Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maquette for a Wall Mural

Vision 9 - Maquette for Wall Mural 

I received several announcements on my e-mail recently for a competition to develop a relief sculpture or painting to be hung on a concrete wall in the new wing of the Centre de formation médicale du Nouveau Brunswick (at the Université de Moncton) and I decided to try developing a concept piece for it. I quickly discovered that I would need to acquire further skills in working with heavy materials on a large scale! While looking at this piece, try to imagine it about 15 feet wide instead of its miniature 24 inches! You can see my reflection in the Plexi as I snapped the photo.

Each panel is set apart from the next one by about ½ inch. I used plastic pieces for attaching mirrors to walls and small pieces of wood with wood screws to secure the layers. I learned about assembling them as I went. It took me longer than I expected to work this out, so I did not submit the design. However, it has been a learning experience and has led me to new ideas.

I am planning to use a similar arrangement on my next project, which will involve two trapezoidal wood panels and one rhombus-shaped plexiglass panel. Each panel will project a slightly different distance from the level of the wall. I will be carving and texturing each panel before adding paint in varying amounts.

The Plexiglass catches the light in the carved lines on its surface. As the light changes, so does the effect. The Dremel tool creates a burr, which is read as white dots in the light. Some of this burr detaches easily from the surface, while the rest remains fused by the heat generated with the rotation of the cutting tool. As the viewer moves position, the interaction between the Plexi and the plywood panel underneath also changes. This interaction is only possible when the panels are spaced apart. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Vigour of Nature / Digital Images

Fern Porthole

In Fern Porthole, I am interested in the vitality of the ferns and the moss in opposition to the constructs of humanity, indicated here by the digitally drawn circle and rectangles.

Ivy & Wood #1

I have been experimenting with bits of my photographs and the 
filters and effects in Photoshop. At first, I was using the program to help develop ideas and sketches and to help me decide which directions to take once a work was in progress. My mentor, Herménégilde Chiasson, encouraged me to explore the possibilities of this approach and in so doing, I have discovered a fascinating medium. He also suggested that I develop some digital images as finished pieces. 

Ivy & Wood #2

After looking at some of Jacob Feige's work, I decided to try juxtaposing geometric shapes with the complex shapes of the ivy leaves. Amongst the three ivy efforts, I am happiest with the simplest image above, Ivy & Wood #1. I like the combination of geometric shapes and the organic forms of the leaves. The wood-textured shapes can be seen as representing humanity's control and manipulation of natural elements, while the ivy leaves represent the vigour of nature in resisting it. I also like exploring the visual possibilities of deep, black shapes.

Ivy & Wood #3

Even though my study references nature, I use digital technology constantly! These images look best on my computer screen, while my paintings on panels look best when viewed in person. 

I plan to look into several ways to print the digital images. I prefer matte paper to gloss and I would like to try 20" x 16" as a format. My skills with the touchpad, or lack thereof, will be evident, just as I had to crop these images once I saw them uploaded to the blog. The edges were messy in places with white and reddish-brown lines showing. Next time I will develop the images with a small border around them which can be cropped off later, or I will pay more attention to the edges when I am adding layers and shapes.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Culture and the Critic's Role / Frye Festival

Northrup Frye (July 14, 1912 - January 23, 1991) was a Canadian literary critic and literary theorist, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century. 
For an overview of his career, go to:

The Frye Festival is Canada's only bilingual international literary festival and the largest literary event in Atlantic Canada.

Last Friday evening my husband and I attended a reception for U of Toronto graduates followed by a panel discussion during the Frye Festival of the role of the literary critic in contemporary culture. The discussion was titled "Culture and the Critic: How the age of media affects the role of the critic today."

Participants were John Doyle, writer for the Globe and Mail, author Terry Fallis, CBC host, producer and author Nora Young, along with novelist and television journalist David Gilmour. The discussion was lively and entertaining as well as insightful.

The panel has recognized a shift in the way cultural criticism is delivered and received in the digital age. Critics may not be totally enthusiastic about a literary, musical or artistic production, but they attempt to express a reasoned opinion. They have plenty of feedback from their audiences via the internet from those who agree and those who disagree with them.

Some of the comments were as follows:

Should the critic be expected to act as a publicist? Generally, no.The critic's loyalty is to the readership of his/her publication. Will they benefit from or enjoy the offering under consideration? (John Doyle)

The danger in being a critic for too long is that one has an uncontested arena for his/her opinions and the critic can become lost in self-importance. (David Gilmour contributed these thoughts.)

Critics are often phrase-makers, where exaggeration sounds good in the text, but the comments may be hurtful to the author/ artist / creator.

The digital age has allowed for immediate dialog with a critic's readers. It is easier to stay in touch and write criticism where the audience is engaged in collaborative filtering. (I have paraphrased John Doyle's comments here.)

The critic's role is to curate, to inform and to influence, to teach us how to assess so that we may make informed choices. (Terry Fallis added this.)

The critic's role is to articulate what is good and what is important, rather than to negate and suppress.
Northrup Frye said this, although I have paraphrased it somewhat. David contributed this quotation.

John added that the digital age creates a broad band of criticism.

Nora Young described her reticence to read the reviews and the criticism of her recently published book The Virtual Self: How Our Lives are Altering the World Around Us. 

I bought a copy of Nora's book and she kindly autographed it for me. We had a conversation about distance education and particularly the AIB Low Residency MFA program. I have been reading her book and it is very interesting how people become caught up in tracking the details of their lives on-line and playing with the data. Nora explores the implications of all of this data being deposited in cyberspace. There are ways we can utilize it to better our lives, or we can overlook the ways that other people can exploit it. I haven't finished it yet, but it is well worth a careful read!

What is Beauty in Art?

Blue Shapes Digital Image

Last week my cultural calendar began with a discussion of 'Beauty in Art' with the Café des Artistes. The topic drew a large group of visual artists from the area. The evening was led by Marie-Hélène Allain.

Here are some ideas to think about from the evening:

The artist/ composer interprets what s/he considers to be beautiful; a theme which envelops us in its truth.

Beauty is linked to the true, the perception of the individual's truth.

Art is a lie, a deformity of reality. Each work of art is fabricated.

Truth is different for each person.

Art transforms and deforms reality.

Inventing something beautiful takes us beyond our personal limits.

Beauty is the result of communication through an original expression.

It is an abstraction. If the work of art is successful, there is an energy between its parts.

Beauty is the resolution of emotional conflict. It involves the heart, the spirit and the intellect.

Virtuosity on its own is not beauty. It requires natural spontaneity, talent and passion to accomplish it.

Complexity and contradiction can lead to beauty.

It is the reflexion of our soul.