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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

L'ART CHEZ SOI / ART AT HOME - A UNIQUE EVENT

Malls are busy places. Thousands saunter through the crowded shops as a diversion, some rush through to get what they want in a hurry, others take the time to sit and observe a parade of cultures, meet for a chat and coffee or throw money into the wish fountain.  Children holler for gelato, popcorn, or some special toy.

No one comes expecting to view art.

Claudine Ascher, curator/artist saw an opportunity in one of our busiest malls, Fairview Pointe Claire. She noticed an empty store that had everything an art show requires, bleached metallic grids on every white wall (no nails required), amazing lighting, and a beautiful hardwood floor. She approached the powers that be to see if her idea could become a reality and managed to rent the space for one month. Her philosophy? If you don't try, you don't get.

SHE GOT!!!  Ascher makes things happen. 



She had only one week to get things organized. She also had to have a sign made according to the mall's specifications.  Simple but elegant, here is L'ART CHEZ SOI (ART AT HOME).


The space on April 8th before we opened the doors.




Approximately 1000 people visited during the vernissage.



The 8 works works per artist are varied in style and beautifully hung. The viewer's eye seamlessly flows from one artist's work to the other. The reaction to this "hit and run" event has been overwhelmingly positive. Visitors tell us how refreshing it is to have this kind of experience within the confines of a mall. Ascher has managed to bring art to all, no small feat.

An event not to be missed!
This exceptional show runs until this Friday, April 28th. We look forward to your visit!

Sunday, 2 April 2017

6è BIENNALE DE DESSIN AT THE MUSÉE DE MONT-ST-HILAIRE & GUIDING LIGHTS EXHIBITION





I had two openings this month: the first was for the 6th Drawing Biennale (6è Biennale du dessin) at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Mont-St-Hilaire. Drawing biennales are few and far between, in fact this is a singular event in Canada. I love to draw and was thankful to be chosen along with 16 other artists. 

The theme of the show is Chimère (Chimera). The Musée printed up a catalogue with accompanying texts by Julien Lavoie who curated the show. What follows is a rough translation (French to English) of what he wrote about my work. 

Section II    Chimera of Time

Diane Collet | Portraits frozen in time 

The imprint of time, the traces of its passage on bodies as they appear in the Ruins of Diane Collet, is an inevitability that affects both nations and individuals.

Ruins
Chimeras of time are tenacious; in addition to weighing down bodies, they torment the mind and erect the heyday boom years of youth in the golden age.

The Italian Renaissance for example, found  a kind of cultural ideal in antiquity that could be reinterpreted and revived as the flavour of the day.

It is by drawing from the ruins of ancient times and by learning aesthetic concepts as defined by Greek philosophers that remarkable works like those of Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, symbols of the attainment of genius by a people, were made possible.

Finding ruins is certainly more difficult and less exciting than the idea of a rebirth.  

In this series of drawings which have aging as their theme, Diane Collet writes: "These drawings are self-portraits transformed by merging my features with those of statues or prehistoric objects." Her face is found among crippled Doric columns and statues in a pitiful state.  Bordering on caricature, the face presents a pathetic expression, which is not devoid of this "somewhat disconcerting" humour that one finds with Collet.

La Lupa
In La Lupa's bewitching eye, we perceive a background of mystery and mischief without really knowing what is hidden there.

In this instance, the arrogance of a young seductress speaks through a representation that the viewer catches in passing, as one perceives a lost gaze in the midst of a crowd.

Knowing that La Lupa is a vengeful and murderous femme fatale taken from a novella by Giovanni Verga and made into a feature film by Gabriele Lavia, we edge nearer to the mystery surrounding this portrait, whose setting, chosen by the artist, recalls portraits of criminals sketched at the exits of courthouses.

Ruins and La Lupa share the same depths of darkness and the resulting images are intercrossed by instinctive undercurrents that Collet crystallizes into ephemeral insights and fleeting impressions.

From there to suggest that these moments of transfiguration seized by the artist are times when reality is suddenly highjacked, revealing a being surprised in her full truth, and who transcends time to embody a universal emotion, and only part of the story.

I really don't think my translation did this text justice but the gist is there. The catalogue is available at the Musée.

People reacted very positively to the show. The Musée's space is theatrical, lights hover over the artwork and the effect is magical. Here are a few photos of the event.


Shimmering sign at the entrance of the show
With La Lupa and Ruins










Part of the installation - great turnout!
Participating artists

The Biennale runs until the 30th of April 2017 and is well worth the visit.


I also participated in the Dollard Centre for the Arts Faculty Exhibition "Guiding Lights" at the Galerie de la Ville. This yearly event is a wonderful opportunity for teachers and students alike to appreciate the practice of the teaching artists. I decided to exhibit a selection of what I've been doing lately including a couple of drawings, a painting and a digital print. 

Guiding Lights Exhibition
Works from left to right:  Sacred Talons, Bad Pea Soup Blacks London,
The More Things Change, & Prometheus

This show runs until April 23rd. More information is in press release below.



March was an exciting month and another interesting, special event is coming up in April.  Stay tuned!


Saturday, 11 March 2017

(SUB)URBAN SKETCHERS FREEZE THEIR FINGERS

On the morning of February 26th, I schlepped off to the Ecomuseum in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue to draw with the (Sub)Urban Sketchers. The zoo is a wonderful place with animal species exclusively from Québec.  

When I drove into the parking lot, I was surprised at the number of cars that were already there on an early Sunday morn.  

"What a busy place, whoda thunk"? I mused.  

Last time I visited the museum was quite a few years ago. I must have gone on a week day because on this occasion I was in for a bit of a shock. Lots of parents come with their children for this perfect learning activity. The zoo isn't big and that is part of its charm....BUT...and it's a big BUT, Sunday mornings is not a good time to go and sketch. I quickly ascertained that my drawings would have to be quickies because wild kids kept screaming and running around me. 

I don't recall my children having been quite that loud and rambunctious when I took them on outings. I was exhausted in no time.

While inside, I managed to draw turtles and a couple of snakes but I thought it might be more pleasant and quiet outdoors. 

It was but unfortunately also incredibly cold. I wore gloves that had the fingers cut off at the ends so I was perhaps better prepared than the others to draw in these conditions but again, it soon became obvious that the drawings would have to be quick.  I had to warm up the tips of my fingers at regular intervals.

This was a second outing for the (Sub)Urban Sketchers and a somewhat challenging one, although freezing fingers and screaming kids are all part of the onsite sketching experience. It trains artists to draw under all types of conditions. I'm slowly learning which materials to bring depending on weather conditions and environmental noise.






I will definitely go back when it's warmer to draw more birds of prey. I love their expressions, they just seem so incredibly annoyed with the world...wonder if they watch the latest breaking news on CNN?


Monday, 27 February 2017

RETURN TO HIGH SCHOOL

Some things never change. 

I visit my 102-year-old-mom at the seniors residence where she lives on a regular basis. I get a feel for the place by observing the goings on. 

My mom is happy there most likely because she is free of responsibility. There are no meals to make, dishes to wash, nor is there dirty laundry to sort. Finally. 

Born in 1914 on a farm, mom lost her mother at a very young age and as a result, was expected to participate in housecleaning, meal preparation and the care of two younger siblings. She hated fetching the milk cow in the field at the end of the day. Afraid that she might run into "des hommes chaud" (drunk men), she avoided all possible encounters by hiding behind shrubs and bushes on her way to find the cowMom decided early on that she had to marry someone from the city. 

But back to the residence. My mother is an introvert and keeps her interaction with the human race (other residents) to a minimum. The door to her room remains open much of the time. When she isn't sleeping, she observes residents and staff who walk by in much the same way as she might view a parade of clowns. Her philosophy? Watch but don't mix.

I always had trouble relating to her approach but it might be wise in some respects. A seniors residence is a little microcosm of society much like high school. My experience with the latter wasn't particularly positive so naturally, I dread reliving a repeat performance (in the event that I live to be that old).

From my mom's room, I can easily hear what is happening in the common area. Sometimes all is quiet, at other times there are "fun" activities for the residents. I think there's something called a monkey toss....I daren't ask.

Once I overheard heard an argument between resident 1 & 2 that went something like this:

#1:  "Where's my paper?
#2:  "I don't have your paper.
#1:  "Yes you do, I saw you walk away with it."
#2:  "That was my paper."
#1:  "No it wasn't. You don't get the paper delivered anymore."
#2:  "Yes I do."
#1:  "No you don't. You stopped it. That was my paper. Go and get my paper in your 
        room."
#2:  "No that's my paper."
#1:  "No it isn't you old bird. You look like an old bird."



Taking into consideration that residents are often confused, it stands to reason that clashes occur, but what I found particularly juvenile was the name calling. Will we all regress? I've heard that older folk don't care about niceties anymore. Maybe everyone buries their frustrations for ninety years until the pressure cooker pops and real little monsters emerge. 

I'd better have my sketch pad ready.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

CLAUDINE ASCHER AT LE MUSÉE DES MAÎTRES ET ARTISANS DU QUÉBEC

Claudine Ascher
Claudine Ascher is one of the most accomplished individuals I know, gifted in so many respects. It's easy to draft a list of positive attributes to describe her: intelligent, assertive, fearless, dedicated, kind and extremely creative.

As a gallery curator and educator, she has made significant contributions to many an art career, but as an artist, she never ceases to astonish and inspire. Her singular skill as a clay sculptor / draughtsperson coupled with an innate penchant for the phantasmagorical alter our perceptions of reality. We are compelled to burrow through the wormhole of her imagination to arrive, emotionally altered, at some unexpected destination.

Ascher's background in theatre, design, fiction writing and dance feeds her creative process. Notably through the latter, she reveals her exhaustive knowledge of the human body, shows us how it moves and interacts within a three-dimensional environment. 





I've seen Ascher's sculptures and drawings in various settings over the years but the mise en scene at Le Musée des Maîtres et Artisans du Québec is a perfect backdrop for her work. The space brings out the stunning beauty and subtleties of each piece. Formerly, the Musée was a Neo-gothic Presbyterian church which went through a couple of transformations, from Catholic chapel to the singular museum of today. The magnificent never-ending dark wooden trusses, large stained-glass windows and artefacts relay the building's history and spiritual traditions. 

Clay is a naturally-occuring, organic, building material as is wood.  The "communion" of clay sculpture, unframed drawings and wooden beams in this otherworldly space is breathtaking. They were made for each other.

Ascher's work is largely autobiographical yet universal. Born in Egypt, her early childhood was spent in Brazil after which she immigrated with her family to Canada. She coped with the deep-rooted struggles that come with adolescent displacement. There is way more to resettlement than merely learning a new language and customs. Introspection inevitably comes with the territory.
























Falling angels greet us on each side of the space. They sit or flop on clay clouds.  Who but Ascher would even think of making clouds out of clay? "The Bomb" and "The Belly Flop" refer to the fallen angels of literary fiction but these are not unhappy sinners cast out from heaven. They are women who seem to be enjoying the fall. Ascher puts a new whimsical spin on a well-known tale which invites deeper reflection. Shall we give into temptation?  The answer is a resounding yes!


Falling Angel:  The Bomb (2 parts)
Falling Angel:  The Belly Flop (2 parts)
Ascher loves a challenge and this is evident in her mastery of trompe l'oeil. All that she creates, tools, furniture, clothing and more look deceptively real. But it's all an illusion. "If Narcissus Could See Me Now" is an incredibly fragile vanity made of clay. Lipsticks, creams, perfumes and other cosmetics/tools peddled to improve the appearance of women float in the choppy seas of the dressing table's surface, while in the mirror, a hand reaches out of the water. Someone is drowning. A lonely dress shoe, also in clay, lies discarded on the floor.  Emotional turmoil surfaces as we unwittingly peel the impassioned layers that haunt the work.  

This powerful sculpture is nearly life-size, 44” high, 24” wide, 12” deep and coloration is achieved exclusively though glazing.

If Narcissus Could See Me Now (7 parts)

"Autobiography" below is a phenomenal pièce de résistance. Books, an old-fashioned dial phone and slides (remember those?), a lamp, binder, paper, pens, stamps, file folders, partly used paint tubes, a desk and chair as well as other sundry objects that describe an artist's career all seem authentic. The scale of the work is impressive when one considers the size of the average oven used to fire ceramic sculpture.  

I'm tempted to pick up a sheet of paper until the realization hits!  This thin slab is made of clay.  52 elements combine to create the illusion that someone has just stepped out to get a cup of coffee.

Autobiography (52 parts)




Many of us live with some kind of elephant in the room defined as an obvious problem or difficult situation that no one wants to talk about. Ascher creates a powerful visual metaphor by juxtaposing large, delicate drawings of three elephants on a folding panel against a small ceramic sculpture of a young girl's dress perched on a transparent plexiglas podium. A tiny pair of shoes is placed underneath the dress on a smaller white podium recalling the proportions of a child that cannot be seen.  Perhaps the invisible little girl resides in all of us. I feel like Munch's "Scream".

The Elephant in the Room

To say that all the works in this show are compelling is an understatement. In the "Waiting Room" below, a series of chairs acquires human attributes. 

I relate to these works at a very fundamental level. Waiting is a national pastime in Québec, especially when dealing with the medical system. The sick and weary wait, and wait, and wait, until they are permanently glued to their respective chairs. When names are finally called, body parts rip off the core and are left behind. Humanity remains permanently mutilated in a world devoid of respect.

Waiting Room










Ascher adds to the visual experience of this exhibition via bilingual (French and English) poems/prose which accompany some of the tonal works.  Her writings about the "Waiting Room" are revealing:

All that waiting, all that not knowing,
all those moments suspended in time,
neither here nor there.
It’s a process, after all.

There is a moment when substance and spirit align,
When where feet tread, and what hands touched
Matter more than the not.

***
Tout ce temps passé à attendre
Toute cette incertitude 
Tous ses moments passés suspendus 
Ni ici, ni là-bas.
C’est un processus après tout.

Il y a un moment quand le corps 
et l’esprit s’alignent
quand la où les pieds sont passés 
et ce que les mains ont touchés
sont plus réels que le rien.




"Insomnia" below is one of the works in the grouping above. I am reminded of a famous quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet : “To die, to sleep – to sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in this sleep of death what dreams may come…” 

...but Ascher's insomnia asks "Are we ever truly awake?"


Insomnia

There is a difference between 
sleep and wakefulness?
Really?

Am I awake now?

Really?

***
Y a-till une différence entre 
le sommeil et le réveil?
Vraiment?

Suis-je réveillé maintenant?

Vraiment?


Claudine Ascher shares intimate stories that pinch a universal nerve. The power of the work lies in its vulnerability and compels us to look within ourselves. 

This exceptional exhibition runs until the 26th of February 2017 and is an event that should not be missed.









Saturday, 14 January 2017

MORE THAN ONE

January is whipping by. The weather varies from wet to frozen to bloody cold, but life is good.  I'm busy with a number of projects that make me feel positively toasty inside.  

I've discovered the joy of working with others. Groups can be as small as a duo, trio or a pack of five or more. A French expression applies here, "L'union fait la force", loosely translated as "There is strength in numbers". 

Some affiliations begin in a nebulous way. A fellow exhibitor in a group event might say, "Hey, I really like where you're going with this, how about we plan a show together based on theme X?"  Other groups are more structured, organized entities. 

Working with others gets projects going. A contagion of enthusiasm increases personal production as we inspire one another.  It's not uncommon to hear "Oh that's so cool, how did you do that?"

Artwork is generally created in isolation, requires focus, and as a result it's easy to put aside the painfully laborious paperwork plus stuff that comes with the job. In addition to being visual artists, each of us possesses a slew of other abilities. Some are adept at filling out forms, writing curatorial statements, grant applications and press releases, translation, marketing, while others are experts in the art of conversation, unafraid of the phone or schmoozing. All of these talents lead to interesting opportunities. Together we can move mountains, alone we stare at anthills.

In fairness, these unions don't always work out, personalities can clash, but it doesn't matter. Like in art, process and learning is the important thing. If we choose our collaborators wisely, everyone wins and that's the way I like it!



Friday, 30 December 2016

HELLO STUDIO

My working rhythm...wonky at the best of times, evaporates during the festive season. An entire train of thought, mindset, or mood turns into smoke and gently fades into nowhere. It's quite worrisome but experience tells me that eventually all falls into place. It had better because I have a very busy 2017 lined up.

I've managed to drift in and out of my studio for short periods but haven't been able to really focus due to holiday priorities such as gift buying and fudge making. I mostly start a few things or experiment with techniques that I think might work for a new piece. Goofing around is extremely valuable for creativity in the long run. 

Artist friends and I are planning group events. It's invigorating to exchange ideas and to learn from one another. Artmaking is generally a solitary activity but working on collective projects contributes to everyone's personal growth.

I had a look at my inventory of completed works for 2016 and found that my list was a bit flimsy in comparison to previous years. "Why?" I wondered, but in a flash it came to me. I worked on unusual projects during the year.

Tina Struthers and I created the permanent installation "Envol Vers l'Avenir" for the Tourist Office in Île-Perrot and after that, I spent a couple of months creating an artist book for the "Irresistible Forces" show. Each page was a work in itself, intensely time consuming. I learned a lot from both projects. Working in 3-D for the installation was a thrilling eye-opener while creating a funky book presented other new challenges. 

Here's a quickie video of "The Devil and My Artist Book". 





Some older works are still piled up on the floor waiting to be finished. I managed to complete two drawings that I had started many moons ago, mixed media Girdle Ghosts and Sacred Talons.


Girdle Ghosts

Sacred Talons

I keep reading articles about how dreadful 2016 was and how the world can expect a repeat performance in 2017. Who knows what lies ahead? In my mind's eye I see a famous photo of Henri Matisse holding a long pole attached to a paintbrush which allowed him to paint on paper that was pinned to his ceilings and walls. Although broken by ill health, he still managed to create electrifying imagery. I think I'll print up that image and hang it on my studio wall.  It's better than reading the news.

Friday, 16 December 2016

DRAWING IN THE CITY, SKETCHING IN SUBURBIA

Living in the suburbs has its advantages. Life is a bit less hectic in the boonies; the environment is greener, the air purer.  But downtown is generally where the action is.  Getting there is usually no big deal but it does seem like a production in the middle of winter.  Depending on the traffic and weather conditions, it can take anywhere from 40 minutes to two hours to get to our favourite metropolis from here in Vaudreuil-Dorion. During a snowstorm, one might never make it there at all.  

Thanks to CBC radio morning host Mike Finnerty, many now refer to Montreal as "orange cone city". Navigating the roads is a challenge.  Our urban centre is a zoo because of huge infrastructure projects all going on at the same time.  Overpasses are being torn down and rebuilt and many roads are dug up to upgrade old sewer systems that are falling apart. 

On top of all this, Montreal has always had an interesting approach to one-way roads.  There can be up to three in a row all going the same way.  It's sometimes possible to find one going in an opposite direction after driving around in increasingly larger squares for 15 minutes or so.  

THE CITY

One minute gesture
On December 3rd, my artist buddies and I decided to participate in a "Model Drawing Happening" organized by Artneuf in Montreal.  Because of multiple detours, we got lost in Verdun, which is no where near the Parc Lafontaine area.  Luckily we managed to make it with time to spare. 

The event took place in a theatre. Under staged lighting, 5 models took a variety of poses.  They mostly posed nude or partially dressed, some used props or draped sheer fabrics around their bodies. They were extremely agile and flexible, and the scenes they created were delicious in colour, texture, and drama. There were many artists and no easels which meant that we could only draw in our sketchbooks. 

Imposed limits are often a good thing.

I sat at a distance. Pen markers allowed me to work quickly and I had to live with whatever lines I put down. As usual, some drawings were good and others were horrendous.  It takes a while to get going.  We warmed up with a few one minute drawings. I often wish I could warm up for hours.  I love quickie drawings. They are so animated!  

In order to avoid creating drawings that were overly tight, I decided to do a semi-blind contour drawing to continue loosening up.  It's always a challenge to find the right balance between expression, elegant lines, and some degree of accuracy (or not).

Semi-blind contour plus a bit of colour and texture

The poses became longer, varying between 15 and 40 minutes.  The latter tend to be too long for me particularly when I'm holding a sketchbook.  I moved about to capture the spirit of  models I found particularly interesting and ended up sitting high up in the stairs for the one below.
Longer pose

3 models

Male model done in brush pen


The event was invigorating. I hadn't worked from models for a long while and realized how much I had missed it.  The next "Happening" is in March sometime so I may once again brave orange cone city to relive the experience.  Montreal will be celebrating its 375th birthday so hopefully, the cones will have disappeared by then.  Nothing but the best for our visitors.



SUBURBIA


There are also wonderful things to draw in the suburbs.  Karine Francoeur was inspired by Urban Sketchers and decided to form a group in our outlying region called (Sub)urban Sketchers V.-S.  Four of us met for the first time on November 27th at the Musée Régional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges. What we didn't have in numbers, we made up for in energy.  

This being Québec (rather on the cold side), we decided to draw objects that were inside the museum.  One of the interesting exhibits on until August 6th, 2017 is entitled "Au coeur de la Papouasie - Une périlleuse expédition de Daniel Bertolino" which roughly translated means "In the heart of Papua - A perilous expedition by Daniel Bertolino".  A documentary filmmaker recipient of the Order of Canada, Bertolino brought back some unusual objects from Papua New Guinea.  I was especially enthralled by a sacred mask made from the skull of a wild boar and spent a great deal of time drawing it. 




"Whoda thunk" I would come across a sacred skull mask from Papua New Guinea in suburbia?

The group is hoping to grow and meet once a month in different locations within the region. We are opting for indoor opportunities during the winter months since none of us appear to be terribly excited about drawing outside under freezing conditions.  I guess it all depends on what comes into our field of vision.