Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Ice Harvest by Quebec Artist: Clarence Alphonse Gagnon

The Ice Harvest
Clarence Alphonse Gagnon

This work caught my attention recently. The composition and colours worked together so delightfully to make the magic happen.  

I like how the artist, divides his work in thirds. There is the sky, the village, and the ice cutters at the bottom.

Its safe to say that the sky isn't much of a contributor to the story we see unfolding. That being said, the life of the painting is encapsulated within the lower 2/3rds. And, even moreso, when you look at the village where there is no sign of activity and no smoke coming from chimneys it looks like the scene from a fairy tale.  The real action takes place in the bottom third of the work.

There is a given among painters that its best to simplify.  I think of Kenny Rogers song, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."  The wise artist is said to have that skill of being able to isolate the subject of interest and make it tell the story.

But like all sayings, it is a generalization.  Lets look at this work and see how it fits together.  Its clear that Gagnon isn't focusing on the ice cutters. Oh, sure they are a part of it. The title is 'The Ice Harvest' and not 'The Ice Harvesters'. In other words, its the activity and not the actors in the scene where its at.
And the activity embraces the village where the harvesters no doubt live, and it is the reason for their labour.  They harvest not just for themselves but for the community.

The village is colourful, but subdued.  The tonal value of the roofs isn't far removed from the violet sky and the trees. And, the village is highlighted by a swath of light which runs across the work and there are lots of cool mauves, violets, and cooled down yellows and the reds are muted into rust tones.
And collectively, this muting down contributes to the muted stillness of the village.

It is interesting too, to note how the ice cutters, wear dull coloured clothing.  The strongest colour in the foregound, is the red sleigh drawn by the ox.  The blocks of ice are a cold aqua tone and they are being piled on the sleigh, which is drawn along a visual path into the village.

The work doesn't ennoble individuality.  The men who cut the ice are small and rather indistinct. 
Its a painting about human connectivity.  The ice harvesters are an extension of their community. And they are as much a part of the community as the violet snow and sky which is a part of its colour scheme. It all belongs together - and it hangs like a historical tapestry telling of the lives of people as it was in days gone by.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Story of Lost and Found Prints, by Maureen Bayliss

In 1981, these  prints of James Lumbers were available in Robinson's General Store in Dorset and I loved them so...they came in a little presentation package in that a matting was part, and on the back of the matting were the legends of each of the images in the series.

In the '90's  Lumbers was at a gallery in Schomberg promoting his work. I heard he was to be at the gallery, unframed them and took them in to be autographed.

When it was 'my turn' I felt shy but handed him the file I had them in and said "I don't know if this
is silly but would you please sign these?"  I had the Pointe Au Baril lighthouse on top and  when he opened the file and looked, he got a funny look on his face and said "do you have the fisherman's house here too?"  I said "Yes, it's underneath"

He told me that the paintings had been 'lost'. They'd been sold and he had no clue as to who 
owned them and it was the first time he'd seen them again in a long time. They were the 'birth' of Lumber's memories series.

You can see the autograph on the house one, and they've faded a little over the years,  even though I've always kept my treasures out of direct sunlight. 

It's a wonderful set of scenario.  You can see the lighthouse in background of the house, and the house in the background of the lighthouse.

I confess to having  them copied once before as a gift  for a friend of mine who is now 78Her family cottage was on the next point directly across from the lighthouse and as a kid,  
she knew the family that manned the lighthouse. Many a time she stayed over night in it.

Please check out Jame's Lumber's website by clicking here:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Canadian Art Film, You Are Here, Opens this Week

Filmaker, Daniel Cockburn
Source: CanadianArt Online newsletter
Author: David Balzer

There is no easy way to explain Torontonian Daniel Cockburn’s charming, sharply intelligent feature-length debut, You Are Here—which opens this Friday in Toronto, on August 29 in Edmonton, and at other Canadian venues in the early fall. Those familiar with Cockburn’s short films (video art by any other name) will, in part, know what to expect: wry, sensitive, meta-fictional vignettes about contemporary individuals and their various, elusive connections with one another.
To read more, please click here.
Article published with the permission of CanadianArt.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Maskull Lasserre's Work, Shocks the Senses

Notes from Lieutenant Brown

While other sculptors are busy doing all the conventional things that sculptors do, along comes Maskull Lasserre who rocks the senses.  Maskull crosses elements of things we take for granted in everyday life, and creates a hybrid of its own.  The result, at least for me, is a sense of shock. "What's going on here?" It may be the blending of a keyboard with a Remington typewriter, as we see above, or it may be the black skull of a sabre tooth tiger consuming a violin. And, after the shock subsides I find myself yearning to see what's next?


To confirm my reactions, I checked out a few other online sites and to see what other's had to say about his creations. 

Colossal Art and Design calls his work "Incredible Anatomic Sculptures". Please click here.
Senses Lost, writes: "Elements of nostalgia, allegory, humour and the macabre are incorporated into works that induce strangeness in the familiar". Please click here.

Made in Slant a daily art and design blog reports Maskull describing his work as:
 “explor(ing) the unexpected potential of the everyday through allegories of value, expectation, and utility. Elements of nostalgia, accident, humor, and the macabre are incorporated into works that induce strangeness in the familiar, and provoke uncertainty in the expected.
Please click here .

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Alfred Pellan

Alfred PellanCCOQ (16 May 1906 – 31 October 1988) was an important figure in twentieth-century Quebec painting. He was born in Quebec City in 1906. From the age of fourteen until his graduation in 1926 he studied at theÉcole des Beaux-Arts de Québec. His early canvases, from his first visit to Paris, show a marked fauvist tendency. Please click here.

and from the Canadian Encyclopedia:
Alfred Pellan, painter (b at Québec City 16 May 1906; d at Laval, Que 31 Oct 1988). In 1923, while Pellan was still a student at Québec's École des beaux-arts (1920-25), the National Gallery of Canada purchased his paintingCorner of Old Quebec. Pellan also won the government of Québec's first fine-arts scholarship in 1926, enabling him to study in Paris where he remained until 1940. There the colour in Pellan's still lifes and figure studies became more intense, his linear rhythms more fluid, his images more abstract. His most outstanding achievement during his Paris sojourn was winning first prize at the 1935 exposition of mural art. When he returned to Canada because of WWII he settled in Montréal. Work he brought from Paris received acclaim during exhibitions in 1940 at Québec and Montréal, but Pellan's cubist and surrealist art was considered too avant-garde and he sold little. To survive, he taught at Montréal's École des beaux-arts 1943-52. His objections to the restrictive, academic philosophy of its director, Charles Maillard, resulted in Maillard's resignation in 1945 and a more liberal atmosphere there.In the mid-1940s Pellan began illustrating poetry books and designed costumes and sets for the theatre. During this period he developed his mature style. He was increasingly drawn to surrealism; his imagery became more erotic and his always strikingly coloured paintings larger, more complex and textured. His refusal to be affiliated with any particular school of art led to the formation in 1948 of Prisme d'yeux, a group of artists whose manifesto called for an art free of restrictive ideology.

In 1952 Pellan received an RSC grant and moved to Paris, living there until 1955, when he became the first Canadian to have a solo exhibition at the Musée national d'art moderne. On his return to Canada, numerous exhibitions and mural commissions established his reputation nationally. He is the subject of several monographs and films (eg, G. Lefebvre, Pellan, 1986) and the recipient of many awards and honours including the Prix Émile-Borduas (1984). As well, he was an Officer of the Ordre national du Québec (1985).

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Painting: "And I thought this was a sissy game". Frederick Banting

A dynamic article on Sir Frederick Banting, Doctor and Artist.

Sir Frederick Banting, on a plein air painting expedition with  AY Jackson:

"During an outing to St Jean-Port-Joli on the south shore of the St. Lawrence, the weather was cold, the wind was ripping and Banting bundled up but working steadily admitted, "And I thought this was a sissy game.""

source: Canadian Medical Association

Friday, August 5, 2011


Sorry folks, but my computer has to go in for servicing. Call it summertime blues, or whatever.
Future Shop usually takes two weeks.  If I get time I will drop into the public library and I may be able to get some entries put together. Otherwise......


Maskull Lasserre. A formidable sculptor

I was recently guided online to the works of Montreal artist, Maskull Lasserre..  Maskull is one of those lucky guys who grew up, in an artistic environment with a mother who is an artist. Even now, his life partner, is also an artist whose media is abstraction. 

I suppose you can call Maskull a sculptor, but there is so much more to it then that. Maskull is quick to say that his sculpure isn't just about sculpturing, but its a reflection of his way of thinking, through his hands about the everyday world and its mysteries and wonders.

I like Maskull's humility. While many artists boast about being self made, Maskull gives credit to the encouragement, from parents, friends and teachers. He even acknowledges the musician Tom Wait, " if I could make sculpture the way he makes music, I'd be a happy man."

All of this doesn't mean that it's handed to him on a silver platter.  Maskull is also quick to say that he works much harder then anyone he knows.  He is a living example of how success in the arts comes from an uncountable number of hours of very, hard work.

Maskull has had a meteoric rise in the world of art. He spent two weeks last year as a war artist, and he is now represented by the Pierre Francois Oullette Art Contemporain Gallery of Montreal, and he has shows coming up in Washington DC, and in North Carolina  at the South Eastern Centre for Contemporary Art.

Maskull's life is defined by his sense of adventure. He sees himself as a risk taker who pushes the boundaries, and clears away misunderstandings.

About all I can add to this is for everyone to step back and watch this man go places!

To learn more about Maskull and see his works, please click here.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Uproar over a painting

Andre Pellan: Eastern Canada

Are you ready for this?  Andre Pellan's work was recently taken down from the walls of the Foreign Affairs Building in Quebec and replaced by a large portrait of Her Majesty.  That's when the pot began to boil.

The Parti Québécois says Quebec should repatriate two works of art that have been taken down from the Foreign Affairs building in Ottawa in favour of a portrait of the Queen.
The paintings by celebrated Quebec artist Alfred Pellan have been removed at the request of Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, and replaced by a giant portrait of Her Majesty.
The pro-independence party says the gesture shows how little the Conservative government cares about Quebec's culture.
It says the move probably wasn't intended as an insult and was simply a goodwill gesture for the visit of Prince William and Kate, who attended a Canada Day event at the building.
A pair of Quebec paintings have been replaced by an image of the Queen in a federal building in Ottawa. What do you think?  CBC News. Please click here

Monday, August 1, 2011

Elizabeth Graves Simcoe

In December 2007, a statue of Elizabeth Simcoe Gwillim was erected in the town of Bradford West Gwillimbury, while commemorating the 150th anniversary of the town's incorporation. The statue is located in a parkette in front of the Bradford post office at the corner of John Street West and Barrie Street. - Wikipedia
Bend in the St. Lawrence River, c. 1792

Elizabeth Simcoe was the wife of John Graves Simcoe, the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada.
Elizabeth was an accomplished artist and, between 1791 and 1796, as she travelled throughout Upper and Lower Canada, produced a large number of sketches and watercolours depicting Canadian scenes. She was also an avid diarist and wrote about many of her experiences.

These diaries and paintings combine to create a vivid portrait of both the raw beauty of the untamed landscape and the day-to-day life of a gentlewoman in pioneer times.

Elizabeth Simcoe was a prolific watercolourist. She painted almost 600 paintings while in Canada.

Wikipedia reports:

Elizabeth Simcoe left a diary that provides a valuable impression of life in colonial Ontario. First published in 1934, there was a subsequent transcription published in 1965 and a paperback version issued at the turn of the 21st century, more than 200 years after she wrote it. Lady Elizabeth Simcoe's legacy also includes a series of 595 water-colour paintings that depict the town of York. She was responsible for the naming of Scarborough, an eastern Toronto district, after Scarborough, England. The townships of NorthEast and West Gwillimbury, just south of Lake Simcoe in central Ontario, are also named for the family

From the Archives Of Ontario website. Please click here.
You may wish to check the Wikipedia article. Please click here.

Queenston Barracks, c. 1793.

Quebec, St. Audrey, Grondines, Dechambeau, 
September 23, 1794, (detail)

Niagara Falls as seen by Elizabeth Simcoe

Can you imagine, that this is how Elizabeth Simcoe viewed Niagara Falls. If we think it is formidable today, we should look again.  What's happened to the falls?  A lot of eroded rock has fallen over the edge since then.

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.