learning to paint

It is wonderful that social media helps keep us in reach of our audience, but I admit to being somewhat torn about posting often; it seems contrary to the instinct of nesting, nurture and privacy that go along with developing a body of work.
I am at the beginning of a new exploration – one that is absorbing and which needs time to mature and form itself. I am researching and sketching, thinking and feeling my way into a new series.
I am also learning to paint. The last workshop I attended with John Luna at the beginning of August allowed me to at last feel that painting “is my own” even if it is feels unfamiliar and often awkward. It is a tremendous learning curve and one that at once challenges and nurtures my artistic instinct and mind.
Contrary to what is a very wise and useful approach- that of working on a number of pieces at once- these few weeks I have been working with one painting that I began as a part of a set of 3 at the workshop. It has filled my mind, with I and others, often thinking it close to finished but then it has asked more of me.
It occurred to me that this painting is like a mother- one that is teaching me a lot and allowing me to explore the problems of composition, colour, texture, narrative, abstraction and symbolism. I at once think it the most wonderful painting in the world and the most horrible thing I have ever seen!
The painting has been set aside now and the skills I have learned from it will inform the other two paintings I began at that workshop and even paintings I began last summer which have waited for me to gain more knowledge and confidence. Perhaps after a good rest, my eyes will be wiser and the painting will speak to me again as to what it might want, if anything at all.

father’s work

Art by my father on Fathers Day. The ancient Chinese described war horses as dragons in disguise. I see that in this small piece of art I have from my father. He was a blacksmith. Horses, the sound of the hammer and anvil, the black coal and flames of the forge and the steam from the red hot iron in water, were all contained in our tiny backyard.
This piece from my childhood was returned to me only last year from Australia, and while taking these pictures, I realised how much it has influenced my own war horse.

shelter ( mother and child)

It was lovely to have three of my works selected for Voices of Women Through Canadian History curated by Astri Wright for the International Womens Day exhibition in Victoria at the Bay Centre, shown from March the 2nd to the 12th.
Here is my statement about my work:
My three watercolour silhouettes are part of a series of spontaneous responses to war time photographs, and represent many women of that time. I have presented these pictures so they hang slightly out of the frame to represent history joining our present.
Through these pictures I am reminded of my mother and my grandmother. My mother had her first two little girls during WW2 in Holland; Canada’s role in liberating the Dutch moves me with deep gratitude. The third picture represents my grandmother who as a refugee from Latvia, just after WW1, fled to Germany and then lived through that country’s depression and WW2 experience. As an immigrant to this country I often imagine that my grandmother, who lives on in me, has somehow found peace here.

 

little children

New work in progress, 6 of 8 . 30″ by 22″ conte and charcoal.
I had prepped Stonehenge paper for more ruins work and felt the impulse to do large portraits. I work on each enough to feel it has come alive and then move on to the next. I am determined to do 8 and then review them to decide whether to adapt them further.

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altar piece

In July, The Fifty Fifty Arts Collective asked local artists to contribute a work for a gallery fundraiser. I made this small altarpiece for the occasion. It is painted on a cardboard cracker box.

I spent an afternoon doing a study from one of my own photos. I started off with watercolour and soon found a new respect for watercolour florals! Thankfully white gesso rescued the picture and I am not unhappy  with the result. A bit more needs to be done, but that’s enough of experimenting for today!

Looking for inspiration I found this wonderful picture by Fantin -Latour:
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idea of memorial

Lately I have been thinking about how to talk about my work and mulling over the idea of memorial. Just a few minutes ago, I found an entry from an old journal written on Easter Sunday 2008. At the top of the page is a question- I am not sure if someone actually asked that of me, or I was posing the question to myself.

-Is your work  a form of therapy?
During the 90s I produced work that was about  what I was feeling-symbolic pictures of struggle, sadness-but they were vague and unformed, generic. To develop further meant I needed to discover what these feelings were about, and for me that involved a personal and educational journey, not an artistic one.
Even though my work conveys feeling, Art is not a form of catharsis for me. I need to rationally come to terms with my emotions  in order to make art .

-Is it a form of self expression?
Because what I lived through with my dad is entwined with my mind and feeling, because my  intellectual and emotional development was affected, this art is  an expression of who I am even though the work is also about the lives of others. I think it is more an act of remembrance. My work takes what I deeply feel about war and holocaust and gives it shape, form and context, like a memorial does but in drawing rather than sculpture or architecture.



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Here is artist Clare Thomas with my installation of her work. Clare’s drawings are about the fragility of memory, and are being shown in the Stairwell Gallery– a space at St Philip Church which is set aside to show art, and which I have the privilege to curate.  It is wonderful that the minister, Christopher Page is so supportive, and the congregation appreciative of emerging, experimental and contemporary work. Art doesn’t have to be religious in order to be a sacred expression of life.

(The gallery is open for viewing 9am-noon, Monday to Friday and by appt on Saturday, and if you don’t mind the hubbub of church- on Sunday mornings as well.  At 2928 Eastdowne at the corner of Neil street, Victoria, BC, Canada.)

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