Studio Blog

a complex grief

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After laying aside my curatorial work with the Stairwell Gallery, my mind has turned to my own work as a priority. But as I approach it I notice that as well as a sense of need and desire to make art, there is a deep hesitation and reluctance.

To overcome that reluctance, I decided to keep my art practice simple. I have hand torn small squares of water colour paper as my support, and ink as my medium. As my reference I have  pictures of roses from the neighbourhoods I spend my days in. I thought: I will just get myself started with small roses and go from there.

But even with this simplicity, I notice my reluctance and mood deepen; and at the same time I notice that I am soothed somehow by making roses, and that I really don’t want to be making anything else but these small gestural pieces.

Then I began seeing them as plumes of bombs as seen from above. And sometimes they look like glimpses of landscape seen from the air through a break in the clouds. I also imagine them as broken hearts or voices.  And sometimes, thanks to the sheen of the ink, they look wet, and the roses become small pools of tears.

This morning I understood that my reluctance to engage with and the desire to do my work both come from the same place- from grief.  And so I will continue with these roses as they seem to be giving symbol and solace  to the many layers of sadness I feel:  for my own childhood, for the loss of my family; for what I learned of war and holocaust when I was little, for what I have learned of these as a woman; for mothers and children lost under bombs; for creatures and our world suffering under the weight of greed; for our collective past from which we  have learnt so little, and for our present in which so many of us feel helpless.

this tender earth

2Revised Poster for This Tender Earth -page-1(1)This Tender Earth is my last show as curator for the Stairwell Gallery for the foreseeable future. It has become too hard to keep up with the work of curating and give my own art the attention it needs; as well, the gallery  needs more energy than I am able to provide at this time.  I feel terribly sad about this decision and wish I had the time and energy to do it all. I am so thankful to St Philip Anglican Church for allowing contemporary art into sacred space, and am particularly grateful to the Rector, Christopher Page who has supported my work as curator and for his enthusiasm for the art that has been shown.
The exhibition will continue until the afternoon of November 16th and the gallery is generally open from 9 30 – 1 pm Monday to Thursday . Please call ahead though to ensure the church is staffed. (250) 592-6823 Stairwell Gallery, 2928 Eastdowne Rd at St Philip Anglican Church.

iconic blue

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Since the History as Personal Memory exhibition I have been concentrating on my curating work and helping with improvements to an art space I have been involved with.
I have for a number of years attended a small church called St Philip Anglican which is influenced by a contemplative approach to Christianity.
Over the last few years the church has opened up space for local contemporary artists in a space we now call the “Stairwell Gallery.
Lately the last of the poster boards has come down, track lighting has been added along with a fresh coat of paint, all thanks to volunteers of St Philip’s congregation.
The latest show is an exhibition by artist Jane Coombe of her work “Iconic Blue” about Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge, affectionately known as the “Blue Bridge.” It was really special to be involved in curating this show as Jane was the first person from Vancouver Island School of Art I ever spoke with at length and we spent a long bus ride talking about the spiritual role of art and how it informs our attitude to life.
Our local paper covered the exhibition and local art documentarian Efren Quiroz made a video of Jane Coombe talking about her work.

art for you

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Vancouver Island School of Art asked artists to donate a work for their fundraiser “Art For You” held at the beginning of May 2018
This is the piece I made specifically for the event.
“Of Things Hoped For” 12 by 8 inches. Collage, ink, paper, gesso on wood panel.

a statement

A statement I included with the  exhibition, History as Personal Memory

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The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.
-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

As I began to look at WW2  history as a daughter seeking to understand her roots I became aware of how little I knew– especially of civilian tragedy with its situational complexity. The work I am involved with pays attention to German war time stories which are not well known and yet, I believe, need to be included in our understanding of WW2 and the Holocaust. With them the larger narrative is protected from becoming an homogenous stereotype with limited relevance for our present day.

Drawing is traditionally a preliminary practice yet by using drawing materials my work becomes a method of working back into a personal and collective past, opening it up to questions in order to discover what might have been overlooked.  Conte crayon, charcoal, ink, pencil, eraser and acrylic paint are used expressively as I search beneath the surface of historical narrative.  Artworks are distressed through various means to explore rich textural possibilities of medium; I bring a tactile reality to images sourced from historical photos so that the past is symbolically embodied in the present.

My current work departs from historical photos as a source and uses my own photos of roses found in my neighbourhood as reference for a symbolic interpretion of the story of German resistance. I am curious about how since the 60s, our post war ideals call upon love as being the answer to our world’s troubles, yet our understanding of love does not seem complex or muscular enough for such a task. Through learning about those who resisted the Nazi regime- even at the cost of their own lives – I am discovering love is an antidote to violence and the means by which we may develop the character and values necessary to resist oppression.

featured

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Grateful for the opportunity to talk about my art in the latest VISA Newsletter! Although I have not had the time for courses since Advanced Drawing, I have taken workshops which are a rewarding way to keep learning while working full time. Follow this link to the newsletter in which it is featured with an interesting article on how to look at art. The newsletter is well worth subscribing to.

poster

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I am honoured to have my work in an exhibition at the Slide Room Gallery, 2549 Quadra str, Victoria BC, Canada; opening on February 16th at 6pm.
Learn more via the Facebook event page or Slide Room Gallery website.

a poem and a painting

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At various stages of my painting’s evolution, different genres have suggested themselves- landscape, figurative, abstract, floral- and approaching resolution the painting, rather than having become one or the other, remains “all of the above.”
The other day on Facebook I came upon an excerpt of a TS Eliot poem and as I read, I felt it to be a description of the themes that are on my mind as I attend to my new work, particularly of this painting.  It is the poem Burnt Norton, one of the suite “The Four Quartets.”
Here are a few excerpts:

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
                              But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
………………………………………………..

The trilling wire in the blood
Sings below inveterate scars
Appeasing long forgotten wars.
…………………………………………………

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
………………………………………………….

And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.

The whole poem can be read here.

lo, how a rose

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detail : roses linger beneath layers of ink

How touched I am this Christmas to be reminded of the beautiful German hymn,
Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen.  I am in the midst of  my new work- roses that speak of the presence of love in the midst of darkness. The words of this song speak of how love remains tender and vulnerable even as it provides antidote to what is harsh and violent.
Listen to, and watch the Gesualdo Six perform their beautiful rendition here.

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