For the past year Vancouver artist Derek von Essen has been photographing local streets and neighbourhoods for A Verse Map of Vancouver, a beautiful new coffee-table/anthology edited by the city’s first Poet Laureate, George McWhirter. Also designed by von Essen, the book, which features the words of ninety-two BC poets, will be launched April 21 at 7pm in the Alice MacKay Room of the downtown Vancouver Public Library (seating limited, admission free).
A Verse Map of Vancouver can be purchased from local booksellers or online at www.anvilpress.com
A sneak preview of some of Derek’s images can be viewed at www.derekvonessen.com
In these difficult times, looking at and making art can help us get back in touch with the best things that humans are capable of–– a sense of play, a sense of excitement in the creative act.
The following excerpt, from David Hockney’s book, That’s the Way I See It, reveals the artist’s philosophy on viewing and making art:
I have always believed that art should be a deep pleasure. I think there is a contradiction in an art of total despair, because the very fact that the art is made seems to contradict despair. It means at least that you are trying to communicate what you feel to somebody else and the very fact that you can communicate it takes away a little of the despair. Art has this contradiction built into it. All one has to do is look at its history.
A few years ago at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York there was a show of Fragonard. He is an artist who has been thought sometimes to be much too pleasurable, much too playful, much too sweet to be serious, and certainly in the early nineteenth century that’s how he was dismissed. It was only the Goncourt brothers who started looking seriously at his paintings and buying them.
Today we see him differently. To me Fragonard is a wonderful artist. I think you can’t have art without play; Picasso always understood that. I think you can’t have much human activity of any kind without a sense of playfulness. Someone once criticized my work, saying it was too playful. I said, That’s hardly a criticism at all, that’s a compliment. I do see it as a compliment because I believe that without a sense of play there’s not much curiosity either; even a scientist has a sense of play. And that allows for surprises, the unexpected, discoveries. Anybody who gets good at it knows that. You can use it. I use it. People tend to forget that play is serious, but I know that of course it is. Some people have got the idea that if it’s boring it’s art and if it’s not boring it’s not art. Well, I’ve always thought it was the other way round. If it’s boring, more than likely it’s not art, if it’s exciting, thrilling, more than likely it is. I don’t know of any good art that’s boring, in music, poetry or painting. Isn’t that why Shakespeare is so exciting?
You can find more information on David Hockney on the Artsy website.
Text excerpt from That’s the Way I See It, page 133 © David Hockney
Chris Dorosz is a painter who is pushing the work off the canvas and out into the space of the gallery. One might think of George Seurat’s divisionist/pointillist works when viewing Chris’ update on the traditional interior. Chris states:
The Painted Room is a three-dimensional recreation of my parent’s living room made out of splotches of acrylic paint on hung monofilament. Benjamin’s quote is especially true for me; growing up as the only son in a military family, our living room was packed and unpacked innumerable times – becoming a depository of memory.
In walking around his pieces, one becomes aware of the space between atoms, the ephemerality of our existence on a molecular level. Breathtaking and poignant, Dorosz’s work was exhibited recently at ICA in San Jose, California.
This July in Vancouver there will be a pilot project launched by curators Lynn Ruscheinsky and Bob Kardosh. A wonderful new initiative, the Drawn Festival will celebrate the drawn form, hosted by galleries across the city. Along with the exhibitions, symposia, and artist talks, a new drawing prize will soon be part of the yearly festival. Modelled after Toronto’s Contact Photography Festival, this will the first festival of its kind in Canada. You can find out more about this event by clicking here.
In her heart-warming book, The Principles of Uncertainty, Maira Kalman reveals emotional depth and a quirky wit. In an excerpt posted on the New York times website, she suggests ways to ponder the pursuit of happiness.
An illustrator, author, and designer, Kalman is widely known and loved for her children’s books such as Ooh La La, Max in Love, and her brilliant illustrated update of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Hear Maira talk about her life and work in a video from the public speaking series Ted Talks:
Jay Isaac is a Canadian painter who is carving out new territory by revisiting old approaches; he is making paintings of humble things, such as the view out his window.
I have not met Jay, but I first saw his work in a group show around 2002, at Vancouver’s Third Avenue Gallery. It was a picturesque view of a swan in a pond. I was struck by the voluptuous paint surface, the simple, endearing subject matter, and what came through to me was the sheer joy of painting. What’s more, dare I say it was beautiful? I still regret that I was not able to take it home with me, so I could enjoy it everyday.
A very interesting review about Jay and his work can be found in the current Border Crossings magazine, and you can also find him in the Magenta Foundation’s new book, Carte Blanche Volume 2: Painting.
Jay Isaac will be exhibiting his paintings at CSA Space in Vancouver (see Blogroll) opening May 1st. If you will be in Vancouver, this should be well worth a visit.
In the current climate of young, new, hip artists with fabulous conceptual savvy (and some of them truly deserve the attention), let’s not forget artists and writers who came to their best work later in life, through trial and error.
Think: Louise Bourgeois today in her 90’s, Cezanne in his 60’s, Philip Guston in his late 50’s,Virginia Woolf in her 40’s. Says Robert Frost, who wrote “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” when he was 57:
…it is later in the dark of life that you see forms, constellations. And it is the constellations that are philosophy.
Read more in this Los Angeles Times article by David Galenson and Joshua Kotin: It’s never too late too create
Things are more or less in place in the new studio, and I finally got back to painting this week. Opening up my box of brushes was like an emotional reunion with old friends. As it’s been several weeks since I’ve painted, I decided a low-stress way to get back into things would be to touch up some pieces I had started in January.
I’m on the third floor of a one-hundred year old building that used to be a mattress factory. It’s filled with the bustle of artists, designers, and craftspeople in an industrial neighbourhood with warehouses, other artist enclaves, and an auction house nearby.
Not too many cafés close at hand, but there’s a gelateria and a quaint neighbourhood grocery store/bakery not far away. Meanwhile I’ve inherited a toaster oven and invested in an electric kettle, so can save money and precious time by eating in most days. It’s getting very comfy–which is good for being really productive. The only downside is I may not want to go home at the end of the day!
Aganetha Dyck‘s exhibition Collaborations on now at the Burnaby Art Gallery is the result of her ongoing dialogue with bees. Her recent Hive Scans were created with the help of her son and his laptop computer. The printed results are very painterly, with blurring stripes that remind me of smeared paint, but which are actually the traces of bees in motion while the scan takes place. These images are very tactile, capturing marks of pollen, honey, and wax left by the bees on the surface of the scanner.
Dyck often takes objects she finds or constructs, and places them in the hive during the bees’ active summer months. Check out her wax-encrusted braille tablets and her striking back-lit manufactured metal plates of text, all of which are a poignant reference to communication between humans and bees.