Artist Q & A: Robert Marchessault

1) Can you tell me about the symbolism behind some of your different trees?

Since the image of a tree itself is highly symbolic I hope each person, regardless of cultural background, can assign meaning that is specific to themselves.   Each painting of a tree or trees plays with how the environment influences growth and life.  My trees show what interests me - the way that they respond to the impact of various stressors.  I often paint bent and twisted shapes.  I love how trees can somehow survive even the hardest conditions.  I think we all can associate our own paths through life with these shapes.

Trees also present us with “beauty”.  The concept of beauty has a long history and much has been written about it.  I often strive to address this notion with my work.

2) How does your commitment to ecological responsibility intertwine with your art practice?

I have planted and nurtured thousands of trees since I was a child.  When we first purchased acreage for a home & studio in Ontario my wife, (the artist Teresa Cullen), and I planted three empty hay fields with thousands of saplings.  Today they are a beautiful pine forest.  We’ve done the same at our current smaller property near Lake Simcoe.  I am an organic gardener too.  Sustainable living in a clean sustainable environment is essential.  My paintings usually infer this.  I hope they inspire people to be concerned and activist.

3) I read in your artist statement that deserts, mountains, and vast open plains serve as great inspiration for your artwork. Where do you search for sublime landscapes?

I find these places pretty much everywhere I travel; in Anatolia, Spain, the Prairies, Rockies and especially the American Southwest.  I find the landscape and trees interest me.  The more open the space, the better I like the way trees present themselves to me.

4) How has the artistic treatment of your work changed over the years and what triggers the shifts?

I began my professional career in the late 1970s and early 80s creating abstractions that alluded to landscapes.  At the time my wife and I shared a studio in a warehouse at King and Dufferin Streets in Toronto.  The city and the art scene certainly influenced my work. 

Once we relocated to the countryside north of Toronto (Grey County) the surrounding landscape challenged me to interpret it in ways that were unique to my new perceptions.  The work shifted somewhat so that horizon, sky, hills and trees became more recognizable while expressionistic paintwork was still important.  Trees gradually became more of a focus after planting so many of them.

When we moved and built a second studio, in Oro Medonte ON in 1998, there was a giant sugar maple tree on the property.  That grand dame was nicknamed “The Queen”.  Living under her shifted my focus to trees as my main subject.  The painterly treatment has varied over the years in response to my interests in methods of making paintings, from allusions to representation in a traditional sense.  Recently, I’ve been playing with ambiguous color backgrounds as foils for tree forms.

5) Your tree paintings have a calming and meditative effect and I think this is partly because of the removal of all non-essential visual elements in their compositions.  Can you tell me about the process of reduction in your work?

A few years ago I became interested in how I could strip down my paintings to emphasize mostly the tree.  I played around for a year or two with abstracted backgrounds.  Some of these backgrounds were resolved paintings in themselves even before the tree was painted in.  This was tricky because sometimes the background became more interesting than the main subject. 

Over time I’ve worked to pare down the backgrounds to play a supporting role, like the grounding tones in a musical piece (think the rhythm section in a jazz performance). I have a strong interest in visual art that is grounded in spiritual dimensions, with an emphasis on images and objects that help us to suspend thinking and experience what’s present.  There are some Asian ink wash paintings that really inspire me. "Pine Trees" by Hasegawa Tōhaku (Japanese, 1539–1610) is one of my favorites.

 VIEW WORK BY ROBERT MARCHESSAULT

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Jamie Evrard: Painting La Dolce Vita

Jamie Evrard has spent this autumn season in her pied-à-terre near Tuscany cycling through the countryside and gathering new landscape inspiration for painting. In this candid interview, she shares a glimpse of her adventures and artistic process.

1) What have you been working on lately? 

Well, my friend Florence and I just spent eight days on a bike trip in Sud Tirol and Alto Adige Provinces up in northern Italy.  We biked along the Mincio and Adige Rivers as biking along a river is usually easier and less steep than taking a random route through the mountain.  We stopped frequently to take photos of the turquoise blue water reflecting the trees along the shore.
I’m painting landscapes and reflections. The light is so beautiful here, along with the view out my window.  I’m getting all caught up in the dreamy imaginary qualities of reflections and the impossible tangle of old-growth forests, and am especially loving painting something completely different.

2) Where in Italy are you located and how often do you go there?

My house is located in the Val di Pierle just east of Cortona in Tuscany.  This is a very humble, down to earth area where people farm corn, sunflowers, and tobacco.  People work with their hands and talk a lot about food.  My friends are carpenters and stonemasons with the odd expat thrown in.

3) What do you find most inspiring about working in Italy?

There are several things that I love about working here.  One is that life is simpler...no double shot, extra hot, double cup soy lattes, just un espresso.  A small selection of old clothes with the odd piece from the 3 Euro table at the market, a car whose hubcaps have disappeared and long days to garden and paint with nary a phone call.  My last three phone calls were from a seamstress whose kid got a hold of her phone and dialed me my mistake.  The food is beautiful—hot sweet tiny tomatoes from our neighbor’s garden and yesterday a big haul of porcini mushrooms which they shared with us.  Simplicity and emptiness can be inspiring.  Having hours strung together without distraction is the best thing about this place.  And the warm, golden quality of the light.



4) Can you tell us about your creative process?  Are there any Italian artists that have influenced your work?
I usually take care of errands and odd jobs in the morning and paint in the afternoon.  I paint in my bedroom here and move the furniture around to accommodate my easel and palette so that I can be right in front of the window overlooking the valley
Oh yeah, my “process”.  I’m painting oils on Arches oil paper which I have never liked but do now for the inexpensive freedom it gives me to try all sorts of things.  I stick up a piece and mark off a 20 by 20-inch square and choose a photo from the summer to explore.  Sometimes I finish a sketch in a couple of hours, sometimes I work on a piece for a few sessions.  Since the subject of the landscape is so new to me and the paper is too, I’m really enjoying not having a clue how to approach it.  If a day’s work has been particularly stressful, I’ll go out to the garden and move some rocks or tear up a blackberry or nettle patch.
               
5) I imagine you have visited lots of art museums, famous art sites/ cultural spots during your time there. Do you have any favorites?
I particularly love the Etruscan Museums in the area—Chiusi and Cortona to name two.  The Etruscans were such mysterious people and created with great abandon.  I can just imagine a bunch of sculptors sitting around in the studio and one of them saying, "Hey guys let’s put deer hooves on the next candelabra.” 
I also love to see anything by Piero della Francesca, a Renaissance painter whose work is timeless and deceptively simple.  His Legend of the True Cross in Arezzo, and The Pregnant Madonna, The Deposition from the Cross are nearby.  Sometimes I see someone walking down the street and think they could have just walked out of a Piero piece.  That’s how vital his figures are. I have a couple of artist friends who live around here whose work I admire but the contemporary art scene here is basically nonexistent.
 
6) What would be your dream project?
Figuring out how to turn my landscape sketches into large paintings. 

 

VIEW WORK BY JAMIE EVRARD

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Artist Residency Q & A: Kathryn Macnaughton

We interviewed the fearless Kathryn Macnaughton on her latest adventure, an artist residency in Lisbon where she has spent the last couple months exploring Portugal and pushing her creative practice through experimentation.

1) What is the name of the residency you are at and how long are you planning on being in the program for?

PADA Studios. I was there in July and August and I’ll be back there again for another month in October.

2) Describe your work in 7 words or less.

Expressive, Colourful, Bold, Graphic

 

3) What is something most people don’t know about you? 

I’m addicted to peeling dried paint. When I want to relax and meditate in the studio, I’ll peel all the paint off my containers.

 4) How did you hear about the residency?

Online/social media. I was looking for residencies with large studios. Pada is in a beautiful warehouse in an industrial park on the other side of the river from Lisbon. I also have friends that live in Lisbon so it was a no brainer.

5) What pushed you to take on an artist residency abroad and what do you hope to achieve while in this program?

I needed a change. I wanted my work to evolve and I knew that finding inspiration from another environment and meeting like-minded artists would help with that. 

I work alone in Toronto and I’m quite isolated in my studio. I wanted to see how I would work in a larger space with other artists. It was great! I think I’ve grown so much as an artist. 

6) I would love to hear about the process of creating these new works during your time at Pada studios. Has this new environment inspired new elements, textures or colors in your work?

When I arrived at the residency, I always had the intention of trying to make my own shaped canvases. It was great. I learned how to build my own stretchers with shapes protruding out of them. The idea evolved and I was very inspired by the window frames on residential and industrial buildings in Portugal. They have interesting designed grills that go over the windows, especially the ones that surrounded the industrial park in Barreiro (the town where the residency is).

I began to have ideas about making window frames for my paintings. Right now, they are solid colours that compliment the washes and the flat colours on the canvas. I’m playing around with the relationship between the frames and the background canvas. I’m finding it important to find the right balance between the two. I’d also like to gesturally paint the frames and have them compliment the flat colour of the canvas. 

7) Are you working in a shared space with other artists, and if so, how has this experience affected your artistic practice?  How are you finding it in comparison to working out of your own studio?

Yes. We work in a large warehouse together, but there are partial dividers between the studios. 

It has been an incredible experience. I love working with other artists and I think it has helped me grow. There are pros and cons. When I’m alone there are no distractions, but sometimes I need them. Having other artists around has given me space to think about my work from other perspectives.

VIEW WORK BY KATHRYN MACNAUGHTON

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Artist Q & A: Tom Burrows

1) What is “The Curve of Time” as described in M.W. Blanchet’s book and what does it mean to you? What inspired the appropriation of this title?

The curve of time is the basis of modern physics and Buddhist teaching (if time does exist). I am agnostic.

Tom Burrows at Bau-Xi Gallery Toronto

2) Is there a passage in M.W. Blanchet’s book that inspired this exhibition or articulates the theme, concept or mood of this body of work?

Possibly the chapter where Blanchet repairs Caprice’s motor, toiling much like within my studio process. What most inspired me about the book is the exquisite quality of the writing. The underlying motive of alternative housing remains silent but is so relevant to this particular moment.

3) How is this new series informed by your travels along the coast of British Columbia? In what ways does your experience of the landscape manifest itself in your work, and does it influence your use of colour, light and your treatment of the panel surface?

I have always felt better living beside or on the North West ocean, even at the foot of Main Street. It’s probably the ever-changing light and reflections.

Tom Burrows at Bau-Xi Gallery Toronto

4) What is the significance of the compass bearings, landmarks and geographic features that compose the titles of this exhibition? How do your titles and compositions interact? Are your titles related to the visual quality or emotional memory of a given place?

The qualities of my panels arise from the exploration of material and process. Unlike most fine arts media, there is a rich spectrum of unexplored physical properties in my adopted medium. A title / story is attached to a panel only after its material completion. The title / story serves the panel as a memory device (a mnemonic), rather than the panel serving to illustrate a narrative (an illustration). Through this device (the mnemonic) the panels attempt to remain, without external reference, in a purely visual / physical realm.

Tom Burrows at Bau-Xi Gallery Toronto

5) Your works are often grouped into polyptychs, how does the production of polyptychs differ from that of singular pieces, when in your process do you determine groupings and how do you determine the ways in which they are arranged?

They are not initially conceived of as in-combination. Some things just seem to go together.

6) What was it about this body of work that inspired you to experiment with new materials and revisit old techniques?  How does this body of work interact with the concept of time? 

My role as an artist is to construct a set of parameters within which media such as pigmented polyester or glazed porcelain self-generate image, parameters akin to the climatic conditions that allow ice crystals to form snowflakes. I do try to avoid gesture. Any emotional or narrative content is imposed by the viewer anthropomorphizing the medium. The medium is the message. It glows with an inner luminance, a trace to the Chauvet Cave. (The Curve of Time)

8) What prompted your thematic return to the landscape of the Pacific Coast and how does it relate to your journey as an artist?

There is an abundance of geographic titles on the maps of the West Coast to be appropriated for my panels. Also, I’m studying sailing as a second language, calisthenics for the aging mind. It involves maps.

VIEW NEW WORK BY TOM BURROWS

 

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Artist Q&A: Sheri Bakes

Canadian artist Sheri Bakes on her newest series, Empathy for the Earth.  Bakes invites us into her creative process and gives us a glimpse of the magical setting that inspired her latest artworks.

SheriBakes_studioshot3

1. How do you place your work within the context or lineage of Canadian Art History?

When I was relearning how to paint I was looking a lot at both Impressionism and also the Group of Seven painters, including Emily Carr's work. After sitting with this work, I started to wonder what's missing. What is missing and what can I do to expand on what they were doing so I can be a contribution to the history of art. 

Over time I've thought about this a lot. In my earlier work you can see the red trees are a reference to the work of A.Y. Jackson and the handling of brushwork attempts, more and more, to draw on some of what was going on in Vincent Van Gogh's work that relates to physics, specifically on the concept of turbulent flow in fluid dynamics. 

 

2. Which artists have had the most profound influence on you and how have you diverged and developed your own unique imagery?

There are so many. I think Georges Braque and Paul Cézanne had a huge influence on my thinking and work in that they flipped point perspective onto one picture plane and created the painting for itself, as a flat surface. I've been really interested in taking that idea, along with more traditional point perspective ideas of receding space and combining them both to create a sort of "window/wall" effect combined in one painting. 

An example of this is when you look at ponds with lily pads and koi fish…the lily pads are the flat wall-like parts, and the more translucent parts that you can travel into are the areas with the koi swimming below the surface of the water. I really like the impact and combination of both of these perspectives together in one piece. 

Van Gogh has been a big influence both in his work and in his writings. His cognitive ability to abstract was incredible and I find both his words and work an endless source of inspiration. 

The Group of Seven in their focus on Canadian landscape. I love this work and I try to take this direction and marry some of these ideas with what Van Gogh, Braque and Cézanne were doing. 

Lastly, I also very often look through the work of the Leningrad School of painters as I love the loose poetic melancholy in so much of this work. 

 

3. You are well known for your pointillist technique in your paintings. Could you describe your methodology and the philosophy behind it?

 I do understand the "pointillist" connection in regards to art history, but for me it has more to do with physics. It has to do with the space between the painting and the viewer and trying to depict that space, too.  I think so often we just focus on the three points of the artist/painting/viewer triangle but I'm equally as interested in the spaces between the points. That's what the focus on wind has been about too; the atmosphere and space between.  

 

4. Is the luminous glow in your paintings an element you intentionally create and can you tell us about it?

For me light is the base or root of everything. In my spiritual practice this is where everything starts and everything comes from. It's a constant for me. The ideas and illusions between light and matter is pretty interesting to play with inside a context of "wind and weather." Matter can distort and block out the light in areas or create translucent veils, but ultimately the canvases are all painted with 15 layers of white gesso underneath and that is the light base metaphor for all of the work. Just like a prism fractures light into colours, the source of those fractures is one white light.

SheriBakes_studioshot1

5. The colours in a lot of your past works had bright and electric hues but the artworks in this show have a softer palette. What is the reason for this transition? 

Sometimes colour shifts have to do with something I want to learn in paint mixing or a feeling I want to experience more of. In this show I've wanted to explore subtly and space to create work that is more quiet but hopefully just as powerful. I suppose I wanted to create more of an awareness through more listening. 

 

6. You mentioned that your studio is located on several acres of farmland and that a lot of your paintings from your latest “Empathy for the Earth” series depict different views of it.  Can you describe this landscape and how it inspires you?

I'm currently living on 54-56 acres of farmland on Vancouver Island with highland cows and black Canadian Horses. It's a pretty dynamic atmosphere both in land and weather. There are 5-6 distinctly unique large fields plus trees and pathways from the animals and creeks that run between them. A variety of fruit trees, a lake below my studio in the winter and it empties out in the summer to create a lush field and there is a mountain range further off behind that. There really is a lot to draw from here as things change daily both in weather and in ground. I suppose for me inspiration is like light; it's a constant and not something that is separate. There will be a lot to draw from in any environment.

SheriBakes_studioshot2

7. Can you tell us about the new (bird-like) brush marks in some of these new works?

I was experimenting with a painting from my last show called Serendipity's Run where I wanted to create the feeling I experienced from watching the newly arrived Trumpeter Swans stop in along their migration path. They landed in the lake below my studio one night and I woke up to what sounded like a lot of beeping. They stayed for quite a while as they rested and foraged. Both their vocal and massive wing sounds commanded attention. In this show I wanted to recreate a similar piece in large scale, just to experience a larger version of that same feeling. 

 

8. Does music or literature play a role in your painting process? 

Yes, I think it would have to. I wanted to play music but I just didn't have the right training or confidence. My father was classically trained in violin from age seven to sixteen and then switched to guitar. He played a variety of instruments on his own and in bands up until a couple years ago. This had a very big impact on me growing up, and now I try to create music in my work…a kind of visual sound that the brain can feel but can't exactly hear. I hope to create work that can touch the brain as music does but with visual sound. 

 

9. When do you decide a painting is complete?

 For me it's the same as making dinner. Decide what you want, put it together, maybe it needs a bit more pepper or salt, or apple cider vinegar or ginger... maybe some olive oil. Your taste buds will know when it's done, or done enough to be a satisfying meal. I paint the same way as making food. 

 

10. What are you excited about painting in the next few months ahead?

Learning, growing, and being able to keep painting. 

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ARTIST Q & A: ERIC LOUIE ON CREATING A MURAL FOR FACEBOOK

Recently we chatted with Eric Louie about the mural design he completed for the lobby of Facebook’s Vancouver office.  He was one of two local artists selected for the Facebook Artist in Residence Program to create an original mural for the company’s headquarters and was given the timeline of 1 week to complete it.

1. What was your concept for the mural?

My goal was to convey a sense of life in motion. I envisioned the mural and the bustling and transient lobby space as a portal to a virtual world and wanted to transform the elevators into flood gates leading into the expansive space.

2. Did you face any challenges while creating the mural?

I found the large scale of the mural to be a challenge but the hardest part was painting with acrylic. The quick drying time of this type of paint made things difficult as I’m heavily reliant on blending techniques...I had to work fast and improvise my approach to achieve a similar effect on the wall as I do in my oil paintings. I also cut directly onto the wall’s surface using exacto blades which was tricky because of the drywall’s tendency to flake.

3. Have you worked on any murals in the past?

This was my 4th mural.  I have done a couple murals in town that year for Granville Island (Art Smash in the Forge space) and for Strathcona Brewery. The creative director for the Vancouver Mural Festival helped set up these opportunities for me which I think led to my presence online as a candidate for Facebook.  

4. Can you describe your creative process with this project?

After some brief design planning and a digital project proposal, I began painting. I have always worked from a contemplative approach where taking time to reflect and edit is important.  I’m not good at being a designer who comes up with an image and executes it to a tee, but instead like to get into the moment and see where things go unexpectedly. I thought it seemed gutsy to improvise on such a big project but I had to trust in my ability as an artist to follow through. 

“Art should always be a surprise otherwise what is the point?”

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VIEW MORE WORK BY ERIC LOUIE 

 

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Artist Q & A: Anthony Redpath

Anthony Redpath photography, Bau-Xi Gallery, Toronto

In anticipation of his latest series DISTILLED, we sat down with West Coast artist Anthony Redpath to learn more about his practice.

Bau-Xi Gallery: Can you tell us about how your initial ideas for a piece or a series are sparked? 

Anthony Redpath: Ideas are sparked all the time, both in my mind and from visual reference. I could travel past an industrial site and see surfaces or shapes that interest me. If the subject allows a political, environmental, social, or societal comment to be made at the same time as meeting my aesthetic concerns, then it will be in contention for an artwork.

BX: Your images are so beautifully complex, and you have an incredibly technical process. Where do you start? What is your planning process? 

AR: I’ll start on an idea without delay if I feel it is a strong one. I’ll just as quickly stop working on that idea, and move on to the next if I feel it isn’t translating well into execution.

The first step is always to obtain permission to shoot in locations where the general public is not allowed. This often requires negotiations and can take many months or longer.

Next, I’ll look at visual research of similar subjects and do a lot of online research. I'll create sketches, take test shots, and roughly composite the images together, to make sure that I can get the composition that I am imagining.

For the final shoot, I have to put together all the photographic equipment I need and book assistants. 

 

BX: Your process is so meticulously planned out. Which aspects are the most methodical? The most exploratory?

AR:  The beginning stages of my process are the most exploratory; realizing the potential in an idea by visualizing it in my mind, deciding on which concepts to execute, making the first compositions, then making the first broad strokes in regards to post-production.

This is the most fun part of the process of image making - deciding on a composition, and figuring out how to make it work. 

Most of my process is highly methodical, but especially the shooting process. I am very meticulous when if comes to capturing all the visual information; I make sure I have everything needed to make the highest resolution image possible. 

 

BX: How much do you feel your process and methodology should contribute to the meaning and interpretation of your work?

AR: The extraordinary amount of detail tells stories within the overall composition. The surfaces would not exist if it were not for the century-old technology industrial sites where the images are taken, and the effect of the coastal environment over time on the surfaces. The textural breakdown of the surface is a visual metaphor for the effects of the industry on the surrounding landscape.

At the same time, the surfaces are beautiful, seducing the viewer on a strictly aesthetic level.

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Artist Q&A: Sheri Bakes


1. The title of this exhibition, ‘Open the World’ takes its name from a piece you completed earlier this year. What is the significance of the title and the particular moment that inspired it?  

The title is a bit multifaceted. Externally it relates to concerns I have regarding the state of current North American and world politics, global warming, and the overall wellness of the planet. Internally as far as humanity goes, it relates to concerns I have about the wellness of humanity.

Sometimes titles come from seemingly unrelated places. This title came as I was looking out my kitchen window at a non-functioning septic tank that sat lifted half way out of the ground. The tank had nothing to do with the content of the painting but 'Open the World' was what I heard when I looked at it and the light fell through the foliage beside that area. 

When something isn't working, I sit with it until it opens and the issue resolves itself inside its own answer. I'm not sure what the answer is for the planet, but I guess I'm at the stage of being open and sitting with it. Listening to the things that aren't functioning and the reality of the direction we are heading in on every level. 

'Open the World,' for me anyway, keeps my mind open and gives my heart hope. I think this is something we (or maybe I) really need.


2. Do you see these new paintings as unique, or a part of a series?

Conceptually, all of my work stems back to my first show which was based on Rewach (Spirit, breath or wind). The focus on this specific quality has been consistent. My interest for each show is in constantly working to improve my craft and ability to paint. The hope is to bring something new to each show. To keep paring down what it is that needs saying at that particular time. Inside the physicality of painting, maybe a few new colours I might be working with, or variations in brushstrokes. But the basis of the work, always, is spirit, breath or wind.

3. You are well-known for your treatment of light. Can you share some observations on the light quality in Vancouver Island versus Vancouver/Lower Mainland?

As I sit here typing, the air quality in my area has been rated 10+ due to the smoke from wildfires. It seems to be the same everywhere in BC at the time this was written and while a lot of the work was being made. I do think the heat, smoke and wildfires have greatly impacted my work and ability to work for this show. I believe this has impacted some change in the work as well in terms of colour mixing choices and some choices made in application.


5. You described media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s thoughts on art “as a distant early warning system”. Could you tell us a little bit about what this means to you and your thoughts on the potential of art for personal or social change? 

I really like a lot of Etienne Zack's work in terms of how it addresses instability and imminent collapse of a structure onto itself. How the networks within the paintings function as a complex maze that draw you in and make it difficult to get out before the whole thing collapses in on you. For me Etienne is a great example of an artist whose work is an early warning system. Collapse of salmon stocks. Collapse of our resident orcas (J-Pod), collapse of the glaciers, bees, all the water that Nestle is taking and selling back to us for massive profit... 

I feel gravely concerned about many of the current issues our world is facing. I also have to create a light-thread of hope through that concern. To illuminate the positive things inside those very real threats.

Somehow I have to make paintings as a physical practice of gratitude. To somehow stand for, insist upon and honour the wellness of the planet. 

Open the World opens on September 8 at Bau-Xi Vancouver

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ARTIST Q&A: BAU-XI GALLERY ARTISTS ON A DEEPER SHADE OF BLUE

It’s the subtleties of blue that entrance me - the evocative, inky blues of velvet, the delicate, thin veils of the sky, or the layered ruffles of a rumbling lake. I’ve always been drawn to water (my studio is on a lake) and the intricacies of blue are cool and contemplative to me.

 Darlene Cole

Wassily Kandinsky wrote of the colour blue in his book Concerning the Spiritual in Art: “The deeper blue becomes, the more urgently it summons man towards the infinite…” Yves Klein, expressing a like-minded sentiment, once stated "Blue is the invisible becoming visible. Blue has no dimensions, it is beyond the dimensions of which other colours partake". When called to speak on the famed pigment which bears his name, Klein would often borrow the words of French philosopher Gaston Bachelard: “First there is nothing, then there is a deep nothing, then there is a blue depth."

Blue has far surpassed the rest of the chromatic spectrum in its saturation of the collective consciousness, bleeding swathes of blue into the vernacular. The colour occupies a liminal space, both material and intangible, it is at once the hue closest to both light and dark. For the Summer Group Exhibition A Deeper Shade of Blue, on view until July 28th, Bau-Xi Gallery has invited gallery artists to participate in a dialogue engaging with the rich art and cultural history of the colour blue and to provide insights on their own personal relationship with the hue and its place in their individual practices.           

The colour blue for me has always been a symbol of eternity, of an endless sky and a timeless ocean. I have always been drawn to its beautiful calm and provocative mystery. Blue evokes so many emotions and states of experience.

- Vicky Christou

Blue is the colour of infinity. Of cloudless skies and deep calm seas. It has no dimensions. Blue is the space between breaths.”  – Vicki Smith

Recently, the colour blue has represented to me the deepest part of the lake and the things moving below the surface that you can't see.” - Mel Gausden

L’Heure Bleue - the twenty minutes or so before the sun comes up or after it goes down - is one of my favourite times of day.  The beauty of the indirect light during those brief periods is as mysterious and evocative as the colour blue itself and can make the ordinary appear extraordinary.” – Jamie Evrard

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Artist Q & A: Gordon Wiens

1. Can you tell us a little bit about your process? What materials do you use to create the rich texture in your work?

Recently I have been creating rough drawings as a starting point for some of my paintings, based on the essence of weathered objects that I have found on beaches or elsewhere. Sometimes an idea for a new painting emerges from a previous painting.

The beginning of each painting tends to be loosely based on a feeling I have in relation to an eroded object or a fragment of nature such as a rock or a withered flower. I start making marks and textures on a canvas based on a shape or colour. Throughout the process, I think about form, texture and colour and apply multiple layers of acrylic paint and various mediums to canvas. Ultimately, the painting dictates its own direction as the process of painting progresses. The layers build to create a sense of depth and dimension, leading to the final patina and structure of each painting.

2. Do you see your works as unique or as part of a series?


While there is definitely continuity in my work as it evolves over time, this series represents a new body of work.



3. Do any particular lived experiences or memories, if any, inform your work?


I don’t rely on specific experiences and memories to inform individual paintings. Cumulative memories of my experiences in nature do play a role, however, I rely more on the objects and fragments of nature that I collect and keep in my studio.

4. Upon viewing the work in ‘Nature Transformed’, one is reminded of the Japanese aesthetic principle of wabi-sabi: a worldview that centers on the acceptance of transience, impermanence and imperfection. How consciously are you thinking about this idea of wabi-sabi? Is it an artistic practice as well as a personal or spiritual practice for you, too?

Wabi-sabi values and aesthetic principles resonate strongly with me and have a significant influence on my work. I’m very conscious of these ideas when I am painting and over time I have incorporated them into my way of working and my personal aesthetic.

While this is a predominant perspective for me, I have multiple sources of inspiration and reference for my work, including the work of other abstract painters.


Inside the artist's studio with Eddie the dog

5. Which necessities do you require when making art?

For me, the basic necessities are simply a space to work in, the materials I need, and regular dedicated time.


6. Your previous body of work took some reference from hard edge abstraction with an emphasis on structured linear patterns, why the departure?


I didn’t make a conscious decision to depart from structured linear patterns, the shift flowed naturally through the process of working. My recent paintings still include structured hard-edged forms and I see this change as a transition that evolved, rather than a complete departure from earlier work.

Each of my paintings is, in a sense, an experiment and new ways of working happen both by accident and through purposeful changes to the ways that I apply paint. My current work represents new interpretations of elements of nature with forms in the initial layers that are looser and more spontaneous. I have no way of knowing how my paintings will evolve over time.

VIEW NEW WORK BY GORDON WIENS

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Artist Q & A | Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber

Lori Nix and kathleen Gerber photography, presented by Bau-Xi Gallery

Brooklyn-based photography duo Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber meticulously build three-dimensional miniature dioramas by hand, and capture the scenes using a large-format film camera. Read this Q&A session to learn more about their incredible process.

Besides moving into a small apartment, what inspired you to start creating dioramas and photographing them instead of shooting more conventional work?

Lori: We are most comfortable working with our hands. With my background in ceramics and woodwork, and Kathleen’s glass history, we are comfortable building our worlds rather than going out in search of them. Neither of us has had the financial means to travel much beyond the United States. We’ve always used our money to purchase tools and art supplies rather than plane tickets and hotel rooms. We’re happy enough to be armchair travelers, exploring the world through books, magazines, television and the internet. So instead of going out in search of worlds to photograph, we choose to build our own worlds in a much smaller scale.

 

How do you come up with your ideas? Do you keep a journal? What inspires you?

Lori: I’ve always taken inspiration from my surroundings. I grew up in [...] rural western Kansas. Every season brought with it a new disaster or weather phenomenon. [...] these events brought excitement to a life that by most people's standards was quite dull. I also grew up in the 1970s, when dystopian cinema had it's heyday. I remember being quite young and in the movie theater, completely scared yet excited to watch such movies as Planet of the Apes, Towering Inferno, Airport 76, Earthquake, and Logan's Run. These movies have had a not-too-subtle influence on my photography.

[Kathleen and I ] have lived in New York since 1999. Now the city has become our inspiration. I used get my ideas during the morning commute on the subway ride between Brooklyn and Manhattan. It has to be a combination of still being slightly asleep, the light that hits me when we come out of the tunnel and go over the Manhattan Bridge, and trying to maintain my sense of space while riding in a packed subway car. I kind of just drift off and let my mind wonder. I'm like a tourist in my own city, always looking up at buildings around me. The detail in the architecture is so incredible that I want to recreate it for my work. I have a stack of architecture books next to my desk that I turn to for reference when I'm not walking around the city. I don't keep a journal, but rather a list of potential subjects on my phone. Some ideas I sit on for years, others I like to start immediately. I'm completely fascinated with the apocalypse, the Anthropocene, and our reach into outer space.

Kathleen: I’m also a fan of science fiction, though I came to it later than Lori. The best of it raises questions about how the world and societies function (or don’t function). Or gives you a look at a world you’ve never imagined and it just gets the creative juices stirred up. I’ve also kept a sketchbook for years. I’m not sure it always relates directly, but it’s a valuable way for me to sort my thoughts.

 

Are there any art periods or styles that have influenced you? And how would you describe your own style? 

L: We are greatly influenced by landscape painting, particularly the Hudson River School of Painting which included the artists Thomas Cole, Asher Brown Durand, Frederich Edwin Church, Martin Johnson Heade, and the Romantic painter Casper David Friedrich. Each of these painters possessed characteristics of romanticism and the Sublime and it's ability to create a state of mind and express intense emotions either through beauty or horror. Eighteenth century philosophers such as Burke and Kant wrote of phenomena that could excite sublime feelings when considering natural settings, dangerous situations, the unknown, and anything else that can threaten us or our belief that we live in a friendly and predictable universe that is under our control. The Sublime as a school of thought came to full force in the eighteenth century and was illustrated by these painters' grandiose landscapes.

In our own work, Kathleen and I are interested in depicting danger and disaster, but temper this with a touch of humor. My childhood was spent in a rural part of the United States that is known more for it's natural disasters than anything else. I was born in a small town in western Kansas, and each passing season brought it's own drama, from winter snowstorms, spring floods and tornados to summer insect infestations and drought. Whereas most adults viewed these seasonal disruptions with angst, for a child it was considered euphoric. Downed trees, mud, even grass fires brought excitement to daily, mundane life. [...]  For the series "The City," I have imagined a city of our future, where something either natural or as the result of mankind, has emptied the city of it's human inhabitants. Art museums, Broadway theaters, laundromats and bars no longer function. The walls are deteriorating, the ceilings are falling in, and the structures barely stand; yet Mother Nature is slowly taking them over. These spaces are filled with flora, fauna and insects, reclaiming what was theirs before man's encroachment. I am afraid of what the future holds if we do not change our ways regarding the climate, but at the same time I am fascinated by what a changing world can bring.

 Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber, presented by Bau-Xi Gallery

Do your pieces have messages for on-lookers? Is there any modern day issues or causes that you try to raise awareness to in your work (In reference to your current work in The City) or is it just to excite the imagination?

K: We do not strictly define what has taken place in the photographs. Clearly, we have a general theme - something catastrophic has happened, mankind is gone, all that is left are empty buildings and abandoned landscapes - but the details as to what actually occurred are purposely left fuzzy. That allows the viewer to bring in their own ideas (or fears) as to what happened. The fact that it is an image of a model and not a real place, can make it easier for viewers to place themselves into the scene and imagine what may have led up to this point.

 

Your work is labor intensive. Talk me through the creative process and techniques that go into making one of your projects.

K: Because we have been working together for 18+ year now, we each have different roles in the creation of the work. Lori is the architect and I am the sculptor. Lori is responsible for hard surfaces such as walls, floors, furniture, buildings etc. I take care of the detail items such as paint finishes, small props, and generally distress everything. If it takes patience, I’m going to do it. If it involves a ruler and a table saw, then it falls to Lori. In “Anatomy Classroom” I sculpted the anatomy models and skulls out of polymer clay. I created all the specimen jars, the posters and the overhead projector. Lori built the cabinets, chairs, laid in the floors and put up the walls. I then distressed and partially destroyed the scene, readying it for the camera. When my part is done, Lori sets up the camera, lights, the background scenery and begins the process of capturing the final image.

A diorama can take anywhere from three to seven months, but a few have taken as long as fifteen months. We work on two and three at a time. Most of the fabrication takes place in our apartment because that where all the power tools, spray booth, paints and supplies are located. When the work is close to being finished, we pack up the parts and pieces of the diorama and transfer it to our outside studio where there’s more space and where we keep the lighting equipment. When we install the scene out here, it’s usually the first time we see it as a whole. And when we see it all together, there’s usually something amiss and we need to add more detail or more background to a scene.

 

What advice would you give a young artist that is just starting out?

L: I took the long path to get to where I am today. I started applying to juried shows, then to non-profit shows. I also applied for programs such as the Artist in the Marketplace through the Bronx Museum of Arts, another artist network. As I built up my resume and got a little press recognition, I started to approach commercial galleries. As I had more shows, my work began to spread. It's very important to have a good website. I can't stress this enough.

Good projects take time to develop. Do not be in a great hurry to start and finish a body of work.

Be sure to have a day job. Surviving on art work alone is a rare feat.

Your friends are your greatest source of information sharing. They are the ones who will help out your career the most with gallery connections, inclusions into exhibitions, and spreading your name around to their friends. I am indebted to a lot of my friends for getting my career to where it is today.

 

Visit Bau-Xi Photo at 350 Dundas Street West to see Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber's solo exhibition, The Empire, The City. Click here to read about this show, which has been selected as a Featured Exhibition for the annual Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival.

 

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Artist Q&A: Joshua Jensen-Nagle

For the month of May, Bau-Xi Vancouver is pleased to present an exhibition of Canadian photographer Joshua Jensen-Nagle's acclaimed series Endless Summer. We recently asked the artist about how this ongoing body of work has evolved and what his process looks like behind-the-scenes.

1) This body of work prominently features beach scenes, what inspires your continued exploration of this recurring motif, what qualities do you seek when scouting your next location and what distinguishes the destinations you’ve photographed from one another?

The beach work is inspired from my childhood.  I would spend summers at my grandfather's beach house in Mantoloking, New Jersey and have fond memories jumping waves, surfing with my father and basking in the sun.  Those memories have been the driving force behind the work.   

I try and find interesting locations with dramatic elements.  Every location has its own distinct look and feel.  Whether it's the colour of umbrellas, water and sand, every beach seems to carry its own personality.  If there a reef in the water, or it's a rock versus sand.  All these elements bring together a unique composition.

 

2) Your practice has evolved through a gradual elevation of the lens, from high-angle shots to bird’s-eye view, what prompted these shifts in perspective and how does your approach and relation to subject matter and composition change as you photograph from varying proximity and new vantage points?

I’ve been photographing beaches for nearly twenty years and I was trying to find a new perspective of the subject which led me to aerial work.  I had found myself climbing cliffs with all of my gear, more often, and now working from a helicopter, my approach has changed drastically.  I have a very limited amount of time to get the image, so I coordinate with the pilot on altitude, speed, distance and maneuvers, which makes everything more challenging. 

3) How has technological advancement in digital photography affected your practice over time? Is this rapid change difficult or challenging to keep up with? What about the potential of this medium do you find exciting or daunting?

Technology has allowed me to transition into shooting aerial work.  It is a challenge, but I waited a while until the technology was more advanced and precise.  It’s exciting because of the possibilities it possesses and it is daunting because it is very expensive.  In my early years, I travelled with a few SX-70 Polaroid cameras and a bunch of film in my backpack.  Now, I have multiple high-end digital cameras, lenses, a gyroscope and a 14ft tripod for the locations I can't source a helicopter in.  Customs takes longer travelling internationally with all of this equipment.


4) Having practiced in the field of contemporary photography for many years now, what continues to be the most challenging aspect of the artistic process for you and what surprises you most when you’re shooting?

The most challenging aspect is the travel. From the outside, it looks fantastic, but when you are doing it for work and lugging a ton of gear in and out of countries with different customs requirements, it is very challenging and often stressful.   Flying across the world to photograph is a gamble when you're not sure the weather will cooperate or if the location is what you expected. You never know what you are going to get until you arrive and that can be frustrating.
 

5) Besides photography, what else do you get up to on your travels?

When I’m shooting the winter work I get to snowboard which is nice but I’m riding with gear looking for something to photograph. When shooting the beaches I try and get a swim in at the end of the day but I’m usually on the move a lot. My wife travels with me on a lot of shoots, and we get to enjoy some of the local restaurants after long days, or find some fun spots in between driving from beach to beach each day. In Hawaii, we spotted a 5 mile long sandbar in the middle of the ocean from the helicopter.  I shot it, and the next day weather didn't allow for us to get back up to shoot more work. So instead, we drove around the island, found a park with some kayaks for rent, and kayaked out to the sandbar at low-tide. It's moments like this, that makes it all worth it.  Seeing this sandbar from both perspectives was a highlight of mine for that trip.
  

 

 VIEW JOSHUA JENSEN-NAGLE'S COLLECTION
 

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