Michael Snow's Lion

This past September 2017, I had the privilege of traveling to Toronto and take a portrait of the visionary Canadian artist Michael Snow.  When you get an opportunity like this a hundred ideas and many "what if's" go through your head, trying to prepare for all the possible scenarios so that you will be ready for whatever happens. Understandably, you only get one shot at a chance like this, but primarily when you respect someone, you want to capture there likeness in a way that has something representative of their stature....yes of course that is what I wanted - transcendence, photographic wetplate transcendence.

It's OK, you can laugh - I know it is a tall order.

We arrived early morning loaded with all my wetplate gear knocked on Michaels door and after some simple chit chat, he directed us to his backyard, where I was to set-up and do the portrait. Heather, my partner & assistant went to check it out and I went back to the car to get the gear.  As I was filling my arms Heather returns and says, "Ummm, have you seen the backyard?"   Suggesting perhaps, if Michael had sent me a picture, during our email conversations.  I say, "No why?"....Ok, I am getting nervous.

It is your typical Toronto postage stamp backyard, not unusual and kind of what I was expecting - the real problem though - maple tree saplings had grown up to a level and density to block out most of the light, but more importantly the blue light, critical to wetplate, I swallowed hard. There was however a shaft of light passing between the two adjacent buildings that for about twenty minutes might offer some illumination - but I hadn't set up yet!

This was sort of the flavour of how the whole day went - basically chasing the light and a very patient Michael Snow around his house, to somehow just miss the image and light I was looking for in my minds eye.  It is only when looking back over the images many weeks later that allowed me the space and time to see what was captured.  The fourth image below is the only result from that backyard shaft of light glory moment, for by the time I had got set-up and poured the plate, posed & and composed the portrait, my ray of light was gone and Michael was getting cold.  The image I captured at a 45 second exposure is more of an expression of the moment then the tack sharp mirror representation we expect from formal portraiture.

I did manage to get that sharp image though, on his front step along side the fu-dog with demonic eyes. The sun was shinning straight on and into his eyes so it gives him a badass grimace, not at all the kind, accommodating, and patient man I had the pleasure of passing a day with. As for the images, - not quite the image(s) I had in my mind, but as always - far more interesting than anything I had imagined.

Alizarin.02 - The Adventures of Prince Achmed

The Adventures of Prince Achmed - 1926

Charlotte "Lotte" Reiniger - (2 June 1899 – 19 June 1981)

35mm - First Feature length Animated Film

Several years ago I had the privilege of viewing a projection in glorious 35mm, a restored copy of The Adventures of Prince Achmed originally released in 1926 during the end of the silent film era.  This film does not, in my humble opinion, get enough praise.  The first full length feature animated film, Created, edited and executed by a woman, in a time when this was exceedingly rare, not because of ability - which is obvious, but again because of patriarchal control of the industry.  Reiniger along with Behold Bartosch devised and used the pedecessor to the first multiplane camera which, preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade.  A back-lit contraption utilizing several layers of glass and on each plane different characters or objects each animated or still, giving the illusion of depth on a flat plane. This is a remarkable film even 90+yrs later the way the colours illuminate the entire theatre and the simplicity of a story told through shadow puppets is mesmerizing, but to watch it on the big screen flickering through the majestic BAUER U2 is a life changing experience.  Honestly, put this film on your bucket list - you will not be disappointed.  I have added below a few added bits of information I "curated" from the internet. Enjoy!

Oh, and btw all the images but the last one were photographed in the theatre trying to capture and describe the luminosity and brilliance of the projected experience, hopefully you get the idea.

( The Adventures of Prince Achmed a story based on elements taken from the One Thousand and One Nights, specifically "The Story of Prince Ahmed and the Fairy Paribanou" features a silhouette animation technique Reiniger had invented which involved manipulated cutouts made from cardboard and thin sheets of lead under a camera. The technique she used for the camera is similar to Wayang shadow puppets, though hers were animated frame by frame, not manipulated in live action. The original prints featured colour tinting.  No original German nitrate prints of the film are known to still exist. While the original film featured color tinting, prints available just prior to the restoration had all been in black and white. Working from surviving nitrate prints, German and British archivists restored the film during 1998 and 1999 including reinstating the original tinted image by using the Desmet method. Noël Desmet, starting in the 1960s, developed his own flashing method for restoring silent films, which had originally been coloured either by the process of tinting or toning (or both). With Desmet’s method, the original colour print is first copied onto modern, panchromatic black and white inter-negative film, rather than colour film. The colours are then applied later during production of the positive print.)

Several famous avant-garde animators worked on this film with Lotte Reiniger, among them Walter RuttmannBerthold Bartosch, and Carl Koch.

In 1923, she was approached by Louis Hagen, who had bought a large quantity of raw film stock as an investment to fight the spiralling inflation of the period, who asked her to do a feature-length animated film.  There was some difficulty that came with doing this, however. Reiniger is quoted as saying "We had to think twice. This was a never heard of thing. Animated films were supposed to make people roar with laughter, and nobody had dared to entertain an audience with them for more than ten minutes. Everybody to whom we talked in the industry about the proposition was horrified."




FIRUZABAD (Variation) 1970

Acrylic on Canvas

Frank STELLA   b. 1936

This is the first in a series of blog posts that examines singular works of art - up close, through my own particular non-linear singular obsessions, in visual art - about process, creation, ideas, art history and detailed, sometimes macro photography. Welcome, and enjoy.

Firuzabad is a work from the Protractor series of paintings, 71 super punchy highly technical geometric designs both in execution of the imagery and the shapes of the canvasses themselves.

In 1967 during Stella's time at Emma Lake,  Artist's Workshop, in Saskatchewan Canada, (an artists think tank of sorts that saw the likes of Barnett Newman, John Cage, Clement Greenberg pass through its doors.) is where this body of work was initiated. Yup, looove the Canadian connection!

All the works in the Protractor series are based on ancient cities in the middle east that Stella visited. He translated the ancient city plans and geographic layouts to the canvasses themselves. I'll explain.

FIRUZABAD is an ancient city in southwestern Iran its circular plan was designed and built between the 3rd & 7th C.  that included 3 ringed walls. Now, take a look at the satellite image of Firuzabad and compare how Stella riffs on this simple layout to create both a modern masterpiece and an homage to the design and architectural masterpiece of the ancient Sassanian culture. 

While carressing the paint surface with my eyes I was intrigued by the dafting marks Stella left behind. I loved the macro compositions I could create from the intersection of paint and pencil.

Ok, so are you still with me?  Researching Firuzabad and Sassanian Empire architecture I learned a new word. Squinch. 

Squinch is a structural solution to the problem of "how do you build a dome ontop of a cube...without the dome collapsing?"

A Squinch of course!

- (incidentally it is believed that this support was invented by the Sassanian culture at Firuzabad)

(I have included images as well - Thx to Wiki CC) 

Soooo, now you see, what I saw in Stella's Firuzabad painting were the drafting squinches that literally held and created the work!


Outdoor Readymade

...some images or spaces make themselves...

Great things of 2014 - Something in the Way. @Les Territoires Montreal, QC.

This past Summer I had the good fortune of stumbling into Les Territories in the Belgo building in Montreal, QC. on a sweltering hot day in august.  A set of workshops led by the Berlin-based sculptor Miriam Jonas. With title Something In The Way, the 2014 Creation workshops set out to examine the notion of limits as an enduring concern in contemporary sculptural practice. The resulting objects both interactive and playful riffed on this theme - the viewer became collaborator as they engaged with the objects pushing them around the space.  Simple in design and execution, this exhibition demonstrated brilliantly all that I love about sculpture, space and the thinking artist.

Participating artists:
Charles-Antoine Blais Métivier - David Martineau Lachance - Jean-Sébastien Massicotte-Rousseau - Lauren Klenow - Miriam Jonas

Great Things of 2014 - Anna Torma

This particular exhibition entitled Bagatelles  @ the Karsh-Masson Gallery in Ottawa, Ontario in August was a highlight to me in 2014.  Anna Torma of in Baie Verte, NB is a TEXTILE ARTIST that produces large-scale hand embroidered wall hangings and collages.  The scale and intensity of the work itself, of these beautiful multilayered marathons of embroidery really knocked me off my feet.  So much so, it was hard to put into words and has taken me a long time to get it here.   What I truly enjoyed seeing in this exhibition was that the back of the embroidery, as it was fully displayed, was just as interesting as the front. Moving between the different folds of silk as they hung like massive flags of her children's creative growth depicted in the beasts and monsters fire-breathing and stomping over-top of each other. Many at 210x280cm each, my fingers get cramps just thinking about the all that thread, delicately drawn with needle and thread. I would catch myself tracing the stitches back and forth comparing patterns or just losing myself in the texture and rhythm.  I am a sucker for a good monster anyway, but the joy of these works was impossible not to internalize.   Walking away from this exhibit I found myself light on my feet and with a silly grin on my face.  There are many things referenced in Bagatelles beyond monsters, from Fibonacci to imagined and historical plants, all these images fell into each other with a careless ease.  To read more about Anna Torma's work click below and do not miss it if she is showing in your area.

EN MASSE @ Station 16 Montreal - SPRING 2014

Remembering this spring En Masse's amazing installation at Station 16 - 3523 St-Laurent boul. in Montreal, featuring paintings & prints made in the round.  A fantastic show and if you missed it, only the prints and paintings (if your lucky) still exist.  Here are a few of the highlights and my personal favorites.  The circular paintings are exceptional and detailed to perfection.

Excuse me, did you say something...?

Sad, hilarious and delicious all at the same time.

Sheesham & Lotus & Son Album Cover Shoot

Well it has been waaaaaay to long since I wrote something here not that I haven't been busy, just busy enough not to get here to post something, i have oodles of things to share but let us start with something new and exciting.  This past March I had the pleasure of having Sheesham & Lotus & Son out to my place for a photo shoot and now that the album is finally out I can talk about it.  I managed to get several exceptional shots in, in-between them running off to record the tracks for the album.  The best one is presented here for your viewing pleasure.  Also check them out when they are in your town!!  They are fantastic performers and authentic to the core.

Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber

On a recent visit to Montreal I saw a great exhibition @ Division Gallery - After the Royal Art Lodge, works by former members of the infamous Royal Art Lodge of Winnipeg.  It featured works of:

Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber

Marcel Dzama

Jonathan Pylypchuk

Adrian Williams

Although, the bust-a-gut funny award definitely goes to the creative duo of Michael Dumontier & Neil Farber.  Beautifully curated and arranged in groups of common themes, these simple cartoons kicked the sometimes-stuffy white cube experience right in the nuts and I could not help myself from laughing loud and hard. Below is just a small sample of a hundred + images that were on display.

Stairs to nowhere...

Favorite set of stairs, now destroyed, a spiral set of joy, now existing only in the recesses of my mind.