Monday, July 22, 2019

Lance Austin Olsen. "patternings for future humans_3" by Debora Alanna

Lance Austin Olsen. "patternings for future humans_3"
July 7, 2019. acrylic, tea, ink and collage on rag paper. size 30" X 44".

Lance Austin Olsen paints the liminal, the space between what seen and heard, what humans feel but rarely can express within their secreted human existence. He paints with prescience, traverses the recognised to make paintings as haptic realisations. With a discreet palate, Olsen’s visual output consistently reflects his sound production.
Olsen’s oeuvre includes a large body of collaborative sound works as performances and recordings, often utilising his paintings and drawings as visual scores (Olsen, et al.). A recent release, Looking At The Mouth That Is Looking At You (Olsen, et al. 2019) was produced by Infrequency Editions using a visual score of drawings Olsen made in response to a friend’s stroke experience. John Luna’s impromptu poetics, my improvisational keyboard and Erin Cunes’ voice interpretations became a collective response to Olsen’s score. Elsewhere Music’s February release, Works on Paper is another intermedia collaboration with artist Gil Sansón. (Sansón and Olsen 2019).
I first wrote about Olsen’s work shown in Victoria’s Polychrome Gallery, Road to Esperance (Alanna, Lance Austin Olsen "The Road to Esperance" 2011). At that time, I described his paintings as a “dream time symbologic mapping”, comparing him to Jasper Johns (Scarlato 2010) , as psychogeographer (Alanna, Lance Austin Olsen "The Road to Esperance" 2011). Katherine Harmon (Katherine Harmon 2009) described this term as “inner space” (Scarlato 2010). A consummate, contemporary flâneur [i],[ii] (Sannicandro 2008) a profound yet demure artist that traverses the contemporary paths of existence in undisclosed spheres, Olsen reads and interprets humanity’s transience. He manifests his findings through his sound production and visual outputs, combinations of both with collaborations (Sansón and Olsen 2019). In Baudelairian terms, Olsen can encapsulate the “moral and aesthetic feeling of their time” and meanwhile, “creates (…) a personal originality” (Baudelaire 1998).
Olsen’s current visual tour de force continues to expound psychogeographic expertise with symbologic mapping through commanding connotative geometry. Shapes, saturation, brush strokes are transformative through his signature iconography. These treatments are markers, lead us through a dense psychologic geography that features the distribution, constituent elements of our humanity. Olsen translates and disseminates metaphysic comprehension, champions human existence through works which engage timelessness that only the present moment can endure. Olsen’s paintings capture what refuses to be marked by a specific location or time. His works grasp and delineate points of our internal journeys.
"patternings for future humans_3" (7 July 2019) encompasses Olsen’s distinctive tea and ink washes, discharges his gusto as a survey of the senses with these sumptuous exploratory marks. With an absence of linear perspective, this work can be historicised, related to Impressionist techniques, environments [iii] Olsen He enlarges our perspectives, draws us inward through this grand work on rag paper, 30 x 44”. An imposing force of black and finally, assertive abstract painted and collaged shapes over the washes, like a sinister Monet sunrise (Monet 1872), where the sun as object and its environment interpenetrate[iv] (Healey, et al. 2016) he declares the patterning or stimulus for understanding how to negotiate our futures through a trio of geometry.
Far left, overhanding the distant wash, akin to a murky Monet sky suspension (Monet 1872), awash with the delicacy of ephemeral light, a protruding folded and cut mid-grey paper, collaged, unpacks, sources simpler shapes to its right. A sliced rectilinear in cloudy white, sharply cut with a precise curve removing the bottom right corner of the rectangle is central. A wavering but basic square dances in an earthy yellow ochre, on the farthest right of the viewer. All shapes touch each other charily, like Impressionist paint strokes that are enlarged [v] [vi]  (Healey, et al. 2016, 38) and appear sentient, aware of each other. This conscious seems responsive because the shapes maintain a semblance of a connection to their perceived origins.
Proclamations of how we attempt to organise thoughts are placed at an eye-level across bulges of black in various degrees of saturation. Their placement alludes to our vision. Wider than the exactitude of yellow, white and grey, the background wash layers with the despotic blacks are contrasting resonances of those precise overlaid shapes. The background washes hum; the blacks foster the impression of hefty aftershocks, memories.
Olsen calculates perplexity, articulates suggestive strategies to negotiate our futures as solid arrangements of angles, lines as objects as companionable wiles. He projects how we relate within our enigmatic systems as geometric ruses.[vii] Like his collaborative sound works, initiating then orchestrating and finally editing multiple responses to what becomes a supranatural poignancy as a compilation, “patternings for future humans” gathers immense ideas into the minimal sublime. Olsen shows us that we are the problem and have the solutions through our bonds of variable readings of sweeping opaque veils and dark imminence depicted in the background. He presents objects of distinct variations of thinking that enunciates abstract thought patterning which embodies presence, edifies our indeterminacy. Sound advice.
#LanceAustinOlsen #GilSansón #JohnLuna #ErinCunes #DeboraAlanna #ElsewhereMusic #InfrequencyEditions
Debora Alanna
Montreal Quebec, July 2019


Alanna, Debora. 2013. "Images from Sound: Garden of Cellular Indicision." By Christine Clark, Phillip Willey Debora Alanna. Victoria BC: Polychrome Gallery.

—. 2011. Lance Austin Olsen "The Road to Esperance" . Edited by Efren Quiroz. April 13. Accessed July 12, 2019.

Alanna, Debora. 2013. "Whisper of the Future." In Images from Sound: Garden of Cellular Indicision, by Christine Clark, Phillip Willey Debora Alanna. Victoria BC: Polychrome Gallery.

Baudelaire, Charles. 1998. "The Painter of Modern Life." In Art in Theory, 1900 - 2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas, by Paul Wood, Jason Gaiger Charles Harrison, edited by Paul Wood, Jason Gaiger Charles Harrison, 494. Oxford, England: Blackwell.
Healey, C. G, P Kozik, L Tateosian, and J Enns. 2016. Combining Perception and Impressionist Techniques for Nonphotorealistic Visualization of Multidimensional Data. Edited by Christopher G. Healey. Prod. Vision Science Society 16th Annual Meeting, St. Pete Beach, FL) 16, 12, (2016), 188. Journal of Vision (Abstract Issue. Raleigh, North Carolin: North Carolina State University. Accessed July 13, 2019.
Katherine Harmon, Gayle Clemens. 2009. The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton Architectural Press.
Monet, Claude. 1872. Impression Sunrise / Impression, Soleil Levant. Musée Marmottan Monet , Paris . Accessed July 13, 2019.,_Sunrise.jpg.
Olsen, Lance Austin, John Luna, Debora Alanna, and Erin Cunes. 2019. Infrequency Editions. Edited by Lance Austin Olsen. John Luna, Debora Alanna, Erin Cunes Lance Austin Olsen. May. Accessed July 12, 2019.
Sannicandro, Joseph. 2008. The Legacy of Situationist Psychogeography: Its Relational Quality and Influence on Contemporary Art. Noise Economy. Accessed July 2013, 2019.
Sansón, Gil, and Lance Austin Olsen. 2019. Elsewhere Music Bandcamp. Edited by Lance Austin Olsen Gil Sansón. Yuko Zama. February. Accessed July 12, 2019.
Scarlato, Jonathan F. Lewis and William. 2010. Review of "The Map as Art: Contemporary Artists Explore Cartography". Edited by Katherine Harmon with Gayle Clements. AGS Library. Accessed July 12, 2019.
Venturi, Lionello. 1941. " "The Aesthetic Idea of Impressionism." ." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 1, no. 1 34-45. Accessed July 13, 2019. doi:10.2307/426742.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Look Over Look and Other Works by Cynthia Minden

Cynthia Minden’s first discipline was music. She went far in this professional direction, studying in California, Toronto and Vermont, playing chamber music and founding an arts administration company and arts centre in Toronto. However, in 1987 she was drawn to the Pacific Northwest and found herself far afield of the ‘beaten track,’ many miles and inestimable cultural worlds away from the big city artistic matrix of Toronto. In this new world she began to explore visual art. 

Attending conferences and workshops, studying contemporary form and paper-making with renowned fibre artists, she embarked on a course of creating two and three-dimensional art in her new media, including that of fine art basketry. Applying ancient, traditional materials and skills to creating contemporary sculptural form felt like a translation of her musical journey.

Earlier studies in music continue to shape the tone of her work, “most notably flute study with the eminent Marcel Moyse, theory and composition with the late Dr. Sam Dolan, earning an ARCT in Renaissance Counterpoint and later, music improvisation with Freddie Stone.” According to Minden, these extraordinary mentors still imbue her process with meaning and ideas.

Rhythms, harmonies, ‘musical’ phrasing, cadences and movements resonate throughout Minden’s visual art. She enjoys working with other artists to create cross-genre collaborative pieces, and has used textual elements, calligraphy and musical notation, as meaningful signifiers and emotional ‘keys’ within sculptural installations and constructionist pieces.

Look Over Look
Shadow and movement comprise powerful formal elements in Cynthia Minden’s suspended figures and mobiles, whereby light and lighting dynamics act as core instruments for her overall compositions; voids, spaces and empty volumes act like silences or intervals in pieces of music, affording reflection, perspective and the intimations or sensations of memory. Her primary influences in the realm of visual art include work with Lillian Elliott, Hisako Sekijima, Dorothy Gill Barnes and Dorothy Field. Drawing on a sparkling array of inspiration, mentors and muses, Minden's art skims the edges of traditional techniques, tying together three-dimensional weaving with innovative sculptural form and experimental mixed media. 
Cynthia Minden’s installation piece, Look Over Look, shows keen observation of the figure, of gesture, and of movement. The suspended figures in the series look like joyful trapeze artists or animated puppets that have shucked their strings and turned them into gymnasts’ foils. Minden’s basketry figures are no less gestural and animated. The three-dimensional graphic design of the suspended figures’ arrangements and compositions in relation to each other suggest lines of musical notation or lyrical, cuneiform script. They can also suggest whimsical or mischievous action figures—animated Zen calligraphy characters dropped into three-dimensional, holographic space. Like antic hieroglyphs, the community of figures collectively imply hints of meaning and language through their interactions, cues and symbols, as if you could ‘read’ them and their conjoined communiqué—from left to right, perhaps, like a line of music, or right to left like a sacred text in some ancient forgotten speech—if you only had the key to its esoteric code. In fact, the code is close to hand, resident in the emotional perception of the audience. And, to this internal, essential, human barometer of feeling—collective and universal whilst being uniquely individual and personal to each and every viewer—this installation clearly and eloquently speaks.

The rotund forms also seem to resemble rusticated versions of low-tech scientific instruments. Reminiscent of antiquated navigational tools, spherical astrolabes or armillary spheres, they are like cosmological models of the celestial sphere. The ancient instruments they invoke were actually skeletal celestial globes consisting of spherical frameworks of rings centred on Earth or the Sun, that represented lines of celestial longitude and latitude (and other astronomically important features for astral navigation). Like the meteōroskopion of the Alexandrine Greeks (c. AD 140) or the Ptolemaic astrolabon, the twelfth-century astrolabes of Arabic astronomers in Moorish Spain likely served as the prototypes for all later European armillary spheres. (Elizabeth 1st wore tiny gold models of them as brooches or embroidered to her gowns and cloaks to advertize the British Navy’s dominance of the seas.)

Minden’s spheres show their bony exoskeletons, made of twigs, inside delicately calligraphy-inscribed waxed paper, stretched around irregular hoops like the astral bands that revolve around an armillary sphere to show the courses of the planets across the sky. Their waxed-paper “skins” are actually made of the very thin and fragile dressmaker’s tissue used in making patterns. Dressed with layers of beeswax (adding the intensely sensual feature of beeswax’s perfumed scent), the “skins” are then inscribed with spidery calligraphy like fading, mummified tattoos. Reflective, metallic pigments spell out a mystical Semitic text on one sphere in a fusion of Arabic and Sanskrit calligraphy. Other stained and painted surfaces are achieved by use of oil-stick pigment. The mixture of graphic, esoteric textual elements with abstract painting, rare, rustic or exotic materials, all incorporated upon monumental sculptural form, makes for complex three-dimensional visual texts. They emerge as textured, tactile objects that demand to be emotionally, sensually and intellectually “read.”

The figurative elements present as individual ‘characters’ like dramatic personae in a ballet, whose combined choreography spells out a plot or theme we can follow with our emotional antennae and our sensual appreciation. There is a subtle tension beneath the apparent careless, dancing sense of joyfulness of some of the figures; they seem to betray a sense of underlying strain, of conflict, or of contortion. There is an open-ended story evident in Look Over Look, for this is essentially a narrative (if highly abstract) piece. Like the libretto to an opera that is also a mystery (Myfanwy Piper’s for the operatic adaptation of Miller’s The Turn of the Screw composed by Benjamin Britten, for instance), its story is to be apprehended, processed and interpreted—differently, deeply, personally—by each audience member. Comprised of human gesture and the abstract visual language of elemental shape and form, the paradox of the piece is that it accomplishes this subtle and profound communication with a visual vocabulary that is accessible, universal, esoteric, private, and essential simultaneously. Look Over Look is fundamentally cross-disciplinary in its many mediations.

Other Works

This artist’s artistic production is sweepingly varied. Her oeuvre has incorporated radically different approaches, materials and moods, but her singular artistic voice is immediately discernable throughout, resonating in expansively shifting media over the years. This voice could be described as reflective and tender, quirky, humorous and whimsical, paradoxically bittersweet and lyrical. It resonates through overall compositions, echoes in volumes or forms, and animates by a sort of dancing rhythmic movement. Subtly resounding through an enormous repertoire of expressions and scores of discrete bodies of works, Minden’s signature style and the aesthetic integrity, the ‘through-design’ of her approach, endows such consistency and coherence across a vast range of works.

In 2012, Minden created an extensive body of works that were part found object, part assemblage, part constructivist canvases. By highlighting and accentuating naturally occurring pigmentation on beach refuse and flotsam, from oxidation, weathering or mineralization, she created highly abstract compositions incorporating meaningful or mysterious objects, like keys or watches, bones or unidentifiable industrial remnants. In one, a piece of tree bark serves as the variegated surface and tactile ground for an azure painterly comment and an old door plate becomes a medley of cobalt and rust. Some pieces seem minimalist in their spare austerity, others baroque. Still other found objects make their aesthetic statement in terms of sheer location, and in relation to the placement of other items. Minden wrote: “I am building a library of artefacts drawn from the landscape, an intermingling of nature and humanity gathered from the margins of wetlands, forest floor and foreshore, intertwined with cast off findings from human civilization. By pairing bone with porcelain, nail with knife and vine, I am looking for multiple meanings, layers of interpretation and a framework for thinking about the relationship between art, society and ecology."

Minden’s simultaneously streaming series of works seem to comprise progressive movements of an integral, essential theme. Uniquely recognizable, Cynthia Minden’s highly personal vision means that her creative peregrinations are all of a piece. All embodying that subtle dancing movement, they dexterously incorporate the harmonies of her Denman Island  studio. Can the works be homed within a larger, regional Voice, one we might call the “Western Islands School,” or the “Vancouver Islands Movement”?  On first sight, any one or all of Minden’s works seem to announce their geographical roots and environmental foundations like a clarion call, to my eyes at least. But then, I am also long resident in these islands, and I recognize Minden’s visual music as profoundly resonant and expressive of this vast, brooding rainforest, these endless shores.

Yvonne Owens
Victoria, September 2018

Gillian Redwood - Pop Up show at Xchanges Gallery and Studios