Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Canada Loses a Master Dioramist.

Ottawa, January 25, 2012—The Canadian Museum of Nature notes with sadness the recent passing of esteemed Canadian wildlife artist Clarence Tillenius at the age of 98 (1913–2012).

Eight of his treasured dioramas, which date from the 1950s and 1960s, are on display in the museum's Mammal Gallery. Each of these recreated wildlife settings depicts an iconic Canadian mammal in a specific habitat, using a painted backdrop with mounted animal specimens in the foreground. The largest shows a herd of bison fending off a group of aggressive wolves, in a scene from Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories.

All told, about 20 of Tillenius's large-scale dioramas are in museums across Canada and the United States. They include five at the Manitoba Museum, which houses an impressive diorama that depicts a bison hunt.

Tillenius remained active well into his 90s. During the Canadian Museum of Nature's recent renovations, he consulted with staff as his decades-old dioramas were painstakingly preserved, moved and re-created in the new gallery.

Extracted from the Canadian Museum of Nature Website: Please  here to read the complete article.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Melbourne Notch by Frederick Simpson Coburn

Its time to celebrate the season in art.  'The Melbourne Notch' was painted by FS Coburn in 1928 and was deposited in the National Gallery by the artist, in 1929. Its about 64 x 80 cm in size.

This is the first painting that I have presented on 'The Portrait' by Coburn.

This painting has several noteworthy features. Its a 'big sky' picture but yet the sky is an insignificant part of the work. Aside from a couple of nondescript clouds, nothing much happens there.  And that's the point.  Because nothing much happens its an artistic throw away.  Its purpose is to create atmosphere or mood to the work.  I will return to this thought in a moment.

The action of the painting takes place at the bottom.  We see a team of horses pulling a driver and a sled with what I imagine is a load of wood and there appears to be a farm in the background.

The farm is an incidental part of the painting.  Its a part of the background. Its diminutive in size and its surrounded by trees.

The real action is with the horses, sled,  and driver and its wedged into an area of snow, surrounded by shade and woods. When we look at it in this way we see that what happens in this work, is contained in a very small space within the canvas. And that's the point.

This is a painting which makes a statement of power. Or, more precisely, a lack of power.  Human life is inconsequential. The immensity of the sky and the amount of space used to express human life tells us that humanity is almost meaningless in the big picture. Mankind operates within an area controlled by the vastness of natural elements.

Coburn was from Melbourne, Quebec so we can conclude by the title this is a painting from the area of his birth. When we look beyond the painting and see that it was done in 1928 and at that time the  people of Quebec were caught between such large external forces as WW1 on one hand, and the pending depression on the other. If a painting could make a statement it would be that its an insular world in the Melbourne Notch,  but its ok. Mankind is surviving and being pulled through it all, spite of his own small place in the bigger picture of things.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Passing Through by Janis Dyck

                                I smell the woodsmoke in the air
                                up with the smoke there goes my cares
                                Today I slipped and I fell down
                                Upon my knees
                                Upon the ground
                                It's beautiful to fall this way
                                To gaze up at the clouds at play
                                And when I get back on my feet
                                I'll follow where the wind takes me
                                Now the smoke curls up into the sky
                                And mingles with the birds up high
                                It smells of winters dark and long
                                And fires that blaze to fuel this song
                                So take me smoke wherever you go
                                It's from a true fire that you grow
                                And from this place I've fallen to
                                My fire now also burns so true. 
                                                                                       Janis Dyck

Monday, January 23, 2012

Janis Dyck, An Artist With a Sense of Universality

Janis is a mom of two young boys and she lives in Golden. She's been painting since she was in her early teens and she is, by vocation, an art therapist - when work is available. In the meantime, she is a devoted mom of two young boys who gives private painting lessons.

Like many artists, Janis was born with artistic talent but she took it for granted. It wasn't until the birth of her sons that she took the gift of the muse seriously. Janis says that,

 "raising two young boy brought a deep sense of creativity and wonder into my life along with a sense of needing to follow my passion to show them that it is possible to follow one's dreams."

What impresses me about Janis, besides her artistic abilities is her sense of creative self understanding.
Janis says that the time and the freedom that she has to paint has given her the opportunity to listen to her inner self, and when she does "the universe responds with many signs and synchronistic occurances." Well said.

I learned from our conversation that she enjoys looking at an empty canvas and letter her art intuitively flow and develop as she goes along.  She likes painting landscapes and she occasionally adds a few animals to the mix.

I took an immediate liking to her uniquely impressionistic style and when we discussed it she admitted to being influenced  by Georgia O'Keefe, Emily Carr and Ted Harrison.

Like most artists I know, Janis is eager to see her world of art expand into more galleries beyond the region where she lives.  She recognizes the universality of art and the need for art in our fractured times.

I would like to keep painting and writing songs and use these mediums as a means of bringing a sense of hope, energy, mystery and connection into the world and to others. I feel the world is in need of these things right now..

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Call For Artists

General Brock, leading his troops

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the start of the War of 1812, during which the United States fought British and aboriginal forces in a conflict that helped define Canada as a nation.

First Nations played a major role in this war, helping the British win numerous battles. One of the most pivotal of these was the Battle of Queenston Heights, on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, in which the Six Nations and Native Allies helped the British trounce the Americans.

Now a plan is afoot for a major memorial commemorating their participation, and the committee putting it all together is calling for design proposals, offering artists “a remarkable opportunity to bring the significance of a largely forgotten history to life,” according to a press release.

“The Battle of Queenston Heights is a defining moment in Canada’s emergence as a nation,” the planning committee release said. “Fought as a result of an attempted invasion by American Forces on October 13, 1812, the defending British Army and Canadian Militia were aided by Six Nations and several other First Nations peoples who played a critical role in the shared victory.”

Memorial Working Group co-chairmen Richard Merritt and Tim Johnson have issued a call to artists “to create a memorial that will commemorate the sacrifice and valor of Six Nations and Native Allies who fought in the Battle of Queenston Heights, recognize the cultural, diplomatic, and military contributions of Six Nations and Native Allies in their role as essential participants in the Battle of Queenston Heights, and reawaken the spirit of solidarity among friends and allies who once forged history together,” the group said in the release.

Submissions will be evaluated on artistic merit, content merit, adherence to design criteria, sustainability as a permanent outdoor public art installation, and public appeal. The Request For Proposals also includes

Design guidelines for architecture and aesthetics, visitor experience and interpretive value, the use of symbolism, and integration with the surrounding environment will also be assessed. Those answering the request for proposals must keep in mind that the selection committee will follow very strict, specific guidelines, since the memorial must resonate for generations to come.

A bevy of volunteers serves on the organizing committee. They represent various heritage organizations in Niagara-On-The-Lake, members of the Native community and citizens from various business and civic sectors, the press release said. Parks Canada and the Niagara Parks Commission have also provided “essential participation,” the organizers said, with financial support from Ontario Power Generation providing much-needed assistance as well.

Artists can obtain a copy of the Request For Proposals document by registering at the bidding website BiddinGo.com or through the town website of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

This article was extracted from: Indian Country Today Media Network.  To view this article in its original context, please click here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rob Gonsalves, Surrealist Realist

Rob Gonsalves (born in 1959 in Toronto, Canada) is a Canadian painter of magic realism with a unique perspective and style. He produces original works, limited edition prints and illustrations for his own books.

During his childhood, Gonsalves developed an interest in drawing from imagination using various media. By the age of twelve, his awareness of architecture grew as he learned perspective techniques and he began to create his first paintings and renderings of imagined buildings.

After an introduction to artists Dalí and Tanguy, Gonsalves began his first surrealist paintings. The "Magic Realism" approach of Magritte along with the precise perspective illusions of Escher came to be influences in his future work.

In his post college years, Gonsalves worked full time as an architect, also painting trompe-l'œil murals and theater sets. After an enthusiastic response in 1990 at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, Gonsalves devoted himself to painting full time.

Although Gonsalves' work is often categorized as surrealistic, it differs because the images are deliberately planned and result from conscious thought. Ideas are largely generated by the external world and involve recognizable human activities, using carefully planned illusionist devices. Gonsalves injects a sense of magic into realistic scenes. As a result, the term "Magic Realism" describes his work accurately. His work is an attempt to represent human beings' desire to believe the impossible, to be open to possibility.

Numerous individuals around the world, including a United States Senator, as well as corporations and embassies collect Gonsalves' original work and limited edition prints. Rob Gonsalves has exhibited at Art Expo New York and Los Angeles, Decor Atlanta and Las Vegas, Fine Art Forum, as well as one-man shows at Discovery Galleries, Ltd., Marcus Ashley Gallery in South Lake Tahoe, Hudson River Art Gallery, Saper Galleries (November 7 to December 31, 2004) and Kaleidoscope Gallery.

In June 2003, Simon & Schuster introduced North America and Canada to "Imagine a Night", Gonsalves' first hardcover book featuring sixteen paintings. Due to the success of "Imagine a Night", Simon & Schuster released a second book, "Imagine a Day", in 2004 for which he won the 2005 Governor General's Award in the Children's Literature - Illustration category. He is also an accomplished guitarist.

His book "Imagine a Place" was released in 2008.

Gonsalves is a founder and member in good standing of the Fellowship of the Gourd and the Arrow.

Gonsalves now has 64 paintings and is working on more. He spends a notable amount of time planning each piece in order to make the transitions flawless and usually finishes about four paintings each year.

To read this article in Wikipedia, please click here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Metis Beadwork

This beautiful floral beadwork vest is an example of traditional Metis work.

The Sioux, called them the Flower Beadwork People.

This beadwork was unique to Metis culture and they decorated jackets, leggings, vests and moccasins with it.
To see other example of Metis beadwork, please click here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Visual Beauty in Old Churches

Early Canadian Visual Art:

Designed in the neoclassic Palladian style, the Cathedral was modeled after the famous church of St. Martin-in-the-fields in Trafalgar Square, London.  King George 3rd, paid of the construction of the Cathedral and provided a folio Bible, communion silverware and large prayer books to be used for worship.  The completed building was consecrated on August 28th, 1804 and has served as the focus of Anglican life and the worship in the Diocese of Quebec, ever since. 

Excerpt from the Holy Trinity Anglican Church, of Quebec City's website. Please click here.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fraktur Illumination. Early Mennonite Art.

If you see a work like this in an old trunk at an auction, don't hold back. Go for it!  This is a piece of early Canadian Mennonite art, 1801.  Its bookbinding and its called Fraktur art. 

The work is part of the collection of the Jordan Historical Museum, of Ontario. Its a tantalizing work with two dead flowers hanging over two birds that sit on a checkered pattern. One bird is larger than the other. The work appears to bear a symbolic meaning.

You can see this work in the Jordan Museum collection by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Conservatives pull art from public buildings

Several Canadian art works have been booted into the storage bin to collect dust.

Ever since the Conservatives came to power in 2006, the number of paintings on display in federal buildings and embassies has dwindled.

According to media reports the government has allowed 3,700 contracts for artworks in federal ministries to expire between 2006 and now.

Sandra Douha writes in Ottawa's Centretown News:
For example, in the lobby of the Lester B. Pearson Building, which is home to the department of foreign affairs, there used to be two paintings on the wall by Alfred Pellan.
The twin paintings represented the east and west landscapes of Canada. They were large, colourful, and eye-catching.The iconic paintings had been on the wall since the building opened its doors in 1973. That all changed in June when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird ordered the paintings taken down and replaced with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth.
Baird said he made the decision in respect to the arrival of Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, to Ottawa at the time.There’s nothing wrong with hanging a portrait of the Queen, but there are many copies of her portrait in Canadian embassies.There’s only one copy of these original masterpieces by the Quebec artist – who is considered one of the most important painters of Canada.This decision by Baird is a reflection of what the Conservatives think about art.

To view the complete article, please click here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Maud Lewis: A World Without Shadows

Diane Beaudry, Tony Lanzelo,
Starring, Niky Lipman.
10m. NFB.

Set against a background of her paintings and the Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, landscapes they depict, this short documentary is a portrait of the life and work of one of Canada's foremost primitive painters, Maud Lewis. Emerging from her youth crippled with arthritis, Lewis escaped into her painting at the age of 30. She had never seen a work of art and had never attended an art class but her paintings captured the simple strength, beauty and happiness of the world she saw - a world without shadows.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Forshaw Day

I chanced upon the name of Forshaw Day recently and found my search into his artwork interesting.

Day was born in London, England in 1837, and he studied architecture and design in the Royal Dublin Society, in 1857 and he emigrated to Canada in 1862.

Rather then writing all the information about Day, I will let you click here to read it for yourself on Wikipedia.

The picture below, from the National Gallery of Canada, has certain stylistic characteristics which can be seen in his paintings.
His brushwork is carefully executed. He has a delicate touch for small details.  His tonal values are generally in the mid range to light range, and his work has a soft rendering of light in the trees. Click on the picture to expand its size.

If you click here, you will see a gallery of 6 rotating pictures in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Paul Kane's 'Man Who Always Rides', and the Noble Savage.

Paul Kane: 1848-1856
oil on canvas
Royal Ontario Museum

Google had problems with these blog entry pictures. 

Napoleon Crossing the Alps Jacques-Louis David, 1801 Oil-on-canvas 260 × 221 cm, 102⅓ × 87.

I was browsing 'the net' looking at Canadian art when I came upon this painting by Paul Kane"The Man Who Always Rides." (The rider's name)  It caught my attention because of its highly romanticized representation of the Canadian native. The painting invited an interesting comparison with the painting of Napoleon Crossing the Alps, which was painted by David, about half a century earlier.

The single representation of the subject, on a white horse against the blackened sky and the dramatized subjects gives it a certain similarity. Both of the subjects are given a sense of warrior nobility and both  are representative of Romantic art. 

The Romantics were high on maximizing emotive power in their works. It was the belief of the time that this gave their paintings artistic authenticity. We see in both paintings, the nobility of man pitted against enormous forces - be it weather or political.  In Kane's work we see the rider (often defined in artistic terms as The Noble Savage), on a hill, and looking a little to the left. A group of natives are seen, holding spears and riding horses. They appear to be holding up and meeting a rider who is riding hard towards them.  If you look along the horizon to the right we see what appears to be flames.  We will never know whether it is a real fire or a metaphorical one. If it is a metaphorical fire, then its easy to interpret Kane painting a people endangered by a pending force. Its pretty unlikely that they would be holding spears if they were riding towards a prairie fire.

Because 'The Man Who Always Rides' was painted before the invention of the camera and it had enormous, historical, iconographic power. It seems, pretty certain that Kane presented his viewers with his view that natives were facing a serious threat from the emerging force of newcomers to their land.  If we advance the scene another twenty years and we see CPR tracks stretching like an iron umbilical cord across the country and strangling to death the life of the buffalo and the people of the plains. 

A hallmark of Romantic thinking was the rejection of the evils of the industrial world.  Was the fire on the horizon of this work the fire from the cultural forge of advancing Euro Canadian society?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

William Brymner's 'Bonsecours Church and Market' and the Ephemeral

William Brymner: Bonsecours Church in Market
painted: 1913
Watercolour on Cardboard
National |Gallery of Canada

My day was made complete when I discovered this work online.  Until viewing it, I was unfamiliar with William Brymner's personal history and his art.  Because my interest in this blog is primarily focused on my love of painting, I will focus on this work and let you take the extra step and read his abbreviated life story on Wikipedia by clicking here.

I was attracted to Brymner's diffusion of light in this work.  It appears to me, that Brymner has employed the drybrushing technique to diffuse his paint on the canvas, and to give it a grainy sensation of scattered light. Let's face it - colour is a frequency of the vibration of light. When we think of it this way and we look carefully at the painting, we can see how this painting vibrates with an undercurrent of natural energy. I find myself thinking of Wordsworth's poem, 'Composed Upon Westminster Bridge':

This City now doth, like a garment, wearThe beauty of the morning; silent, bare,Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lie Open unto the fields, and to the sky;All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

This sense of vibration can also be seen in the soft edges of buildings. Look at the effect the light plays on the dome. It shimmers.  Look at the loosely defined ochre cloud which surrounds the dome, and the misty continuation of light down onto the street.

Lets expand our imaginations here. Mist is both ephemeral and intangible. If you look carefully at this work you will find a blurring between the solid structure of the buildings and the surrounding air, and this carries right through to the undefined people in the foreground.

But there's more.  There is an association between what we see and what we feel.  Wordsworth nailed it with the words;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
Wordsworth takes us from the external to the internal domain of feelings with the transition being made through glimmering, shimmering light.  Brymner takes us on the same journey. Dry brushing, soft edges and even a minimal palette, help him to create misty atmosphere and shimmering, translucent light. All in all its a masterful work.

 There's an old saying in art, that its not about the subject as much as its about how the subject is painted. This is a good example of what its all about.  On the surface, you won't find a landscape painting much simpler then this in detail. You have a church, some buildings, some suggestions of people, and you have a sky, a street and a few telephone poles. Thats about it.

But taken together with the right technique you get an overall unity and this is what its all about.

Take a look at Wikepedia.  Brymner is not all that well known today but his work was well recognized in his day.

I guess my only question about this work is, "How did he ever manage to create such a painting on cardboard?"

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Canadian Group of Painters in the 1930's.


Painting in British Columbia during the thirties was dominated by the figures of Emily Carr, Fred Varley, and Jock MacDonald. While some younger artists turned to industrial themes in prints and murals, it was the romantic, landscape tradition defined by the Group of Seven that prevailed.
In the late twenties Emily Carr returned to the native subjects of her earlier paintings in strongly modeled, simplified forms. Around 1930 she turned her attention to the forests in a continuing effort to express the energy and movement she experienced in nature. Painting on paper in oils diluted with gasoline, she moved from dense forest interiors to sunlit clearings, to the seashore and finally, to pure skyscapes, expressing an exultant, pantheistic freedom.
In 1937, Carr suffered her first heart attack, the consequence of years of overwork and financial constraint. She began writing short stories and, in the fall of 1938, she had the first of a series of annual solo exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Sales confirmed that she had, at last, achieved acceptance in the West.
For Emily Carr in Victoria the thirties saw the pinnacle of her career. For the Vancouver art scene, however, this decade was less bright. In 1925 the Vancouver School of Decorative & Applied Arts had been established and the following year Fred Varley arrived from Toronto, and Jock Macdonald from Scotland. In 1931 the Vancouver Art Gallery opened its doors, but the Depression soon intervened.
Up to the mid-twenties Varley's reputation had rested primarily on his work as a portrait-painter; yet during his first three years in Vancouver he confined himself almost totally to landscapes in both oil and watercolour. From 1929 he painted a number of sensuous and spiritual studies of his former pupil Vera Weatherbie, both portraits and figures in landscape.
Jock Macdonald came to Vancouver to teach Design and Commercial Advertising. Encouraged by Varley, he started to paint, going on sketching trips in the mountains and the Gulf Islands.
Faced with a sixty percent reduction in their salaries, Varley and Macdonald organized their own school in 1933. The British Columbia College of Arts attempted to unite under one roof painting, theatre, dance and music. However, the College could not compete with the subsidized Vancouver School of Art in the middle of an economic depression, and collapsed after two years.
After the school closure Macdonald and his family lived at Nootka for eighteen months. Working in an environment so determined by the natural elements, he became interested in a spiritual expression beyond mere external representation. The result was a series of semi-abstract paintings he called 'modalities' and defined as "expressions of thought in relation to nature."
Fred Varley, 'forced into the life of a hermit', moved to Lynn Valley in North Vancouver. Desperately poor, he dreamed of returning to England. A portrait commission from the National Gallery enabled him to go east in 1936.
In Ottawa he sold some sketches and taught but when war broke out in 1939, his classes were cancelled and after a year of terrible loneliness and dire poverty, he moved to Montreal.
Source: The National Gallery of Canada website.
               please click here

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