In search of lost time – what real and woven trees can teach us

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“Without a trace” – woven willow by Ken Clarke, 2016, at the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island.

How long does it take to weave a tree? Canadian artist Ken Clarke would know – a long time. Ken has woven thousands of fine willow branches into the shape of a magnificent tree, which dazzles the eye and mind of the observer.

A piece of art like this only comes to life through a vision, complete dedication and focus. It’s not an endeavour for the impatient.

Everybody seems to be busy these days – even busier than 150 years ago when Alexis de Tocqueville already observed that North Americans are “always in a hurry.”

We have too many choices and tasks. We are leading a scattered life dominated by an urgency to make every moment count. Trying to do everything at once, multi-tasking is what usually makes me feel pressed for time. So how do we manage to focus on the essential? As I have noticed that I feel better when I give undivided attention to one thing, my answer to my question is – focus.

But what to focus on when so many things need doing?  While I am looking at the intricate patterns of this woven willow, I am starting to wonder about my own busy life and how I try to manage my precious time on earth.

Life is not about making a choice. It’s about making the right choice. As I am walking around the woven willow tree in the Duthie Gallery Sculpture Park on Salt Spring Island, I remember the following passage by Hermann Hesse from his essay “Trees: Reflections and poems.”

“So the tree rustles in the evening,
when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts:
Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful,
just as they have longer lives than ours.

They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them.
But when we have learned how to listen to trees,
then the brevity and the quickness
and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts
achieve an incomparable joy.
Whoever has learned how to listen to trees
no longer wants to be a tree.
He wants to be nothing except what he is.
That is home. That is happiness.”

 

 

 

Further information:

Ken Clarke:
Ken Clarke is a sculptor and artist in Vancouver British Columbia specialising in architectural and water features, and figurative and organic fine art sculpture.

Also watch Ken Clarke’s video on Youtube.

Duthie Gallery Sculpture Park

The Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island, Canada, represents art for the landscape such as Michael Dennis’ monumental figures, Brent Comber’s site specific installations, Peter Pierobon’s Illuminati and sculptures and Ron Crawford’s singular stonework.

More represented artists:  http://www.duthiegallery.com/artists/

Photo credit: Dean Baltesson and Daniela Herold, Copyright 2018

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“I’M-POSSIBLE” by Daniela Herold – Art portraying the healthy stretch from ‘NO’ to ‘YES’

 

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“No, this is impossible”, I heard myself firmly say for the second time. “I cannot do it.”

This could have been the end of the story, but something was bugging me as I kept repeating the same “no” month after month, year after year. I did not want to remain in this frozen state, but had no idea what to do about it. I always thought of myself as a courageous person, travelling the world, living in different countries, trying out new things. But I would not budge in this matter because my fear stalled me.

I was afraid of dogs all my life. I would walk many kilometres of detours just at the sight of a dog a hundred metres away, always with my fingers in my ears as even the faintest sound of barking made me sweat profusely and my legs shake.

I had learned how not to deal with the fear, because I was afraid to deal with it.

Then one day, my partner said to me: “You have got this one life, do you really want to live it in fear? Don’t you ever dream of a life without it? How nice it could be to have your own dog as a companion?”

Obviously I had not, but I realized that I had remained frozen because I never allowed myself to even have a glimpse of a vision.“Very well then, imagine”, I said to myself … and that is when everything changed.

To get out of a frozen state – from firmly believing that something is impossible – to having a dream or a vision for oneself, something needs to change. We need some kind of action, willingness, vision, hope or courage to transport us from the impossibility to the possibility.

Ten years have passed since then, and it should come to no surprise that a wonderful husky border collie mix named Merlin has become the staple in my life. He epitomizes my biggest achievement, the proof that hopes and dreams can catapult you out of stagnation and fear.

Marcus AureliusMy current solo art exhibition at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre (December 2017 – January 2018) showing oil, acrylic and mixed media paintings called “I’M-POSSIBLE” focuses on the juxtaposition of the two elements: the ‘no’ and the ‘YES’. Once we manage this switch in our brain and heart, once we make this stretch beyond ourselves, action, involvement, participation, commitment & creativity start to happen. Where there was a void, a vision can unfold, slowly turning into our mission – and how empowering this development can make us feel!

Of course, we need energy to make positive changes in our lives, but when you connect with your deepest hopes, energy gets released that will help you see possibilities and opportunities around you with more clarity. A friend of mine, the former conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Peter McCoppin, once asked, “What is worse than blindness?” The answer was “sight without vision”.

The day before my friends Rosemary, Charlton, David and I drove up Vancouver Island to set up my show in Duncan, I took Merlin for a walk just after 10 pm.

It was a very dark night, not a star in sight. Merlin pulled me towards a pole, just another thing to mark, I thought, when I realized that he was stopping by a small wooden cabinet with book donations for the community, to drop and swap. With curiosity, I took out a little flashlight, looking for anything interesting, when the light beam touched the cover of Vaclav Havel’s autobiography “The Art of the Impossible”.

I burst into laughter, thinking, “this is impossible”, but here it was – a hardcover of the volume consisting of thirty-five essays by the former president of Czechoslovakia, written between the years 1990 and 1996, all profoundly personal and profoundly political.

Within in the next few days after setting up my show, I found it compelling to read how Havel redefined his notion of politics as “the art of the impossible, that is, the art of improving ourselves and the world.”

What a fine find, and how fitting that very evening. “You have to try the impossible to achieve the possible”, my favourite German author Hermann Hesse wrote. So let’s try, because – as Francis of Assisi once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Wishing you all a peaceful 2018.

Daniela

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“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

Shel Silverstein, American poet and song-writer

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“If something is difficult for you to accomplish, do not then think it impossible for any human being; rather, if it is humanly possible and corresponds to human nature, know that it is attainable by you as well.”

Marcus Aurelius

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“Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation– the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true.”

Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-UP

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“Nothing is more imminent than the impossible . . . what we must always foresee is the unforeseen.”

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

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“When Henry Ford decided to produce his famous V-8 motor, he chose to build an engine with the entire eight cylinders cast in one block, and instructed his engineers to produce a design for the engine. The design was placed on paper, but the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece.
Ford replied,”Produce it anyway.”

Henry Ford

 

“There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.”

Andre Gide, Autumn Leaves

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“They did not know it was impossible so they did it”

Mark Twain

“All things are possible until they are proved impossible and even the impossible may only be so, as of now.”

Pearl S. Buck

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book Merlin

 

Nothing is impossible to a willing mind.

Unknown (or was it Merlin?)

 

 

 

 

Further information: 

Paintings and photos 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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Intuition, Experience and Blind Faith: Morley Myers and Clem Crosby collaborate for the first time to make sculpture

Being an artist can sometimes be an isolating experience. Even though some say that collaboration means giving up your individuality, I believe in the power of collaboration. Having a team of people united in one effort can bring about amazing results. “A partner’s different perspective is valuable’, Astronaut Ron Garan once said, ‘but the very fact that it is different means that it will require work, humility, time, and resources to incorporate that perspective. At times, this will require checking one’s pride at the door.”

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When I ran into sculptor Morley Myers a few weeks ago, he introduced me to his friend Clem Crosby. The London-based painter, whose art has been exhibited at the Tate Modern and the UC Berkeley Art Museum – to name but a few – is working at the radical center of a growing circle of painters who accept the accumulated legacy of art history and contemporary culture in their work, but ‘without any traces of the irony that characterized a generation of appropriation’. (1)

‘Are you working on a project together?’ I asked.

‘Yes, we’re working with raw emotions’, Morley said.

‘Rather than calling it ‘raw emotions’ I prefer to call it intuition’, Clem added.

Morley and Clem – who grew up on the same small base in Suffield, Alberta, where their fathers were posted with the Canadian Forces and British Forces in the Seventies – decided to spend 10 days focusing on a collaborative project at Myer’s home on Salt Spring Island after having talked about it for years.

‘Clem’s approach to creating art is very different to mine’, Morley Myers says, ‘which is why I was very interested in seeing this process at work.’ Clem, in turn, was very receptive to the idea of creating sculptures as he had done little 3D work up until this point.

Morley, can you tell us more about your artistic collaboration with Clem? 

Morley: Clem’s approach is much looser than mine. He is constantly looking to turn convention on its head. For instance I would be setting up a starting point – usually involving a recognizable figure – and then Clem would start to deconstruct the piece.

We used a lot of foam for the armatures and built upon that with plaster, cloth and sticks. It had a sense of fort building, the stuff I did when I was a boy. We basically used what we had on hand, and then let ‘it’ happen.

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Clem, you have never made sculpture before. Can you tell us more about your artistic collaboration with Morley? 

Clem: I have been painting for over 25 years so I guess it’s important to recognize the experience an artist accumulates from making something from nearly nothing. But let me start by saying that being on an island – Salt Spring Island – is both a blessing and a possible hindrance. The place is ridiculously beautiful so in my mind there is little point in trying to record nature through paint or otherwise – it already exists. Secondly, I was away from any distraction and overt criticism so I felt a certain liberty to fail, make mistakes and have fun making a mess with a good old pal and super artist Morley Myers.

We decided pretty much immediately that we would try and keep it loose, not get too technical – lucky for me! We literally grabbed some paper towels a couple of bags of quick drying plaster (important because less time to pontificate) from Morley’s studio and twigs and sticks from the yard.

The first pieces were modest in size, neither abstract nor representational although they did have an anthropomorphic quality. Morley would slap the plaster on an armature fashioned out of styrofoam and twigs then I would step in and do the same.

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Only when we decided to push the scale did Morley’s preference for the figure become apparent. He would start by carving in to the foam and i would do my best to undermine the emerging form by skewering the foam with sticks and having Morley’s outline disrupted only for him to then start again.

Sounds like the actual figure is not necessary for Clem?

Morley: That’s right. He is just interested in raw emotion and has a way of expressing that in the true abstract.

Clem: I prefer to call it both intuition and experience. I think ‘raw emotion’ makes the way I work sound like it’s coming from nowhere, I prefer to call it a mix of intuition and experience. Also, I wouldn’t say that my painting is truly abstract in the concrete sense of the term, for example, it’s not just about the materials I use.

I read that Clem Crosby works in relentless cycles of revision, corrective erasure, and overlay, ‘mixing topical concerns with reference to the past as seamlessly as he mixes colour and drawing’. The resulting paintings have been described as ‘at once emotional and yet rigorously intellectual, improvised and yet painstakingly considered’. What theme did you choose for your sculpting project and why? 

Morley: If there was a theme, then it was to disregard how we had been working up until this point. The project was mostly an exercise for both of us – an exercise for me to loosen up, and an introduction for Clem to sculpt with real hands on.

Clem: I think it helps if you know your collaborator because you have to be able to let go of preconceptions. In London, I never have anyone near my studio when I am painting so I knew this would be difficult enough.

The maddening thing about Morley is that he is so talented, he fixes old bikes and cars, he’s always known about nature and incredibly informed about almost anything, he’s the most self deprecating fellow I know and he makes amazing work. There is no doubt that if he were living in London he would be showing! And he’s as funny as hell so I knew it would be a great, creative atmosphere. At the very least if it didn’t work we could throw it all away and have some beers.

We added plaster, wrapped the paper around the styrofoam, pushed in the sticks, cut the foam, pulled out the sticks, added more plaster….and on it went, trying not to make ‘art’ but to go out there and make that ‘something else’ happen. Sometimes we talked a lot whilst working, sometimes we said very little. Then these wonderful, raw, immediate, unfussy, figurative/abstract sculptures emerged.

I think that the last piece we made is amazing, so too the are the first couple and i’m thrilled that we pulled something out of the experience. I learned a great deal about having an object sit in space, to make a convincing ‘thing’ that has volume and that one can believe in.

Then the beers did come out…….
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The history of art, music and literature is filled with many unusual partnerships, or at times stormy, passionate affairs between creative spirits – like Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the Eighties. What did Clem and you accomplish together that you would not have been able to do alone?

Morley: The finished work – some of which is very good – would otherwise never have happened. I have the luxury of living with the fruits of our labour and have been enjoying their presence in my studio. There is a freedom in the way Clem works that I had the chance to experience and internalize.

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Morley: I think some of our walks together. As Clem comes from London, I wanted him to experience my environment on Salt Spring Island. I wanted him to see what living in the pines is all about, and we talked about the importance of being healthy and connected to the earth through exercise and food. I have been dealing with cancer for a while and don’t know what my time line is, which brings an urgency to who we are and what we do as artists.

Morley Myers and Clem Crosby, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and insights with my readers.

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About Morley Myers

Morley Myers was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1956, and grew up primarily in the Medicine Hat region. A self taught sculptor, Morley has been working with stone since 1991 and has been involved in exhibits on the west coast and has displayed in galleries in New York, Vancouver, Victoria, Tofino, Salt Spring Island, Calgary, Winnipeg and Medicine Hat.

About Clem Crosby

Clem Crosby is a British painter living and working in London, UK and is represented by the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London

Crosby’s work is represented in the following Tate Archive, London, UC Berkeley Museum, USA, and the Microsoft Collection, USA amongst others.

He recently exhibited his paintings at the Armory, NY (2016) with Houldsworth and is being featured in an interview with the artist Ian Davenport in Turps Magazine (July, 2016)

Other collaborative projects in the art world

The history of art, music and literature is filled with many unusual and passionate partnerships, and at times stormy, love affairs between creative spirits.

– Painter Dalí and filmmaker Luis Buñuel were still relatively unknown in their fields when they created the classic surrealist short film “Un Chien Andalou” back in 1928.

– When in 1949, LIFE staff photographer Mili went to visit the Picasso at his studio in France, the painter became so fascinated with Mili’s light painting technique that he suggested to have pictures of him taken as he painted in the air.

– After meeting Warhol in 1980, Jean-Michel Basquiat entered into a collaborative relationship with the artist that lasted until 1985 and created many products of the admired and refuted 1980s Pop art.

– Abstract expressionist Robert Rauschenberg contributed this “money thrower” to an installation for an exhibition of Tinguely’s work in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art.

Creative couple collaborations:

The following couples dared to mix business with pleasure, establishing compatible relationships on both a personal and professional level. Their professional collaboration often produced extraordinary results: the intellectual souls Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre; the Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock – two of the best known American artists of the 20th century – and the poets and writer Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.

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Recent work by M. Myers

 

 

There is always more to learn …

Marcus Aurelius

Last week, I  finished my cast drawing semester under the guidance of Noah Layne at the Realist Academy in Victoria, B.C. Working beside this amazing Canadian artist – who teaches dispassionately and without holding back  –  was a constant reminder to me that there is more to learn beyond whatever proficiency I might already have. And I recognized how little I really know compared with true masters of the arts.

Completing this second part of my apprenticeship with Noah meant fulfillment. Only by exposing myself to someone better than I have I been able to improve my skills and techniques. But technical knowledge alone is not enough: disciplined study can foster a student’s growth in many ways.

Noah has taught me to allow patience and stillness to take over when my impatience was starting to kick in while working on a sketch or a painting.

‘Do not rush’, he said. ‘If you manage to paint one square inch perfectly, you will also be able to perfectly paint a canvas the size of a skyscraper  – just take your time.’

Once I managed to calm my mind, I was able to patiently concentrate on finishing the smallest detail.

More information:
Noah Layne Academy of Realist Art / Victoria, B.C. Canada
www.noahlayne.com

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Charcoal ‘Marcus’ by Daniela Herold at the Noah Layne Academy of Realist Art in Victoria, B.C.