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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

August 31, 2009

Although they’re rare, those unplanned moments become the most memorable in our lives. And what better way to experience spontaneity than to simply get in the car and drive? This is what I did last weekend. I packed my tent, sleeping bag, Coleman stove, cans of Puritan beef stew and hit the road in true nomad-style. The wind blew me north, and I landed lakeside somewhere outside of Bon Echo Provincial Park. The loons and coyotes were already there and called out in the warm night air (these recollections get us through the winters in Canada). When I woke the next day, it was as though I felt some sort of “Great Canadian” homing device awaken in me—Ottawa. I couldn’t ignore this call and set off for the nation’s capital.

The first stop was the National Gallery, where a fittingly titled show Nomads was on. The exhibition touched on themes of exploration, wanderlust and perambulations. One of the highlights in this show was Althea Thauberger’s video set in a remote village in the Dolomites, in the north of Italy. The artist had hired local villagers to act out a folk legend in their mother tongue. I heard Ladin spoken for the first time; a rare, ancient language spoken in this mountainous region to this day. Later that night, a free light-and-sound show was scheduled on Parliament Hill. As the skies darkened, a massive campfire flame projected on the Peace Tower. In full surround-sound the recorded calls of loons and coyotes echoed through the heart of the capital.

The night lights of Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario Canada.

The night lights of Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario Canada.