Articles Tagged ‘art’

SHOP TALK: ByWard Market gets a boost with the opening of two hip stores

This week, SHOP TALK welcomes guest blogger Ashleigh VanHouten. Ashleigh is a freelance writer and editor, as well as the force behind lifestyle magazine, milieu.
Drake General Store.

Drake General Store.

Beautiful, bustling, and full of eclectic local shops, the ByWard Market also has the reputations among locals as a bit of a tourist trap. We get it — it’s easy to ignore some of the more charming offerings in the area when you’re stuck behind the crowds at the Beaver Tails stand. But two new boutiques opened recently that will give visitors and locals alike a reason to revisit the area.

Canadiana items like this blanket are sold at Drake General Store.

Canadiana items like this blanket are sold at Drake General Store.

The Opening: Drake General Store
The first non-Toronto outpost of the uber-Canadian Drake General Store is located in the back of the main floor of Hudson’s Bay. It’s a big, beautiful space, chock-full of Canadiana finds from lifestyle brands like Arborist, Held In Common, and Malin & Goetz. The shop has that hipster-welcoming mix of high-end modern and rustic-chic design, and its offerings reflect the same tongue-in-cheek style: baconaise, maple-scented candles, and novelty mugs sit alongside luxury skincare and high-end sweatshirts. Tourists can pack bags full of Ottawa-themed t-shirts, gourmet Drake-branded granola, and toffees, while locals will find great gifts in handmade jewelry, coffee table books, and cocktail accoutrement.

The Backstory: The original Drake General Store opened in 2008 as a gift shop in Toronto’s hip Drake Hotel. Founders Joyce Lo and Carlo Colacci began collaborating with the Bay after selling the retailer their now-popular Caribou throws featuring the iconic Hudson Bay stripes, and the Ottawa shop is their second retail space in the Canadian department store (they’re also in the Bay’s Yonge Street location). 

Isabelle on Dalhousie sells

Isabelle on Dalhousie sells

The Opening: Isabelle
At 238 Dalhousie St., in the former Wunderkammer space, visual artist and all-around renaissance woman Isabelle Gauvreau has opened a luxury women’s boutique featuring classic, feminine clothing and jewellery from Italian designer Sarah Pacini and French clothing outfit Saint James. She’s making the most of the small, cozy space, opening it up for an almost gallery-like feel with clean white walls and black highlights. Isabelle is decorated with Gauvreau’s own paintings; the gorgeous, textural pieces made with ink, charcoal, and gold leaf often explore the female form.

The Backstory: Gauvreau is excited to be in the ByWard Market, saying it’s where she likes to spend off time with her family and that she enjoys the eclectic mix of visitors. She’s confident that Ottawa is a good market for her decidedly European sense of style: “People in Ottawa are very international. They’re well-travelled. I’m excited to introduce even more people to these quality designers.” A personal stylist as well as an artist, Gauvreau hopes to introduce more young women to higher-quality clothing, as well.

Gauvreau says customer response has been wonderful so far, and hints at more to come: a German clothing brand next spring and more jewellery, as well as special events like wine tastings, charity jewelry sales and art shows starting this fall.

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER: National Gallery show reveals how Gustave Doré’s 19th century illustrations haunt us still

By  PAUL GESSELL

Gustave Doré, Oceanids or Naiads of the Sea, c. 1878 Oil on canvas, 127 × 185.4 cm Lawrence B. Berenson

Gustave Doré, Oceanids or Naiads of the Sea, c. 1878
Oil on canvas, 127 × 185.4 cm
Lawrence B. Berenson

Gustave Doré is hardly a household name. But this 19th century French artist is the main attraction this summer at the National Gallery of Canada’s exhibit Gustave Doré (1832-1883): Master of Imagination. So, take a look. You will be pleasantly surprised to realize you have vague recollections of having seen his work before. Hundreds of times.

Doré was a prolific and talented illustrator. He produced illustrated copies of many great works of literature, including Don Quixote, The Bible, Dante’s Inferno, Paradise Lost, and many traditional fairy tales.

The images (or their spin-offs) he created for these books are still regularly seen today. Some of the mythical creatures in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy, Lord of the Rings, were lifted straight from Dore. Or the Puss-n-Boots-like character in the Shrek 2 movie? Dore did it first. Or remember Charlton Heston as Moses in the Hollywood blockbuster The Ten Commandments? The scene in which an angry Moses smashes the tablets with the commandments was inspired by Doré. On and on it goes. He is even given credit for inventing a relative of the beast we know as King Kong.

Gustave Doré, The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism, 1868 Oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm Art Gallery of Hamilton, Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, 2002 (2002.33.18)

Gustave Doré, The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism, 1868
Oil on canvas, 300 × 200 cm
Art Gallery of Hamilton, Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, 2002 (2002.33.18)

The 100 or so works in the National Gallery summer-long show include film clips allowing visitors to see the uncanny and repeated use of Doré-like images in popular culture throughout the 20th century and beyond. No other 19th century artist has had such a strong influence on pop culture today.

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WEEKENDER: Six things to do on the weekend of June 26-29

HIGHS (cred Jessica Deeks)

Toronto’s Highs play — for free! — on Friday, June 27 at Waller Park as part of Fringe Fests’ free concert series

 

A Live High … for FREE!
Jazzfest is in full swing, Bluesfest is coming, Arboretum, Folkfest, and others are waiting in the wings — all, though, will make you pay for that live high. Which is why it’s so refreshing to be able to enjoy a music concert series that’s free! Albeit Fringe Fest’s traditional focus has been theatre, and remains so, this year they’ve included performances by local and national bands at Waller Park. (Calling the little patch of grass next to Arts Court a ‘park’ is a stretch, but I digress.) On Thursday, June 26, enjoy the lovely Crissi Cochrane at 9 p.m. She marries her Nova Scotian roots with the Motown soul of Detroit (having grown up in Motor City’s shadow on the Windsor side). Expect a meld of Amy Winehouse/Billie Holiday with Canadian indie and American jazz and blues. Following Cochrane is Ottawa’s female folk trio, Three Little Birds, who perform at 10 p.m. On Friday, June 27 at 10 p.m. watch the spirited, Toronto four piece band, Highs, play songs from their stellar self-titled, indie-folk 2013 EP. On Saturday, June 28, Silkken Laumann perform their atmospheric-tinged dance/house/electro-punk — also at 10 p.m. ottawafringe.com.

Windsor’s Crissi Cochrane also plays — for free! — on Thursday, June 26 at Waller Park as part of Fringe Fests’ free concert series Photo: Kevin Kavanaugh

 

Edgy Gardens (FREE!)
If you’re strolling the grounds of the city’s Central Experimental Farm this weekend, or anytime this summer, don’t be surprised if you encounter a labyrinth, a mechanical spiral, and other art objects nestled (or sometimes very noticeably planted) in the surrounding gardens. These art installations are part of a summer-long exhibit called Beyond the Edge: Artists’ Gardens, which opens this Thursday, June 26 and runs until Sept. 27. The outdoor exhibition features works, scattered throughout the grounds’ 10 acres, by visual artists who use living plant material in their art, and which are intended to explore ideas about agriculture and horticulture, as well as to “engage our senses and imaginations” throughout the growing season. canadensisgarden.ca

Art Fakes FREE!
“What we professional liars hope to serve is truth. I’m afraid the pompous word for that is ‘art’ ” — Orson Welles. Notions of fake and real in art, but also in cinema and popular culture get examined in the context of F is For Fake, an exhibition currently showing at SAW Gallery. Curated by Jason St­–Laurent, the exhibit presents works that question authenticity, originality, legitimacy — even art that is an “outright forgery,” such as fakes and forgeries of works by Norval Morriseau, Picasso, and van Gogh. These “fakes” are intended as an investigation into the line between truth and fiction. In that vein, the exhibition borrows its title from the last film Welles made, F is For Fake, a 1974 movie that examines similar notions, and which is also being screened as part of the show — Thursday, June 26 at 8 p.m. The exhibition is on until August 16. galeriesawgallery.com

Community Cup (FREE!)
Caught that World Cup fever yet? Burning to actually play some football? Then head on down to Brewer Park (Old Ottawa South, just across from Carleton University) this Saturday, June 28 for the 10th annual Community Cup. Mostly, it’s a giant community football (soccer) tournament that gets underway at 8 a.m. and wraps up around 5 p.m. If you’re not on a team by now, get on one! Or volunteer. Or just enjoy the spectacle from the sidelines. Lots of non-football events throughout, including stuff for kids, food, music, and other sporting activities. Leave your hooliganism at home and come out for a day of live football sans world class, Ronaldo-style diving. communitycup.ca

Dance Your Pants Off
I would like to extend to you an invitation to the NO pants party — dresses, undies, underoos, panties, kits, leggings… just no pants please, according to organizers of the 7th annual No Pants Dance Party, which takes place on Saturday, June 28 at Babylon Nightclub. Apparently pants get in the way of fun —interpret that as you wish. The event features “dancing” by Rockalily Burlesque Dance Troupe, with Toronto’s Red Herring, and music by DJ Lowpass and NDMA. Tickets are $10 in advance and doors open at 10 p.m. There’ll be “sick” prizes for “bestest pantsless outfits” and, er, a bake sale — that’s not weird at all… Oh, and no genital nudity. babylonclub.ca

Shuck off (sort of FREE!)
Life sucks. Especially when you’re tossing back one oyster after another in a bivalve orgy of awesomeness. Bytowne Oysterfest 2014 takes place in the market on Sunday, June 29. Hosted by The Whalesbone, the annual celebration of oysters includes shucking contests, craft brewers, music (Julian Taylor Band), and fun for kids. More details as they come — check out thewhalesbone.com.

 

 

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER:  New Elgin Street gallery will put a smile on Stephen Harper’s face

BY PAUL GESSELL

The new gallery at is a bright, airy space.

Ajagemo, located at 150 Elgin St., is a bright, airy space that is also suitable for musical performances. Pictured are Eleanor Bond’s “IV converting  the Powell River Mill to a Recreation and Retirement Centre” (background) and Kim Adams’ 3-D tabletop miniature town called Artists’ Colony.

Stephen Harper likes the Canada Council for the Arts. Since first being elected in 2008, the Conservative government has always favoured the Canada Council over other agencies. While museums and other cultural organizations have tended to experience cuts, the Canada Council’s budget has generally grown although its current parliamentary appropriation, frozen in 2012 for three years, is $181.2 million. Still, a freeze is better than a reduction.

The prime minister has never really said why he likes the Canada Council. Maybe because the agency is efficient and puts most of its money into the hands of real artists rather than public servants.

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ARTFUL BLOGGER: Sex pots and other crafty delights at the Carleton University Art Gallery

BY PAUL GESSELL

Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Marc Courtemanche from the Outaouais community of L’Ange-Gardien is an artist, but also a magician, as revealed in the installation called The Studio he created for Carleton University Art Gallery.

The installation looks like a carpenter’s workshop. But it is really a magician’s workshop filled with life-sized objects. The difference is that the “wooden” chairs are actually ceramic. The same goes for the wheelbarrow in a corner. Likewise, the “wooden” handles on hammers and other tools neatly arranged on “wooden” boards nailed to the wall. Even the piles of “sawdust” on the floor are ceramic shavings.

The Studio is one of several artworks in the Carleton exhibition called Making Otherwise: Craft and Material Fluency in Contemporary Art. The six artists in the exhibition all produce work that hovers in that grey zone between “art” and “craft.” Most of the works assembled by Carleton curator Heather Anderson are daring and have a touch of whimsy.

 Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (detail, 2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.


Marc Courtemanche, The Studio (detail, 2008-ongoing), stoneware, porcelain, glaze, metal, rope. Photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy of the artist.

Works traditionally called craft are all about the material used. The term craft also implies that the object is functional, or at least is rooted in functionality. A porcelain vase is an example of craft. It may be beautiful but it still has a function — a purpose — in this case, to hold a bouquet of flowers.

An idea is the central focus of art, which should also have some transformative powers. Think of Tom Thomson’s painting Jack Pine. It has no purpose except to be art, in this case, a painting of a solitary tree in the wilderness that has been transformed into a symbol of Canadian fortitude in battling the elements.

Carleton’s Making Otherwise presents objects that could be labelled art or craft. Courtemanche has assembled a realistic looking carpenter’s studio. But he has transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary by fashioning the objects, not of wood, but of ceramic.

Vancouver artist Paul Mathieu has created very ordinarily shaped porcelain vases and bowls and, then in a twist, sent the china to China to be covered in erotic hand-painted scenes. (Isn’t everything outsourced to China these days?) Think of ancient Greek vases depicting erotic scenes but, in this case, the scenes on Mathieu’s vases are showing very contemporary people and situations. Mathieu, not surprisingly, is the author of the book Sex Pots: Eroticism in Ceramics.

Janet Morton of Guelph does amazing transformations with wool, surely a craft material if there ever was one. One Morton video in the show is of a man playing a tuba. But as he plays, the tuba is slowly being covered by wool being knitted by invisible hands. In reality, the man began playing a wool-covered tuba. A video was then produced in which a strand of wool was pulled to unravel the wool-covered instrument. By playing the video backwards, it appears the tuba is slowly being encased in wool. Yes, that’s art.

Other artworks in the show include very artful quilts produced by Richard Boulet of Edmonton, stunning embroidery by Sarah Maloney of Halifax and “baskets” woven to become human portraits by Ursula Johnson of Eskasoni, N.S.

Making Otherwise continues at Carleton University Art Gallery until Sept. 14.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER: “New” Museum of History “opens” with sinking exhibition

By PAUL GESSELL

What was once the Canadian Museum of Civilization has opened its first major exhibition since becoming the Canadian Museum of History and, if this is an indication of what will come in years ahead, one must surely shout “bravo” and “encore.”

IMG2012-0281-0009-Dm

Framed black and white poster commemorating the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, May 29, 1914.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart, 2012

The exhibition is called Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland. It opened on the 100th anniversary of Canada’s most tragic peacetime maritime disaster: The CPR ship, The Empress of Ireland, sank in the early hours of May 29, 1914 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence near Rimouski, Quebec. Of the 1,477 people aboard, 1,012 died, including 133 children.

IMG2012-0381-0001-Dm

Florence Barbour (Second class) , Travelling with her mother, Sabena, and her sister Evelyn. Fate: Florence Barbour: Survived. Sabena Barbour (mother): Perished.
Evelyn Barbour (sister): Perished.
© Canadian Museum of History, IMG2012-0381-0001, Philippe Beaudry Collection

 

 

The story of the ship and its sinking is told in an exhibition rich in artifacts, photos, first-person accounts, drama, sorrow, and just the right amount of informative text panels. It is such a rich experience — a great big multi-media window into our past, our history —that it will become the gold standard for future historical exhibitions at this federal institution.

The Empress of Ireland left Quebec City May 28, 1914 at 4:30 p.m., 90 minutes late, bound for Liverpool in England. It was the beginning of the ship’s 96th trans-Atlantic voyage. Since its first crossing in 1906, the Empress had brought 100,000 immigrants to Canada. That means wide swaths of Canadians today have a familial link to that doomed ship.

Fog Bell of the Empress of Ireland, the “piece de résistance” of the CMH collection.  ©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

Fog Bell of the Empress of Ireland, the “piece de résistance” of the CMH collection.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

 

Artifacts from the ship in the exhibition include many acquired in 2012 from a private collector and diver, Philippe Beaudry. They include the ship’s bell, fancy china, menus, various brass fittings, bathroom fixtures and mail being carried by the Empress. Audio recordings relay first-person accounts by survivors and by those who mourned them. Period photographs, newspaper stories, and other bric-a-brac from the era supplement the artifact collection.

Model of the Empress of Ireland; note the wire stretching between the masts fore and aft which allowed radio operators aboard the ship to communicate with other vessels and wireless stations. ©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

Model of the Empress of Ireland; note the wire stretching between the masts fore and aft which allowed radio operators aboard the ship to communicate with other vessels and wireless stations.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart

 

The passengers travelled in first, second, or third class. The first class passengers had luxurious suites with private bathrooms, their own dining room, music room, and library. They were served dinner at 7 p.m. Second class ate at 6 p.m. Third class had to wait, sometimes until 9 p.m.

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Selection of first and second-class dishware from the Empress of Ireland. Third class items were far less embellished.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

 

After dinner on the evening of May 28, a group of Salvation Army members en route to a convention in England gathered around a piano in the social hall next to the second-class dining room to sing songs. The less pious headed to the bar or smoking room. Two poker games continued until midnight in the first-class lounge.

At 12:50 a.m. on May 29, the ship encountered fog in the St. Lawrence and reduced speed. Less than an hour later, the Norwegian coal vessel the Storstad was spotted almost 10 kilometres away. The fog worsened and, at 1:55 a.m., the two ships collided. The exhibition provides a dramatic minute-by-minute account of the trajectory of both ships.

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Porthole of the Empress of Ireland, the damaged glass tells a story.
©CMH, photo Frank Wimart.

The Storstad tore into the starboard side of the Empress to a depth of 5.5 metres. The result was a gaping, 32.5-square-metre hole. The force of the impact killed several passengers instantly. Within 15 minutes, the Empress sank. An inquiry called soon after placed most of the blame on the Storstad.

Henry George Kendall  Captain  Fate: Survived  The Commission of Inquiry supported his version of events, blaming the captain of the Storstad for the catastrophe.  © Canadian Museum of History, IMG2013-0168-0139

Henry George Kendall , Captain. Fate: Survived. The Commission of Inquiry supported his version of events, blaming the captain of the Storstad for the catastrophe.
© Canadian Museum of History, IMG2013-0168-0139

 

The chances of survival for the Empress passengers depended upon where they were housed on the ship. The higher up, the better the chance. Thus, 41 per cent of those in the higher first-class rooms survived. Only 19 per cent in second and third class lived.

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Egildo Braga (Third class) , Travelling with his wife, Carolina, and their son, Rino. Fate: Egildo Braga: Survived. Carolina Braga: Survived. Rino Braga: Perished
© Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Courtesy of Ernesto R. Milani

The townsfolk of Rimouski turned out en masse to help the survivors, offering dry clothes, food, and shelter. The dead were piled in a commercial hanger at the wharf. Note of warning: the exhibition includes a horrific, enlarged photograph of the bodies in the hanger.

News headline on the sinking of the Empress from l’Action sociale, 29 May 1914, published on the day of the disaster.  ©CMH, photo Marie-Louise Deruaz.

News headline on the sinking of the Empress from l’Action sociale, 29 May 1914, published on the day of the disaster.
©CMH, photo Marie-Louise Deruaz.

The exhibition is a joint project with the Halifax-based Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Expect to see more cooperation between the retooled Gatineau museum and its provincial and regional counterparts across the country.

And no, the museum will not just be showcasing Canadian history, despite all the predictions from those opposed to the remake of the civilization museum. Next summer, the main exhibition will be The Greeks – From Agamemnon to Alexander the Great. It will include 500 treasures from Greek antiquity, including a bust that is the only known image of Alexander the Great created from life.

Canada’s Titanic – The Empress of Ireland continues at the Canadian Museum of History until April 6, 2015.

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Transformed Outaouais school

By PAUL GESSELL

Plate by Maureen Marcotte

Plate by Maureen Marcotte

Deer, coyotes, and wild turkeys all come sniffing around. Some nearby residents can be seen taking their goats for a walk. The ghosts of children past surely play on the rusting teeter-totters behind. The Gatineau River is just a hop, skip, and jump away.

We’re talking about the Farrellton Artists’ Space, a one-year-old co-op located in what once was St. Joseph’s Elementary School in whistle-stop Farrellton, a 10-minute drive north of Wakefield on Highway 105.

The red brick school closed about seven years ago and was largely unused. Then, last year, a group of artists in the Wakefield area approached the owner of the school, the Commission Scolaire des Portages-de-l’Outaouais, with an idea. The French-language school board was extremely supportive and agreed to allow the artists to transform former classrooms, labs, and offices into studios.

The rent is far cheaper than for equivalent space, if such space could be found, in Wakefield, Gatineau, or Ottawa. The creation of artists’ studios is definitely a smart re-purposing of a vacant building. But all is not perfect — the roof leaks. Nevertheless, the artists are thrilled with the space. Some even live close enough to walk to work every day.

Heart by Hannah Ranger

Heart by Hannah Ranger

In the daytime, the large, former classrooms-turned studios are filled with natural light. Compare that with, for example, Enriched Bread Artists in Ottawa, where members of the collective work out of small, dimly lit cubbyholes. And EBA does not have a waterfall in the backyard nor do wild animals visit it.

After a year of operations, the Farrellton artists are ready for the world to visit what is definitely the most bucolic art laboratory in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. Consequently, there is an open house Thursday, June 5, starting at 7 p.m. and again on Sunday, June 8, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Some of the area’s top artists are among the 21 currently renting space in the old school. They include the pottery duo of Maureen Marcotte and David McKenzie, fibre artists Hannah Ranger and Diane Lemire, and painters John Barkley, John Marok, and Stefan Thompson.

Some of the artists use their studios in old classrooms to hold art classes. Painter Nathalie Poirier holds regular life drawing classes, while Kathryn Drysdale is mainly pre-occupied with dyeing wool, but also uses her space to offer painting classes.

Many of the artists produce work in more than one medium and use the Farrellton studio for part of their art practice and a home studio for work in a different media. Marok, for example, just does goache paintings at Farrellton and oil paintings at home. Janice Moorhead paints at Farrellton and creates her glass artworks at home.

The co-op is hoping to turn one area into a darkroom for use by all of the tenants (and maybe outsiders in the future). A joint print-making facility is also on the drawing board. Maybe one day there will be an official art gallery.

Painting by John Marok

Painting by John Marok

Farrellton Artists’ Space is located at 42 Chemin Plunkett in Farrellton. Head north from Wakefield on Highway 105 and, just before the bridge across the Gatineau River at Farrellton, turn left onto Chemin Plunkett. Drive past St. Camillus Church and the concrete block parish hall and pull into the parking lot in front of the former school. Visit here for more info.

 

ARTFUL BLOGGER: Paula Murray’s ceramic installation offers enlightenment

By PAUL GESSELL

Sanctuary

Paula Murray’s “Sanctuary,” ceramic scrolls. This work is part of Connections, an exhibit of her work at Centre d’exposition Art-Image in Gatineau — until July 19

Enter the Gatineau gallery, Centre d’exposition Art-Image, and immediately you feel like you are inside some zen-like holy of holies. All is serene in this meditative environment. Loops of 95 suspended handmade ceramic scrolls, resembling a bamboo swinging bridge, lead your eyes from the floor, across the room, and upwards toward the far side of the gallery, where a raised sun-like circle adorned with hundreds of tiny bent ceramic strips is the prize for those seeking enlightenment. All the objects gleam in a monochromatic, slightly off-white colour. They simultaneously look fragile and enduring. The fire-hardened scrolls are covered in hairline fissures that look like some ancient hieroglyphs. On a nearby wall, more scrolls, representing trees, stand upright on a shelf. On the other side of the room is an exquisite bowl, seamed with hairline cracks, and serving as a symbol of the repository of human knowledge.

This unusual ceramic installation is called Connection and it is the creation of Paula Murray, one of the region’s leading ceramic artists. Murray is known for expanding the repertoire of ceramic art and, with Connection, has taken several giant steps forward. It is her first major installation and she hopes it won’t be the last.

In Connection, Murray sees the bridge as “an invitation to cross over from the individual to the universal, the opportunity to connect with the unknown, or a new way of thinking,” says gallery director Marie-Helene Giguere.

There is an intense spiritual quality to Connection. Murray, a Baha’i, says spirituality infuses much of her work. “I am interested in all the diverse ways of knowing and how cultures acquire the knowledge that serves to advance their unfolding civilizations,” Murray says in an artist statement. “Four thousand years ago, the Mesopotamians recorded their truths on clay tables that, once fired, could not be altered. Spiritual texts such as those recorded on the Dead Sea Scrolls have shaped society throughout time.”

“As an artist, I see that immersing ourselves in nature inspires us to follow our intuition, our gut feelings. This installation offers a poetic metaphor for the continued search for meaning, for deeper understanding of each other and ourselves, how all existence is ultimately connected, creating a bridge from the individual to the universal. Every porcelain scroll I make writes its own story, with its own language mysteriously appearing, inviting us to grasp its meaning.”

Connection continues at Centre d’exposition Art-Image, 855 Boulevard de la Gappe, Gatineau, until July 19. Visit here for more info.

Paula Murray's "Peace Studies," porcelain on aluminum.

Paula Murray’s “Peace Studies,” porcelain on aluminum.

ARTFUL BLOGGER: ROAD TRIP — Experience Terror and Beauty at Toronto’s AGO

By PAUL GESSELL

Henry Moore Group of Shelterers during an Air Raid 1941 mixed media on wove paper 38.3 x 55.5 cm Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto © The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013) www.henry-moore.org

Henry Moore
Group of Shelterers during an Air Raid
1941 mixed media on wove paper 38.3 x 55.5 cm Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto © The Henry Moore Foundation. All Rights Reserved, DACS / SODRAC (2013) www.henry-moore.org

A provocative quotation greets visitors to the exhibition Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty at the AGO in Toronto. The words are from Bacon: “If you can talk about it, why paint it?”

That sentiment helps explain the work of Bacon, the British painter who became one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Bacon had no interest in pure representation of a person. He wanted to create images of people that captured the psyche of that person and the sometimes inexplicable, often violent, forces that shape personalities. These were forces best painted and not discussed.

The exhibition at the AGO is the first major show of Bacon’s work in Canada, although the National Gallery of Canada staged a mini-Bacon teaser in 2004. Diana Nemiroff, curator of modern art at the time, had plans then for a much bigger show. Alas, she left that job to become director of the Carleton University Art Gallery before the Bacon extravaganza could be organized. Lovers of Bacon — and Moore — will have to satisfy themselves with the Toronto show.

And it is a satisfying show of 130 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and photographs. The exhibition was curated for the AGO by Dan Adler, associate professor of art history at York University.

Bill Brandt Henry Moore in his Studio at Much Hadham, Hertfordshire 1940 Gelatin Silver Print 22.8 x 19.6 cm © The Bill Brandt Archive, London / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York / Zürich

Bill Brandt
Henry Moore in his Studio at Much Hadham, Hertfordshire 1940 Gelatin Silver Print
22.8 x 19.6 cm © The Bill Brandt Archive, London / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York / Zürich

The pairing of sculptor Moore and painter Bacon was brilliant. The two artists were contemporaries working in London. The brutality of the Second World War helped shape them both. Indeed, many of Moore’s sculptures are like 3-D versions of Bacon paintings, although horror is much more present in the work of Bacon.

Bill Brandt Francis Bacon N.D. Gelatin Silver Print 20.9 x 18.7 cm © The Bill Brandt Archive, London / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York / Zürich

Bill Brandt
Francis Bacon
N.D. Gelatin Silver Print 20.9 x 18.7 cm © The Bill Brandt Archive, London / Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York / Zürich

The AGO has a huge collection of Moore sculptors on permanent display. That is not the case with Bacon; many of his paintings have not been shown before in Toronto or anywhere in Canada.

Both artists spent much of their careers showing how terror and horror affect people. In Moore’s case, that resulted in Picasso-esque sculptures of distorted bodies. Bacon’s work depicts bodies melting before your eyes. You can almost hear screams coming from the works of both Bacon and Moore.

“The scream,” Bacon once said, “is the most direct symbol of the human condition.”

Among the Bacon paintings in the show is Triptych from 1987. This threesome presents the sorrows and horrors of mankind as witnessed in the bullring. The image on the far right depicts a bull, with horns dripping blood from some matador. The paintings in the centre and the left show human mutilated body parts.

Francis Bacon Second Version of Triptych 1944 1988 Oil and alkyds on canvas Each panel 198 x 147.5 cm (each panel) Tate Modern, London © Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

Francis Bacon
Second Version of Triptych 1944
1988 Oil and alkyds on canvas Each panel 198 x 147.5 cm (each panel) Tate Modern, London © Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

The show also includes some of Bacon’s famous screaming pope series and a few tamer paintings, such as Seated Figure, 1962, showing his lover Peter Lacy. Lacy’s body appears to be tormented, yet his face looks serene. For the masochistic Bacon, love and violence were compatible and very much part of every day life.

Francis Bacon Study for Portrait VI 1953 Oil on canvas 152 x 117 cm The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Miscellaneous Works of Art Purchase Fund © Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

Francis Bacon
Study for Portrait VI
1953 Oil on canvas 152 x 117 cm The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Miscellaneous Works of Art Purchase Fund
© Estate of Francis Bacon / SODRAC (2013)

“My painting is not violent, it’s life itself that is violent” he once proclaimed.

Francis Bacon and Henry Moore: Terror and Beauty continues at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto until July 20. For info: www.ago.net.

ARTFUL BLOGGER: The magical art of Canadian superstar Ed Pien lands at the Shenkman Arts Centre

By PAUL GESSELL

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Ed Pien — his exhibition, Compelled, continues at the Ottawa School of Art, Orleans campus, in the Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd., until June 1.

To understand the exhibition of Toronto artist Ed Pien at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans, travel back in time to 2004.

Pien was visiting China. He saw many decorative, wall-mounted paper-cuts in which scenes and narratives were created by cutting shapes into unfurled paper. Pien was unimpressed with the paper-cuts, seeing them more as craft than art, until he walked into a temple — he is not sure what the religion was — and saw a perfectly symmetrical paper-cut of a tree filled with birds. At the top of the tree was the mask-like face of a mythological benevolent demon. At the base of the tree were two male figures involved in some mysterious ritual. Pien still carries that image around in his laptop.

The temple paper-cut was magical, says Pien. He was inspired to do his own paper-cuts. And then he discovered an image of a 17th century print by French artist Jacques Callot called The Hanging, a horrific scene of dozens of men dangling from a giant tree, which was used as a gallows to execute war criminals. Pien decided to create paper-cuts that would reference Callot’s masterpiece but in a more joyful way.

The result has been a decade of paper-cuts by Pien that have made him one of Canada’s contemporary art stars at home and abroad. Solo shows by Pien in the Ottawa area are rare — his last being more than a decade ago at Gallery 101, just as his career began to take off. So, kudos to the Orleans campus of the Ottawa School of Art for bringing Pien to the school’s gallery at the Shenkman Arts Centre for the exhibition and a workshop.

His exhibition is called Compelled. There are some small paper-cuts and some almost billboard-sized, mainly showing silhouetted male figures cavorting in treetops. The scenes make one think of mysterious Victorian-era fairy tales. Magic is definitely in the air. But so is some unnamed dark tension. Pien’s goal with the paper-cuts is to create “an emotional state” for the viewer rather than a particular narrative. Once under the influence of the scene, viewers can then create their own narratives.

"The Platinum Sea" by Ed Pien

“The Platinum Sea” by Ed Pien

A different type of magic resides in Pien’s drawings — both large and small — in Compelled. The large drawings reveal complicated, chaotic scenes of semi-human, demonic figures inspired by Chinese folk tales and Japanese manga figures. Amid the chaos in the large drawings are complicated narratives involving humans, animals, and ghostly figures. These narratives can be difficult to detect. So view all details carefully to unravel the story. The smaller drawings are like portraits of these demonic figures.

"A Game With Puppets" by Ed Pien

“A Game With Puppets” by Ed Pien

Ed Pien’s exhibition Compelled continues at the Ottawa School of Art, Orleans campus, in the Shenkman Arts Centre, 245 Centrum Blvd., until June 1. For info: www.artottawa.ca.