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

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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

 

 

50.000 einzigartige Künstler-Porträts: Ganz nah dran mit Photograph Gerald Y Plattner

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Gerald Plattner, Du hast als freier Pressephotograph seit 1979 in Deutschland gearbeitet und Deine Aufnahmen sind in den verschiedensten Magazinen erschienen. In einer Welt, in der jeden Tag Millionen Fotos per Iphone und Kameras gemacht werden, welchen Stellenwert haben Bilder für Dich heute im Vergleich zu damals?

Gerald: Für mich hat sich der Stellenwert von Bildern nicht geändert. Es ist nur mühevoller als früher, DIE Bilder unter den Abermillionen Bildchen zu finden, die etwas in mir auslösen.

In den Jahren vor der digitalen ‚Revolution‘ gab es ja auch schon viele Bilder, denn das Photographieren wurde immer billiger, die Vergrößerungen ebenfalls und ‘one hour labs’ haben schon damals Millionen von Bilder erzeugt. Aber diese Bilder blieben in einem kleinen Kreis: wenn man sie nicht anschauen wollte, war es leicht ihnen zu entkommen. Wenn Du zur Photoschau des letzten Urlaub, der Kinder oder der Hochzeit eingeladen wurdest, war halt grad der Termin ‘sehr ungünstig’!

Die Bilder, die mich zum photographieren brachten, waren in nur einigen Magazinen zu finden und deshalb immer zuverlässig.

Antonin Kratochvil

Antonin Kratochvil

Zuverlässig? Was meinst Du damit?

Gerald: Ich wähle das Wort zuverlässig, weil diese Bilder – nachdem sie durch viele Hände gegangen waren, von berufenen Augen gefiltert, abgewägt und ausgesucht wurden – eben die gewisse Qualität und die Fähigkeit besassen, zu berühren, aufzurütteln und zu erzählen! Sie hatten einen Stellenwert.

Gibt es diese Bilder noch heute?

Gerald: Ja, es gibt sie nach wie vor, aber sie sind viel schwerer zu finden. Ihr Stellenwert hat sich aber nicht geändert!

Eines Deiner Projekte, das mich besonders fasziniert, sind Künstler-Porträts: eine einzigartige Sammlung von über 100 namhaften und weniger bekannten Künstlern aus Österreich und dem benachbarten Europa. Über 50.000 fast ausschließlich analoge Photographien und über 400 Stunden einzigartiges Videomaterial.

Gerald: Vor 13 Jahren drehten Ferdinand ‘Marshall’ Karl und ich ein Interview mit Arnulf Rainer auf Teneriffa, wobei die Idee entstand, den Menschen hinter seiner Kunst zu zeigen. Wir wollten sie über sich selbst sprechen lassen, in ihren eigenen Worten über sich erzählen.

Barbara Husar

Barbara Husar

 

Xenia Hausner

Xenia Hausner

Also weniger als Journalist, sondern mehr als Gesprächspartner der Künstler?

Gerald: Genau! Ferdinand ist selbst Künstler. Er war viele Jahre lang Schüler bei Ernst Fuchs und mit diesem Background der ideale Mann als echter Gesprächspartner für unsere ‘Kandidaten’. Schon bei Arnulf Rainer hatten wir die Idee, sie bei der Arbeit aufnehmen, ohne selbst anwesend zu sein, faktisch die Kamera alleine mit den Künstlern zu lassen.

Dies ist gelungen, denn die Aufnahmen sind einzigartig und lassen den Zuseher wirklich erahnen, wie ein Künstler arbeitet. Wenn ich Deine Bilder betrachte, fühle ich mich als Teil des Momentes, des kreativen Aktes. Ich bin dran, dabei, irgendwie eingeladen und spüre förmlich die Verbindung zum Gegenüber. Nicht viele Bilder vermögen dies für mich zu tun – Deine erreichen dies.

Gerald: Ob bei Gesprächen, den Filmaufnahmen und ganz privaten Zusammenkünften, ich habe immer Photos gemacht und nur so konnte diese einzigartige Sammlung entstehen – von über 100 Künstlern aus Österreich und dem benachbarten Europa.

Gunter Damisch

Gunther Damisch

Arnulf Rainer

Arnulf Rainer

Warum denkst Du, ist es oft nicht möglich, Museen oder Galerien zu finden, die bereit sind, Ausstellungen von solcher Bandbreite zu organisieren?

Gerald: Das ist schwer abzuschätzen und zu verstehen. Selbst unsere Idee hat nur selten Anklang gefunden. Es scheint als sei der Mensch hinter der Kunst – seine eigenen Worte, seine Person – für Institutionen einfach nicht von Bedeutung. Wenn es nicht die Kuratoren mit IHREN Worten … zum Teil so kompliziert und mit ausgewähltem ‘Fachwissen’ und Fachausdrücken gespickt … darbringen können, zählt es offenbar nicht. Wir mussten zwar aus finanziellen Gründen dieses Projekt zurückfahren, doch die Sammlung der Künstler-Porträts besteht weiterhin auf http://www.artv.at

Dort wird es sicherlich genauso Menschen begeistern wie mich, denn diese Aufnahmen sind ECHT – und das bringt mich zu einem weiteren Thema: Es scheint als gäbe es heute kaum noch eine Photo-Veröffentlichung ohne vorherige „Verbesserung“ oder Korrektur. Was gibt einem Foto heute aus Deiner Sicht noch den Echtheitsstempel – angesichts der vielen Möglichkeiten, die Photoshop und andere Programme zur Bildbearbeitung bieten?

Gerald: Es gibt ein sehr berühmtes Foto von Henri Cartier-Bresson auf dem ein Mann mit einem Regenschirm in die Luft springt: großartig, scheinbar eine Momentaufnahme, spontan, voll Leichtigkeit und Lebensfreude! Doch das Bild ist eigentlich gestellt, der Mann ist auf Kommando über die Pfütze gesprungen. Henri Cartier-Bresson hatte die Szene gesehen, war aber zu spät mit der Kamera bereit, um die Szene aufzunehmen und bat deshalb den Mann nochmals zu springen. Das Bild ist also eigentlich ‚bearbeitet‘. Aber da Bresson sich der Schönheit der Szene bewusst war und diese dann nachgestellt fotografiert hat, tut dies der Kraft des Bildes keinen Abbruch. Ein gutes, echtes Bild hat diese Kraft immer – das Bild spricht dann zu dem, der zuhören kann und auch will.

Eine Ikone der Photographie ist die Straßenszene mit einem küssenden Paar von Robert Doisneau. Auch dies scheinbar eine Momentaufnahme, alleine Doisneau bat die beiden sich zu küssen! Ist das bearbeitet?

Es gibt Studiophotographien, z.B. von Gerard Rancinan, da ist alles gestellt, nichts spontan, aber für mich sind diese ‚echt’. Sie haben Kraft und Aussage, unvergleichbar!

Im news-Bereich wurden Photos schon immer verändert und bearbeitet.

Gerald: Das ist richtig. Oder z.B. unter Stalin, als zahlreiche Bilder nach den Wünschen des Diktators verändert wurden, Personen einfach verschwanden oder andere hinzugefügt wurden. Selbst heute ist es nicht immer einfach die Fälschungen zu erkennen.

Echtheit erkennt man manchmal nicht an EINEM Bild, sondern auch am Drumherum oder am gesamten Werk eines Photographen; an seiner Einstellung zur Photographie und seiner Einstellung zu seiner Arbeit.

Antonin Kratochvil

Antonin Kratochvil

Gibt es einen Photograph, bei dem fast jedes Bild zu Dir spricht?

Gerald: Ja, das Werk von Antonin Kratochvil berührt mich unendlich. Seine Bilder brachten mich nach einer sehr langen fotographischen Absenz wieder zurück zur Photographie; es ist die Dichte, die Intensität seiner Bilder und seine Eigenart, die mich jedes mal berühren und aufwühlen, wenn ich mir seine Photographien anschaue!

Ich hatte das große Glück ihn persönlich kennenzulernen und weiß durch unsere Begegnung – aber sicher nicht nur daher – dass seine Bilder echt sind! Sie sprechen zu uns, man muss nur zuhören!

 

Cafe do Brazil

Cafe do Brazil

Dennoch bleiben Bilder Momentaufnahmen, die den Betrachter im besten Fall faszinieren und inspirieren. Du legst Wert auf die Dokumentation von Geschichten, die das Leben schreibt: “Polo de Campo”, “Café do Brasil”, “Chernobyl” und “Big Game”, um nur einige Deiner photographischen Bilderreisen zu nennen. Woher nimmst Du Deine Ideen?

Gerald: Neugier, Interesse, Zufall. Ich bin neugierig und wenn ich auf etwas aufmerksam werde, und das geht recht schnell, dann kann ich nicht anders als dem nachzugehen. Ich nähere mich der Sache, den Menschen und der Geschichte an und erlebe es dann auf meine Art mit meiner Kamera.

Zugleich interessieren mich viele Dinge auch einfach; ich will mehr darüber wissen, ich recherchiere, frage Menschen, lese darüber und versuche es selbst zu erleben. Und die Photographie ist dann meine Art es so darzustellen wie ich es sehe und erlebe.

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Du sagst, der Zufall sei so oft ein großartiger Auslöser.

Gerald: Absolut! Auch ‘Polo del Campo’ beruht auf einem Zufall. Nur einen Tag vor unserem Abflug nach Buenos Aires machte mich eine Bekannte auf eine gemeinsame Freundin aufmerksam, die oft in Argentinien sei, um Polo zu spielen. Und wie es nur der Zufall zustande bringt, war diese zur gleichen Zeit wie wir im Land und lud uns auf die Hacienda ein, auf der dann die Bilder zur Geschichte ‚Polo del Campo’ entstanden sind.

Ich glaube, dass ich einfach sehr aufmerksam bin, Dinge um mich herum wahrnehme und zuhöre.

Polo

Als Tänzerin des Argentinischen Tangos beeindruckt mich, wie Du in Deiner Doku “Tango Argentino” als „Nicht-Tänzer“ die fast intime Nähe eines flüchtigen Momentes sowie pure Emotionen visuell greifbar machst. Fühlst Du Dich als Voyeur oder eher als Teil dieser Begegnung zweier Tänzer, wenn Du auf den Auslöser drückst?

Gerald: Nein, nein, nein! Als Voyeur würde ich mich fühlen, wenn ich mit einem Teleobjektiv aus großer Distanz meine Fotos machen würde! Ich bemühe mich bei meinen Geschichten immer um größtmögliche Nähe, beim Tango war ich teilweise auf der Tanzfläche, bei den Polo-Aufnahmen saß ich am Boden und Patricio ist bei einigen Aufnahmen nur knapp einen halben Meter an mir vorbeigeritten. Ich konnte den Luftzug seines Poloschlägers spüren, den er an mir vorbei geschwungen hat; ‘Backstage’ mit meinem Sohn war ich Teil des Ensembles einer aktuellen Aufführung – das hat nur funktioniert, weil mich das Ensemble akzeptiert hat.

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Und bei den Künstler-Fotos bist Du mit ihnen im Atelier während sie arbeiten.

Gerald: Ja, ich rieche die Farbe und – jetzt etwas pathetisch – spüre ihren Atem!

Ich MUSS spüren, was die jeweilige Situation ausmacht, um sie für mich in der richtigen Weise zu ‚dokumentieren‘. Aufnehmen im doppelten Sinn – für mich und auf Film in meiner Kamera. Am besten erklärt durch ein Zitat von Robert Capa: „Wenn deine Bilder nicht gut genug sind, warst du nicht nah genug dran.“

Ferdinand Bubi

Ferdinand Bubi

Gerald, Du hast als Redakteur für das ORF, “Wissen aktuell”, “Teleskop” und “Kunststücke” gearbeitet. Woher kam der Name und die Idee für Deine Agentur Yeti, die Du in Schladming 1985 gegründet hast?

Gerald: Der Name stammt aus einer Zeit vor meiner Tätigkeit als Redakteur im ORF. Zu dieser Zeit musste man in Österreich noch eine Prüfung vor einer staatlichen Stelle ablegen um als Filmproduzent zu arbeiten. Ich bin noch immer der jüngste, der diese Prüfung gemacht und bestanden hat – heute ist das nicht mehr notwendig, aber haben tu ich sie!

Und dann ging es darum, wo und welche Filmproduktion oder Firma ich gründen möchte. Zu dieser Zeit hat mich der Winter und Wintersport sehr fasziniert und so habe ich mit einem Freund zusammen die Yeti-Filmproduktion und Stuntmen Agentur gegründet, als Österreichisches Pendant zu dem in Deutschland und weltweit bekannten Willy Bogner. Der Yeti – als Schneemensch bekannt und durch Reinhold Messner in aller Munde –erschien mir als der richtige Name dafür!

Offenbar hast Du Dich in dieser Zeit immer öfter und bald auch nur noch als Yeti den Leuten vorgestellt?

Gerald (lachend): Ja, es ging letztlich so weit, dass man mich unter meinem richtigen Namen gar nicht mehr kannte, sondern nur noch unter Yeti! Schließlich habe ich irgendwann dann das Y als Abkürzung meines Mittelnamens eingefügt und da ist er bis heute.

2006 machte mein Kollege Basil Gelpke gemeinsam mit Ray McCormack den Dokumentarfilm „The crude awakening“, der untersuchte, wie uns die Öl-Versessenheit unserer Zivilisation auf Kollisionskurs mit der Umwelt bringt. Auch Du hast Dich mit diesem Thema auseinander gesetzt. Du hast ebenfalls ein grosses Themenwissen in diesem Bereich: Woher kam Deine Idee für den Dokumentarfilm “Ölspur, … und am Anfang war das Öl“?

Gerald: Als ich in Schladming gelebt habe – zur Zeit der Yeti-Firma – war ich begeisterter Squash Dilettant. Eines Tages ist der Inder Atal aufgetaucht – ein begnadeter Squash-Spieler und begeisterter Skifahrer – mit dem ich mich angefreundet habe und der als First Officer auf Öltankern arbeitete.

Atal hat mir einen Einblick in seine Welt verschafft; elf Jahre nach unserer ersten Begegnung und intensiven Recherchen konnte ich dann für den ORF diese Geschichte umsetzen – wir waren sogar das erste Fernsehteam, das direkt von einem Tanker berichtete, ein halbes Jahr bevor dies der übermächtigen BBC gelungen ist! Auch hier wieder der Zufall, da damals mehrere Öltanker verunglückten und das Interesse an dem Thema auch in Österreich gross war.

Roland Reiter

Welche Kameras bevorzugst Du?

Gerald: Für meine professionelle Arbeit verwende ich eine digitale Spiegelreflex, für meine persönlichen Projekte verwende ich mehrere analoge Suchkameras mit Festobjektiven – meine Standardoptik ist 28mm – damit muß ich nahe ran!

Sucherkameras verwende ich, weil sie kleiner, ‚schöner‘, vor allem aber weniger bedrohlich sind als große schwere schwarze Spiegelreflex-Kameras. Die besten Ergebnisse bei meinen Porträts erreiche ich mit einer kleinen zarten Kamera, die nicht einmal einen eingebauten Sucher hat, sondern ein aufgestecktes ‚Auge’, eine sehr freundliche, lustige Kamera, die mir Menschen, auch solche die sich eigentlich gar nicht photographieren lassen wollen, näher bringt, sie auf mich zugehen lässt, weil sie neugierig sind, womit ich denn da hantiere!

Ich hab eine weile auch mit einer digitalen Sucherkamera gearbeitet, aber die Ergebnisse waren einfach nicht befriedigend, ich musste zu viele digitale Filter und Bearbeitungsschritte einsetzen, um zum selben Ergebnis zu kommen, das ich mit Film und fotografischem Wissen erreiche, also lieber gleich Film!

Fordert Dich Film heraus?

Gerald: Absolut, denn ich muß wissen, was ich tue, wie das Zusammenspiel der drei Komponenten der Fotografie funktioniert – Verschlusszeit, Blende, Empfindlichkeit des Films – das ist Handwerk!

Eine digital gesteuerte Fräsmaschine kann jede Figur aus Stein herausschneiden – perfekt – aber sie wird nie die Qualität eines Alberto Giacometti erreichen, der die Seele des Steines gespürt und damit gearbeitet hat, vielleicht mit Fehlern, aber mit großer Kunstfertigkeit und Leidenschaft und mit all seinem Wissen über das leben und dessen Verstrickungen.

Welchen Stellenwert hat ein Iphone für einen professionellen Photographen wie Dich und warum?

Gerald: Ich verwende die Kamera des iPhones als digitale Notiz- und Merkhilfe. Eine Weile habe ich versucht damit zu photographieren, aber das hat für mich nicht funktioniert, denn man entkommt einfach nicht den unzähligen “Bildoptimierungs-Helferlein”. Zum Schluss ist es nicht Dein Bild, sondern das Bild einer App, das als Ergebnis übrig bleibt.

Gerald Plattner, ich danke Dir für diese Interview und wünsche Dir noch viele spannende visuelle Projekte und Begegnungen.

Weiter Informationen:

www.worx.tvhttp://www.yetis.photography
www.artv.at – Das Porträt des Menschen hinter der Kunst

Copyright aller Photographien von Gerald Plattner. Veröffentlichungen nur mit expliziter Genehmigung des Photographen.

 

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.

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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

 

 

Turning photographs into new memories

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Exhibition “My Mother’s House” by Clare Thomas

When artists give free rein to experimentation, photography often helps expanding boundaries. Ever since the 1980s we have seen a rising tide of photo-based art, when artists started using photography as a medium.

Two exhibitions by B.C. artists showing the noticeable influence of photography on other forms of art – particularly some genres of painting – recently caught my attention: “My Mother’s house” by Clare Thomas and “The Vegas Project” by Mary Babineau.

“My Mother’s House”

Houses and identities are often intertwined. A house is refuge from the world while it reflects the soundness of our self. But what if the house is in disarray and nothing makes sense anymore? In response to her mothers’ memory loss, British contemporary artist Clare Thomas uses figurative drawings and paintings to create the imaginary house that holds her mother’s memories. A house in which, in the apparent disarray and confusion, new connections and stories are made.

 

20180301_194909“My Mother’s House” is the title of Clare Thomas’ exhibition, “because my Mother has Alzheimer’s.”

The intensely autobiographical work tells the story of imperfectly remembered events: memories “stored” in family photographs yet still subject to disorganisation and even disintegration, explains Clare Thomas who lives and works in Victoria, B.C. She was inspired to begin this series when, shortly after her Mother’s diagnosis, she found a box of old family photographs.

“These photos held memories in them exactly as my mother was losing hers”, Clare says. Using photocopied family photographs as her source, all the drawings and paintings contain figures from the original photographs. “I basically started turning them into new memories”.

20180303_174052In therapy or analysis a house represents our psyche. “I wanted to create a house for my mother’s psyche and fill it with memories. All these images represent memories that I transformed from the original photographs.”

“Normally, when you make a piece of art, you spend a lot of time on your own”, said Clare Thomas at her opening night, “but the work is not really finished until other people see it. So by coming out tonight you finished my work.”

For those who missed the show, you may finish Clare’s work by watching her video about “My Mother’s house”.

 
“The Vegas Project”

Mary Babineau‘s “The Vegas Project” draws from personal photographs and sense memory in these oil paintings about visceral response and the flux between pleasure and dystopia in the public spaces of Las Vegas. Glitzy kitsch, monumental architecture, and dazzling interiors contrast with the glare of economic disparity and desperation in this major tourist destination, a large American city in the desert.

“I work from sense memory and personal photos to explore experience of urban environments in drawing and painting”, says the B.C. artist. The gestural re-imaginings of public spaces create landscapes of uncertainty through which Babineau reflects her experience of place and space.

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“Biz” and “Gone Cold” by Mary Babineau