Things of Desire Issue #8

October 9, 2008

Top of the day ToD friends! I would like to give a grand chin-grabbing nod of artful appreciation to the more than 100 subscribers reading this week. Thank so much for jumping on board the ToD art boat. Here’s hoping there’s smooth sailing ahead. And for those who have yet to sign up to ToD, if you like what you see help us get up to 200 subscribers and email thingsofdesire@gmail.com. Enjoy!
-Mike Landry

By Mike Landry
Jeremy Hof's award-winning work "Layer Painting Red."

Jeremy Hof's award-winning work "Layer Painting Red."

Before Jeremy Hof knew anything about art he knew he was a painter. Now his passion for the medium has taken him to forefront of emerging Canadian visual artists, after taking home top prize at this year’s RBC Painting Competition.

It’s an interesting to position to find young Hof in given his work could be argued as having as many sculptural elements as painterly aspects. And it’s a claim Hof agrees with, but insists that doesn’t mean he works aren’t paintings.

“I want to see painting evolve as well into areas maybe that aren’t familiar,” says Hof. “I want to try and create alternatives for paintings that will spawn new ideas or different understanding of what a painting can be. I personally don’t believe a painting just has to be paint applied with a brush on a piece of canvas.”

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They Are Making Art

October 9, 2008

By Mike Landry
Daniel Wong and Mary-Anne McTrowe are ready to make some art.

Daniel Wong and Mary-Anne McTrowe are ready to make some art.

In the song “East Coast West Coast” Mary-Anne McTrowe describes herself as “an East Coast artist. I like systematic stuff, but I’ve never rally made anything because the ideas are good enough.” Her band mate, Daniel Wong, then chimes in, “I’m a West Coast artist. I’m a touchy feely guy. I like to watch all the birds and clouds as they float across the sky.”

A true art band, The Cedar Tavern Singers AKA The Phonoréalistes is the brainchild of art history buffs McTrowe and Wong. Under the guise of a folk duo, the pair aim to free art history from its no-fun, stiff-collared academic existence.

“Our attitude towards it is more like those obsessed fans who draw pictures of their rock idols and know every detail about them,” says Wong. “It just happens that our rock idols are people like John Baldessari and Yves Klein.”

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Reading Machine for Dr. NO

October 9, 2008

By Stacey Ho
Dr. Julius No torments 007 in Liddington's "Reading Machine."

Dr. Julius No torments 007 in Liddington's "Reading Machine."

In a textual piece from the early eighties, Vancouver artist Rodney Graham rewrites a scene from Ian Fleming’s Dr. No. Part of an extensive body of work that reconfigures the classic super-spy, lenz loops a climatic scene where Bond is caught in a fix—a centipede crawling up the length of his body. In Fleming’s version, 007 shakes off the bug and smoothly saves the day. In Graham’s version, the centipede is always there; Bond never escapes.

A take off of Graham’s practice, Derek Liddington’s Reading Machine for Dr. NO similarly loops a car chase scene from Dr. No. In Liddington’s piece, the bad guy’s car never flies off a cliff, does not blow up. Rather, James Bond is forever being chased in an infinite figure eight. There’s no pay off.

Liddington’s play on Rodney Graham’s strategies extends upon his fascination with Vancouver’s art scene, where artists, mixing their work with pop culture and academia, would freely appropriate each other’s practices.

“It’s a very traditional approach, much like the idea of an apprenticeship,” says Liddington. “Building a practice based on the practice of others is a traditionalist process that I’m interested in.”

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Fear the Doily

October 9, 2008

By Mike Landry
One of Alain Bonder's menacing doily works.

One of Alain Bonder's menacing doily works.

When Alain Bonder was living in Montreal his dad used to send him random images with notes scrawled on the bottom. One of his favourites was an image from an old Italian horror movie of a man cowering under the covers.

For many years the note lived stuck to the Ottawa-based painter’s walls. But something clicked last year, and Bonder decided to pair his own macabre rendering of the image in black and monster green with an ornate doily dipped heavily in black paint. Although it was meant to be a keeper, Bonder soon found himself with an entire series called Fear the Doily.

“On top the doily looks dead on like a UFO to me. So it was this strange object, but at the same it’s something that would never hurt you,” says Bonder. “You would have to really try to be hurt by a doily.”

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The Task at Hand

October 9, 2008

By Mike Landry
One of Matthew Robertson's scaffolding inspired drawings.

One of Matthew Robertson's scaffolding inspired drawings.

When I was 15-years-old my uncle Noel hired me to help him with some roofing one cool winter’s day. Although the rough and heavy shingles were nightmare inducing, there was nothing I hated more than having to unload, build, move and take down the scaffolding. To this day whenever I look at scaffolding I scowl and shiver.

But when Vancouver-based artist Matthew Robertson looks at scaffolding he sees art. Using pieces of wood reclaimed from construction sites, Robertson has built his own scaffolding inside Vancouver’s Jeffrey Boone Gallery. His exhibition, The Task at Hand, will also feature drawings and large format photographs dealing with scaffolding.

“I like that they’re these large publicly visible structures that are esthetically unconsidered when it comes to designing, and are nice impermanent structures,” says Robertson. “I’ve been studying them, in my own way, trying to decipher why these seemingly bizarre structures to me why and how they function.”

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High on a Hill

October 9, 2008

By Stacey Ho
Choose either goat or

Lipton invites you to be either goatherd or Heidi in "High on a Hill"

Sometimes love is just not meant to be.

Trapped on two separate snowy mountains, a pair of alpine lovers in green attire yodel to one another above a howling wind. As their calls intensify, the storm subsides and the snow melts away. Heidi and her goatherd lover fade into their freshly green mountain backdrop. The sound of trickling water is all that remains.

This short video is the centre of High on a Hill, a new installation by Lisa Lipton. Playing off The Sound of Music-style kitsch, the exhibition asks viewers to participate in the gallery space. Surrounded by towering green mountain murals, Lipton adds a touristy plywood mountain vignette to the gallery. Visitors step behind the sculpture to have their photo taken as Heidi or the goatherd.

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Retelling Anne

October 9, 2008

By Mike Landry
Bonnie Lewis', "Nasty Girls (Pearl)."

Bonnie Lewis', "Nasty Girls (Pearl)."

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Anne of Green Gables the University of Guelph’s Macdonald Stewart Arts Centre has created a contemporary response to Anne. Retelling Anne brings together the work of six female emerging artists working in a variety of media that feature Anne of Green Gables as their launching point. However, the works are a far cry from literal representations of either Anne or Lucy Maud Montgomery.

“Lucy Maud was a pioneer, not just as a writer but as a female writer,” says curator Dawn Owen. “That kind of creativity and independence she obtained 100 years ago as a published writer really paved the way for a lot of the creativity from women today. So, it was really important to cement the idea of the continuing evolution of creative practice”

Instead of literally retelling the story of Anne, the show looks at bits and pieces from the books that resonate in the artists’ contemporary work. None of the artists have ever met each other, or been exhibited together. The exhibition is meant to really challenge the work, because of the context in which it’s being shown, and create a new community of voices.

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Abstractions of a Paradigm

October 9, 2008

By Mike Landry
Scott Yoell's "Sometimes it came by road, other times it came by sea."

"Sometimes it came by road, other times it came by sea."

Living in Honokaa, Hawaii Scott Yoell is surrounded by beauty. The former Windsor, Ontario research-based artist moved from Montreal to Hawaii with his wife who was originally from the islands. But even in his little paradise there’s a certain menace under all its beauty.

“Things are great,” says Yoell. “But you can’t help but look down when you’re walking on a beach and see this pile of plastic pouring out of the carcass of a baby albatross. You can’t help but be affected by that, or at least I can’t.”

Yoell’s latest series, Abstractions of a Paradigm, takes the idea of manufactured paradises as its subject. Billed as “fantastical responses to a conflicted world,” Yoell examines the darker side of humanity’s attempt to create unnatural worlds—be it television, excellence in sport or the effects of colonialism.

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By Mike Landry
One of Michael Pittman's new works.

One of Michael Pittman's new works.

For an artist driven by psychological experiences, like Newfoundlander Michael Pittman, nothing can provide more fodder than a near death experience. While out cutting wood recently he was pouring gasoline too close to a fire and there was an explosion. He could have been badly injured, but he received only minor injuries. It was more the shock of the experience that he struggled to deal with.

Pittman, who describes his dreamy paintings as “quasi-diarist investigations into perception,” was influenced to create a series of works centred around the weeks before and after his near death experience. The pieces are meditations on both mortality and vitality.

“It was something I would never have considered a life changing event that sort of turned out to be and made me consider a whole lot of other things,” says Pittman. “When I speak about this accident, I compared the way that I reacted to past experience of others in instances of similar events or things that have come together in my research.”

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Jennifer Zimmer's self-portrait.

A self-portrait, part of Jennifer Zimmer's portrait series.

Throughout grade school I don’t think I had a single usable portrait taken of me. Year after year I would come home with a selection of photos that went from bad to worse. It was all thanks to what my mom called my fake smile—a goofy expression that only occurred when I was placed in front of a camera. If only Halifax photographer Jennifer Zimmer was my class photographer.

Zimmer’s latest series of 18 hand-made photographs play with the ideas of portraiture. She had her subjects lay down in the fetal position and use a shutter release cable to take a photo when they felt most comfortable.

“It’s kind of a sense of individuality, isolation and a bit of vulnerability in each one,” says Zimmer. “The point I wanted to make was in a limited environment, even though constraints are put on us, our individual bodies still seek expression.”

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