Archive for the ‘art philosphy’ Category

Disappearing Species

December 14, 2012

Mausoleum: Red List Lament, Doris Auxier, 2012, Metal framework, piano scrolls, vellum, paint, light box.

Is it a temple or a mausoleum?

Disparate elements in this installation create an eerie, warm feeling. From a distance, I felt as if I were being drawn into a Zen temple with oriental scrolls marked with calligraphy. A closer view reveals that the scrolls are not oriental at all, but player piano scrolls with sentimental words to old songs printed on the side to match the tempo or the music as it plays. The words, like Asian writing, read from bottom to top, contrary to our usual top down habit of  reading.  Hanging between these scrolls are ephemeral charcoal drawings of plants made on vellum or parchment paper, glazed with beeswax to create the same golden timbre of the piano rolls. They glow slightly. An odor of beeswax has all but been erased but lingers gently.

In the centre of the arrangement, there is a four-foot tall glass container lined with fiber glass insulation and lit from the interior. It has the feel of a stele or a mortuary box. It’s as if it contains a soul. A dying soul.

Detail, paintings on vellum, with beeswax

The piece is, in fact, a lament. It documents 14 species of native plants that have almost become extinct in the Gary Oaks area of Vancouver Island, near the city Victoria. They are red-listed – a designation that is assigned when a plant becomes endangered and threatened with extinction.

Doris Auxier, the artist of this deeply sensitive installation, is keenly involved with using her artwork to alert viewers to the ecological, environmental situations concerning endangered species.

She explains:

“While player piano scrolls are still in existence, the piano itself is rare. This makes the scrolls that were dependent upon the piano/infrastructure/system virtually useless, existing mainly in antique shops and museums. Similarly, the plants on the red list can be grown from seeds saved from the plants, but they can’t survive if the ecosystem is destroyed. The plants become museum objects that exist in research gardens and other limited environments.”

Mausoleum: Red List Lament, is a reflection on nature, displacement and loss.

Detail, charcoal on vellum, beeswax

Accompanying Auxier in this exhibition, print maker, Edith Krause has created a series of prints beautifully constructed, on the same theme.

She too laments the loss of habit, citing the importation of non-indigenous plants whose incompatibility with the existing ecosystem results in a disastrous  destruction of the local plants. When an early settler, Scotsman, planted a bit of broom he brought with him from his homeland – that hardy shrub with a cheery yellow flower – little did he think that the plant would aggressively reproduce to the point where it would rob the delicate native plants of their habitat. It’s the well-known “Butterfly effect” where a tiny decision ends up playing havoc with the environment, inflicting irreparable damage.

The Butterfly Effect No. 1: Western Sulphur, Edith Krause, Screen-print, digital print, acrylic, plywood, hardware

Each of her art pieces consists of a Plexiglas panel suspended a half-inch in front of a secondary image on plywood. The base image on the plywood appears to be a close-up view of butterfly wing, while the suspended image in front of it on Plexi is a map of the Victoria area where loss is occurring.  Superimposed on the map in black is a screen print of one of the invasive species causing the decline of the Garry Oak; like an obliterating force.

These “prints” are beautifully executed. The effect of transparency gives depth to the images. The three-dimensionality produces delicate shadows. It confirms the fragility of the plants, while the map imagery underlines that the city has superimposed itself upon a natural setting, disrupting the natural order and contributing to the demise of endangered species.

This is a thoughtful exhibition worth seeing. It’s at the Fort Gallery until December 2nd, 2012. The address is 9048 Glover Road in Fort Langley, B.C. Hours are Wednesday to Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

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Thoughts on selling art work

November 26, 2011

Xanadu Gallery

I weighed in at the Xanadu Gallery blog today.

http://www.xanadugallery.com/wordpress/?p=1165&cpage=1#comment-2021

I found many good suggestions for an artist to talk about sales with people who come on studio tours, or friends who come to see my work.

It’s worth a read, for any artists out there struggling as we all do for sales in a  downturn market, or any market for that matter..

Personally, I don’t want ever to spoil a friendship nor a potential one by being too commercial or pushy even if I could dearly use a sale.

Here was my contribution to their blog:
I think of Art Studio Tours and visits to my gallery as advertising rather than sales opportunities. Though it’s obvious that the paintings are for sale, I don’t talk about that until someone asks. The prices are mounted beside the paintings. I’ve learned to set out less to see than more.
I do offer to allow the more interested visitors to browse my art storage after I’ve told them how to handle the pieces, and then I check on them from time to time. Sometimes it takes them a few visits before they come back for a sale; but the seed was sown at the first meeting – relaxed and friendly like a open house party. Mostly they are quite amazed at my accumulation of work and they bring people back with them to see it.

I invite friends and new visitors to come back at any time “I’d be happy to make you a cup of tea or coffee and let you browse to your content. Just call before you want to come.”
I get sales from people who came a year before and remember something that stuck in their mind that they had to have.
For anyone who has made a big purchase, I have a stock of small framed sketches 8×10 inches or smaller, and I will give them the choice of one as a bonus.
That being said, I too would like to be much better at turning a conversation of interest into a sale.
I’m always amazed at people who talk up their work by discussing the number of layers of paint they have used or the number of hours or months it took to execute the painting. For me, that’s not the point of the painting. However, people are interested in the process, so it doesn’t hurt to describe how one works. The more patrons know about the work, the more engaged they become.

Therein ended my blog response.

Let me add that,sales are important to an artist. Besides the money part of it, it tells the artist that he or she has succeeded in reaching the heart of the viewer. A sale encourages me to create more, as if the visual conversation I was seeking to engage has begun.

But I never want a friend/potential purchaser/client to feel uncomfortable about a sale; or to make a purchase they feel pressured into. It can only cause harm. I want them to be 100 percent happy with any purchase they make, because they re going to be my advertisers.They need to be proud of what they have bought.

I’m happy to take the work to where they live to put it up where they want to hang it, to see if it works. I’m willing to exchange a painting if they not happy with the original choice, even years later, because they have moved, or they have changed their tastes or whatever. Within limits of course. I’m not offering to fly to New York from Vancouver on spec, just to let someone see how it might hang in their location, for example.

And so it goes.

I’m happiest when I have my work up in shows. I’m working not so much on individuals sales, but on creating an updated resume that demonstrates the merit that has been accorded my work by other art professionals.

There’s show coming up at the Fort Gallery, Small Wonders, in December. All the gallery artists are bring out smaller works to show. It should be very interestnig. The work will be up by the 7th of December and runs to the end of the month. If you get a chance, come along and see what’s there. You never know. You may find a treasure.

The Fort Gallery is at 9048 Glover Road in Fort Langley, B.C., open from noon to 5, Tuesday to Sunday.

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:

http://markwhitneyphotography.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/mount-hope-cemetery/

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.

K

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   http://www.gallerieswest.ca/Features/CoverStories/6-108168.html 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.

Modern Times – Andrew Tong

February 11, 2011

Mine, Andrew Tong, Acrylic on board, 20 x 16 inches.

Remember Charlie Chaplin and his movie “Modern Times”?

Andrew Tong  takes inspiration for his new series of paintings to look social ills like  Greed, Selfishness, Ignorance, Self-Delusion  of the 21st Century for his latest surrealist paintings. He challenges the viewer to re-examine society’s stated values and take measure of what really is going on in the world we live in.

In the painting, Mine, Tong shows a little boy packing a pistol on his hip – presumably a toy one – but the face has a decidedly adult cast to it, and he seems quite ready to pull out the gun and shoot. Does this symbolize that adults are behaving in a childlike manner where it suffices to say “Mine” whether ownership lies with the individual or not?

And does the child, surrounded by sheriff-like stars, one red, one white, one blue, represent America, the aggressor, laying claim to the world – if not owning it physically, at least controlling it through guns and explosive tactics?
The car in the background is in flames. The big orange sun is setting  – or has it turned orange from the fumes of carbon emissions, conflict or some other man-made disaster?

In the upper right hand corner there are some symbols from the sky – a new moon, two different stars. Rather, these are state symbols – the Star of David of Israel, the New moon with star of Turkey (also appears in the flags of Turkmenistan and Tunisia) and the third symbol is not so clear. These provide a clue to the areas of the world in which greed, both corporate and national, play greatly in their destiny.

Over the surface of the painting, insects crawl – aggressive ones – the wasp ants, and a dung beetle – caught in trompe l’oeil paint. These represent the survivors of change, those who can adapt to their rapidly changing environment despite the catastrophes that occur.

These are not easy paintings. They require engagement. Though the separate parts are painted realistically, each of the individual parts relates to a greater whole. They hold together like a cynical poem with an elliptical feeling, where the viewer has to bring them together. The overall impression is disquieting and meant to be so.

Andrew Tong’s show is on now and runs until  February 26th at the Elliott Louis Gallery in Vancouver. It’s a major exhibition with twenty-one of his newest work and  well worth the visit. Check out the other paintings on the web-site:

http://www.elliottlouis.com/dynamic/exhibit_artist.asp?ExhibitID=426

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.

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.

Drawn II

July 29, 2010

Three images by Takashi Iwasaki

Sharpenkunshimetsukegram, drawing on paper, 10 x 7 inches Kamidaredentou,16 x 16 inches, embroidery; Sauceireminidenkikasa, drawing on paper, 10 x 7 inches

For the second year running, Vancouver has held the Drawn Festival. It’s an International call for artists working in the medium of drawing, which seems to have no borders to its definition. The Pendulum Gallery at Georgia and Howe is the venue, this year, for the resulting exhibition.

Completely separate from that, several galleries  in Vancouver reserve time in  July and early August to hold uniquely drawing exhibitions. Lynn Ruscheinsky is a curator working for the Elliott Louis Gallery who selected Takashi Iwasaki and Mary Hrbacek for the show.

I was in the neighborhood picking up framing for my own show at the Fort Gallery, and decided to check it out .  I was lured in by what looked like luscious large charcoal drawings of tree trunks.

The large drawings (30 x 32 inches) by Mary Hrbacek were counter-foiled by some very delicate small drawings (7 inches by 10 inches) by Takashi Iwasaki, a Japanese artist.  This exhibition could not have been easily hung since the work is diametrically opposed in nature.

Iwasaki’s small drawings are shown as well as some of his stitchery. The drawings act as maquettes for the needlework. Both from their fineness and delicacy, I assumed they were made by a woman, but when I spoke to Katherine who was tending the gallery, she informed me that, no, it was unusual, but these were the workings of a young man!

The drawings are finely executed, echoing some of the most inventive schoolbook doodling I have ever seen, with the shapes reminiscent of Paul Klee, the coloration of Wassily Kandinsky  and the spirit and balance of Joan Miro. They could be classed in the realm of Surrealism. There is no reference to objects and  as such are a good example of pure abstraction.

Seen from afar, one could be excused if they thought they were looking at oil paintings, for the larger works. Up close, you can see the threads sewn ever so precisely to fill in the shapes created by his imagery. There is no room for the slightest error. It’s impossible to take out a patch and put in another. The  threads are laid so well that there is no sense of surface texture – a block of them will be all at the same height and so reflect light as if the block were a single colour with no texture. It’s a pretty marvelous marriage of technical virtuosity and esoteric imagery.

The colours are light and clean – with either a white background or a black one, sewn over with clear yellows, pinks, robin’s egg blues and reds.

I like Iwasaki’s philosophy. In his artist’s statement, he says,”Life is too short to take gravely all the time. I want to delight in what I can when I can.”   That spirit shines through in his work.

If I had two words to sum up this body of work, I would say “purity” and “playfulness”.

I took a look on his web-site and was surprised by his prolific output.  More than that, with this very geometric and abstract style,  I was surprised to see that he has some work in a high-realism vein.  For an artist to shine in both domains is quite unusual and speaks of an incredible creativity. He’s only 28 years old and has already garnered awards and a CV to die for.

http://www.takashiiwasaki.info/takashiiwasaki/english/paintings04.html

Mary Hrbacek’s work, on the other hand, seeks animism in her images of tree trunks and speaks to an eco-disaster agenda.

Borrowing directly from the statement on the Elliott Louis Gallery web-site, her works are explained thus:

“To Mary Hrbacek, a tree is a thing of spiritual sustenance and renewal. Her trees are endowed with human-like qualities become the embodiment of mankind’s condition: the rising sap is the spirit of life, sexuality and regeneration, the barren winter branches and broken limbs foretell of immanent ecological disaster, disease and death. Hrbacek’s trees exert a powerful emotional influence.”

The charcoal drawings look great on the web site with  a range of dark and light that does not show on the originals.  In the latter, the tonal range is reduced to black and white with few dark grey variations between, and the detail of the form gets lost.  I liked best the drawing where the shift from the black shapes to the white are blurred as charcoal tends to do (Monster and Multi-faceted).  The greater majority though, were clean-edged to the point where the eraser rubbings on the paper show, roughing up the texture, not to any visual advantage.

When an artist depends solely on shape, the shapes need to be interesting and they need to move the eye around so that the viewer can continue to enjoy the image. It is in the nature of trees to branch out which lends itself to a “Y” shape configuration and Hrbacek has achieved a good variety within this restriction. The overall darkness in the imagery serves to emphasize the sense of a threatening eco-disaster. In this aspect, Hrbacek speaks to the prevailing global concern for the future.

As an outgrowth of these drawings, there are two large acrylic paintings, also of trees. The addition of colour is a miracle to these forms. The painting, Split Decision, an acrylic on linen, sings with a bright clear sky; and the mastery of form and shape through shadow are in excellent harmony.  This is a painting one could live with for a long time .

The other coloured image, acrylic on canvas,  “A secret” returns to two tones – the sky colour and the trunk colour – and has not the same joy in it though the animism is quite clear.  The right hand side of the trunk reads like a torso with its arms embracing the left part of the tree, reaching to encircle it and to whisper a message to the crotch of the branches. It is sensual and dark.

In fact, in many of these denuded tree trunks, one can imagine body parts – arms waving, woody knobs that look like breasts, and torsos thick with muscles.

Hrbacek’s own web-site also provides a broader vision of what this artist is capable of. The web address immediately following points to her tree paintings, but you will also be able to see some of her installation and other three-dimensional work  which, like Iwasaki, shows the depth of creativity in this artist.

http://www.maryhrbacek.com/Mary Hrbacek paintings.html

While the hanging of this show must have been difficult because of the strong opposition of the two styles, it nevertheless is quite elegantly done so that one can enjoy the delicacy of the small, stitched “drawings”  in an intimate close up way, and then face the other direction to enjoy a wide vista, a forest of charcoal trunks in their substantive strength and variety. It shows the openness of the Drawn Festival jury to select widely opposing styles, not limited by a single vision, but welcoming to a variety of styles and expressions.

Look for more images of Iwasaki and Hrbacek on www.elliotlouis.com

and if you are in Vancouver, go take a look.