Sunday, March 31, 2019

Explorations with Jane Davies, Lesson 2

I'm really enjoying this on-line class with Jane Davies. The participants all set their own objectives and comment on each other's progress. I posted about Lesson 1 on March 3; here is the follow-up.

Once again, I chose to work with neutral colours, but this time, instead of using a stripe format, I'm playing with small shapes and grouping them into something more monumental. I paid particular attention to dark and light and range of contrast.

#1 was the lightest piece, a work in progress.
It began with a buff-coloured background.

Most of these shapes were made with collage, but paint was also used, often to soften the edges. Line, stamping and stencilling also came into play. I made a point of including some "breathing space" as well as busier areas of interest. All pieces measure 16" x 16" and are on good quality, Stonehenge paper.

One of the requirements of this class is to comment on the work of our classmates. Thanks to some great suggestions from the instructor and other participants, I was able to push some of the work a little further. You can see some of the transformations below, in numbers 2 through 5.

#2a began with a slightly darker background, and includes a few touches of
darker pigment. It was transformed into...

... #2b, the result of a 180 rotation, a lot of veiling with white paint, and the
introduction of line to suggest additional shapes.
It still looks like two opposing masses, but is more subtle.

#3a began with a medium brown background, and most of its elements
are in the middle range of value. It was changed into...

... #3b, the result of additional collage bits, veiling with dark paint,
and a lighter background.

#4a began with a background of medium-value gold. It includes elements that are
very dark and very light. It was changed into...

... #4b, the result of more veiling with white paint and more linework with
charcoal, to suggest additional shapes.

#5a began with a black background. There are hints of colour in some of the
shapes: yellow, blue, green and red, as well as the neutrals. It was changed into...

... #5b, the result of a 180-rotation, veiling with white paint, and
additional shapes created by charcoal linework.

#6 is the darkest in the series. It began with a medium grey background, and
includes sepia, Payne's grey, black, and a touch of white. I haven't (yet) had another go at it.

Will report on Lesson 3 soon!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Cityscapes @ Galerie Plus, Hudson

Old Town Square, Riga, 18 x 24

I am delighted to invite you to a solo show of Cityscapes, opening April 3 at Galerie Plus, 448 Main Road in Hudson.

My cityscapes are made with hand-dyed cloth and stitch. They begin with everyday urban scenes, distilled into their essence of shape and line and then transformed by the expressive potential of colour.

Heather and Bert Markgraf opened their gallery/café a couple of years ago.  Bert's parents, Peter and Traudl Markgraf, were famous for their signature silkscreen prints of the Canadian landscape. Many of these prints are available for purchase. Also featured are paintings, sculpture, jewellery, and fine craft by local artists.

View from Riga Cathedral, 24 x 18

The vernissage is April 3, 5 - 8 pm. Consider coming! I would be happy to show you around.

Gallery hours are Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am - 5 pm

For more information, please call 450-458-1319.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Shed opens April 5

The Shed as seen from the High Line in February 2018.
The Shed, as seen from the High Line in February 2018

After more than a decade of planning and work, The Shed opens next month on Manhattan's West Side. A 200,000-square-foot structure, it is designed to offer flexible space that will be a "commissioning centre" for all arts and all audiences. The ambitious programming focuses on risk-taking collaborations between visual artists, musicians, dancers, poets and film-makers.

The physical space, named the Bloomberg Building, was financed by a $75 million donation from New York's former mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Overlooking the Hudson River, the ambitious project is already known for its movable shell. Supported by six-foot wheels, the shell rolls out onto the adjacent plaza in a matter of minutes, creating the McCourt, an enclosed 17,000-square-foot hall complete with light, sound and temperature control.

Some of those involved in the first year of programming include Gerhard Richter, Renée Fleming, Björk, Steve McQueen, and Quincy Jones.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Art for Sale, March 30

And now for an item of strictly local interest.

In my little town of Hudson, Quebec (pop. 5000, little changed for the last 40 years) we have many valuable assets. We are situated on a lake, and our connections to nature include an extensive network of walking trails and parks, a bird sanctuary, a yacht club and three golf courses. There's a lively cultural scene, including multiple artist and craft groups, music and gardening clubs, choirs, two history museums, a literary festival, a summertime flea market, an art gallery or two, and even a theatre.

Much of this activity is sustained by our biggest asset, a vibrant volunteer base. The library, Meals on Wheels, a palliative care centre and so many more initiatives are dependent on volunteers.

But one of the real gems of our little town is the Bunker. Located in the basement of the library, its staff accepts donations of clothing, furniture, kitchenware and bric-à-brac, selling it all at bargain prices and then using the revenue to fund not only the library but many other worthy causes. As the Bunker is only open on Saturday mornings, it has become a community "thing" to pop down and see what treasures await the discerning eye.

On March 30, the Bunker is staging a rare and special event.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Artificial Divide between Fine Art and Textiles is a Gendered Issue

Thank you to Dianne, who sent along this link to an article from Frieze, a contemporary art magazine published eight times a year from London.

Bayeux tapestry

The article was published as a response to the recent Anni Albers exhibition at Tate Modern, which ended in January.

Written by Amber Butchart, it notes the resurgence of interest in textile art, and explores the artificial divide between fine art and textiles. Medieval embroidery was prized around the world, but it was during the Renaissance that "fine art", with its masculine associations, became more valued, and this separation was accelerated by the academies.

Well worth reading, the article explores the marginalization of needlework while referencing the Bayeux tapestry, the non-European tradition of stitching, and Judy Chicago's The Dinner Party.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Never Look Away

One of my favourite films of all time is "The Lives of Others", (2006). Written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, it painted a heart-breaking picture of life in East Germany, where artists and activists were under constant clandestine surveillance. The film won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

Now von Donnersmarck has written and directed another film, "Never Look Away", that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in art. A caution: the film runs 3 hours and 9 minutes, and it's best to know that going in.

The film opens in 1937 when Kurt, the principal character, is 5 years old. He is visiting one of the touring exhibitions of "degenerate art", organized by the German government, with his adoring aunt, Elizabeth. Both of them are intrigued by a Kandinsky abstract. Elizabeth suffers from schizophrenia, and after a psychotic break is taken into state custody, sterilized, and ultimately murdered.

We follow Kurt as he grows up and enters art school. One of the threads of the film is a romance between Kurt and Ellie, also an art student, and another is the identity of Ellie's physician father.

But most of the second half is about Kurt's struggle to find "his voice" as an artist. Many details of Kurt's life and artistic path are borrowed from the biography of Gerhard Richter, though Richter has disavowed any connection with the film. Richter, born in Germany in 1932, is one of the most successful artists of our time.

What struck me about the film is the challenge that faced German artists of the postwar era. How could one process and address the horrors of the Nazi regime, and how could one not? In the film, Kurt finds his authenticity through the words of his aunt, "Never look away."

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Festival international du film sur l'art

The 37th edition of this Montreal film festival opens on March 19, and runs until the end of the month. More than 200 films from 40 countries will be presented, most of them screening twice. Venues include the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Concordia University, and Cineplex Odeon, Quartier Latin. Many of the films are in English, or with English subtitles.

Though I find the website difficult to navigate (is it just me?) it is possible to access all the showtimes, trailers for most of the films, and to buy tickets and passes on line.

A few of the items that caught my eye:

Art in the 21st Century: Berlin
A wonderful insight into the artists' Berlin. Canadian premiere. English.

Bauhaus Spirit
The rich heritage of the 100-year-old institution and its modern role. Canadian premiere. English and German with English subtitles.

Hitler vs. Picasso and the Others
The story of the theft of art by the Nazis. Canadian premiere. English subtitles.

Immaculate Memories: The Uncluttered Worlds of Christopher Pratt
Filmmaker Kenneth J. Harvey and Christopher Pratt, one of Canada’s pre-eminent painters, take a seven-day trip around Newfoundland, searching for the places where Pratt painted his emblematic works. An honest, hilarious, eloquent, bizarre, even unsettling account of Pratt’s life and art....  Quebec Premiere. English

John Heward: Words and Silence
A vibrant testimonial to Montreal-born artist John Heward, (1934-2018). World premiere. English with French subtitles.

Something that I have experienced in past years is that additional screenings of popular films are arranged during the festival, so it pays to check the website for repeats.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

"Wall of Art", McLennan Library, McGill University

Had a fun visit to see a hidden treasure on the 4th floor of McGill's McLennan Library.

To quote from the display panel:
"Most museums have 2-3 % of their collection on view at any given time, holding the rest in storage. McGill's Visual Arts Collection is an exception, displaying the majority of its holdings in over 90 buildings and outdoor spaces on several campuses. Our new Visible Storage space presents a selection of those works that are nevertheless in storage, offering visitors increased access to the Collection.
"Visible Storage has become a popular practice in institutions worldwide. These spaces reproduce the environmental and control conditions of storage facilities in open-access areas, allowing the display of works that are particularly sensitive, or that would simply not otherwise be seen on a regular basis. Works are on view 'salon style', stacked to maximize space, as they would be in storage.
"Made possible by the McGill Library Innovation Fund, this Visible Storage gallery will be in progressive installation over the summer, during which it will remain open to visitors. The works on view will together represent a cross-section of our holdings in Canadian, Indigenous, and international art, both historical and contemporary." 

Edwin Holgate, Woman Before a Window, 1960

Works from 24 artists were on view during my visit, including paintings by well-known Canadians Moe Reinblatt, Betty Goodwin, Sylvia Safdie, Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté, Yves Gaucher and Rita Letendre.

Lilias Torrance-Newton, Portrait of H. Rocke Robertson, 1971

Norval Morrisseau, Shaman Surrounded by Ancestral Spirit Totem, 1997

John Little, Bonsecours Church

If you have a chance to visit, be sure to stop in to see the exhibit of antique "pop-up" books in the rare books section of the library and, in the lobby, the display of antique medical books on the topic of Conception.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Here we go again: Another Jane Davies workshop

Over the years I have been lucky enough to take several workshops with Jane Davies. Some of them have been in person, and some have been on-line. Most recently, I took an on-line class this fall titled "100 Drawings", which was wonderful, though intense. Each week, we were given some parameters and asked to produce ten (or at least six) small pieces that met the assignment. These were intended to be "explorations" not "finished work". I learned so much from this, not only from the teacher but from the other participants.

You can read about my experience with this class by doing a search for "100 Drawings" on this blog (see search box on the right-->).

The final assignment, Lesson 10, was unique. We were required to devise our own "parameters", with Jane's advice and input.

Out of that experience, Jane came up with a brilliant idea. She offered graduates of the class the option of doing Lesson 10 eight more times. In other words, devise your own parameters for an exploration, submit it for approval, and then post ten paintings created using your own guidelines. Do this eight times, once every two weeks. And be prepared to comment on the work of the other participants. Of course Jane comments too, and offers suggestions and resources.

#1 has the lightest values

Because I had missed Lesson 7 the first time around, I decided that it would make a good re-entry plan. The assignment was to use horizontal stripes in a monochromatic colour scheme, and to demonstrate "unity" more than "variety". Many techniques and materials were permitted: collage, paint, and crayon. Pattern could be introduced with stamping, stencilling, and scribbling.

#2 has the darkest values. It began as a black background

So I embarked on this lesson, changing only one thing. Rather than working with a monochromatic colour scheme, I chose to use neutral colours (black, white, grey, buff, taupe, brown, etc.)

#3 has very darks and very lights, but not much in the mid-range of value.

#4 has a full range of values, and hints of muted colours like
celadon, olive, raw umber, burnt sienna

#5 has a full range of values, and touches of raw umber

#6 has mostly lights and mediums, but suggests some colour:
celadon, burnt sienna, and violet

#7 began with a bright yellow background. My intention was to allow a tiny bit
of yellow to peek through the stripes, but somehow it got away from me.

Likewise #8 began as a red background, and would have benefited from
more stripe, less red

#9 relies on dry-brushing for texture, rather than patterning, as does #10.
It began as a background of burnt umber.

#10, like #9, has a landscape quality. They seem to have more depth than
the first eight, which were flattened by the patterning.
It began as a background of neutral grey.

The original assignment described the patterning as "tone on tone", more subtle than the patterns I employed here. As I worked on these, I thought about range of value, range of "chroma", unity and variety. I would say that the unity suffered from excess variety, but otherwise neutral stripes could have been deadly boring. I also noticed how a colour that looks neutral on the palette can appear to be quite colourful next to duller hues. For example, the yellow in #9 and #10 looked like putty on the white palette.

All these measure 9" x 9", or 10" x 10".

Do you have a favourite? Can you guess which one the instructor preferred? And what parameters should I set for myself next week? If you scroll wa-a-a-ay down, you can find out which one Jane Davies liked best.

The first one! And my daughter has already claimed it.