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It was great to check-out the fifth annual TAP (Toronto Artist Project) at the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition) grounds. There was a wide range of material output from 200 artists across North America. In looking closely for salient themes, I noticed that many artists were turning to historical modes of representation. One could experience strong feelings of déjà-vu. The entirety of art history seemed to flash before the visitors’ eyes. Sinuous Art Deco-esque lines, a massive canvas inspired by Gericault’s “The Raft of Medusa” and Pop Art typography are just some of the retro motifs that wove through the trade show. Added to this kaleidoscopic mélange was a healthy share of high gloss, resin-coated surfaces that reflected everything in its midst….

Mike and his paintings

Amanda (& Paul) and her mirrored animal drawings

November 23, 2011

Pictures of people have a way of connecting with viewers. If you get a chance, make a connection with the ROM and check out the Kingston Prize exhibition. This show happens every two years and features the very best of Canadian portraiture and figurative work.

This biennial competition has high stakes. The Grand Prize is $20,000! Of the 451 artists submitting to this juried show, thirty finalists are chosen to be included in a touring exhibition.

I found that many works aspired to the conditions of photography—in other words, lots of amazing photorealism. Perhaps the best example is by Vancouver artist Brian Boulton. His diminutive graphite drawing titled Mikey@20.c (Chelsea Boots), is an astonishing, well-burnished “gem” that evacuates all evidence of the artist’s hand and his chosen medium. On the other hand, the works that strayed from the photographic sources really stood out in a positive way. The more exuberant works from T. Salzl and S. Hadzihasanovic conveyed a dynamic tension between traditional painting from life that was strangely contemporary.

Although the Grand Prize winner has been chosen (going to Kingston’s Michael Bayne), it’s not over ‘til it’s over. Don’t forget to cast a ballot to your fave for the People’s Choice Award–the winner will walk away with a “grand” in prize money. A must-see show!   

Brian Boulton's "I-can't-believe-it's-not-a-photo" drawing

September 12, 2011

German painter Gerhard Richter had a profound impact on my artistic practice. So when the opportunity arose to check out the screening of Corinna Belz’s documentary Gerhard Richter Painting, I couldn’t pass-up the chance. The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Fest on Saturday night. This was a rare and intimate glance into Richter’s studio practice. Through the course of the film, viewers witness the layered construction of the painter’s “squeegee” abstracts. As much as the film captured the vivid complexity of Richter’s visuals, the audio design of the film was outstanding. The abrasive “growl” of the painter’s tools across the canvas still resonates for me. During quieter moments the chirping of birds can be faintly heard emanating from the studio courtyard. A very effective juxtaposition.

Overall, this doc is a little demanding for the average viewer. The pace is slow and mediative, with many shots of Richter calculating his next manoeuvre followed by artist point-of-view shots of drying paint. Several people walked out of the theatre. At one point during the film, I looked around and noticed several viewers with their eyes closed. Perhaps they were just savouring the audio I’ve mentioned.

In the end, Gerhard Richter Painting is an intimate exposé into the celebrated artist’s working environment and his signature technique. The screening was followed by a Q & A by the doc’s director. Belz was generous with anecdotes and impressions of her time with Richter. Her words and images contributed vital nuances and contours to the portrait of Gerhard Richter. Her camera preserved fugitive moments in paint; layers only Richter witnesses in the course of creating a work. Those remaining in the auditorium were appreciative. We had just seen something which no longer exists.

Corinna Belz discusses her latest film

Corinna Belz discusses her latest film

 

August 12, 2011

There are a dozen artworks currently in our country that changed the world of art. I’m speaking of the Caravaggio exhibition at the National Gallery in Ottawa. This is a first. Well, the last time there were this many pieces by the Italian master on the continent was back in the early eighties at the Metropolitan in New York. In fact, that show had twice as many pieces than the current show in Ottawa. Nonetheless, this show is a once in a lifetime blockbuster. Rare squared!  

Caravaggio and his Followers in Rome hones-in on key Caravaggio pieces and spins off with the impact that he made on his contemporaries and beyond. The show is comprehensive in gauging this seventeenth century maverick and his revolutionary style. If you’ve seen the show, I’d love to hear some of your impressions… here are some of mine:

  • I was surprised to learn that Rome in Caravaggio’s day was about the size of  Whitby with a population just over 100,000
  • there are a mere 70 known works authored by Caravaggio
  • a small exhibition design critique—the paintings are hung too high for the average viewer, not too mention kids, people in wheelchairs, etc.
  • a large exhibition design accolade—excellent interpretive resources such as a “tableau vivant” room where you can get your picture taken dressed up in period costumes, a screening room running a documentary about Caravaggio, short and informative docent talks, an amazing brochure, etc.
  • Artemisia Gentileschi’s The Beheading of Holofernes (painted exactly 400 years ago) was a sparkling highlight—a bloody mess!
  • Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers a major exhibition sponsor–how fitting for an oil painting show?
St. Francis in Ecstasy (1595) currently at the NGC

June 3, 2011

Have you ever looked back at your life and found the roots of a passion that developed later in life? I’ve recently contemplated my love of visual art and where it all began. Although I can’t remember the outing, my parents took me to a show at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) in the Fall of 1976 called Ontario Collects. We were photographed looking at a painting by Robert Reginald Whale–a triple portrait of children. This picture appeared in the Oshawa Times. For me this clipping remains dear to my heart in many ways. It’s a document that shows an early connection with my hometown gallery.

Fast-forward thirty-five years. The RMG recently unveiled their reconditioned permanent collection space with old favorites and some new acquisitions. I was very moved and honored to have a couple of my drawings included in this re-hanging. Roman Street and Record Player are two works from 2009. Seeing these film-inspired works flanked by a Barbara Astman photo and a Norval Morrisseau painting was an eclectic and inspiring curatorial decision, offering multiple interpretive routes (thanks Linda).

Over the years, I was involved with the RMG in many ways: as a visitor, a summer student, an employee, an art instructor, and now an artist in the permanent collection. Reflecting back on this continuum, it’s important to acknowledge the importance of local galleries and the many ways they shape our cultural world view.   

Life Imitates Art - click to enlarge

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