Friday, January 27, 2012

L'Incubateur de Mario Cyr et le Café des Artistes


This is a photo of Mario Cyr, professional artist, working during one of his Incubator events. Mario prepares questions of aesthetics and philosophy for a structured discussion and debate as he uses the conversation to inspire his abstract paintings. It is fascinating to see how Mario complete a work in one session as he paints, removes paint, and works over the canvas with rags and brushes.

Wednesday evening, Mario led another sort of Incubator at the Café des Artistes. The question for debate was " Is the artist an object?" with quotations from Modernist painters. The discussion was lively following a delicious meal at the Café Aberdeen in the Aberdeen Cultural Center, Moncton, N.B. Mario was not painting this time! Go to his web site for more information and images of his work.

The Café des Artistes meets once a month for the exchange of ideas and encouragement among artists.

Night Vision Panel

My carved panel is beginning to take shape. This morning I painted some basic forms in acrylic so that I can see more easily where to carve and what to emphasize. I mixed heavy gloss gel with the paint to imitate the look of enamel paint. Where I had used several layers of acrylic tar gel, the paint retains the high gloss. The paintbrush made some interesting striations on the surface. The acrylic has to dry for a while before I can carve further. I don't want any splinters to adhere to the paint.

I can see areas near the left side of the panel which need more carving and I intend to indicate water in deeper depressions in the wood with sanded modelling paste. I have two smaller panels, 12" x 16" which I am going to work on as part of this project.

The concept of this work refers to walking by the river at night in the winter. There is a warm tone to the sky, which hangs over the city.  It may be reflected in the water. The mud and the ice take on odd shapes and colors in the obscurity of the dark. The photograph is a reminder of the effect I am working towards.

This afternoon I continued carving. The panel works vertically as well, suggesting running water over a cliff face ( a favourite theme). Perhaps this will be a work which can be displayed either way.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Carving Plywood

My first plywood project of 2012 is underway, 24" x 24".

It is good to be working on wood again. I am using the grain to develop the forms and the process. I had carved a texture into one section of the panel and covered it with acrylic tar gel as an experiment in December. Today I decided to add more glossy areas and see what I can do with them. I will try painting this gloss over acrylic paint to see if it resembles enamel when it dries. I am thinking of a deep black and an Imperial Red with areas of the wood grain to begin with.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Reflections on Boston Museum Visits

Looking at original art has always been vital to my progress as an artist. Two exhibits at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts held special interest and significance for me during my first Residency at the Art Institute of Boston:

Ellsworth KellyWood SculptureSeptember 18, 2011 - March 4, 2012
Jedediah CaesarSoft StructuresDecember 17, 2011 - April 1, 2012

The subtle curves and lines of Ellsworth Kelly’s wood sculptures presented an exquisite contrast to the highly sanded, natural wood grains on their surfaces. Several shapes resembled powerful, yet lithe monoliths, and assumed command of the large galleries. Others were suspended from the wall, casting a myriad of fascinating shadows, which seemed integral to the works. The wood grains were skillfully employed to reveal surface decoration.

I have been working with plywood for the last few months and I found Kelly’s work to be both subtle and monumental. Although I enjoy the rough texture of ordinary plywood when it is carved, Kelly’s works encourage me to try several fine-grained woods to see what effects I can create. His sculptures also present ideas for shaping works of art which are not rectangular, opening up many possibilities.

Go to these link to see photos and read reviews:

All photos I found of the sculptures on the Web are copyrighted and I was not supposed to take any of the actual show; however, I purchased the catalog!

Jedediah Caesar : Soft Structures Boston MFA
Jedediah Caesar’s resin panels captivate me. By embedding debris in resin and slicing the resulting prism-shaped forms into panels, the textures, shapes and colors of discarded objects and debris become design elements independent of their original forms and functions. A tension develops between what is planned and what is arrived at haphazardly. The panels are subsequently arranged to enhance their visual impact. The contrast in texture between various materials adds to each panel’s individual appearance. The compositions are strong form a distance, while the textures of individual materials become fascinating up close. I had read about this body of work before seeing the show. It is another case where print media can only give you a general idea of the impact of particular works of art.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Earth Skins: Three Decades of Drawing by Susan Wood

Yesterday I had occasion to visit the Owens Art Gallery at Mount Allison University where an exhibition of Susan Wood's drawings is the featured show. It is great to see the progression of Susan's work. We were both Fine Arts students at Mt A around the same time, with Susan graduating before I did. The drawings range from small and intimate looks at birds and plants to large scale images of skate egg sacs, beach debris and variations of a large dress. The works are mixed media, with very sensitive, fine pen and ink lines as well as collaged paper and fabric textures.

Susan's drawings are sensitive and moving. The sense of loss and mourning for small, yet significant beings in the drawings of dead birds, flowers and plants comes through very clearly. Nineteenth-century script provides commentary and backgrounds for some of the drawings. Botanical-style ink drawings of flowers are juxtaposed with other elements as if a Victorian lady has been interrupted and the various items on her desktop have been preserved together on a background of rough paper. Susan's interest in surface texture is visible while the viewer is very close to the work.

Observing mortality in nature is a different approach from the work I am now developing. My current body of work revolves around the timelessness of water, stone and sediment and their potential for evoking associations in the viewer. Susan has worked very closely with the subjects of her drawings, while I am simplifying elements into large forms. My interest in texture is realized through carving and adding material to the surface of plywood before painting.

We also viewed part of D'Arcy Wilson's multi-media installation 'Tuck'.
D'Arcy says:
"This act offers an alternative to the liaison formed between the specimens and their creators (the hunters and taxidermists who prepared them a century ago). Nevertheless, there is perversity in both our actions: the animals were killed for display, and now I propose to sing them to sleep, overlooking their inability to abandon their posts".

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Visit to Providence, RI

Felice and I in front of  'Homage to Mexican Folk Art' by Francisco Moreno, RISD.
Following our first intensive residency, I was fortunate to visit my friend, Felice, in Providence, RI. We visited two mansions in Newport and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. There is no substitute for seeing works of art directly. Often the format and scale of certain pieces turns out to be very different from the way I have imagined them. The content of a work can be so compelling that I visualize it in large dimensions, even though the original may be quite the reverse.

I was impressed with the Contemporary Art Collection in the museum. Each piece seems to represent an important body of work of its creator. I was quite fascinated to see one of Anselm Kiefer's large, heavy books and also one of Vija Celmins' ocean drawings as a print. This particular work was small and intimate, with ripples and waves lovingly shaded. Celmins' ocean series relates to my interest in water as a subject. However, I am more interested in creating the suggestion of water, rather than portraying each individual wavelet as it is captured in a photograph. 

Nancy Chunn's show 'Chicken Little and the Culture of Fear' seems to take a humorous look at the absurdities and fears inherent in North American life. Chunn's 'Front Pages' project was pithy and incisive. A copy of the bound book of these New York Times front pages transformed into drawings, paintings and graphics was available for perusal. 

There is a link to an image sheet with selections from the Chicken Little series.

We found time to view the graduate exhibition of Master of Fine Arts RISD students. There were some intriguing pieces which create sound as the visitor interacts with them. However, one was too delicate to touch in spite of the card inviting us to try it. 'Whole' by Astrid Toha combines abstract painting on the wall with projected images, suggesting an ambiguity which I aim for in my own work. Astrid was in the gallery at the time and gave me permission to photograph her work:

'Whole' by Astrid Toha, RISD MFA Thesis Graduate Show

The Breakers Newport

The Elms and the Breakers mansions were interesting to walk through. The owners impressed their guests with elaborate decor and huge proportions in the rooms used for entertaining, which seemed too busy to our more minimalist eyes. The private bedrooms showed more elegant restraint, with muted colors and pale furniture. I actually found the enormous and exotic trees in the gardens to be more captivating than the houses.