Anna Frlan - Interbellum

 Anna Frlan’s exhibition at the Ottawa School of Art (January 10 – February 21, 2013) "Interbellum" addressed a subject not often engaged – the psychological and emotional remnants of war and the long-lasting consequences on families/people and how this trauma passes on through generations.

Fruits are used as a visual metaphor for explosives drawing on the etymology of the word grenade, (from Middle French grenade "pomegranate" (16c.), earlier grenate (12c.), from Old French pomegrenate (influenced by Spanish granada); so called because the many-seeded fruit suggested the powder-filled, fragmenting bomb, or from similarities of shape.)  which she visually underscores by creating a pomegranate with grenade pin and lock. The work explores unaddressed or repressed trauma—several pomegranate grenades rest quietly on a fruit platter on the family’s bureau.

The exhibition was filled with rich poetry and texture underscored by her choice of medium - commercial grade steel. Anna wields a MIG welder alternately as pencil and chisel. She builds texture and form—sometimes delicately cutting flat steel to resemble lace, sometimes building density and volume that she later grinds into to the forms she imagines.

The result yields remarkable objects; the grey and silver steel communicate gesture, line and pressure much as a charcoal drawing on paper. It's uncanny because this is cold hard steel. I went back several times taking in the artistry and dedication to a single medium, the clever use of metaphor, and the pure fascination of how something we know to be so hard can be made to seem so soft and fluid.

Congratulations John Kahrs

In september the international animation festival hosted a preveiw and discustion by the director of the Disney animated a short called Paperman.  John Kahrs spoke and demonstrated the techniques and tools used to create the black and white short film.   Although the story in many ways is your standard, "boy meets girl, loses girl, finds girl again, happy ever after" story - the attention to detail and single-minded desire to create a B&W black ink brushed quality and respect the gestural drawings of the character designers and animators creates a feel that looks very analogue - but was mostly created using vector-based digital drawing tools.  "You can make drawings that are resolution independent and you can manipulate the lines after you’ve created them. Ultimately, the end product really lives happily in the space between 2D and 3D." - John Kahrs

Congratulations are definitely due for this Oscar ( Disney's first since Its tough to be a Bird in 1969) for what is a poetic demonstration of the potential harmony between digital and analogue, each drawing from their strengths. 

John Kahrs after a marathon of 2+ hours of signing posters at The Ottawa International Animation Festival

John Kahrs after a marathon of 2+ hours of signing posters at The Ottawa International Animation Festival

Don McCullin gives a tour @ National Gallery of Canada

Recently I had the great pleasure of being part of a tour given by the veteran photojournalist Don McCullin of the new National Gallery of Canada retrospective exhibition of his work.  

For more than an hour we walked through the galleries as he spoke intimately of his life, his work and the many dangerous and heart wrenching encounters encompassing the several decades he traveled the world.

The small gallery spaces were packed with people in a breathless silence as Mr. McCullin spoke in a humble, and at times shockingly frank manner of the horrors and injustices he personally witnessed and sometimes captured with his camera. 

I say “sometimes” because, as he explained, often he could not bring himself to capture the brutality and other worldliness of what he was witnessing and in some cases he was told in no uncertain terms, “you take any pictures we will kill you”.  The images he captured on film represent only a small portion of his actual life experiences.  

That could be said of us all, but very occasionally in life we meet people that seem to have lived many more lives within this short lifespan we all experience - their bodies and minds, vessels of a million stories witnessed. Don McCullin is this sort of rare person.  And, as he admitted himself, it is even more rare to have come through it all with your sanity intact, “I am not sure why or how I am not like one of those insane street people in my photographs.”

He often spoke in an off-handed manner about stumbling about in the dark and how anger was a motivating force in his work. His humility seemed to attribute credit for his images to “luck” of some sort.  One look at the evidence, his photographic legacy and you can easily recognize there is much more at work here. 

Don McCullin intuitively understands light, has mastery over composition and visual language - he can in an instant capture fleeting moments so powerful that they sum up human emotion, frailty and injustice.  Perhaps, he was in the right place at the right time, but I am thankful it was his finger on the trigger of the Nikon F.

Do not miss this exhibition, now on at the National Gallery of Canada.

Don McCullin speaking to a full house at the National Gallery of Canada

Don McCullin speaking to a full house at the National Gallery of Canada