Saturday, August 28, 2010

How's the Art Scene up There?

I stumbled upon this headline/question, in the Denver Post, after reading the response to it in the Toronto Star. I figured that, any article that would create a response from an arts columnist in another paper must have something going for it. After all, where there's smoke there must be fire. Right? are the two columns. You can check them out.

Denver Post: Click here.
Columnist, Kyle MacMillan.
Toronto Star. Click here. Columnist Murray Whyte.

What set the fire alarms off mamma? Well, first of all Kyle's beginning words in his Denver Column create an automatic knee jerk reaction for many Kanuckistanians.

"Quick, name Canada's most famous artist past or present.
(Very long pause
Come up with anything? It's not easy, is it?"

ok...but when we get beyond the first couple of sentences and the fur on the hackles settle back down Kyle goes on to say, Even though the country is right next door and shares many cultural and historical similarities with us, Americans remain amazingly ignorant of their northern neighbor.

When I read Kyle's column over, I find my head bobbing in agreement. Kyle muses

"If anything stands out historically about Canadian art, it has been a connection to the landscape. Like the United States, Canada is a vast country with a multifaceted geography that has strongly shaped its growth and identity."

I couldn't agree more.Canadian art has been powerfully identified by our link to the landscape - its all part of the old Canadian survival mythos.

Kyle also points out that much of the art seen in the Denver show is part of a shared international aesthetic.

When I read these words, I find myself searching for direction as I prepare the Fredericks Artworks Blog. Is there a defined Canadian art identity?

Certainly the Group of Seven, captured the imagination of Canadians,and presented us with an artistic vision of who we are. But,the influence of the Group of Seven is not as strong as it once was, and the Canadian panorama is shifting. For the most part, its hard to label most of what is produced as Canadian, anymore.

Do today's Canadian artists identify more with universal themes, rather than national themes? Are we influenced more by the broader international landscape than the parochial national one? I would answer, both yes and no. On one hand there will always be a sense of nostalgia in Canadian art: old mills,decaying barns, cedar rail fences, old grain elevators and log cabins being overtaken by forests have a place in our art scene ....but that place is steadily shrinking and being replaced by broader perspectives.

Murray Whyte from the Toronto Star presents a more emotional response:
"Of course, we have to take this for what it is, which is a piece by writer in Denver. Nonetheless, I don't care much for his tone -- as though he were an anthropologist wandering the rain forests of Borneo and coming across a lost tribe. If he spent any time in Berlin, Basel or Frankfurt (or New York, for that matter!) he wouldn't be so surprised; the Canadian presence is more powerful there than it is at home, for heaven's sake.

Whatever the case, the piece is complimentary, smacks of a fair degree of ignorance, particularly for someone whose function is assumably to cover art (ever heard of Jeff Wall? Stan Douglas? General Idea? Michael Snow? Hello?). Which we like, don't we? Then again, when our own museums privilege figures like Anselm Kiefer and Julian Schnabel over our own talent, it's hard to blame anyone for being surprised by Canadian art. And I suppose I have to admit to being less than versed on what Denver has to offer (America, as defined by the twin poles of New York and Los Angeles, somewhat more so). Above all, though, it strikes me that Denver, of all places, oughtn't look down its nose at, well, anyone."

I will be the last person to speak for American art, but if I read Kyle's artile write, that art in the States is drifting into that "shared international aesthetic zone" as well.

Lets push the envelope a bit more.

If art reflects how we see ourselves as a people - is our lack of a dominating national perspective, a reflection on a certain national confusion about who we are and how we see ourselves?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for posting your comments.
ATTENTION SPAMMERS: Comments with links to other websites, will not be accepted.

A message for anonymous posters: Comments will be accepted provided they are thoughtful and articulate.

Reciprocating comments between posters will not be accepted. Sorry - I have no intention of giving readers the opportunity to engage in flame wars. It won't happen.

Fredericks-Artworks Blog, copying policy

The Canadian Copyright act, section 29 reports on fairdealing, that it is not an infringement to reproduce someone else's work for research, study, criticism, review or to report. Which pretty much sums up what this site is about. All content sources, be they artists, printed references, and website url's are respectfully identified on this site. http://http//

Mission Statement
A Portrait of the Visual Arts in Canada, is intended to celebrate the richness of Canada's visual arts, and to promote the arts in Canada.

Statement of Intent
I make every effort to credit the sources of information used in this blog and to obtain the permission and cooperation of all the works presented by living artists. I try, as much as possible to use works from public sources eg. national and provincial collections, of deceased artists. If for any reason, any artist disapproves of anything written about them or their work the artist is encouraged to request withdrawal of the content.