November 24, 2013

Candles are lit and memories are ignited during these final November days of 2013. This year marks eighty years since one of the largest acts of genocide in modern European history. The famine-genocide raged in Soviet Ukraine and other regions of the Soviet Union. Known as the Holodomor (a compound of the Ukrainian words holod meaning “famine” and mor meaning “death”) ravaged the fertile countryside in what was the greatest irony of the twentieth century.  We remain largely unaware of the Holodomor and its repercussions. Things are changing. Traumas experienced in the last century are slowly being redressed. 

A gamut of complex, often conflicting, emotions surfaced in this commemorative year. It has been a year of questions and condolences, regrets and hopes. As a child of a Holodomor survivor, I was faced with deeply introspective, existential questions—it was, after all, a generation which separated my own being with the spectre of genocidal oblivion. I regret not being more attentive to the testimony of my father, who had witnessed first-hand the atrocities of both Soviet and Nazi regimes.

Eight decades have passed since the Holodomor and we remain largely unaware of its repercussions. The topic has been long-neglected in the field of scholarship and only recently the Ukrainian famine of 1932-33 has received a modicum of media attention. Things are changing. Traumas experienced in the last century are slowly being redressed. I continue to place my faith in the restorative power of art; a force which creates forums of discussion, puncturing the silence of sleep.

Ukraine Remembers – the World Acknowledges


November 5, 2013

I was preparing for a presentation further exploring the parallels between art and cinema over the weekend. Sat down to watch Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1962 neo-realist classic Mamma Roma and within the first minutes of the rolling credits a house fly appears on the bottom right of the screen. What a dramatic debut! Check it out by clicking the image….

October 24, 2013

The stage is set in Aurora, Ontario. Earlier this week, we installed an exhibition of my drawings at the Aurora Cultural Centre. If you have a chance, please join me this Saturday, October 26 between 1:00 and 4:00 PM for the opening reception of “Somewhere in Time” along with parallel exhibitions featuring works by Sheila Davis, Jean Kallmeyer, Tracey Lee Green and Ellen Cameron.

I’m very excited to also present an illustrated talk on Synchronicities: Art & Cinema, starting at 1:30 PM this Saturday. I can hardly contain my excitement as I write this post and will be delighted to share some recent findings of Canadian art references in Hollywood films.

Hope to see you in Aurora!

olex poster small

October 10, 2013

Autumn is the artworld’s peak performance period–here are a trio of shows I visited recently:

Over the weekend I had a chance to head up to North Bay to visit a couple of shows. Two artists included in the Wiki Show over the summer at Station Gallery were on display. On Saturday, Susan Farquhar’s show “Northern Currents” opened at the Joan Ferneyhough Gallery. Her richly textured works depict a Boreal beauty of another time. Originally from North Bay, Susan’s show fittingly celebrates her homecoming to the “Gateway to the North.” It was terrific revisiting works that were in the Wiki mix and seeing Susan’s creative process in her broader studio practice.

Erin Finley’s solo show was winding down at Line Gallery. Here too were some of Erin’s offerings from the Wiki Show, plus some intricate newer pieces. Finley’s finely-crafted figurative works pack quite a punch. I enjoy the push and pull of Erin’s subject matter–it simultaneously attracts and repels the viewer. Her illustrative drawings and mannerist distortions are flexible, even pliant. Anything can happen on her paper.

David Blackwood’s “Revelation” recently opened at Abbozzo Gallery at Toronto’s 401 Richmond complex. The artist was present at yesterday’s packed reception. This show adds new dimension and breadth to the understanding of Blackwood’s creative output. Widely known for his masterful printmaking, this show expands beyond serial production to include constructions with encaustic flourishes, paintings, drawings and watercolours. “Revelation” is a complex essay weaving Blackwood’s sustained motifs such as Ephraim Kelloway’s door, Maritime lore and nautical symbolism into a cohesive whole. Show continues until November 2 — not to be missed. Happy Thanksgiving!

David Blackwood and O

David Blackwood and O

September 21, 2013

Oshawa’s downtown core is invaded by artists. The inaugural Oshawa Space Invaders (OSI) saw huge crowds for yesterday’s ARTCRAWL. Hundreds of visitors came through selected spaces replete with visual art and home-grown studio production cultivated in Durham Region. Well over a hundred artists are featured in vacant commercial spaces and storefronts in downtown. OSI covers the full range of artistic involvement as only a community event can. The event embraces established artists, professional designers, arts enthusiasts, collectives, college and high school students.

Professor McQuay with  Silver Elvis

Professor McQuay with Silver Elvis

Hats off to Steven Frank, Gary Greenwood and Will McGuirk for their visionary leadership. The trio was supported by a committed team of enthusiastic volunteers and like-minded community players and artists.

The Schembris and I

The Schembris and I

Yesterday was a real homecoming. Lives converged, trails crossed. Juno Award winning bluesman, Jack de Keyzer rocked the stage and Silver Elvis mingled around his scintilating space craft. What a terrific verve–the Invasion lasts for another week. Share your experiences and comments below…

Garfield Ferguson and Me

Garfield Ferguson and Me

Check out:

September 6, 2013

There’s a special feeling of anticipation right before an issue of Surfacing Magazine comes out. If you follow arts and culture in the Durham Region, you’ll know what I mean. We’ve had this feeling for the sixteenth time as we came up to the 5th year anniversary issue, which came out yesterday. Surfacing became woven into the fabric of our lives in Durham. It became a tangible record; a beacon of renewed enthusiasm around the arts in the region.

With the 5th year anniversary issue comes the news that this is Surfacing’s last. Publishing duo, Dave and Laura Schembri round-out an incredible half decade run. And what a ride it’s been! The launch at Station Gallery, the record-breaking “Off the Pages” exhibition exactly a year ago, the DACTA nomination, reading insightful articles and creative writing, engaging a plethora of visual experiences….

Laura and Dave uncovered hidden talent in our community and celebrated friends we know so very well. Personally speaking, they’ve expanded my worldview to include poetry, music, performance… and a renewed vision of the visual arts in the region.

Dave and Laura are extraordinary professionals: considered, exact, genuine, opened, soulful. They infuse a grace with everything they touch. Now based in Aurora, The Schembris continue to be ex-pat champions of the Durham Region art scene. They’ve made an indelible mark and ever-lasting presence with Surfacing. Congratulations on your anniversary issue! Thank you for sharing the view through your periscope…

Dave, Laura and Me at Surfacing show opening.

Dave, Laura and Me at Surfacing show opening.

August 23, 2013

It’s not everyday that I feel like Julian Assange…

The Wiki Show finished its very successful run last Sunday. Visitors were thrilled to cast a ballot for the artist who they would like to see back at the gallery with a solo show. There were 20 artists in the Wiki mix—all of whom put there “best foot forward” with very strong examples from their studio.

Earlier in the week, I was joined by a volunteer and our auditor to tally the ballots. Over 600 visitors cast a ballot for the artist they’d like to see more of in 2014.

Wiki Count

Wiki Count

I’m proud to unofficially announce that the Wiki winner is… Jennifer Dorner! We’ll officially announce the recipient of the 2014 solo show at tomorrow’s opening at Station Gallery.

July 29, 2013

It’s official. This year’s annual members’ exhibition theme and title is… Mind & Matter. It’s a good one. Open ended and versatile, this theme has much creative potential for artists. Here’s how you voted:


Stay tuned to the Station Gallery website for details on the 21st annual members’ show… 

July 19, 2013

Last year you picked “Shift” as your favorite title and theme for Station Gallery’s members’ show. This highly-anticipated annual event is scheduled from November 30th, 2013 through to January 5, 2014. This year’s theme and title is again up to you. Choose your fave from the four listed below and stay tuned for the results on my next blog post.

Let the voting begin…

July 7, 2013

This mystery took a while to solve.

The background: this weekend I watched a film from 1958 titled Les Amants by the great French New Wave director, Louis Malle. At the end of the movie, two lovers leave their previous lives behind to begin anew. As they drive away from their small provincial village they pass a sign that reads, “Vandenesse“. A tall steeple diminishes in the background as the lovers speed away from the village. “With such a pronounced landmark and a clear road-sign, it’s going to be easy to re-trace this route” I thought. It turned out to be more difficult than anticipated.

Leaving Vandenesse

Leaving Vandenesse

I searched Vandenesse in Google Maps with the hopes of situating the road and scenery captured in the late fifties film. I looked for a tall steeple using Google Streetview. The landmark was nowhere to be found. Was the Vandenesse church demolished? Had the face of this small town changed so dramatically from the time it was immortalized in the closing sequences of Malle’s masterpiece? After hours of loosing things in translation and false leads–it turned out that the church does exist today–but in a different form and in an entirely different location than originally expected.

Here’s the findings: Les Amants was actually filmed in a small Burgundy village of Vandenesse-en-Auxois, not Vandenesse as seen on the road-sign in the film. Confusing? The two provincial villages are over 100 kilometers apart.

The pronounced church steeple in town has diminished over the years. Sometime between 1958 and 2013, the tall spire was dismantled. Today a simple roof covers the church tower at the centre of Vandenesse-en-Auxois. Here’s a comparison screenshot from Google Earth and a vintage black and white image (c. 1927).

Changing Church

Changing Church

Mystery solved. Here’s a video of my original intent of matching up the 1958 movie footage with Google Earth. Click on the image to see the final minute of Les Amants… FIN.


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