Archive for the ‘painting’ Category

Kathleen Menges at the Kariton

July 24, 2012

Mid Day, Kathleen Menges, 24×12 inches, cold wax on panel

It was as my friend Dody and I were coming home that we clued into Kathleen Menges’ exhibition at the Kariton Art Gallery in  Abbotsford. It was a day neither sunny nor rainy, a thick cloud cover had settled over the Fraser Valley bringing the summer fields to a rich bright green. In the middle ground, the near hills are a clear mix of forest green and mountain blue. As the mountains recede like cut-outs, the blue gets purer and paler; the green disappears. The sky is a slate blue tint.  It’s the palette of Kathleen Menges. It’s the West Coast of Canada, the wide open farm lands  held in parentheses by the  ubiquitous mountain landscape. She has captured the soul of the valley.

She lives in the Abbotsford not far from this gallery and it’s her first solo show at a municipal gallery, a kudo we struggling artists aspire to as a stepping stone to more important recognition.
I know Kathleen, so I listened to her concerns beforehand. There was no need  to fret. This show is professionally hung, well spaced, well lit. It shows each piece to advantage.

Lake of the woods, Kathleen Menges, 78 x 108 inches, cold wax on panel

In the next few days, I will try to get better photos as these ones I took at the show are distorted a bit by the lighting.; but they are quite good enough to give a sense of Menges’ style.

It’s a style dictated by her choice of medium. All the work in this show is created in cold wax and oil paint on birch wood panel.  Wood panel is a requisite for this type of work because it’s rigid and the pigments applied with cold wax are apt to crackle and change with any movement of the substrate.  The wax and pigment can be brushed on or applied with a palette knife in a paste-like state. Menges uses the palette knife by preference. Once the painting is complete, it needs to dry completely and flat, otherwise there is a risk of the paint sliding downwards and losing shape. Once the painting has completely dried, it can be buffed to give it a more shiny surface.

Wine in the making, Kathleen Menges,  30x 36 inches, cold wax on panel

Most of the works in the show are landscapes, but Menges also likes to work in non-representational modes as well. My personal preference goes to these.

She is able to incorporate interesting textural patterns by using industrially made patterns, like the honeycomb pattern in the painting above. I find the tactile sense of these abstractions more engaging than the flatter surface of the landscapes. Funny enough, I also find the shapes are more natural and flow more finely in the abstracts. The colour is nuanced with lovely things happening in the yellow with traces of cerulean blue and greys implicating in the texture.

It’s an enjoyable show. If you are in the area,  go see the Kariton Gallery. It’s at 2387 Ware Street in Abbotsford, situated on the grounds of Mill Lake Park.  Look for hours of operation on the Abbotsford Arts Council web site:

http://abbotsfordartscouncil.com/

It’s on until August 14th, 2012

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Olga Khodyreva

April 17, 2012

Stepping stones, acrylic on canvas, 24×18 inches Olga Khodyreva

Olga Khodyreva has painted all her life, encouraged by private lessons when she was a child. In her young years, though she studied to become an engineer and obtained her degree, she spent spare moments in the many galleries and museums of Moscow. These housed large collections of Modernist works. It was there that she picked up a taste for abstract art. Her favourites were Wassily Kandinsky, Matisse, Alexej Jawlensky, Picasso, and Joan Miro.

Now as a member of the contemporary Fort Gallery in Fort Langley, Khodyreva is offering us her two latest series of paintings. The first is based on Joan Miro’s “Carnival of Harlequins”. In the Surrealist tradition, she works from simple geometric sketches portraying two facial features, eyes and nose, as the common thread in these seven paintings.

Dream of the Penguin, Acrylic on canvas, 24×18 inches Olga Khodyreva

“The hardest thing,” she says, “is to avoid rationalization.  The purpose is to free the mind to come up with dream–like, subconscious imagery.”

In the series based on Miro’s  “Carnival of the Harlequins”,  she maintains a consistent colour choice for each painting. The red frames are an exciting addition, allowing the images to sing and helping them to hang well together in the exhibition. Her inventiveness with the nose-and-eyes iconography is  delightful, bringing widely different elements to vary the surrealist dreamscape. Added to this, the technical skill that she brings to her paintings is now working together. The flat areas are really flat; the textured ones do not intrude or interfere with them though they sit side by side but provide an illusory dimensional quality in their contained shapes.

If this were figure skating, this series would merit a ten out of ten. She has brought together technical polish with poetic artistry so that they transcend the mere image.

In the second series, “In Close Proximity”, she begins her paintings with layer of textures,  then places abstract lines and rectangular shapes to create movement. She is investigating tension created by the closeness of objects. She favours the colours red and black.

When Khodyreva came to Canada twenty years ago, she changed profession, becoming a Registered Nurse. “I’ve had little formal training in Fine Arts. So now I am working towards the Certificate program offered by Emily Carr University.”  Who knows? A degree in Fine Arts may not be far off.  “I am happiest when I am painting, or when I am studying. I love to go to school, ” she says as we finish an interview prior to her show.

Compromise, Acrylic on canvas, 24×18 inches Olga Khodyreva

I hadn’t seen any of this new work before I walked into the opening reception. It took me aback in a very positive sense. This show was a stunner.

Each of us at the Fort Gallery has an opportunity to put up a three-week exhibit once a year, not counting the group shows that give us extra showing opportunities. In between shows, be carefully produce another body of work. Some artists stay the same, year after year with their styles. Others create somewhat related bodies of work to that which came the year before, with a change of over all colour use or a shift in pattern or subject matter.

Olga Khodyreva had produced paintings in her last show that were focused on experimental textures, with Greek or Roman-style classical sculptural figures and motifs intertwined with other more modern symbols for subject matter. So this shift to almost entirely non-representational in the new  series “In Close Proximity”,  characterized by rectangular shapes in red and black, is quite a change from the figurative. The colours are bold. The shapes are clear. The textures emerging from behind the squares and rectangles give a feeling of depth and of mystery, with each textured block acting as a vignette or cameo in an otherwise hard-edged painting. It’s a bold statement and a consistent one too.  There’s not only a sense of movement forward and back, but a contradictory sense of two dimensional flatness and illusory perspective (depth) at the same time.

In Close Proximity #1, Acrylic on canvas, Olga Khodyreva, 18 x 24 inches

In Close Proximity #3, Acrylic on canvas, Olga Khodyreva, 18 x 24 inches

That City, Acrylic on canvas, Olga Khodyreva, 30×30 inches approx.

The sixth in this series is a transition. Already Olga is searching out a new dimension. The squares are less predominant. There is more texture and freely expressive brush work. which remains in balance with the flatter areas.

Blue Tango, Oil on canvas, Olga Khodyreva, 40×30 inches approx.

Blue Tango is seriously moving on from the Proximity series. There are still organized shapes, but there is more linear work defining the shapes – a form of outlining. The spatial relationships are strong with the red carrying the eye through the painting and not really letting one’s attention fall away.

This year’s exhibition is over, but information on Olga Khodyreva can be obtained through the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley,   http://www.fortgallery.ca/

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

John Koerner’s retrospective

June 28, 2011

Orchard 2, John Koerner, 8×10 inches, watercolour on  illustration board, 1963

There’s a tangible buzz mid afternoon in the Elliott Louis Gallery on Saturday. June 25th.   Celebration time is six o’clock, but the preparations are no accident. Everything is well planned to ensure the guests are greeted warmly and that they enjoy themselves during the two hours that follow. Those who cannot be there for six are arriving early, circling amongst the fifty -plus paintings of John Koerner, one of British Columbia’s most respected artists, and likely the oldest, too. He’s nighty- eight and not missing a beat.

Many of the paintings come from private collections, and they span a sixty year career of this remarkable artist.

The Lighthouse: Opus 119, John Koerner, acrylic on canvas, 42 x 52 inches, 1995

I fell in love with his paintings many, many years ago. Particularly, I loved his use of blues and turquoise in his landscapes.  I contemplated getting one of his oils, years back, but it didn’t happen; and then ten years later, was able to purchase a small watercolor, which I cherish still. It’s called Orchard 2 and is about 8 inches by 10.  I promised myself that, one day, I could purchase an oil and remembered the one I’d seen at the Diane Farris gallery on that early occasion. Then, miraculously, a still life in oranges and peachy colours came up at auction and I got it. I was thrilled. To actually own one! It sits in my office and I see it every day.

Just look at the paintings here. They are fresh and alive. There is no hesitation nor overworking. All the colours are harmonious,  clear and sparklingly clean. In the Lighthouse: Opus 119, you can see how he establishes depth of field with the large bouquet signifying the here-and-now, and the lighthouse, small in the distance, an ever present available guiding spirit.

Now I was here, well before the crowds would arrive, at leisure to get up close and contemplate each painting carefully. I can find new things in his paintings every time I look. There are ways of using acrylic so that it creates it’s own texture like when oil paint separates slightly when diluted with water. It’s a glaze that leaves a pebbly surface – hard to achieve while still maintaining control in acrylics. There are the overlays areas of small strokes  built up in a stained-glass like fragmentation. Most of the paintings contain  a compendium of different marks that can run from flat and smooth, to build-ups of jagged, direct ones, overlaid one upon another, giving a richness of pattern or depth of color. And, holding all this together is an overall composition of a meditative nature and a sensation of light.

Hikari 3, John Koerner, Acrylic on Canvas, 42 x 52 inches

The Lighthouse Series was inspired by the Point Atkinson Lighthouse – a monolithic white tower in West Vancouver, visible on a clear day from the University of British Columbia where he spent his career teaching in the Fine Arts Faculty. The lighthouse recurs in many paintings, signifying the source of light and the power it gives to guide us spiritually, inspirationally and physically.

The Pacific Gateway series, implies the link between Canada and Asian countries, as well as signifying peace, a visual play on words with “pacific”. In addition there are paintings with a Japanese flavour with suggestions of Kimono shapes; and a some paintings of African landscapes.

Harbour Reflections, John Koerner, 36 x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas, 1960

I couldn’t attend the opening due to another engagement, but once my other event was over, I hastened back to the Gallery to join the celebration. It was all but finished, but the attendance had been spectacular – well over 200 people had come. There were still at least 40 people there. John Koerner had already gone. But the symbiotic energy that was still reigning in the gallery  was exciting to join.  People did not want to go home!  Ted Lederer who owns the gallery greeted me in his usual enthusiastic fashion and immediately introduced me to David Bellman and Meirion Cynog Evans, the team of curators who had put up the show.

“You have to see this,” says Ted, leaving me with David, Meirion and a well known art collector in the back office where incoming new art is put out of the way of the day-to-day activities.

Up on the wall were some of Lionel Thomas’s late works, flowers on canvas painted in tempera, some geometric abstracts and exceptionally, about ten, two- sided copper enamel works. Size is approximately 8 x 10 inches. They are framed so that they can be seen as sculptures, free standing,  The color are brilliant (because copper enamelling is a process of affixing glass onto a metal base), with lots of pure bright hues of reds and blues. They are like jewels.

David Bellman and Merion Evans are in the process of preparing the Lionel Thomas collection of his works for an up-coming exhibition at the Elliott Louis Gallery. But that’s another story, since this was the celebration for John Koerner.

I couldn’t stay long; but was long enough to bring back some images to share on this blog.  Here are a few more favorites:

Still Life, John Koerner, Gouache, ink and paper collage, 1965

If you live in Vancouver, hasten to see this show. The  exhibition is very short – just 10 days in all, and it’s taken almost 20 years since the last retrospective of Koerner’s work.  It’s an opportunity not to be missed. It’s located at 258 East 1st Avenue, just one block east of Main and one north of Great Northern Way.

Check out the the Elliott Louis Gallery web-site. Lots of the Koerner images are there – but you will want to see the real thing. They are very tasty!

http://www.elliottlouis.com/

Ride

June 14, 2011

Dressage is a sport and dressage is an art. In this, Susan Falk straddles both worlds. In her latest exhibition in May at the Fort Gallery, she brought her lively paintings of horses away from the stables and onto our exhibition walls.

The interesting thing about Falk’s work is the directness with which she paints, as if drawing rather than painting, but using colour and a brush to do so.

Here’s what she was showing at the Fort Gallery:

Susan Falk, Oil on Canvas

Susan Falk, Oil on Canvas

To see these (and several others) all in one gallery space is to feel the excitement and movement of these powerful yet controlled animals.

Congratulations Susan,

See more at    http://www.susanfalk.ca/statement.html

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.

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.

Terry Nurmi – Inconceivable

June 4, 2010

Our best art comes from expressing our deepest concerns.  The more heartfelt a subject is, the more intensely involved the artist is, the better the final outcome is likely to be.

Thus, when a young woman’s heart bears the distressing failure to produce a child she so desperately desires and all other avenues have not helped to assuage the inability to conceive, and this same woman after years of putting away her personal pain decides to express it through her art to let it free, a most interesting body of work springs forth.

This woman is Terry Nurmi, who after years of trying various methods to understand and then conquer sterility, decided to explore her voyage through visual expression. Nurmi is rooted in her community and her community became not only the physical place in which she resides, but a larger community of women who share with her the frustration of trying to conceive a child.

Nurmi had spent years going in and out of clinics, being tested for this possibility and that, engaging in trials of Artificial Reproductive Technology treatment then waiting to see if they would bear fruit. Through those years, an idea germinated and grew. Nurmi would find a way to express the feelings of frustration, hope, disappointment, pain, envy, grief, and anger that a woman experiences.

When it came to realizing this exhibition idea, Nurmi called out to her sisters-in-infertility. She called upon the Infertility Awareness of Canada (IAAC), Fraser Chapter,  asking each women who was willing to contribute to the project to provide a collage that expressed their feelings. Those who responded were given a small round petri dish, a round, clear plastic laboratory dish,  in which to  provide a visual expression of their personal story. (Double click on each one to see it larger).

Nurmi then installed a black line on the wall to indicate a temperature chart and then placed these petri dishes at each point of the chart (see first photo, above). The chart takes up almost the full length of the gallery’s north wall.

This part of the collaborative exhibition mixes installation art (the temperature chart) with conceptual art (the petri dishes); and each of the petri dishes is a miniature collage “in vitro”, meaning “under glass”.

The following photos illustrate the diversity of image that resulted. Some are cold, keeping the viewer at a distance; others indicate frustration; still others manage a bit of black humour (the one with Frosty the Snowman). Some are empty (Anger)  awaiting the babies that do not come.

It was a delight at the exhibition to see people pouring over each one of these little, clear disk boxes. Raw sentiment is contained within.

Across  on the South wall of the gallery, are several cross-over drawings-become-watercolour (and some pastel). Each represents a baby in Nurmi’s life – babies belonging to  sisters and sisters-in-law; friends or extended family.

They express that fragile and innocent time a child’s life.  The infants are sleeping or just waking.

Knowing Nurmi, there is bittersweet heartache in these images that does not go away.  Yet these images capture the innocence and beauty of infancy.

From a technical point of view, these drawings are fresh and lively. Each is drawn with strong and sensitive  line, then  enhanced by chalk pastel and watercolour. She is mistress of her medium. The work exhibits a lot of freedom and yet there is nothing gratuitous. Every mark made is necessary to the drawing and the maturity of the hand is delightful to see.

Once again in reference to “in vitro” , each of these mixed media, mostly watercolour paintings is framed between Plexiglas and clips to reinforce the concept of “under glass”.

For more information on Terry Nurmi and the subject of Infertility Awareness, check out the article in the Globe and Mail of May 23rd, 2010

http://m.theglobeandmail.com/life/family-and-relationships/when-couples-come-to-terms-with-infertility/article1578863/?service=mobile&page=1

There is quite a bit more information on the web about this recent exhibition, so if you are interested, I’d suggest a Google search.

The exhibition is on until June 6th at the Fort Gallery in Fort Langley.

Val Robinson 2

May 23, 2010

Val Robinson with her painting, BC Fireweed #3

From April 28 to May 16th, Bette Laughy and Val Robinson showed at the Fort Gallery in Langley, B.C.. Unfortunately I was travelling at the time and didn’t get in a timely blog notice of the exhibit.

Originally I posted information about Bette, but I didn’t have much information about Val and no photos.  Tonight I saw Val at a meeting and she forwarded some to me. I decided to do a separate post on her work and here it is:

I was there for the opening. My first impression was of Val’s big juicy canvases of wildflowers. They are about 3 feet by four, maybe larger. I’m going on memory here. The technique is impasto and expressionist.

She loads her brush with juicy paint and manipulates it in fresh daubs that define her imagery. In this first image, BC Fireweed #3,  there is no doubt that this is a tall, impressive flower with bright pink petals. The supporting stem waves in the wind,  with the red, rust and gold colours changing the length of it as it catches light. There is fresh air and vibrant joy in this work.

There were two more expressions of Fireweed in this exhibition with consistent verve and colour. The remainder of her images were of British Colombia scenery.

Flowering Sage by the Thomson River, Val Robinson, oil on canvas

In Flowering Sage,  Robinson captures the essence of the Thomson River desertic landscape in the Interior of British Columbia. Along the dusty banks of the river, sage blooms in the spring bringing an unexpected swath of colour to the sandy coloured slopes. It is a fleeting moment in the annual calendar of its landscape, a short vernal moment in an otherwise hot and dry area.  Again, Robinson works with  a liberty of brushstroke and  a freshness of colour.

I like that Robinson is not bound by photo-realism, but finds a way to express the essence of what she is looking at.  There is a generalization in the way she models the forms, but there is specificity in the shapes. Just reading that last sentence makes me realize the duality that is at work here.

For example, in the Fireweed painting Robinson has been specific about the form of the plant, how the individual blooms come away at various angles so that the space of the picture is divided up in interesting shapes. Yet, when Robinson paints, she is not bound by the detail of the plant. A leaf is a  single brushstroke – she finds no need to explain in paint that there is a line of paler light that goes up the mid-rib vein of it. She feels no necessity to paint specific markings on the petals.

Water reflections on the Fraser River, Val Robinson, Oil on Canvas

In this last image, Water Reflections on the Fraser River, Robinson has the same exuberance and a completely different palette of colours.  Here, I sense either an autumn reflection or a sunset one. The shoreline is dark but in the foreground, there is plenty of light, so it has an upbeat feel.

I’m less enthusiastic about this painting. The colour of the grasses doesn’t work for me and they look mechanical compared to the remainder of her image which she has painted as freely and juicily as the Sage and the Fireweed.

Of her own work, Robinson writes, ” I love painting because it gives me the freedom to express myself emotionally with colour —express my interaction with the physical world….  The painting balances me out more in my life.”

She speaks of the fabulous nature of British Columbia and her enthusiasm for painting the scenes and flowers that are the muse for her paintbrush. In this she succeeds well.

Robinson is  a new member of the Fort Gallery and I am curious to see how she  will develop in her new paintings in this sensual, expressionistic style as she goes forward from here.