Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Metropolis, Montreal

God was definitely in the house this Friday night as the Reverend Nick Cave wailed from his pulpit touching the true believers in the front row gently on their foreheads.  The Bad Seeds accompaniment, thundered and scorced behind, a sonic train wreck of biblical litany as the congregation in full trance, roused only during the call and response from the Reverend himself.  Honest I am not kidding this was truly experiential.  So, in this spirit I have included images that try to capture the show in a more poetic way, as well as a few crappy stage shots.  Be sure to watch the video from the floor during the song Stagger Lee it certainly gives a good taste of the night.

2013 Governor Generals Awards for Visual and Media Arts

The GG awards are funded and administered for the 14th year by the Canada Council for the Arts and hosted by The National Gallery of Canada. “They recognize distinguished career achievements in the visual and media arts by Canadian artists, as well as outstanding contributions through voluntarism, philanthropy, board governance, community outreach or professional activities.”

That is the official line from the Canada Council, but I see it as far more than that.  This is our chance to meet and thank these individuals for their sacrifices and decades worth of dedication to a severely under recognised part of Canadian society.  Ideas, and execution of those ideas are the catalysts of change. Thinking and acting differently from the norm and then to put oneself into public scrutiny, will consume many an idealist.  But to have done this repeatedly for decades is what makes these people so deserving of their awards.  Not only that, long after they have left us their work continues; continues to enrich our culture, continues to evolve and grow as we do, continues to give economically, continues to add to our collective vi

sual language and legacy - long after they have passed on.  It is far too often with the arts that we regale creators for their brilliance and singular achievements after they are dead and rare that we thank them while they are still here – this is our thanks, Canada’s thanks.

I was in this post going to write something about each individual, but their decades of experiences are varied and complex and honestly I do not think I could do them justice; rather I will point anyone interested in several directions that elaborate on their careers.  

The Canada Council has done a magnificent job on video biographies for each artist which I highly recommend.

The winners for the Governor Generals awards for visual and media arts 2013 are painter Marcel Barbeau, filmmaker William MacGillivray, composer/sound engineer Gordon Monahan and sculptor Colette Whiten.  Ceramicist Greg Payce received the Saidye Bronfman Award.  Chantal Pontbriand received an outstanding contribution award for her more than 30 years of work as a curator and art critic.

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.

Having a Lynne Cohen Moment.

On one of my adventures through the vast entrails of the concrete jungle looking for the mens room, i turned right, walked through generic double glass doors and fell into a Lynne Cohen photograph.  Oddly enough though, the photo i captured with my phone camera was something more sci-fi than Cohen.  You will just have to take my word for it.  Although the weird sense of water as opposed to floor is deliciously off-putting.

Lynne Cohen's Swimming pool?

Lynne Cohen's Swimming pool?

No?  Perhaps it is more effective horizontal?

No?  Perhaps it is more effective horizontal?

Will Magic Marker Ink Kill You?

Over the remnants of our dinner plates my son powered into full rant about - "you know what i hate" no what, sayz I, how could i leave him hanging? - "when people tell me how toxic marker ink is AND how bad it is for me  - like I am going to die from it or something."  And then gave a poignant performance of how ridiculous he thought this was.  On one hand he posed the question and the other asked my participation.


An original, a patriot, a troubadour out of time, a hobo, a rail car jumper, a plywood poet – a Canadian,  Stompin’ Tom Connors.  It is with a heavy heart I heard the news from my son, fresh off the twittersphere Wednesday night. 

It is not his comedic hits I will remember him by (although Goodbye Rubberhead so long Boob has a special place in my heart) but rather his genuine, honest, self-made artistry.  Yes, everyone has his time but, with Tom gone, it makes me sad because it gives to wonder who will sing or write songs about the Old Algoma line, a mine fire in Timmins, Tillsonburg, Skinners Pond, Big Joe Mufferaw, Wawa, Second Narrows Bridge disaster, The Gaspe, or anything truly Canadian? We are collectively richer because someone did.

Rest in Peace Tom, Canada seemed smaller with you around, but it is bigger now because of you!

Lycanthrope - Jim Holyoak @ Donald Browne Gallery - Nuit Balanche Montreal

After one too many encounters with individuals in various states of intoxication during the Nuit Blanche festivities, it was refreshing to sit down on the floor at the Donald Browne Gallery and take in this delicious combination of sight and sound.

Lycanthrope is a fantastic drawing installation that included a performance of the artist Jim Holyoak attacking a paper-lined fortification while musicians Nick Kuepfer & Neil Holyoak (Jim's younger brother) created an accompanying wall of steady sound. Jim Holyoak used an ink-slathered whisk and various graphite sticks and gouache-laden brushes to visually echo the soaring notes of  looping sonic trance/bat-chirping sound from electric guitars with great analogue assists: cassette tape machines, 1/4 tape looping machine, amplified bell and chimes, all whirling though what looked to me like a horn from a Hammond organ! Think Philip Glass on acid. 

Jim’s attention to detail and mastery of his tools and media are represented not only in this giant singular work, but also on the rest of the gallery walls, from floor to ceiling. Clever and articulate drawings of creatures and various abstract stalactite/stalagmite like drawings of various sizes and paper quality pinned to the wall.  Of particular interest are the drawings in which Jim incorporates his own ink stamped body parts into a bat wings or a hares elongated feet. 

This was the finissage so, unfortunatly if you are reading this you cannot see the show - except on line - Jim and Donald's links are below if you want to see more or just watch the videos I have inclued and it will give you a small taste of the evening.

Michael Snow Retrosepective - Art Gallery of Ontario

The AGO has done a fantastic job of assembling a selection of work by Torontonian artist Michael Snow, covering six decades of his sculptural career in a single room. All of the sculptures are, in the words of the exhibits' curators: "instruments in the artist's orchestration of thinking about looking." The collection underscores Snow's singular vision and pays homage to an artist who even today--in his 80s—continues to be at the cutting edge of Canadian and international art. Much of the work on display is interactive and, it its day, may have been difficult or obtuse to most viewers, is now (as is with much great art) simply understood and profound.

July 18, 2012 till March 17, 2013

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

Pencil vs. Eraser

Telephone pole poet Gregory Alan Elliott councils on honesty and pencils. On the pencils vs. eraser debate I think I am with him 95% of the time, although cleaning a slate is sometimes necessary. What do you think?


Happy Birthday Abe

Thanks to wetplate collodion this (cropped) image of Abraham Lincoln still sharp and penetrating.  Photographed by Alexander Gardner, and taken on February 21, 1885.  The interesting detail to this image is, in the course of removing the plate from the camera, Alexander Gardner cracked it, so it was in two pieces, but still printable, you can see the crack in the albumen prints made from it still smiling at us after 123 years.  

Happy 204th birthday Abe!

Abe cropped,    National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Abe cropped, 

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Abraham Lincoln  -  Alexander Gardner, 1865/Albumen silver print/National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Abraham Lincoln  -  Alexander Gardner, 1865/Albumen silver print/National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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

Going Live

...after many weeks at of this... i am happy to roll out, NEW and improved, stay tuned for more.

time for a caffeinated beverage...

time for a caffeinated beverage...

Jam For Thought

As the calendar year of 2012 draws to a close this gives me the opportunity to catch up on a couple of images and notable events that I have as yet not posted over the last, hmmmm, 6 months or so. I hope to do recollect these events in the Next 6 months or so – so stay tuned.

 As a segue, let’s begin with cookies and winter solstice - and what is solstice without cookies, you may ask?

The Jam.

The Jam.

Delicious Linzer cookies, which if you are a fan, know that these cookies are jam filled. As the dough is being prepared, I am tasked with choosing the jam; opening the cupboard the pickings are slim. Near the very back I pull a half litre vintage jar of jam. In fact, both the jar and the jam within are vintage - 1986 to be exact, yes, that is a 26-year-old pear and plum jam.

 As I appreciated the irregular blue glass of this old Mason jar, and whether or not this jam is still safe to eat, I began to think of what 1986 brought me/us:

 In North America we had the dynamic duo of actor turned politician Ronald Reagan and his side kick the biggest chin in the north Brian Mulroney - (shudder); The iron lady, Margaret Thatcher held fast to the reigns in Great Britain,Microsoft holds its first public offering of stock; Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh Plus. It features a 8 MHz 68000 processor, 1 MB RAM, SCSI connector for hard drive support, and an 800 kB 3.5-inch floppy drive. Price is US$2600.  Chernobyl nuclear power station goes critical and explodes; in the night sky Halley’s comet burns a trail as it passes by; Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after launch killing everyone on board. Back on earth “Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco played on the radios while Sega, Atari and Nintendo kept children glued to their ‘joysticks”.

Bon Jovi gave love a bad name, while “New Wavers” Wang Chung(ed) tonight. The Beastie boys changed the face and direction of music with album Licensed to ill; The Dead Kennedys played their last show and later that year their front man Jello Biafra battles the right wing crazies - Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) with stated goal of saving children from “music deemed to be violent, have drug use or be sexual” via labeling albums with Parental Advisory stickers. Don’t worry, he won, unfortunately we did not. Mind you, now all children know which music to buy thanks to the Parental Advisory sticker! Ferris Bueller took the day off and we also learned that there are places in the universe not to go alone, in part two of the Alien quadrilogy.  In the visual arts we lost some of the greats Henry Moore, Joseph Beuys, Georgia O’Keeffe, leaving us all lots to think about and enjoy.

Yes, all this from one jar of jam!

1986 was a personally pivotal year for me and looking back it was a very interesting time to be alive, and made for some mouth-watering cookies too.

The cookies.

The cookies.