Posts Tagged ‘art exhibitions’

Allan Fulle

March 9, 2012

Towers of light

Alan Fulle’s acrylic towers lean sometimes improbably in their irregular ascent. Each is a maximalist’s delight in detail, full of colour and texture.The artist takes colour chips from his many explorations with the  epoxy resin, cuts them up to fit together , assembles and glues them. When his form is complete, he sands it smooth then applies an industrial clear coat of acrylic. It’s a labour intensive process and if you see the object before it has its final coat, it seems like nothing – dusty, scratchy, unfinished. The top coat performs a miracle and the colours all come out clear, rich and shining.

Seen in a group, as shown above, these sculptures make a community of towers, and are enhanced by their neighbourliness. I’ve seen one illuminated from the inside, but for this exhibition, it was impossible to do because it would have left a safety hazard of wires retreating to the nearest wall sockets.

I am always fascinated by works whose manufacture I can’t figure out. That’s part of their appeal. When I look at works that I could do myself, I may like them but I don’t get that “have to have” feel.  I think these works are perfectly suited to an upscale very contemporary design house with a grand foyer entrance. Alternatively, I get a strong desire to phone up the local or national gallery and say, “get down here quick. There’s something fabulous to see and you need to get one.” These ones  – I can’t imagine all the different processes involved and my mind boggles at the thought of trying to make one.

On a more personal level, I am thoroughly attracted to Fulle’ Kimono series. I don’t actually get a Kimono feel from these. It’s obviously not the shape that is driving the naming of them.

Xarathemum - 40x30x4 inches, oil, acrylic, archival epoxy resin on panel

Xarathemum 30″ x 40″ x 4″  – Oil, acrylic, epoxy resin on panel

They are constructed in a similar manner with layer upon layer. I like the playfulness and the modulation of the colour chip shapes.  I like the complication of the stripes overlaying the colours beneath it contrasting with a contrasting simplified shape on the left hand side. There is a flow to the composition, like a gentle wave; or a breeze lifting a multi-coloured curtain. It’s at once exciting in the colour composition and calming in the rhythms of the forms.

In a contemporary world of minimalists, Fulle likes to think of himself as a Maximalist. He enjoys the process and complication  and it bears out in his work.

Alan Fulle

Alan Fulle is a contemporary  American artist living in Seattle, Washington. These images were shown at the Elliot Louis Gallery in Vancouver in January 2012.

Roger Watt – a chance meeting – and Toni Onley

December 4, 2011

The Canadian, Roger Watt, graphite on paper

My day did not go as expected. I had trouble getting the frozen locks on the car to open and in doing so activated it’s anti-theft mode. Door locks became non-functional and the key would not start the car. I couldn’t use the car and, in my typical frustration with mechanical things I can’t control, I muttered loudly once again that my aging  vehicle would be replace before long.

A friend came and took me to my morning meeting. I left the passenger door open on my own car thinking I might not be able to get into it otherwise, while I went off to fulfill Thursday’s first obligation. Another friend brought me home from the meeting to face this immovable car that I was imagining I would have to have towed to Port Moody.

I had plans for Vancouver that all had to be altered. I had already cancelled two meetings when Frank arrived. He laughed at my car-selling threats and commanded me to get the manual out of the car. There on the page for anti-theft devices I learned that, had I gotten out of the car, closed it up for thirty seconds and tried again, it would have started. By eleven in the morning, the locks had unfrozen and I was operative again,

I still had time to get into Vancouver for the core reason I was going in – to collect paintings from an exhibition that was over.

I’ve long ago learned to take adversity as opportunity. The cancelled appointments gave me time to stop by the Elliott Louis Gallery longer and take in the Toni Onley exhibition, Letters to Yukiko,  which runs until December 24th. It’s an excellent exhibition to see. I’ll describe it for you in a moment.

But first, I want to tell you that by the fact of being delayed in my trip to Vancouver, I happened upon a chance first meeting with Roger Watt.

Roger Watt is another of the represented artists of this gallery. You might have seen his work in the Drawing show back in July. He does small graphite drawings that are meticulous gems of observation, mostly of mechanical things that shine. He captures every nuance of light and shadow, of gleaming polish and detail of texture.

He had brought in two new works in this same genre, but diverging from what I had previously seen in that they took on an aspect of what I call “abstract realism”. That is, on first observation, you might think you were looking at something completely abstract, but on second inspection, you might find the close-up detail exposes a well know object. It might be the cropping of the of the imge that makes you focus on a small part of the oboject, or the cast of light brings to attention a point of view uncommonly taken.

D’Elegance, Roger Watt, graphite on paper

My appreciation of simple observation in this meticulous genre tends to not last long if there isn’t a secondary meaning that comes with it. I admire the skill and ability of the artist, but when I see one of these works that gives me that extra pleasure of something to think about, either from the subject matter or the abstract arrangement of the composition that works from afar and becomes something more close up, then I am in full admiration.

We spoke for a few minutes and I was happy to have the encounter.It’s always a treat to meet another artist.Then Roger had to get going and I did too, so we moved on.  In the back of my mind, I was thinking, if the car hadn’t given me such trouble, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity. Here I was, thanking my car for having given me grief.

I then took some time to view the Toni Onley exhibition.

The star items in this show are a collection of letters from Onley to his wife, Yukiko, as they are separating. From various places where he is away on painting expeditions, he writes passionate pleas for her to stay, quoting poetry of others on the subject of love, and writing some beautifully crafted poems of his own.

I have reservations however, about publicly posting the raw emotions of a man addressed to his wife in the middle of a split-up.

Somewhere in the curated writings about the exhibition, Yukiko explains that she couldn’t publish them while he was alive. My question is, why does she think they should be published now that he has passed away, exposing his raw sensitivities. Who needs to know?

Each of the letters is illustrated in watercolour with a view of the place he is writing with, or with a small image relevant to the text – a cat, an oriental figure, painted in typical Toni Onley’s calligraphic and  minimalist hand. The text is in a beautiful calligraphic style.

These have been reproduced very elegantly and are being offered up in a limited edition boxed set.

The letters take up a small portion of the show. The remainder comprise a series of oil on canvas landscapes. In addition, there are a few typical, elegant watercolours. If you show great interest in the work, the gallery owner may also show you a series of unframed watercolours. Of the twenty or so, I would easily have gone away with six of them, had I won the lottery. It’s not that they are so expensive, it’s just my pocket book is smaller than my acquisitory desires.

Untitled 1 and 2 , Toni Onley, Ink on paper on board, 10.5 x 14.5 inches

I was particularly taken with two of Onley’s Naples Yellow abstracts on paper marouflé* on board. They are fresh and clear coloured, and the compositions please me no end.

It’s clear that Onley’s strength was in watercolour. He reaches a finer nuance of colour in this medium than in oil and the “hand”, the brush strokes, look fresher.

From the Elliott Louis Gallery, I moved on to my framer and picked up some work; left some there too; then went to get my paintings from Hycroft.

In all, I think it was very well done that I had troubles with my car in the morning. It changed the course of my day and I was very happy at end of it to have met another artist and to have had time to soak up an exhibition that is rich in imagery and in meaning.

A final cautionary note on the car. If you have a similar trouble, do not close all the doors with yourself or anyone else in it. You may never get out.


Roger Watt:


Elliott Louis Gallery:

* Marouflage is a technique whereby paper is glued to a support, usually wooden panel, and then painted. It provides a different texture than canvas and gives greater support and durability to paper. I don’t know if it is French in origin, but that is where I learned it; and the name is certainly French, so it may just be so.

Thoughts on selling art work

November 26, 2011

Xanadu Gallery

I weighed in at the Xanadu Gallery blog today.

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.

Robert Mitchner – Measuring our self-worth as an artist

February 27, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My favorites are the Gorgeous Gorges.

Paint the Town Red

February 2, 2010

The storefront window of the Fort Gallery, Judy Jones glass work at the fore.

Olympic fever is upon us. To stir up the nationalistic pride, communities are celebrating with Canadian-flag red events. To quote the current publicity campaign, “the new black is red”.

I’m not sure quite how to interpret that. Perhaps it is to say that businesses are usually good when they are ” in the black” where as “in the red” means that you are not making any money; but in the new regime,  the Olympic fever and the tourism that is therefore generated, business should be making money, and it’s Canadian red that is doing it for us.
The slogan is convoluted. Nonetheless, it’s driving community events, and close to my heart, in Fort Langley, it has driven the name for Fort Langley’s publicity campaign that is in conjunction with the Olympic flame being brought through the local community’s streets.

Caught up under the umbrella of these celebrations, the Fort Gallery’s new exhibition is called “Paint the town red”. Every painting has a theme of red running through it. Every artist in the collective is submitting three to four pieces. There are some beauties.

We hung the show today and as I am now a member of the artists’ collective, I was there while we were deciding whose pieces should go where.

I was challenged to get good photographs. There was a lot of glare on the glass-framed artworks. I reflect in the glass with my camera glued to my nose. The lighting sometimes put a strong spot of light on a single part of a canvas work. Nevertheless, the paintings below will give you an idea of what is to be shown. There are about 60 pieces, so I had to do some selection; and besides, you need to come and see the show, if you are in the vicinity.

In theory, I should have been helping to hang, but it was my first time and I spent some considerable time just figuring out the dynamics of eleven or so ladies as they made suggestions, consulted, hung and de-hung, moved things from one place to another. It was all done in less than three hours. Miracle!

When it was almost done, I helped one of my new colleagues by drawing a little red line on the wall where the top of the painting should be.  I actually did it twice. I hope they aren’t concerned about my lack of participation.
It will come. It will come.

So here are some of the images that are in store for you if you should wish to see these paintings in the flesh, so as to speak.

Here’s my key entry for the show. Unfortunately, I’ve not got a good photograph of it, just this glarey one:

Poppies, late afternoon, Kristin Krimmel ,watercolor, 22×30 on Arches paper.

Terry Nurmi provided these two images:

Terry Nurmi, acrylic on canvas


Terry Nurmi, mixed media

Maggie Woycenko brought this vibrant woman and parrot that for all it’s dynamic color has an incredible stillness to it and a very thoughtful ellipsis – you have to guess at where the body ends and the background starts. I rather like these visual challenges that make an observer work to understand the image.

Woman and yellow parrot, Maggie Woycenko, oil on canvas

This woodcut, below, is all hand-rubbed rather than put through a press. One woodcut block has been used in alternate color and alternate position, repetitively in a grid to form a larger image. Woodgrain rubbings separate the variations. It’s a marvelous example how one can work with small resources (the 4 x 4 inch wood cut block and no press) and still come up with a good sized image.  I’ve shown this work complete with framing because it marries so well.

The overall image has an oriental feel to it, like Japanese fabrics, and yet

Jo-Ann Sheen, wood cut on rice paper

Claire Moore’s poster of a female ski-jumper is a protest against the Olympic committee that deemed women ski-jumpers ineligible for the games.

Denied – 2010, Claire Moore, acrylic on paper

The skiing figure is dynamic. It vaults into the picture plane, suspended, just like the skiers seem to be, compact and motionless as they fall towards the ski-run. Symbolic of anger and passion, the red signifies the sentiment the women feel over being banned from the games. There’s a great balance between large flat shapes and the textural portion at the base; and between the action of the dynamic figure and the implacable, immovable mountain. Dare I say it is a symbol of the Olympic committee on this issue?

For this show, Suzanne Northcott has brought this large painting, Woman with red stockings, a pensive, mysterious figure.

Woman with red stockings, Suzanne Northcott, oil on canvas

Betty Laughy offers this child in a white dress, seen from above:

Baby Ballerina, Betty Laughy, acrylic on board, 32 x 24 inches.

Susan Falk brings this red toned horse:

Horse on Parade, Susan Falk, oil on canvas, 30 x 48 inches

Dorthe Eisenhardt contributes her signature abstract images.

Passages 7, Dorthe Eisenhardt, acrylic on canvas 30 x 30 inches

Red figure, Kristin Krimmel, oil on board

A few artists did not turn up during the hanging process but they are expected to bring something before opening day, so there is lots to see.

The opening is on Friday, February 5th at 9048 Glover Road in Fort Langley at 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. These are usually lively affairs with a good crowd of artists and nibbles and a bit of the liquid form of the fruit of the vine.

Why don’t you come, wearing red, and join the festivities?

Michael Levin – Evidence

October 2, 2009

Michael Levin CODE 5x5

Code, Michael Levin, ultrachrome photographic print on aluminum

There’s a new exhibit at the Elliott Louis Gallery in Vancouver showing the work of Michael Levin.  It runs until October 20th.

If you like simplicity, spareness, austerity, meditation and silence, you will like this work. It’s photography, all in gray scale. There’s not the slightest bit of colour.

There is a stillness in each of the images. All of them are ultra chrome prints flush mounted onto plates of aluminum which is a beautiful contemporary way to present photos. They stand out from the stark white wall by an inch or so, thereby creating a shadow, the only framing that they have.

One might be forgiven if they found the images simple. They are, in fact simplified by his photographic process which, by long exposure, somehow eliminates the unnecessary, the transitory,  leaving a minimalist feel to all his works. But these works need time to absorb.  A work like “Code” appears to be low flat rafts covered by tarps.  There are two long ones and two shorter ones. Given the title, they seem to allude to bar coding, or perhaps refer only to the mysteriousness they create, lying separate and isolated from all other imagery on a fog-flattened sea. The horizon is just barely visible half way up the picture plane.

Of course, that begs the question. How much can be attributed to the artist’s intent and how much to the viewer’s own experience? Once an artist lets his work go, that is, exhibits it, then he becomes subject to the viewers interpretations as much as he subjects the viewer to his own visual statement, largely unexplained by words.

If you can’t get to see the show, there are a number of images to be seen at this site:

Michael Leving Biwako-1

Biwako, Michael Levin, ultrachrome photographic print on aluminum

Though the compositions are widely varied, each is a study in balance and equilibrium. Each image is selected with designed elegance to serve the vision of this young artist.

He has already won prestigious awards for his work – Fine Art Photographer of the Year both in 2007 and 2009 Prix de Photographie in Paris. He also came first in the Fine Art and Professional Fine Art categories at the International Photography Awards in New York.

The only thing I haven’t figured, from looking at this good sized exhibition, is how he links the title of the exhibition with the work.

If you are in Vancouver and have a chance to drop by the gallery which is on East 1st Avenue a block east of Main and one block north of Great Northern Way, you will also get to see some of the other emerging artists and mid-career gallery artists. – Lourdes Lara with her poetically titled imaginary landscapes; Mark Tulio with his high realism portraits and still life works; and Dimitri Papatheodorou with his minimalist abstracts done meticulously in oil on panel, to name just a few. It makes for an excellent show.

Nygren and Nurmi

August 3, 2009

Nygren Judy  flower on black small

Judy Nygren, Flower, Acrylic on canvas

All images on this post are copyright of Judy Nygren and Terry Nurmi and posted with their permission.

It was hot last night and boding not well for a good turn out at the Fort Gallery but I was determined to go there.  The advertising for the current show looked interesting and I was keen to get out of the house. With this heat, I’ve been laying low.

Everyone was quite surprised, then, to see the excellent turn-out of people braving the heat and humidity to see Judy Nygren’s and Terri Nurmi’s show.

I had an interesting chat with Judy. I liked the images, especially where her objects seem to disintegrate into the background, confounding edges, providing ambiguities to explore. Where does the object start and where does it finish?

I asked her whether or not there was a unifying idea behind the images – there were a few paintings depicting different images of the same teapot; and several pictures of fluid looking flowers. In the second exhibition room,  one painting stood out from the others as more anecdotal and perhaps imbued with more meaning.  It is a picture of a swan flying and a woman astride the bird’s back.  The woman’s foot is thrust forward and pointed, clad in a ballerina’s toe shoe.

Nygren Judy Swan and rider small

When I remarked upon the shoe, Nygren informed me that she was a dancer and hence the connection within her iconography. I suggested references to Leda and the Swan, but she had not consciously thought of that. I mentioned that it looked like the woman was flying away to freedom and looking back whence she came.

Nygren thought that this was an apt interpretation of the images, but confessed that she still hadn’t worked out what the two faces were about.

“Perhaps your old self at the back and the new self going forward? I suggested.  She didn’t know. Couldn’t say. Maybe.

Nygren spoke of  her year of personal changes, the failure of a close relationship and a year of falling apart and assuaging the catastrophic feelings with the healing act of painting.  I pointed out the apparent disintegration happening in the imagery.  She nodded, but confessed that it must have come subconsciously, since she hadn’t set out to express that. To the contrary. The act painting had lifted her out of her concerns; taken her to another more peaceful state of being.

I also noted an unravelling that occurs in many of the images. Same response. But she nodded her head in agreement – her life had felt like it was unravelling.

Nygren’s works are full of strong colour. There are several that contrast an almost khaki colour background with strong cadmium red objects.  She is working in acrylic and her facility with the medium is obvious. She can paint fine line and defined areas cleanly and clearly and conversely, she can bring subtle blendings of colour into play.

One of her themes is flowers which, for leading edge paintings is always considered something of a slippery slope, edging into the too-facile.  As one university professor reportedly said, “If you are going to do flowers, it damn well better be very different.”

On this subject, I found Nygren’s flowers visually quite interesting and engaging for their liveliness. They are formed from a build up of black line-drawings with coloured infill.  They are  rhythmic. They virtually fly through the picture plane with the meanderings of their fluid forms and shapes. Rhythm, in all of her paintings, is one of her strengths, and motion.

Some of them reminded me of a painting I saw in an exhibition that gathered works from the era moving out of realism and into abstraction. It was one of the first images that confounded borders of things, the inside and out of them. It was a bottle and it had been describe only by what wasn’t there – the air around it and the air inside of it.

It might have been Mondrian in his search for more a spiritual description of things or Georges Braque in his analytical search, beginning to develop his ideas of Cubism. I’ve forgotten the name of the artist, it was such a long time ago.

Nygen Judy Turq teapot small

Some of Nygren’s images are easy to read; others need your full attention. There are four or more images of a vessel, presumably a teapot, mostly in red, but one is described with a coloration of turquoise or cerulean blue. In one of these, the viewer is disoriented. What is the object they are viewing?

“A hookah?” my companion of the evening ask. Judy Nygren is just behind her and answers, “Someone said it looked like a vagina. She’s a midwife, so she’s seen a lot of them. No! I never thought that when I was painting it; though I can see the resemblance now. It’s the teapot. You are looking at the spout.”

nygren judy teapot 2 small

It all kicked in as she said it. It was simple. But we are not used to looking at things from a different point of view. On consideration, this was one of my favourites from this show. Everyone’s contribution to how they saw the picture made it richer for me.  After all, the painter is only one half of the art equation. If no one views it, Confusion says, does it really exist? But the viewer is not obliged to see in it what the painter put in it. More often this is the case. Each person brings their own experience to the dialogue of art.

Nygren Judy Bowl with tulips small

Nygren’s works are happy and uplifting, colourful and engaging. Before the end of the opening, several works had been purchased and that is an excellent thing to have happen.

Terri Nurmi is a very different artist. She too has had some challenging life events that have led her to create her imagery. Her artist’s statement is so beautiful that I will reprint it here.

I woke up & went to the bags that held her things … just to smell them. The wonderful aroma of her was dissipating. I wondered how many more smells I would have before she was gone.

“about face” is an exhibition that refers to change. To the shift of identity that happens to all that experience the loss of a friend or family member. This shift requires change. The two are interwoven.

The phrase “about face” is most ambiguous. For me, the work entitled, “Blueprint II” refers to my own shift of identy through the loss of my twin sister. At first, working towards this exhibit, I attempted to paint images from her things. But soon realized that previous bodies of photographic work, inadvertently referring to our relationship, were also beckoning for closure.

As I was speaking to her, Terry described her images as blueprints and the series is entitled Blueprints II of which thirteen are shown. They commemorate her twin sister in a series of images entitled with nostalgic names – Dried Roses and Boostier;  Green Negligé; Lingerie Bag;  Humming Bird and Wire Sculpture;  Pearl Button;  Klimpt;  Bleeding Heart;  Flying; Forget me not;  Houseboat;  I Hope You Dance; Wedding Ring Quilt; and Baby Stuff.

The images are imbued with deep emotion but are more conceptual in composition than Nygren’s. Where Nygren’s subconscious had flirted with the themes of disintegration, she has not intentionally set out to do so. On the contrary, Nurmi’s works quite consciously set out to explore her feelings directly. The images are composed of tokens, relics, remembrances of things she has shared intimately with her sister.

Nurmi Terry Misfortunes

Where Nygren has let loose her images and they fly exuberently, Nurmi’s seem to be  consciously gathering in, codifying, cataloguing and nostalgically preserving them in a clarity that will continue to evoke for her the loss of a loved sister. They are a still and very beautiful archive. A deeply felt testament.

These are printed works under glass. At the exhibition, I was unable to get excellent pictures of them. In particular, Blueprint I, an ambitious and meticulous work  subtitled Misfortunes, a five foot square assemblage of wood, plexiglass and 99 folded fortunes, was always being inspected by one of the visitors to the exhibition. In any case, even if no one was in front of it, the glare from the gallery lights would have made it impossible to properly photograph.  It is adventurous, not only in scale but in idea.

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Terry Nurmi Blueprint I Misfortunes, detail

Each of the folded fortunes recalls a childhood game we played where a sheet of square paper was folded into further squares creating a three dimensional form that could be manipulated with thumb and forefinger. Along with a chant about one’s future, the fortune teller would variably open and close these cones and when the chant stopped, that would be one’s true fortune. The fortunes had been filled in on the facets of paper with girl-child wish lists – happiness, names of desirable boyfriends, friendship, good luck,  and some disasters too – a scolding,  school detention. With our childhood innocence, there was nothing too ill lurking beneath the paper corners. Not like death, cancer, accident and other griefs of great harm and destruction.

In Blueprints II there are fourteen works shown. Most are about eight inches square and all a somewhat gloomy blue colour of the cyanotype.  Yet, there is a bittersweet beauty, a lost beauty, for Nurmi.  Shared femininity is at the core of it and intimacy of twin sisters – lingerie, maquillage, love tokens from evenings out, and  articles of cherished clothing.

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Terry Nurmi, Blueprint II Green Neglige

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Terry Nurmi Blueprint II Bleeding Heart

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Terry Nurmi, Blueprint II Humming bird and wire structure

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Terry Nurmi, Blueprint II Flying

One last note on Nurmi’s imagery:

In each one of Nurmi’s images exhibited, the composition is unique to the piece. The subject matter is different in each piece. There is little repetition here. This speaks of a very fertile mind, visually. It is to be honoured and celebrated. This is an amazing body of work.

My photos lack the characteristic blue colour of the cyanotype; I’ve adjusted them as best as I could from memory. Some have glare on them from the glass, as well, but they are sufficient, I hope, to nudge you down to the Fort Gallery to see them.  It’s a very engaging exhibition.

By the way, I looked for their web presence and the Fort Gallery is the only place for either of them. Here’s the web address.

Lucy Adams

June 20, 2009

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Reflections on Lucy Adams’ work at the Fort Gallery

I was over at the Fort Gallery on Tuesday. Once again, your intrepid art sleuth did not check times and found herself in front of a closed gallery. I did, however drop in at the Birth of B.C. Art Gallery and there is an interesting watercolour show on there.  It’s all representational, and some of it is hyper-realism, if you like that kind of art. There are lots of flowers, landscapes, seascapes and a few animal paintings.

I had lunch with the woman who manages Gallery Direct – blog that I show my art work on, especially my watercolours.

Being hard headed, I returned to the Fort Gallery afterwards. I don’t know if I thought I would find a stray artist in there who would let me into the Lucy Adams show or not, but there wasn’t. There are long banners showing this month. They appear to be done on canvas and hung from rods. I’d say they were about 8 feet long.

It’s a very appropriate show for summer. Each banner has a specific garden flower painted on it, cascading down the length of the canvas. It’s a bright and happy exhibition, a little unusual in the display and therefore more interactive than paintings hung flat on the wall.

Framing is always a major issue for artists. To frame or not to frame. The problem being, most artist as struggling to pay for materials. Framing for an exhibition can easily be over $2000 unless the artist is in some way creative in the framing department. Hanging these as she has, she has found a more economical means to display, and it’s very effective, even startling, which is a good thing when you want people to engage with your art work.

I took photos through the window and with all the reflections on the glass, I got these photos which I found very interesting as photos. The reflections obscure the actual paintings too much for you to tell. But I loved the photos and how they cut up the colours and allowed the flowers to peek through sometimes and then not.

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I’m hoping to get in touch with Lucy to see if she has some photos of her work to add to this blog. Until then, you’ll have to do with my reflections.

Pig Heaven – Diana Durrand and Jo-Ann Sheen

May 26, 2009

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Where are the Pigs, Where are they? Diana Durrand Acrylic on Canvas detail

I was unable to attend the opening, so I marked the first day back from New Mexico on my calendar as a day to go to the Fort Gallery to see the Durrand and Sheen show. I was tempted by the happy pig faces by Durrand, grinning out at me from the invitational poster and the accompanying moody etching by Jo-Ann Sheen.  It took me longer to get there – I was not prepared for the various duties that awaited my return that ended up making me wait a day or two – but I got there on Friday afternoon after a hour-long wait at the Albion Ferry to Fort Langley. Thank goodness, the day was bright, warm and sunny.

Diana Durrand has worked on a theme of pigs triggered by her interest in the Hearts on Noses charity (based in Maple Ridge, B.C.) that rescues and rehabilitates  abandoned, unwanted,  orphaned, injured, abused or neglected mini-pigs.

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Where are the Pigs, Where are they? Diana Durrand Acrylic on Canvas

From a distance, the nine happy pig faces looking out from the centre block of the largish square painting are the same ones I had seen on the invitation. They appeared to be surrounded by wallpaper of some sort, but on closer inspection, the wallpaper effect is made up of many, many pig bodies – the signature, side-on view – in Chagall-like detachment from any reference to the ground. They are upside down, down-side up, and many positions in between, floating on the canvas at all angles, really.  The brush strokes are direct; the layers of colour are subtle and rich.  Durrand is a painter’s painter. Yes, the imagery is quietly funny; the compositions are inventive; but for a painter, it’s the application of paint to canvas – the mark-making, the freshness that makes these paintings luscious, and dare I say, with this porky subject matter, tasty!

Pigs are considered one of the most intelligent of animal species – very close in brain matter to humans. Durrand mentions the contrast between the pigs she has met at the Hearts on Noses pig refuge, happy, able to roam, free within the confines of the property; and she compares them to factory-style pig farming where these intelligent animals never see the outdoors, cooped up in miniscule spaces while they fatten up for market.

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The second large painting of note, Listening, illustrates three pigs with black background and stripes like zebra stripes contouring their shapes. The pigs seem to be enclosed behind bars, like in a cage or in a transport truck going to slaughter. The pigs listen intently to what is going on about them, ears perked and eyes alert.

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Matisse Revisited, Diana Durrand, Acrylic on Canvas 12 x 16

The third large painting is another with a central rectangular canvas with a van Gogh-like picture of sunflowers.This is framed by a number of ochre canvas panels to complete a larger rectangle, then the total is framed by a simple  wooden frame. At first sight, it’s a copy of van Gogh’s work, but on careful consideration, the pig shape emerges, hidden amongst the pots and sunflowers. It’s a visual joke.

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Klee Revisited, Diana Durrand, Acrylic on Canvas 12 x 16

Which came first, the van Gogh or the Kandinsky, the Matisse, the Klee  or the Mondrian, is a moot point. Durrand uses the same pig form, a profile of the body shape, in each of several paintings where the apparent image from a distance, is a copy of one of these master’s paintings, but the pig emerges, is always underlying it.

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Joe The Butcher retired and took up gardening; Diana Durrand,  Mixed Media 10 x 16 inches

The third theme on our porcine subject is entitled Joe the Butcher retired and took up gardening. These images are mixed media, partly pastel, partly collage. The recurring pig-shaped profile now is the subject for infill with various flowers in colour harmony. The collage pieces are cut much like a diagram of a butcher’s diagram and in doing so, the patterned pig seems to be slightly more voluminous than  a simply flat shape.

I came away from these images with a smile. I liked the whimsical ideas, the historical references  and I admired the meticulous craftmanship.

On the opposite wall, there were five long panels of wood “cradles” which is a popular new support for painting. Topping each of the fifty two inch panels, separated by an inch or so,  are five smaller panels, the same width but eleven inches by sixteen. On each small panel, there is a charcoal drawing of a head. On the five long panels, there is a drawing mid-panel of hands expressing a particular mood.

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Jo-Ann Sheen,  five wooden panels with charcoal drawings.

These works are filled with stillness, like five  nuns standing in a medieval austerity, although the faces are expressive and lively. Sheen is exploring the perceptions of identity, mirroring the soul of her subjects through their hand gestures and facial expressions.  Body language is not explored – the bodies that the heads and hands belong to are not there.

The remainder of Sheen’s works are complex psychological portraits (heads only) created through a layered process of etching, monotype printing and chine colle, a process of gluing very fine paper onto the etched paper whilst running the etching through the press.  This method produces beautiful surface qualities.

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Etching with chine collé by Jo-ann Sheen

The show ended on Saturday. A new one will be up on Wednesday, with the opening event for Betty Laughy happening on Friday the 27th of May. See you there!

BTW I looked up both Sheen and Durrand on the ‘Net to see what kind of web presence was available and to explore a larger body of their works. I only found one for Durrand, and I think you may enjoy it very much. This it it:

Note: Hearts on Noses is a Mini-pig Sanctuary, a non-profit organization in Maple Ridge, B.C.  that rescues, rehabilitates and cares for unwanted, injured, orphaned, abused, neglected and abandoned mini-pigs. Web address?

Linda Levett

April 4, 2009

I was in Vancouver in March to see an exhibition of Linda Levett’s work . Even though the show is over, I thought you might like to see these images.

At the time I started this post, I had several other things going on, so I never finished the commentary and the unfortunate thing is that I don’t know the titles to these works.  Nevertheless, they are worth seeing

There are so many shows with landscape as theme that one has to be quite special to shine in this department I found Linda’s quite lovely and fresh. Each painting is quite different from the next in composition and colour which makes me realize that she is carefully observant and capable of translating her observations into specifics of colour and form.

Here are a few of Levett’s works:


I like this image because of the moodiness created by the dark horizon which is contrasted by the warm light of late day sunshine. The painting glows. The park bench gives an element of mystery, almost as if the viewer is coming up to his or her destination of a well earned rest.


Snow landscapes can so often fail with a poor choice of shadow color. This painting has just the right tone to capture the effect of winter light and dark.  It has a warm glow despite all that iciness and once again, we have that park bench waiting for an occupant. The small tree in mid-plane of the picture serves well to establish a good sense of distance.

From an artist’s point of view, this is not an easy image to paint and maintain credibility. The tangle of branches are specific enough to ensure that the eye has lots of interesting shapes to keep the eye circulating back and through the image.


This water-side tangle of  a winter forest has all the loose painterliness of the Group of Seven style.  Colours are rich and varied, helping to convey the warmth and beauty of a sunny winter day. At approximately 9 x 12 inches , this little traditional painting was my favourite


I’m getting repetitive on my adjectives, so will leave you to draw the same conclusions on this piece. Just note here, though, the difference in colour of the shadows from the lacy, snowy branches in the one above. It just confirms that this painter is really doing a very good job of observing her subject matter.


In this show, Linda Levett’s work had two themes. One, the landscapes that I commentated on, above, and the second theme centred around a  visit to Venice. These three images are separate paintings,  elongated tall images, showing the reflections in water. The colours are just lovely and the very fluid, almost abstract forms have a beautiful, credible liquidity. Perspective is established only through the use of colour and the size of the reflection shapes. It’s quite cleverly done really and yet remains so fresh and simple looking. Just like Olympian skaters!

You can find Levett’s work at