Wednesday, March 22, 2017

FIFA - 35th edition

Will you be in Montreal at the end of this month? You might find the Festival International du Film sur l'Art of interest. Running from March 23 to April 2, FIFA's 35th edition will screen films about visual art, music, dance, literature, architecture and design, photography and counter-culture.

Venues include Concordia University and UQAM, the Grande Bibliothèque, the Museum of Fine Art, the Canadian Centre for Architecture and others.

Over 900 international films were submitted to the jury, and about 170 were selected. Most of the films are in French, but many are in English, or have English subtitles.

One of the films that interests me is Beauty and Ruin, a Canadian film about the economic collapse of Detroit, and the fight over "de-accessioning" (selling off) some of its many art treasures to raise money for the city. Screening March 25 at Concordia.
"Detroit, a once prosperous city, is going bankrupt and the appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, is plundering the city’s assets in search of cash to pay off Detroit’s creditors. One of the most valuable assets in the city is the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA), which houses one of the country’s richest collections, including masterpieces by Van Gogh, Titian and Brueghel. Canadian director Marc de Guerre chronicles the story of the bankruptcy and the fight over the artwork as Detroit goes into receivership. What will be the consequences? How will this affect its citizens, its art, culture and health care? This documentary artfully explores the story of the once powerful American city now on the verge of financial ruin."


Another screening of interest is the French series Les Aventuriers de l'Art Moderne. These six films (in French) describe the development of modern art in France, and were originally made as an award-winning TV series.
"Adapted from Dan Franck's literary trilogy Bohemian Paris, Libertad!, Midnight - The documentary series made up of six episodes plunges us into Parisian life in the beginning of the twentieth century, a hotbed of artistic creation with the blossoming of Fauvism, Cubism, Dadaism, and surrealism. Through illustrations, animation and original archives, the film will trace the highs and lows, scandals and celebrations, tragedies and the triumphs that shaped the phenomenal period of Modern Art from the basement of the "Bateau-lavoir" in 1900 to the last shudders of World War II. The main characters are called Picasso, Max Jacob, Stein, Apollinaire, Hemingway, Matisse, Cocteau, Kiki - artists, art dealers, muses who came to France from all over Europe and left an indelible mark on the 20th century. These glorious subversives were adventurers before becoming heroes."

A download of the program is available on the website.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Five years of blogging!

Wow! Last week marked the fifth anniversary of this blog. It has been rewarding to have conversations with my readers, often in person. Writing these posts helps to clarify my thinking, set goals, and share news of resources and art events, near and far.  And, of course, to share my own work and inspiration.

Almost without fail, I have been in the habit of posting twice a week. (This is post # 539. Can you believe it?) I may cut back on that a bit to allow more time for, um, making art.

Meanwhile, thank you for reading. And here is a little treat that will, I hope, brighten the day of any art-lover. Thank you, Jane, for passing this on.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

There is a crack in everything....

It has been almost four weeks since I posted here. Among other things, I have been working on my entry to a group show, the theme for which is the Leonard Cohen lyric for Anthem:

"Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in."

When the group met a few days ago, it was clear that everyone had their own take on the meaning of the song. I have chosen to make a mixed media painting that references the international refugee crisis, an issue that is re-shaping the political dynamic all over the world.

The refugees have been forced from their homes and undertaken arduous journeys in the hope of finding safe harbour in an alien land. Will our door be opened to them? Will we build walls to keep them out?  Do we want to live in a society that welcomes newcomers? What is our responsibility to them?

Here are some photos to show the process I used to create this piece. I began with a 20" x 20" birch panel, and covered it with black gesso, front and sides.

I dug into my collection of antique papers. Over the years I have gathered lots of collage material: paper napkins, printed tissue, pages from old books and magazines, etc.

Soon I had covered the front and sides of the panel with text and images, glued on with matte gel medium. I had to be careful to eliminate bubbles and wrinkles, and to get a smooth finish at the edges and corners. Once the papers were dry, I used an x-acto knife to slice off the extra bits.

Next, I clipped some relevant headlines from the daily newspaper, and arranged them randomly, fixing them with more acrylic medium. Then I applied a dilute coat of matte medium to the entire surface. This served to protect the newsprint collage, because I knew I was going to be applying paint and also lifting paint off, calibrating the lights and darks. That extra coat of medium gave me more flexibility to adjust the paint coverage without damaging the underlayer of collage.

I used a small brayer to add patchy glazes of Yellow Ochre, Payne's Gray and Raw Umber, lightened with Titanium White. The paint was mixed with Glazing Medium to create some transparency. This formed the background, partially obscuring the text. I intended that the drawing of the eye would be the focal point, and kept it lighter than the other areas. I used stencils and stamps to add texture and interest in a cruciform shape, radiating out from the eye.

Darker paint was added to enhance the cruciform shape, further obscuring the printed background. Lighter textures reinforced the lighter "spokes" of the cruciform.

At this point the headlines were barely visible. I went back in with some alcohol and lifted some of the paint off them.

The lightened strips of headlines were now too prominent, and they were fighting with the "eye" for attention. So it was time to knock them back, by adding more transparent layers of dark paint. At the same time, more textural detail in Naples Yellow and Gold emphasized the cruciform structure.

Finally, a balance was achieved between the legibility and obscurity of the headlines. The eye is dominant and the lights and darks support the structure of the composition. And, up close, some of the headlines are legible.

Some detail shots are below:

I may make further adjustments to the piece before putting on a final coat of matte medium, which will serve to protect the surface. 

The group will be getting together in April to give progress reports and to talk about possible venues for our show.  I look forward to listening as each artist talks about their process. It will be exciting to see the range of technique and the various responses to the theme.