Sunday, March 29, 2015

Connectivity: Port Clyde

Connectivity: Port Clyde, 8 x 6

I've used this image before, from my photo taken in Port Clyde, Maine.

Measuring 8" x 6", this piece was made for the Spotlight Benefit Auction, an event at SAQA's conference this spring in Portland, Oregon.

The tricky thing about the framing of this image is that the composition has to work in the 8 x 6 format, and also matted, with an opening of 6.5 x 4.5. A little extra planning was needed.

Connectivity: Port Clyde,
cropped to 6.5 x 4.5

The palette is inspired by the colours of a brilliant dawn. Again, I was influenced by the posters I saw at the Andy Warhol exhibition, held recently at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art. See below for an example, an electrifying collaboration by Warhol and Keith Haring.

poster, Andy Warhol and Keith Haring

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Anna Torma @ Espace Robert Poulin

Party with Dionysus, Anna Torma, 2011

On a recent tour of the galleries in Montreal's Belgo Building, I came upon the work of Anna Torma at Espace Robert Poulin, on display until April 18, 2015.

I always find it exciting to see needlework exhibited in art galleries, and this particular show was perhaps the highlight of the tour. Torma's work is being shown with that of her son, Balint Zsako.

Metamorphosis, Anna Torma, 2008 (diptych)

Anna Torma was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts in 2012. She received the Lieutenant-General's Award for High Achievement in Visual Arts in 2014. Currently a resident of New Brunswick, her work draws on the embroidery traditions of her native Hungary.

detail, Metamorphosis, Anna Torma 2008

detail, Metamorphosis, Anna Torma, 2008

These detail shots might allow you to appreciate the many techniques Torma incorporates into her work: crewel-type embroidery, rustic stitching, silkscreened images, painting, and the use of "found" textiles among them. Torma describes her medium as "technique mixte sur tissu".

The overall impression is one of exuberant abundance, with a suggestion of narrative and fantasy. Because of my own tendencies to minimalism, I sometimes find this aesthetic a bit schizophrenic, bordering on madness, but I am working hard on overcoming my own limitations in this regard!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A visit to a corporate art collection

For the second session of the Séminarts program in which I have enrolled, we were taken to visit the prestigious Montreal law firm of Fasken Martineau.

The company occupies eight floors of the Tour de la Bourse building on Victoria Square. Most of our tour happened on the 37th floor, designed as "clientele space", and offering the larger walls and more open spaces that show off larger works to their best advantage.

One of the best aspects of the tour, held in the evening, was seeing the city spread out at our feet in all directions.

The group met in the boardroom, where we were welcomed by Maurice Forget, a partner in the firm who has directed its corporate art collection for some 33 years. Forget is a major player on Montreal's art scene and a Member of the Order of Canada. He has donated 400 pieces of his contemporary art to the museum in Joliette.

M. Forget began by outlining the benefits of having a contemporary art collection: to provide an attractive premises for clients and a stimulating environment for employees, and to enhance the company's image as being "forward-moving".

Investment is not a motivator, as none of the purchases have been sold, so no profit has been realized.

A budget of $25,000 or less has been set aside every year for about 33 years, and this has allowed for a steady acquisition of almost 500 works.

Ninety percent of the art acquired is Canadian, and of that, 80% is from Quebec. Twenty percent is by women artists.

7 jours dans la ville, Thomas Corriveau

Forget, who has free rein over the collection, chooses most of the art from galleries, but frequents student shows, charity sales and non-profit fundraisers as well.

Nudes and controversial imagery are avoided.

None of the work belonging to the corporation hangs in private offices, and this is an incentive for the lawyers to buy their own work.

Forget is a big fan of works on paper, and smaller works, but those pieces are displayed in the more intimate spaces of the "working floors", where they can be better appreciated.

Terre Crue, 1 & 2, Claude Tousignant

One of the more unusual stories of acquisition relates to this diptych by Claude Tousignant, one of Quebec's best known contemporary artists.

When Tousignant had a fire in his studio, he required legal services and used his paintings as payment. What was originally valued at $10,000 is now worth $125,000.

Forget is pleased with the ways Fasken Martineau's profile has been enhanced by its involvement in the arts. Besides doing pro bono work for art groups, the firm sponsors exhibitions at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (like the current Orientalism show), and supports artists by buying their work.

Ligne d'horizon, Eugenie Schinkle

A successor to Forget is being groomed to take on the curatorship of the collection in the future. Yusef, a young lawyer, is also the publisher of a Montreal quarterly art magazine, Artelo.

The law firm plans to move to another location in a few years, and architectural plans will have to accommodate the large collection.

An initiative is underway to put the entire collection on-line, once releases have been obtained from all the artists and their estates.

detail, Ligne d'horizon, Eugenie Schinkle,
Ektachrome colour proofs on wood

Says Forget:

"When I started collecting, the distinction between abstract and figurative works was all people talked about. Today, this distinction no longer really applies, as many painters of today are figurative and there are fewer abstract painters....

"There is new interest in landscapes. Now everyone is buying photographs. No one was interested in public arts. Now they are all over the place."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Susanne Strater @ Galerie de la Ville, Dollard


This season's local must-see is the exhibition, "In and Around Home" by Beaconsfield artist Susanne Strater, whose 37 pastels are on display at the Dollard Civic Centre's Galerie de la Ville, 12001 de Salaberry in DDO.


Many of Strater's landscapes evoke familiar scenes of the West Island and Montreal. I love her strong sense of composition and expressive use of colour. This is a show that will be enjoyed by all, even those friends and family who don't often frequent art galleries.

Shadow Play

The show opens today, March 21, and runs until April 19. The vernissage is Sunday, March 22 from 1 to 3 p.m., and a free guided tour is offered on Sunday, April 5, starting at 2 p.m.
Gallery hours are
Tuesday and Wednesday, 12 - 4 pm
Thursday and Friday, 2 - 5 pm
Saturday and Sunday 1 - 4 pm (except the Sunday of the opening)

Free guided tours for groups may be arranged by calling 514-684-1012 ext 298

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Quilt Show, free on-line

To celebrate International Quilting Weekend, March 20 - 22, 2015, The Quilt Show will be available for free. This on-line show is hosted by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, and features some of the quilting world's leading artists. Over 200 episodes will be available for your viewing pleasure. As well, prizes valued at $5000 will be given away.

To learn more, please click here.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Door to Nowhere: Boothbay Harbor

Door to Nowhere: Boothbay Harbor

This recent piece is a product of the dyeing binge I have been enjoying over the last month or two. Such fun to work with these hot colours. The palette may have been influenced by the brilliant colours of the Warhol posters shown at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts this winter.

Based on a photo taken last spring in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, it was made as a donation to the annual SAQA 12" x 12" benefit auction. Because I was able to submit it before the end of March, it will be eligible for some of the early promotion done for the event.

original photo, June 2014

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Birthday Blog!

Happy third birthday to my blog!

Three years, 333 posts, and 75,000 views from readers world-wide.

A chance to connect with friends, to meet kindred spirits, and to journal thoughts, experiences and my own work.

Thanks to all who share the journey as I walk this path.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Séminarts at the Musée

We are lucky here in Montreal to have available to us Canada's premier museum dedicated to contemporary art. Founded in 1964, the Musée d'Art Contemporain de Montréal owns more than 8000 works, almost all from 1939 or later.

And I am lucky to have enrolled in Séminarts, the Museum's program of five biweekly sessions designed to educate the general public about contemporary art.

There are twenty of us in our mixed group, and we are the twentieth group to go through this program, which is offered in both French and English. Véronique Lefebvre, the coordinator of the program, greeted us on our arrival to Session 1, and guided us through two of the museum's current shows.  That evening, we met John Zeppetelli, chief curator and director of the museum. Relatively new to the job, John is quick to identify himself as being from one of Quebec's "cultural communities", and looks forward to forging more links between the museum and its counterparts around the world.

I'm looking forward to the next four sessions. In session 2, we will meet with Mr. Maurice Forget of the distinguished law firm, Fasken Martineau. Mr. Forget will lead us on a tour of the firm's corporate collection, and will explain to us how the works in the collection have been acquired, how they are maintained, who decides on the acquisitions, and the role of the collection in the corporation's identity.

Later sessions this spring will include visits to the studio of painter Janet Werner, to the Parisian Laundry art gallery (which represents Werner), and finally to the home of a private collector. We have been given a small handbook which outlines the topics to be discussed at each of our meetings and provides a few supplementary readings.

I will report on the highlights of this experience, so please check back!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Snow Dyeing: The Saga

Last week our text'art group met to try our hands at snow dyeing. Materials required were dye solutions (1 - 3 teaspoons of dye per cup of water) mixed in a squirt bottle. Equipment included plastic trays, screening material, and clips or clothespegs to secure the screens to the trays. Also: snow! Before starting the activity, I read the instructions on the Pro Chem Dye website.

Here you can see Dianne preparing the fabric by pre-soaking it in a soda ash solution, 5 tbs soda ash to 8 cups of hot water. The cloth is wrung out and crumpled artfully on the screening, positioned above the tray. (Leftover soda ash solution may be saved and stored indefinitely.)

Above, Colleen builds up a 3-inch mound of snow on top of the cotton ...

... and drizzles dye solution generously on top of the snow.

Michele also arranged some prepared cotton underneath the screening, to catch any surplus dye solution.

The idea is to allow the snow to melt slowly, causing a random application of the various dyes over a long period of time, and allowing blended-pigment dyes to split into their components to produce serendipitous results. Eventually the trays were moved inside to promote the melting.

The results? Distinctly underwhelming.

For the piece above, I used four pure colours: strong orange, fuchsia, mixing red and boysenberry. Very little orange or boysenberry appeared. 

For these two, I used mixed-pigment dyes (pearl grey, safari grey, stormy grey, and blue violet.) The one on the bottom of the tray (below) was even more boring.

Not one to waste perfectly good PFD cotton, I ripped each of the three one-meter pieces in half and went back at it, using leftover dye solution. 

What was originally done with boysenberry / fuchsia / mixing red / strong orange was divided in two, with one half getting a generous dose of strong orange, and the other a good dousing of boysenberry. Much better results, shown below.

extra "strong orange" applied
extra boysenberry applied
One of the smaller bits done in greys was topped up with more blue-violet and black. 

Another with more of the greys plus nickel.

Another with all the leftover greys, which could make an interesting sky.

And finally some leftover chartreuse and the remaining blue-violet on this one.
first stage: three greys and blue-violet
second stage: chartreuse and more blue-violet
I'm happy with these and will definitely be using them in my work. 

Takeaway: don't approach snow dyeing with a light hand. Use more dye than you think you need and opt for mixed-pigment dyes to produce happy accidents. Consider using complementary colours rather than analogous for maximum impact.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Adventures in Dyeing

I've been having lots of fun mucking about with dyes. Below is a range that I achieved by using Strong Orange and Deep Navy. I chose these colours because Anne Johnston, in her Color By Accident, recommended them for producing interesting neutrals.

Strong Orange with increasing amounts of Deep Navy
Knowing that the navy would readily overwhelm the orange, as dark colours do, I began with a mix of 17 parts orange and 1 part navy, producing a warm brown. Gradually, I upped the proportion of navy to the point that I was using equal parts of orange and navy, which produced a dark charcoal.

With a weaker concentration of dye, the warm brown would translate into a sand beige, and the charcoal would become a neutral grey.

I learned from Anne Johnston that all commercially available dyes are either pure pigments, or a blend of pure pigments. She recommends that dyers acquire these 14 pure pigments and become familiar with the way they behave. So I chose pure pigments for this trial. Another time I might try the same experiment with Strong Orange and Mixing Blue.

Diane Franklin's Dyeing Alchemy referred me to a page on the Jacquard website, which gives recipes that use 11 basic pigments to create 71 mixed colours. I was immediately drawn to the recipe for chartreuse, which I have always found to be an interesting colour.  The Jacquard chart recommends 64 parts Lemon Yellow mixed with 1 part Medium Blue.  Isn't it surprising how such a tiny amount of dark dye can change the character of a light colour? (Jacquard's Lemon Yellow is the equivalent of Pro-Chem Sun Yellow and their Medium Blue matches Pro-Chem's Basic Blue.)

I found the result was a little "brighter" and "happier" than I wanted, so I tried again, substituting black dye for the Basic Blue, which gave a more "interesting" mix. You can see the two results below.
chartreuse, 64 g Sun Yellow : 1 g Basic Blue (on left) and
50 g Sun Yellow : 1 g Black (on right)
Finally, I was interested in the recipe for Periwinkle. I grew to love this colour as the result of one of our 12 by the dozen challenges. Jacquard recommends a mix of 9 parts Navy / 4 parts Fuchsia / 4 parts Cobalt Blue, one of the few recipes requiring three pure pigments. This translates to 9 parts Deep Navy / 4 parts Fuchsia / 4 parts Mixing Blue, using the Pro-Chem names.
value gradation of periwinkle
I made a gradation of values using this mix, producing some colours that I'm sure I will use in my work. The photo has washed out the colour of the lighter end of the range, so you will have to trust me on this: they are lovely. The starting solution was mixed to 6% depth of shade, which was too dark, and next time I would begin with a depth of shade set at 2 or 3%.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Prague: Little Quarter

Prague: Little Quarter 
Yesterday was the Big Reveal for 12 by the dozen. Every three months, we twelve members commit to making a small art quilt on the theme of a particular colour. This time, Hilary challenged us to use the colour Sand.

original photo
Since my visit there in October, I was eager to bring one of my photos of Prague's medieval architecture to life. The sand-coloured walls of these buildings in the Little Quarter proved to be the perfect subject for a small Cityscape.

To see how the other group members handled the challenge, please go to our website.