that I’ve been working at other things…

Like this!

I drew this in pencil first. It was too big a painting to try without some directions to follow. I haven’t been this ambitions for a long time.

I imagined this retired officer from the navy on his own on a sunny midday, stopping for a quick lunch. His dignity and military bearing – the straight back,the impeccably clean clothing, the formality of eating in a fast food outlet with a knife and fork – at once amused me and made me admire him.

There is a bit of mystery. Is his wife out shopping so he, not ever having had to look after his own meals, simply goes out for lunch rather than having to make sense of a home refrigerator?  He never lets his guard down. If he had to salute, he would do it crisply, precisely.

On the other hand, he has a flamboyant shirt. It’s the opposite of camouflage fashions.

He’s dressed for summer. The light pours into the place. Just beyond the window is a whole section of the restaurant set up with play equipment for kids. It’s just like boot camp with things to crawl through, things to swing on, to climb  and to slide down. Only these are coloured in bright primary colours and fluorescents of pink and orange.

And here’s the final (minus the face – see more recent post re privacy):

McDining a small anon

I think I will leave it up to look at for a week or two to see if there is anything else to be done.

This may be the only place that I publish this painting. I don’t know what official rules are. They seem to ask if the person knows they are being painted and whether one has permission. Quite frankly, I don’t.

I took the picture I was working from without the man’s knowledge. If I had asked to take his picture, he would no longer have had this terrific natural pose. He might not have wanted me to take one at all.

I have several other paintings I want to do in a similar vein – beautiful people, not in the magazine sense, but dignified, normal, doing what they do without affectation, without posing.  And here’s the other no-no. I’m working with photographs. Ones that I myself  have taken of people and of  situations that I find interesting or extraordinarily typical.