What I did today…

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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