Saturday, April 30, 2011

Canadian Political Parties stand on the Arts

Well, well. Its election time in Canada and it may be time for every Canadian of artistic bent to ask ourselves - what position to Canada's political parties take with concern to the arts.

It goes to say that the blog isn't making any statement of endorsement for any political party, and that the research within is not taking from an examination of Party policies. It has been extracted from online media research.

It reminds me of the time many years ago when the mayor of a small Ontario town received a letter from the provincial government asking what was the state of the arts in his community. The Mayor wrote; "Well Art Bolton is doing ok except for a little arthritis in his hip. And, I talked to Art Jones the other day and he looked pretty good for an old fellow. But, poor old Art Thomas has been struggling with his gout and that has made his life miserable."

As far as an artstic nature goes, the Globe and Mail writes about Jack Layton.
He is more than a fair musician. Not only does he play guitar, he surprised journalists this week with an impromptu rendition of Hit the Road Jack on a grand piano in the lobby of a hotel in Saint John, N.B.

But more importantly for Canada's artists;
The NDP will permit income-averaging for artists so they can spread out their often erratic earnings over a period of years. And, Give $20,000 annual federal tax exemption for artists' income earned from royalties.
And force the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission to ensure prime time TV in both English and French is Canadian.

Looks Good Jack. Looks Good.
Source: Toronto Star

Hmmm: Stephen Harper called Arts and Culture a "Niche Issue." But to be fair, this was said in the 2008 election. That aside, Stephen is noted for his cut to arts funding, when he served as Prime Minister.

Michae; Ignatieff has been pretty consistent about the importance of funding the arts.

“Arts and culture is central to the identity of Canada and Quebec, which is why Liberals believe the federal government has an important role to play in promoting our artists,” said Mr. Ignatieff.

Taken from The Canadian Music Publisher's site.

Well about all I could find on Elizabeth May's stand on the arts came from a quote in a Canadian Press article:

"She (Elizabeth) rattled off a list of what she called orphan issues that were not touched on in Tuesday's debate, including homelessness, mental health, prescription drug costs, arts funding, women's equality and the treatment of Canadian military veterans."

Respectfully, what could comment could Gilles make about the national arts funding, since he is a separatist?

Open, reports:
"Mr. Speaker, on Monday, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages could not say enough about the Canada Prizes for the Arts and Creativity, stating, and I quote: “This is a great project that will help unify our country.” On Tuesday, when questioned in the House about what he had said, the heritage minister denied having made the statement and even had a new version for us."

I am sure the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages tells us the truth one time in two. The question is when he told the truth. Did he tell the truth on Monday or on Tuesday?

My apologies to Portrait readers for not providing 'clickable links'.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Art of Mary Pratt

I have enjoyed doing some online research about Mary. Firstly, I was surprised to see that Mary's husband is Christopher Pratt, who is also an outstanding and well recognized Canadian artist.

A quick google search for the art of Mary Pratt brings up a lot of her works.

Words fail me when I look at her above painting. It goes without saying that Mary paints in the Realist style, and when you check out her You Tube Video, from the McMichael Gallery you will note that for many years she painted things which were immediate to her experience.

While this is true for many or maybe most of us, it seems the painterly thing to do is to stylize or dramatize our surroundings, but in the case of the painting above, what could be more ordinary then a collection of jars of jelly sitting on a sheet of aluminum foil?

While Mary may be classified as a Realist - Realism does not mean creating photographic representations with paint. Alex Colville called his works,'magic realism' or realism which transcends reality or becomes more real then real. And it seems that we can apply this definition to the painting we see in this blog entry.

As I said, words fail me in critiquing Mary's works and besides that since I am unable to obtain her permission I will refrain from writing anything which would not meet her approval.

So, let us rejoice that Mary has taken the vin ordinaire of life and turned it into champagne Our lives are enriched for it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mary Pratt, from Wikipedia

Mary Frances Pratt, CC (née West) (born 15 March 1935 in Fredericton, New Brunswick) is a Canadian painter specializing in still life realist paintings.
She is the daughter of attorney William J. West, who served as the Minister of Justice of New Brunswick from 1952 to 1958 and Katherine West, she has one sister - Barbara. She attended Mount Allison University, studying Fine Arts under Alex Colville, Ted Pulford, and Lawren P. Harris. She graduated in 1961. She met her future husband, the artist Christopher Pratt, at Mount Allison. After the marriage, she moved with him to Newfoundland.[1]. They have four children, John, Anne, Barbara, and Edwin.

Her first solo exhibition was held at the Memorial University Art Gallery in St. John's in 1967. In 1996, she was named Companion of the Order of Canada. In 1995, the touring exhibition The Art of Mary Pratt: The Substance of Light was organized by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton. The accompanying catalogue won numerous awards and was included in Great Canadian Books of the Century.[2] In 1997, she was awarded the Canadian Molson Prize from the Canada Council for $50 000.[3]
In 2007, Canada Post issued stamps in its "Art Canada" series in honour of Mary Pratt.[4] The $0.52 (domestic rate) stamp featured her Jelly Shelf (1999). The souvenir sheet included the $0.52 stamp, as well as a $1.55 (international rate) stamp with her Iceberg in the North Atlantic (1991).

Since the 1980s, Pratt has given addresses and published essays in periodicals such as The Globe and Mail and Glass Gazette. Her paintings have been exhibited in most major galleries in Canada, reproduced in magazines such as Saturday Night, Chatelaine, and Canadian Art, and featured on billboards, in cookbooks, and on the covers of books and magazines. Her paintings are featured in many prominent public, corporate, and private collections, including those of the National Gallery of Canada, The Rooms, and Canada House in England.[5]

Mary Pratt is currently based in St. John’s, where she continues to live and paint.

Mary Pratt's works include:
The Back Porch (1966)
Caplin (1969)
Eviscerated Chickens (1971)
Red Currant Jelly (1972)
Amaryllis (1975)

^ - Life and Times
^ Smart, Tom. The Art of Mary Pratt: The Substance of Light. Beaverbrook Art Gallery, 1995.
^ Smart, Tom. The Art of Mary Pratt: The Substance of Light. Beaverbrook Art Gallery, 1995.

Mary's works can be found in the, National Gallery of Canada, The Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, The Canadian Encyclopedia, The Mira Godard Gallery Toronto, Trinty Galleries, Library and Archives Canada. - Celebrating Women's Achievements.

Appreciation to Wikipedia, and to the donor who provided this information on Mary.
Please click here to visit the Wikipedia article.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Migration and the ways we look at art.

Joe Talirunili, c1974. Art Gallery of Ontario.

You know what I like about Inuit art? There is a certain honesty about it. It captures the life of the Inuit in simple, uncluttered terms. I don't envision the Inuit soapstone carver, sitting back in his chair thinking "I must make a really unique, different, creative statement today." And, I sometimes wonder what the Inuit must think about our relentless search for artistic unorthodoxy.

When I see these small, stone people paddling together I see a people who have learned to survive through communal effort. It reflects a culture where unorthodoxy creates individuals who stand apart from the pack and isolation ia the worst of all fates for the Inuit.

There are no "aha" moments in Inuit art. They don't search for intellectual profundity. They don't see it as a vehicle for inner illumination. Its take it as you see it art.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mark Hope's 'Sisters'

I recently checked out Mark Hope's 'Sisters' and was immediately struck by how effective a title he chose for this work. The name appropriately draws my attention to the gathering of spruce trees which are presented in the centre of his work.

I was struck, as a landscape painter, by the intricacy of Mark's brushwork and his carefully executed foliage.. Try it sometime. Its a lot harder then it looks. Its one thing to give give trees the suggestion of shape, and another to marrying them together into the general flow of the forest while at the same time, making allowance for the separation of appropriate distance marking values.

Mark's presents a rugged, but yet very beautiful forest. His pine trees are ragged, wobbly and irregular. And, for good measure he sticks in a few spindly trunks of dead trees with lots of twiggy branches sticking out.

I like the pattern of flow in this painting. Mark surrounds "The Sisters' with a sky, a forest background and a foreground which flows in an undulating, horizontal direction across the canvas and this both separates and distinquishes his vertical sisters.

I am enamoured by the colours Mark;s palette. How many ways can you paint a green forest and make it interesting? Mark sets the tone for his work with a colourful, evening sky where evening sunshine warms his branches with a variety of hues and colous. Anything but sap green!

While it may seem like a simple work - it's carefully painted and well crafted. All in all, a fine work which would look good on the wall of my study.

Artist's Comments:

This painting came from a trip I took to Pukaska National Park on the north coast of Lake Superior. The 'Sister' are a stand of Black Spruce at the top of one of the many hills along the coast. It struck me that these trees were all approximately the same hieght and it was not much of a stretch to realize that they would have grown up together. Some had died, others survive, what winters these trees have seen. The black spruce has a very distinct shape that caught my eye immediately. A top knot of foliage with a scarred and bare trunk beneath. Dead branches extend like fingers. These are Tom Thompson trees, I did a very quick plein aire sketch of the stand and it became the basis of my larger studio painting. This may be the first of black spruce Ive done but the fascinating shape and location guarantees it will not be the last.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ross Racine wins Biennale internationale in Liege, Belgium

A Canadian has won the eighth Biennale internationale de gravure contemporaine, it was announced Monday in Liège, Belgium by the biennale’s five-person jury.

Ross Racine, a Montreal native currently living in New York, triumphed over 58 artists from 24 countries with a digital drawing from a series titled Fictional Suburbia.

While there’s no cash prize, the win lets Racine mount a solo exhibition of his work next year at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Liège.

Extracted from: Visual Arts
Canadian wins prestigious Belgian art award
Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Mar. 28, 2011 3:59PM EDT
Last updated Monday, Mar. 28, 2011 4:03PM EDT

Please click here to be taken to the source.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lilias T Newton's painting of AY Jackson

This portrait of AY Jackson was painted many years ago by Lilias T. Newton. It's a delightful study of AY for those who enjoy reading character into facial features. Take a close look at AY's eyes. They appear to be focused eyes on something. He isn't just looking off into space as we see done with subjects in most portrait studies.

Do you see a certain look of peevishness in his smile, or is it something which I am reading into the work?

There is an interesting story behind the story here. Do you see his art board in the lower part of the painting? What was he up to? Was he sketching or painting a work of interest - or was he drawing or painting Lilias as she painted him?

Its interesting to notice that AY is seated before one of his own background works - or if not, it at least, a work which is painted in his style.

Mo Bayliss, writes that it was most likely painted at the Studio building in Toronto where many of the Group of Seven painted.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mark Hope - Landscape Artist

Mark Hope is an artist who's work immediately caught my eye. Mark is 54 years old and was born in Toronto and he now makes his home in Wasaga Beach, Ontario.

Like many artists, he was born with 'the gift' and it made itself known to him early in his childhood. And in case there may be any doubt on the matter, Mark writes:

" Ever since single digits I remember doing some kind of art. I remember drawing my cat Sam sleeping in a rocking chair, gladiolas in a vase. I couldn't have been more than 9 or 10 when I was doing this. I preferred oil pastels or pencil crayons back then. As a very young teenager I remember sitting at the kitchen table drawing stylized faces using a baby jar lid as a template for the head shape. The fun was in making them as different as possible....hours of fun there. Later I remember sitting quietly alone in my bedroom drawing and painting while listening to 'Boston'. I'd draw and paint anything. Tennis balls, crushed coke cans, aviator sunglasses. I remember doing this day after day...unless I was outside playing ball hockey. I remember going to the museum and seeing people sketching the suits of armor...I wanted to do that!! I remember doing an oil painting of A Y Jackson from a newspaper clipping reporting his death in the newspaper. I took art all through junior high school right up to grade 13. At the end of Grade 13 I won the Art award for excellence."

Mark hasn't strayed far from his first love throughout his life journey. He works in an art supply store in Barrie (about 100km north of Toronto), and he has taught classes in oil painting, during his adult years. And, in between times, he has worked for the government and been involved with the many things that go along with married and single life.

Mark is a landscape artist who has a passion for painting scenes from northern Ontario. But this doesn't stop him from painting still life work, and figurative nudes - not to mention his most recent industrial still life study.

I am impressed by Mark's artistic energy. He admits to knocking off between 80 and 100 works a year. Most impressive! Mark's formal art education ended with high school but he has supplemented it by taking a few workshops and courses along the way. But, for the most part, he admits to being a 'self taught' artist.

Mark finds himself drawn to the works of both French and Canadian Impressionists, And for good measure he throws in the works of classical painters like Vermeer, Rembrandt, Leonardo. with his favourites being Degas, Monet, Pissarro, Salvatore Dali, Lawren Harris, and John Singer Sargent

Mark's works hang in a cooperative gallery in Creemore Ontario and he has participated in many art shows most notably in the "Purple Hills Studio Tour". He most recently applied for his works to be shown at the Toronto Outdoor Show at the Toronto City Hall, and he has 2 solo shows planned for this coming summer and a studio tour as a guest artist in October.

In between times, he enjoys taking trips into northern Ontario and he usually comes back with about 20 or so pleine aire sketches. "I often use them for larger paintings in the studio."

A busy man, indeed.

Mark's works can be found in the Mad and Noisy Gallery in Creemore, Ontario. Please click here.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Development of Emily Carr.

A few weeks before she returned to Victoria, Emily left Gibb to study in another French seaside town, Concarneau with her only woman teacher, an artist named Frances Hodgkins. The two women had a lot in common. Hodgkins too, was escaping the conservative art community in her native New Zealand. She was single, about Emily's age, loved animals and the French countryside, had painted the native Maori's of New Zealand , and supported herself with teaching, and painting. The two women were also similar in temperment; both had a keen sense of humour and a caustic temper. Each had also turned down a suiter to pursue her commitment to being an artist.

With Gibb, Emily had painted strictly in oils. Now Hodgkins a superb teacher and brilliant watercolourist insisted Emily return to the watercolours she had been using in Canada. Under the direction of Frances Hodgkins, Emily did not revive her old muted palette but adopted her new teacher's Fauve bright colours. She also used to learn as Hodgkins did a strong dark outline to outline forms, and to paint the large features of a scene without getting distracted by detail. For the first time, Emily moved into the realm of 'modern' art by painting how a scene affected her, rather then trying to transcribe a literal picture. It was an important breakthrough and something she had been striving for.

Before she left Paris in the fall of 1911, two of Emily's paintings were hung in the Salon d'Automne, a prestigious salon for new, modern, artists. This was the same exhibit that introduced the Cubists - Matisse, Jouran, Leger, Rouault and Valminck - to the art world. Emily's two small paintings aroused little notice but it was an important validation. She went home proud of her developing style and how her art had grown and been acknowledged in France. More, her exposure to the radical artists and art ideas she met in France showed her that defiance could be an acceptable part of an artist's career. This would make her stronger for what was to come.

Emily Carr, Rebel Artist by Kate Braid. pp.66-67. Quest Library. Montreal PQ. 2,000ad. ISBN: 0-9683601-6-5.
Also: The Canadian Encyclopedia. Please click here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Clive Powsey: Painting with Punch

My love of Clive Powsey's art has never waivered since the time I first saw one of his works in Christensen's Gallery, in Peterborough, Ontario. Circumstances led us to cross paths via a mutual friend in art and I have studied Clive's works rather closely since that first day.

I have enjoyed examining everything from his languid studies of the shorlines of Ontario's Kawartha lakes, to his craggy Rocky Mountain images. It has been for me lately to see Clive take a subtle shift in the way he interprets art, in his more recent works.

Let me put it this way. In most of his paintings Clive has focused on interpreting what he sees. More recently, he seems to have shifted to examining his own inner artistic vision. The scene itself is secondary to the artist's inner landscape. Interestingly, Clive confesses to not not naming many of his most recent works. How do you hang a name on an artistic vision?

Now, let's look at this recent work that Clive has chosen to be critiqued.

First of all, I have to confess that words fail me when I find myself critiquing another artist's inner journey? What comes foremost to mind, is the old saying that values trump colour. But how? Well, they trump colour because they present us with absolutes and the shades of subtleties in between.

Notice too how Clive uses a minimalistic palette and how he contrasts bold darks and soft lights so dramatically that it steals our breath away.

Notice how half this picture is painted in dark values and how this masks any significant shapes which may be found within. Is Clive saying to us that less is more?

Now look at the brilliance of light in the upper centre of this work and how it has lightning streaks of unpainted paper to heighten the illumination. The contrast couldn't be much more extreme.

Now, as we follow this illumination downwards, we enter a valley which has the softest of blues and this takes us along a trail which comes to an abrupt end with darkness above and below.

I find myself wondering if I am not looking at an extremely metaphorical study of the way Clive sees life. If such is the case I won't even attempt a hypothetical interpretation. For Clive's inner vision is his alone. What we are seeing is an artist giving pre-eiminence to his own inner interpretation. The artistic process triumphs over the scene itself.

It goes without saying that we are looking at the works of a master watercolourist. Likely the best there is in Canada.

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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.