Saturday, December 29, 2012

Suzzane Rivard Le Moyne, the Passing of an Art Visionary

When an institution becomes fundamental to a culture's creative well-being, we easily forget the vision and determination needed to create it. The people responsible for the extraordinary support the arts enjoy today often remain hidden from view, and many prefer to let their achievements speak for themselves. Especially if, like Suzanne Rivard Le Moyne, you deeply believe this should be so.

Our present art world owes much of its vitality and strength to this singular individual – a rare combination of artist and administrator, visionary and pragmatist. The achievements of Suzanne Rivard Le Moyne stretch from coast to coast and cover more than 50 years. From the creation of the Canada Council's Art Bank, to new programs for emerging art forms, to innovative university programs, Rivard Le Moyne has touched all of our visual culture. As Victoria Henry, current Art Bank Director, says, “everything she did made a difference.”
All of these remarkable accomplishments have a very particular source: Rivard Le Moyne is first and foremost an artist. Her strength and conviction, which have guided her as teacher, innovator and administrator, spring from the understanding and intelligence of the artist.

Suzanne Rivard was born in Quebec City. She received her fine arts diploma from the École des beaux-arts in Quebec. In many ways she was going against the grain of her milieu. She was a very young artist when she began teaching there and, a few years later, at the École des beaux-arts in Montreal. During that period she spent summers in Europe and a very productive two years in Paris, unusual for a young single woman at that time. Her painting career took off, and she exhibited regularly in Montreal and Paris, winning prizes and awards. She was a passionate teacher, and in her 25 years of teaching she enriched the lives of more than one generation of artists: “I have always lived and worked with, and among, artists. As a studio professor, I had the privilege to have young students such as Yves Gaucher, Jacques Hurtubise, Roland Poulin, Pierre Ayot and several others who later became very well-known.”1 Roland Poulin would later comment: “She stood out from the other teachers. She was the first woman I met who engaged with me intellectually.… It was very exciting to be in her class; she was strong, articulate and well-informed, and always ready to debate ideas.”

Rivard Le Moyne might have comfortably remained an artist and professor, but a different path presented itself. In 1969, her husband, the late writer Jean Le Moyne, was asked by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to join him as adviser and speechwriter. Rivard Le Moyne left her productive studio in Montreal for a new, unknown life in Ottawa. She was soon asked to bring her experience of the arts to the Department of the Secretary of State, where, under André Fortier, she worked on cultural policy and special projects. Shortly after, she moved to the Canada Council to become head of visual arts.

She says of this precipitous move: “Coming to the Council … I had no experience in administration, except for a few months at Secretary of State. I had never sat behind a desk. I was an ‘apprentice administrator.' ”2 But, as Dale McConathy has noted: “She was an artist, and she had a way of asking questions.”3

Rivard Le Moyne says: “That ignorance was both a handicap and an advantage. A handicap because I had to learn quickly…. It was also an advantage: ‘Innocence is bliss,' as Pierre Théberge said with humour when I invented the Art Bank. At best, innocence can give someone a fresh, non-conventional outlook that sometimes experts tend to lose with time. A capacity to analyze and evaluate the ‘usual way of doing things,' to upset them, or propose new, unexpected ones.”4

When she began at the Canada Council, the arts were in a period of expansion and flux. The Council had become the catalyst for this exciting scene, and in her action-packed four years there, Rivard Le Moyne would revolutionize the visual arts section, expanding its role for both artists and public alike.

Rivard Le Moyne knew how diverse the arts had become through the turbulent and stimulating 1960s. Aware of the needs of new practices, she instigated new programs for film, video and photography, which until then had been obliged to compete with the more established disciplines. This was to nourish flourishing, internationally-acclaimed activity in these media. Having come through the system as a young artist, she also knew that there were few venues for younger artists to exhibit work, especially for the rapidly growing areas of installation and performance art. Her ingenious solution was the establishment of a system of artist-run centres, the parallel galleries so familiar to us now. Her own experiences as an artist in France led her to seek recognition abroad for Canadian artists: she conceived and organized Canada Trajectories 73, a major exhibition of Canadian artists in Paris.

“But the best was yet to come,” according to Tibor Egervari, current Chair of the Visual Arts Department at the University of Ottawa.5 And that was the Canada Council Art Bank, which celebrated its 30th anniversary on February 5, 2002. This extraordinary institution was the invention of Rivard Le Moyne. Timothy Porteous, Associate Director of the Council at the time, says it was “first of all, a feat of imagination, since no model for it existed. It was a test of ingenuity, since it required the approval of the Treasury Board, not usually known as patrons of the arts. It also called on Rivard Le Moyne's determination in overcoming an array of skeptics, diplomacy in finding allies in the public service, and sound judgment in resolving sensitive policy issues.”6 Quite a feat for an ‘apprentice administrator.'

Rivard Le Moyne called her idea “un reservoir” for art. She had been intrigued by the enthusiasm among Council staff for its own collection (put together by her predecessor, David Silcox), and saw the possibility of expanding this experience throughout the government, as well as other public places. She conceived a system built on purchases from Canadian artists and financed from rentals to government offices across the country. With her characteristic directness and enthusiasm, she “quickly learned that you had to take bureaucrats by surprise.” She asked for a few hundred thousand dollars. Al Johnson, then Secretary of the Treasury Board and a long-time collector of Canadian art, was convinced. The money was granted – an astonishing $5 million over five years – and the Art Bank was born.

The Art Bank would become the country's largest collection of contemporary Canadian art – some 18,000 works in various disciplines by almost 3,000 artists, with over a third currently on loan. The Art Bank would change the relationship of art and artist to the public and to government. It has sparked much interest. Rivard Le Moyne was invited to address a U.S. Senate Committee on the idea, and today various versions exist in countries as far-flung as Australia, Norway, Singapore and Japan. And despite attempts to close it in a period of government cutbacks, the Art Bank has refused to die. The attempt raised such opposition that the Art Bank was reinstated – testimony to its enduring importance and to the vision of its inventor.

Rivard Le Moyne had always shied away from “the distortion that comes with the power thing. I wasn't interested in having such a high profile.” She was concerned also about the effect of her frequent travel on the uneven health of her husband. Together, these factors were enough to make her accept another challenge: the chairmanship of the emerging art department at the University of Ottawa.

The Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa was evolving from a mix of music, theatre and visual arts when Rivard Le Moyne took over in 1974. Soon she would head a single visual arts department, her ingenuity put to work creating a new model for arts education. She would attract the same high caliber of people as at Council, including such fine artists and art historians as Charles Gagnon, Kenneth Lochhead and Philip Fry, among many others, as well as a stellar array of visitors. With them she developed an innovative, interdisciplinary program, creating “an environment where we can foster searching, creative, questioning minds.” It became one of the most highly regarded programs in the country.

Throughout her entire career, Rivard Le Moyne served with great effectiveness on numerous boards, committees and juries, and was invited to speak at many cultural conferences. As an artist, she received many honours and awards. As a teacher, she gained the life-long respect and affection of a generation of artists. As an administrator, she brought the same passion and talent to the creation of new institutions. In all of her successes, notes Tibor Egervari, we see “her boundless love of the discipline, and a rare intelligence in action.”7

Rivard Le Moyne retired from teaching in 1986 to return to her origins, the studio. She approached this return, after a long absence, with the same creative spirit that marked all her endeavours. It is a remarkable circle. The artist was never far away, a guiding presence in all she would undertake. “My experience at the Canada Council and the University of Ottawa was fantastic, at times difficult, often at the cost of my own work as a painter, but always very enriching. Teamwork with wonderful people: artists, students, colleagues and staff, people from every part of our country. I owe them a lot.”8

Characteristically modest, and revealing words from the visionary who so influenced how we live with the arts today: “The artists came first.”

Leslie Reid is an artist and Professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Ottawa, where she has also served as Chair.

Text from: Canada Council for the Arts
Please click here to view at source.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Lady with Dog

National Gallery of Canada
Lady with Dog
17th c. Quebec

Sorry for not providing the artist's name with this one. I would have done so, had I known it.
But that's another story.

The woman portrayed in this work, has rather ordinary or common features.  But even this statement groans under the weight of culture. Artists have painted so many women for their beauty that its easy to fall into the 'beauty trap'.  Let's face it. If an artist painted a man with features like William Cromwell, who purportedly told his portrait painter, "Paint me......warts and all," surely there is room to accommodate 'everyday folk'. In many respects it takes a person with a depth of understanding of life to go beyond the surface and to search for the inner being. Isn't that what it should be all about?

The lady has a Mona Lisa presence. She has a hint of a smile on her face but if my vision isn't  deceiving me, I would think that one of her eyes stray. Even her dog is a rather ordinary little animal. I found myself focusing on the spot on its head and playfully wondered if one of its eyes had wandered. Now that's silly. Maybe even not suitable for 'The Portrait'.

Besides all that our woman is a lady of financial means and status.  Her clothing is rich and ornate. She wears a little pinky finger, which suggests that she is a woman of wealth .and this finger separates itself and goes it own way  If it were a painting of a man, it wouldn't be difficult to imagine that with a slight modification of wardrobe it could have been a bishop.

Two readers of 'The Portrait' suggested that the dog might be a King Charles Spaniel, which was a dog noted to be a favourite among genteel ladies. It was said to have been a much favoured lap dog.
Which is another indication, that our subject was a lady of status.

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Margit Sampogna's Search for Reality

Margit Sampogna's classical still life rendering of urn with fruit, nuts and garlic is a striking painting done in the classical style.

The work is carefully composed with a variety of interesting geometric patterns playing off one another to emphasize and draw attention to specific elements. I like the way the fruit, nuts and garlic flow from a broad base upwards upward to a trumpet-flute opening and from there through the upper urn.

The velvet background cloth drape has a loose triangular design and I like the way it bunches along the back of the beam to emphasize the items gathered around the urn's base. It also creates dramatic tension and emphasis which heightens the focus on the urn and the articles around it.

Purple has been known through the ages as an expensive, carefully kept secret. The purple cloth rests on a roughly hewn, earth hued beam. The urn which is the largest single object in the painting is strikingly ordinary. the base of the pedestal bowl is irregular, and its not hard to imagine that the surface of the urn has a patina of fine dust  on it. Notice, the rust stain which runs from the right handle, down along its side. Margit skillfully arranges the urn so the burnt sienna stain is in the direct light and this makes it all the more noticeable.

The contrast extends downward to the clove of garlic. The garlic skin is dry are flaky and there is a trade-off with the urn since they both have the same approximate hue and value.

I am intrigued too by the trade off in implications.  We cannot see the sense of taste but green grapes are not usually as sweet as rich red grapes and garlic has its own strong personality. So there is no built in "sweetness factor" in these two items.

There is also a ricocheting  tension between value and baseness. The rather ordinary urn is gussied up with a crest.  The common elements of wear and tear, and unpolished roughness is found in  dried garlic skin and broken lines along  the base pedestal. This doesn't just happen by accident. Its part of Margit's overall design to heighten realism.

Just when we think that ordinary and common elements  wins out over elegance, style and class we discover that the urn's crest sits in the critical focal centre of the painting. See how the grapevine points like a bony finger towards the crest.

The painting is done in oils and its 12"x14" in size - a close approximation of the actual sizes of the featured objects. So the painting itself is a pretty close actualization of what Margit sees.

In end realism trumps banal prettiness. Her still life has all the contradictions and contrasts that we find in everyday life. But,in this painting, Margrit gathers it together with a pre- arranged design with appropriate lighting. The result being,that its more than just a painting. Its a metaphorical statement of life itself.

Margrit invites you to click here to visit her website to see more of your works.

Artist's Response
You have such a wonderful writing style and you certainly "see".

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Margit Sampogna Shares her Gifts

Born in Denmark, Margit (nee Andersen) Sampogna emigrated to Canada with her family. They made their new home in the west end of Toronto.

Margit, like most artists was born with 'the gift', and she says that for as long as she remembered, she "made pictures".

Life takes us on its own path with its own unique crossroads.  Margit would have liked to have pursued the arts and in particular she would have loved to have worked for Disney Studios, but that wasn't to be. So, she made an important decision to take a route which took her into rehab medicine.  Margit became a working mom and her professional career was a necessary part of her family life.  That's a reality of life that we can likely all identify with. Margit today is married and the mother of adult children.

As time passed Margit never surrendered her interest in art. She engaged in all modalities;  fabric, needlepoint, quilting and decorating. Margit admits to having a lifelong love of nature and she has always been one of those people who finds herself attracted to the architectural design of buildings.

Margit's life took a signficant change in 2004 when she discovered botanical art and it became natural extension for her to explore nature with acrylics, oil and graphite. Those who have followed Margit's development have seen her express her love of nature, plants, still life and buildings within her works. She particularly enjoys atelier, classical style painting.

Margit's passion and commitment to art was expressed with her becoming a founding and continuing member of Kaleidoscope; East Humber River Artists in Toronto and she is a signature member of the Artists for Conservation organization f the groups which she has memberships with.  Her c.v is a journey in itself and is posted on her website.

Margit has grown in many ways in the last few years, and in particular she recognizes that its been an important social process as well.  She generously acknowledges the critical role of others in her development. "I have met wonderful interesting people who have inspired and mentored me"  and she values the many strong friendships that she has made along the way.

Margit sparkles with enthusiasm with art. She is a solid artist with excellent skills and she loves nothing better then to reach out into the community. The visual arts has been well served by her outreach.

To see more of Margit's works please click here.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Novembers' Name the Artwork Contest

Alas, 'The Portrait' had no responses to November's Name the Artwork Contest.

No Winners means, that we get to keep what we didn't give away.  But since the prize was nothing more then "bragging rights and pride" I expect that I will be able to deal with my personal ego expansion problems.

Comox airport uses art to shape tourists' first impressions of Vancouver Island

By: The Canadian Press
10/24/2012 6:26 PM

A three-metre-wide carved wooden eagle by artist Wes Seeley hangs from the ceiling of the Comox Valley Airport terminal building in this undated handout photo. Part of a new display of artworks intended to create a positive first impression for visitors arriving on Vancouver Island, the works by 10 artists represent ???the unique people, places and environment??? of central and northern Vancouver Island, say organizers of the exhibition which will run until July 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
COMOX, B.C. - A three-metre-wide carved wooden eagle hangs from the ceiling of Comox Valley Airport's terminal building, part of a new display of artworks intended to create a positive first impression for visitors arriving on Vancouver Island.

The works by 10 artists represent "the unique people, places and environment" of central and northern Vancouver Island, say organizers of the exhibition which will run until July 2013.

Artist Wes Seeley, originally from Quadra Island, spent more than 2,000 hours carving the eagle, including its 1,000 feathers, out of fir as well as red, yellow and aromatic cedar.

"YQQ values its unique perspective as the first point of entry for many Vancouver Island tourists and we believe it is our responsibility to help positively shape the first perceptions of those guests," said airport CEO Fred Bigelow.

More than 300,000 passengers pass through the airport each year.

The airport's annual art and culture program is a partnership between the Comox Valley Airport Commission and the Comox Valley Community Arts Council.

link to source

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ron Simpkins interviewed by daughter Cristina

Ron provides some interesting viewpoints about his landscape painting. He touches on such concepts as painting with light and painting water, and aspects of the life as an artist.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December, 'Name the Artwork' Contest

Ok dear readers
Name this artwork, its creator, where it is located - any or all of these questions, and you could be the winner of this month's, contest.

Winners will be entitled to carry permanent bragging rights and having their name posted on the Name the Artwork page - throughout the life of 'The Portrait'.  Other then that, you win absolutely nothing.
No ribbons, no money, no trophy.  That's the hard reality of life on a non sponsored blog.

The contest ends at the end of the month.

The Art of Glen Loates

Monday, December 3, 2012

Maria (Morris) Miller Early Nova Scotia Floral Artist

                                                          Maria (Morris) Miller. 1810-1875.

 It should be no surprise that floral artist, Maria Morris, was one of Canada's earliest recognized artists. Especially since, floral painting is likely the preferred style of the majority of Canada's female watercolourists.

Maria was a Nova Scotian and she lived during the 19th century. She studied and excelled under the teaching of the visiting English artist, L'Estrange who was noted for his unique style.

Maria headed the Halifax School of Drawing and Painting and this may have been Canada's first art school. She was recognized in 1836 as the "Painter of the Year." Marie Elwood in the Canadian Encyclopedia writes that her school's purpose was  "to instruct young ladies in the polite and elegant accomplishment of drawing."

The presentation of her paintings at the Paris Exposition of 1867 attests to the kind of recognition she received during her lifetime.

Source: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mandy Budan Landscape Study 10

There are so many things about Landscape Study 10, that I find appealing. To begin, its an archetypal Canadian scene.  Its the kind of subject that the Group of Seven painted that led Canada to a level of artistic maturity.

Mandy writes her own painter's license.  She gains a delightful sense of freedom by incorporating her abstract style into a landscape painting in a northern setting.. But the freedom isn't in her license alone, its in the core of the subject. When I study this work, I find it easy to imagine her isolating a single frame in a long, looping roll of film.  Her clouds, roll across the upper quadrant of the canvas like waves on an endless sea.

 Landscape Study 10, is the kind of painting where I find myself searching for definitions. It hangs somewhere between abstraction and impressionism. Notice the carefully patterned application of paint. Her brush strokes either stop or flow and in the end there's not a hint of small brush quest for perfection.

Its an intentionally minimalistic work with less being more. Mandy's palette is simplified and its no surprise that its a small 5"x 7" painting. Simplicity and lack of detail compliment each other to create a sense of psychological  liberation.  And, there are components of spiritual liberation found in its timelessness and the sense of it presenting a snapshot from an unending universe..

The search for definitions leads to inevitable comparisons.  Its easy to see echoes of Emily Carr, Tom Thomson, and even Barker Fairley at work.Taking it further, it also seems to parallel Haida block style art.

In the end, there are so many little things which work together to make this a beautiful painting.

Artist's Comments

It's a beautiful critique. I try to distill the essence of a scene into as little as possible, and I love your reference to Haida work. That is the epitome of an abstract motif of the landscape which is something I definitely strive for.

Please click here to visit Mandy's website.

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.