Monday 31 December 2012

Fitting Into Boxes

My first wood working experience surpassed my expectations.  I was quickly aware of how I could use the same elements I use for painting and transfer them to the 3D pieces of wood.  I also further questioned what defines an artist when working with my friends father, Fred, who very adamant that he wasn’t an artist.  I definitely walked away from the experience knowing I would soon be back for more sculptural wood work.

When I mentioned to Fred, that he too was an artist, he was quick to dismiss the notion.  I came to realize that the term artist is similar to the labels we put in children, like autism.  Not everyone fits into a perfect box and Autism can have thousands of variations and like each individual child with it, an artist is a reflection of the self/individual, there are no two alike.  To me I saw Fred as an artist in ways because he was problem solving, creating and experimenting.

Lately I have been telling my primary art students, particularly when they are engrossed in conversations and not focusing on the task at hand, that when you are creating a work of art many things are happening.  I explain that art is like science because you are experimenting and testing different ideas, materials and concepts.  Your results may vary until you find a pattern, like scientist do.  I then tell them that it is like math since you are continuously problems solving with tools and ideas and how you will present them with your intended meaning. Lastly; I explain that they are also incorporating language since their linguistic ideas are being represented in a visual form which they are then communicating to their audience.  Do you think you can do all of that and chat with your friend at the same about recess?

I noticed that Fred followed the same pattern, experimenting and problem solving. Although he may not be communicating an intentional message his work is an extension of himself, which is what I believe an artist is.  Each artist, like Autism, is on a continuum of depth to which they go in regards to these elements. 

I soon realized working on the table was parallel to working on a drawing or painting.  I participated in sculpting the legs and making the table top.  As I began scrapping away at the legs I used the natural curves and contrasting colours to help guide me.  Soon I was introduced to the drummel and went full fledge with it, creating lines that also mimicked the grains in the wood.  My creative process is always a play back and forth from reflecting and creating; I found this to be the same when creating the coffee table.  I am very excited to explore creating more sculptural work as it has been a long time.

Sunday 23 December 2012

'Pathway' Series

My ‘Pathway’ series began from a drawing I completed called ‘Tunnel Vision’ in 2010.  From there sprang a whole series of drawing that were interconnected like a puzzle resembling a hand or branches.  I transferred a small number of the pieces to wood panels using modeling paste and oil paint marker. It quickly became apart that the pieces needed to be showcased in a large space, which was two stories high and around 15m long.  I also wanted to experiment with having the figures come out of the wood canvas using metal.  Due to limited resources, (my tiny studio in my apartment) and not having a location lined up, I had to take a break from the series knowing that when time and circumstances were right I would be able to go full fledge without having to hold back my creative vision.

The video below describes the process of both technique and meaning behind the series.  I look forward to continuing to document my ideas as it is  not only helpful for reference and generating further ideas, it allows people to understand the deeper levels of my work.  I enjoy sharing the meaning behind my work because I always get great feedback, perspective and inspiration.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

What speaks to us?

I attended three different opening nights late last month, each different, both in atmosphere and genre of work.  On Wednesday November the 28th NSC (Neubacher Shor Contemporary) had an opening featuring photography from Arline Malakian and sculptures from Dennis Lin. Thursday was a swing in the opposite direction with traditional realistic landscape work form a Newfoundland artist at Open Architect Inc, Friday finished the triangle with a Sci Fi themed show that consisted of 70 artists, including myself.

Each experience in life brings different questions to mind, and this art bonanza bought back a question that I always repeat, what makes good art?  How you assess art is a very open and subjective topic where everyone has their own take.  Whether individuals are experts in art or just enjoy its thought provoking qualities, we all respond and react to what speaks to us.  However, there must be a common thread that draws us to visual arts.

What spoke to me the most was the sculptures by Dennis Lin at NSC. I loved the contrast between the materials used and the forms created, particularly the ones on the wall (see example below).  His use of organic lines set against the strong shinny metal drew me in immediately.  His work is my favourite in that there was subtle intention when the work was created, which allows for the viewer to have their own take on it.  His strengths are definitely scale, line, shape and form along with contrast of technique and materials. After looking at his extensive collection I to hope to take my own work to such great scale and intensity.

The Sci Fi show on Friday exhibited a continuum of ability equal in technique and subject matter.  I found some pieces with very strong colour and texture while others had strong composition yet lacked clear colours, I know too well that over mixing colours makes them muddy and takes away from a potential master piece.  
The use of line and value by Arzu, was technically amazing and many were found staring at it for some time.  However, it was the emotion emitted from the piece that spoke to me and cannot be placed into an element or principal box.

'Transmission' by Arzu and detail

Another key feature to a solid work of art is a strong focal point, whether it’s a sculpture, dance piece or painting, a focal point draws in the viewer to take a second look.  I am currently experimenting with making my focal point and composition stronger because of this importance; I want to draw the viewer into the deeper meaning of my pieces to provoke thorough discussion.

A good work of art must balance both the elements and principals of art, by either following them, or breaking them in a creative way.  The work being visually pleasing is only half of it; I prefer work that has a context and underlying message. Having a subtle message that can be inferred is preferable because it creates an open dialog for your audience including them in universal messages that we can all connect to on some level.

My views on art always grow and change as my own work develops and I look forward to further examining what makes some art more appealing and stronger than others, with further research I also hope to discover more about how our emotions play a role in our responses to art. 

What are your theories on what make a powerful piece of art?  I would love to hear it, any feedback is welcome.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

My Open View To Art

My artistic process begins with a concept based on human thought or behaviour and then translates it into a visual representation of the experience. Working either from sketches or directly on canvas, the process then conveys the interplay between the conscious and subconscious. With open dialogue and feedback the work takes a life of its own and expands into the deeper layers of the original notion. My belief is that each individual has an inner creative being that allows us to analyze, play and create; which for many is lost or suppressed as they enter adulthood. In my work with children I foster the notion of the creative individual to help them see that perspectives on life are art forms, and that each of us has a unique outlook that can be displayed in different artistic forms. The creative energy in my students is inherent in all of us, and my work seeks to get to the core of the inner creative self.

Over the past few years I have expanded my work into series that have a common thread, both visually and conceptually. I begin with life experiences that cannot be seen and place them in different visual formats. For me art is a response to life, a way of processing these events and it’s psychological impulses.  I see my work expanding in the use of materials and scale, which will allow me to transform my drawings into 3-D installations which viewers can walk through and experience with all their senses. The ability to walk through, touch, smell and listen to the work the work will allow people to feel a deeper connection to the piece as well as its mood and intended meaning. Experiencing my work in such a rich format will compel people to more broadly reflect upon the concepts being presented.

My current goal is to establish a solid body of work which will provide a foundation for me to connect with other artists and collaborate on shows that examine similar themes related to the human psyche and how it connects to the energy and the unseen worlds that surround us. The way that we respond to experiences that are unseen—in particular our feelings, intuition, fears and decision-making—is closely linked to what we have been socially constructed to believe. Yet my art strives to encourage people to break out of these response patterns.

 To see more of my artwork visit

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Nagata Shachu Work Songs

It's been a long three years since I last saw Nagata Shachu.  The growth from the group was significantly recognizable. The more elaborate costumes and story telling set the stage but as always the amazing energy, synchronicity and sheer talent kept me on my toes the whole performance.  I literally had to catch my breath after each song.  The group has been in full force for over ten years with changes and growing success.  I am grateful to have seen those changes and look forward to continuing to watch their creativity advance and develop.

Each song told a story of work and as I listened and watched intently I could see factory machines making music. The songs were composed by the group and each song embodies deep cultural significance.  The songs refer to and were inspired by different work environments and celebrations in the Japanese culture.

Without knowing anything prior to the show, I could feel and see how each song mimicked the rhythms in out bodies and the world around us. Each following it's own pattern yet connected. In the context of work, the individual is connected to both machines and other humans.  As for most of my creative work and personal philosophy I believe that perspective is the key.  Work can be seen as repetitive, lethargic and unfulfilling.  Imagining the group members in a rural area or in a factory I could see them breaking the walls of these ingrained negative views and using them to create music, unity and fun.

The levels and depth of their performance goes beyond ability and executes rhythmically stunning stories.  It is their ability to create music that on its own is simple, yet when put together with the combination of their drums creates elaborate patterns that grew and collapsed.

Being an artist comes naturally and with practice it evolves and strengths regardless of the medium.  Not being a musician I have such great respect for individuals, like Nagata Shachu, that can perform such complex pieces yet remain strong, energized and show such love for art form.

I look forward to seeing them again, sooner than later, especially since they have their first concert series.  You can check them out on their website, twitter or facebook.

Video Links
This video give s glimpse into the world of Nagata Shuchu.  Seeing them live truly captures the art and their ability.

Sei Gai Ha

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Queen West November Art Walk

Museum of New
123 Bellwoods Avenue (rear)
Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
M6J 2P6

Tucked away in behind Queen and Bellwood Ave is a diamond in the rough.  The Museum of New was created in 1998 by artist Joseph Drapell and poet Anna Maclachlan, It is a place of changing view points and open dialog for artist with once a month discussions. 

I had the pleasure of visiting the gallery on my monthly Queen West Art Walk with Betty Ann Jordan.  I am always struck by at least one artist on the walk and this one was no exception.  Lumir Hladik had the balance of stunningly beautiful work that also left ample room for interpretation and open dialog, my favourite.  After speaking with him, he mentioned that he sits in the middle of conceptual and traditional art.  I feel the same in that art is a balance of problem solving with materials to create visually pleasing work but that also has something to say.

I was struck by his drawings and the connections between our works. We both allow the hand and subconscious to take over to create endless unplanned images that can be reflected on throughout the process. It’s this play between the conscious and subconscious that in the end creates an open dialog with the viewer.

The layers of paper were one of the many doors left for interpretation, and to me they reflected the unseen worlds underneath each layer of bark, dirt, leaf and rock.  Small universes that speak to us through burnt holes that have been created first and then drawn on top with black pen.  The lines dance through each piece like water yet the work lends itself to many interpretations visually and metaphorically.  

His intention of the hidden layers was to refer to the 13th gate he grew up hearing in fairy tales as a child.  Surprisingly 40% of the drawings cannot be seen and are hidden under the many layers of paper.  For Lumir, the concealed imagery represents the vast knowledge of the universe and how we can never know everything and that some things are to be left unknown.  

I rank this show an 8 out of 10.