Sunday, 27 November 2016


An exhibition of mixed media works at the Galerie de la Ville
Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec, Canada
Curator:  Claudine Ascher  ~  Guest co-curator:  Diane Collet

Galerie de la Ville - Exhibition "Repeat Offenders" - Photo by Myriam Frenette

In the time it takes to inhale, I am transported into the spine-tingling world of Monica Brinkman and Tina Struthers.  At the entrance of the gallery, an explosion of colour and texture beckons me to enter.  I hesitate at the threshold.  

What is going on here?  

Stunning workmanship, virtuosity, artistry, and creativity.

I am ensorcelled, held spellbound as I slowly penetrate the space.  A quick scan reveals a cosmos of bottled aliens, underwater creatures, super heroes/heroines, and spikes, lots of them. I am in a monumental wonder-room and have shrunken like Alice to explore this distended microcosm.  Vibrant colours disguise an alchemist's brew of complex thoughts and feelings.  

Tina Struthers - Photo by Myriam Frenette
Tina Struthers grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, immigrated to Canada in 2008 and settled in Québec in 2011.  Much of her work deals with her experience of displacement.  

Deracination is an interesting process. Like a plant that has outgrown its pot, the roots object a little when first removed from their container for eventual transplant, but ultimately, they adapt and appreciate the additional wiggle room that the new larger pot and earth provide.  

Impressively, within the last 5 years, Struthers has learned French and fully integrated within the community.  Actively involved in cultural mediation projects and in the creation of large scale commissions for the region, she is a highly respected multidisciplinary artist, couturière, and costume designer for theatre and dance. 

Her achievements underscore her incredible strength of character.  She is like a disciplined Energizer Bunny with directed energy to burn. Focused, she's a workhorse who seems happiest when doing two things at once (such as stitching together one of her textile elements while planning the next project). Possessed with the spirit of an acrobat (she loves to climb and suspend things), she continuously stretches the boundaries of her mediums.

Environmental concerns, the contrasts between South Africa and Canada, the effects of water and wind, roots and growth, fantasy creatures and specimens from the deepest recesses of her imagination, rain or lack of it, shadows, longings for the sounds and rhymes of Afrikaner words, building blocks, and the vivid colours reminiscent of african fabrics are woven into every piece.  

"I Need My Cape"
Sometimes our superhero needs Cape Town.
Back view of "I Need My Cape"
The lowered zipper reveals a backbone
(his strength on the inside)

Detail of I Need My Cape

These beautiful works are charged with meaning that often stems from Struther's background. "Patina" reveals an ornate, thickened skin of armour over a woman's torso which cannot completely protect her against life's assaults.  Some originate from within (childbirth), while other offensives come from external sources.  With the patina of time, the shield strengthens and transforms the body into that of a super heroine.  

"Patina" by Tina Struthers

The devil is in the details.  A close-up of "Patina" reveals exquisite beadwork intertwined with elegant binding and coloured fabric.  The torso has spikes on its back.  Interestingly, they are soft spikes.

Detail of "Patina"

Spikes on the back of "Patina"

Having grown up near the ocean, Struthers is particularly fascinated with exotic creatures that generate their own light in the dark, secret depths of our seas. They become the perfect metaphor for her own cross-continent odyssey.  While all works are extremely powerful, I am drawn into each piece by the rich detailing and contortions of her wild things. The interplay of light and dark fascinates Struthers.  She becomes animated when she sees the changing cast shadows that magically appear on walls and floors. "One can't grab hold of shadows", she says.  

"Time to grow"

"Time to grow' ~ contortions


Yellow Specimen

Detail of Yellow Specimen

Part of "Amans" and  its striking shadows

"Amans" - Looking inside

In Africa, there is not enough water.  In contrast Canada has an abundance.  Struthers lived near the ocean but the water was unusable.  Having grown up in a country where water is a precious commodity, she deplores excessive waste.  A throw away society contaminates that which gives life to all living things.  An active scavenger, Struthers reuses leftover material from the wedding dresses she makes, recycles found objects, and shops at secondhand stores to find precious heritage fabrics.  

The mixed media painting "Waste" begins with a background of scrunched-up papers, lace, metal from old cassette tapes, and paint.  Screws are drilled into the sides of the panel.  Threads that pierce fragments of sliced rubber tubing are attached to the screws, stretched over the substructure and appear to float over it resulting in a shimmering effect. This impressive work embodies the beauty of discarded things.

Detail of "Waste"

Monica Brinkman - Photo by Myriam Frenette
Monica Brinkman spent her summers on an ocean beach in New Brunswick and at a summer cottage at Lake of Bays, Ontario (Rabbit Bay). The daughter of a immigrant father from Germany and an Acadian mother from the maritimes, she feels especially fortunate that her best childhood memories are of daily excursions in unpredictable, remote, and secluded terrain. 

She pretended to be an explorer/marine biologist and brought various dead specimens that washed up on shore to her home for scientific dissection. She examined each organism in detail and through play and fantasy, became enthralled with the minutiae and textures of geological and marine life, a fascination which continues to this day.  

These adventures provided a perfect training ground for her eclectic approach to mosaics. There was no garbage on the beach in New Brunswick except for pieces of broken glass which in her mind metamorphosed into precious glass. Green and amber gems came from soft drink or beer bottles. Blue sparklers were rare and the occasional red piece of glass was dubbed a "ruby of the ocean". The colours of rock, glass and marine life changed under water.  Brinkman became "addicted to light".

In Ontario, she spent her time running through the woods where she created an imaginary world that kept her both scared and excited. Interestingly, these types of contrasting emotions animate many of her current creations.

Brinkman was appalled and consumed by the poverty and suffering she witnessed on travels with her family to Brazil and Haiti.  She remains equally troubled by the hardships that Indigenous Canadians continue to face each day. 

She is intensely committed to the community.  Her creative workshops and projects are for everyone including children, the elderly, and the intellectually handicapped.  Mosaics beautify various municipalities as an old scrapyard tractor, discarded article, walls, floors, and furniture magically transform into jewel-like, otherworldly objects.

"Jolene" by Monica Brinkman

Detail of Jolene's heart
"Jolene" is a self-portrait. Some people wear their heart on their sleeve but Jolene has hearts unabashedly exposed on various parts of her body.  A large one grows on the outside of her chest while a row of hearts mutates into a spine.

Jolene's eyes
Repeated eyes on both sides of the torso declare that she will not turn a blind eye to people in need.  

Like Struthers, Brinkman is not averse to spikes although they manifest themselves differently, in this case via the natural shapes of deer horns which protrude from the back to symbolize self-awareness and resilience.  

Because her approach to mosaics is non-traditional, many of her three-dimensional works veer into assemblage.  Almost anything can be "upcycled" and converted into art.

Horns of self-awareness

"Make Time for Tea" (below) is an affirmation for peace. Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world. Brinkman used to serve tea in the tearoom of a quilt shop and the experience reinforced her convictions that sharing tea is an elegant and effective way to get to know and understand others.  Happy and sad times are shared through bits of everyone.  Bits of knowledge, bits of emotion, bits of life, bits of broken cups and saucers, a deluge of bits combine in this intricate work, which not surprisingly, resembles a quilt.
"Make Time For Tea" - photo by Myriam Frenette

Detail of "Make Time For Tea"
"Seebriese" (German for sea breeze) alludes to Brinkman's roots and her imaginary worlds in New Brunswick and at Lake of Bays.  A deer horn protrudes from her neck, she is one with the land, part of wildlife.  A little recessed box in the abdomen contains a butterfly, a specimen preserved by an avid collector.  Is it dead or alive?  The artist has butterflies in her stomach as she explores the unknown. 

This work is extremely complex. The colours are rich and refined and contrasting materials invite the viewer to explore the surface, to see what Brinkman sees. She is unequivocal, "We are not separate from nature, everything is interconnected".

Seebriese - Photo by Myriam Frenette

She loves working with mirrors which reflect life.  When used in mosaics, everything moves.  In this close-up, mirror fragments, fabric and the unexpected "belly-butterfly box" reveal how intricate details become an entrancing whole.

A touch of whimsy animates "The Looker" which involves word/image play.  Brinkman sees life in shades of gray; for her nothing is black and white.  Society must look beyond physical appearances and she hopes that women will play an active role in opening the eyes of society, one in which there are no extremes.  An advocate for peace, she is actively involved in World Citizen Artists, an international group of creative individuals who believe that united, they can achieve positive change in the world.

"The Looker" - Photo by Myriam Frenette

This awe-inspiring, multilayered exhibition should not be missed.  It runs at the Galerie de la Ville, 12001 boul. de Salaberry, Dollard-des-Ormeaux until the 18th of December 2016.  

Tuesday, 15 November 2016


Out of nowhere, a tiny drawer in one of the filing cabinets in my head pops open.  Why in heaven's name am I reminded of something my English teacher read in Grade 9 or 10?  

Ashes of recollection pile up and thanks to good old Google I find the poem online.

The Indispensable Man
(by Saxon White Kessinger)

Sometime when you're feeling important;
Sometime when your ego 's in bloom;
Sometime when you take it for granted,
You're the best qualified in the room:
Sometime when you feel that your going,
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions,
And see how they humble your soul.

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that's remaining,
Is a measure of how much you'll be missed.
You can splash all you wish when you enter,
You may stir up the water galore,
But stop, and you'll find that in no time,
It looks quite the same as before.

The moral of this quaint example,
Is to do just the best that you can,
Be proud of yourself but remember,
There's no indispensable man.

Not the greatest of poetry to be sure but the analogy is effective. For some peculiar reason, I find myself wanting to prove Kessinger wrong.  I crave to thrust my hand in a bucket full of water even if I know what the outcome will be. 
No hole.  
No hole.  
No hole.  
No hole.
No hole.


Monday, 31 October 2016


As the end of the year approaches, the weather here in Québec tends to become dark and dreary.  On rainy days the earth blends with the sky in various shades of gray.  Leaves are gone and days become short. Those who have to be at work by 8:00 get up in the dark and return home in the dark.  It's not always easy for the psyche to adjust to the disappearing sun.

But there are ways.

Fragment of work in progress

I look forward to foggy, damp days when I have to turn on the lights to prepare my breakfast. There is no hint of sun outside but there is light in my heart.  I feel snug in our toasty abode.  It's like floating in a womb. Overcast conditions provide fertile ground for creativity.  

Experimentation and innovation arise in countless ways throughout the day.  I often begin by preparing steamy comfort food to be eaten later.  A warm stove and the aroma of stew follow me into my studio.  I am free from the claws of outdoor duties and obligations.  Paper and canvas await me.  Big IKEA fixtures and full spectrum lightbulbs illuminate the room.  I alone control this sun and it often stays on until late into the night.  

Nothing tempts me to leave my studio except for another creative endeavour.  While the paint dries, I sit in the living room and knit, something I haven't done in years. There is no sound but that of clicking needles.  I think of nothing.  It's a time-honoured way to clear useless brain chatter, and the uncomplicated scarf that is slowly growing warms my thighs.  A perfect day is a simple one, filled with subtle accomplishments. 

I am obviously not yet ready for a winter jaunt to Florida or Costa Rica.

Monday, 17 October 2016


Hello everyone! Here is the gallery press release concerning the Irresistible Forces exhibition. English information appears below the French.

The vernissage (opening) yesterday was great. I love interactive shows.  Viewers happily flipped through pages of books and journals, and walked around more sculptural pieces looking for surprising revelations. Outstanding 2-D works on the theme of books also hung on the walls.  

The show is on until Saturday the 13th of November. Opening hours are listed below.  Happy viewing if you go and please don't forget to write in the guestbook.  Artists love your feedback.

Here is a picture of the installation taken after everyone left. Claudine Ascher, the Director/Curator, did an terrific job.

galerie  de  la ville 
centre des arts de dollard centre for the arts
12001  boul.  de  Salaberry ,  DDO,  Que,  H9B 2A7
514-684-1012 ext. 298,

            La Galerie de la Ville présente en octobre et en novembre Forces irrésistibles, une exposition d’œuvres créées en réponse à un appel à la participation d’artistes invités à réaliser et à présenter des livres d’artiste.        
            Le format livre a toujours exercé une fascination chez les artistes visuels, bien que contrairement aux écrivains qui créent des images par les mots, les artistes perçoivent le contenu du livre en images visuelles. Avec le format du ‘livre d’art’, les artistes peuvent créer une série d’images interreliées et les disposer soit de façon séquentielle selon un modèle de prose narrative, ou de manière plus fluide suivant un courant d’esprit plus poétique. Ils peuvent créer dans tous les styles, à partir de sujets représentés de façon réaliste ou expressive et organisés en séquences comme dans une bande dessinée ou un livre pop-up, ou d’images abstraites disposées avec fluidité et liées par l’ambiance ou la gestuelle, et toute autre interprétation de l’idée qu’on se fait du ‘livre’.
            La thématique des livres d’artiste a été imposée : Les artistes étaient appelés à prendre en considération ces expériences personnelles, ces gens, ces événements, ces idées ou ces forces qui exercent une influence sur la formation d’identités individuelles. Celles-ci prennent diverses formes dans notre vie et présentent plusieurs variations, qu’elles soient naturelles à artificielles, réelles à imaginaires, émotionnelles à intellectuelles, physiques à conceptuelles, individuelles à sociales. Les artistes étaient invités à créer leurs propres livres d’artiste pour pouvoir réfléchir sur les forces irrésistibles qui touchent leur vie.
            La surprise sera de voir comment les artistes qui n’ont pas l’habitude de travailler en format livre relèveront le défi. Le résultat sera sûrement diversifié et fascinant.
            Le vernissage des Forces irrésistibles aura lieu le dimanche 16 octobre 2016, de 13 h à 15 h. L’exposition se déroulera du samedi 15 octobre au dimanche 13 novembre 2016 à la Galerie de la Ville.
            La Galerie de la Ville est située au niveau inférieur du Centre culturel de Dollard, au 12001 boulevard De Salaberry, à Dollard-des-Ormeaux. Les heures d’ouverture sont les mardis et mercredis de 12h à 16h, les jeudis et vendredis de 14 h à 17 h, et les samedis et dimanches de 13 h à 16 h (sauf le dimanche du vernissage de 13 h à 15 h). Pour d’autres renseignements, ou pour organiser une visite guidée gratuite de cette exposition pour votre groupe, veuillez téléphoner au 514-684-1012, poste 298, ou visiter notre site web                                       
Source : Claudine Ascher, Directrice / Conservatrice

            Galerie de la Ville presents in October / November a Call-for-Entry exhibition entitled Irresistible Forces for which visual artists were invited to create and submit artists’ books.
            The book format has always held a fascination for visual artists, though unlike writers, who create images through words, they perceive its content as visual images. In the ‘art book’ format, artists can create a series of interconnected images and arrange them either sequentially, following a narrative prose model, or more fluidly, following a poetic or train-of-thought model. They can work to any style, from subjects rendered realistically or expressively and sequenced as in comic or pop-up books, or abstractions arranged fluidly and linked by mood or gesture, and in any interpretation of the ‘book’ idea.
            The theme for the artists’ books was imposed: artists were asked to consider those life experiences, people, events, ideas or forces which played a key role in the formation of their individual self-identities. These influences take many forms in our lives and have many variations, from natural to manmade, from the actual to the imagined, from the emotional to the intellectual, from the physical to the conceptual, from the individual to the social.  Artists were invited to create their personal artists’ books to reflect on the irresistible forces in their own lives.
            The surprise will be to see how artists who don’t normally work in a book format meet the challenge. The response will certainly be varied and intriguing.
            The Opening Reception for Irresistible Forces will take place on Sunday, October 16, 2016, from 1 to 3 pm. The exhibition will run from Saturday, October 15 to Sunday, November 13, 2016 at Galerie de la Ville.
            Galerie de la Ville is located in the lower level of the Dollard Cultural Centre, at 12001 De Salaberry Boulevard, in Dollard des Ormeaux. Opening hours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 12 to 4 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays from 2 to 5 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. For further information, or to arrange free, guided tours of this exhibition for your group of six or more people, please call 684-1012, ext.298.

Source: Claudine Ascher, Director / Curator, Galerie de la Ville