Archives for posts with tag: galleries
Albert Einstein

I'm pretty sure Einstein was both a genius and polite

It’s a rocky road, trying to get your art out there. Personally, I’ve submitted hundreds of packets to several types of galleries over the years. A few I’ve found success with, and the rest said “no” or “not at this time”.

One must be persistent in their practice. Persistent and focused… while recognising there are certain bounds that define professionalism and politeness.

I know that many people have a romantic fantasy about artists and “genius”. They feel that a genius should be allowed a certain amount of insanity in their daily behaviour. OK, there are genius artists (and other types of geniuses) out there who are eccentric, who behave differently than many people, and who walk their own path. However, in general, most professionals in the arts are just that… professional. They work. They work hard. They maintain their contacts, their networks, and make sure to not harass nor neglect galleries, writers, curators, other artists, suppliers… they are on time, they follow through with promises, they are polite yet say what they mean (and mean what they say!)

I am not claiming to be perfect. No, I have some work to do, but life is always like that: a work in progress.

some art

I am pushing myself forward to increase my own professionalism, especially as I will soon be curating the art for a new gallery space. Yes, the artist will become curator. I have many artist friends, and I know that I cannot show everyone’s work. I am crafting the artistic vision for the space, and to express a clear vision, one must be able to edit. I will show my own work there from time to time, but I really want to put on fantastic shows of other’s work. The work shown will fit into themes (any artists reading this right now, I’ll announce themes and calls to entry all over the place, you won’t miss out!) and sometimes there will be solo exhibits too.

It’s an exciting venture; and I want to get off on the right foot with this. I am stretching my boundaries, building new comfort-zones, and will soon be meeting new people and responding promptly and professionally to them. I know that I won’t always be met with a similar response… but I’ll be prepared.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

"Dolce". Oil on canvas. 14"x18". 2010. copyright Natasha Henderson.

Natasha Henderson is a painter who has resided in Montreal for almost four years. Originally from Comox, British Columbia, she graduated with her BFA from the Emily Carr University in Vancouver in 1998. Her work has been exhibited and collected across North America.

"Ghazal Four". Oil on canvas. 18"x24". 2009.

Her paintings delve into questions about artistic representations of landscape. She uses the language and codes of other artistic forms, such as poetry and music, to examine representations of thought and meaningful patterns within her painting.

"Gathering". Oil on canvas. 20"x30". 2010. copyright Natasha Henderson.

Environmental concerns are touched on in her work, however, those concerns are not forefront. She combines an aching beauty, a seeking of light and meaning, along with the recognition that there is a cycle of life that sometimes just stops.

"Fracture". Oil on canvas. 30"x36". 2010. copyright Natasha Henderson.

In the future she plans to paint using home-made (free range) egg tempera paints and to eliminate toxic chemicals completely from her practice. See much more of her work at NatashaHenderson.com.

"Fermata". Oil on canvas. 48"x36". 2010. copyright Natasha Henderson.

Part of an exhibition in a Public Art Gallery, 2004

Galleries can be intimidating for artists to approach. Knowledge is power, so it is important to understand a bit about galleries before you approach them. Most galleries have websites so you don’t have to go pummel the person working there with questions, and you can research many different galleries from the comfort of your computer-screen. I do recommend walking into your chosen gallery a few times before submitting your portfolio, if possible. On-line, a gallery (like any other business or organisation) will present themselves in their best light. Get to know the reputation of the gallery and staff who work there. It’s good, too, to get a feel for the “fit” of your work with the work they currently show.

There are a few different types of galleries. Please note that I am located in Canada, and other countries have slightly different legal and practical models for galleries. These Canadian types of galleries are Public Galleries (in the USA these are closest to Art Museums), Artist-Run Centres, Co-Ops, and Commercial Galleries.

There are many sizes of Public Gallery. Often a larger city will have a larger Public art Gallery, but this isn’t always the case. A lot of towns and cities have a very minor art gallery, while others have several types of Public art galleries. A lot depends on the funding situation in a given city or province. Some cities and towns have colleges and universities; these tend to have good and better-funded (due to better attendance) art galleries. Many of the smaller art galleries have “submission” sections in their websites. However, as is often the case with other sorts of galleries, sometimes the “submissions” section isn’t exactly in bold type. Check out the “contact” and “information” pages, and if you still don’t see anything, don’t be shy to send a polite, short email to see if they accept artist submissions, and if there are any specifications for them. Larger institutions normally do not accept submissions from artists, however, it can’t hurt to acquaint their curators with your work.

Another type of gallery whose purpose is to advance art and culture, and not to make money, is the Artist Run Centre. It is important to note that a lot of Co-Op style galleries call themselves this, even though they do not really fit in this category. In Canada, an Artist-Run Centre is one that pays artists to show. This is similar to the Public Galleries, in that they adhere to the CARFAC fee schedule. These galleries have a mandate, a board of governors, and are distinctly non-profit. There are many hoops that a gallery must fit through before they are a true Artist-Run-Centre in Canada, and thus they are highly respected galleries, much like the Public galleries. Normally they have a range of cultural services and events outside of exhibitions, like publications, installation and integration into the larger community, and public events. This is a good link to lists of these galleries, as well as other nifty Canadian things.

Co-Op style galleries usually are run by artists, but they do not adhere to the “artist-run” rules. These galleries offer a range of exhibition and other opportunities. In my experience, they are great for local artists to obtain studio space, socialize with one another, and to have more informal exhibitions. As a self-supporting artist I am turned off by many of these galleries, though, because not only do they not pay artists to show, but ask for artists to pay for their exhibition space. Personally, I do not want to be a part of that. Other artists claim some success with this, though, if they have highly marketable work that just needs to be seen to be purchased. Galleries-For-Hire are good for commercially successful artists who want to circumvent the Commercial Gallery system.

Commercial Galleries are there to sell art. There are, indeed, Commercial Galleries that have a mandate to advance art and propose to support culture with events, concerts, publications, and other goodies. A really good Commercial Gallery will integrate itself into the world, and not just pander to the lowest common denominator. These galleries, generally, take about 40-50% of the retail price of works. In my experience, this can be a good way to reach an audience who would otherwise never see your work. A good gallerist works hard, and is worth every cent of their commission. A bad gallerist can do any number of bad things, from not being friendly and professional to people entering the gallery, to not paying the artists in good time, to not promoting well… to outright theft of artworks. It can get ugly. Listen to the rumour-mill about galleries’ reputations in your town before submitting your portfolio.

Most application packages (with many exceptions) require some basic stuff: A dvd of between 10 and 20 works, a co-responding Image List, an Artist Statement, and a CV. Sometimes the gallery requires a Project Proposal (especially the Artist-Run and Public Galleries) to know what specifically you would like to exhibit there, and what is your academic or theoretical bent. From time to time, you will find a gallery that accepts submissions on-line. This can be a challenge because normally they only want a scant few images of your work. However, it costs nothing to email. Sometimes the gallery lists a request for a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) to return your materials. I would suggest doing so, as it appears that you care about your work, and your information is precious to you. Personally, I need to take my own advice in this regard. Normally I don’t supply the SASE, as I know that in the three to six months that it will take for them to get back to me, my portfolio and CV will have changed. But… I will try to take my own advice from now on.

A Final Word of Support: As with any venture, as long as you cross your ‘”t”s and dot your “i”s, you should expect about a 10% (or less) success rate. Keep those packages flying out the door. When they are sent back with a polite (or not-so polite, or non-existent) rejection letter, do not fret. We all go through this, it is part of the game. If you are an organised-type, take notes of when submission packages are called for by galleries. Note it in your calendar, and you can produce a few submission packages at a time. This saves you time and effort. I usually settle into this about three times a year, and get out about a dozen within a day or two. That being said, it’s a good idea to keep checking in case special calls to artists should come up. Also, try not to re-submit the same proposal to a gallery. Gallery Committees and Curators have good memories.

Best of luck, and see you in the galleries!

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Hanging art is something of an art in itself. There are rules and tips and advice and stuff that people go by, like “the middle must be so-and-so inches from the ground”. This might work sometimes, but certainly not always. I actually forget what that magical number is! I do know, however, that whenever I’ve tried to follow any of those rules, odds are that the final result will look a little weird.

Learn to trust your gut when it comes to balancing out artworks with surrounding aspects of the room.

To hang art, you need to take many, many factors into consideration. How high are the walls? How wide is the available space? Is there furniture nearby? How bright is the art, does it contrast with everything else in the room or does it blend in? Is there odd lighting at some time of the day? Is the artwork visually top-heavy? If I hang this tiny painting on a large wall… will it look silly? So many of the answers are based on gut feelings. You need to experiment, try different spots, different pieces in different places, and one day you will learn to trust your gut.

Play around with the groupings, if you are so inclined and are so blessed to have so much art.

To start you along this path of trusting-your-gut, I will make a few suggestions (besides encouraging you to make many holes in the wall). If you have small work and a large wall, try hanging it off-centre. Think: “Syncopation“. Off-kilter, off-centre… a little high or a little low. Something to make your eye try something a little different with the available space. Art should be something that makes the viewer think and consider, to take pause… so curating a wall of art is a responsibility. It’s a chance to say something, besides What’s The Current Trend. Another option is to display small works in a cluster. Some would stress over frames, sizes… but try to let go of stress. It’s just so much easier this way. You don’t NEED to use a tape measure, string, pencil, etc for a grid. Just try to make it. It’ll be ok.

If you have a tall, skinny work to hang in a given space, try it aligned more to the right than in the middle. This works REALLY well if you also have something like a floor-lamp, or free-standing chair that you would like nearby the wall too. If it’s in a foyer, it is useful to have a wall to lean on sometimes, or a place to temporarily leave luggage or the vacuum without fear. We do need to think about our practical lives, not just our aesthetic ones.

Hanging smaller-scale paintings is not a science, it is a simple art.

I think that having a bit of paint in the current wall-colour of your home might be useful. So is having a little bit of spackle (or Dap or whatever, wall-goo) and a spatula. I cannot emphasise enough: Please Try And Lose The Fear of changing your artworks around. Honestly, once you’ve got the general placement for a piece of art, you can start nailing. Try to shoot “low”. Then, if it turns out that it is too low indeed, the artwork will cover any stray holes from earlier hanging-attempts. You can fill in the holes, dry, sand, paint over… or don’t. It depends on you. If you will be annoyed by knowing it’s not perfect wall underneath your art, then fix it up. Or follow the Natasha Way, and don’t bother! It’s much more fun to make puff-pastry than to perfect a wall that no-one will see.

Trust your gut, fiddle around with placement and height, so that it feels "right" in the room.

In general, in general, you can look at the visual centre of a piece of art… and make that at “about” eye-level, or slightly lower. Really, it goes against all my experience and instincts to give a rule-of-thumb about hanging art. Now, what is important to take note of, is that the “visual centre” is rarely ever the physical centre of a painting. It’s normally about one-third of the distance down from the top of the work. That’s just the comfortable compositional ratio, what normally happens in most works.  Ok, enough of these technicalities. I don’t like making rules about this sort of thing. Did you sense that? Yep, listen to your gut!!!

The Author of this post hides behind a rose

by Natasha Henderson, Montreal

A fellow painter, Rick Leong’s work is something that I can appreciate. Nature is the major inspiration for his large-scale oil on canvas works, but he delves into a fairy-tale, mystic and imagined place. The wonder of seeing is ever-present. The shapes and forms that magically appear amongst the trees, moss, sky, and vegetal forms are like a brief reverie within the midst of contemplation. I recall seeing his solo exhibit at the Parisian Laundry just over three years ago… they were intriguing paintings, and they performed that delicate dance between memory, observation, expression, and representation. Good painting, I would call it. So when I realised he was exhibiting at the Parisian Laundry again, I decided to stop in.

I went into the ‘Laundry not knowing what to expect, but my hopes were high. The work of Michael A. Robinson greeted me on the main floor. His work is a grand-scale for a commercial gallery space, and it was effective. The content was perhaps simple (for the serious nature of the work) and highly accessible. I liked it. Visually compelling, visceral, the work made links between stark materials (wood, plaster, simple construction-objects) and bomb imagery, warfare, and the techniques of it. Three large sculptures dominated the voluminous space, accompanied by a few drawings.

A big wall-hanging that was comprised of chiselled plaster-covered wood was covered in scratches and worked-upon images of “falling” bombs. This piece must have been about 12 or 15 feet tall, and massively wide. There seemed to be three juncture-points of the lines, three places where the tension of the composition was highest. It formed a pleasing composition, quite classic in form. Perhaps as “dropping bombs” they would be most effective in this formation, too.

The second large sculptural piece in this show was a selection of thin, flat, jagged edged plaster pieces, carefully arranged in a circle on the floor. There was a sense of “putting the pieces together”, a feeling of trying to figure something out… The individual plaster pieces looked like they were lifted from the large wall hanging, mentioned above.

Also included in Robinson’s exhibit was a series of drawings that appeared to be studies on bombing, attacks, and warfare. They were clearly drawn with an ink pen, using a ruler. There was a graphic, clear, and somewhat spare formality to them, and they seemed like technical drawings that bordered on illustration. Certainly minimalist, cut back to the basics of the forms that inspired them works… again warfare. There were about five or six of these drawings.

The most captivating piece in the show was, hands down, a huge construct of wooden objects. This seemingly exploding form must have been about 20 feet in diameter. I walked well around it, checking to see if there were any eyes poked out by all the projecting pieces of wood. It was comprised of crutches, easels, ski poles, a distinct absence of hockey sticks, and many simple pieces of wood… the type found leftover on construction sites. It was almost a cartoon drawing of an explosion; the drawing made of wood pieces in a 3-D format. The overall effect seemed to be a disassociation from the grit and grime of war.

Overall, the work in Even When Bombs Are Gone spoke more about construction and drafting, layers of building and re-building, and a closeness to materiality than “war“. War was a reference point, with pieces of the visual graphics and planning for war utilised in this work. “War” is isolated as a concept, as a source for dislocated, objective subject matter in and of itself.

After seeing the Main Space exhibit, I went down into The Bunker (yes, it is called that) to see Rick Leong’s show, The Roaming Gloam. This is a space accessible through a staircase underground, and many attendees would need to duck while traversing a certain passage (I did). Once you arrive in The Bunker, however, the ceiling opens up to about 20 feet or so. It’s a great space. Dramatic, no windows, no light but the spotlights on the one large painting on display. It was… a pretty good painting. This painting displayed a magical-seeming forest-scene. The tree-forms were impeccably painted, the bark seemed to glow from within, an ethereal light. Little cute polka-dotted mushrooms added a sense of scale in the bottom. For some reason, though, it all left me feeling a little empty. I think that more context, another couple of pieces perhaps upstairs would have… oh wait… there were two pieces of Leong’s upstairs. In the Upstairs (above the Main Space) Leong showed two pencil drawings, of an accessible scale, approximately 3’ x 2’ . These were exquisite renderings of tree-like shapes, with tendrils and doodads dancing about the treetops and trunks. Very lovely. There was a lot of empty space upstairs…. It was elegant and open, and delightful for some odd reason. I felt that Leong’s exhibit really could have used a couple more pieces. One large painting and two exquisite drawings separated two floors apart just wasn’t enough for me. It should be noted that the gallery suggested in a little text handed out that this large painting would converse with some smaller paintings that Leong was showing (in theory concurrently) up the hill at the McClure Gallery. Not complaining about Leong’s works, rather, I wanted MORE of it.

Having seen the two exhibits at the Parisian Laundry, I was inspired to go up the hill (heeding the instructions of the ’Laundry) to see the additional works of Leong at the McClure Gallery. Alas, that that show was actually set for a later date. Upon re-reading the text provided by The ‘Laundry, perhaps Leong’s exhibit at the McClure gallery is concurrent with one in New York later this fall… well, either way, good job Rick Leong! Three major exhibits in one autumn.

Instead of Leong’s work at the McClure, there was an exhibit of large-scale, beautiful paintings by Russell T. Gordon. It was something of a retrospective/celebration of a fine, fine artist. I loved his paintings. However, I would have cut a couple of the smaller pieces from the show, and one or two of the larger ones as well. Two big pieces were competing with one another on a wall that couldn’t accommodate them. The lesser one I’d have bumped. Just a note, not reviewing that show. But Over Easy – Metaphores en series ran ‘til October 2 and was good painting.

I am glad to have wandered into the gallery today, it’s been too too long. Next gallery I hit up will be the Musee des Beaux Arts. I hear there are some pretty darned stunning pieces down in the contemporary temporary exhibits rooms right NOW…

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