Two Exhibitions

Krimmel,Kristin In One Ear

In One Ear, Watercolour 10 x 13

I’m not much at tooting my own horn, but I’m going to do it today.

On August 20th, the opening for the Painting on the Edge exhibition was held at the  Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery on Granville Island in Vancouver.

This painting of mine which I’ve posted above was selected for the show, so of course I turned up and invited all my friends.  It’s quite an eclectic exhibition running a gamut from high realism to minimalism, the latter which prompted two of my friends to look at me in a bewildered fashion as they said, each one of them, “I just don’t understand this. Someday, please explain why this is important enough to hang in a show.”

I asked them if they knew Piet Mondrian and both did. They both liked his work, they thought, but neither had really understood what he was doing nor the principles that would make  a line and a square placed strategically on a picture plane – to be considered worthwhile or valid as artistic imagery.

There were several pieces that appealed to my aesthetic, but I also found that the quality of pieces shown was quite inconsistent and if I had been choosing, there would be six of the fifty that I wouldn’t have shown at all.  If I can I get copyright permission, I will post some of them for your viewing pleasure. In the mean time, if you  want  to see the fifty images in the Painting on the Edge show, go to the Federation of Canadian Artists web site and click on Current Exhibition for details.

http://artists.ca/show/painting_on_the_edge_2009

It’s worth a visit with lots of time to ponder. This is adventurous, thoughtful work showing. Different materials, different formats, inspired ideas, excellent craftsmanship.

Earlier in the day, I went to the Elliott Louis Gallery on 1st Avenue just east of Main Street by one block. The 5th Annual Emerging Art show is just up and the opening was this evening. I couldn’t be in two places, so I took a quick look in the afternoon before the crowds came.

Wendi Copeland is showing in both exhibits. At the Elliott Louis Gallery, there is a suite of paintings with her starting point being the palette of  one of Jack Bush’s paintings. First in her series is a very formal accounting of the colour palette. In subsequent paintings, she interprets the colours in different ways as if, for instance, looking at a rippled water reflection, or as if looking through a piece of wavy glass.

Something struck me about the Emerging Art show. In the advertising, the images are small thumbnails and some are and some are not interesting. For example, the images of Brian Kokoska have some of the same disturbing human relationships as the iconic Oscar Kokoshka of the early 20th Century. Seeing the paintings in real time, though, the impact is quite different from the thumbnail teaser which looked adolescent in small size. The originals are more powerful and rich. The size gives an immense visceral feel which is why one needs to actually see the art work. You can’t trust the thumbnails for any of the artists.

Whether or not I liked Kokoska’s work is immaterial. The important thing is that he is conveying a message and it comes across just as he intended. It’s in your face; and the handling of his imagery to do so is very well executed. The colours are vibrant and clean which is difficult with the colours he is working in. His drawing in paint is direct, freely handled.

That brings me to an aside that is worth thinking about here.

Artists paint for different reasons. Some pitch to the home buyer, painting to the home decor market  of landscapes, flowers, portraits and people. Some pitch to the commercial need of wall decor, such as restaurants and hotels. The work has to meet a decorator’s needs of harmony for the entire project. There will be abstracts or large landscapes, paintings of fruit or food.

But some don’t care whether you understand or not; they are painting with a message whether political, social or personal; or their works are esoteric,  delving into the abstractions of art itself.  Their works are not necessarily meant to sit over another person’s living room couch. The clientele for this kind of imagery might be a museum, an art gallery or a fine art collector.

I see Kokoska’s paintings fitting into this latter category.

I would say that for all of the artists in this show, my reaction viz the thumbnails was the same. The small version of the work looked ordinary; the real work was far more exciting, far more engaging. The corollary of this discovery is that, to see an exhibition, you must go there and engage directly.

Katherine Coe’ s images of heads with animal headdresses are exquisitely drawn combining traditional technique with surrealist imagery. Gail Alexander’s series Living on Airlie Street collages photographic imagery in an abstract fashion to create nostalgic and poetic works about family history.

Adam Dodd’s images are non-representational, reminiscent of mid-20th Century abstraction.  There is still much to be said and explored visually in this domain. I was quite engaged both by his  use of colour and the fluidity of his forms.

Kate Fisher and Michelle Jean Giguere also did not present well in the small thumbnails but in the real work it’s quite the opposite. Fisher is working in portraiture, with the three shown here all larger than life heads only. The paint handling and colour work are what make these works exceptional.

Giguere’s landscapes are surreal, with a far higher degree of realism to convey the imagery. Gavin Lynch,  on the other hand, purposely obscures the landforms as if seen by a camera at high speed or through spectacles made for someone else’s prescription.  The thumbnails conveyed nothing of this. And it makes for some interesting viewing. His painting technique conveys these sensations of distortion quite adroitly.

Sean Wiesberger, Amanda McMorran, Helma Sawatzky, Scott Billings, McMorran, and Caitlin Brittania Terry are also featured in this exhibition.

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