“A colony of things” – B.C. artist James Mulchinock on driftwood and baseball marks

photo 4James Mulchinock, you gather, arrange and transform easily accessible objects—or their residue—such as driftwood, coat hangers, baseball marks. Have you turned your childhood passion for collecting into an integral part of your art practice?

James: I think most artists become collectors through necessity. Depending on your approach and medium, you need collectible stuff as the raw material for both ideas and even as material for the work.

Have you entered the hoarding zone yet?

James: No, but give me time and space. Having a childhood passion for collecting helps, especially when faced with the choice between keeping or ignoring interesting stuff one encounters in day-to-day travels. I’m inclined to keep. It may take years before I use it, but that day always seems to arrive.

You told me that you always have a clear concept of what you want to achieve before starting a piece of art. What is the story behind the two large driftwood pieces in “A colony of things”?

James: The two large pieces in Colony of Things using drift sticks started as both concept and process. Years ago, I did a quick study sculpture using drift sticks. At the same time, I was painting more and more on raised wood cradle canvasses, so I thought a lot about painting above the actual traditional painting canvas. Is it possible for me to paint on a non-canvas (surface of beach stick ends) surface a couple inches out from a wall? That’s the idea. But it sat, like a lot of ideas, for a few years. Finally, the itch to create from that one concept was too much to ignore any longer.

James Mulchinock, for the last month these 2 large wall stick sculptures caught my eye every time I was passing by them in our gallery XChanges. First as close-up, unique items with their own beauty and second as part of a group or colony of hundreds of individuals. The sticks’ individuality is disguised when incorporated into the larger mass. In fact, the viewer is hard pressed to identify this mysterious mass as originating from the beach.

James: The large wall stick sculptures are part of a series about the transformation of hundreds of natural wood beach drift sticks into a state of duality. The original organic character of these beach sticks is transformed from an item of utilitarian function into a relief surface of uncertain scale, texture and colour.

photo 1Does that mean your exhibition A Colony of Things is about the dual behaviour of individual marks and objects?

James: Indeed. This larger mass hides the individuality of its members by the sheer volume (300-2000) of collected items or marks.

Your exhibition also contains several paintings (for lack of better word) with a reference to baseball. I am not a baseball fan at all, but these pieces of art keep fascinating me. Tell us more about the concept behind them and why your back hurt so much working on them, you could not get out of bed for a day or two?

James: The baseball drawings, Painting the Corners, came about after several seasons traveling with my son’s elite baseball team to the various baseball parks across British Columbia. When you have hours to kill waiting for the team to complete pre-game warm-up, you notice things: weathered structures around the ball field, marks of baseballs left on dugout walls, cleat spike marks on dirt, grass, and wood. Baseball is not kind to baseball diamonds. However, for an artist, the marks left behind tell a story of the game itself: dreams, emotions, repetitive skill development, it’s all there in what’s left behind.

Making the drawings was a simple trial and error process of what works to capture that erosive quality about the game. I settled on coating baseballs with compressed charcoal and dropping them on pristine drawing paper. Months later, I attempted to do two drawings in one day. With over 500 marks involving repetitive major body motions, I pulled muscles in my lower back. I had to go on the 15-day disabled list.

Your paintings capture the story of specific games in a very special way. How?

James: They represent the violent, yet delicate population of marks made by a baseball on a surface. It explores the controlled randomness of repetitive mark-making and is part of a larger project of documenting chance marks. While each mark leaves a delicate trace of individuality, as a mass they transform into something with its own form and distinctive character.

The marks left by baseballs, bats, and cleats on the worn and impacted surfaces of baseball diamonds strike me as a metaphor of youth, the role of sports in growing up, and even the drama and decay of dreams and ambition in life.

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What do the Toronto Blue Jays have to do with your paintings?

James: The series is based on six games played by the Toronto Blue Jays professional baseball team during three months of their exciting and successful 2015 season. My process is to drop a charcoal-coated baseball onto the drawing paper, which has a penciled 1:1 scale rectangular strike zone representing where the real life pitch crossed home plate.

I have always been interested in collecting: childhood collections of similar cultural and non-cultural items such as postage stamps, leaves, and hockey cards. When organized and mounted for display, the individual items yield to the collective appearance of the group. Even prosaic and utilitarian collections of firewood, nails, and lawn trimmings have perhaps unintentional meanings when brought together. This work explores and transcends the formalistic qualities of known natural materials and ready-mades. Both series takes the familiar and transposes it into the mysterious.

photo 3Being an artist can sometimes be frustrating. What are the obstacles you have run into preparing “A colony of things”?

James: Installing Colony of Things involved the same technical challenges and frustrations experienced by any installation artist. In this case, it was hanging a very heavy wall sculpture on a stud-and-drywall gallery. We were once taught how to draw, paint, and make art. But most of us aren’t carpenters or welders. Yet, we forge on into those trades unprepared to meet the requirements. So, figuring out how to do something in a trade you’ve had no training or experience in can be very frustrating and potentially dangerous. If you’re smart, you cultivate friendships with carpenters and welders.

James Mulchinock, thank you very much for this interview.

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‘Forge body and mind’ by Karima GALVÁN

IMG_5536For over a week, she was cutting, glueing, crushing, crumbling and unfolding shiny aluminium. “How is it going?”, I would ask her every morning, admiring reflections in the murals on the wall of the gallery, and she would say with a contagious smile, “getting there!”

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The artist Karima Heredia (left) 

And did she ever! With her mixed media installation “Forge Mind and Body” Karima Heredia Galván connects the dots in life, bringing together three relational series: suppressed emotion, body dysmorphia and internal healing.

Karima Heredia Galván, you contribute the vibrancy of Mexico to the Victoria art community. With a scholarship-funding 2017 Diploma of Fine Arts from the Vancouver Island School of Art, you have continued to explore the many facets of the human body. What is your current exhibition “Forge Mind and Body” about?

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Mural reflections 

Karima Heredia Galván: “”Using mixed media, I examine the physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual components of our body. I like to connect the dots in life, how things interact and are connected. We each reflect one another. Forge Mind and Body examines this reflection and its impact on healing.”

You mention healing – was your project inspired by a particular recent event?

Karima Heredia Galván: “A few months ago, I was starting loosing the sight in one eye. The experience with brain surgery has inspired this exhibition. My project is based on three different approaches to heal body and mind. Firstly, my interest in working with the unconscious became a quest to liberate my primitiveness, my repressed emotions and darkest stories. Secondly, I was interested in community work, and how we are all animals that belong to tribes. Finalising with mandalas helped with meditations for my physical and internal recovery.

You say: ‘I like connecting the dots’ – what do you mean by that?

Karima: For me connecting the dots means the connection between body and mind; the link between rational and irrational;  the connection of my healing process with my creativity; the link between nature and humans; and the connection of past events with the present.

You have recently been dealing with serious health issues. As some of your oil paintings show monsters, do they symbolise your greatest fears?

Karima: Yes! As I mentioned, I am interested in the unconscious, and using art to access and express the primitiveness of my persona, so my paintings were purposely done with emotional charged sessions, where I would cry, laugh, get angry sad and scared while applying pigment to the paper.

How do you deal with worries?

Karima: With therapy: by expressing and accepting the emotion of the moment; with art: searching for creative ways to channel emotions; with meditation: by emptying my mind and focusing on the transcendental space that exists within us; and doing exercise: sweating out the excess of stress and energy.

IMG_5541What does art mean to you?

Karima: Art is the way each individual portrays their version of life in that particular time and space. In my case, art is a way to channel emotions, research ideas and concepts, art means actions that connect me with other people, a profession that generates an income; a way to learn from my ancestors; a documentation of my life, and art explores life’s meaning.

You work with different creative techniques. What made you choose shiny aluminium?

Karima: I wanted to paint differently. Aluminum process’ is new and exciting to me. Using this material is very tactile, is like collaging with one color tone, that may vary when creating different textures. When cutting, gluing, crushing, crumbling and unfolding aluminum, the chances of breaking it are good. However, the metallic- sharp-burning- wind sounds it produces when manipulating makes the effort worth it. I enjoy aluminum a lot. The more I use it, I found its possibilities endless.

You have produced wonderful mandalas that complement each other in a playful and joyful way. What is the story behind them?

Karima: Painting mandalas became the daily activity that would bring me joy when I left the hospital. As I would gain strength, I would spend as much time doing them in nature. I started to feel stronger and found that dedicating them to other people was very satisfying and felt good. So each one of the mandalas is done in a state of peace and compassion with the intention of sending love to others.

Who introduced you to the Jungian concept of Shadow and what does it mean to you?

Karima: Dr. Carlos de Leon, my Body & Mind Therapy Diploma teacher. And to me, the Shadow is a part of ourselves we repressed as we grow up and society told us certain actions and behaviours were unacceptable. So we block them in our ‘shadow’ which is held in our bodies and the reptilian brain. There is great potential in the Shadow, not all is necessary negative, for example in an insecure person the Shadow contains their security and self-esteem power.

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You have arranged several metallic surfaces in a way that reminds the viewer of star alignments. Are you referring to a specific one?

Karima: I create my own internal constellations. Organic Light installation was invented for the walls of XChanges Gallery in Victoria, B.C.

Where are you the happiest?

Karima: When I am in nature.

What is your greatest achievement?

Karima: Moving on my own to Canada.

I had the pleasure of meeting you mother Claudia during the set-up of your art show, and meeting your Dad who remained in Mexico City, but was able to follow your artist reception via Skype. What have your parents taught you most?

Karima: That there is nothing permanent, we are always changing.

What do you need right now the most?

Karima: An effective treatment to treat my acromegaly.

Karim, thank you very much for this interview.

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More information about the artist:

Photographs by Daniela Herold (Copyright 2017)

 

Artists as willing participants in a force of nature

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My artistic highlight last weekend was the discovery of ‘Forestrial Brain’, a collaborative installation-painting by Canadian artists Matt Shane of Pender Island and Jim Holyoak of Montreal at the Open Space Gallery in Victoria B.C. The artists wrapped a room 40 metres long and almost four metres high with rolls of Italian drawing paper, laying in the graphic elements with ink lines followed by tonal washes to create a stunning tapestry of images and memories of their hike along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.

In a world of many choices, offerings and oeuvres one does not often stand in awe in front of a piece of art. When compelling art finds you, it not only captures your attention, it touches your soul. And I can truly say that ‘Forestrial Brain’ has done that to me.

This time, I will let my pictures talk, while encouraging you to read the whole story HERE (Times Colonist, Aug 13, 2017)

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Learning from ‘the man and the beast’: amazing Picasso exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Conversation with Picasso

“Go and do the things you can’t. That is how you get to do them.”

Things I have learned from Pablo Picasso:

– keep an open and curious mind – it will inform your creativity
– be open to change
– keep exploring and learning, don’t get stuck in your ways
– be free in your expression, don’t censure yourself
– be succinct and clear
– reduce to the max

Conversation with PICASSO

“I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. ”

Conversation with PICASSO

“Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.”

Conversation with PICASSO

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

“Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) remains one of the most celebrated artists of all time. Contemporary art critic Robert Hughes wrote: “No painter or sculptor, not even Michelangelo, [was] as famous as this in his own lifetime.” Picasso was a champion of abstract art, which has come to define the avant-garde in the 20th century.

A Spanish-born artist who spent his adult life in France, Picasso’s artistic production spans over six decades, making him one of the most prolific artists of the modern era. His celebrated Blue and Rose Periods (1901-1906) marked his first decade in Paris. These early canvases are known for their deep, cool palette, often featuring people from Picasso’s circle of friends, while the Rose Period brought warmer, brighter hues of orange and pink, with figures from the theatre, ballet, and circus.

Cubism in its Analytic and Synthetic phases (1909-1919) developed when Picasso joined forces with French artist Georges Braque, and the two began experimenting with the composition of the object and picture plane. As they dismantled and re-assembled forms into various states, often with multiple perspectives and angles, Cubism was born.

While embracing elements of Classicism and Surrealism in both artistic and literary circles into the mid decades of the last century, Picasso never stopped exploring new themes and techniques in his art. His total artistic output is estimated in the thousands, including paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, and ceramics. He married twice and had four children by three women.” (Source: WAG)

For more information about the amazing exhibition at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) – ‘Pablo Picasso, man and beast’ (May 13 until Aug 13, 2017), click here.

Seen and liked: Blue Whale exhibition and Henry Moore Sculpture Centre

 

 

Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Toronto

The Art Gallery of Ontario is known for its extraordinary collection of Henry Moore works. The Henry Moore Sculpture Centre opened in 1974 to house Moore’s original gift to the AGO, now totalling more than 900 sculptures and works on paper.

The collection of the AGO includes more than 80,000 works spanning the first century to the present day. The gallery has 45,000 square metres of physical space, making it one of the largest galleries in North America.

Click here to read more about the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre.

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Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Toronto

In 2014, nine rare blue whales became trapped in ice off the coast of Newfoundland and died. Their loss represents about three percent of the Northwest Atlantic’s blue whale population. Blue whales usually sink when they die, but in an unusual occurrence two of the blue whales washed ashore in Trout River and Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador, offering an unprecedented opportunity for research.

Working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Research Casting International and the local communities, scientists of the Royal Ontario Museum de-fleshed and recovered the bones of this endangered species, transporting them to Ontario. After a two-year process where the bones were buried in manure, and de-greased, one of these awe-inspiring animals is now displayed at the ROM.

Click here to read more about the exquisite Blue Whale exhibition.

Urgent environmental issues converted into dramatic form by Thaddeus Holownia

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I am not prepared for what I am going to see when I enter the Corkin Gallery in Toronto. At first glance, I only see photographs of little strange birds facing downwards as if falling out of the sky. Some look as if they are asleep, but others are charred beyond recognition. I am starting to understand that I am looking at something very tragic, captured as a reminder or warning by photographer Thaddeus Holownia. But what exactly is it?

The Canaport bird kill exhibition shows many lingering images. ‘A fast shutter for slow violence’, journalist Geordie Miller called the art of Canadian photographer Thaddeus Holownia, who took pictures of some 200 creatures killed by human error. “Drawn to a deadly light on a foggy night, songbirds begin to fall from the sky. By evening’s end, more than 7,500 are rendered flightless, lifeless. Twenty-six species of songbirds felled by one flame, a flare from the natural gas burn-off at the Canaport Liquefied natural Gas terminal in Saint John, New Brunswick, September 13th, 2013.”

The disastrous event is represented on a 17-foot-high scroll – called Icarus, Falling of Birds (2016) – and several individual photographs. The viewer cannot help but be affected by their immediacy and immensity.  I left the gallery with a sense of sadness and discomfort, but also a genuine interest in the work of Thaddeus Holownia, who manages to artistically capture dramatic urgent issues in a very unique way.

Click here for the whole story and article by Geordie Miller (Canadian Art, Feb 2017).

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“The work of Thaddeus Holownia deals with how how humanity changes landscape,
how the forces of nature mould human structures.

His work calls attention to various ecological and political issues;
and his art practice conveys these precarious relationships.”

(Corkin Gallery, Toronto)

 

Further information:
canadianart.ca/reviews/thaddeus-holownia/
Corkin Gallery, Toronto

The beauty of cast drawing

I never thought I could enjoy spending hours and hours sketching or painting a cast. Being an aries, accepting slow progress has not really been my forte. However, since becoming a student at the Academy of Realist Art in Victoria, founder and teacher Noah Layne has taught me an important lesson: slow progress is still progress.

“Cast drawing is a wonderful way to work on one’s ability to see and record shapes and sharpen one’s eye”, says Noah. He rightly insists that if you manage to sketch or paint one square cm or inch perfectly, you will be able to do the same on a canvas the size of a skyscraper – it’s just a matter of focus, perseverance and time.

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My third semester at the Academy was amazing, using both comparative measurement and sight-size techniques, then starting to capture a cast of my choice in oil paint.

I never thought I would say this, but I loved it. Every second, every square inch!

Thanks, Noah!

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More information: Noah Layne Academy of Realist Art