Archives for posts with tag: sculpture

This March 15 marked the exhibition opening of Toronto-based Abbas Akhavan’s work Beacon at the Darling Foundry. There was also an open studio opportunity for the public to see work in progress by international artists in residence.

We were first struck by the enormity of the open space that Akhavan’s work was in. Over time, though, a great deal of this space was filled by a slowly inflating (and then deflating) hot air balloon.

In the video, you will also see a very short glimpse of the second main element in “Beacon”. This is a lion-like form, made out of mortar. The form was made in reference to an Iranian sculpture, the “Stone Lion” of Hamedan. Even if the viewer did not understand this, it made the impression of replicating a relic (even though it was, obviously, crafted for the exhibition.)

The balloon felt like respiration. It noted the expanse of the available room. It was quite striking, and everyone kept a respectful distance from it.

Overall the work gave an impression of temporality, air, place, erosion, and impermanence.

In the working studio area of the Darling Foundry we had the fortune to meet, chat with, and see the work of Dineo Bopape. She is in the midst of a six month international residency hosted by the Darling Foundry and the Canada Council for the Arts. She is from South Africa. Her work is video-based, and also includes installation, sculpture, and painting.

Bopape’s video work (what I spent the most time with, outside of almost drooling on some of her painted sketches of patterns using mostly orange paint) uses pattern, narrative, and a keen and sometimes quirky sort of observation. The piece about green grass and blue sky was both simple and mesmerizing, and reminded me of the one time I fainted. Everything was crisp, simplified, out of breath, and hyper-real. The patterns in the overlapping grasses were overwhelming.

Other of her works used theatrical elements such as dance, storytelling, and singing. Forms of life and the natural word made their appearances, too… ducks, humans, patterns of sparkly water, and what looked like tulips.

When her work delves into the use of natural patterns, objects, and animals it still seems to reference the human body. It is the human take on these other things that comes across in the video. The feeling that I had of fainting, as well as the empathy within her other videos, that is maturity and sureness being expressed. I am excited to see what Bopape will present upon her finishing the residency in June.

We will announce her exhibition in our newsletter, so there is no time like the present to sign up.

Akhavan’s Beacon runs until May 27. The Darling Foundry is located at 745 Ottawa, in that funky neighourhood between the Old Port and Griffintown.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

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Portrait of Mademoiselle Charlotte du Val d'Ognes (c. 1801)

When you look at the History of Art, you might wonder why there aren’t as many women in the books as there are men. Why is it that the grand, romantic notion of the solo artist, imparting brilliance and genius upon the sorry masses, is always associated with a male figure? Who says that this is really what an artist is?

It is a complex and intertwined mix of reasons why we often make these assumptions about art and artists. Societal power structures, misogyny, the fact that women and their works have been regarded as “lesser” than equal compared to the works of their male counterparts… all this and much more has kept women out of the books.

Much like what happened to my Grandmother in the early/mid 1900’s (when she married she was forced to leave her job as a teacher to stay at home), European women artists, upon marriage, would normally have to leave their careers behind. Those who didn’t and continued to paint were not only exceptions, but they were unable to maintain a decent amount of work.

You might think “well, yes, society has made it difficult for women artists to develop, to become great artists” and you would be correct. However, there have been absolutely outstanding female artists throughout Western Art History who have been respected as Masters (Mistresses?) in their time. However, when it comes to reading modern and mainstream texts about their work, words such as delicate, gentle, light, and feminine are used.

Even paintings that were once regarded as Master works are re-described once it is discovered that a woman actually painted it. A former Master Piece is now a Fraudulent Disappointment… but it’s the same painting! An anecdotal example is of a Jacques-Louis David that was purchased in the early 20th Century by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1951, Charlotte du Val d’Ognes was attributed to possibly Constance Marie Charpentier, another female artist who was David’s student. What was once described using words like austere, perfect, unforgettable, tasteful, and exemplary was re-described as gentle, lacking correctness and concealing weaknesses, subtle artifices and feminine spirit. It should be noted that women artists were finally allowed to enter the Salon after the French Revolution. Jacques-Louis David accepted many female students, encouraging them to not only enter the Salon, but to paint both historical and portrait works. Essentially, he treated them as equals.

When people ask “who wrote the text” with regard to power structures, it’s about more than the textbooks. This is about society and its structures, how we exist in our time in relation to history and what we know about it. Which philosophers guided us, what art do we value and think is important, what defines people, what defines a family, how does one identify themselves within their time and place and how one survives. A big question in the midst of all this is: How Can We Change? Through persistent, hard work, we can change. This is why I truly admire artists who have forged ahead and made strides for female artists and equality.

I recommend the book Women, Art, and Society by Whitney Chadwick.

Over the next few days, in celebration of International Women’s Day this week, I will highlight a few Canadian artists who I feel have made some strides for an improved society, and whose work I admire.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal

Fleurbain is proud to announce that we will feature a different artist in our online space every month. Our first artist is one of the women behind Fleurbain, Natasha Henderson. Artists who are interested in being featured are welcome to email:

– three to five jpegs of their work (no larger than 1200 pixels on their longest side, at least 300 pixels on their shortest side)

short descriptions of each piece (Title, Medium, Size, Date)

a link to their personal website

 and an artistic statement/short biography (about 200-500 words) to: fleurbain@gmail.com.

We can’t guarantee that everyone will be featured, but why not give it a shot!

The Jack Pine (1916–1917) by Tom Thomson, from...

not in either exhibition, however, is related to them

Until March 5, 2011 Eric Cardinal presents Histoires improbables and Jocelyn Philibert shows Dans la nuit at Galerie [sas] in the Belgo Building, at 372 St Catherine Street in Montreal.

I was initially lured into this exhibition by a pencil on paper drawing that bore an organic title and appearance. Fungus no. 2, upon further examination, proved to be composed of a repeated and overlapped Mickey Mouse motif. Eric Cardinal‘s work in Histoires improbables is a range of drawings and sculpture that uses “pop culture” and other findings that may (or may not) be disposable. In his artist statement, he only alludes to his drawings a tiny bit while talking about his sculpture. “… these manipulations seem to be able to initiate a second step in my production where shapes and textures rendered can then be expressed in other materials.” 

Whichever came first, the sculpture or the drawings; both speak of a longing for nature and its forms, twisted with a sense of humour. The drawings appeared to be of one of two types. Organic, morphing ones (like Fungus no.2, which initially drew me into the gallery) were my personal favorites. I’d truly not seen anything like them before, and they held my attention and imagination long after I’d realised what the elements in them all were. The other sort of drawing was something like a fractured, fragmented view of two (or more) simultaneous pictures, usually done in ink. The result of this was something like a jagged checker-board, or a woven paper effect. These were not as evocative or luring as the softer, more evolved, pencil drawings. I was left with the impression that they were part of the process, and that’s cool.

The sculpture was like pop-culture, plastic tree growths. Colourful, playful, beautiful, and somewhat tragic. They melded plain objects (pencils, household items) with repeated Donald Duck or other Disney characters, and finally colourful polyurethane to make these oddities. Note that when I say oddities, I mean original, cool, and tasty art-pieces. 

The Author of this post hides behind a rose

The paintings (oops sorry about that) photographs in Jocelyn Philibert‘s exhibition Dans la nuit are a stunning study of both trees and visual-planes. Philibert photographs trees, or scenes that include trees, at night. He illuminates the scenes from the front, boldly. The work bears a sense of metaphor and theatricality, owing much to the drama of the artificial lighting, as well as the often isolated subject (tree).

My initial reaction to this work was a sense of awe, a feeling of seeing drawings set in nature, drawings by Nature itself. It seemed more real than real.

The next thing I noticed was how the foreground plane comes forward; more so than with naturally lit subjects. I was reminded of layers of oil in an oil painting, layered plexiglass paintings, and even 3-D Cinema.

Philibert’s Lone Tree is elevated (as in much of Canadian art) to a heroic place; it becomes a Being, a reason for portraiture. Think of Tom Thomson’s The Jack Pine. Think of Rodney Graham. Think of Jocelyn Philibert.

Natasha Henderson, Montreal. The two exhibitions finish up on March 5th, so hurry down to see them. Galerie [sas] 372 St Catherine West, open Monday-Friday 9-5, Saturday 12-5.

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

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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