Archive for December, 2010

What I did today…

December 12, 2010

Captain America 12 Midnight, automotive enamel on board. 36 x 38 inches

My friend phones and says, “Haven’t seen you lately,” and I explain that I have been to Europe and saw a lot of contemporary art.  I recounted my journey briefly.

“I haven’t been around because I’m  being a bit of a hermit,” I add, “because I’ve had family staying with me and then I had repairs on my house that meant some difficulties with contractors.” I rattled off a litany of things I’d had to do since I returned from travels.

The upshot of our conversation was that he invited me to come to the opening the Elliot Louis Gallery, on Saturday afternoon. So today I took a trip into Vancouver for the reception of the Takashi Iwasaki solo show.

First stop on the trip to town was my faithful framer. I haven’t been there since before my show in July. It’s been a while!

I had three things to frame, and then a selection of  pre-cut mats to find. When all the business transactions were done, I and my friend Dorothy who  was also picking up things from the framer,  went to the 5th Avenue Terra Breads Cafe for lunch.

I never thought that a Foccacio bread with cheese, dill and potatoes (yes, roasted potatoes!) would be a good thing, but it was absolutely delicious – fresh from the oven and hot – like a pizza without the tomato sauce.  Dorothy was in a devil-may-care mood and plunged for a very wicked cinnamon bun drenched in caramel sauce. “You only live once so you might as well enjoy it,” she says as she tucks in, though we’ll both have to commit to some serious gym time to compensate for today’s food sins.

The Takashi Iwasaki show is on from November 30 to December 31st. It’s called Memories in Colour. I wrote about him recently here in the blog during the summer when the Drawn Festival was on so if you are interested in seeing more, visit artiseternal.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/drawn-ii

Kamidaredentou Takishi Iwasaka Thread on black canvas

The works in the show are mostly small, the smallest is 7 inches square and the largest is 14 inches square. They are done in stitchery in the finest detail, describing an iconography that looks like science-fiction doodles. They are bright and happily coloured. The images appear to be non-representational but occasionally they seem to have distorted, elongated figures much in the nature of Salvador Dali’s extruded people.

In smaller pocket galleries off the main space, there were some other treasures that I was delighted to see. First of all, there were three pieces by Tom Forrestall who was already a major talent in the late 1950’s with his egg tempera work. He attended the Fine Arts Faculty at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick and has worked in a style dubbed Magic Realism.

Falling Rider, Tom Forrestall, 20x 30.5 inches, egg tempera

His painting Falling Rider is remarkable for its detail and the impact it has once one realizes that the foreshortened body caught mid-air is crashing into a monster boulder head first.  The visored cap is flying away. The horse is startled but is not fleeing.

Second startling thing about this painting – the painting surface and frame are not a rectangle. The lower horizontal edge is much longer than the upper one giving an additional impression of the image hurtling forward into space.

The technique of egg tempera is painstakingly slow so the approximate 20 x 30 Falling Rider is big for this medium.  A much smaller painting, 8 x 7 inches, is ambiguous – Wreck in the fog. There are plenty of smallish boulders in the foreground and one is more brown than the others. Is it a rock? Or is is a dead body slumped over the damaged side? There’s a mystery. It is at once peacefully still and ominously foreboding.

Forrestall’s small nude is not, in my opinion, as successful. The technique of egg tempera requires small pointillist dots of colour. The female body ends up looking a bit furry rather than smooth-skinned as one might expect. The lighting isn’t quite right, for a Realist.

It’s interesting that he has written on the verso of the painting:

“It is part of my expression to distance myself from reality, this painting is entirely made up…it [is] real in one way and not in another”.

For a painter pegged as a Realist, the  statement seems rather contradictory.

His years of craft show through. He is a master of his medium and these works of his are lovely and rare to see in this corner of the world.

The paintings that I was most fascinated with though were those of 12 Midnight.

12 Midnight works with neon in some works, car enamels in Captain America, (see the image at top of the blog) calling on pop art and comic book imagery for his inspiration. There are two silk screen prints displayed, one with Woody Woodpecker, green dollar signs in his eyes, holding a big bag of money.  Gunland Series: Greed is the title. Another silkscreen print has a cowboy figure firing at Cat in a Hat called Gunland Series: Losing Your Innocence in a Parallel Universe.

12 Midnight’s large painting is on a wood panel and is painted with car enamel. The Captain America figure is  hard-edged and outlined like a comic book but the background is a mix of shiny car enamel and mat colour where the paint has soaked in.The contrast between the flat and the textured areas make this painting very visually rich. If I won the lottery, of all the ones I saw in the gallery, this is the one that is most dynamic and adventurous.  I would be pleased to hang it above my fire place.

There are other works of art by regular gallery artists to be seen – Helma Sawatsky, Carolyn Stockbridge, Frances Semple, Stephany Hemming and there is a large triptic of Jack Shadbolt. It’s a good show and worth a trip down to 1st avenue to see it.

When the schmoozing was done and we had inspected the pieces one by one, I went my way back home, parting company with my friend. It was a long trip home, just the thing to allow me to ingest all that good contemporary art that I was privileged to see today.

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One hundred and eighty degrees

December 11, 2010

A really good picture looks as if it’s happened at once. It’s an immediate image. For my own work, when a picture looks labored and overworked, and you can read in it—well, she did this and then she did that, and then she did that—there is something in it that has not got to do with beautiful art to me. And I usually throw these out, though I think very often it takes ten of those over-labored efforts to produce one really beautiful wrist motion that is synchronized with your head and heart, and you have it, and therefore it looks as if it were born in a minute.” (In Barbara Rose, Frankenthaler (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1975, p. 85)

Wandering through museum after museum in Europe this summer, the thought I came up with for my own work was:

Be braver. Sweep away restrictions. Lean over the edge. Hang on by the rim if necessary. Try what you have always wanted to try. Work big.

I was swept away by the inventiveness of the art – much of it totally non-representational.  I also saw tons of Medieval art, especially the Gothic work done around 1200 a.d. So there was a wonderful mix of things to look at – not only in the museums and galleries, but in the streets as well.

I’ve come back all fired up to paint new imagery, to try a series of non-representational work that will perhaps lead into something else. While I’m doing it, I’m trying to remain open and experimental, for me.

I add that, “for me”, because I know that this kind of work has been done before.  You might say the work is derivative, and it well may be. The thing is, if I don’t explore this avenue, I’ll never know know what is at the end of it, will I? I’ll never know what I might have discovered.  Being safe  ends up also being static, repetitive, derivative.

There’s that word again. Derivative.

I believe that we are all influenced by our favorite painters; that we aspire to emulate some of these favored ones. To copy them would not be right, but to play with their concepts, to build on their ideas – these are fair challenges to take up. One’s own personality will come through in one’s own work.

Yes, there are great forgers who can copy another artist’s work flawlessly, to fool the public into believing it is from the master’s hand; but for the vast majority, we bring our own abilities, our own personality, our own skill-sets to the canvas and the results will carry our own personality, our own aspirations, our own interpretations. It’s valid to go there; it’s not valid to copy (without acknowledging or accrediting the original artists).

And so, brave as I want to be, adventurous as I have vowed to be, I have embarked on a series of large watercolours using a palette of graphite grey, yellow ochre and burnt sienna. I just haven’t been able to leave the representational sector. I’ve needed a crutch, a handle to hold onto, an old woman’s cane to steady me as I go. Yes, I am painting from things I have seen – but hopefully, you will not recognize them, when you see them.

The first six are done. They represent concrete floor repaired with a resin that fills the cracks and spreads either side of them. It is a warehouse floor with dints and scratches, with these large lines of resin making random patches in a different colour; and spots of paint from some former activity. Now this glorious floor is being recorded in watercolour – the floor of the Geneva Museum of Contemporary Art. 

Since I’ve been back in Vancouver, I’ve been noticing the repairs in the asphalt on the road – a thick black linear brushwork flanking either side of a breach in the paving. I’ve been noticing the lack of repairs where tree roots emerge on sidewalks, lifting the concrete, breaking it, and then, over time, growing grass or weeds in it.  So simple.

From this latter exploration that I have done in photography, I’m hoping to find a more imaginative group of figures – anthropomophic – animal like or human-like but not.  I’ll just see where it goes.

Monuments and Markers

December 11, 2010

 

This exhibition took place in early August, 2010. Publishing it fell through the cracks. So here it is now, still worthy information, but the show is over.

I’ve had lots of fall out from the crash of my hard drive. One of the most frustrating is that I haven’t got a photo management program on my computer at present.  I had Adobe Photo professional, but the updated version takes up too much space on my computer, so I have to get a new computer or find another solution. It will come in its own good time. In the interim, I’m unable to post photos that would help illustrate this wonderful group show at the Fort Gallery in Langley B.C.

If you are in the area, it’s a good one to see. I must say though, that the variety of the work from the 17 or so artists in the group  made it a challenge for the hanging crew.  There is everything from conceptual work to normal landscapes.

When the theme for this show was announced,  artists found it it was too late to fabricate something specially meaningful for it. As a result,  the connection of the work to the theme is stretched thin for several of the artists.

Colin Delory is a new member, a fine art craftsman working in wood.  He showed several pieces of complicated geometric designs and a few of a more organic nature. I could see little connection with the theme, but they were nonetheless a joy to look at and he is a welcome addition to the group.

Two of Terry Nurmi ‘s work were hung opposite each other, mid gallery. One is called “Not another God-Damned Serenity Prayer”, A Monument to my Father, a mixed media piece with photographs. As always, the framing is impeccable and showcases perfectly the image within.

There are four square envelope shapes with the top flap open. On the outer portion of the “envelope” there are numbers pasted. On the inner portion on the open flap, there is a hand pulled photograph in losange shape of family dwellings and the words overlaid, one on each: serenity, acceptance, courage and wisdom.  Each of the envelope-like images doubles as one of those children’s fortune-telling games (does he love me, does he not) where the four corners are manipulated along with a chant. At the end, a number is chosen and that number is the player’s fortune with a message written beneath it.

On first glance, there is this peaceful, orderly image. On close look, there is tension – the tension of unresolved alcoholism, the tension of a father not understanding his daughter,  and the confusion in the multiple numbers on the envelope flaps to suggest that the choices are multiple and harrowing but the outcomes are not.

Facing this piece is Nurmi’s other entry in the show, a large assemblage woven from strips of painted heavy paper. Predominant colours are black and red. There is less covert meaning in this piece, but it reads well and is beautifully framed.

In the contemporary vein, Doris Auxier contributed two of her yarn series. I will admit that when I saw them on the web-site, I couldn’t figure them out. Were they really yarns somehow fixed so that they could be displayed on the wall or were they painted? This was the first I had seen them “in the flesh” so as to speak.

Once again, I admire the craft in these images. These are acrylics on canvas painted so realistically, honoring the beauty of angora-like wool dyed in multicolours.  These works are light, bright and fresh-looking. The shadows lift the strands of  yarn off the picture plane and you could almost reach out to check if they are soft as they seem. But it’s all paint.  Knowing how I struggle with acrylics, I consider these two works a tour-de-force. An esoteric note – each set of colours used in this yarn series represents the colour combination used by a Renaissance painter.

Maggie Woycenko’s two canvases are enigmatic. There are no recognizable objects, yet the surface of the canvas is painted beautifully and the insets, constructions, are compelling. In one, the inset acts as a window to the wall it is hung upon. The inset frame is three dimensional, not painted, and studded with upholsterer’s tacks as a finishing. There is an over all suggestion of land and sky in both, and the incompatible figure – the window inset and the tall, pole-like form on the smaller canvas provide a focus for pondering.

Kristin Krimmel’s contribution to this show is a monument to obsolescence.  Sandwiched between archival plastic more normally used for repair of book covers and torn papers are used typewriter ribbons and correcting tapes of two varieties. The spools that the correcting tapes come on are captured at the bottom.  At the top, two yellow plastic coated clothes hangers provide the support for the image.

Random letters run throughout – positive on the correcting tape, negative on the typewriter ribbons. Out of context, they have no meaning, just as the typewriter itself has lost its meaning in the wake of the electronic progression.

A smaller piece by Krimmel, set in a black metal frame,  is called December 30. The image is composed, again sandwiched between plastic, with a bus transfer from December 30th of twenty years ago.  A rising sun matches the yellow code colour of the transfer.  This common-day object has been replaced by heavier punch tickets with magnetic stripes. More obsolescence.

Judy Jones is one of the few artists that made a specific piece for the show. She works in fused glass and her monument is a tribute to Stonehenge.

These themed group shows are a lot of fun for the artists and public alike. The work is eclectic in style which brings a liveliness to the whole. Congratulations, Fort Gallery.