Seen and liked in St. John’s, Newfoundland – Part 2

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There was a lot of art in and around St. John’s that I very much enjoyed. For instance Hazel Eckert’s “Studio Cast Shadows” (edition of 3 archival inkjet prints) at the Christina Parker Gallery (see above). Here is my ‘seen and liked’ part 2:

JAMES MILLER

Or the work of local artist James Miller, who was taught art by the renowned Newfoundland painter Reginald Shepherd. Miller, who saw an exhibition of 18th century Dutch Realists at the MUN Art Gallery as a young student, still remembers the profound impact of that exhibition that led him to pursue an education in the visual arts.

Miller initially produced paintings inspired by a classical approach. Over time he  started experimenting with a more contemporary approach to imagery and technique acknowledging influences from surrealist painters such as Salvador Dali and Max Ernst.

“My work as an artist is continually evolving. I enjoy the technical challenges and experimentation of oil paint and the discovery of new approaches to create paintings”, says Miller, who enjoys the freedom that he found in the work of Dali and Ernst and their courage to break the rules of traditional painting.

The primary influences for his work? The history, culture, and landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador, says James Miller. “His paintings of the land and sea are not for the tranquil reserving eye but relate in their elements to the Northern Romantic Tradition of painters.” (Christine Parker Gallery).

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Paintings by James Miller

MIKE GOUGH

Last but not least the compelling minimal, mixed media work by Mike Gough’s “Adaptions” (acrylic, pastel and graphite on panel) caught my attention. Mike Gough, one of the most successful and prolific painters in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador today, attended Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London, England where he received a Masters of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in exhibitions in Canada, the UK and France.

Read more about the artist in the following interview:

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ADAPTIONS by Mike Gough

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LAURIE LEEHANE

And then there was Laurie Leehane’s “Inlet 4”, whose oil painting moved me deeply after hearing so many stories of resettlement on my journey through this wonderful province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Laurie Leehane states, “ It is essential to my work for me to have an emotional reaction to a situation or place. I am motivated to develop a painting if I am inspired by light, shadow, nostalgia and memory. My work generally contains a narrative of abandonment, mystery and longing. It isn’t what is said that holds my attention but what is not said. I believe there is a magical time for everything whether it is the time of day when the light strikes the wharves and sheds I investigate or when the landscape is speaking in dreams. Everyone and everything has a moment”.

More about the artist, click here:

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INLET 4 by Laurie Leehane

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Seen and liked in St. John’s, Newfoundland – Paintings by Ron Bolt

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“FROM THE EDGE – NEW ATLANTIC COASTAL WORKS” by RON BOLT

I very much enjoyed Ron Bolt’s 9th solo exhibition “From the Edge – New Atlantic Coastal Works” at the Christina Parker Gallery, marking the artist’s 80th year. Bolt’s paintings reflects his continuing interest in the study of the sea and of coastal regions, in particular Newfoundland.

“I suppose I have the sea in my genes. My maternal grandmother was born in Newfoundland and my paternal grandfather was a lay missionary to the fisherman out of Grimsby in northern Yorkshire. Whenever I come back to where I can see and feel the ocean, it lifts me up. Standing on the shore I feel part of a great mystery, part of the miracle of being alive. As an artist and a romantic, I agree with the legendary Canadian pianist Glen Gould. He said “Art is the lifelong construction of a state of wonder.” (Ron Bolt)

Ron Bolt’s love of the province first began in the Summer of 1971 when he was working with the Outport Arts Foundation teaching art to the children of the area of Hibb’s Cove. Bolt, who has been back to Newfoundland many times, taking photographs, sketching and painting, completed a one month artist residency in Grose Morne National Park in 2000.

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Paintings by Ron Bolt

 

Dave and Allan Thomas collaborate artistically on “Connectivity”

Scratchboard, intricate drawings and oil paintings – after working together on commissioned murals for many years, the brothers Dave and Allan Thomas recently started focusing on their individual art – both working on canvas – but pursuing very different styles. I had the pleasure of talking with the artists at the opening night of their show “Connectivity” at the Front Gallery in Edmonton.

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By Dave Thomas

Dave and Allan Thomas, before talking about your fabulous art show, let me focus for a moment on your artistic past. You might be familiar with the success story of artist David Choe, who was approached by Facebook with a proposition in 2005 to paint his famous murals on the office walls for $60,000 or company stock. The 35-year-old chose the stock and when Facebook announced its initial public offerings of stock – to raise $5 billion – Choe made about $200 million. His murals are still in the Facebook offices today. Have you had such luck with your work so far?

Dave and Allan (chuckling): Not yet, but there is always hope!

You grew up in Edmonton. What or who got you both interested in murals and when?

Dave Thomas: As a teenager a wall was just another surface for me to express myself on, I didn’t differentiate painting on a wall from drawing my teacher on a school notepad or painting a still-life for my mother’s Christmas present, it was just natural like breathing.

I guess the big change came at 18 when I was hired by a local entrepreneur to produce murals and painted advertising for his Night Clubs and restaurants.

Allan Thomas: I think it may have grown out of my years as a sign painter. I got in the trade right around the time computer signage was just beginning but I do remember seeing all the billboards that were being hand painted at the time and I was always amazed at how artists could do such good work on such a large scale. Coincidently it was when the computers took over the sign industry that I began to lose interest and luckily listened to my brother Dave when he encouraged me to quit my job and join him painting murals which he had begun doing. That is when we started Flying Colors Mural & Design.

Many kids paint their first mural on withered bits of plywood in their back yard that they dragged out of a dumpster somewhere. Where was your first mural and is it still available to see today?

Dave Thomas: Haha, actually that’s not far off. When I was around fourteen, me and a bunch of kids from the neighbourhood would gather up discarded wood from construction sites and build these elaborate forts where we could hangout, talk about girls and smoke cigarettes. I was always the guy elected to adorn the interior walls with images; usually copies of album covers from our favourite bands, unfortunately these have all been destroyed long ago.

Allan Thomas: My mother was always very supportive of our interest in art when growing up and let us paint murals all over the walls in the basement where we had our bedrooms. If I really wanted to I might be able to track one or two pieces down that friends took and replaced with new drywall when I was moving out of the house.

Why did you start putting your art onto walls?

Dave Thomas: In the beginning it was just another surface to paint on, as a self-employed artist I was always hustling to build a name for myself taking commissions wherever I could.

Allan Thomas: I always had an interest in working large so what better way than doing murals. It’s also a great way for others to see the work especially outdoor murals that can be seen by hundreds of people a day.

At the time, did you have any preferred surfaces such as walls, trucks or trains?

Dave Thomas: Always walls for Allan, but I went through a lot of phases. I don’t think anything beats the rush you get being up on a scissor lift, painting a huge mural in front of people passing by.

Which artists have inspired you back then?

Dave Thomas: Back then is hard to pinpoint, I guess it started with D.C. and Marvel. In my teen years, I was in awe of the late renaissance painters such as Caravaggio and Rembrandt, these days I’m more into guys like Adrian Ghenie and Alex Kanevsky who have a more fresh approach to painting the figure.

Allan Thomas: I grew up with 70’s Marvel and Mad comics which then turned into a love of record covers and artists like Franzetta. When I got older I was very open minded and got into a lot of different artists and movements.

Until recently, you mostly worked on commission murals. These days, with occasional stints painting legal walls over in Edmonton, you focus on your individual art, both working on canvas, but pursuing very different styles. How has your work evolved through the years?

Dave Thomas: For me, it’s always been about the figure. Early on, I had a more academic approach to my art and worked mainly from life, but eventually these seemed too much like model studies to me so I moved towards using my family as inspiration. The biggest change though has come in the past few years where I see the message – not the figure – as the main focus in the painting.

 Allan Thomas: As I got interested in lots of different art movements and styles over the years, my work has changed dramatically from a pop art influence to abstract to collage work and pop surrealism. I was even getting serious about Mosaic work until I told myself that I needed to focus on what I wanted to do most so I could develop a style that I could approach galleries with. When I did that, I realised Photorealistic urban landscape paintings were what I wanted to do most.

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By Allan Thomas

Let’s talk about Allan’s scratch art for a moment. Your most intricate drawings are the complete opposite of your murals – you seem to love to work in detailed realism. You are using a black-and-white graphic technique that creates a drawing look like etching. How many hours does it roughly take you to finish one of your amazing pieces?

Allan Thomas: They are very time consuming but I’m not quite sure how long each piece takes. I usually do about one a month but I also work on paintings at the same time.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Allan Thomas: Lots of different places but since I work with urban landscapes it is usually alleyways and fire escapes or rundown streets with graffiti and garbage. I get a lot of my reference photos when I visit different cities and if I’m in a nice area with modern buildings and clean streets it can be very hard to feel inspired. It’s not until I get into the seedier worn down areas that things start happening for me. 

Scratchboard is a paper board that is covered with gesso or wax and coated over with black ink. Your delicate drawings are perfectly executed – as the scratching technique does not leave any room for error, how do you achieve such perfection in your work?

Allan Thomas: You really need to think five steps ahead because if you scratch away an area it’s gone and that will be a problem later on if you realise you did something wrong. That is why they take me so long because it is a slow process of thinking out every scratch, making sure to capture the proper tone and get the right texture.

Modern scratchboard (or scraperboard) originated in the 19th century in Britain and France. As printing methods developed, it became a popular medium for reproduction because it replaced wood, metal and linoleum engraving. What made you choose this particular technique?

Allan Thomas: I’ve always thought my love of scratchboard could someday develop into wood engraving or lino cuts for small print runs but I’m not sure how scratchboard could be used for print making because the scratches made are not deep enough to hold paint. If you ran your hand over one of my pieces I don’t think you would feel any texture at all.

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By Dave Thomas

Dave Thomas, your oil paintings focus on your experience as a husband and a father. You are known to have a deep appreciation of ordinary moments in your family’s everyday life. Is painting for you a way to hold on to these moments?

Dave Thomas: Interesting, I believe there’s something to that but it’s more about my experience as a human being on this planet and trying to make sense of all these fleeting moments small and large we all go through. It’s also about a larger picture of wondering where it’s all leading too. Maybe intuitively keeping the work so personal is a way of drawing a hard line in the sand, separating it from my commercial work that is so impersonal.

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Many of your paintings were inspired by your concern as a parent about the amount of time your children spend indoors on their electronics. Your own parents were concerned with the amount of time you were spending outdoors. Why are these generational differences of such importance to your work?

Dave Thomas: I think the painting you’re referring to is ‘Outside In’ from my solo show Unfinished Symphony at the Naess Gallery back in 2016; the show was meant to be a look at the modern family using my own family as a guide. It touched on a number of issues I’m sure many parents are concerned with. As a father I’m constantly questioning what’s best for my children and how they will be affected by the ever changing world we live in.

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The background of some of your paintings is largely made up of earth tones. Why?

Dave Thomas: I usually work with a fairly neutral pallet, though I am trying to bring more colours into the work. My colour choices do change a lot depending on what I’m trying to say with the work. In Al and my recent two person show called “Connectivity” at The Front Gallery, my paintings touched on connecting in this digital world we live in and had a much more artificial glitchy feel to the background colours.

“I’m in constant dialogue with the paint and subject matter, adding and subtracting as I go, and many times painting myself into a corner and fighting my way out”, you said once. Can you describe that creative battle a bit more?

Dave Thomas: When I finish a painting, I never really know how I got there or if I could do it again. It’s a much more intuitive process than my commercial work where I go from point a to b as fast as possible and can map the steps out in my head before starting. Even though I work with the figure, I approach my paintings more like a de Kooning throwing down marks and reacting to them. Sometimes it just feels right to drag a paint loaded squeegee across a portrait I laboured over for 10 hours …

And then you do it?

Dave Thomas: Yes, I do it without question and react to that.

Any upcoming exhibitions, shows or projects?

Dave Thomas: I’m currently designing a mural for a lounge in downtown Edmonton and have a large mural project coming up in Toronto late July-August. As far as my personal work goes I’ve just finished spending two weeks renovating the studio and can’t wait to get back at it. I have some vague ideas for a new body of work that I want to start working towards even though I currently don’t have any shows booked in; it’s that whole if you build it they will come mentality.

Allan Thomas: It will take me about eighteen months to develop enough work for a solo show which I am now hard at work on. I am always posting images on Instagram of work as it is being done, so anyone who wants to get a better idea of my technique or where my work is headed, please visit me at : allan_thomas_artist.

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Thank you very much for the interview and all the very best with your art. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Allan and Dave Thomas: Thanks for showing interest in our work and having us on ART BECAUSE. We appreciate it.

ABOUT ALLAN THOMAS:

Artist Website:  allanthomasartist.com
INSTAGRAM  allan_thomas_artist
Artist statement / Front Gallery
Flying colors murals

ABOUT DAVE THOMAS:

Artist Website: davethomasartist.com
Artist statement / Front Gallery
INSTAGRAM davethomasart66
Flying colors murals

Photographs by D. Herold 2018 / All rights reserved

Seen and liked – paintings by Mark Igloliorte

Work by M. Igliorte

“Work” (Kayait Series), Oil on Plexiglass, by Mark Igloliorte, 2008

Mark Igloliorte, who grew up in the Labrador town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, draws heavily from both Labrador Inuit culture and urban culture in his work.

In the picture below, I noticed the oil painting technique of the interdisciplinary artist of Inuit ancestry from Nunatsiavut who used to go hunting with his father on the weekends. The technique likens the process of applying paint onto a surface to stretching a caribou or seal skin over a frame.

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“Diamond Komatik Box”, Oil mounted on board, by Mark Igloliorte, 2015

 

It has been suggested that the fragile attachment of a painted ‘skin’ may speak to the now Vancouver-based artist’s separation from – and connection to – Nunatsiavut, the Inuit self-governing region in the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

This work is part of his “Visiting Home” series.

 

“In a lot of ways, I look at my series as a way of growing and experimenting,” Igloliorte said in an interview in 2015, “and trying to get as much out of the process of painting as I can. For me, it’s a really good place to be working from: always looking at it as an experiment and always trying to discover something new to work on.”

More about Mark Igloliorte

Mark Igloliorte is an interdisciplinary artist of Inuit ancestry from Nunatsiavut, Labrador. His artistic work is primarily painting and drawing. In 2017, Igloliorte received a REVEAL Indigenous Art Award from the the Hnatyshyn Foundation

His work has been shown nationally and internationally, notably at the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the Quebec Triennial at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and as part of the touring exhibition Beat Nation.  He currently lives in Vancouver where he teaches at Emily Carr.

See interview with the artist

More about the rise of Nunatsiavut art, click here.

 

 

 

 

Defying convention: Women Artists in Canada, 1900-1960

Florence Wyle

Florence Wyle – Co-founder of the Sculptor’s Society of Canada in 1928

Can you name a handful of women artists? Seems like an easy question but when I asked some of my friends and colleagues, most of them were not able to – and neither was I.  It is a task many have failed at before.

Emily Carr

Emily Carr

It is startling how little is known about women in the arts and their achievements.  “Defying Convention” at the Winnipeg Art Gallery now features the work of more than 30 women artists from across Canada who shattered social and cultural barriers in the decade from 1900 to 19060.

“It explores the obstacles, influences, and achievements that shaped their artistic identities” explain curators Paula Kelly and Stephen Borys. “These artists not only challenged 19th-century ideals of domestic womanhood, they joined the Modernist movement that resisted academic tradition and embraced innovation of every kind.”

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Lucille Casey MacArthur

The exhibition spans six decades during which profound social and cultural shifts were prompted by growing demands for gender equality on many fronts. In their own time, these women received widespread acclaim, exhibited their works in North America and Europe, and influenced the landscape of Modernist art in Canada. Yet today, most are not well recognized by the public at large. “Defying Convention” addresses this deficit in the historical perception of women’s value as artists.

Emily Coonan

The Fairy Tale by Emily Coonan, c. 1911

I loved this work of art by Emily Coonan whose beautifully textured oil painting shows the impact of European Post-Impressionism which the painter explored in studies at the Art Association of Montreal. Coonan later joined the influential Beaver Hall Group from Montreal that helped galvanize the Canadian Modernist movement and was remarkable for its inclusive membership of women artists.

“The women in Defying Convention seized the Modernist potential for intuitively expressing contemporary life around them, the people who inhabited their worlds, and their desire for self-expression”, says co-curator Paula Kelly.

“By asserting their identities as artists, they also resisted the social prescription that a woman’s sphere was primarily the home. Instead, they occupied multiple roles as artists and activists, mothers and mentors, wives and lovers, teachers and community builders.” They worked as instructors, illustrators, and entrepreneurs to further their goals. Some had supportive families, spouses and partners, while others remained single to maintain a self-determined lifestyle, e.g. Emily Carr.

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The work of these artists represents the lives and experiences of women from across Canada: from Nunavut to the Prairies, from British Columbia to Eastern Canada. Their stories are as rich and diverse as the styles they explored. The art they made reveals the insistent nature of their personal visions.”

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Farmer’s daughter by E. Prudence Heward, 1938

I could not stop looking at this painting by Prudence Heward. Several of her figurative paintings depict young women in landscape settings, including  this oil painting called “Farmer’s Daughter”, painted toward the end of the Depression. The uncertain and defiant gaze of the young woman epitomises an era exhausted by the struggle for survival.

The current exhibition runs until September 3 and is drawn entirely from the WAG‘s permanent collection.

With a focus on Canadian women artists working within the same period, Defying Convention invites dialogue about the significant gender imbalance apparent in the European shows.

 

Interesting further reading about amazing international women artists:

Article ‘List 5 women artists’

Important female painters

 

 

SEEN AND LIKED in EDMONTON – Part 1

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There are no boring places as long as you keep an open mind and like to explore.  I found exquisite art, architecture and places in Edmonton, and even if I had not, I remembered an Eric Weiner quote: “When you relinquish the spectacular, you are rewarded with the quieter joy of the ordinary.” How true.

West End Gallery

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“My paintings are all about emotion and light.  If the viewer has felt the emotion I felt when I painted the piece, then we have clicked. “– W. H. Webb

I had the pleasure to see Prairie Aspects, a solo exhibition of new work by W. H. Webb at the West End Gallery.

His highly realistic work, signed W.H. Webb, is often mistaken for photography.  It is not until you look very closely at the canvas, that you see small dots and dashes of acrylic paint that reminds of watercolour. These markings tighten up to a photograph-like image when you take a step back.

“Webb’s views of the often stark Alberta landscape are intensively worked in a manner reminiscent of the traditional school of watercolourists. Fully realized and meticulously crafted, his acrylic paintings express a deep seated admiration for the impressive and rugged vistas of Alberta; particularly the brilliant beauty of winter’s snow covered open spaces and hard bright skies.”

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by W.H. Webb

The Front Gallery

“Connectivity” is the title of a fab exhibition by Dave Thomas and Allan Thomas at the Front Art Gallery – a forty year landmark in the heart of the gallery walk district.  The exhibition closes on May 17th, so make sure you get to see this first joint show of the two artist brothers before it is over. More information about their art work in my upcoming interview with both artists on ‘Art Because’ next month.

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LOL by Dave Thomas

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By Allan Thomas

Peter Robertson Gallery

Mark in your calendar a wonderful upcoming exhibition showing art work of Jonathan Forrest (May 24 – June 9). Forrest currently divides his time between Vancouver Island and rural Saskatchewan, where his “rustic” studio, an old church built in the late 1940s, offers the ideal space for Forrest’s ongoing exploration of the complexities of colour and paint application.

“Over the last 25 years, Jonathan Forrest has explored vibrant and engaging colour and form through paint”, says Gallery owner Peter Robertson who represents a roster of emerging, mid-career, and senior Canadian artists. “The bold and colourful geometric paintings in his latest exhibition are created from thick, yet smoothly articulated planes of glossy acrylic against matte grounds. Graphic shapes in the works appear to shift as their surfaces reflect in changing light.”

The Art Gallery of Alberta – a must see!

IMG_6079“There is no must in art, because art is free,” said the great Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky.  The beautiful Art Gallery of Alberta – designed by architect Randall Stout and first opened in 2010 – has been taking that motto to heart, offering free admission to all children and youth under the age of 18 – as well as anyone registered as a student in an Alberta post-secondary institution, regardless of age.

Today is the last day of the amazing exhibition of Peter von Tiesenhausen: Songs for Pythagoras  (more information in my upcoming post ‘Seen and liked Edmonton II’ next week).

For Peter von Tiesenhausen, the landscape of Alberta has been a primary source of inspiration, with sustainability being a constant thread that has woven its way through his work over the course of his long career. Addressing ideas of time, life, nature and re-generation, this exhibition engaged audiences with important issues related to extraction, production and our impact on the environment.

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Exhibition Songs for Pythagoras by Peter von Tiesenhausen

The Neon Sign Museum

The Neon Sign Museum, the first of its kind in Canada, features a collection of functional historic signs that tell a story about Edmonton’s neon past. The City has collected 20 neon signs, all of which have been restored and installed on the east wall of the TELUS building and the south wall of the Mercer Warehouse building on 104 Street and 104 Avenue. The museum is outdoors and is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. No admission is required.

The Churchill Wire Centre

IMG_6085A 1886 telephone directory would have been easy to print. Four subscribers joined Edmonton’s first telephone exchange established by Alexander Taylor. Within twenty years, this creative entrepreneur had connected 500 patrons to the revolutionary telephone and sold his company to the city.

Outgoing calls were transmitted through telephone exchange equipment, with switchmen and operators connecting each call to the receiving line. Edmonton built the first municipal exchange on this site in 1907.

The next year, the city became a telecommunications leader when it installed the first automatic dial phones in North America. Built in 1947, this beautiful two and a half storey building was designed by City Architect Maxwell Dewar.

The Edmonton City Hall

City Hall’s award winning architecture was designed by Edmonton architect Gene Dub and opened in 1992. Gene Dub’s design combines the old with the new by incorporating materials such as marble and granite from the old City Hall into the new building. It is also designed as a ‘people place’ – a place for civic government and a gathering place for Edmontonians.

The McLeod Building

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Kenneth McLeod was a former Edmonton alderman, contractor and real estate speculator, who in 1912 announced the construction of the McLeod Building, which he claimed would be the tallest in the city, 25 ft (7.6 m) taller than the Tegler Building. Architect John K. Dow was instructed to copy the Paulsen Building in Spokane, Washington. The construction began in 1913 and was completed in 1915.

Public Art Collection of Edmonton

“Catching Neutrinos” (2005) is the title of this sculpture by Darci Mallon that commemorates the centenary of the Edmonton Journal. The shape refers to the cylindrical form evident in almost every aspect of the printing process: printing press rollers, curled lead linotypes, and paper rolls. The vertical form evokes trees and the poster pillars once used to announce events. The medium, granite, is also used in paper production as the supporting core for the enormous paper rolls. Authentic Journal headlines from the last 100 years spiral up and around the granite and are from notable events specific to the history of the city.

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Photographs by Daniela Herold

 

 

Pinhole Photography – Canadian artist Murray Polson is his own technological shutter.

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 Murray Polson makes his own cameras out of ABS plastic sheet and pipe. He lets action determine exposure and takes his pulse as a measuring device. He creates scenes for the pinhole camera to see. Canadian Murray Polson is his own technological shutter.

I had the opportunity to ask the artist why his experiments are like trapping a film in a single frame and what he is going to show in his upcoming exhibition “Pinhole Photography” at the Metropolis Photo Gallery in Victoria, B.C., starting Saturday, 7 April 2018.

Murray Polson, when you think back to your very first camera who taught you how to use it?

Murray: The first camera I remember was a Brownie Hawkeye, made by Kodak.  It was almost cubic in shape, made of black plastic with its viewfinder on the top.  To see what I was going to photograph, I held the camera at about waist level and looked down and through the square viewfinder to see my subject and composition.  The shutter would make a ‘ping’ sound not at all like the click of the today’s cameras.  It was very easy to use.  It took Kodak’s 620 film.  If I really wanted to get fancy I could clip on a flash unit.  I don’t think I ever got that complicated.  I’m sure I learnt how to use it by determined fiddling rather than formal instruction.

 These days, you make your own cameras out of plumbing supplies. What type of cameras do you work with and for what projects?

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Murray: Today I make my own cameras out of ABS plastic sheet and pipe that I find in the plumbing section of the hardware store.  The camera I use the most takes a 35 mm film cassette.  It is round so that the camera sees about 340 degrees.

What kind of film do you use?

 Murray: I use both black and white, and colour film; the kind of film depends on the subject or the idea I want to illustrate.

 Where did you get your idea for the round camera?

Murray: The idea came from a painting project.  I had been going out to a local park to paint.  The park was big enough so that I could walk for about an hour, mostly to get away from people, before I choose a place to paint.  After many walkings out, painting and walking back I realized that the walk out created a history of that journey.   In that series of paintings I was using my sensibilities to choose what colours and shapes the landscape suggests rather than painting in a realistic manner what was in front of me.

The idea of the history of my walk out offered a look backwards.  In keeping with the use of my senses, I choose my sense of light as a medium and photography as a way of recording that sense.

 Hence the round camera…

Murray: Yes, it looks all around as well as backwards.  In order to use my sense of light in an uncluttered way, I took as much of the technology of photographing out of the camera in order to leave only my relationship between light and film.   I took away any lenses and allowed light to find the film through a pinhole drilled through a thin sheet of metal.  I took away the mechanical mechanisms of a shutter and used a piece of tape over the pinhole to keep the light out; then taking the tape away to let the light in.

If you like, I was my own technological shutter.  I didn’t what to use any light meter or technical tool to “get results” as it were.  It took time for me to understand the quality of the light on any given day and how the film would respond to that light.

 What does counting to 50 according to your heartbeat have to do with pinhole cameras?

Murray: I needed some kind of measuring device to keep track of how I was relating to the film.  I took my pulse as a measuring device.  After a while I was able to sense the day and say to myself: this is a 50-pulse-day.  And I would let light into the camera by removing the tape, then find my pulse and count to fifty, and then replace the tape over the pinhole to make the exposure.

 Did it take some time to create some sympathy between you and the tool?

Murray: Indeed, but after a while I was getting the kind of results I imagined.  And along the way I discovered many variations that different exposures can bring.

Babington-Hill

 I am looking at the result of a particular picture of Babington Hill on Vancouver Island where you took your big pinhole camera. At first glance, it looks like a normal scene in nature. But then you realize that there is nowhere for the eye to rest. Can you explain why?

 Murray: Yes, Daniela, ‘Babington Hill’ is an interesting picture.  Because the camera is round, it needs more than one pinhole to expose the film.  The camera I used to take Babington Hill has four pinholes arranged symmetrically around the camera’s edge.  In this instance, I opened all the pinholes at the same time, counted my pulse to the number wanted and then closed the pinholes.

 Let’s think about this a bit – the camera is doing what you do when you stand in one place and turn around so that you see all the sights around you?

Murray: Yes, and when the film is developed and printed, the action of going around in one place is rendered in a single panoramic image.  That’s how the photograph appears as a usual landscape picture.  But, when you look closely at the picture, you can see that the image from one pinhole overlaps the image of the pinhole beside it.

 As you see an image or a location from different points of view, the images begin to overlap. The observer senses a filming quality of some sort, why is that?

Murray: The overlapping produces images that just don’t quite make sense to your eye.  In fact, you are seeing four adjacent landscapes side by side.  The consequence of this is that the viewer has no single place to view the picture from.  There are four places to view the photograph from and consequently your eye moves from one centre to the next, leaving the viewer with no place to rest.

 Let’s talk about ‘dispersion’, one topic of your creative work. When you talked to your sister about the death of your Grandfather, you came across 2 different stories. How did this discrepancy between ideas of a family experience affect your artistic work?

Murray: Taking photographs of scenes that are already there is one way I use my cameras.  Another way I use them is to create scenes for the camera to see.  I remember having a conversation with my sister about the death of our grandfather.  I said that he died a crazy man after a brain operation and she said: no, he died of a liver infection.

IMG_5856 Two members of the same family having two very different versions of our family history; I thought that was worth portraying.  I thought that glass could be the consistent family, and shattered glass the divergent histories.  I bought a bunch of drinking glasses and broke them into smallish pieces.  I glued pictures of the family to many of the shards of glass and then poured all the shards into a transparent doughnut shaped plastic mote.  The camera was in the middle of the doughnut.  I made several exposures and choose the ones that best illustrated the idea.  I found this a very interesting way to look at both art making and understanding family, if that is possible.

 “Dinner” is the title of one of your photographs in which the social aspect determines exposure, not the actual technology.

Murray: I opened the aperture of the camera when we started dinner and closed it at the end of dinner.

 What was your intention behind this?

Murray: I wanted to take the technology out the process because I liked the idea of action determining the exposure time.  In a normal photographic situation the technology of the camera determines the exposure time.  It is nice reversal.

I decided to make an exposure during a dinner party. I placed the camera in the centre of the table and when we all sat down to eat I opened the shutter or more accurately took the tape off the pinholes.  When we finished dinner and got up from the table I replaced the tape over the pinholes.

Dinner

This photograph is very interesting as all the things that did not move during dinner are in sharp and clear focus, but all the moving things, like the people and the wine glasses are blurs. 

Murray: Yes, but the best part of all is having the action – the dinner party – control the exposure, or the subject of the image, determine the length of the exposure.  I had let the action determine the exposure, not the mechanical technology of usual cameras.

It struck me that this was a wonderful reversal of the intention of the camera.  Most cameras have mechanisms that allow the photographer to adjust the camera to capture a moment in an action.  My pinhole camera let the whole action appear in the exposure.  It is like trapping a film in a single frame.  I like to experiment like this.

 Murray, thank you very much for the interview and all the best for your show at the Metropolis Photo Gallery starting 7 April 2018.

More information:

“Pinhole photography” opens Saturday, 7 April 2018.
It closes on Thursday  26, April 2018.
The Metropolis Photo Gallery, #102 – 864 Pembroke St. Victoria, BC.

https://www.facebook.com/Metropolis-Photo-Gallery-508409019501958/

 

Photographs by Murray Polson and Daniela Herold / Copyright 2018