Monthly Archives: December 2017

En-tangled

The Art Caravan briefly visited the Vancouver Art Gallery a couple of weeks ago, and was pleasantly surprised by the exhibition Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting.

People are People, Sarah Cale, 2013

People are People, Sarah Cale, 2013

Twin of Concealment, 2016, Colleen Heslin

Twin of Concealment, 2016, Colleen Heslin

Polarisation NNB, 2013, Julie Trudel

Polarisation NNB, 2013, Julie Trudel

N=32%, 2006, Francine Savard

N=32%, 2006, Francine Savard

I walked into the various rooms of the show, experiencing the artworks without reading the curatorial statement, or the explanations….somewhat unusual for me. Instead I moved through the show twice, discussed some of the pieces with my companion, and took a few photos of the works I found particularly intriguing and satisfying.  Only while preparing this posting,  did I read the VAG’s brief description:

Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting offers an insight into two distinctly different modes of painting that have come to dominate contemporary painting in this country. The origins of both can be effectively traced back to the 1970s, to a moment when the continued existence of painting was hotly debated. Within that debate two new strategies were devised, one that proposed the possibility of conceptual painting—a highly refined notion of painting that emerged from and returned to the idea—and a second, ambivalent proposition that valued actions and materials over ideas—in short, doing and making were pitted against ideas and concepts.

So:  the conceptual as opposed to the material.  When I look at the paintings I photographed, I realize I had unconsciously gravitated towards the second proposition:  the materials and the making were more interesting to me than the conceptual works.  I suspect it may have something to do with the tactile, textural works being more easily understood and appreciated.

For example, Colleen Heslin‘s work is composed of canvas, dyed by the artist, and pieced together–referencing collage, fiber arts, quilting, and even tie-dyeing from the 70’s.

Pause, 2016, Colleen Heslin

Pause, 2016, Colleen Heslin

Painting fragments, adhered acrylic and oil make up Sarah Cale‘s pieces.  They, too, have a collage feeling, reminiscent of the groundbreaking work of Picasso and Braque at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Strange to be Yourself, Sarah Cale, 2015

Strange to be Yourself, Sarah Cale, 2015

Strange to be Yourself; People are People, Sarah Cale

Strange to be Yourself; People are People, Sarah Cale

Perhaps Francine Savard‘s pieces combine both the conceptual and the material.  Les Couleurs de Cézanne dans les mots de Rilke reference the poet Rilke’s writings about the Impressionist painter, Cézanne, who was, in turn, extremely interested in the poet, Baudelaire. The ‘painting’ is composed of  vinyl and acrylic paint on canvas, mounted on fibreboard, and includes a framed book.

Les Couleurs de CEZANNE dans les mots de RILKE, Francine Savard

Les Couleurs de CEZANNE dans les mots de RILKE, Francine Savard

Les Couleurs de CEZANNE dans les mots de RILKE (detail), Francine Savard

Les Couleurs de CEZANNE dans les mots de RILKE (detail), Francine Savard

There are 31 Canadian painters in this show…..and I was only familiar with one of them.  It’s exciting to learn about contemporary Canadian painting. I encourage you to visit the VAG soon, if possible.  The show ends January 1, 2018.

 

 

Advertisements

Ruth Asawa…..finally!

I’ve been fortunate to encounter Ruth Asawa’s work several times over the last few years.  I enjoy it–a lot!–but have never written about her.  The visit to the de Young Museum in San Francisco provided the decisive impetus. I knew she was American, but I didn’t realize she was born in California.  She lived and worked in San Francisco for much of her life.

The de Young has a small, odd space devoted to her works.  (The Art Caravan feels her works deserve better than the concrete area surrounding the elevators and stairs, well off the beaten path, but it is an interesting experience to see several of them displayed together.)

Ruth Asawa (T. Vatrt image)

Ruth Asawa (T. Vatrt image)

Ruth Asawa (T. Vatrt image)

Ruth Asawa (T. Vatrt image)

Ruth Asawa is probably best known for her sculptural wire hangings, but her œuvre is extensive.  She died in 2013, and her family/estate maintain an informative website.  I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that she studied at Black Mountain College with Joseph and Anni Albers, Merce Cunningham and Buckminster Fuller.  I was sad to learn that she was interred during World War II and delighted to read she was good friends with Imogen Cunningham, who left gorgeous photographic images of Asawa.

Ruth Asawa Working on her Wire Sculpture (Imogen Cunningham image)

Ruth Asawa Working on her Wire Sculpture (Imogen Cunningham image)

Ruth Asawa (Imogen Cunningham image)

Ruth Asawa (Imogen Cunningham image)

Best of all, perhaps, was learning about her arts activism, particularly in the area of public arts education.   Not only did she co-found the Alvarado School Arts Workshop (an innovative ‘artists and gardeners in the public schools’ program) in 1968, but she also helped establish a public arts high school, now known as the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.

Her philosophy and pedagogy may appear simple, but it is sound:

A child can learn something about color, about design, and about observing objects in nature. If you do that, you grow into a greater awareness of things around you. Art will make people better, more highly skilled in thinking and improving whatever business one goes into, or whatever occupation. It makes a person broader.

I think that I’m primarily interested in making it possible for people to become as independent and self-sufficient as possible. That has nothing really to do with art, except that through the arts you can learn many, many skills that you cannot learn through books and problem-solving in the abstract.

Ruth Asawa’s legacy is impressive.  Imagine how many people she has influenced, both through her arts education initiatives, and her large body of work.