Sunday, January 26, 2020

Imagine Van Gogh @ Arsenal

This immersive experience of image and music is currently staged in the cavernous space of Arsenal, an art venue in southwestern Montreal. It has been getting rave reviews, and continues until March 1, 2020.

Originally designed to be projected in the old bauxite quarries of Les Baux-de-Provence, it is now a "must-see" for winter-weary Montrealers.

More than 200 of Van Gogh's paintings and drawings are thematically presented, sometimes in extreme close-up, allowing viewers to appreciate the energy of the artist's brushwork.

The accompanying sound track is replete with well-chosen musical selections from Saint-Saëns, Satie, Prokofiev, and others.

The film portion of the exhibit runs about 30 minutes, but visitors should plan on spending some additional time reading the bilingual explanatory panels about Van Gogh's life.

Even the floor serves as a screen for ever-changing imagery.

For more information, visit the Arsenal website.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Why the Art World is Embracing Craft: Artsy

Thank you to Michele for bringing this recent Artsy post to my attention. Readers should be able to access it here.

The author, Glenn Adamson, celebrates a renewed interest in craft as art, evidenced by several major museum shows and by rising sale prices for craft-based art.

Anni Albers, Black White Yellow, 1926
included in her retrospective show at Tate Modern, 2018-19

He proposes that bringing craft "into the circle" is a way of ensuring the inclusion of women and non-Western artists.
"Craft is also a rich tapestry of ethnic diversity, having been practiced expertly by people of all nations and regions for millennia. You can make a strong case that the long-standing marginalization of the crafts—and the self-evidently crazy idea that painting isn’t one—was just the art world’s way of practicing sexism and racism, barely disguised as a policing of disciplines rather than people."

an installation photo from "Taking a Thread for a Walk",
a show organized for the re-opening of MOMA, and continuing until April 19, 2020

He also suggests that the embrace of handwork reflects our hunger for "materiality" in an increasingly virtual world.
"At a time when our collective attention is dangerously adrift, trapped in the freefall of our social-media feeds and snared in a pit of fake facts, handwork provides a firm anchor. It cannot be spun. It gives us something to believe in."
I expect to visit the MOMA show before it closes, and will share the experience by posting here.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Three-artist show at Victoria Hall

I am delighted to be part of a three-artist show at Westmount's Victoria Hall. Curated by Victoria Leblanc, the exhibition includes the whimsical ceramic sculptures of John Fretz and the digital photo prints of Mana Hamami, with their architectural themes.

John Fretz, Felicity, stoneware, glazes

Mana Hamami, The Mathematician, ink jet on acrylic

The contrast between Fretz's highly tactile sculptures, Hamami's glossy, slick photos, and my textural works in fibre makes for an interesting show. Many of my pieces are in a square format, as are all twelve of Hamami's photos, and this helps the show hang together nicely.

I was pleased to show a mix of fibre and paintings.

It is remarkable how seeing my work in a good venue, with great lighting, gives me an opportunity to re-evaluate a piece or a series in a positive way. My series in hand-dyed linen, for example, was not particularly well-received originally, but I was encouraged by the reception it was given at this show.

A piece in hand-dyed linen, seen on left, is hung on the wall furthest from the
entrance, and its stark brightness helps to draw in visitors.

It was busy at the vernissage.

Below is the text that the curator prepared for my profile:

Heather Dubreuil presents both semi-realistic and abstract textile art.  In Cityscapes the artist transforms her own photographs of  everyday urban scenes into elegant compositions of shape, line and expressive colour. Her most recent series features hand-dyed linen works pieced together and delicately detailed with corded threads, machine stitching and hand embroidery. Their square format and size – 24 x 24 inches - result in poised colour fields reminiscent of the pioneering masters of minimalist abstraction.  Dubreuil’s works, however, carry the feel of textile; their textural surface, warm colour palette and hand embroidery lending them a sensuous, haptic appeal.  Best known for her work in cloth and stitch, Heather also explores abstract imagery with acrylic paint and collage, some of which are included in the exhibition. Dubreuil received a BFA from Concordia University. She has shown in many solo and group exhibitions and her works appear in collections in Canada, the U.S. and Europe. She has also been profiled in several books and magazines.
The show continues until February 16, 2020. A drop-in event with the artists is scheduled for Tuesday, January 21, 2 - 3 p.m., at Victoria Hall, 4646 Sherbrooke St. West, Westmount.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Event at the Leonard Cohen gallery show

In my post of November 17, 2019, I shared some images, descriptions and inspirations of work included in our group show, Tribute to Leonard Cohen, at the Musée Régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges.

Two months later, at 2 pm on Sunday, January 19, the artist-participants of the exhibition will be at the gallery to talk about their work.

Presentations will be in French and English. The show closes on January 22.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

My upcoming show

The curator of our exhibition, Victoria LeBlanc, will meet with the three artists on January 13 to hang the show. I will bring along paintings as well as works in cloth, and the curator will choose from them and place them to their best advantage. Her goal is to make each artist shine!

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons

The Westmount Public Library is always obliging about acquiring books I request. Most recently, I suggested they buy "Canada and Impressionism: New Horizons, 1880-1930", the book that accompanies an exhibition of the same name, currently on tour in Europe. This same show will open at Ottawa's National Gallery in the fall of 2020. You can read more about the show on the Gallery's website.

The first of ten essays in the book is the Prologue, written by ex-Montrealer Adam Gopnik. I am a huge fan of Gopnik, who often writes in the New Yorker and occasionally speaks in Montreal.

Here are a few snippets from his insightful essay, titled "Canada and World Impressionism".
 "As modern art becomes for us less a train racing forward than a many-sided landscape to be explored at leisure, and for pleasure, progress becomes a less certain term." 
"Impressionism is a misnamed French movement from the 1860s to the 1880s. Actualisme might have been closer to its true spirit, which was not to record a quick impression of a scene or place but to give permanent form to the ambivalent pleasures of modern life, and in a style shorn of rhetoric and the painstaking pomposity of official art. It was an art about light and life, and how each illuminates the other."
"Light and life, light as it falls and life as it is. Though truth to local colour is no longer the whole of art, it always will be the heart of painting. Any art that chooses light and life as its object and subject, whatever flag it flies, will shine. The best kind is light on life in a winter house on a snowy city evening, drawing us home, even as we stand outside to look a moment longer."

Maurice Cullen, Winter Night, Craig Street, Montreal, 1899

Sunday, January 5, 2020

New exhibition at the MMFA

Another crowd-pleasing show is scheduled for this spring and summer at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. "Paris in the Days of Post-Impressionism: Signac and the Indépendants" will run from March 28 until September 17, 2020.

Paul Signac, Juan les Pins. The Evening, 1914

The museum's website reads,
"Discover a magnificent body of 500 paintings and graphic works from an exceptional private collection to be exhibited in its entirety for the first time – the largest collection of works by Paul Signac, but also of avant-garde: Impressionists (Monet and Morisot), Fauves (Dufy, Friesz and Marquet), Symbolists (Gauguin, Mucha and Redon), Nabis (Bonnard, Denis, Lacombe, Sérusier, Ranson and Vallotton), Neo-Impressionists (Cross, Guillaumin, Luce, Pissarro, Seurat and Van Rysselberghe) and observers of life in Paris (Anquetin, Degas, Lautrec, Picasso and Steinlen).
For more information, visit

Friday, December 27, 2019

Craft in America: Quilts on PBS

Ken Burns, familiar to so many for his documentary films on American life, is a collector and aficionado of quilts. He appears in this film to share his enthusiasm for the medium, airing tonight on PBS.

For more information, go to the website:

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Holiday Greetings

this year's Christmas postcard

This has been an especially busy month for me. I've been preoccupied with helping a senior family member move into a new home. Perhaps in another month or so I will be back on track.

Meanwhile, here is an example of the several dozen cloth postcards I have made, all slightly different. Scraps of brightly printed fabric were fused onto muslin, then backed with batting, more muslin, and stitched. Finally, they were faced with heavy paper, and secured with stitching all around the outer edge.

What I love about these fabric postcards, and I've been making them for more than ten years now, is that they go through the mail without an envelope, just a stamp. I'm sure they bring a smile along the route, and I know they are valued in their new homes.

I have also matted and framed a dozen of these "patchwork hearts" for sale at the local gallery.

May your holidays too be filled with all the warmth of the season. And thank you for your interest and support throughout the year.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

"Art and Rivalry", by Carol Bishop-Gwyn

This newly-published book, "Art and Rivalry", is subtitled "The Marriage of Mary and Christopher Pratt". These names will be familiar to many Canadians, as both are iconic Canadian artists.

Mary Pratt (1935-2018) and Christopher Pratt (b. 1935) married young, in 1957, having met in art school. Together they raised four children. This book examines the challenges typically faced by women of the era, who were expected to put aside their professional ambitions so as to better support their husband's career and manage the household. Mary continued to make art even while her children were young, and in later years her career can be seen as eclipsing that of her husband.

Night on the Veranda, Christopher Pratt
silkscreen, 1986

Christmas Eve at 12 o'clock, Christopher Pratt
silkscreen, 1995
Both are important figures in the Atlantic Canada art world, producing prolifically as well as serving on many committees and councils.  Mary held a seat on the Canada Council for six years, and served as a regent for Mount Alison University for eight. She played an important role in the establishment of The Rooms, Newfoundland's premiere art gallery. Christopher accepted the role of curator of the then newly-opened Memorial University Art Gallery, and sat on the board of the Canada Council for the Arts from 1975-1981. For a time, he also taught at Memorial University.

Asarco Abstract #1, Christopher Pratt
oil on board, 2019

Bishop-Gwyn's unauthorized biography is thoroughly researched and rich with detail. Much of her book deals with the complications of married life. Christopher, for example, entered into an affair with one of his young models. When he gave Mary some of his discarded slides featuring the model, she used them to inspire her own portraits of the young woman. The general opinion was that Mary's paintings of the young woman were superior, more full of life and emotion than Chrisopher's studies of the same subject. In many respects the two artists were rivals as well as intimate partners.

Eggs in Egg Crate, Mary Pratt
oil, 1973

Some critics of Mary Pratt's work have found her subject matter mundane and commonplace. Others revel in her celebration of the everyday. Often her subjects suggest "containment", and it is interesting to survey her many paintings with this theme in mind.

Jelly Shelf, Mary Pratt
oil, 1999

Cold Dream, Mary Pratt
oil, 1983
As a young man, Pratt worked summers as a surveyor, and this no doubt contributed to his artistic vision. He favours a flat, full-frontal approach, like that of filmmaker Wes Anderson. Critics of Christopher Pratt's work regret that he so often directed his energies to the medium of silkscreen instead of his oil painting, but it could be that the affordability of his limited edition prints helped to popularize his paintings and raise their value. He continues to sell his prints and paintings through the Mira Godard Gallery.

Carol Bishop-Gwyn has written a fascinating book from a feminist perspective, documenting the personal and professional lives of two important Canadian artists.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Tribute to Leonard Cohen: opening

Last week was the vernissage of my most recent show, a collaborative celebration of the life, music and poetry of Leonard Cohen. Most of the twelve participating artists were there, and the many visitors took advantage of this opportunity to talk to the artists about their work.

Portrait of Cohen, Eric Mannella

Visitors are greeted by this haunting portrait of Cohen. In the words of the artist,
"This painting explores the idea of light revealing form, using a baroque model of lighting where the light source is a single beam. Emphasis is placed on a veristic likeness of the poet while conveying an introspective portrait of a deep thinker."

When Paper Becomes Poetry, Joanne Keilo

At the entrance to the show, these three large works by Joanne Keilo make a strong impression on the viewer. Made of dried paper pulp, they reference script with their calligraphic shapes. The choice to forego glass in the mounting left the works vulnerable and fragile, in keeping with Cohen's aesthetic of celebrating human imperfection and frailty. Keilo wrote:
"Cohen laments. Rather than bypass the glory and the pain, he permits himself to sink into it. He emerges through his poetry, through his songs, through his prose. In 'Beautiful Losers' Cohen writes 'How can I begin anything new with all of yesterday in me?'
"In my series 'When Paper Becomes Poetry' I beat the fibres for over eight hours in a Hollander beater. The overbeaten pulp is then placed in a squeeze bottle. Songs sung to me as an infant and as a child are formed from the pulp in the bottle and are written and re-written in spiral form. The lullabies and songs are finally transformed by the drying process when the pulp ultimately shrinks and undulates as it wishes, much like memories. This series confronts and transforms the subtle body of the baby's experience from paper into a kind of visual poetry." 

Also by Joanne Keilo were these five works
from her Close to the Bone series,
comprised of large "leaf skeletons" incorporated
into paper pulp. Detail shown below.

Imperfect Vessel, Mona Turner
36 x 24

Writes Mona Turner, about her painting, above,
"Cohen's words, 'There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in' remind me of the Japanese art of Kintsugi, repairing cracks in pottery with gold. This art form celebrates a beauty that is imperfect, and impermanent. The crack, the imperfection, becomes the source of new ideas, of growth and change."

Diaspora, Heather Dubreuil
acrylic collage and paint, 20 x 20

My contribution to the original Leonard Cohen exhibition at the Rigaud Library is shown above. The theme of this first exhibition was the fragment of Cohen's lyric, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." Diaspora relates Cohen's words to the issue of mass migration and the global crises of refugees.

From the series First, we take Manhattan, Heather Dubreuil

For this current show, I contributed six "radical collages" from my recent series, originally titled City in Ruins. These dystopian cityscapes were made on 10 x 10 wood panels with layer upon layer of collage and paint, each layer altered by sanding to "deconstruct" the image.

I have tried in my way to be free, Heather Dubreuil
hand-dyed linen, cording and stitch, 24 x 24

This final photo, above, shows another of my contributions to the exhibition. It was meant to represent the tension between our needs for autonomy and for belonging. Its title is borrowed from the lyrics of Cohen's song Like a Bird on the Wire.

On a recent weekday visit to the show, I was delighted to see a class of schoolchildren, seated at tables in the gallery, engaged in their own visual interpretations of Cohen's words. The show Inspiré par Leonard Cohen at the Musée régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges will continue until January 22, 2020. 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Art auction at Heffel

Two auctions are scheduled later this month at the Toronto branch of Heffel, the fine art auction house: one of post-war and contemporary art and another of Canadian, impressionist and modern art.

The works that will be up for bidding have been previewed in Calgary, Vancouver, and Montreal, and I was lucky enough to spend some time at the Montreal preview this weekend. (The preview continues today, 11 am - 6 pm.)

The Heffel building, located on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal's Golden Square Mile, has some beautiful features, including an impressive hand-carved interior staircase, ornate ceiling mouldings, and stained glass windows.

The star attraction of the event is Femme au Chapeau, by Pablo Picasso. It is expected to sell for $8 - $10 million Canadian. Its subject is Dora Maar, and it is said that her portrayal here embodies the conflict and angst of the artist while living in Paris during the German occupation.

Femme au Chapeau, Pablo Picasso, 1941
oil on canvas, 24 x 14 7/8 in

Four works by the Canadian painter Jean-Paul Riopelle will be offered for sale at the auction. The most impressive of these, shown below, is expected to sell for about $1 million Canadian.

Untitled, Jean-Paul Riopelle, 1955
oil on canvas, 24 3/4 x 80 3/4"

Heffel has provided much background information about the various works on its website, as well as in several small printed catalogs. The website offers visitors the chance to zoom in on the details of each painting. Here is a description of Riopelle's technique, as described by a contemporary:
"I will never forget this scene. First, he did not paint with a brush but rather with what looked like a putty knife. Second, judging by the hundreds of empty tubes that lay at his feet, he was using a phenomenal quantity of paint. He did not unscrew his tubes. He decapitated them in one move with his knife without ever using the cap. Red, blue, or green: the colours appeared suddenly at the tip of his fingers. Because that is how he was doing it: he held all the tubes (say three or four or as many as his hand could hold) in his fist and then either poured them directly on the canvas or managed to have one colour mixing with the next by pressing the tubes in a certain way." 

Karlukwees, BC, Walter Joseph Phillips, 1929
woodcut on paper, 10 1/2 x 12 1/2"

Other Canadian artists to be featured in the sale include Emily Carr,  A.J. Casson, Alexander Colville, Marc-Aurèle Fortin, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, William Kurelek, Jean-Paul Lemieux, Arthur Lismer, David Milne, James Wilson Morrice, Robert Wakeham Pilot and Christopher Pratt.

La Seigneurie / Le manoir, Jean Paul Lemieux, 1973
oil on canvas, 16 3/4 x 26 3/4"

The preview is a rare opportunity to see so much high-quality work mounted in just a few small rooms. I look forward to reading a report on the auction, taking place November 20, 2019. The event will also be live-streamed.

Several more days of preview are scheduled at the Design Exchange, 234 Bay Street, Toronto, November 15 - 20. For details, go to the auction website.

Morning on the Inlet, A.J. Casson, 1959
oil on board, 24 x 45"