During a recent trip to Montreal we visited the fabulous exhibition A Crack in Everything, a tribute to Leonard Cohen, at the Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal. What a great show – lots of clips of Cohen interviews and concerts in the company of enraptured fans. Many very interesting interpretations of Cohen’s work by contemporary, mainly video, artists. And I bought the tee shirt. We enjoyed walking around the Plateau district following the Wall2Wall walking tour of amazing murals and graffiti art. We visited the Belgo building at 372 Ste Catherine ouest and its 4 floors of contemporary art galleries enjoying paintings by Michael Smith, Marie Bineau, Patricia Walton and numerous other artists as well as peeking in at yoga studios and some cool design studios. The Tourist Office couldn’t help us locate a gallery guide but we found one – ART MLT, in the Belgo building and will go there first thing next time. We also enjoyed galerie MX, DHC/ART, and very much enjoyed an exhibition of paintings by Peter Hart at Galerie Peter W. Hart. In Old Montreal, in the evenings, there is a series of amazing video projections called Cite Memoire which truly is some of the best contemporary art I have seen. All in all, a very interesting and diverse art experience.
This well illustrated Lawrence Carroll catalogue with essays was written to accompany an exhibition of his work by the Australian government in Venice in 2008. I am always interested in learning from contemporary abstract artists better ways to organize my own work. Lawrence Carroll’s work is layered, oil on canvas strips and segments, painted light, a variation of white on white. His layers are stitched together, overlain and joined together to form a complex monochromatic surface. The paintings have a great deal of presence and his variations with a limited vocabulary is impressive.
Art 21 is such a great TV series! Art 21 is a PBS documentary series that features contemporary artists who mainly work in the US, Europe and Latin America. It is a great opportunity to see artists at work in their studios or in galleries, discussing their practice. They are all experimenting whether they are painting, making sculptures, video, installations or environmental art. They all have a BIG vision and are pretty successful at realizing it. Through Art 21 we get to see inspiring and some downright amazing art. Season 7 is excellent and features artists that are socially engaged. “In locations as diverse as a Bronx public housing project, a military testing facility in the Nevada desert, a jazz festival in Sweden, and an activist neighborhood in Mexico, the artists reveal intimate and personal insights into their lives and creative processes.” I loved the work of all 12 artists in season 7. Thomas Hirschhorn, for me, was particularly inspiring. Hirschhorn says that when he looks at a work of art he asks 2 questions. ‘Where do you stand?’ and ‘What do you want?’ I think these are excellent questions which I have now adopted. The upcoming Season 8 includes the work of Vancouver artists – that will be fabulous. Can’t wait to see it.
I once saw some small Ryman paintings in New York. They were simply gesso applied to cardboard and I was very impressed with them. Over the past 3 years I have started to work with white and lightness, so I decided to look into the work of Robert Ryman. This book is the exhibition catalogue for a show at MOMA and the Tate in 1993. I loved the Surface Veil paintings. It was exciting to see that Lasker has brought forward Ryman`s awkward, thick brush strokes. What did I learned from Robert Ryman? Ryman experimented with materials, like waxed paper and thin sheets of fiberglass, for their own sake – not to reference something else. So I am encouraged to keep experimenting with skins, plastics and acrylic mediums. Keep it light. Aim to make the painting about itself. White really is a beautiful colour.
Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Marina Abramović. When I saw the documentary The Artist is Present, I though ‘Wow – now there’s a great artist.’ I was very happy to learn that Abramovic had recently released a memoir – Walk Through Walls. This is quite possibly the best biography I have ever read. Her life has been fantastic! Her life, her parents’ lives, Yugoslavia, her travels, her performances, and her jokes! – just one amazing event and story after another. Her voice in telling these stories is captivating and very amusing. What did I learn from Abramovic? So much – how to be steadfast and not wimp out, be brave with your vision, use what you’ve got, and invest in real estate if you can. I certainly intend to take in more performance art events.
When I saw the fabulous art by Anatsui at the ROM in Toronto, I knew I had to read about him. El Anatsui: Art and Life by Susan Vogel is an excellent book! It is very well written – Susan Vogel concentrates on the artist’s techniques, experiments, philosophy, and statements to take us through the career of a wonderful abstract artist. I felt that I could understand how the artist developed – the paths he chose, how he proceeded. It felt like an artist writing about another artist. Richly illustrated, this book covers most stages of Anatsui’s art practise.
Just finished reading Ross King’s award winning biography of Monet, Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies. A very informative account of the last, great years of the artist who, after WW2, influenced abstract expressionists like Pollock and Riopelle. What was interesting is that Monet wouldn’t look at the modern, abstract art being made in his time because, according to Ross, ‘it might make him angry’. What is particularly interesting is the history of an artist trying to work, shake off (or work with) the despondency and crankiness, created by war time. Very apropos for artists working today feeling dispirited by the Trump government and world affairs that truly feel like war time or an end time. Monet’s struggle with failing eyesight and health along with all the worries of living in a war zone make for a good read. The triumph of the water lilies, the beauty that an artist can create under duress is truly inspiring. These painting in the Orangerie are incredibly beautiful and to read their history gives them even more depth. The contemporary negative criticism is unbelievable, but there you have it. A bit of a yawn at times but lots of facts about Monet’s life and work habits, and the social conditions of living in France during WW1. The Guitry film of Monet painting waterlilies at the age of 75, mentioned by King, can be seen on YouTube. I think that Sue Roe’s In Montmartre: Picasso, Matisse and Modernism in Paris, 1900-1910 is a more lively read for a history of modern European art.