WE ARE A CAMERA at THE BIG DRAW 2016 VANCOUVER

Saturday, OCTOBER 1, 2016

10am – 4pm

Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre | 181 Roundhouse Mews
FREE | No registration required

Join artist Val Nelson to create a spectacular 135-foot long collaborative drawing exploring contour and motion, the individual and the ensemble. Stay for a few minutes or a few hours working with gesture and contour to capture the dynamism of live dancers as they create movement. Participants of all ages and experience are welcome.

A beautiful moment from The Big Draw. For a cool timelapse video, go to this link: https://www.facebook.com/val.nelson.3726/videos/t.590680665/10153674570930666/?type=2&theater

 

 

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Val Nelson has a diverse interdisciplinary arts practice as a dancer and visual artist, film-maker and educator. She was a dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, then majored in Media Arts with Honors at Emily Carr University in 1988. From 1988-2001, she made collaborative dance videos with Holy Body Tattoo, choreographer Anthony Morgan, and Katherine Labelle Dance, that screened worldwide. In 2003 she was shortlisted for the Royal Bank Painting Prize, and from 2003-2016, had eleven solo painting exhibitions in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. In 2012 Val began research on her project I Am  A Camera which “archived” recordings of dance and opera performances through her eyes, nervous system, and hand onto paper. In 2016 she expanded on the project with seven-foot wide drawings, made in collaboration with Kokoro Dance, dumb instrument dance, and Sujit Vaidya. Her drawings were exhibited at the 2016 Vancouver International Dance Festival.


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The Roundhouse is the Vancouver Park board’s only solely dedicated Arts and Culture Community Centre. The historic building is home to a 200 seat black box theatre, a 2500  foot exhibition hall and artist in residence projects in dance, music and the visual arts as well as a full roster of recreation programs

It is also the home of Engine 374, the locomotive that pulled the first passenger train across Canada from coast to coast.


For more information:
Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre
Website | 604.713.1800

Itness

Now that the cooler weather of Fall is here, I’m so grateful to be able to get back into the studio and paint paint paint. A little study I made last winter of a scene on my breakfast table has been calling to me. I painted it on an old envelope.

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Val Nelson, V5Y, 4.25 x 6.25 inches, oil on PVA on paper, 2015

The appearance of objects, and their quiet presence or “itness”, has long been something that really gets to me.  I wasn’t sure about this humble image, but after much deliberation I decided there’s something about it I need to pay attention to.

So here’s a painting I made this week:

ValNelson-A-Room-in-Mount-Pleasant-web
Val Nelson, A Room in Mount Pleasant, oil on canvas, 14 x 18 inches, 2015

And I started another one:

my-apt-day-one
Day One: A Room in Mount Pleasant #2

For the next several months all I want to do is immerse myself in the wordless process of looking,  and recording what I see. I’ve been tussling with a purist notion that I must work only from life; but the practicality of it has not been easy to deal with. The dimensions of my apartment limit me from painting there with an easel; a way around it could have been working very small, but to be honest I get very claustrophobic with all my painting gear cluttering up the place. My home is a sanctuary, where I can rest. So the solution is of course

photography.

This past year of working off and on from life has really helped me. Observing how light changes in a space over time informs how I now see colour, and I realize I have more freedom to mess around with what goes on in the rectangle. At the same time my drawing is getting better.

And my Ipad and Iphone now have those updated apps that have much better options for image correction.

You can see I’ve put grid marks on the canvas above. Having watched Antonio Garcia Lopez paint in the film El Sol del Mebrillo by Victor Erice I realized that within extreme control (measuring), one can then have great freedom (painterly interpretation). But Garcia doesn’t like working from photography. I’m okay with acknowledging I live in the 21st century and can use any technology I want, as did Bonnard, Vuillard, Degas, and those guys who probably used the camera obscura (Vermeer, Caravaggio). However, so far I’m not interested in actually projecting and tracing. I like drawing too much, and I feel like something interesting happens when I get things slightly wrong even though I’m trying to get it right.

 

 

 

 

 

Hola Diego and Raoul!

I’m heading off to Barcelona and Madrid in March! The draw? Well, the sunshine OF COURSE! But actually, my main focus will be the extensive collection of Velasquez works (amongst many other important historic painters) at the Prado, and very fortunately for me at the same time there will be a Raoul Dufy show on at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza just down the road. A nice mix of serious historic painting chops contrasted with a more graphic, pleasure-filled counterpoint. I’m inspired by both.

Study of a detail after Velasquez' Equestrian Portrait of Prince Balthasar Carlos, 26 x 20 inches, oil on panel, 2014
Study of a detail after Velasquez’ Equestrian Portrait of Prince Balthasar Carlos, 26 x 20 inches, oil on panel, 2014

Gotta say that having booked my flight it was a treat to surf around to find what Air Bnb I would stay in. I’d much rather stay in an an apartment with homey appeal than a generic over-priced hotel any day. In both cities I’ll be staying right in the middle of the centre, so I can stride out the door after my morning coffee and be at the museums after a brisk 15-minute walk. That way I can have my fill of art, stroll home for a siesta, have some lunch and a café con leche and go and do some exploring and drawing.

I’ve been obsessing over what art supplies to bring, waffling between oils (too involved for such a short stay), gouache (easier to travel with but I’m not terribly fluent in using them), drypoint on copper (plates too heavy, and security might confiscate the plates and diamond tip tool as potential weapons on the plane).

I’ve finally decided on my favorite simple drawing tools: pen, pencil and sketchbook.

Hasta luego!

Val

 

 

 

Passion and Work

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, published by Alfred A. Knopf

Julia Child
photo: Paul Child

I waited six weeks to receive an email from the Vancouver Public Library that the book I had reserved was waiting for me at my local library around the corner. I was in luck–it was a Thursday night, which meant the  library was open late. I could nip out before dinner and grab my precious object tout de suite.

Running all the way, I enthused to the librarian about my excited anticipation to read Julia Child’s already iconic biography, My Life in France. From the first page I knew I would not be disappointed. I’m half way through, and already mourning the event I know is coming––when I reach the final page.

Ms. Childs’ engaging story of her journey to becoming herself through her love of French cooking, and her descriptions of an American woman living in France in the 1950’s is an entertaining and delightful read.

Here is an excerpt describing a philosophy on cooking the lowly scramble egg by Chef Bugnard, one of her instructors at the Cordon Bleu cooking school:

His eggs were always perfect, and although he must have made this dish several thousand times, he always took great pride and pleasure in this performance. Bugnard insisted that one pay attention, learn the correct technique, and that one enjoy one’s cooking––”Yes, Madame Scheeld, fun!” he’d say “Joy!”

I am not the most adept of cooks; though I love eating, I’m the type who can make a decent meal when called upon, but most of my artistic energy goes into work in the studio. Reading My Life in France has me thinking that maybe I should sign up for that cooking course; I might actually enjoy myself.

Go, go at once, dear reader, and get yourself a copy of this wonderful book.

Passion and Work

My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme, published by Alfred A. Knopf

Julia Child
photo: Paul Child

I waited six weeks to receive an email from the Vancouver Public Library that the book I had reserved was waiting for me at my local library around the corner. I was in luck–it was a Thursday night, which meant the  library was open late. I could nip out before dinner and grab my precious object tout de suite.

Running all the way, I enthused to the librarian about my excited anticipation to read Julia Child’s already iconic biography, My Life in France. From the first page I knew I would not be disappointed. I’m half way through, and already mourning the event I know is coming––when I reach the final page.

Ms. Childs’ engaging story of her journey to becoming herself through her love of French cooking, and her descriptions of an American woman living in France in the 1950’s is an entertaining and delightful read.

Here is an excerpt describing a philosophy on cooking the lowly scramble egg by Chef Bugnard, one of her instructors at the Cordon Bleu cooking school:

His eggs were always perfect, and although he must have made this dish several thousand times, he always took great pride and pleasure in this performance. Bugnard insisted that one pay attention, learn the correct technique, and that one enjoy one’s cooking––”Yes, Madame Scheeld, fun!” he’d say “Joy!”

I am not the most adept of cooks; though I love eating, I’m the type who can make a decent meal when called upon, but most of my artistic energy goes into work in the studio. Reading My Life in France has me thinking that maybe I should sign up for that cooking course; I might actually enjoy myself.

Go, go at once, dear reader, and get yourself a copy of this wonderful book.

Only connect: Funding art during a Depression

Rothko at Tate Modern, London, UK
Rothko at Tate Modern, London, UK

I find it downright puzzling that the British Columbia government has decided to cut more than 85 per cent of provincial arts funding in the next two years. Admittedly, there is indeed an economic “recession”, but I propose that now is the time to invest in cultural workers, not dismantle what has lovingly and laboriously been built up.

The provincial government’s cuts to the Arts are a very shortsighted strategy, since the arts are literally a money magnet. According to statistics from the Alliance for Arts and Culture, 5.2 billion dollars is raised by British Columbia’s arts, culture, and heritage industries alone.

Anyone who has travelled knows that cities such as London, Paris, and New York are not visited for their scenery or business connections alone; their theatre, visual arts, literature, design, and fashion are at the core of what makes them such vibrant places in which to visit, live, and work.

In the United States, the Federal Government is actually increasing their investment to the Arts, in order, as stated in their Arts and Culture policy, “to remain competitive in the global economy”. Their policy includes increasing funding to the National Endowment for the Arts, promoting cultural diplomacy with other nations, and publicly championing the importance of art education. Studies in Chicago have domonstrated that test scores improved faster for students enrolled in low-income schools that link arts across the curriculum than scores for students in schools lacking such programs.

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the United States’ Federal Arts Project funded out-of-work artists and provided art for non-federal government buildings: schools, hospitals, libraries and the like. The work was divided into art production, art instruction and art research, providing an income for out-of-work artists such as Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Louise Nevelson, and Philip Guston.  These artists went on to make history. Imagine a world where these talented individuals weren’t given a leg-up at a crucial period in their development?

Interestingly, these artists are now shown in major museums which attract visitors from around the world to the cities in which these museums are situated.

I strongly recommend the BC Government rethink their devastating cuts to the arts, and I propose that now is in fact the time to invest in the arts, fostering the work they have already begun with the exciting Cultural Olympiad.

Premier Campbell & the Arts
Premier Campbell & the Arts (by Raeside)


The Pleasures of Art

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

The illustrated woman

Maira Kalman
Maira Kalman

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:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/maira_kalman_the_illustrated_woman.html

Jay Isaac and finding a new way

Jay Isaac
Jay Isaac

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.