Monday, July 18, 2016

Liz Wells - July 2016 - Artist of the Month

Infanta VII

I create images that tell part of a story, or an idea and a feeling. I want to present the viewer with an image that they can interpret. I will select an image, from my extensive photo library, choosing the moments, places or people that have special meaning for me. Then I will deconstruct, reinterpret, relocate, change and alter colours. I may choose an image from the history of art itself and recreate that image in a more contemporary field. I am drawn to concepts of memory, imagination and elements of nature.

Mrs Mason looked at London

Mrs Mason looked at London

Mrs Mason looked at London

Friday, July 15, 2016

On The Electronic Superhighway…..Philip Willey June 2016

" Art, " according to Douglas Coupland, "seems to operate in a world that has calcified into a self-propagating MFA-ocracy as orthodox as any extremist religion." *

Doug may be right. His hypothesis was on my mind as I crossed the Millenium Bridge on a recent trip to London and approached the holy of holies. If art has replaced religion then the Tate Modern must be the new St. Paul’s cathedral. Here is the place to seek spiritual guidance. This is where the oracles reside. It’s an amazing space actually….used to be Bankside Power Station. I’d often see the chimney from the train and wonder what went on in there. Massive turbines once produced 300  mega-watts of electricity but they became uneconomical. In the spring of 1993 the building seemed doomed. In 2000 it metamorphosed into the Tate Modern. With the turbines gone what wonders now lie within? I’d heard tales of pickled sharks, dishevelled beds, shattered Ming vases and acres of ceramic sunflower seeds.

Don’t believe the stories about art being dead. The place was packed. Fortunately it’s big enough to absorb us all. I assume everybody is looking for enlightenment or perhaps a glimpse of the elusive Zeitgeist.  Admission is free except for special exhibitions. There’s a a faint smell of formaldehyde.

I join a group of pilgrims listening to a guide.  Some appear interested, some look knowledgeable, some bemused. Some may be having a religious experience.  It’s hard to tell. The guide tries to hit a middle ground. Something for everyone. “The Guerilla Girls,” she says, “are an anonymous group fighting sexism in the art world. We thought it would be interesting to show them alongside Andy Warhol who wasn’t too concerned with gender distinctions.”

I want to ask her if it’s true that Andy Warhol was a devout Catholic? Is art a religion? Where do you keep the Zeitgeist? But I decide to move on.

I look around. It’s a huge building. A fantastic place for art. A sign says “Photography is permitted for personal use”. There is a lot of selfie taking going on. 

Nam Jun Paik, who died in 2006, seems to have been comfortable with technology and the inevitability of progress. He was the first to make art out of TV/video. He had no problem with the electronic super highway. Everybody is familiar with his TV Buddha of 1974 where Buddha silently observes himself on a screen in an infinite temporal loop. Nam Jun Paik was a prophet and he appears to have been a happy man. What he saw is what you get. He had fun.

Nam Jun Paik, ‘Bakelite Robot’ 2002
I’m not sure we can say the same for Mark Rothko. The Tate Modern is home to some of his breathtaking paintings. These are the ones that were commissioned for an expensive restaurant and donated to the Tate by Rothko himself. It’s impossible not to be affected by them. To me they look like windows or portals, silent, brooding, magnificent but oppressive. 

Was Marcus Rothkovich religious? He certainly had a religious Jewish background. He was very serious about his art. He asked big questions. He took his own life. In ‘Writings on Art’ (Yale University Press 2006) he says….
 “Pictures must be miraculous: the instant one is completed, the intimacy between the creation and the creator is ended. He is an outsider. The picture must be for him, as for anyone experiencing it later, a revelation, an unexpected and unprecedented resolution of an eternally familiar need.”

Yes the Tate Modern is like a temple in many ways. There’s a lot to be said for art as absolute, art as metaphor, art as a gateway to the infinite. Even for art as religion for atheists. Do we create our own deities? Can art, as expression of ideals, be less authentic for having human origins? Or does inspiration itself bring us closer to divinity? What’s next for art? 3D printing according to Google’s artist in residence, Douglas Coupland.

These and other thoughts pass through my mind as I take the tube from Blackfriars to Aldgate East. L3.90, L2.90 with an Oyster Card. Watch out for card clash! This occurs when two or more contactless payment cards are kept in close proximity and it can seriously disrupt the system. It’s ages since I’ve been in London. When did public transport get so expensive? I used to go from London to Glasgow for less than a fiver. 

The England team lost 2-1 to Iceland. This comes on top of the Brexit referendum and it shows on the faces around me.What are people thinking? Hard to say. Most of them are texting and wearing earplugs. Keep calm and carry on is the order of the day. There may not be any bears or raccoons in the UK but a misplaced wheelie bin can threaten the social fabric.

Also I’m completely out of touch with the art scene. Where should I look for leading indicators? What is considered cutting edge these days? Are there any alternative spaces? Perhaps a visit to Whitechapel Gallery will help. It’s a choice between that and a mammoth display of Rolling Stones memorabilia at Saatchi called ‘Exhibitionism’. L19. Maybe next time. It’s only rock and roll.
By some curious synchronicity the show at the Whitechapel Gallery is called Electronic Superhighway and it looks at the effects of the internet on art. There are over 100 works of art by 70 leading artists. (L9.50 for seniors but you need to book.)

Mostly the Whitechapel show has a hands-off digital feel to it. Cory Arcangel uses a Java applet and a 70” flat-screen to create rippling Pop imagery. Hiroshi Kiwano digitizes Mondrian. Amalia Ulman uses fake Instagram profiles to explore the relationship between photography and performance.  Nancy Holt and Richard Serra’s 1974 video ’Boomerang’ is included as an example of how technological art has evolved from the 60s to the present. 

Evan Roth’s “Self Portrait’ is a waterfall of images representing one day’s web browsing. A striking piece of search-engine optimization.

Television, video, gaming, ecommerce, social media, photoshop, curator Omar Kholeif has brought it all together. Sound too…. a woman’s voice keeps telling us not to take liquids on board planes but there are only a few painters in the show….Celia Hempton paints couples she’s met on the net, Ulla Wiggen paints computer components. Nam Jun Paik provided the title. There are works by Nam Jun Paik and, you guessed it, Doug.

These are the times we live in. Times of so much information it’s hard to digest it all. Times of contradictions and cultural fragmentation when individual identities are sacrosanct but we’re all in the databank. We are quick to take offence if our rights are threatened but we have learned to tolerate surveillance. We’re told it’s for our own good. Google knows everything. Resistance is futile. Complaining gets you nowhere. 

There’s no doubt about the influence of the internet. Whether it is good or bad depends on your general outlook on life. Most of the artists in the Whitechapel show seem to regard the internet as more threatening than benign. They tell us to beware of a false reality. But they do it in a playful way for the most part by using the very technology they seem to doubt. These artists are very self-aware. If there is a dominant theme it’s irony. 

So has art replaced religion? Maybe it has for some art lovers. We may be retreating into digital experience but public galleries are packed. Perhaps art helps us make sense of life. Or perhaps it reminds us that life is a mystery. 

As for the Zeitgeist the internet seems like the best place to look for that. For better or worse IT does seem to be a major factor. Maybe it’s possible to live without IT.  Perhaps IT takes up too much of our time but look at the upside….if you can’t get to the galleries you can still read about them online.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Rick Thomas at Xchanges Gallery and Studios

Xchanges Gallery and Studios, PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Xchanges Gallery and Studios with the generous assistance of the  Capital Region District (CRD) is pleased to announce that from July 1 to August 31, 2016 the gallery will have an ‘Artist-in-Residence’ program. Victoria artist Rick Thomas will be creating murals in the gallery he calls a ‘Dumpster- Dive’ project. He will fill four walls of the Xchanges Gallery, 850 square feet with dumpster cardboard and produce a mural in pastel, conte and charcoal. He does not know what subject be on the walls as his work is done on the fly. The photo above shows what he has done to his living room wall. He will reference material from his last 16 years ‘On-the-Road’ and current events in Victoria. He is in the planning stage at this time with his consultants: Bill Bartlett, consultant Xchanges; Cindy Wright, Xchanges Gallery Coordinator; Karen Morrison, artist; model  Jennifer Almeida and Ron Gilmore communications and web. At the end of August Xchanges expects to have a piece of art that will be returned to the dumpster or get sold off. for further information, please consult Rick’s CV, bio and blog. The best time to visit the site will be Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., after mid July when work is underway.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Brad Pasutti show: The Intertwining at Winchester Galleries

The anatomy lesson 

June 7 - 25, 2016
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 11
2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Artist will be in attendance
Winchester Galleries

Barbara Edwards show: Road Trip: A Paper Trail at Winchester Gallery

The Game, watercolour, 7 "
Road Trip: A Paper Trail
June 7 -25, 2016
Opening Reception: Saturday, June 11
2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Artist will be in attendance
Winchester Galleries 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Rebound exhibition by Sheila R. Alonzo

On Friday, October 17th at 5pm, the building on 1580 Cook Street will permanently close its doors as a gallery to become a dispensary.  “Rebound” is the last exhibition to showcase at the Gallery 1580.  Though the title is optimistic, it’s still a sad affair for the artist collective to say good-bye to the affordable and convenient rental studios located in North Park.  It is with these thoughts and feelings that I review “Rebound”.   

 Connie Morey’s installation called “Spectacle” greeted me at the lobby as soon as I walked in.  Morey’s obsession with strings and textiles make nuanced sensitive subject matters tangible.  I like that Morey’s art is contemplative in nature.  There’s usually an element of surprise in her creations, I find, when a connection is made.  Morey’s art explores the intersection between the intellect and the visceral in very clever ways.  Morey’s contribution to the “Rebound” exhibition appears scientific in methodology.  She uses text to classify each round ‘planetary’ paper folds with inserts and cut images from encyclopaedias.  “Spectacle” is a poem about suspended reservoirs of knowing.


In the room adjacent, stood a column of cardboard stacked by Luis Mario Guerra-Veliz at about 5ft tall bringing my gaze down.  Next to the stack hung the “English Patient” wound in hospital tubes from the ceiling, allowing my eyes to follow the walls where temporary shelves held objects in varying shapes, sizes and materials in waiting, come to view.  The name of the exhibition is “Rebound” –the theme for 18 local artists to experiment and explore the idea of the book as a contemporary art form.  ‘Handle with care’ and ‘please do not touch’ instructed viewers to discriminate interactive art from the rest.

 I was naturally drawn to Caren Willms’ “Daily Knots Preserved” out of fabric and string in a glass jar.  A piece of paper tagged the knotted fabric coming out of the jar with pencil handwriting: “Oct 11 Celebration”.  I walked over to Kyle Labinsky’s book “The History of Naïve Paintings” where he filled pages with paint marking effigy, an act of defacing it, but only one quarter of the way in.  The remaining quarter of the book revealed a long black serpentine character, like an index or visual after thought.  I perceived it as political in nature, not naïve.

Caren Willms


In my twenty-minute visit, I kept circling back to the book of “Testament” by Diana Weymar.  It was one of those ‘handle with care’ objects.  So I picked up the little booklet dated 1866 and carefully flipped through it.  Loose colourful threads became rebound text-sewn messages on the book’s yellow-with age pages.  Sewed in one were yellow, pink, blue, green and brown was the text: BE KIND, and at the bottom: “For Liz”.  The quote by Joan Didion spanned three pages, fit for the Gallery 1580’s ending and closing exhibition.

“We are not idealized wild things.  We are imperfect mortal beings, aware of that immortality even as we push it away, failed by our very complication, so wired that when we mourn our losses, we also mourn, for better or for worse, ourselves.  As we were.  As we are no longer.  As we will one day not be at all.”

Diana Weymar

Photos by Sheila R. Alonzo (except for building image via "UsedVictoria" )