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)


Chris Charlebois: Finding structure and rhythm in nature

Chris Charlebois, Slow Current II, oil on canvas, 42 x 42 inches, 2009
Chris Charlebois, Slow Current II, oil on canvas, 42 x 42 inches, 2009

Born in 1952 in Arvida, Quebec, Chris Charlebois has spent most of his life in British Columbia. He attended the Vancouver School of Art and his painting instructors were Don Jarvis and Bruce Boyd. Since then his work has been collected by numerous private and corporate collectors.

Charlebois is very active in the local art community, and has successfully participated in many live art auctions. Chris also teaches art at the Steveston Village Phoenix Art Workshops.

Inspired by the west coast environment his work is evolving into a kind of nature- based abstraction. Charlebois believes that his work must be an honest investigation and at times uses a sketch or photo only as a brief reference. But the original impression in the mind’s eye is always more truthful.

He seeks the beauty in nature that is constant and found everywhere, even in a clump of grass by the roadside or a nondescript bush near a ditch. Charlebois says there seems to be a point of departure where the painting ceases to be simply a copy of the subject but takes on a meaning and importance as itself. ” I cannot compete with nature, but I can attempt to add to it.”

” My goal as a painter has always been to simply express. Nature is the source of that expression. I look for the gesture in nature. It is this dominant line of movement and structure that all the elements in a painting will be built upon. By taking apart (abstracting) the components of the subject, then rebuilding making systematic logical choices a result of clear expression can be attained.”

“From nature I find direction. Colours and lines seen or felt, are expressed as infinite notes, harmonies, patterns and rhythms. From these references my paintings are formed.”

Chris Charlebois: New Works

SEPTEMBER 16 – 30, 2009, Kurbatoff Art Gallery, 2427 Granville Street,
Vancouver B. C

OPENING NIGHT WITH THE ARTIST IN ATTENDANCE ~

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, FROM 5:30 TO 8:00 pm.

Chris Charlebois: Finding structure and rhythm in nature

Chris Charlebois, Slow Current II, oil on canvas, 42 x 42 inches, 2009
Chris Charlebois, Slow Current II, oil on canvas, 42 x 42 inches, 2009

Born in 1952 in Arvida, Quebec, Chris Charlebois has spent most of his life in British Columbia. He attended the Vancouver School of Art and his painting instructors were Don Jarvis and Bruce Boyd. Since then his work has been collected by numerous private and corporate collectors.

Charlebois is very active in the local art community, and has successfully participated in many live art auctions. Chris also teaches art at the Steveston Village Phoenix Art Workshops.

Inspired by the west coast environment his work is evolving into a kind of nature- based abstraction. Charlebois believes that his work must be an honest investigation and at times uses a sketch or photo only as a brief reference. But the original impression in the mind’s eye is always more truthful.

He seeks the beauty in nature that is constant and found everywhere, even in a clump of grass by the roadside or a nondescript bush near a ditch. Charlebois says there seems to be a point of departure where the painting ceases to be simply a copy of the subject but takes on a meaning and importance as itself. ” I cannot compete with nature, but I can attempt to add to it.”

” My goal as a painter has always been to simply express. Nature is the source of that expression. I look for the gesture in nature. It is this dominant line of movement and structure that all the elements in a painting will be built upon. By taking apart (abstracting) the components of the subject, then rebuilding making systematic logical choices a result of clear expression can be attained.”

“From nature I find direction. Colours and lines seen or felt, are expressed as infinite notes, harmonies, patterns and rhythms. From these references my paintings are formed.”

Chris Charlebois: New Works

SEPTEMBER 16 – 30, 2009, Kurbatoff Art Gallery, 2427 Granville Street,
Vancouver B. C

OPENING NIGHT WITH THE ARTIST IN ATTENDANCE ~

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, FROM 5:30 TO 8:00 pm.

Beauty and the sublime-the monstrous talent of Kristine Moran

Kristine Moran, Flow Separation, oil on canvas 2008, 60 x 90 inches
Kristine Moran, Flow Separation, oil on canvas 2008, 60 x 90 inches

Talented Canadian painter Kristine Moran has made a huge leap forward with her recent work. Fluid, fearless, and gorgeous, her canvases flow in a seemingly effortless stream of painterly virtuosity and keen observance of contemporary life.

Her paintings represent “the grit and rawness that bubbles just below the surface of society, that which exists among all of us but is seldom acknowledged.”

A recipient of numerous awards, Kristine is a recent MFA graduate of Hunter College, and is currently enjoying the benefits of the Mary Walsh Sharp Foundation studio space prize in New York City.

She is represented by Nichelle Beauchene Gallery.

The new romanticism?

Tim Gardner, Nick and Holly, 2008,watercolor, 10 x 14 inches
Tim Gardner, Nick and Holly, 2008, watercolor, 10 x 14 ins

Tim Gardner’s painting exhibition on now at Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery affirms for me something I have been feeling for some time now. Could it be that  a new sincerity, indeed a new romantic movement is afoot?

Gardner’s small watercolor mountain vistas and light-drenched children’s playground reveal a sensitivity that seems to have been undervalued in recent trends. True, his more typical painting of a pal giving the finger to the photographer’s camera while resting at the summit of a hike, and a homeless man picking up trash, adds edge to the exhibition, but then the glow from birthday candles on his mother’s face bring one back to a warmth and empathy for his subjects.

With the new pragmatic “get things done” spirit in Washington, and the economic downturn forcing us all to look at what is truly important to us, I am wondering if this will encourage an opening up in the artworld to more heartfelt subjects. Perhaps Gardner is onto something.

Tim Gardner is represented by 303 Gallery in New York.

Painting: Work or play?

Chris Charlebois, Along the tracks II, 2008, oil on canvas
Chris Charlebois, Along the tracks II, 2008, oil on canvas

Vancouver painter Chris Charlebois wrote in with a response to Optimistic Pursuits’ recently posted  The Pleasures of Art by David Hockney. Below is his thoughtful reply:

Right now I have on order Search for the Real by Hans Hofmann. Don Jarvis studied under him and I had Don as an instructor at the old VSA (Vancouver School of Art, now Emily Carr University of Art and Design). In my own painting experience half the time it is a real battle and a fight, quite the opposite of play. But in all that I do it seems that there are these constant opposites that are present. Up-down, in-out, light-dark, straight-curved, push-pull, you get the idea. Push-pull was Hofmann’s famous quote. It is a real ying-yang kind of thing. And now there is another; work-play.

This little bit of teaching I do is rewarding as it causes me to think about what I am actually telling these people. On one occasion I suggested to someone to use a certain colour and ‘dance’ all over the canvas with it. I guess that playing is also what I meant by that. Another thought on the suggestion of ‘serious’ play is the comparison to sports where a person can get in the zone, you probably have been in that place in the middle of a painting session. So to me it is very interesting and a bit confusing to watch how these opposites can change, become heightened, then obscured and sometimes kind of meld into each other.

But thanks for prompting me to think a little.

happy painting,

chris

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 Painted Room

Detail of Dorosz's work
Chris Dorosz, detail Painted Room

‘The interior represents the universe for the private individual – his living room is a box in the theatre of the world.” – Walter Benjamin

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.

It’s never too late to create

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.

Philip Guston, 1972, Painting, Smoking, Eating. Oil on canvas 196.8 x 262.9 cm Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Philip Guston, 1972, Painting, Smoking, Eating. Oil on canvas 77 1/2 x 103 1/2 ins, Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam

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

Painting Today

Painters today can do anything they want–witness  the work of Gerhard Richter, Gillian Carnegie, and Thrush Holmes.We can choose any subject– the banal, the everyday, the ugly, or (gasp!) beautiful images that people might even want to put on their walls. In my painting practice, I aim to convey the pleasures of looking, and, without irony, I propose that optimism is a viable impetus for painting. Hence the name of this blog.

Gillian Carnegie
Gillian Carnegie