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

 

 

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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.

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Further information:

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

Also watch Ken Clarke’s video on Youtube.

Duthie Gallery Sculpture Park

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

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

Photo credit: Dean Baltesson and Daniela Herold, Copyright 2018

The art of musical story-telling: Canadian songwriter Dean Baltesson is “Covering Ground”

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“Maybe you wonder why nobody seems to try. And they never give anything, but they want everything”. All morning I have been singing this line from Dean Baltesson’s new song “Lonely Ghost”.  The Canadian musician uses his music and lyrics to tell a story, I use my paintings. 

For thousands of years, people have told stories to share their experiences and we do – in many different ways – to this day.  In the old days stories were passed on by word of mouth, often in the form of verse ballads, or songs.  And wherever pilgrims, merchants and wandering people travelled, they took their stories with them.

Songs are our fears, hopes, dreams, losses, celebrations, memories and experiences. And they are each a story. Good musical story-telling is an art, as proven by the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, who composed the symphonic poem “The Moldau” to musically represent the course of the great river Vitava as it flows through his homeland past a forest hunt, a peasant wedding or the city of Prague. Dean Baltesson’s CD “Covering Ground” is the story of his journey from the Canadian Prairies to the West Coast, and I had the chance to talk to the songwriter in detail about the art of musical story-telling shortly after the release of his new album “Covering Ground’.

Dean Baltesson, your musical journey began on the Canadian Central Plains, a land of gently rolling hills, burning summers and hard winters. ‘Covering Ground’ is the title of your new cd. What ground have you covered before you began writing the lyrics, composing the music, playing all the instruments and singing your songs three years ago?

Dean: My music is a reflection of the country that shaped my life as I made my way slowly west – from the Prairies to the Rockies and eventually to the Pacific Coast. This geography has an influence on us all in some manner, and that is something I find worth writing about.

5 - Empty Road - FraserIs “Covering Ground” the musical story of your life?

Dean: I suppose that my journey “Covering Ground” is in a way an autobiography, but not in the sense that it is a story of my life and what I accomplished, which – if I may add – I don’t consider remarkable.

Growing up, I was a solitary person and retreated into music, specifically the singer-songwriter album oriented music of the seventies. The other things that impressed me were landscape, weather, and the beauty of the land. I loved all kinds of landscapes, even unnatural ones. I remember one frozen winter morning when I arrived at work in downtown Edmonton, seeing the sun rise over the refineries to the east of the city. Ironically, I was even drawn to this kind of industrial beauty.

It seems like music and nature have been the 2 staples in your life that particularly speak to you?

Dean: Absolutely. They have made life appealing for me, and I guess the obvious result of such a combination is a collection of songs about the land. That is really why “Covering Ground” exists.

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When you think back to those lonely highways and endless distances during long winter nights, what music comes to your mind?

Dean: There were so many different kinds of music I listened to growing up that it’s difficult to identify a particular song or artist that characterizes my original home. In 1979, however, I started listening to the music of Pat Metheny. I love the album “New Chautauqua”, which is sparse, brooding and beautiful. Its songs, and also Pat Metheny´s “Cross The Heartland” still take me back to the prairie.

To this day those songs awaken your feelings and memories. Dean Baltesson, you mentioned that just as powerful as music were the photographs of Canadian photographer Courtney Milne to you. Why is that?

Dean: Courtney Milne published a book in 1985 called “Prairie Light”. I was infatuated with his images because I felt they captured my emotions and sensations about the land I lived on.

As is happens, “Homeless hills” is one of my favourite songs on your album “Covering Ground”. Were you inspired by a certain image or memory?

Dean: One of the photos by Courtney Milne entitled “Almost Home” is in fact the inspiration for the song “Homeless Hills”. It is a picture of a single light shining on a dark blue winter night. The mood conveyed by that photo is something I know very well. I would have loved to meet Courtney, but unfortunately he passed away in 2010. The book was filled with many similar images that were very compelling to me. I tried to acquire the use of some of these photos for my CD, but it was not possible.

Dean, you sing about hills that were peaceful and safe. Have you ever wondered if you once believed in truth because of your innocence?

Dean: I believe that truth exists, even though some people may argue that the truth is relative or arbitrary. I do admit though that defining the truth can be complicated, particularly when it gets entangled with our beliefs and desires.

On “Covering Ground”, I am suggesting that truth seems less complicated during childhood, the setting for “Homeless Hills”. For example, if you are lucky enough to have loving parents, you can trust them and therefore believe what they tell you. As a child, you believe in truth. But after you grow up and move out on your own, it starts to become more complicated.

Where did you find peace when you were young?

Dean: I often experienced a strong feeling of contentment, but it didn’t always have to be peaceful – it could be passionate and emotional, and always came from nature, music and books. I was a dreamer. I wandered in the fields and the forests surrounding my home, where my imagination would really run away with itself. I loved the idea of living outdoors primitively, really being a part of the earth, the rivers and the sky. I liked the urgency of dramatic weather and wind blowing in the trees. Those things soothed my mind and energized me.

Did music consume you in the same way?

Dean: I could become lost in an album looking at pictures and following along with the lyrics. I imagined playing each instrument as I listened to songs. Of course reading books also activated the imagination, so I would say that dreaming and creative imagination were the activities that occupied my youth and gave me peace of mind.

Dean Baltesson, as a boy, which instrument did you choose to play first and how did you learn it?

Dean: I was always drawn to the drums because I liked the precision and the texture of the sounds. My favourite drummers showed me that it wasn’t just about keeping time. Drumming is musical and creative. I was fascinated with their ability to play time, but also to fill a space at just the right moment.

Did you find rock the easiest music to learn to play drums to?

Dean: Yes, because you can get up and running pretty quickly. Learn a few things and you can find yourself playing along with almost anything on the popular radio stations. I taught myself by listening to Elton John and mimicking the drums on those big hits of the seventies. I treated it like learning a musical score and memorized the drums of entire albums. It was an obsession. Before I owned my first set of drums, I would look at pictures of drum sets and play songs on them in my head.

Would you say that musicians choose different instruments to express different emotions? Like a painter may choose between bright and dark colours?

Dean: That is an interesting question. I love trying to play any musical instrument. When you are teenage boy, it can be very difficult and risky to express emotions, but if you play a musical instrument, it’s like an accepted, even a cool way, to be emotional. Playing the drums could do that for you, but it is probably the guitar that best illustrates what I am talking about. It offers great freedom. You can cry out with a guitar. No wonder so many kids play them.

3 - Lonely Ghost - TorontoYour song ‘Lonely Ghost’ is about people trying to cry out in their own misunderstood way, unable to identify the true source of their pain. How, do you think, is this kind of suffering a result of our modern world?

Dean: I think that the modern world amplifies suffering, which is a problem as old as time itself, or perhaps we should think of it as a mystery rather than a problem. The mystery is that we just don’t know where we are, why we are here, and where we are going. As progress occurs, life becomes apparently too easy, and I say apparently because there really is no easy way to be alive …

… although we never seem to stop looking for one!

Dean (chuckling): One of the things that I’ve noticed about my own life is that it has usually been possible to coast. There have been – and still are – issues and challenges I could better serve myself by dealing with immediately, but it’s so easy to push them aside and distract myself with an easy form of gratification.

When problems are too much to deal with, I sometimes wonder, “Can I just stop pedalling and coast without any real detriment to my lifestyle?” I’m not going to fall off the bike. It is just luck that I can do this – luck and the fact that many, many people have taken the trouble and sacrifice to create a society that makes this possible.

The modern world strives to make our lives one long downhill coast, but one wonders whether this doesn’t lead to stagnancy and disaffection in many ways.

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One of your songs is about a wide, deep river that is calm on the surface, holding a strong current in its heart. You say of yourself that you have become used to searching constantly. Is this your quest, like the river’s current could not be halted?

Dean: The river in “Treading Water” is a reference to a little story at the beginning of Richard Bach’s book “Illusions”. In the story, there are creatures that live by clinging to rocks and twigs, and the big challenge for them is to let go and let the river take them. The song tries to convey the difficulty of letting oneself go in the current, and also the idea that it will lead to the sea, which is where my album is headed as it travels from the Prairie across a widely varied geography to the ocean.

The ocean is also symbolic of life in the song as we are treading water in a directionless place and have to keep moving until we are drawn back into it.

I heard you recall calm moments in the mornings, carefully making a fire,
waiting quietly for sun to break above the high peaks, touching the flames. You were just a teenager when you learned to appreciate mountain weather. Did the patience you discovered then become a valuable skill while letting go of all expectations as you got older?

Dean: Unfortunately, most of the time I discover patience in hindsight, which as you know has 20/20 vision. But when I look back, I remember quite well the moments when I just stopped struggling and trying to force things.

I remember my first time in Vancouver. I was hell bent on walking everywhere and seeing everything, but as it was raining continuously, I finally had to stop. So I sat down outside at a little cafe out of the rain and relaxed. I find that these “what’s the rush”-moments feel incredibly satisfying. It is only when you are in that state that you can observe things and are open to experience.

A particularly enjoyable moment for me is the one you mention – a cold morning in a campsite when you get the fire going to keep you warm until the sun gets over those high peaks. And then it’s a great feeling. You’re suddenly ok again and the sun is going to keep you alive. I’m happy to say that as I get older, I am able to be patient more often. Patience is always available to us.

Dean, it seems like you are very driven to find answers. Will you keep covering ground with new music?

Dean: It took me three years to write and record “Covering Ground”, and I’ve really been looking forward to stopping the obsessive momentum now that it’s finished. I thought I would just sit back and enjoy the destination and do nothing, but this attitude, I think, is really no different than resisting change and trying to stay in the same happy place all the time.

I have plenty of notes and ideas for new music. “Covering Ground” has been a great journey me for literally and artistically. It has helped me shed some of my seriousness, at least for the time being. I’d like to write some happy songs for a change. Life and love have to move onward in whatever way possible.

Dean Baltesson, thank you for this interview and all the very best for “Covering Ground” and your future musical journey.

More information:

Dean Baltesson: deanbaltesson.com

Courtney Milne: coolscapes.sk.ca/index.php

Photo credits: Mark Petrick, Derek Ford, Daniela Herold and Dean Baltesson

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing you all a peaceful 2018.

Daniela

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

Shel Silverstein, American poet and song-writer

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

Marcus Aurelius

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

Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-UP

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

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

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

Henry Ford

 

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

Andre Gide, Autumn Leaves

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

Mark Twain

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

Pearl S. Buck

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book Merlin

 

Nothing is impossible to a willing mind.

Unknown (or was it Merlin?)

 

 

 

 

Further information: 

Paintings and photos by Daniela Herold / Copyright 2017

 

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

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

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

Have you entered the hoarding zone yet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

baseball painting by James

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

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

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

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

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

James Mulchinock, thank you very much for this interview.

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