‘Forge body and mind’ by Karima GALVÁN

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

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The artist Karima Heredia (left) 

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

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

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Mural reflections 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you deal with worries?

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

IMG_5541What does art mean to you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where are you the happiest?

Karima: When I am in nature.

What is your greatest achievement?

Karima: Moving on my own to Canada.

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

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

What do you need right now the most?

Karima: An effective treatment to treat my acromegaly.

Karim, thank you very much for this interview.

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More information about the artist:

Photographs by Daniela Herold (Copyright 2017)

 

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Artists as willing participants in a force of nature

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

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

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

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The beauty of cast drawing

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Noah!

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More information: Noah Layne Academy of Realist Art

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds like the actual figure is not necessary for Clem?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_2084What was the most inspiring moment during your collaboration?

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

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

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About Morley Myers

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

About Clem Crosby

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

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

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

Other collaborative projects in the art world

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

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

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

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

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

Creative couple collaborations:

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

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Recent work by M. Myers

 

 

There is always more to learn …

Marcus Aurelius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The need to belong

Series ‘be-longing’ by Daniela S. Herold at Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in Duncan

'Lemonisity' by D.S. Herold

‘Lemonisity’
Oil on board by D.S. Herold

In 1970, American psychologist Abraham Maslow pointed out that belonging was an essential and prerequisite human need that had to be met before one could achieve a sense of self-worth. 

I immigrated to Canada in 2004 after having lived in different countries for the last 20 years. The theme of migration and identity has concerned me for years – I know what it is like to leave ‘home’ and move to a new place, where unfamiliar people become neighbours, colleagues and friends.  However, I have always moved by choice with a job, a loving partner or a place waiting for me. I was the fortunate one – unlike hundreds of thousands of refugees who know about displacement, having moved out of their native home and country due to civil wars, persecution or natural disasters.

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‘The essence’ by D.S. Herold

Today, my friend Rosemary and I finished hanging 35 paintings from my latest series titled ‘be-longing’ at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre in Duncan.  The show is close to my heart because it focuses on growing roots, being connected and belonging with others. The exhibition can be seen until the end of January 2016.

‘Humans have a natural need to belong with others.
To belong means to be connected.’

Why is the topic of belonging such a common theme in literature, music and the arts?

The need to belong is rooted in evolutionary history. Human beings are social animals who have always depended on having close connections in order to survive and reproduce. In our daily life, we seek out those who are most similar to us because we feel that we can relate to them and they can understand us.

As an immigrant, I wanted to belong and to grow roots here in Canada – I have been longing to be part of this culture while at the same time needing to stay close to my European roots.

Humans have a natural need to belong with others. To belong means to be connected. As for me, the word home is connected just as much to a place as it is connected to a person. In that sense I felt I could take the word ‘belonging’ apart (BE-LONGING) as in ‘I am longing’ for something that makes me whole.

'Camouflage’. Oil on board

‘Camouflage’. Oil on board by D.S. Herold

Every time you are taken out of your ‘heart community’, there is a void that yearns to be filled. For me, the alienation was caused by my move to another country. For many, the feeling can be the result of the scattering of their families, the break-down of traditional groups or the disappearance of a village familiarity where everyone knows everyone. Millions of people are taken out of their heart communities as I am writing these lines – the stories of their suffering during the current refugee and migrant crisis in Europe are enormous.

‘I am longing’ for something that makes me whole.’

A friend asked me whether ‘the artist and nationality’ are a central theme in my art. About a year ago, when I started the series ‘be-longing’, I was wondering how important nationality would (have to) be? At one point it confronted me with quite a dilemma: how could I – as a German-Canadian artist – portray ‘Germanness’ in general if all symbols of Germany are tainted by the past? The artist Anselm Kiefer already asked that existential question in the 1960s.

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‘As snug as a bug in a rug.’ Oil on board by D.S. Herold

When I was reflecting on my own sense of nationality and what it means for me as an artist, I came across a quote by Saltire Award winner Meaghan Delahunt that I really liked. She wrote in 2003: ‘It is not the responsibility of the artist to present a comfortable or ‘identifiable’ picture of the nation in which they were born or in which they live, and they should be free to write about whatever they see fit in whatever language they see fit.’  

This project left me with the interesting question: how important is my nationality in the context of belonging when I compare it to other staples of my life, e.g. my family, my friends, networks, groups, environment etc? As it turned out, nationality has been only one aspect of many.

Belonging has a lot to do with getting recognition and developing self-esteem. According to Maslow, we only develop self-esteem when we are anchored in community. At the end of the day it is the community that gives us the recognition for our achievements, and it is the community that respects us for our mastery in a certain field.

How we portray and express this human need of belonging, so deeply ingrained in our nature, is very individual – as is the artistic presentation of the topic around it. I want my viewers to create their very own story of my art – that is why my paintings leave a lot of room for imagination and assumptions.

Of course there is ‘my’ story behind every painting, but what would art be if it doesn’t reach out and touch your life? What makes me tick is when my paintings manage to hold your attention for a while, when they can inspire you or make you wonder.

Why art? Because.

Daniela S. Herold

 


Further information : Cowichan Performing Arts Centre

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‘In unison.’ Oil on board by D.S. Herold

 

 

Paintings/Photographs by D.S. Herold  / Copyright 2015

Christen Dokk Smith on the art of contemporary Viking carving

For my eight birthday my father had carved three little masks out of pine wood – a man with a pipe, a smiling woman and a little angel singing – the three of us, our small family. One evening I asked him whether he would show me his carving tools, expecting him to refuse as the polished blades were sharp as knives. “Of course,” my father said. “But be careful when handling them as I don’t want you to get hurt.” And then he patiently explained to me how to use a straight and a skew chisel and helped me carve a few lines into a chunk of wood.

I remember my father’s skill when I meet the European carver Christen Dokk Smith on Chesterman Beach in Tofino.  I notice the carver working in the historic ‘carving shed’ on the beach and ask whether I may have a look at his art.

“Absolutely, come on in!”, he says.
“This must be your calling!” I am looking at the most intricate patterns of his stunning art, fascinated by the precision work and beauty of the pieces.
 “It is”, he smiles.

me_carving Christen, you were born in Norway, where you grew up in the countryside outside of Oslo. How did you get introduced to Bjarte Aarseth, a master woodcarver at the Vikingship museum in Oslo?

Christen: I was attending a meditation workshop and we just happened to sit next to each other on the last day. We started talking and connected, and Bjarte told me he was looking for an apprentice.

You were working in the military as an officer at that time: Had you ever thought of becoming a woodcarver at all?

Christen: No, but told him that I would accept his offer to visit him at work. When I stepped into his workshop at the museum a few months later, full of the scent of wood, I immediately knew what I was meant to be doing in life – wood carving; it was like coming home.

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Art work by Christen Dokk Smith

You work in the realm of contemporary Viking carving and sculptures. Are there many European or North American artists like you today who still learn this kind of art?

Christen: Not to the extent that I did. My teacher was the 4th woodcarver at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, and has since taught two others, myself included. There are other woodcarvers that are inspired by the Viking era and Viking art, but there are only a few that have the in-depth knowledge of Viking carving that I do.

During your 4 year apprenticeship, what did Bjarte train you in?

Christen: I was given a thorough classical education in woodcarving, where knowledge is passed down from master to apprentice. Bjarte had high expectations of me and not only did he want me to learn the different styles of carving but he wanted me to master them. My main focus was making high precision replicas of the Viking artifacts for the museum, but I was also taught Norwegian Medieval style, Baroque acanthus, Rococo and sculpture.

Can you tell us a bit more about the classical European way of carving?

Christen: From my perspective, the European way of woodcarving has always focused on architectural decorative elements, which was used on castles, cathedrals, churches and other grand public buildings. There was more of a craft approach than artistic approach to carving and the craftsman were bound to the rules of the era, with no consideration for artistic input.

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Carving by C. Dokk Smith

Your carvings are intricate – they must take months to produce. Is there any room for error when you work with wood?

Christen: When I worked for the museum, there was no room for mistakes. But as we had plenty of time, we never carved if we had a bad day or felt stressed. Bjarte always emphasized being mindful and focused on what you were doing. If we had made a mistake we would have to start over again.

As an artist I still try to maintain this approach to carving; of course when I’m not bound to making a replica of something I have the advantage of adjusting the design should I make a mistake.

What are the differences between Viking, Medieval, Baroque and Rococco carving?

Christen: That is a big question that could be the theme of a book. In short: the difference lies in the time period the carving was made, and the design elements employed during that time.

We regard the Viking era to be between 750 – 1050 CE. The carvings are intricate, often depicting disjointed creatures that bite or hold onto one another. Viking carving is often mistaken for Celtic design.

Isn’t there a strong resemblance between them?

Christen: Yes, but Celtic carving is symmetrical, whereas Viking carving is very asymmetrical.

In Norway, the medieval era started when Christianity was brought to Norway (around 1050CE), earlier on the continent. Today, we have a couple of wooden churches – called Stave churches – left from that period. The carving became a bit more symmetrical during this period. It usually depicted serpents and dragons, again intertwining and biting each other. Later on in the era the animals were replaced with flowers on long stalks intertwining.

The Baroque lasted between 1600-1700CE and is characterized by a very strict construction of the decorative element and was often built around the Acanthus plant, a Greek broad leaf plant with sharp edgy leaves. This particular style of carving was brought to Norway by a Dutch carver, who was hired to decorate the cathedral in Oslo when it was built in 1694CE.

The Rococo period replaced the Baroque era and lasted to the end of the 18th century. The period was a reaction against the Baroque and was more playful and used more asymmetrical designs and curves. Often incorporating a shell.

What kind of wood do you use and why?

Christen: I use all kinds of wood. I tend to prefer the harder types of wood like birch, maple, oak, wood from fruit trees, and walnut. Lime wood is a very soft wood but takes details well. Working for the museum we always used the same wood as the original artifact we were replicating (mainly oak, birch, ash and beech).

After relocating to BC, I began using a lot of yellow cedar, alder and some red cedar. Even though it is not always possible I try to source salvaged wood for my projects. Regardless of preference, the wood I use has to suit the product. If I were to make a piece that is meant to be outside, I would have to use wood that can withstand moisture and does not rot easily, harder wood is preferred for products that are meant to be used or will be touched a lot.

CDSmithIs the art of making high precision replicas for the museum still being taught today?

Christen: There has not been another apprentice at The Viking Ship Museum since I left. I have yet to come across another museum that has a woodcarver employed for that reason, though I am continuing to look!

Tell us a bit more about the subjects you choose and the materials you work with. When you received a scholarship at the City and Guild of London Art School, you started focusing on your big passion – sculptures.

Christen: Yes, I have focused on making portrait work. I have replicated several sculptures. At the City and Guild of London art school I made a bust of Michelangelo’s David. My last project in Norway before I moved, was making a copy of a 13th century Madonna with child. The Madonna was carved out of one piece of oak, 4 feet tall. I have also done several sculptures of live models or bust portrait work.

One of my main projects this year is a sculpture of “a boy in wonderment of the world” in maple for the OneTree Project. The show will take place at the Robert Bateman centre in Victoria in November 2015. I’m also in the planning process for a series of sculptures that are inspired by my inner growth and personal development, where I will use myself as a model. The series will probably be in red cedar.

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Chesterman Beach

In 2012 you moved to Tofino. Have you been working a lot First Nation carvers? If so, who has inspired you the most?

Christen: My introduction to First Nation carving came on one of my first trips to BC, prior to moving here. I had been put in contact with a First Nation elder – Levi Martin – in Tofino. In our time together he guided me to create Pok Mus maks (Wildman mask). The most important thing he taught me – which still remains part of my practice today – is to sit with the wood and listen. To let the wood speak.

When I moved here, I met Joe David who became my mentor and friend. Joe taught me to respect the old way and techniques and we meet on a regular basis to discuss what we are working on and wood carving in general. I am very inspired by First Nations art, not necessary their form line, but more the presence and energy that some of their art work has. It has opened me to another dimension in carving.

IMG_2613You have been carving from the “Carving Shed” on Chesterman Beach in Tofino ever since you moved there. What’s the story behind ‘the shed’?

Christen: “The Carving Shed” was built by a Spanish/ Swedish carver named Henry Nolla, who came to Canada in the 50s. He was allowed to build a shed on the McDiarmids land in exchange for taking care of their house in Tofino. When they later built the Wickaninnish Inn, Henry did all of the decorative adze work and the front doors to the Inn.

Henry was that type of person who attracted other people, so when he passed away 10 years ago his fellow carvers continued to work form there. The Inn saw the opportunity for a mutual beneficial relationship where their guests could experience an authentic work shop on the beach, listening to the story of Henry Nolla, and we – the carvers – would have an amazing work place.

As Feather George, the caretaker of the shed, really liked my work, I was invited to join him. So, today it is only the two of us working there.

You have participated at the carving in the Edge Festival in the past, is that right?

Christen: Yes, the Edge Festival is a local woodcarving festival here in Tofino for the last two years. Both presenting my work and giving a talk. The first year I talked about Viking art and carving, and last year I talked about my journey.

Any upcoming events? You will participating at the OneTree Project in Victoria in November this year!

Christen: Yes, the oneTree exhibit project will promote the fascinating interrelationship between art and nature by celebrating the past, present, and future of one particular Bigleaf Maple tree by salvaging its wood, making functional art from it, and recording the creative process. It is going to take place at the Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria BC this November.

 

Christen, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with my readers.

 

About

Christen Dokk accepts commissions related to decorative carving, portrait and sculptural work.

Christen Dokk Smith

Viking Ship Museum in Oslo

OneTree Project at the Bateman Centre, Victoria BC 

 

Photo Credits: C. Dokk Smith / Daniela Herold