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Andrew Rucklidge – Critical Review Quinn Smallboy

My work has seen a slight shift in following a plan and sticking with it, to veering off and trying something new.   In addition the plan is scraped and thinking the work is either unfinished or I put a stop to it and calling it quits.  Has put me in a place where I found myself in different waters.  Meaning, do I continue on with the painting or start a new one.  With this uncertainty of what to do next I press forward not knowing what the outcome is going to be, I then found myself again in different waters but with a more clear sight of what and how I can finished the painting.  With this newly found perspective into creating my work I founded a great deal of satisfaction when not following a well laid out plan.  That the idea of following the rules and breaking them has worked out for the better.   

With my interest in abstract paintings along with landscape paintings, there are plenty of artist that come to mind and expressing an interests one particular artist is a tough task.  I choose to look at the work of local area contemporary artist Andrew Rucklidge.  With scenes of abstract mountains capes, terrain that looks futuristic in nature this is where Rucklidge seeks to employ the ambiguity of space and form.  Rucklidge work is influence by the works of Sesshu and facets of the Sublime.   This blurring the line between traditional landscape paintings to complete abstract paintings is an area I find very interesting.  The idea I find very interesting when looking at Rucklidge’s work is the possible process in which how a painting of his could be started.  As suggested Rucklidge’s paintings invoke the aesthetics of Romantic paintings and often take form of panoramic vistas.  When viewing his work I get this sense of uncontrolled brushed marking in contrast to my own work, but yet again still get a sense of a controlled space.  In areas of his paintings you can certainly make out forms and subject.    

What I really like about his work is the contrast between light and dark, and in some areas there is a clear line of separation between shapes.  Within Rucklidge’s paintings areas are clearly define by the way he uses color to make each subject more interesting to look at.  His use of color and forms are presented in way to entice the viewer to engage in the painting and in guessing what they are looking at.

 

http://www.andrewrucklidge.com/

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Tokujin Yoshioka: an Artistic Designer by Kendra Streilein

     After reading an article on Tokujin Yoshioka, “Design Beyond Form: the Art of Yoshioka Tokujin” I was intrigued by his works that were designs but also artworks. Yoshioka is a Japanese based designer. He has done many advertising based works for companies such as BMW, Hermes, and Swarovski to name a few. As well his design for Honey-pop paper chair in 2001 which granted him much attention. Although Yoshioka is classified as a designer his works cross over into the art realm.

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Snowflake, Yoshioka Tokujin, 2010

The play between art and the everyday world fascinates me with Yoshioka’s work. In his piece Twilight he created an environment to displayed his chair design titled Moon in which the piece reflects how the moon looks at different times of the month when moving around the object. Twilight creates an intoxicating environment, multiple dim spotlights and fog reference nature with eery yet beautiful shadows and highlights dancing off the chairs and floor. Yoshioka’s work is never just about creating the next greatest design, he is interested in the ‘formless design’. He describes this as how the viewer reacts to his work, how music, lighting, and the environment around the piece can change the viewing of his design and create an experience.

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Twilight, Yoshioka Tokujin, 2011

The atmosphere that Yoshioka has created around his work is something that intrigues me and pushes me to think about how I can incorporate it into my own work. As well, representing nature in an abstract way has been something that I have used as a reference point in my work for some time and could never pinpoint why until reading the article on Yoshioka where an editor of a Dutch magazine remarked:

“That the reason people rarely react negatively to my [Yoshioka’s] work is that my designs create the same feeling one has when looking at nature, and no one reacts negatively to natural beauty.” – http://www.japanechoweb.jp/jew0512/2/

     Being immersed in an arts culture one tends to question what an artist is, where are the boundaries, is there a place that one steps out of the “art” realm and into a different one such as architecture, design, or advertising. Although this topic could be an essay or book on its own account, my brief observation after becoming familiar with Yoshioka’s work is that I believe things outside of the art arena can transcend their limited field, such as design, and enter into the art world without being second class artists to the true “purist” artists who only produce art for arts sake. This definition is an important one for me personally because I am a very practical person, and like my work to serve a function. This can range from a simple purpose such as the concept of the work, however often the function I seek is one outside the artistic concept and brings the piece into a more designer realm.

     Tokujin Yoshioka’s works have a similar feel to Tara Donovan. Donovan uses nature as a reference, and both artists often use a minimal range of materials per piece but use large quantities to make huge installations. Despite the fact that Donovan creates her work for the purpose of art and not design like Yoshioka both their work address the same overwhelming presence of a material that has been manipulated, and a process repeated to create a dynamic work of art.

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Tara Donovan, “Untitled (Molecule)” 2010

“Design Beyond Form: the Art of Yoshioka Tokujin” by Kono Michikazu http://www.japanechoweb.jp/jew0512/

Twilight review   http://plusmood.com/2011/05/moroso-project-moon-chair-tokujin-yoshioka-3/

Tokujin Yoshioka’s website   http://www.tokujin.com/en/splash.html

Interview with Tara Donovan   http://blog.art21.org/2010/04/08/prelude-a-discussion-with-tara-donovan/

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Jessica Gardner – Critical Review

TAL R

Recently I was exposed to an image of TAL R’s painting, “Haute Couture”, a work that caught my interest immediately through its schematic use of colour and its “punch line” narrative. The work depicts the high culture sport of horse racing/equestrianism gone awry, a mocking narrative that is emphasized further by its use of pastel colours that are lacking the richness of high saturated pigments. I had seen images of TAL R’s work prior to seeing “Haute Couture,” however, for whatever reason, unbeknownst to me, I had not had an immediate reaction to these works as I had with “Haute Couture.” Although, with a new determined interest in TAL R as a painter, I was persistent on revisiting these works and other works by TAL R.

From this venture I discovered a personal interest in a variety of TAL R’s work, and in particular the works within the catalogue for his exhibition, The Elephant behind the Clown, that took place at Der Kunstverein in Hamburg, during the spring of 2011. While looking through this catalogue a prominent tone became salient, a tone more similar to the works I had previously seen by the artist, a tone that extended beyond a mocking and playful narrative. This is evident when comparing “Haute Couture” to the work “Man with Violine.” Instead of simply using pastel colours to contrive a satirical account, “Man with Violine” uses colour straight out of the tube, and they are composed schematically in a crude manner. Yes, there are figures, a title suggesting a narrative, and an ambiguous interior, but these elements only imply a layer or moment within the painting as a whole. The static characters and setting invited me as a viewer to ponder where this painting could take me subjectively and objectively as the viewer. This curiosity and wonder in the painting as more than just a representation left me extensively intrigued, an effect provoked by many of the paintings within the catalogue. But where does this leave “Haute Couture”? The “punch line” that ironically turned into an introduction? From a subjective level, the work has now been viewed by me within a body of work by the artist, ultimately giving it sustenance it did not necessarily have before. This notion allows me to acknowledge that regardless of how a body of work may develop, either linearly or intermittently, it still possesses a dialogue and personal discourse that can to some extent affect the artist, the viewer, and the individual works themselves.

This acknowledgment of a dialogue in context with a body of work is important to my work in the way that I appropriate my own characters in more than one painting, and informs me as an artist to not be afraid of progression or, contrarily, reoccurrences in my work. TAL R’s work is also influential in the way he uses colour schematically in a fauvist manner, deterring a painting from being perceived simply through semiotics and narratives. He has an interplay between static, ambiguous representation and the abstraction of that representation. I have recently been focusing on how I can possibly use colour blocking and colour relations to abstract a setting and narrative within my own work. I am interested in how different approaches to this method could portray different tones and curiosities in a painting, beyond a humorous joke. I also think that possibly seeing TAL R’s pieces in person and being confronted by the materiality of his work, which recently uses the mixed media of rabbit glue, pigment and crayon on canvas, could also be highly influential. His raw application of these materials persuades me even more to experiment with materials and how they can influence my work.

Catalogue- http://www.cfa-berlin.com/exhibitions/the_elephant_behind_the_clown

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Man with Violine
rabbit glue, pigment and crayon on canvas
2010

Image 2
Haute Couture
rabbit glue, pigment and crayon on canvas
2010

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Jacki Gunton talks about Melanie Rocan

Melanie Rocan is a Canadian contemporary artist who recently received her Masters degree at Concordia University and graduated from the University of Manitoba in 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Rocan is interested in addressing the fragility of humans and nature in her work. She is concerned with the interplay of reality, dreams, the unconscious, and memories in her paintings. She relies on an intuitive process in creating her work, which helps trigger thoughts and ideas located in her subconscious. She often combines nostalgic elements, pieces of reality, and autobiographical themes to address the contrast between humans’ internal emotions and their reactions to the outside world. She combines abstract painting with highly detailed painting to create a balance between paint and content, and to leave room for interpretation and suggestion. In this blog post I will provide a brief review of Rocan’s oil painting titled Chains and Mobiles.

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One of my first thoughts when I saw this painting was wow, this looks a lot like my kitchen after a night of partying, drinking, and eating stale pizza. The painting looks like a heap of garbage, broken chairs, dirty towels, and flowers thrown together in a room where hardwood floor and counter space might once have been visible. I cannot say my kitchen has very many chains in it, however Rocan seems to use the chains in the composition as a way of dividing up the space. The chains might also be a metaphor for how Rocan believes that nostalgia “represents an uncanny timelessness, an anchor that provides us with a sense of stability, bringing us to another moment in our lives and allowing us to lose ourselves in the innocence.” Some objects appear recognizable at first, but the more you look at them the more unfamiliar they become. For example, in the bottom left corner there are a pair of yellow flippers – or so I thought. I realize they might actually be bananas made to look like flower vases. While I might be wrong about this, I think it is safe agree that Rocan’s paintings do leave room for a lot of interpretation.

On the right side of the painting, I recognize a small set of wooden stairs, which leads me to believe that this painting could be a representation of multiple rooms in a house. Some objects look like parts of antique furniture in an old bedroom with tacky yellow and pink wallpaper. The tangled vines, flowers, and wood in the centre of the painting remind me of one of my many sad attempts at gardening with my mom last summer. Nevertheless, it is evident that the household items such as flower bouquets, wooden chairs, fabric, and string could be a compilation of personal objects extracted from Rocan’s memory, as many of the objects appear broken or blurry. For example, towards the left of the painting I can make out a porch railing and an orange sky behind it. I can never be sure what I am looking at, as the painting is extremely cluttered, chaotic, and there is little distinction between foreground, midground, and background. In my opinion, I do not consider the lack of foreground or background to be a weakness in this painting. I find the ambiguity and incoherence of depth within the painting intriguing, engaging, and refreshing – not to mention I have poor depth perception anyway. The use of abstract elements and her attention to detail form an unintelligible space, reminiscent of a dream that made more sense while you were sleeping than when you were awake. The vibrant colours, such as the yellows and blues, remind me of a vivid dream during a refreshing nap. The darker brown and blue portions of the painting create more depth by pushing some objects back and bringing others forward, adding dimension to the massive dump heap that consumes the majority of the painting. At least there are chains put in place to constrain some of the mess, as I fear it might explode before my eyes at any given moment.

My satirical review of this work must not be mistaken for my dislike for Rocan’s work. At first I saw this painting as my grimy kitchen’s twin, but now I see it as a map of an artist’s scattered brain. As an artist myself, I often find it difficult to collect my thoughts and ideas in order to transform them into a piece art. Rocan has demonstrated that working in an intuitive manner can allow for more unpredictable results than painting from an image or painting from life. I find her intuitive way of working very inventive and I appreciate her interest in dreams, memories, and nostalgia. Rocan mentions in her artist statement that painting from memory and dreams has triggered thoughts that have been weighing down on her. I would like to explore intuitive painting further, as it may help me uncover internal conflicts or personal issues that I have repressed. I also enjoy Rocan’s use of both abstract and realistic elements to make more room for interpretation. They say that the messiest of rooms belong to the most creative people. If this painting is a representation of Melanie Rocan’s bedroom, then I think that statement is most certainly true.

Sources: http://www.melanierocan.com/statement.html

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Oswaldo De Leon Kantule: The Kuna in Local London

A Critique of Kantule’s Recent Paintings

Written by: Jennifer Ann Scott

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

                  Oswaldo De-Leon Kantule, who is also referred to professionally as “Achu,” first began his career as a self-taught artist in his hometown of Panama. He later went on to study Fine Arts at University of Panama and graduated with honors in 2001. Achu is both internationally and locally recognized; he has exhibited in sixteen solo exhibitions across The Americas and Europe and is currently a Resident Artist of London’s local Art Project.

                In January of 2013 Kantule exhibited at the Art’s Project with an impressive body of painting work from his series “Symbology,” “Women,” “Art in the Paper” and “Spirituality.”  Each painting was made on a large scale, expanding over five feet in the vertical and horizontal dimensions. Kantule held fast to incorporating his unique visual language. It was a feast for the eyes. With a purposeful use of vibrant colours and dynamic pattern, Kantule created a detailed rendering of amalgamation images whose origin find themself in Kuna and contemporary Western culture.

            As a Western citizen and having little resonance with the Kuna culture, I found myself invited into a space of Kuna spirituality, whether I wanted to initially or not. The viewer wants to look, however true engagement is an option. I would like to describe Achu’s work as visual parable; he adapts pattern and energetic colours to render Kuna pictographs and religious symbols, thus creating interest on an aesthetic level firstly. The use of textiles conforms to Immanuel Kant’s theory of the beautiful. The reason we look without prejudice or the unwillingness to know of another culture or religion is because pattern is free of concept.  He grabs our attention and if the viewer is intrigued likely more time in contemplation will be spent, and in that Kantule finds his intent successful.  Questions of metaphysical identity, the notions of gender, and dialogue between mythological and popular understanding start to emerge from the seemingly hidden and non-linear, non-didactic fusion of metaphorical images.

            Kantule’s representation of women is by traditional Western thought, cross cultural. Within his images the female seems to take on a divine role, of which the feminine connections to nature and earth, along with fertility are of high value. In one painting, La Mujer de Agua en su Hamaca de Esmeraldas, the river takes the shape of a woman’s body in which men navigate through in order to export local goods. In using the form of a woman and paralleling it to prosperity in economy, Kantule celebrates women in Kuna fashion. (Kuna people worship Mother Earth and men become a part of the woman’s family by taking on the woman’s last name in marriage) Much of Kantule’s patterns are adapted from mola textiles, which are typically women’s dress in Kuna.  Additionally, the womanhood is further announced in being harmonious with the earth and of great power from the earth when “she” is represented as a mermaid leading the creatures of the sea. Lastly, the work, Maternity, I think is especially interesting. The Kuna woman is rendered in much the same style as Klimt and adapts the Byzantine Halo of Christ. In this, her divine order is recognized and her obvious fertility, as noted by the round belly and flower, along with her fusion with the landscape, takes on what it means to be a woman and attributes it to godliness. In exhibiting it in a Western context, Kantule asks the viewer to compare the maternal society of Kuna to the often contemporarily more insidious paternal society of The Western world.

Furthermore, Achu’s work entitled, Delirium Transgeneticus II, looks at popular thought of Western science and juxtaposes it to Kuna conceptions of Creationism. We see DNA strands, with bases wrongly aligned, against a back drop of life forms emerging out of an earthly chaos. In this, Kantule resurrects metaphysical and divine origin, again shaking our 21st century identity as coherent with scientific and mathematical thought.

Sources:

Artist’s Personal Website: http://deleonkantule.tripod.com/index.htm

The Art’s Project – Resident Artist Information Page: http://www.artsproject.ca/studio/resident-artists

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Objects of Vision: Michael Snow

The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation merged with the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2007 to annually acknowledge a professional Canadian artist who shows a developed body of work exercising an innovative energy. The winner of this award does not only receive a grant reward but also a solo show at the AGO. In 2011, the winner of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize was Toronto artist Michael Snow.

Currently on display in the AGO’s Signy Eaton Gallery, Snow’s “Objects of Vision” exhibits fourteen abstract sculptures that Snow created during pivotal moments in his career. During the late 1950s, the late 1960s and 1982, Snow questioned how the sculpture as an object can be seen and how the visual perception of the sculpture can in fact be the subject that activates the object. As the title of the show provokes, these objects of vision are displayed as a timeline of works that Snow focused on sight and materiality. It is apparent in the works that Snow is addressing concepts of looking which ultimately forces the viewer to engage with the object. This engagement suggests that the viewer is as important as the object and the viewer actually becomes a part of the work.

Entering the gallery space I initially encountered one of the smallest sculptures in the show, the work titled 432101234. Rather than just a play on vision, I found this work successful in revealing more about the materiality and weight of the objects. In a traditional sense, the majority of Snow’s sculptures remain somewhat on the floor. 432101234 sits on a platform that is barely three inches off of the gallery floor. It is as if the sculpture is beckoning to be raised on a plinth as a form of high art but the object itself will not allow for this. The weight of the clamp removes all freedom from the sponge, creating a permanent tension.

Moving around the room it is difficult not to be directed by the almost do-it-yourself compass titled Transformer. This work hangs in the center of the gallery space and consists of a large spruce tree sharpened to a needlepoint hung horizontally by a piece of rope. The blunt end of the spruce tree is natural and as the viewer’s eyes travel along the line, the sharpened end is polished and varnished. This provides a literal transformation in the materiality of the tree and how it is seen as an object. I refer to Transformer as a D.I.Y compass not only because it is made of wood, cardboard and rope, but because it is the locus of how vision is directed within the space. Just looking at this work, my eyes would follow the long horizontal line and as I approached the end of the spruce tree my vision would be intercepted by another work surrounding Transformer.

Near the back wall of the gallery there are two works titled Quits and Sight. Though they are two of the older works in the show, I found these pieces to be the most relevant in regards to my current practice and idea formation. I am curious about the relationship between spaces and more specifically these relationships within a gallery. The distinct spaces are traditionally the wall and the floor: the wall for paintings, the floor for sculpture. Within a postmodern contemporary setting, should these distinct spaces still be relevant? More importantly, is there a way to diffuse this separation and demand new opportunities for space and display? These are questions I am developing to bring to my work and I believe that Snow is skimming the surface of these ideas within Quits and Sights. I can appreciate that Snow definitely had similar ideas in relation to the space between wall and floor however I am not totally convinced with the outcome of the works. For example, Quits literally involves five square panels travelling from the floor to the wall along two barriers. I find the display didactic and more of an initial study into the relationships between these spaces.

Considering “Objects of Vision” spans between three crucial time periods of Michael Snow’s career, it is worth noting that in the late 1950s and 1960s Abstract Expressionists began to quiet while Minimalism and Conceptual art began to rise. Before visiting this exhibition I had never been to see any of Snow’s work and now I can say that it is definitely made to be experienced in person. Evidently being impacted by what surrounded him, “Objects of Vision” provides a great spectrum of development and maturity throughout Snow’s career.

 

 Scott Chalmers

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Oswaldo De Leon Kantule

Oswaldo De Leon Kantule, better know as ‘Achu’ is a self taught painter based in Panama. Only later in his life did he graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Panama. Currently he is a globally known artist who has shown his work in Canada, USA, South America and Europe, with pieces in the permanent collection at the McDonald Stewart Art Center in Guelph. I came across his work at a show at the Arts Project in mid-January and was instantly drawn to his vibrant colour pallet, and use of spiritual symbolism common to South American indigenous cultures. Achu builds up multiple layers in his paintings that seem to create an optical illusion that is both playful and mesmerizing. While his use of visual abstraction draws in the viewer, the underlying metaphors in his paintings keep you searching through the layers of the painting.  

 

La Mujer de Agua en su Hamaca de Esmeraldas speaks to our journey in life and the cosmic struggle we may come to face. The painting captures a sense of movement within the wildlife and figures that suggests there is a path we have to forge for ourselves, and in embarking on this journey we must maintain a central balance. Achu suggests in his painting that a respect for mother earth is key, which is common in many idigenous cultures that believe the earth is the source of all imagery and human life. Personally I find this work intriguing because Achu manages to bring imagery into a history that is often passed on by word of mouth and song through out generations. Especially in this painting he suggests that all human life plays a small part in a larger picture, that may never become clear to us. The dependance on faith clearly evident in his work but it does not over power the greater metaphor he is recreating from spiritual traditions. If we are to interpret this painting on a more basic level we can see that Achu is addressing womanhood and fertility, while on a more fundamental level he is trying to sustain the continuation of his traditions. 

 

Achu has created his own language with his paintings that communicated the traditions of his culture and captures the essence of his spiritual upbringing. His stories unfold in a dreamlike manner on his canvases that are unassuming and easily approachable. This style is similar to contemporary painters such as Joan Miro and Paul Klee who also create paintings that have textile appeal to them, and use abstract symbolism to tell universal parables. I have recently taken a great interest in indigenous cultures and spiritual symbolism which is why I find Achu’s work to captivating. He looks at the human body in a metaphysical context that I feel gives you a greater appreciation for the balance between soul and mind. In addition to the context of his work, his style is reminiscent of early textiles, in which the repetition of pattern is a soothing manner of carrying the eye across the canvas. The building of layers and patterns is also similar in printmaking, especially in Achu’s paintings where his line work is so precise, the paint application appears stamp-like. 

 

I’m happy to have come across an artist that integrates his life seamlessly into his paintings. Each of his works translates to me like the documentation of a meditative process. Achu focuses all his energy on the underlying hardships we face and expels the solution onto canvas, with a reoccurring theme centered in his own spiritual and cultural practices. This method of painting allows the viewer to become quite intimate with the artist, and I hope to reach a level of comfort to express such emotions and spirituality in my own work.

– Eva Przybyla

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Max Brand – Megan W

Max Brand is a German artist, born in 1982, who currently lives in Frankfurt.

I first discovered his work on the class blog for VAS 3310. His vibrant use of colours and aggressive lines caught my attention immediately. After exploring his art further, I found myself even more endeared to the methods and techniques he uses to accomplish his pieces. His work is expressive, loud, chaotic and distinctly purposeful.

Through the use of media such as acrylic, oil, marker, chalk, spray paint, pencil, pen and even chlorine bleach he is able to build layers of narratives, concealed imagery, amalgamated forms, and powerful focal points that move the eye across the canvas. Brand uses energetic and vivid colour washes in his work, often only to have them removed through the use of bleach. His work offers much more than what is visually tangible, ghosts of forms and figures once present create depth and chronological interest for the viewer. I find his work a real testament to the capabilities of various media and how they can relate to each other through colour. The subtleties of the pencil crayons, and pen create a dynamic backdrop for the more dominant forms of acrylic, oil and marker.

Brand’s work appears chaotic, random, and brought to life by chance in many ways. Upon further consideration the balance and composition of his art is very apparent. There is a narrative of creation through the random additions and subtractions of images, colour, and line in his paintings that contributes to the overall experience. Without each sporadic element finding its place in the frame, Brand’s pieces would be incomplete.

There is a narrative in the crazy mess of lines, figures, colour, text and value. Brand’s steps, strokes and decisions are laid bare to the viewer. There is a world beyond the frame that his characters, forms and figures seem to break out of and into. His work inspires past the limitations of the visual. There is life in what has been added and also in what has been taken away, covered, and transformed. There is the noticeable element of time in Brand’s work. His paintings inspire questions towards when elements were added, what is no longer present, what has been altered and for each of these always follows the inquiry of why. Is it all intentional, or is it truly as random and chaotic as it appears?

If there was one aspect of Brand’s work that stands out and defines his creations, it would be his use of layers. There is an apparent building up and tearing down in what Brand creates. The various media call attention to every layer he chooses to incorporate. While in a painting of pure acrylic or oil, each layer often lends itself to an overall composition or image. In Brand’s work, while composition and balance are achieved with great care, each layer is still present as its own entity, with its own purpose of contribution to the piece.

His most successful works are when he leaves the white of the background room to shine through. His use of graphic line alludes to the margins of a student’s notebook, covered in doodles and instinctive mark making. His canvases create a sense of nostalgia and invite their audience into their creation and inspirations. His work plays on the very relatable feelings of graffiti, doodling and painting that we have all experienced in our lives one way or another. As many layers as he can introduce to a piece, his ability to leave the original ground visible to the viewer is the most successful part of his art. It better contributes to the feeling of doodling, or drawing from pure imagination and inspiration and to the continuation of a piece by building off of the mark made just before it.

His work is an inspiration to my own. Through contemplation of his art, I am able to better reflect on my own practice and realize the areas I need to push myself further mentally and physically. There are elements of Brand’s work I want to try emulating and hopefully become better able to understand my own processes and inspirations for creating art. 

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Image source: https://vas3310.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/max_brand_1.jpg
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Image source: http://momaps1.org/exhibitions/view/353

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Image source: http://www.drooel.com/2010/12/14/max-brand/

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Image source: http://joshuaabelow.blogspot.ca/2011/04/untitled-20082009-max-brand.html

 

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Melanie Rocan

Several of Melanie Rocan’s works caught my eye and it was difficult to pick just one piece. I have decided to focus on The Painting Side Show, 2009 oil on canvas 4 x 5 feet. I am drawn to this piece because of its dream like qualities and uncertainties. The scene looks like it is one from a dream where so much is happening that the details become blurred and piled together. The only element that seems certain is that the environment is in a tent and there is a live show being performed. What is uncertain is the time frame and what moment of the show is being portrayed. One explanation is that the show is arriving at its end and all the tricks have been done resulting in a mess of items. The second explanation could be that the center is compiled of the memories of the show all together.

The perspective that the artist has given makes the viewer feel as if they are watching the show. The view from where I am seated allows me to observe not only the show but everything else that is happening around me. The colours in the middle of the painting are intriguing and stand out from the audience. Therefore, I find my eyes always retreating back to what is happening in the show. The inclusion of the audience and the tent are not taking my attention away from the entertainment. I believe this is important because the artist made a conscious decision to allow the viewer to see everything but still be able to keep their focus on the middle without becoming distracted. The show is the most important part of the work.

The colours, the amount of items, the blurring and the height of which the show is being performed makes the scene an active one. The audience is even blurred which is describing liveliness and movement. The only parts of the painting that are still are the curtain and the ladders. This stillness contrasts with the blurred areas making us even more aware that the scene is in action.

The title The Painting Side Show is further proof that we are watching a show. However, the title also complicates our opinions and intuitions about the painting by raising more questions. Is the show about an audience watching artists paint? Or is Rocan referencing that she was painting a live show? The fact that the piece raises more questions with a title allows the concept to remain open-ended which I believe is intentional.

Sheena L

 

Link to photo  http://www.melanierocan.com/paintings2009-2010/21RocanThePaintingSideShow.html

For more information go to http://www.melanierocan.com

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Experiencing a print by Jillian Ditner at Open Studio Printshop and Gallery – (A.Blakely)

She folded back the packing paper to reveal what lay beneath, and as soon as my eyes lay upon it, the noise and clutter that swirled around the room simply drift outside the door.

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Open Studio at 401 Richmond has certain energy about it, proactive, industrial, bustling: the energy of busy printmakers busily printing. A woman named Astrid brought a group of us to the archives to view collections of prints from printmakers who had residency at the studio or had stopped by to work there. The room with the archives was small, cluttered, crowded, and stifling under the weight of all that energy.

When Jillian Ditner’s “Needle in a Haystack” was revealed, a sense of calm, almost relief, cut the tension in the room like a blunt knife steadily slicing through butter. Perhaps it was the muted pastel colors contained neatly within the lines of the figure and her cabinet. Or maybe it was the way the figure, objects, and background interacted so gently and harmoniously on the paper, to an extent of almost melting away inside one another. The figure herself is searching through archives, but the anxieties of the task or the environment are visibly absent in the scene. She appears at ease with the moment and the artwork reminds its viewers that they, too, should be at ease.

In the hectic world that we live in, full of noise and speed, with others constantly demanding of us and demanding better and faster, I appreciate viewing an artwork that can relax both the body and mind. This artwork didn’t demand anything from me. It didn’t beg me to decipher any societal or political meaning, and it didn’t cause a tension on the paper that would translate and transfer as an anxiety onto me. This screen print was on my team.

It bothers me that many contemporary artworks have a goal of creating tension in a viewer. That the colors, shape, and line would interact in such ways as to purposely invoke feelings of discomfort and unease. Don’t we have enough stressors in our day-to-day lives? I’m not saying that I can’t appreciate a work of art that begs some serious contemplation and reflection, but I do find it refreshing when stressors and demands of work and life aren’t similarly expressed in the artworks that I encounter. Jillian Ditner’s print creates an almost voyeuristic appeal: watching a common task performed in peace within a setting, and standing back and viewing the work as a whole to realize that the simplest things appear so beautiful.

At first I thought that “more was more”, but I now realize that I sincerely enjoy artworks where “less is more”. I’ve discovered that many of my own artworks, both in printmaking and in painting, are similar in style to Ditners prints and illustrations, but I find that her works are most successful in the way that they create serene environments and relationships between line and color that translate feelings of serenity onto the viewer. I hope to create a similar effect in my future works.