Art to Adore

I was fortunate to attend the National Gallery of Canada while the recipients of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2016, were on exhibit.  When I attend such a large collection as is available at our national gallery, it is typical that I feel particularly drawn to some work.  Sometimes, it is because I have followed particular artists over my years…sometimes, it is because the work is new to me, but visually, very exciting.

One woman’s work that has been of great interest to me all of these years is that of Jane Kidd.  She is original and a technical-sensory genius when it comes to tapestry.  I’ve picked up brochures about the artist, read what I could and viewed a few excellent short films about her process.  Her work, for me, is always organic and, typically, elements of nature are embedded.  I relate with this work.  I was so excited to see that she was acknowledged so beautifully in the gallery this past summer.

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Edward Burtynsky’s photographs have been represented very well in Calgary.  I’ve had the opportunity to connect with them in the Glenbow Art Gallery and in several exhibits that feature the best of Canada.  My own interest in environment and the exposure of the human mark on the landscape has always drawn me to Burtynsky’s work.  While I am involved in the rather sad practice of picking other people’s litter from the ground of a single pond ecosystem, Edward Burtynsky uses his images to speak to the collective about the impact of their choices.  His works have a lot to do with consumption and my favourite documentary has to be Manufactured Landscapes.

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Wanda Koop’s work, in its minimalist sense, always feels fresh and eloquent.  I’ve been blessed to have great space on her canvases in several instances.  I’ve always left feeling very blessed by  time spent standing in front of her work. This opportunity was no different. Her painting speaks about the collective conscience.  Many paintings, for me, talk about the consumption of land.  They are atmospheric in their nature.

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Bill Vazan was new to me.  This piece was a very potent image and I simply had to engage it and feel awed by it.  By connecting with it, I became fully aware that there was, inherent to the piece, depth of thought and energy and travel. The culminating piece is complex and intriguing.

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Some years ago, I read Verna Reid’s book, Women Between: Contruction of Self in The Work of Sharon Butala, Aganetha Dyck, Mary Meigs and Mary Pratt.

In Women Between, Verna Reid explores the evolving perceptions of “self” in the work of four Canadian women – visual artists Aganetha Dyck and Mary Pratt, and writers Sharon Butala and Mary Meigs. All four came into prominence in middle age, doing their most significant work in their mature years. They, along with the author, are members of a transitional generation of women, occupying the space between the traditional world of their mothers and the postmodern world of their daughters. The multiple roles they have played are reflected in the strong autobiographical content present in their work. Applying feminist and autobiographical theory, Reid considers the work of Butala, Dyck, Meigs, and Pratt in light of the influences that have shaped their senses of identity. As a contemporary of her subjects, Reid infuses her interviews with the four women with sensitivity and immediacy, lending a unique perspective to the exploration of their lives and work.

Sharon Butala’s writing is some of my favourite writing.  And, I’ve enjoyed reading about Mary Pratt and her practice as I tried to find my own way, making art and raising a family at the same time.  But, what really intrigued me was, discovering through this book and a single lecture at ACAD, the interesting practice of Aganetha Dyck.  To encounter her work at the National Gallery of Canada, gave me chills.  A wonderful moment for me!  What a joy to share this viewing with two of my nieces.

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Beyond Canada…other pieces were in the gallery, to adore.  A progression of work in the exhibit, A Solitary Mexican Modernist: artist, Rufino Tamayo‘s (1899-1981) exotic use of colour mirrors, I think, the climate and texture of Mexico.  I really enjoyed this work and liked the experience of seeing how, over years, the work progressed.  This exhibit marks 25 years since the artist’s death.  It was an honour to see this and in some ways, a visual relief at that point.

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I enjoyed interacting with the dynamics of the Ai Weiwei’s tree.

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There are so many fabulous documentaries and things written about Ai Weiwei’s practice and the intolerance he has endured as an artist, a person, and a mind.  I was blown away that I had the opportunity to celebrate a piece of his work in our national gallery.  I recommend my reader’s further investigation.

Perhaps one of the most potent sculptures that I encountered was this one, by Brian Jungen.  Strong social commentary, Brian Jungen’s found object sculpture do not fail to impact.  Lots to read about Brian on line.  Enjoy.

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If you have the chance to get out to the ‘big’ galleries…you will never be disappointed.  Canada…a prosperous and blessed Nation!  We need to celebrate our opportunities as artists and as citizens.  Never take the arts for granted!

 

 

Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

How wonderful to share an exhibit of works created by notable female artist, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842), with my two young nieces, Eliane and Ainslie.  The National Gallery of Canada produces the most exquisite spaces that showcase exhibits, with perfection.  A contrast to the Chris Cran show, this exhibit immediately captured the sensibility of the period.  We were enveloped in a warm and ornate environment.  I felt hugged by the space.

img_1008The first images posted are the sculpted terra-cota bust of Vigée Le Brun – 1783 sculpted by Augustin Pajou (1730-1809).  The piece is visiting from the Musee du Louvre. The artist, Augustin Pajou, enjoyed a long and continuing success as a portraitist spanning the Enlightenment, the French Revolution and the Empire. He was Louis XVI’s official portraitist and he completed many psychologically penetrating portrait busts of some of the greatest and most interesting figures of his age.

img_1007While I thought I would pass by the written captions that were placed within proximity of each piece, they were so absolutely interesting and well-written, that  I became pulled into the history of this brave and prolific woman’s journey.  I was in awe of the technical aspects of her work and so amazed by her determination within the context of historical events of the time.  I was proud of my young nieces for their shared admiration.  We shared in some very ‘smart’ conversations.

I won’t approach this post like an art history article, but I do encourage my readers to explore this artist’s story. A revolutionary figure, literally! I was reminded of the strength of women when I toured this exhibit.  I was also overcome by the detail and expertise evidenced in the works, themselves.  At a point, it was impossible to separate the paintings from the relationship of the artist with Marie Antoinette and to say to myself, “Wow, this artist was in intimate contact with and documented the life of this historical figure.”  The works transported me, the observer, into a different time.

Initially, I was a bit snap-happy, but then became absorbed and overcome by the shear numbers of paintings of royalty…I also had my ‘hand slapped’ by a security guard once he noticed I had taken a photo of a painting that had not been exhibited since 1982.  He was gentle with me, however, and explained that a no photos icon was posted at the base of the caption…subtle, but worthy of noticing.  There was one woman carefully documenting each painting multiple times and I was somehow irritated by that.  The gallery was well-attended, given that it was the long weekend and the exhibit will have its close tomorrow, on September 11.

As Ainslie, Eliane and I approached the final two rooms, we stood and stared at one another…I said…”Are we cooked?” and we all agreed we were on Art OVERLOAD at this point.  Some of you will understand what I’m saying.  I remember this feeling in the Musee d’Orsay, the Louvre, the Uffizi, the National Gallery of London, the Tate Modern and even in the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art. I do want to note here, however, that of the great art museums of the world, I am very proud of our National Gallery.  This exhibit was stunning.  I feel grateful.

img_1009 img_1010 img_1011 img_1012 img_1013 img_1014 img_1015 img_1016 img_1017 img_1018 img_1019If you are reading this and living in Ottawa, sip your last bit of coffee, pack up your newspaper and off you go!  Thank you to those involved with sharing this exhibit.