Posts Tagged ‘art criticism’

Visions & Vistas, Michal Tkachenko

August 24, 2012

Isle of Arran 8,  2009, Michal Tkachenko, Oil on Mylar, 40 x 60 inches

I met with Tim Bissett, enthusiastic Art Consultant, in Vancouver about a week ago, expecting to have a half hour conversation with him over coffee at Terminal Avenue Starbucks. I’d done a small restoration on one of my own paintings for him – a mere scratch, but oh! what a poem it was trying to get the colour and the surface quality to match. In the end, it looked perfect and Tim was pleased.

Instead of a half hour, we talked two; and at the end he says, “Do you want to see the exhibition that I curated?” He had sent out the invitation to the opening on short notice and I hadn’t been able to attend.

Thy Otways sorrows, and lament his fate!, Michal Tkachenko, Oil on Canvas, 36×36 inches

It wasn’t far away, in Railtown  district, on Alexander Street in Vancouver. It was easy to get parking, a miracle for downtown, and was free for an hour. The show was in a small theatre studio space with dark walls which off-set the paintings wonderfully.

Michal Tkachenko, a native of Vancouver, lives in England but comes a few times a year to paint and visit her family.

Lately she has had access to Chatsworth House, the great manor used in many films including Pride and Prejudice and The Duchess. She has painted the dining room complete with period-style candelabra, paintings and epergnes in an opulent, free-brushing bravado. The walls are bright red and so they provide a rich background to the various pieces of decor set out on the table or sideboard.

Chatsworth 4, Michal Tkachenko, Oil on Canvas, 48×48 inches

Bissett describes the palette as beautifully haunting. Perhaps it is. The first word I thought of was Gothic, which elicits a ghostly sensation, especially since these sit on a strong butter yellow wall and the grey and white of the image seem even more pallid because of their exhibiting surface.

I don’t have a strong feeling for these interior landscapes, but I fell in love with the other series, a series of English landscapes, capturing the moodiness of the moors and other bucolic scenes.

In the Chatsworth series, Tkachenko works in oils on canvas. In two of the Vistas, the Isle of Arran works, Tkachenko works in a more contemporary medium of oil on Mylar. It’s equivalent to working on a smooth plastic surface and similar to working on glass. In this method, the oils don’t accumulate in thick layers. Rather, they must be freshly laid onto the surface and that must be done in quick, sure strokes.

Red Field 2, 2012,  Michal Tkachenko, Oil on Canvas, 18×20 inches

These works show Tkachenko’s mastery of the medium. They are expressive and freely painted. There is no hesitation apparent. The colours marry in a lovely series of moody greens and reds, the opposites providing a great balance of warm and cool. The sky is luminous – the kind that is perfect for an outdoor hike into the pure English wilderness that has barely been touched by man’s intruding hand.

If you would like to see these lovely paintings, Visions & Vistas has run its course, but there are still several paintings for sale. Viewing can be made by appointment only through Tim Bissett, the curator of the show. Call 778-322-1333 to schedule viewing,  or e-mail to timbissett@shaw.ca

Visiting Jim Gislason

July 25, 2012

At the end of a short gravel drive behind a rancher-style house in South Surrey (B.C, Canada), is this small barn with a small door on the right hand side. Stepping into the dark interior, there is an unfinished room with not much of interest in it. But beyond that, behind a partition going the length of the barn, is the fairly simple studio of Jim Gislason, an artist with enviable credits for his print-making.

The room may be simple, or should I say, austere, but the work going on in it is nothing of the sort.  There is an intellectual theme running through his paintings based on ancient civilizations and myths which I described in an earlier post at the moment of his solo exhibition, “Kings and Queens” at the Elliott Louis Gallery in Vancouver  two years ago.

Gislason is the type of person I enjoy a good conversation with. He’s a fine poet and a talented painter in addition to his work as a print maker. He has a tremendous knowledge of English literature and some obscure ancient literature as well (whence come his titles). He quotes from traditional British poets as well as current song-writers such as Bob Dylan. It’s obvious that he has the ability to internalize what he reads or hears as song, to synthesize it and then to recreate it into iconic visual language. Let me say that in a different way:
Gislason has a capacity to absorb ideas from the world around him, to think profoundly about it, mill it about, and come up with some very original, symbolic art work. What is more, he is very articulate about what he is doing. It’s ingenious.

To express his ideas visually, he has devised a unique and complicated way of working.  He was fascinated with printmaking techniques, especially silk-screening. In earlier times, this process was used mostly for making posters and advertising. In the late ‘Fifties and early ‘Sixties, this process was brought into the art domain under the name of “serigraphy” to distinguish it from its commercial twin.  The process is technically intricate.

A very evenly and tightly woven piece of silk is stretched over a frame. A masking liquid is painted on and then, once it dries, it can be used to make multiple images  of the design by use of a squeegie pulling ink over the screen. Where there is no mask,  ink goes through. Where there is a mask, none goes through. Several same-sized screens can be used to make overlays of color, so the imagery can be quite complicated and colourful. Mask-making methods have evolved over the intervening years. Even in the late ‘Sixties, photo-transfer masks were being used. They were produced first by exposing a photographic film that could be applied to the screen leaving an emulsion that performs the masking function. Colour separation applied to this process allowed for some fairly realistic images to be produced. Gislason uses the photographic process complete with digital manipulations to create imagery on his silks.

Silk screen with photographic masking showing on LH side and ‘inked’ areas on RH side.

In the process of using serigraphy at the beginning of his print-making career, Gislason discovered that he liked what happened when the inks went through the silk and left-over inks stayed on the screen instead of transferring to the paper. Now he doesn’t bother making multiple images. He has discovered, created a new way of working that hangs somewhere between print-making and oil painting.

I’ve often wondered how he could create his works in this manner because his ‘canvases’ are so large.  Now that I’ve seen his studio, I understand his process better. His squeegie is short – maybe just a foot long. In traditional silk screening, the artist would have a squeegie that was just slightly shorter than the rectangular frame’s shortest side. The artist provides ink to the surface and then pulls that puddle of ink from one side to the other of the total rectangle.

Gislason uses oil paints instead of inks to provide more professional, durable and lightfast pigments. He works on a small area at a time, not worrying about doing the whole width at once.  The advantage to Gislason is that, while extrudes them through the screen, he can modulate colours as he is working. That means that his colours are no longer flat, as is characteristic of traditional silk-screen printing. He can also modulate the good side before the paint has hardened with palette knife or other tools adding another texture or glaze. It enriches the colours and permits modification of parts of the overall surface so that the textural quality of the entire piece is as varied and as interesting as the rest of the imagery.

The final product, technically speaking, is beautifully crafted with several different aspects all working together – the modulation of colour, the variety and interest in the tactile surface, and the imagery which is not incidental to the whole. It’s no longer a handmade print on paper, but is the screen itself. There is only one image, not multiples on paper.

“My work is figurative,” he says. “Always figurative.”

I have to think this through, since I see so much abstraction in the works leaning against the walls, pinned to the wall, or stacked in the far end of the barn. The face or the figure is somewhat incidental in the overall. In my mind it’s just another shape, but with recognizable detail. I express my question and he answers, “Without the figure, there is little engagement.” He shows me the one and only non-figurative work in the studio and I easily see what he means. The figures are focal points that call out to be explored, considered.

Mostly the figures are heads only, often a head tipped back on the neck, mysterious, evocative; but there is an image with a donkey and another with a one legged person, wings embracing the the figure from behind the head, which gives the impression that the other leg is there, but in shadow. Or is this one of the Queens, seated on a throne, with a single foot coming forward? For me, the ambiguity is a pleasure because then I need to ponder the work and engage with the figure. There are things to discover.

In explaining his imagery, Gislason theorizes, quotes philosophers and classic writers. He speaks of the difference between logic and myth. Logic is linear thinking, cold and calculating. Myth relates to feelings, poetry, magic. It’s the latter that he wants to have shine through in his work. Yet when I look at his silks, I see that there is an equal balance. The overall image may meet the emotional quotient he is seeking, but the formal qualities of the work – the placement of shapes and objects, the overall design are painstakingly considered.

His eyes light up as he talks. His energy bristles but is sure footed. He is a mystery. It’s these contrasts that he resolves that make his work interesting. Logic and myth. Simplicity and complication.

Work in progress containing map imagery

The new work incorporates images of maps, with small block shapes of them repeated to make large continents on the canvas. He continues with his luscious build-ups of texture, impasto painting which contrast with rich coloured flat areas. When you look from afar, it’s one image; when you are close up, there is so much intriguing detail. The edges are still pinned with clear-headed push-pins. They are part of the imagery, holding in place the soft silk edges which act as a signature framing element. The new works are in progress, not yet finished, up on the wall while he ponders the next step, the next modifications to the first layers of paint and the imagery. Orange and cadmium yellows predominate, but most often with a contrasting turquoise to set up a glowing vibration of colour.

 

Details – Fingerprinted edging with push pin; repeated block of map image bordered by impasto brushwork.

I left the studio feeling very privileged to have been welcomed into the inner sanctum. If you want to see more, check out his web site at jimgislason.com

Many thanks to Ted Lederer of the Elliott Louis Gallery who arranged the visit for me and accompanied me on the journey.

Check out the Elliott Louis Gallery at http://www.elliottlouis.com/

Read about the philosophy of Myth versus Logic in this document:

http://cheer.org.nz/mythoslogos.pdf

Claire Moore – The Packaging show

May 6, 2012

Image

Primed and Packaged, Gayle, mixed media on paper, Claire Moore.

Three artists showed recently with a theme of Packaging at the Fort Gallery. (See previous post). I was in a hurry to get something written before the show ended, so posted their press release.  But I felt there was more to say, so here I am with a few more comments about Claire Moore’s work.

First of all, it’s a privilege as an artist to know her because she has this incredible ability to think outside of the box, to generate very original ideas. She can change from one medium to another without seeming to blink an eye. Yet it is all stamped with Moore’s personality- the various bodies of work that she creates all have a continuity of style. It’s simply inspiring.

In this show, she tackles the idea of packaging that evokes a sense of place.

Primed and Packaged – Kenojuak, mixed media on paper, 18×24, Claire Moore

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In “Primed and Packaged – Kenojuak”, a print maker is designing a stone lithograph; behind her, a repetitive pattern of the sailor from the Players cigarette packages forms a backgkround like wall paper. At the bottom of the image, there is a band of writing that says:

The story of the origins of the Cape Dorset printmaking co-operative has become almost legendary:

Osuitok Ipeelee, an established carver and sculptor and James Houston who went on to promote Inuit Art in all forms, were sharing a smoke  outside Houston’s tent on the land near cape Dorset. Ipeelee, who was carving a walrus tusk at the time, looked at the pack of Players cigarettes and asked, “doesn’t  the artist in the south not get tired painting the same little sailor over and over again?”

Unable to explain the printing process in Inuktituk. Houston took the relief carved tusk from Ipeelee,    mixed lamp soot and spit in his hand and spread it on the carving . He then made a crude print by pressing a piece of toilet paper onto the tusk. Ipeelee’s response on seeing the resultant image was , “We could do that,”

The first collection of Cape Dorset prints was released in 1959

Each of the other  Moore paintings in the exhibition recount some story redolent of time gone by, with the same general organization – a “wallpaper” of repeated packaging imagery and a friend’s face.

Primed and Packaged – Tom, Claire Moore, mixed media

In Primed and Packaged – Tom there is some delightfully loose drawing in the plaid shirt. The person in the portrait remembers hot days and her uncle taking her into a grocery store to buy ice cream bars.

Primed and Packaged – Cora, mixed media, 18 x 24 inches, Claire Moore

In Primed and Packaged – Cora  , an native child remembers being unconscious of her ethnic origins, how it confuses her own perception of self with the unrealistic “Indian” image on the Land of Lakes butter wrapping.

Primed and Packaged – Dyana, mixed media, 18x 24 inches, Claire Moore

Primed and Packaged – Dyana reminds the woman with a parrot of pleasant times with friends over a cup of spicy tea.

Each of these images (there were several more) has a different composition. The paintings are not cookie-cutter formulas. The drawings are freely done and specific. Each face has a personality much different from the next. They are lively drawings with a strong sense of tonal balance provided by the colour. All of these things are important to me in the appreciation of a painting.

Moore’s facility in drawing is underlined with the Kenojuak painting , with the foreshortening of the head that has been captured in a graceful pose. It’s not an easy one to portray. In each of the paintings, there is a good balance of the hand-drawn and the painted image in comparison to the appropriated packaging imagery. In each one, there is some informative drawing in the faces and then some bravura drawing that gives a sense rather than the specifics of the remainder of the image. This too makes for a good balance, focusing on what is important and letting the less important lay back in the  imagery.

If you would like to explore more of Claire Moore’s very interesting body of work, visit her website at http://clairemoore.ca/gallery/the_package_deal/

You will find an artist whose continuing theme is social responsibility and the welfare of humankind. You will find lots to explore in her previous galleries of her work.

Claire Moore lives and works in Surrey B.C.

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/

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?

The Ten Pound Challenge

March 9, 2011

Once again, shamelessly touting my own work….

What I lost in Paris and What I gained in Strasbourg, Kristin Krimmel 16 x 20 approx. Collage on acid free mat board.

Every year the Fort Gallery collective in Fort Langley, B.C.  sets a challenge to each of its artists to create artwork for the yearly Spring group show. This year the challenge was to create an objet d’art with something that weighs ten pounds. One other material could be added to it to bring it all together.

With twenty artists, there are twenty different takes on this challenge. A bit like Reality TV!
I have three pieces in the show.  Two relate to my travels this summer in Europe. One is entitled, “What I lost in Paris”, which of course was 10 pounds of Canadian butter off the hips. It was directly due to the workout I got following my cousin Claire through the maze of streets above ground and doing the thousands of steps in the underground Metro to go between train track levels.
It’s my new diet: Go to Paris and move about on foot. You see more and you weigh less. Can it be any less expensive than Jenny Craig or LA Weight loss or Curves?
But at the end of my trip, I stopped by Strasbourg and met my cousin Barbara  and her long time friend from student days who still lives there. She is an epicure and knows the best of restaurants. Oops! On went the ten pounds in Strasbourgian butter!

My third piece in the show is about my father and the things he left me. He opened up the country with his early-days surveying, guided by couriers des bois into the wilds of the Canadian north. I have lots of his maps and some of his equipment. So I’ve created an assemblage in his honour.

Friday night is our opening celebration at the Fort Gallery, between 7 and 9 p.m. Each artist is bring an libation and some finger food. You can bet it will be good! Please come join us if you can.

 

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.

What I did today…

December 12, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kamidaredentou Takishi Iwasaka Thread on black canvas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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