Archive for the ‘art for art’s sake’ Category


June 19, 2012

River God, Kristin Krimmel, 1979,  9.5×12 inches, oil on board

I went looking on the Internet this morning for a definition of marouflage. I had hope to send the information to my art dealer friend in Vancouver, but the best information that I got was all in French in technical terms and I didn’t have the oomph to translate all that.
I used the marouflage technique in painting in France during my studies at Art School; then tried to explain it to someone in English. I’m finding various definitions, but not as limited and specific as this one.
For me, it’s a technique whereby one glues a secondary surface over a support (canvas or board) and then proceeds with painting. I was using a marouflage of paper on marine ply, but could as easily have been using paper on canvas. The purpose was to provide a smoother surface and to eliminate or diminish the effect of the support surface (the weave of canvas, the grain of the wood) and control the absorbency.

I began with a complicated technique using rabbit skin glue and plaster of Paris. First, the glue (available in granulated form) was heated with water to a fairly liquid, smooth consistency then painted on the board.  A layer of kraft paper was then placed on top of the board, and a second layer of glue brushed on. When this concoction dried fully, a second mixture was applied made of the liquid rabbit skin glue and plaster of Paris. It provided a white, home-made gesso that formed the ground for the painting – the layer that the paint would attach to.

This white layer was dried then very smoothly sanded. The process was repeated a few times until to a polished surface white surface was achieved.

Figure in red, 1979 Kristin Krimmel, 12 x 12 inches, oil on board.

I was a devoted student of the classic techniques and could be found many evenings brewing up my mixtures and preparing lots of panels so that I could work on them the next day in the painting studio. If I wasn’t preparing mixtures, I was delving into any books I could find on technique.

I came late to the process. I had studied in Vancouver and received a teaching degree in Fine Arts, but I felt woefully my lack of confidence both in my drawing abilities and my knowledge of painting. After four years of teaching and several years of getting my life in order, I had an opportunity to spend a year traveling and I chose to do it by living in Rheims, France and going to the regional art school. That I ended up staying four years at the school is a whole long other story.

Being in an art school allowed me to explore what I already knew and to add the education that I thought I was missing – the classical techniques and the draftsman-like ability to draw or paint things realistically.  In the end, I came to terms with my inability to draw photographically. I even eventually understood that I didn’t have to do so in order to create good art.

Sometimes there are clouds in one’s life. We think we are being deprived of something and the whole world will fall apart because of it. The professors didn’t know what to do with me because I was already an art teacher, so they felt it would not be appropriate for me to learn the way the others were learning. I was proscribed from the basic drawing classes – from classic plaster casts, from perspective lessons and so on. So I sat in my corner of the studio and turned inward, building on the lessons I’d had in university back home. I felt deprived of what I had come to learn.

Instead, I embarked upon some marvelous journeys of discovery. I read everything I could get my hands on, spent hours in the local museum and the Maison de la Culture which brought in very good shows.  My art history prof set me up with the Dale Carnegie Library (yes, this mid sized town in France was given a library by the philanthropist just after the World War I, and was constructed in magnificent art deco style) where I was allowed to handle the original manuscripts housed in their collection.

I was introduced to Mademoiselle Voisin, a lovely elderly lady – she seemed old to me then, but I must be her age now, it’s frightful to think of it. She was the docent for the very important cathedral in Reims – a Gothic cathedral which was the place where all French coronations took place from medieval times until the revolution in 1789. She had a wealth of information about the cathedral and knew all of its esoteric secrets that she delighted in telling. In addition, she collected foreign students around her on Sundays for tea and delighted in feeding them cakes and cookies while encouraging conversation in French and the making of friendships.

I was a model student. I was there at eight in the morning and left at six at night (with a good French break between twelve and two for lunch). Two days a week, I came for evening figure drawing classes. When I went back to my bare apartment, I continued on with my projects and mixtures and experiments until late at night.

I am essentially a lazy being. Maybe we all are. Eventually, I became tired of the long process of preparing my boards with plaster. I thought to myself, why do we need so much plaster? I started to prepare them simply gluing the paper on and forgetting the plaster.  It worked just as well for me, and I was able to paint more and prepare less.

Three apple trees, Germany, Kristin Krimmel, 1979, 24 x 17 cm, oil on board

Marne Vineyards, Kristin Krimmel,  1979, 17×24 cm, oil on board.

It was a very productive period for me, and a lovely way to paint.  Who knows? Maybe I will come back to it.

A selection of Kristin Krimmel’s paintings are found on her website at




November 21, 2011

I sometimes rescue paintings from secondhand shops or thrifts – originals that people have junked, not knowing what they have. Many are anonymous. I can’t figure out the signature (which is a good reason in favour of clearly printing one’s name when signing an original work of art).  It’s amazing what you can find. It’s also amazing what you cannot find – like any information on the author of the work. If anyone can help me out on that front, please do so.

Sometimes they come with framing and sometimes not.

I found a subtle watercolour portrait marked Don Quixote, very sensitively done, about six months ago is a beat-up black frame with a hand cut mat around it. The image is done in loose watercolour washes with blues for the shadows and warm tones of peach, rose madder and yellows in the warm tones. The eyes are beautifully drawn and the mouth and nose sensitively described.

Signature not clear: Kjariscal or K. Jariscal? Don Quixote, 2000. watercolor

“Never fear!” I thought, “I’ll just re-mat and re-frame it.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take it out of it’s frame. Oy vey!

It’s backing was a dusty, dirty pulp board – the cheapest kind of cardboard with no refinement whatsoever and prone to picking up moisture. It was full of acid. The mat wasn’t acid free either. Where it had touched the painting, the watercolour paper was going brown. Yuck.

It was taped in with brown paper tape – kraft tape, it’s sometimes called. The backing was nailed in with rusty nails. I don’t suppose they were rusty when they were first tapped in there.

This is just a reminder – a cautionary tale. It just costs a small amount more to buy acid free matting and backing; or to use barrier paper (an acid free paper that separates the work of art from a cardboard backing).

An acid free framing will last a lifetime or more without losing its crisp whiteness; the non-acid free will be brown in two years and spoil the appearance of your gem, not only dulling the framing, but eventually attacking the work of art itself.

My new acquisition is now looking crisp and proud in its new frame.

My favorite custom framing place is Final Touch Frames in Vancouver on the corner of  4th and Quebec in a blue warehouse space. They are reasonably priced; and if you have works on paper that need mats in the smaller sizes, there are a lot of pre-cut mats that might suit your work.

Thoughts on the artist/dealer relationship

July 30, 2011

This discussion began as a thread of comments on fellow-blogger (and photographer) Mark Whitney’s web site.

For the whole thread see:

Mark Whitney’s great website with his current photos of graveyards and mortuary monuments generated a discussion of what was appropriate to sell in a gallery; and whether or not one could sell paintings with headstones and mortuary architecture as principal subject matter. Here’s what I replied to Mark, which becames a more generic discussion of artists and dealers. My last comment on his blog is about artists bringing work on-the-edge for show and  the dilemma that may arise when it doesn’t fit a dealer’s requirements to be able to sell the work

I’m not sure that the younger generation is in the position to buy much art; and if they do, it might just be the lower priced stuff. But it’s a completely different market than the boardroom/home consumption market.

I know the “artistic freedom” arguments of the artist very well. In the last years, I’ve come to appreciate what good dealers can do for artists that artists cannot do for themselves. They often assume an enormous rent, month by month, that has to be paid through sales. In order to do that they have to find rich clients – it’s not by hundred dollar sales that they make it, but by ones in the thousands.

To do that, they need to spend a lot of time and energy on advertising which, normally, is prohibitive for the artist. They keep a staff on, in order to keep the gallery open, and they often pay writers and/or curators to write blurbs for each show.  They foot the bill for the schmoozing opening. And in the end, they have to pay for their own living – and it’s not necessarily a high one. The 2 dealers that I’ve known a little bit more than grazing-shoulders-in-passing acquaintance have looked professional and well-to-do in their gallery surroundings, but their own lives are oft fraught with the worries about the next set of bills, and often,how to pay everyone at the end of the month – because everyone comes before they do – staff, artists, writers, advertisments, promotions, telephone, IT and electricity bills.
So when they are upstaged by an artist with images which they have a clientele for, they have to scramble, and he may not have a single sale. What does he do then? He has either to have deep pockets or an understanding banker.

Artist’s side of the coin?
I thought about this artist’s new work in context of some of my own (and mine hs been slightly edgy, but nowhere near as accessible as the skull-in-the-imagery guy). It’s my works that are ten years old that sell. It takes people time to get used to them, it seems. It’s curious. I think that may be so for many artists (not counting the purely commercial who are pumping out works to fill the living room decor needs of the nation). And of course, the artist has the same problems of paying bills at the end of the month. It’s a double edged sword.

In all that, it’s a miracle that new work emerges. It’s the artist who moves forward his vision from ordinary to extraordinary, who leaps the bounds of convention, who changes the direction of the norm and finds new ways of “speaking” to their viewers. Without their dedication to express themselves in exploratory ways, we would still be back in the chocolate-box works of the the 19th Century. Instead, we’ve been able to absorb some pretty challenging work – Impressionists, Abstract Impressionists, Pop artists,  installation artists, post-modernists.Each of those movements was unacceptable when it emerged.

Our all-time example of this is van Gogh. Couldn’t sell a painting in his life-time, but is worth multi-millions now that he’s dead. Strange isn’t it?


Where will you be on Saturday?

July 26, 2011

Where will you be on Saturday?

Would it tickle your fancy to attend a free event where graffiti artists will tag a piece of your clothing  that you bring (a hat, t-shirt, shirt, etc). The event is free, but if you want to get something tagged, you need to donate something to the graffiti artist. One hundred percent of the donation goes to the artist.

Easer, Absolute Zero, 48×24 Spray paint on wood


Four of the artists will be working on their own paintings in the gallery –

It starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday July 30th at 258 East 1st Avenue in Vancouver.

It’s the same artists as I was talking about in my just preceding blog.



Robert Mitchner – Measuring our self-worth as an artist

February 27, 2011

I visited my artist friend Susan for tea yesterday. After a long hiatus, she is trying to get back into drawing and from there, back into painting.

I always feel privileged to see Susan’s work, especially since she feels quite hesitant about it. And I always feel privileged to spend time with her, too, because she went the art school route of education – something I always desired to do, greatly – and she met the fledgling art potentates of our corner of the world, now biggies, and talks about them as if they were just ordinary people, not the stars-of-the-art-world that I’ve come to consider them.

And so it was yesterday when we got talking about Ann Nelson whom I’ve not met, and Robert Mitchner, both of whom my friend visited within the last week or so.  Susan led me to their  web sites so that I could see their work and we sat together, delecting upon the imagery and talking about it’s merits.

Today she sent me this link regarding an article in Galleries West magazine concerning an upcoming exhibition, but when I went looking for the date of it, it was copyrighted in 1999, so I’m more than 10 years too late!

No matter, it’s a very perceptive interview article and I thought I would share it with you.

The Mitchner article by Fiona Morrow is at and is illustrated with a few of his major styles.

It’s odd, I think, that so many good artists are self-deprecating and modest about their work. We believe in our work enough to keep on doing it. We may even be privileged to get our work into the best galleries in town. And yet, the last paragraph tells it all. Mitchner feels his notice has been minimal; and his impact on the art world has been little.

I would counter that selling is not a measure of an artists worth; and we may never know the impact of our shows on other people. My perfect example  in this case is Mitchner himself.

Susan said to me, “Have you ever seen Robert Mitchner’s work?”  I replied that I had and could describe precisely the style he worked in. I could visualize the farm series as we spoke. That exhibition was thirty years ago. I never met the man; but his work impressed me  and stayed with me.  It is beautifully crafted, precise, clean, technically beautiful. The paintings were large and the compositions complicated; yet the work was serene and there was nothing that jarred. I remember them as perfect paintings.

Again I say, I never met the man. Nor did I have the opportunity to tell him how I felt about his paintings. I didn’t have money to purchase at the time, and even today, I could not afford his work, but I loved it. But he never knew it, and so thinks he has not made an impact on the art world.  I disagree. How many others, like me, saw the work and loved it but had no way of communicating that to the artist?

It is a constant problem with artists – how to measure one’s worth as a painter (or sculptor, or musician or actor, etc.).  It must not be tied to how much notice we get in the newspapers and art journals.  It must not be tied to how much money we make from sale of our art work. I’ve seen some wonderful work not sell for many different reasons – hard economic times, the people who love it are not wealthy, or viewers love it but have small living quarters and no place to put the work that they desire passionately to own. Pragmatic circumstances get in the way.

Conversely, I’ve seen dreadful work sold at great prices and acclaimed because it sells, but it’s not good work; and I’ve seen dreadful work sell time after time for even modest prices while stunningly beautiful work sitting beside it  does not find a buyer. Money is not an adequate measure of art work.

It’s a concept that I struggle with still. I’ve had very little notice of my work either, but I’ve had more than some and I’m grateful for it. I produce far more than I sell and as a result have a basement full of paintings and drawings, some framed, some not.

I decided a long time ago that I would feel successful if my peers liked and valued my art works. That means those artists whose work I admire for their imagination and skill return the compliment and admire mine. It also means those organizations who have honored me with an offer to  exhibit my work in a public place; or a gallery that I respect who agrees to take my work on, to display, to rent, to sell.  If my work was appreciated by the art colleagues that I worked with while teaching art; or by a competition that had some cachet, then it helped bolster my self-worth as an artist and I was happy for the feedback.

I feel confident about my work now, most of the time. There are still days of questioning; but mostly I know what I am doing is right for me. But of course, it took me forty years to get here; and it wasn’t always so.

Back to the point. If you would like to see some lovely work, Google and check out Robert Mitchner’s web site and also the link, above, for that excellent article. See what you think. I think it is beautiful imagery and of high quality and I hope you enjoy it too.

My favorites are the Gorgeous Gorges.


Windows – Larry Green, Maggie Woycenko

January 25, 2011

Gallery artist,  Maggie Woycenko and guest artist Larry Green showed at the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley, B.C. in January 2011.

Maggie Woycenko

Myth, Roofing paper, art paper and paint on canvas, Maggie Woycenko

I’ve photographed  Woycenko’s Myth complete with shadows because she has been exploring with paint, canvas,  paper and thin sheets of aluminum, producing works that defy the second dimension and edge into the third. She tells me these are the result of a voyage of discovery into an area where she has not worked before.  She’s flirting with sculpture but she hasn’t left the flat surface behind.

In the Christmas group show, we saw her first invasions of the picture plane with small wooden windows inset into the canvas. Now the piercing is not formal but more free-form. And following on, the images get more and more dimensional.

Street Noise, Maggie Woycenko, Oil on Canvas with wooden inset

Reveal, Maggie Woycenko, oil on aluminum on panel.

There are many things I like about Woycenko’s work. Everything works all at once. That is, the surface of her paintings are developed with an implied texture, although the painting is applied thinly, and her colour sense is excellent. She has her own colour identity in variations of gray, usually a subdued range of colour, but nonetheless expertly modulated. She knows how to mix paint and marry it on the canvas. In addition, she always has iconic images ( the windows, the coloured balls, the letters) sufficiently in evidence to establish a spatial composition which assures the eye is restful but watchful while contemplating the work. And now this sculptural element is present, with the forms creating shadows on the wall that holds the work; and the balance of flat to form is harmonious.

Small Talk, Maggie Woycenko, Oil on canvas 16 x 16

In the work, Small Talk, I have the sense that she has captured the idea of a visible and evident surface personality with an underlying secret, the red, being exposed by this thin layer of metal  opening up a can of sardines, so as to speak,  and letting the Pandora-secret out.

Works, Maggie Woycenko, oil on canvas with various added papers.

If this work is just preliminary to a future series, perhaps bigger in scale, I am eager to see how this series develops, matures, morphs. This series is already very rich and self-contained as is, but knowing the artist, there is always more exciting work to come.

Larry Green

Sspaciousness, Larry Green, mixed media

There are two hanging boxes in the window of the gallery. Each has glass walls and one side that is open. The first is called Spaciousness and has butterflies suspended in it.  The second, Invisible walls, has two dragon flies. The idea behind them is about beauty and confinement. The butterflies and dragon flies do not realize they are trapped since the walls are invisible.

Invisible Walls, Larry Green, mixed media

Through this work Green seeks to express the difference between space which is a defined containment and emptiness which is not contained.

The remainder of the works are essential two dimensional in the sense of being flat or almost flat; but these works are intellectual works and in that sense of the expression, anything but flat. What you see is only the beginning of the meanings that are implied, suggested, divined.  They invite the observer to meditate upon the possibilities.

Selfother: Confusion, Larry Green, mixed media

In Selfother: Con-Fusion the image speaks about relationships where people fuse together in mystical union. The Self becomes the Other into a single entity, the Selfother, no hyphen. At same time, this leads each individual to new feelings, new ideas, new introspection. As the two personalities fuse into a relationship, the original, separate identities undergo change  producing a state where the outer known face may seem the same but the inner face is in the process of new-definition.  It’s not exactly clear what it is. It’s edges are blurred and the core is out of focus.

Green has created a deep framed box to express this state of being. A photograph of Green’s face is clearly visible on the front piece of glass while at the back, a less clear copy of this image covers a piece of glass. Lined up with the centre of the piece of art, the face is quite clear, but move to one side and not only do you see the slightly confused image on the mirror moving as the observer does, but the observer also sees his own reflection mixed up in it all. It’s a clever representation of the Selfother idea.

The Movement of Attention, Larry Green, mixed media

In The Movement of Attention, there are six images of nudes in a grid. Different body parts are highlighted in colour in each of the six. It implies that the observer of the body (the artist) focuses on different parts at different times, giving emphasis to those that arouse attention as one’s eye scans the subject .

Artist looking at Patron looking at Nude, Larry Green, mixed media

In Artist looking at Patron looking at Nude, there is another photographic image of Green’s face superimposed with the same linear drawing of a nude as in The Movement of Attention. In this image, the artist is looking out at the Patron (the viewer) and the nude stands between them, figuratively, on the surface of the artwork. Again, very clever! The artist is not absent in this work of art but very much present, obliging the observer to take into account that the work did not magically appear, but was conceived and drawn by its creator.

In Illumination the message is that a subject can be considered as forbidding or uplifting. The meaning we put upon an image is coloured by the mood of both the artist and the viewer.

The future? Larry Green, Mixed media

In The Future? the artist ask us to consider where we think we are going in the future. Messages overlay the photos set in a window frame.  Do we want clean air, clean environment, electric cars? Or by our inaction, will we end up with a ruined planet.  The photos contrast the possibilities before us and reminds us that the choice is ours.

There are two photos in the back room. Abject Ignored and Abject Realized both show a beggar on the roadside. In the first, two women pass by, ignoring him. There are words that acknowledge the various items in view just as the women, in passing, would have had to observe – curb, cobble stones, etc.

Abject ignored and Abject Realized, Larry Green, photograph

In the second, there is a statue of a figure with a book in hand. Death is on its shoulder.  By inference, the statue is representing the abject figure’s hopelessness and spiritual death.

Named Windows, this exhibition of  Green’s and Woycenko’s work is intriguing,  because there are layers and depth of meaning to each work.  The common thread of the windows helps to  unify the ensemble.


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

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.


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.



November 30, 2010

“I don’t really like them. What’s your intent? ” asks Mrs. Stepford next door.

Since I came back from a vacation filled with visits to contemporary museums and galleries, my art production has taken a 180 degree turn around.

“I don’t always know, when I start something new.” I answer. “I start intuitively. I know I want to accomplish something, but I’m not sure what. I’m just mucking around with paint. I have an idea what it might look like and an idea of how I will achieve it, but how I get there, in the end is much to do with how the paint works with me or against me. I put it on and manipulate it. I know how watercolor paint reacts with its surface and I hope to control it but that doesn’t always work and sometimes I have to find a way to get around something that happened during the process that I didn’t expect.”

“You’re painting sidewalk cracks?” she says, not really in disbelief, but nonetheless with some concern that this might not be too serious or that my intent might be spurious.

“Not sidewalk cracks. They are concrete floor repairs that I saw at the Musee d’Art moderne et contemporain in Geneva.  In fact these are realism.  They are paintings of something I have seen. They are modern found drawings, interpreted. ”

“Are you going to put one in the current group show?”
“Of course not.   They won’t fit in a Christmas show. Especially not a small works show. They all have to hang together. They have to be in context or they won’t be understood. It’s not that each one can’t stand alone, it’s just that the intent is clear when the viewer can see the context of them; that it’s not just throwing a paint pot at the paper. Each one is a specific discovery of how the paint flows but each is also a study in placement and spatial relationships. ”
“Think about Rothko and Jackson Pollock. One of their paintings stands alone now, and magnificently, I might add; but the first ones? Without seeing that they all spoke together, a single one would seem incomprehensible. It’s the context that speaks. ”

“True, too true,” concedes Mrs. Stepford.

“It’s a real leap of faith to go out on the edge like this. I like it. It’s not really comprehensible to myself yet. I just do it, knowing that I have a vision and an intuitiveness working for me and I have to follow it until I’ve seen it to a logical end.  It’s an exploration. I’ll try to explain it afterward. But right now, I’m just painting and I stop when it seems right.”

“You are getting better at this,” Mrs. Stepford says. “Before, you couldn’t even tell me what you were doing. Now at least you are trying to put it into words. This is a step forward.”

Mrs. Stepford is my devil’s advocate. She pushes me to express myself. She’s a great critic, in a positive sense. She doesn’t let me get away with drivel nor saccharine work. If it borders on it, she will push me into defending myself. It makes me examine what I”m doing with a fine tooth comb.

In fact, I have been very resistant to putting my intent on paper. I think that the work should speak for itself; that if words are necessary to explain it, then it has failed somehow. And yet, when I was recently traveling and absorbing the work of many contemporary artists whom I had never heard of before, I was glad of some explanation to help me understand what they were getting at.

My sister, also an artist, is staying with me for a couple of days.  We were driving this morning and had time to chat about our art work.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t want to connect with that gallery in Santa Fe that was looking for some abstract work. You do some pretty good abstract stuff. Why didn’t you send it?” she asked, then added, “I guess you had your reasons, but it seemed like such a good opportunity, and to waste it…. But you don’t have to tell me. ”

“That’s not a problem,” I reply. “I haven’t worked seriously for twelve years now. I don’t know where I’m going. A gallery needs to have a body of work to deal with. They have to promote an image. It has to be a vein of work that you can continue to produce in. I’m not there yet. I don’t know where I’m going or which of the various things I’m currently working on that  I will be able to continue on in. I have between ten and twenty works in that vein of metallic ink drawings that you like,  but they are old. I don’t know if I could keep on with it. And I want to produce a whole new body of work, something I can get my teeth into. I’m not there yet. I’m still fishing around with what direction I will take.”

“OK. I get it,” she answers. “I understand.” And we dropped the conversation.

Words. Ideas.

The world of art expects us to explain ourselves, to validate our work. I find it difficult to find words that don’t just feel hollow to me.  It all boils down to intent.

If you don’t explore, you don’t find something new. If I knew what I was looking for, precisely, it probably wouldn’t be interesting anymore.  I just have to keep painting and practicing. Something valid will come out of it.