By Aaren Madden, September 2016
Lindsay Delaronde’s collaborative photography project uses images to defy the language and attitudes that marginalize indigenous women.
LANGUAGE PLAYS A POWERFUL ROLE in the history of colonialism, racism and sexism. Even small words have major implications: there is a big difference between, say, the history of Vancouver Island and a history of Vancouver Island. The former leaves no room for alternative tellings or voices, while the latter acknowledges that as the whole point. That single mark carries with it a powerful paradigm shift.
By Aaren Madden, July 2016
Dana Irving’s background as a mural painter and her love of coastal forests have resulted in a grand, sweeping style.
IN DANA IRVING'S OIL ON CANVAS PAINTING “Special”, the Salish Sea laps onto a rocky shore. Not far from the water’s edge, a stand of wind-blown trees rises from mossy rocks. In just about the centre of the image, an island large enough for one lone tree is surrounded by the waves. Clouds sweep overhead. Any number of coastlines in this region could claim such a scene, and anyone who has scrambled over similar rocks knows that these are places teeming with life: growth and decay, wind and weather, salt and sun and rock supporting an intricate ecosystem.
By Aaren Madden, May 2016
Robin Hopper’s legacy in ceramics encompasses production, education, publications, institutions—and a beautiful garden.
THIS IS ONE OF MY greatest artworks,” says Robin Hopper, the ceramic artist. He’s referring not to one of his many functional or decorative ceramic pieces or his two-dimensional glaze paintings, but to his garden. “The reason I have a garden is I don’t have to go looking for inspiration; I can just walk out the door and it’s there. It feeds me all the time,” he says. If you see one of his pieces embellished with a clematis design, it is one of the 50 varieties that grow in his garden.
By Aaren Madden, March 1, 2016
Wildlife artist and environmentalist Mark Hobson’s arrival at his beloved, secluded floating studio has been a lifelong journey.
THE DAY I SPOKE BY PHONE with painter Mark Hobson, it was one of those soft, still, misty winter days in Victoria. But where he was—on the west coast of Vancouver Island—it was decidedly different. The wind blustered angrily and scooped the waves right up and into Hobson’s 16-foot Boston Whaler as he and his border collie cross, Wicklow, made the perilous commute from his float home studio up in Clayoquot Sound to Tofino.
By Aaren Madden, February 2016
Barbara Callow uses light to bring life to the painted form.
WHEN BARBARA CALLOW is at the grocery store or the farmers’ market making produce selections, she has a larger set of criteria than most. Fruit and vegetables in particular need to meet standards not just of freshness and nutritional value, but of aesthetics as well. Such is the case for many a still life painter like herself. “An artist is always looking at the world in terms of what they can paint,” she says, admitting, “Quite often I will buy something just because I like the look of it, then I will bring it home and take photos, then eat it later.”
By Aaren Madden, January 2016
With his unique medium, sculptor Roland Gatin fuses stone to build connections and explore ideas.
When Roland Gatin was 11 years old, he stood in the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy, and took in Michelangelo’s David. He was a long way from the small town of Lanigan, Saskatchewan, where he was born in 1968, and the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he had lived since he was six years old. Says the 47-year-old artist today, “I can remember this wonderful light, noticing motes of dust floating around and being aware of the smell of that dust as it circulated in that space. My sense of it at the time was that it was the smell of stone dust, but that’s just because I was surrounded by stone…It was more likely just ambient old city soot dust.”
By Aaren Madden, December 2015
Joanne Thomson’s new paintings, inspired by her grandparents’ life, transform the pain of family secrets.
A recent watercolour on paper painting by Joanne Thomson depicts two stems of Indian Paintbrush resting in a few inches of water in a humble mason jar. Inspired by it, she wrote a poem with the same deceptively simple clarity, which is printed on the back of an art card of the image: “Spilling out the edges/ form and colour/ refuse to comply/ with the expected.”
By Aaren Madden, November 2015
Amy Frank’s art practice encompasses creative expression, advocacy and powerful coping tools in her struggle with mental illness.
In Amy Frank’s illustration “Changing Seasons” (see this month’s cover), a crisp maple leaf floats on the surface of the Goldstream River. Rendered in pale yellow, brown, green and gold pencil crayon with a black ink line whispering around each of its interior veins, the leaf emerges from the picture plane due, paradoxically, to its simplicity. Below the suggested surface of the water, a cacophony of colour and pattern causes the eye to dance from one visual target to another. The fine detail is thereby temporarily contained, pulling the leaf toward the viewer. (Fun fact: this common phenomenon is called saccadic suppression.) Simultaneously, the intricate patterns in the background evoke the rush and babble of the river and create a multisensory capsule of place.
By Aaren Madden, October 2015
Rod Charlesworth celebrates both place and paint.
When a viewer stands close enough to the surface of an impressionist painting, he or she will see the image disperse into its component parts. A sun-dappled tree, say, will become flecks of brown, yellow and green; a field of flowers flies apart into dashes of red. The image at close range speaks to the perception and activity of the artist, revealing choices made that result in a recognizable arrangement of colour and form. Not only does the viewer realize the relationship between the whole and the sum of its parts, but there is a kind of communion between painter and viewer that moves beyond seeing toward a sense of shared experience.
By Aaren Madden, September 2015
By re-presenting landscapes with views both intimate and monumental, Brent Lynch invokes the sanctity of the everyday.
The oil on canvas landscape painting by Brent Lynch called “Raven on Glass” is so named for the sleek bird that glides inches above the wet sand along a West Coast beach on Vancouver Island. “A raven is throwing shells down on a beach—but it’s not about that,” Lynch says. From this viewer’s perspective, it’s about the way the mountains in the background push against and even through the top edge of the picture plane; about how thin layers of pigment add up to a wide sheen of sand that wants to sweep under the viewer’s feet. And the way the horizon line seems thrust back into space. Traditional expectations of foreground, middle ground and background are messed with in a way that says, “Look at this.”
By Aaren Madden, July/August 2015
Marika Swan finds personal guidance and artistic inspiration in her people’s spiritual connection to whales.
Marika Echachis Swan is a writer, curator, community organizer, collaborator, activist, art workshop facilitator, and, by no means least, mother to a young daughter. That she is also an artist is what makes it possible for her to be everything else that she is.
She learned that this is so by going back to her beginning—specifically, the beach where she was born in 1982 on the island from which she received her middle name. Echachis Island is located close to Wickaninnish Island in Clayoquot Sound, about 3.5 km as the crow flies offshore from Tofino. This is Nuu Chah Nulth territory, where Swan’s Tla-o-qui-aht ancestors hunted for whales and were blessed by the multitude of gifts—food, oil, bone and sinew—they brought to the people.
By Aaren Madden, June 2015
Legacy’s new exhibition illustrates a formative time in Victoria’s modern art history.
During the 1960s, Victoria was a place of particularly rich artistic ferment. This notion is at the core of a group exhibition on now at the University of Victoria Legacy Art Gallery Downtown. Called “Making a Scene,” the exhibition considers just that: how the social and cultural circumstances locally, nationally and internationally brought about a particular mix of people, opportunities and ideas in this place at that time. This fusion coalesced into an atmosphere that nurtured creativity, support and mentorship, and individual creative expression. Not to mention, some truly unforgettable parties.
By Aaren Madden, May 2015
Anne Hansen paints joyful natural images as antidote to social injustices.
Anne Hansen was at the beach off Dallas Road in November 2007 when she first spotted an oystercatcher. “It was late afternoon,” she relates. “The sun was behind them, going right through their orangey-red bills.” She watched as they obliviously foraged and bobbed their heads, splashing water illuminated in an effusion of low-lying sunlight. “It was a magical instant.”
It was a gift during a sorrowful and changing time for Hansen, who is now 56 years old.
By Aaren Madden, April 2015
Using light and shadow, technique and subject matter, Clement Kwan paints to bring joy to viewers.
Clement Kwan has an ingenious, hand-made easel against one wall of his garage. Vertical two-by-four brackets hold two cross bars that adjust to fit the size of his canvas. Another vertical beam slides on a track in front. It holds a small, cushioned block of wood, also adjustable along the vertical column, which supports his wrist while he applies oil paint onto the canvas with brush or palette knife.
By Aaren Madden, March 2015
Nancy Ruhl’s paintings offer vivid homage to domestic architecture while documenting a changing cityscape.
An acrylic on board painting by Nancy Ruhl shows a periwinkle blue Queen Anne bungalow. With the house’s lacy white trim shining, the whole structure seems to reach upward to the sun’s warming rays. The dappled trim and effusive blue are made all the more prominent by contrast to the deep blue-black sky. The small corner lot’s bright green grass and fat round shrubs soften the architectural angles and create a balanced scene. It’s a quintessential central Victoria home. But look in the lower left. A square white sign buttressed by two-by-fours doesn’t display any text, but will still be recognizable to many, and is also the title of the work: “Land Use Application.”
By Aaren Madden, February 2015
Using the fundamentals of gesture, line and colour, Gillian Redwood paints invisible energies into visible form.
Back in 1965, when she was attending the newly-opened Cardiff School of Art, a young Gillian Redwood brought some work home to show her mother. She held up a painting of a greyscale, much like dozens of others she had done. Her mother was…perplexed. Yet those greyscales and other simple exercises became the means by which Redwood, now 66, gives expression to intangible concepts.
By Aaren Madden, January 2015
Jeremy Herndl’s landscape paintings push visual representation into a multisensory realm.
When working en plein air, the painter contends with many variables. Among them are wind, weather and the shifting light of the sun. These things inform not only the composition, but the nature of the oil paint which creates it.
“If it’s plus 30 Celsius, the paint is thinner and more slippery. I put some paint on [the canvas], and if I want to put more paint on top, it sort of drags through and blends with it. But let’s say it’s a cold day, like today. If I put paint on a canvas and I wanted to paint over top of that, because the paint is thicker, and more viscous, I can just paint wet over wet without moving the paint underneath,” explains Victoria painter Jeremy Herndl. It informs the painting process and, to the careful viewer, offers clues as to conditions in the space when painted.
By Aaren Madden, December 2014
A new book provides a glimpse into Godfrey Stephens’ remarkable life and art.
As someone who has travelled thousands of kilometres the world over, first by thumb and later in sailboats of his own creation, who has hung with the Beat poets, lived on beaches on Vancouver Island, Jamaica, Greece, Hawaii, and Mexico and a houseboat in Paris (owned by Picasso’s dentist, no less), you would think it might take something spectacular to impress Godfrey Stephens. Rather, it takes something quietly poetic, deeply and personally profound. It’s that the pad of his thumb—the one that took him first to New Orleans, across the USA and through Europe and India—fits perfectly into the upward curve on the wooden handle of the d-adze he holds in his hand. “I never cease to be amazed by it,” he marvels, grasping the tool from which he has sculpted carvings out of massive logs and chunks of driftwood.
By Aaren Madden, November 2014
Artist Blythe Scott makes the familiar new again with personal impressions of place.
The visual communication of place is something anyone interested in the recording of the rural or urban landscape grapples with. Technical precision and verisimilitude are oft-sought goals, but conveying a personal perception of place has different criteria. Not just the trees or the fields or the street scenes, but the way the singular quality of light, the physical surroundings, and the particular energy inherent in any place makes the pulse either quicken to match its pace, or slow in contemplation.
By Aaren Madden, October 2014
In a new series of paintings, Meghan Hildebrand offers visual delight.
A great way to experience a new city is to tuck away the map, forget about the must-see landmarks and museums, and just let the sidewalk take you. Let your eye get caught by an enticing window, some intriguing architecture, even a compelling stranger, and follow. The opportunities for delight and discovery can be multiple. The place becomes your own, in a way, and you share some of its secrets. You develop your own private narrative.
By Aaren Madden, September 2014
Painter Ken Campbell finds a journey by canoe can lead to a multitude of destinations.
In his book Path of the Paddle, the filmmaker, artist, conservationist, and legendary canoeist Bill Mason deems the canoe “the simplest, most functional, yet aesthetically pleasing object ever created.” He ranks paddling as among the great art forms of painting, poetry, music, and dance: varying conditions in water and weather lead to endless opportunities for developing skill with “poetry and grace.”
By Aaren Madden, July/August 2014
IceBear creates visual harmonies from a technical foundation and a spiritual vision.
In 1953, the International Standards Organization endorsed the vibration frequency of 440 hertz for the tuning of most music, and it has been so ever since. However, according to some music therapists, musicians and conductors like Ivan Kostadinov Yanakiev, there are good reasons to tune music to 432 hertz, as it has been in the past. There are theories that 440 hertz can even elicit subconscious fear or aggression, but listening to music at 432 hertz, Yanakiev says, “opens one’s heart as no other musical vibration does.”
By Aaren Madden, June 2014
Glassblower revels in colour, pattern and process.
At its most basic, glassblowing is an art form reliant upon heat, pressure and movement. Molten glass at an ideal temperature of 2100F (about 1150C) is gathered onto the end of a hollow steel tube (the blowpipe). It is then removed from the furnace, shaped, and blown. More glass is gathered depending on the desired piece size, then transferred to another rod for further manipulation at a bench. Constantly rotating the pipe on a support is imperative to keep the sides even. Wooden paddles, wet newspaper, and the table surface shape the vessel. Achieving the desired form requires repeated trips between the bench and the glory hole, another furnace, for reheating to allow manipulation. Once finished, the piece is placed in a third furnace to cool slowly.
By Aaren Madden, May 2014
A fascination with cities and architecture lies behind Linda Darby’s recent works.
For a few years in the 1890s, Claude Monet painted dozens of images of Rouen Cathedral’s Gothic façade from the same vantage point at various hours, seasons, and weather conditions, as if in an attempt to crack the code of light. Ultimately, he became engaged in a dialogue that involved artist, process, architecture, light, and ensuing multiple experiences of an iconic city space, through what author Robert Pelfrey has described as “recording visual sensations [in and of] themselves.”
By Aaren Madden, April 2014
Kylee Turunen moves between abstract and landscape to create a unique visual world.
"Golden Ocean” is an acrylic on canvas painting that is at once abstract and landscape. The foreground undulates with the ripples of clear water advancing over firm sand perfectly reminiscent of a Long Beach scene. As the viewer’s eye travels upward, the textures of the painted surface suggest breaking waves. In palette, it is quintessential west coast, with a crisp, clear sky that gradually deepens into cobalt. Yet in between the buff hues of sand and the intense blue of sky there exists a painting within, one that plays tricks with the horizon, presenting and re-presenting the meeting between sea and sky. A series of textures and contrasting colours pulls the viewers under the landscape surface and into an abstract realm before releasing them back to the sky.
By Aaren Madden, March 2014
Painter Lindy Michie works her particular magic with addition, subtraction and intuition.
A soft violet sky shimmers over lush green trees, while verdant hills tumble over the canvas in Lindy Michie’s acrylic on canvas painting titled “Cerne Abbas.” In the middle ground, a ploughed field is represented in playful yet minimal wriggling lines. The economy of form, combined with a saturation of colour, work to heighten each other, resulting in both a particular landscape and archetypal representations of hill, tree and field.
By Aaren Madden, December 2013
By Aaren Madden, November 2013
Sandra Meigs presents overlooked spaces as powerful repositories of mind and emotion.
After she was born in Baltimore in 1953, Victoria painter Sandra Meigs’ family moved around a lot. Still, as one does, she retains a few strong impressions of childhood home interiors. One is of the picnic table and bare bulb in the family kitchen. “My parents weren’t decorators by any means,” she shrugs, smiling. For a time as a teen, Meigs presided over the entire upstairs on her own. “That felt like a world to me,” she remembers.
As a contemporary artist, Meigs does not always look to architecture as inspiration, but when she has recently, her interior spaces thrum with the presence of the mind’s inner world.
By Aaren Madden, October 2013
Is everything for sale? This and other questions are addressed by contemporary Northwest Coast artists at the AGGV.
In this medium-sized Canadian city and so many others like it, we are bombarded with images. Walking in any retail area, be it shopping mall or downtown, one is sure to come across the iconic stripes of the Hudson’s Bay blanket. And avoiding the Starbucks logo is near impossible, be it peeking out from behind a hand clutching a paper cup or broadcasting its siren call from what seems like every downtown corner. After a while, these images, though fraught with colonial and corporate implications, tend to wash over us due to their very ubiquity.
By Aaren Madden, September 2013
By holding and guiding the gaze, landscape painter Steven Armstrong conveys both place and presence.
There is a certain old, gangly arbutus tree that grows along the Songhees Walkway. Most of the time it is majestic enough, but in the early evening, when the sun’s rays strike it just so, this tree has the power to stop people in their tracks: it appears illuminated from within. For a few moments, it emanates an essential magic that provides passersby with a visceral, personal interaction with that particular place. It’s a feeling of complete presence in the landscape.
By Aaren Madden, July/August 2013
Renee Nault draws viewers into a vivid, dreamlike world.
In artist and illustrator Renee Nault’s “High Ground,” a fox clings precipitously to a moss covered rock while a waterfall courses past. In “Leaving,” created for The Los Angeles Times, the departing swish of a woman’s intricately patterned skirt tells all that is needed about two gold rings abandoned in the storm cloud of her shadow. In “Fleeting,” a winged, antlered deer—with a fawn’s spots and the tail of a lion—glides across the page. It’s a creature out of Nault’s imagination, evoking a mythology that is as unique as it is hauntingly familiar. Like so much of her illustration work, each of these have an uncanny way of opening a door into a larger narrative, one that offers glimpses into a dreamlike world of her own creation.
By Aaren Madden, June 2013
With light and shadow, Catherine Moffat creates sanctuaries in paint.
Picture a girl of 17 standing in front of a gallery window staring at a painting. Intently—with intent, in the truest sense of the word. She is absorbing what she can before she returns from her lunch break, back to pressing down, ca-chunk, on the keys of an old Underwood in an office of the Legislature building.
That was Catherine Moffat, creating her life as an artist. “I had to stand in front of [the painting] until I learned something that you could put into a sentence,” she recalls. “I really tried to study, and fantasized that I was studying under a master; I would give myself exercises to do. It was just so corny,” she laughs dismissively.
By Aaren Madden, May 2013
This year’s Fired Up! exhibition celebrates history, process, and function in ceramics.
When you describe someone as “the salt of the earth,” you are valuing their inherent goodness, their awareness of and commitment to something greater than themselves. The phrase takes on broader meaning as the compelling theme of this year’s Fired Up! Contemporary Works in Clay exhibition at the Metchosin Hall, May 24-26 (with a preview show at Eclectic Gallery).
By Aaren Madden, April 2013
Charles Campbell’s Transporter activates a present space from which to imagine possible futures.
In Open Space Gallery right now, five geodesic spheres a la Buckminster Fuller sit about waist high in random locations across the floor. They are made of heavy cardstock triangles with the interior spaces cut away, leaving only the open lattice of supporting sides held together from the inside by simple binder clips. A different repetition of a single image is overlaid onto the surface of each sphere. As such, from any distance, these spheres appear as light and airy as giant bubbles: attractive, playful, and fascinating. In fact, at the opening reception of Charles Campbell’s Transporter exhibition, of which these spheres form a major component, a few people couldn’t resist the temptation to set them in gentle motion, then retreat and watch as they slowly came to rest.
By Aaren Madden, March 2013
With a keen eye, accumulated experience and masterful intuition, Marion Evamy paints vibrant imagery out of “the mess.”
Though her work is consistently vivid, vital and bold in form and colour, Marion Evamy paints in a wide range of styles and subject matter. The common thread connecting her work is process: “Make a mess, then find the imagery in the mess. That’s the easy explanation of it,” laughs the artist.
By Aaren Madden, February 2013
Even while they amuse, Carollyne Yardley’s paintings ask the larger questions.
Consider the squirrel. Its ubiquity is, for most of us, inversely proportional to the amount of thought we devote to these creatures that share our urban and rural spaces. Unless, say, they are raiding your birdfeeder or digging up your daffodil bulbs, they live out constant but seldom-noticed dramas of survival under our noses every day.
By Aaren Madden, January 2013
Portrait artist David Goatley believes everyone has a story that’s worth telling.
The Reluctant Sitter” is an oil painting by David Goatley depicting a common scene in the Montmartre district of Paris. A suited man sits awkwardly at an outdoor café table while a thin man with graying, long hair, large clipboard propped against his waist, looms over and sketches. His face is angled to allow his gaze to flit from paper to his unwilling subject’s face. Though his back is to us, we sense the sitter does not know quite where to direct his own eyes. His dining companion’s are cast down, intent on his meal, actively ignoring the unfolding drama. The crimson café sets off the two main characters by contrasting their cool grey clothing, thrusting the tension forward. The painting is about looking; specifically how we look at each other, and what we reveal or conceal in doing so.
By Aaren Madden, November 2012
Ira Hoffecker’s paintings are inspired by the tension, energy and history of cities.
Before moving to Victoria with her family eight years ago, artist Ira Hoffecker had always lived in large cities: Paris, Lima, Cusco, Berlin, Hamburg. She studied French and Economics in Munich, then in 1984-5, worked as a translator near Paris. Every weekend she was in the city visiting galleries and museums, reading Camus, Proust, Zola, de Beauvoir. “It was my pivotal year,” she says.
By John Luna, October 2012
An upcoming exhibition displays the resourcefulness and innovation of Vancouver Island-area potters of the 1970s and early ’80s.
When she directed the Cartwright Street Gallery in Vancouver, Diane Carr used to find herself thinking that if she could take a box of Wayne Ngan tea bowls around to the heads of local corporations, extracting a promise from each to use the bowl every day for a month, the money would flow in. “I think ceramics are very contemplative,” she says. The day-to-day encounters with a humble tea bowl are part of a continuum that includes the artist’s movements, the behaviours of clay and fire, and the domestic impressions that form a rhythm over time; a texture carried in the hands, a contour brought to the lips. As Carr confirms, “you have to use more than just your visual sense.”
By Christine Clark, September 2012
The method—and community—behind the madness of printmaking.
When Victoria Edgarr and her long time partner Alain Costaz, with whom she creates collaborative prints under the pseudonym Chloé, came to Victoria in 1993, they almost immediately “took responsibility for Ground Zero Printmakers Society, [doing] everything from maintenance, design, provisions, keeping things moving, [and] generating the people to work in the studio.”
“We put a huge amount of energy into the community, the meetings…[and] the artists. Artists came through Ground Zero and later had shows or created portfolios, or came to work on six-month projects, and there were older people…working on learning to make art. There was lots and lots of community art and involvement,” she says.
By Christine Clark, July/August 2012
His questing intellect and impressive creative skills are on display in two shows this summer.
Many years ago, in the early ’90s when I first saw Duncan Regehr’s work (this was the Poetic Imagery Series at Winchester Gallery at their old location near the Oak Bay Junction), I was a very young painter and was completely enthralled by the seemingly impossible glow he achieved in his paintings. It seemed as though he had somehow installed a soft night light, or perhaps a star, beneath the skin of each jewel-like colour. Truly magical, the colours and the very texture of the work were so varied and rich, the stories told on each canvas were so spiritually and intellectually profound, that I had the impression, standing in the presence of his work, that he must be someone in possession of a great and mystical power.
By Christine Clark, June 2012
Emilio Portal creates a temporary memorial to commemorate the Lekwungen people.
The first time I met Emilio Portal, he had been accepted to create an installation at a gallery space I was then coordinating. In the beginning, his plan was to create a little shelter out of bamboo and other discarded items and to live in this hut for the entire length of the show, which was a month long. Interestingly, his ideas evolved the more time he spent feeling out the space and eventually, by the time his scheduled month had arrived, his installation became a performance during which he played a cajon (a box drum) in the night “To Honour the Spirit of this Forest,” as he called the piece.
By Christine Clark, May 2012
Creating perfect moments comes naturally to Linny D. Vine.
In Linnyland everything is golden. The skies are blue, the clouds are puffy, white and pretty, existing only as a metaphor. The cherry blossoms float, if cotton candy can float, in mounds above the gentle streets. The maple trees are always dressed in autumnal reds, casting soft, rich shadows across quaint corners. The houses and little store fronts curve radically inwards and outwards, welcoming and friendly. The few people around are pleasantly preoccupied, strolling alone or with a friend, looking into shop windows, or riding bikes fast and furious, kid-like.
By Christine Clarke, April 2012
Samuel Jan says it’s all about moving people with beauty.
Samuel Jan says he’s basically a loner, and that helps explain the comfort he gets from art. “[It relieves] the distance I have from my friends and my family. I moved a lot as a child. Art is something I can always rely on. My drawings and my imagination will never leave me, no matter where I move to. My mother raised me by herself. She had so many jobs. We lived inside a hair salon. We lived with two nuns at one point. People were constantly taking us in. Wherever she worked, we lived. I didn’t have too many childhood friends.”
By Christine Clark, March 2012
A physician and reproductive rights advocate has returned to her first love: art.
Growing up in St Andrew’s by the Sea in New Brunswick, population 1500, Mary Conley always wanted to go to art school, but says, “I didn’t even know where they had them.” She says that the public schools didn’t offer arts programming back then in the late ‘50’s. Instead, after graduating from high school, this daughter of a lobster wholesaler and his wife (a retired telephone operator), won a scholarship to the University of New Brunswick to study science and began what would eventually develop into a long and storied career in medicine as a champion of human rights, and in particular, women’s reproductive rights.
By Christine Clark, February 2012
The art of Lance Olsen contains both a wild complexity and a profound serenity.
It’s a surprise. The space is small. Much smaller than expected and very unlike any studio I’ve ever visited before. It’s oblique. His materials are there, but it’s so sparse. There are no posters or trinkets or oddities on display to illustrate his worldly experiences. Other than a block of paintings stacked in a dark corner, there are no finished works in plain view either. This is a work space and not at all romantic. It looks more like a storage room, filled with random objects. Everything seems grey or some variation thereof. It’s entirely utilitarian, like the office of a mid-level manager in a warehouse somewhere.
By Christine Clark, January 2012
Megan Dickie’s sculptures critique the status quo.
In the short video called Ready to Rumble you will see a slim young woman wearing a form-fitting black dress, tied at the waist, with black leggings and tall black boots. Her high heels clatter against the cement floor of a white room as she wrestles with a free-standing and uncooperative wall of bricks. She is wearing a flesh-coloured leather Lucha mask, a decorative full-face covering traditionally used in Mexican wrestling. After hauling the wall up from its prone position on the floor and struggling to keep it vertical and straight for a few uncertain moments, the young woman falls beneath the unwieldy weight of the bricks, only to extricate herself almost immediately. Freed, she crouches beside the fallen wall, smoothing down its tousled bricks and returning it to its benign original position.
By Christine Clark, December 2011
Rich and evocative, Brad Pasutti’s paintings glow with a mysterious life of their own.
Near the top of a painfully steep hill, with a long, endless view past rooftops and treetops and vague patches of greenery, all the way to the soft blue ocean, sits a formidable old grey mansion, towering over a wildly fecund garden filled with camellias and rhododendrons and soft grass. The house, composed of curved lines and towers and crushed curtains pressed against the window glass would inspire a Tim Burton movie; there’s a darkness there, foreboding and exciting. On a grey November day, with the clouds flying past overhead and the oak trees in sinuous silhouette, it looks like a witch’s lair, or a vampire castle in New Orleans. But no, it’s nothing so sinister. This is the home of a painter, a small and gentle man named Brad Pasutti.
By Christine Clark, November 2011
A printmaker with a secret ingredient and a love of the North.
Looking through Jenn Robins’ photographs from Tuktoyaktuk you see a vast expanse of blue white, the snow and the sky, broken only occasionally by a tiny airplane or an overwhelmed building. One picture shows the blue shadow of a woman in Arctic clothing stretching outwards across the windblown snow, a self portrait. In another is a close-up of Robins’ face, although all that can be seen of her are her black-brown English eyes, smiling and peering out from under several layers of protective clothing (pink and lavender) and snow encrusted fur. She looks happy.
By Christine Clark, October 2011
The costs and rewards of the artist’s life.
John Luna is telling a story. He is perched on a high stool, his face looking down at me as he speaks; there’s a continuous and agile flow of conversation, ideas and references, quite astonishing to experience. His dark eyes are tender with understanding; his voice is gentle; he uses his hands. He’s talking about inebriation; that seductive other reality that exists in perfect splendour alongside the sober day, eclipsing, for long moments, the struggle that is life. Not the drunkenness of alcohol, but of adulation.
By Christine Clark, September 2011
Drama, intensity and heartbreak spark the paintings of Frances Baskerville.
Frances Baskerville’s paintings are dark, restless and confused. The canvasses are almost always built up and broken apart with fragments of cloth, dried glue and sometimes plaster. There are often grid formations, drawn onto the canvas originally as a guide, but then painted over and redrawn as an overlay in chalk. The hundreds of brushstrokes look rapidly applied and sketchy; nothing is smooth; the paint moves in unusual directions. The finished images are essentially unfinished, there but not there, everything in motion—the figures, the paint, the canvas, moments between bodies caught, but barely, in the midst of a river of fast-moving mud. At least this is the lasting impression.
By Christine Clark, July 2011
When it comes to finding the “meaning” of Blu Smith’s paintings, you’re on your own.
In her 1966 essay, "Against Interpretation," Susan Sontag wrote, “In most modern instances, interpretation amounts to the philistine refusal to leave the work of art alone. Real art has the capacity to make us nervous. By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable.”
This may not be exactly the way Blu Smith responds to interpretation of his work, but he does tell a funny story about an early show of his abstract paintings. He remembers that several people were so overwhelmed by what they perceived as sexual content that a few of them were quite embarrassed. He laughingly suggests that their reaction had more to do with their own thought patterns than with his paintings.