An Investigation of Colour: Esker Foundation

I can go for weeks, wanting to write about something and never get to it because it was either too beautiful or too overwhelming or too devastating to actually get the words out…at least on a blog post.  I’ve got more drafts than I do posts, sitting waiting for publication.  Some of these include a huge post about last summer’s Folk Festival and one titled ‘The Gaze’, something about keeping my eyes on the face of Jesus.  When I consider posting, I also think that my honesty will not be appreciated, so I hold back.  While some days it feels like I have no readers…that I don’t have an audience…I DO think that I have a responsibility to what I write because it is flowing out into the internet world…and I don’t want to post junk.

Back to the point.  I’ve visited the recent exhibit at the Esker Foundation six times now and I am so in love with it that I find it hard to write about.  This morning, I thought that I’d make an effort.

To begin with, I attended the opening of the ‘Winter Exhibitions’. The openings at the Esker are sometimes unbelievably populated.  This one surpassed that description in every regard.  Jim Hill greeted us, at the beginning of the line, out on the street and quietly said, “You might want to come over tomorrow when it’s more quiet” and I responded with, I’ll be attending tomorrow also.  So I began my slow weave up the stairwell, conversing with friendly people both ahead of me, and behind me.  It moved seamlessly and was a real pleasure.   Stepping into the space, it was easy to become anonymous in the crowd.  While I did share some words with a few of the friends that I bump into at such events, I made the effort to disappear into the art and I did.  The works by Jack Bush and Colleen Heslin sing off of the walls!  This is a show that impresses, with its colour relationships, its monumental presence and its juxtaposition.  I’m so in love with the art!

That night, I had this huge feeling rush over me that Jack Bush was observing the crowd and all of the conversations…that he was a voyeur, of sorts, watching from the seat of his own work.  I had a sense that he was entertained by the spectacle of all of it.  But, truly, I felt his presence to this opening. (readers roll eyes here)

So, what were we looking at?  Jack Bush: In Studio…from the Esker Foundation website…

January 23 – May 8, 2016

In the most classic sense, the word studio is defined as “room for study.” This exhibition was conceived as an opportunity to gather 20 select paintings in a new space with the aim to spark study – in the form of looking and conversation.

Five works on show have never before been exhibited in Canada. Fifteen of the paintings were made in the artist’s small one-room studio in his family home at 1 Eastview Crescent in North Toronto, while the remaining five were produced in his downtown Toronto Wolseley Street studio, where he would execute most of his very large paintings from 1968 until his death in January 1977.

and…Colleen Heslin: Needles and Pins

January 23 – May 8, 2016

Colleen Heslin’s paintings resonate with the tension of material and gestural complexity. Successfully fusing thought and action, the work dismantles material hierarchy by providing equal space to art and craft. Considering formal abstraction and craft-based methods of mark making, Heslin’s work thoroughly explores colour, shape, and texture. Constructed out of hand-dyed and ink-stained fabric, the work acknowledges histories of photography and textiles, and finds connections with the Colour Field painters of the 1960s and 1970s.

I met Alex Cameron while on a horse-packing trip up Blue Rock, with 9 other artists.  I forget what led to my good fortune, but I think my friend, Laurel Cormack, had to cancel and she called me up to fill her spot on a horse.  Bob Blair, a huge supporter of the visual arts in the city, was funding the adventure, with the understanding that we would provide a painting, in the end, for his collection.  I remember sharing the journey with some wonderful people, among them Alex Cameron, Brenda Driscoll, David Alexander, Tania Laniel and Ken Christopher.  Generously, Virginia Christopher offered up her gallery for our post journey exhibit and meeting with Bob Blair.

Blue Rock 2 Blue Rock 1

Blue Rock 3

Blue Rock

It was on this journey, and around a magical campfire, one of many, that we shared stories with one another about art and life.  Ken brought out the guitar and we sang songs.  We put on skits.  We drank Johnny Walker in our tin cups.  It was during one of these night time conversations that Alex Cameron told us the stories of working for Jack Bush in his studio.  I felt that I was a witness to something pretty special where each artist was concerned.  That journey was life changing and as a result, I painted an exhibit of oil paintings titled Kindred Spirits.

It was very emotional to walk up to one of the exhibit walls and to read the words of introduction by Curator, Sarah Stanners, Ph.D. Director, Curatorial & Collections McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

There…in description of Jack Bush: In Studio…were these words.

Kath's Canon, February 22, 2016 Jack Bush and Franks 002

Kath's Canon, February 22, 2016 Jack Bush and Franks 003

Kath's Canon, February 22, 2016 Jack Bush and Franks 004

It was a life-circle moment.

The next day, I was out to Dr. Sara Stanner’s tour of the exhibit, where she shared so much knowledge about the artist, his studio practice and his relationships.  We heard about influences and friendships…about Clement Greenberg, Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland and also Anthony Caro.  It was a very rich session and I made certain to fill my little notebook with details about each piece, things that I am considering and understanding more as I continue to journey through an exploration of ‘Colour Field’ painting.

This past weekend, I attended, first, an artist talk about Understanding Light and Energy, given by Jesse Stilwell.

Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 018

He has, on exhibit, an installation in the main floor Project Space. I suggest that my readers take opportunity to visit this piece, both in day light and at night, as it has very interesting light interplay and energy.  It was delightful to hear Jesse’s honest portrayal of his process and absolutely fascinating to hear, in part, knowledge about eye and brain in perceiving colour.  As I left the session, I met friend, Michelena, and gave her a big hug.  And through her, met a long time friend, Jocelyn, who as it turned out, would be attending the Saturday workshop with me.  Together, the three of us took a little bit of time to peruse Colleen Heslin’s work and talk about it.

The next day, I was able to practice, through specific guidelines, exploration in Simultaneous Contrast and colour interaction.  Thanks to both the Esker staff and Jesse Stilwell, for an excellent experience.  I treasure and support the idea that programs be included in the experience of gallery spaces.  I think that working with concepts is fundamental and crucial to integrating artistic concepts.  Esker programming rocks!

Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 022 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 023 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 027 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 028 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 029 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 030 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 031 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 032 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 033 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 035 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 036 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 039 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 040 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 041 Kath's Canon February 21, 2016 Jesse Stilwell Sparrows Franks 042

Jocelyn and I sat and played the afternoon away and colour began to explode through the space.  Solid direction was given and materials were provided.  I became a little more intense than I would typically be while painting, but I was definitely journeying into an area where I had little or no experience.  When I pulled myself out of my paint fog and Jocelyn and I were able to exchange contact information, I learned that she had been born 12 years before her sister.  I shared that I had also been born 12 years before my sister.  In the end, it turns out that my sister and Jocelyn’s sister are good friends, and living in Ottawa.  The serendipity made perfect sense, given the magic of colour and the sharing of our personal narratives.  It was a magical afternoon!

Jocelyn's Photo workshop with Jessie Stilwell

 

A photograph of Jocelyn, Caterina and me, upon completion of our afternoon workshop.  A wonderful afternoon!  Thank you, Esker.

 

Morning Sketch #2: Rien Poortvliet

I woke up later than is usual, but managed to get a sketch done before my dog walk.  Mr. & Mrs. were captured, in awe, by the sheer size of the elephants making their entry onto the ark.

A couple of things I learned today…I’m working in acrylic, while Poortvliet worked in watercolour.  I’m not getting the same sort of action from the paints so only began to dilute them more as I worked today.  I use a flat brush while Poortvliet, as evidenced in his interview, used a variety of brushes, mostly round.  I’ll have to get me some.  I DO sometimes find that my marks are a tad redundant but just love a flat brush for its versatility….saves from a lot of picking up and setting down.  Another thing I learned was that I haven’t used much dry brush in my practice.  I think to imitate this style more accurately, I need to pick up that technique.

I missed the inward lean of the figures…and their proportion is off…Mrs. Noah’s face is missing the expression of fear that is captured in the original and that darned hand in front of her mouth is problematic.  I looked ahead in the book and tomorrow’s image is a monochrome piece…the ark afloat in the rain on a vast sea of water.

What was Noah’s wife’s name?

“There do not seem to be any passages in the Bible referring to Noah’s wife other than the account beginning in Genesis 7:7. It does not give her name, however, according to Jewish tradition her name is Naamah – the sister of Tubal-cain, a descendant of Cain, the son of Adam and Eve (see Genesis 4:22). Why Tubal-cain’s sister (a daughter of Lamech by his wife Zillah) should be specifically mentioned is unknown. Jewish tradition made her Noah’s wife. Her name, meaning “the beautiful” or “the pleasant one,” reflects the worldly mind of the Cainites, who looked for beauty rather than for character as the chief attraction in women.”

P1120611 P1120612