Sometimes on our artistic journey we are startled to find that someone has been there before us. Rats and Damn! When I was reading Manzoni, a book about Piero Manzoni by Germano Celant, I was thrilled and dismayed to see that my own work was getting dangerously close to resembling some of Manzoni’s Achromes, which were produced in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I think he was a terrific artist – thoughtful, amusing and experimental. It was implied that he was inspired to create his wrinkled, folded canvases by the lush fabric representations in baroque sculptures; I have been inspired by fabric and plastic sheets in general. Celant’s book starts with an excellent essay on the development of the vocabulary of abstract art in Europe – the ‘logic’ painters as opposed to the action painters. Materiality was very important. I can relate to this: “…producing art means feeling one’s own corporeality, manifesting it and staging it.” From Manzoni: “Are not expression, fantasy, and abstraction empty fictions? There is nothing to be said – there is only to be, to live.” Lots of photos, a chronology of Manzoni’s very short life, and the artist’s writings make this a fine book. So now I know not to take my art down the road of the heavily folded, wrinkled canvas, but there are still lots of things to experiment with acrylic skins and plastic.
Gerhard Richter: Forty years of Painting by Robert Storr is the exhibition catalogue for a MOMA retrospective of Richter’s work, covering the years 1960-2000. Lots of good illustrations of his wide-ranging oeuvre – portraits, landscapes, photography, photo realism, and abstractions. The book concludes with a very interesting interview with the artist who was raised in East Berlin, where he muses on his place in art history and on the act of painting. He has some very interesting things to say about the viewer of art and abstract art. He hates Kandinsky, for example, and collage. Gerhard Richter Painting is a documentary made 10 years after the MOMA catalogue. It covers his whole body of work including archival interviews but concentrates on his squeegee created abstract paintings, which I love.
I have been a lifelong fan of fiber arts. Yarn, the Scandinavian documentary, is currently available on Netflix. The artists, Olek, Tilde Bjorfors of Cirkus Cirkor, Tina Thorudottir and Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam knit and crotchet their fabulous creations in many locations – Iceland, Rome, Havana, New York, Barcelona, Berlin, Nova Scotia, etc. There are instances of yarn bombing bringing to mind the book Yarn Bombing by Leeanne Prain, the daughter of my friend Connie Prain. Cirkus Cirkor is amazing! The prose poem “Where it Begins”, written and read by Barbara Kingsolver, weaves together the sections. A beautiful, inspiring documentary that deserves several viewings.
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.