Sunday, June 30, 2019

Wild and crazy

Time to have some fun in the studio. This week I'm thinking of making my fabric postcards for Christmas. Maybe a wonky star motif?

commercial printed cotton, backed with fusible web

my own hand-dyed cotton

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Explorations with Jane Davies, Lesson 8


Yesterday I posted six pieces for the final assignment in my on-line class with Jane Davies. The class involved participants setting their own biweekly objectives, posting their work to the class blog by a set deadline, and commenting on their experience and on the work of the others. We got great feedback from each other, and from the instructor, incisive but also supportive.


For my final assignment I wanted to return to the "minimal-hesitation" approach to painting. The idea is to set aside a specific amount of time to work continuously, with minimal hesitation, to muffle the inner critic and to work more instinctively. I found this a real stretch!


I decided on a relatively small format (9 x 12) and a neutral colour scheme, using a wide range of materials. My idea was to start each of them with minimal hesitation, but then to go back repeatedly to reassess, to add  or remove a little of this or that. I don't consider any of these to be finished works, and I doubt that I will actually go back to them. For one thing, they were done on cheap paper.


But I learned a lot in the process. 


For one thing, I realized that I began each piece with broad gestural strokes of paint, even though this was new to me. Why did I assume that this was the way to go? Was I being overly influenced by what the other students were doing? Is there some stereotype in a dusty corner of my brain that says "a real painting begins with a big gesture"? Maybe there are other ways to begin that are more helpful to me?


The comments I received from others reminded me to have faith in my efforts. Even work that appears to be misguided or unsatisfactory at the time contributes to one's growth, as long as we take the time to reflect on the experience.

What's next? At this point I am happy to take a break from assignments. I have a few ideas of how to spend my studio-time that might allow me to catch my breath and even have a little fun!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Jean-Pierre Larocque @ La Poste

I stumbled upon the most remarkable exhibition yesterday. The ceramics and drawings of Jean-Pierre Larocque are showing at Galerie La Poste, 1700 rue Notre Dame in Montreal, until July 7. They occupy all three storeys of the space.

To quote from the artist's biography:
"Born in Montreal in 1953, Jean-Pierre Larocque studied drawing and printmaking at UQAM before pursuing studies in ceramics at Concordia University and the Alfred University of New York, from which he received an MFA in 1988. He is recognized as one of the foremost ceramicists-sculptors of Canada."

The additive and subtractive techniques define both shape and line.

On entering the gallery,  I was first struck by more than a dozen large-scale charcoal drawings of figures and faces, somewhat reminiscent of old photographic negatives. While the high value contrast is what first drew my eye, it was a closer inspection that allowed a multiplicity of faces to emerge.

What first appear to be random, textural drawings in ink...

... reveal, on closer inspection, a multitude of faces.

The large figurative "assemblages" of clay are also prominently displayed by the entrance to the show. The viewer is compelled to do a complete tour of these sculptures, to enjoy all their dimensions.

Four figures greet the visitor...

... and demand to be seen from all angles.

The artist...
"... works with clay that is rolled into slabs and laid out flat on a table, cutting the strips he will use to make his piece. The clay is deposited in sedimentary layers, akin to the way successive strata accumulate as a city develops over time.... Coils suggest snakes, entwined in Gorgon-like hair.... The applications of round, flat, pleated, hatched and coiled structures evoke hair, or ears adorned with pendants. The psyche inhabits the hollow chambers that give the piece its structure."

A close-up view of the ceramic construction

As with the charcoal application and erasure in the large-scale drawings, the building of the sculptures is both additive and subtractive.

On the mezzanine, the artist's sketchbooks are on display.


Also on the mezzanine:

nine portraits in gouache...
... and friezes of hooded faces, in partially glazed and enamelled stoneware.

In the basement, a video shows the artist at work.

Drawings in felt pen on paper, also in the basement.

Seeing how the artist was able to express his rich vision in so many media was a revelation. A show not to be missed!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

So pleased...

Two of my Cityscapes were chosen in SAQA's
recent promotional campaign.
This is a full page ad in the most recent issue of SAQA Journal.

... to have my work featured in the latest fund-raising campaign by SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates).

SAQA has given me many opportunities since I joined them some ten years ago. Right now one of my works is being shown at the Grants Pass Museum of Art in Oregon, having been accepted into an international show, Tranquility, staged by SAQA. It has already traveled to five major Australian cities, and three American venues.

Just a day or two ago I received this envelope in the mail:

accompanied by this letter:

The graphic designer responsible for the campaign has done a fine job of using my compositions to enhance SAQA's communications, don't you think? And I appreciated the tagging of each image with my name and the title of the work (in very small print.) 

As well, 

Thank you to Joanna Olson, the talented graphic designer of
this promotional poster.

... another of my works has been the inspiration for a different promotional campaign. The local "Museum of Living History", Greenwood, is focusing on their textile collection this summer, and chose one of my pieces as their promotional image. Originally made as a 40 x 30 textile work to be used for a Town of Hudson banner project, Greenwood: Layers in Time is now on display year-round at the museum. 

I just may have to have more greeting cards printed up, featuring some of my Cityscape images....

Sunday, June 16, 2019

New York's Museum of Modern Art closes for four months

Here's the story by the numbers:
  • MOMA closed its doors yesterday, June 15, 2019.
  • It will reopen October 21, 2019.
  • Six openings in its western wall will be cut, connecting three floors of new galleries to existing galleries.
  • Additional space for the permanent collection: 40,000 square feet.
  • Cost of expansion: $450 million.
The project is intended to improve traffic flow, make the space more physically comfortable, and offer free access to the ground floor and its new galleries.

But most importantly, it will allow for a more progressive, inclusive approach to the display of its collection. Expect to see more representation from non-European artists, from minorities and from women. Expect to see fewer examples from the "canon" of modern art: work by the Big Names, like Picasso, Matisse, and Braque. There is some speculation that the museum plans to sell off some of these holdings to create a more representative collection. This process, known as "deaccession", is never without controversy.

You can read more about this in a recent article from The New York Times.

artist's conception of the new MOMA

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

"Chromaticity", by Ptolemy Mann

If you've ever wondered about the appeal of dyeing yarn and weaving on a loom, here is a wordless two-minute video that celebrates the rhythms and visual pleasures of this ancient craft.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Explorations with Jane Davies, Lesson 7

 Exhibit 1a

I had to skip Lesson 6 of my on-line class, as I was traveling at the time. Having been away from my studio for a few weeks, I thought a good strategy for re-entry and Lesson 7 would be to try something Jane Davies calls the "No-Hesitation-30-Minute-Mark-Marking" session. You can read the post on her blog here, where she uses a video to illustrate the idea.

Exhibit 2a

The basic idea is that you set yourself up with, say, three 24 x 18 sheets of paper, and lay out some basic materials (markers, brushes, paint, graphite stick, maybe some pastels and collage papers.) You set a timer for 30 minutes and then you proceed to make a variety of marks on the papers. You do not stand back and contemplate what you have done at any point, you just continue, without hesitation, to add marks to the papers. It's NOT speed painting, but you allow yourself no more than a few seconds of thought before making the next mark.

Exhibit 3a

Other participants in the on-line class had really good results with this, so I was inspired to give it a try. They used words like "joy" to describe how they felt during the experience. My feelings were closer to "pain", "panic" and "angst". I approached each of my five sessions with something akin to dread. It was like a bad dream. Honestly! You know that nightmare where you've entered a swim meet and you're in your lane and you realize all you have in your skill set is the dog paddle?

Exhibit 1b

As I had committed to doing five of these 30-minute sessions, the next day I took a deep breath and went back into the studio to "further develop" the pieces in the same fashion. The results are shown here, labelled Exhibits 1b, 2b and 3b.

Exhibit 2b

Exhibit 3b

For my third session, I found a large piece of paper, about 4' x 5', in a medium grey, and pinned that up on the wall. It's labelled below as Exhibit 4.

Exhibit 4

I was so displeased with that effort that I didn't return to it, but started fresh the next day. This time, I was a bit calmer. I reminded myself that it was not an exercise in speed, but an effort to eliminate hesitation. I began each of these pieces by making a meandering line, and I felt that having a "spine" as a beginning gave me something to build on. My mood was a bit better, less panicked, my hand more deliberate. See exhibits 5, 6 and 7 below.

Exhibit 5
Exhibit 6
Exhibit 7

It was Session 5 that was the real disaster. I spilled paint and stopped the session after 15 minutes, throwing in the proverbial towel. Photos of this are not available.

Well, I posted about the experience into the class blog and everyone was very positive, especially about the first ones (1 - 4). They noted that I seemed to have developed some new vocabulary in my mark-making.

And it seems that I was overly strict with the parameters of the exercise. The instructor clarified that you are allowed up to six seconds before deciding what comes next. (I allowed myself almost no time at all.) You can look at your work while you're pouring more paint or cutting out a shape of collage paper. (I turned my back to my work so I didn't give myself a chance to assess it.) And you keep the timer running if you have to pause to mix up more paint, etc. (I stopped the timer.)

I was so encouraged by the supportive comments that I have decided to give it at least one more try, using the slightly more relaxed parameters.

The thing is, that I have an in-person workshop scheduled with Jane Davies this summer. It is designed for those of us who want to work
  • larger
  • looser
  • more regularly
  • with more ease and less agony.
Perfect, right? It will either be my salvation or my downfall. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

The Secret Lives of Colour by Kassia St. Clair

The basis for The Secret Lives of Colour, an NPR Best Book of 2017, is a collection of columns written by St. Clair for British Elle Decoration. She has created ten broad categories of colour and then profiled six to ten of the most interesting colours in each category.

We learn that some cultures had no words for a particular colour. The ancient Greeks did not recognize blue as a distinct colour, while Koreans have a word that distinguishes yellow-green from standard green. Russians have different words for light and dark blue. Newton's discovery of the colour spectrum eliminated white, black and brown from the discussion. Rembrandt's rich, chocolatey shadows were likely made of all the dregs on his palette. Colour was used to signify social status in many societies, while the Puritans eschewed colour altogether, as did the architect Le Corbusier.

This fascinating book draws upon art history, fashion, chemistry, and the history of commerce and trade to tell 75 most intriguing stories.  One example is "Mummy Brown", a pigment actually made from ground-up mummified bodies. It was sometimes called "Egyptian Brown", and was used in Europe between the 12th and 20th centuries.
"By the beginning of the 20th century demand was so sluggish that a single mummy might provide a paint manufacturer with pigment for a decade or more. C. Roberson, a London art shop that first opened its doors in 1810, finally ran out in the 1960s. 'We might have a few odd limbs lying around somewhere,' the managing director told Time magazine in October 1964, 'but not enough to make any more paint. We sold our last complete mummy some years ago for, I think, £3. Perhaps we shouldn't have. We certainly can't get any more.'"

Sunday, June 2, 2019

The Graffiti Wall at Hudson Yards

Hudson Yards 3-2019 crop.jpg

The development of New York's Hudson Yards is controversial. Overlooking the Hudson River, it combines residential, commercial, hotel and retail space with an arts centre, and is definitely designed to cater to the 1 per cent, if not the .01 per cent. Its shopping mall is not even supposed to be referred to as a mall. Are we to call it a "retail experience?" Some have described it as dystopian. It made me question the whole premise of NYC as a liveable space.

But one of the small delights I noticed amidst all the glitz was a graffiti wall, made of stitched sequins in many colours. I hadn't ever seen anything quite like it. By brushing a finger or hand "against the grain" of the sequins, you could expose the underside of them, revealing a second colour. Brushing with the grain returned the surface to its original colour, erasing your marks.

detail shot of sequins

The wall was getting a fair bit of attention when I passed by early one morning.