Cross Canada Art Tour – starting with the end Nova Scotia – more and less

In August we flew into Halifax with limited expectations but hopeful the NSCAD plus the Nova Scotia Art Gallery would pull out some surprises and on reflection and digging more into the art scene, it was better than I thought it could be.  The hope is always to see some great contemporary art and at least some good moderns.   The upside was that all the galleries were free – Nova Scotia Art Gallery is free one evening a week and NSCAD is open to the public.

Nova Scotia Art Gallery has multiple exhibits on from Maud Lewis, to Vimy Ridge remembrance plus a selection of folk art and contemporary art…A little bit of everything.. but the quality was there. For both institutions you just had to  The stories and connection to art history are great, Arthur Lismer, Gerhard Richter, John Baldessari, Augustus John, Alex Colville and Maud Lewis plus my two favourite artist; William Kurelek and Bryan Jungen all are represented here.

The art swings from the serious to the frivolous and back again… the challenges of a small city.  The Maud Lewis you may have heard.. her life story was the focus of the movie called Maudie.  The long story short is that she was self taught, lived in 150 sq ft hut in Nova Scotia and she had terrible arthritis from childhood.   Her work is simple and absolutely charming, you take it for what it is.  We accidentally drove by the old location of the hut/house by the highway 217 near Digby.. the hut is now in the exhibition. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next part of the show was the Vimy Ridge remembrance with Arthur Lismer’s war artist Halifax port sketches, which were a great surprise.   He captures the people and ships about to leave on the first WWI convoy.


The AQUITANIA Docking at Pier 2, Halifax, Arthur Lismer, 1918

The picture below of the Olympia Docking with Soliders also painted by Lismer was not on display but thought it was great to see full colour “Dazzle” (camouflage) being used (Source: Halifax Shipping News).


Olympic Docking with Soldiers, Arthur Lismer, 1919

There were other first world war images by Lismer and other war artists, the most notable was by Augustus John a study for The Canadian Opposite Lens, unfortunately, I cannot find the actual study (Canadian Soldier, 1917/8) on the internet, John was attached to the Canadian forces as a war artist and made a number of memorable portraits of Canadian infantrymen. The end result was to have been a huge mural for Lord Beaverbrook and the sketches and cartoon for this suggest that it might have become his greatest large-scale work. He produced studies for a proposed Canadian War Memorial picture, although the only major work to result from the experience was Fraternity.

However, like so many of his monumental conceptions, it was never completed. In 2011, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge finally unveiled this mural at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa The Canadians Opposite Lens. This unfinished painting is 12 feet high by 40 feet long. (Source: Wikipedia and 1310 news)


The Canadian Opposite Lens, Augustus John, 1918-21

From the war, the themes swing back and forth with the result that you get a series of images by William Kurelek, one of my favourite Canadian artists.  There are a series of 5 Inuit images from his series plus one from his prairie boy series, “Waiting for the bus, 1976” which like the Maud pictures, is just charming.


William Kurelek, Parable of the Lost Sheep (1963)

The final part of the collection was the modern and contemporary art.  The headliners are Alex Colville, Three Girls on a Wharf, 1953 and Ocean Limited, 1962 and Emile Borduas, Composition, 1959.   The Borduas below just pops with its black and white, applied with a palette knife and evident energy.


The Three Girls on the Wharf appears to be an homage to Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, 1909 or possibly Matisse’s, Three Bathers, 1907


The Ocean Limited stark presentation contrasts with the Three Girls intimacy but both are diffident, excluding the viewer.  Ocean Limited is full of contrasts – the name/title with a possible comment on the future/technology.

Almost forgot Brian Jungen, another great piece of work.. merges his culture with modern products to create a completely new First Nation’s /original vision… always fresh and impressive. The way the beer can lurks beneath the slightly raised lid, suggests something lurking ready to pounce with the skull on the top… suggest a quiet truth. The cooler is carved on all sides this image only captures part of it. Worth going to Nova Scotia just to see it… thanks Sobey’s.

Brian Jungen, Beer Cooler, 2002

Brian Jungen, Beer Cooler, 2002

The NSCAD has had an important history and the graduate art was on display.   Arthur Lismer (member of group of seven) was the dean of NSCAD from 1916-19. One of the coolest things is that Gerhardt Richter one of the worlds greatest contemporary artist taught in 1978 at NSCAD.  (Source:Canadian Art Magazine)

Further in the 70’s had  Joseph Beuys, Eric Fischl, Vito Acconci, Sol LeWitt, Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, Hans Haacke, Claes Oldenburg, A.R. Penck, Krzysztof Wodiczko and John Baldessari.

John Baldessari, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, 1971

John Baldessari, I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art, 1971

The last piece is interesting as it referenced in a piece at the Yarmouth location of the Nova Scotia Art Gallery.


Posted in Art Exhibit, Arthur Lismer, Book Review, Brian Jungen, Contemporary Art, Group of Seven, Nova Scotia Art Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blowout gallery shows from New York

Highlights from NYC Gallery Visit.. some still on

New York City in mid May, very hot and unexpectedly a perfect time to visit the galleries … it is post the Frieze show.

I was expecting  one or two good shows with one or two artists I would enjoy learning about, but not completely stellar shows with world class artist displaying some of their best work from the likes Tracey Emin, Anthony Gormley,  David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, James Rosenquist, James Turell and Cindy Sherman

Tracey Emin show was a feint, you initially looked at it it looked like pen and ink drawings on paper, look again ..Self portraits stitched into fabric/bed sheets, subtle, sexy pure revelatory Emin. On until June 18 that the Lehman Maupin

Anthony Gormley show at the Sean Kelly gallery was form meeting energy. The square elements of the human sculpture possessed  kinetic energy that you think would instantly animate the figures…. powerful beyond the human castes of the past see on the top of the Heyward gallery.The show is on to July 29th.

Anthony Gormley

Anthony Gormley


David  Hockney  - Yosemite

David Hockney – Yosemite

David Hockney was on at the Pace Gallery and I was not expecting much after his Yorkshire pictures at the Royal Academy and his iPad work in Paris.  The colours and the multi-panels of the RA work were vibrant and iPad art was certainly novel.

The Yosemite series was a combination of both and given the date was 2010, it looks like he has combined both influences to tremendous artistic effect…his best and freshest work in years. The forms have huge depth and the colours pop of the wall.  The show ends on June 18th.

Gerhard  Richter abstract pictures were fabulous,  it was a feast of juddering colour ..all you would and should expect from Richter. The show is on until June 25 at Marian Goodman.

Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter

The great thing about going to another country is that you can be exposed to artists in depth that are newish to you.  This trip did not disappoint with   James Rosenquist and James Turrell.

Rosenquist’s work was showing at the Judd (until August 6th) and at the MOMA, a room filling piece:  F-111. This work sparks and pops with luminous colour and shows off a lesser known vision of Pop Art. F-111 distills the essence of 60’s America.   Like Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi, James Rosenquist is a pillar of the Pop Art movement that is lesser known than Warhol and Lictenstein which if you are a collector is an opportunity.  Read more from NYT.

James Rosenquist f-111

James Rosenquist 1

The Blackhole is a darker representative piece with  all the colour sucked out of it and is powerful contrasting piece to the majority of his work.

James Rosenquist 1992 - Time Dust- Blackhole

James Rosenquist 1992 – Time Dust- Blackhole

The James Turrell show on at Pace was a surprise.  I did not know the artist before I saw the show, which is a disappointing loss in not seeing and seeking out  more of his work. Many people talk about the lightness of touch with paint, few would expect to see light to present a physical object leveraging the walls and shadows of a room in the 60`s; brilliant.  The show ends June 18.

james turrell afrum pink pale 1968

james turrell afrum pink pale 1968

The last show to be reviewed is the Cindy Sherman at Metro Pictures, it closed on June 11.Her first work in 5  years and it is as powerful and approachable as it has ever been. It looks like a series of pre War starlets posing for publicity photos,but you can see Cindy Sherman in them and this imbues them with a greater humanity than some of her other portaits.  NYT review.

Cindy Sherman Untitled 2016

Cindy Sherman Untitled 2016

Can`twait to go back to NYC.

Posted in Andy Warhol, Anthony Gormley, Art Exhibit, Cindy Sherman, Contemporary Art, David Hockney, Gerhard Richter, James Rosenquist, James Turell, Roy Liechtenstein, Tracey Emin | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rennie Collection – the first reveal – part 1

When you look at another person’s collection of anything it is obviously personal and the challenge always is to see it for what it is and not fawn over it just because of who collected it and judge it by the brand names in the collection.  Further, if shown too early or without much thought it can look like a garage sale or just simply something that is purely random with no internal logic.

This is the first time we get to look across Rennie’s collection opposed to looking at what he has collected in depth. Two thoughts pop, firstly this art is very well selected, some great artists, that I massively enjoy,  and secondly this is well themed or possibly these themes were conjured out of the air to provide that little bit of extra intellectual heft; I would go with the former as it is clear Rennie is a collector.   Also, I am not sure if it matters that much, as with any one collector the themes and interests are embodied within the individual and with enough time the themes become fleshed out through their acquisitions.

What is really good about his collection is that eschews the signature anchor art of traditional new money collectors;  the collectors who act like they are in a supermarket “I need one of those and I need a Warhol, a Dali, a Picasso and Hirst”  plus add 5 other well known artists from their country of origin.  Now I am being a bit of a jealous snob and in their ignorance when they get their Warhol piss paintings or the Hirst spin paintings home they will look and feel proud.  Later if they continue to collect and see more art I would arrogantly say they may look back ruefully on their previous purchases.  We all do it, just with smaller ticket items, I have my Nagel and Rennie has his Norman Rockwell.

John Baldessari, Camel Contmeplating Needle, 2013

John Baldessari, Camel Contmeplating Needle, 2013

The great thing is the Rennie does not follow the supermarket buying of art approach.  His Baldessari and Gilbert & George are less well know to the public but are established giants and are thoughtful pieces.  When you enter the gallery, the camel, the needle and the arabic on the wall are rather enigmatic.  It says something along the lines of “the chances of a camel going through the eye of the needle are same for a rich man going to heaven” and is from the Koran/Bible.   Overall,   Baldessari’s comment is clear he is questioning where he is going and he poses uncomfortable questions to some collectors.   It is made all the more interesting as  the same piece is now being shipped to Pakistan for the American embassy, maybe as a cultural bridge.

Gilbert and George, Bomb, 2006 is great as it has many hidden observations and simultaneously is amongst the most straightforward of their work.  The cross of St.George is featured, the flag of England and  it has multiple meanings depending in who is using it.  The tombstones and the triptych are clear but the clothed mirrored half of themselves are unusual as most of their previous work has shots of them, that are untampered and nude.   The tightness emphasized in their jackets is very specific.

This piece was in their Tate Retrospective of 2007, which I went to but was knackered from flying back and whizzed around the exhibit with a friend.  I believe that the bombs, really hit them, all their art is socially charged and an attack on the tube would have roused that feeling.   I recall bumping into them on the tube, and travelling on the tube would be an extension of their art philosophy, that art is for everyone, and the tube is the every man’s mode of travel.

Gilbert & George, Bomb, 2006

Gilbert & George, Bomb, 2006

This picture was a sad reminder of the day as the Edgware Bomb went off 300 metres from my flat and injured one of my neighbours.   It also shows have far we have come.

Christian Boltanski, Monument: Le Fete de Purim, 1989

Christian Boltanski, Monument: Le Fete de Purim, 1989

The next piece of art adjacent to the Gilbert and George is the Christian Boltanski, Monument: Le Fete de Purim, 1989, which is striking for how it represents another form of terror.  The picture and the light are a dead give aways to references to the Nazi perpetrated Holocaust, with the clothes forming a tombstone, that you could easily imagine comes from the clothing filled suitcases ripped from the victims hands on the train platforms.  Poignant and thoughtful.

Definitely recommend going to the show.

I will review a few more pieces in part 2.


Posted in Andy Warhol, Contemporary Art, Dali, Damian Hirst, Lecture, Picasso, Rennie Collection, Rennie Gallery, Tate Modern | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brian Jungen – The return

I had been waiting for this show for at least 5 years.  I stumbled across Brian Jungen at a Vancouver Art Gallery show when I saw his Cetology and Shapeshifter pieces and was surprised by their shear inventiveness.  But what grabbed me was his Air Jordan pieces called “Prototypes for New Understanding”.  These were limited to 23 pieces (but have grown to 25) more on that later.  These pieces (see below) are pure invention as they take the common and the familiar and are combined to surprise.


The only thing close to this level creativity is a pair of artists – Sue Noble and Tim Webster see below.

Tim Webster and Sue Noble, DIRTY WHITE TRASH (WITH GULLS), 1998

Tim Webster and Sue Noble, DIRTY WHITE TRASH (WITH GULLS), 1998

But I am digressing.  His work hits you with a power that traditional First Nations work  does not.  Traditional work is all too familiar and even the best rub shoulders with tourist tat that abounds in Vancouver and in that placement,  the work is undermined.

Brian’s work is assertive, cannot be mistaken for anything other than art.   It takes its inspiration from the past but re-shapes it with modern and unusual materials and not just “found” materials. This is not bottle caps shaped into toy planes,  it is a contemporary commentary using symbolic appropriation of commercial and common items to be rephrased and in that the work is optimistic and powerful. The work speaks to the power and creativity of an artist creating his own language, in the same way Picasso did with his own evolutionary steps from blue to cubism to classicism.

The Catriona Jeffries show is a continuation of the “New Prototype series” this art is back.  No pieces were named or priced suggesting everything is spoken for and they should be.  The pieces go beyond the black, red and white of the previous series to create inspired headpieces.  These new headpieces plus the abstract sculpture combine multiple colours and with the inside of the shoe being used to great effect.

What makes this show, that much better, was his last Catriona Jeffries show was interesting but no where near as inspired and his film at the AGO in 2014 was good but did not break any new ground for me.



Brian Jungen, Air Jordan sculptures, 2016

I spoke or really gushed to Brian about how inspiring his work was, but I came a cross like an adolescent fan boy and asked him to sign my book.  I think my tension was a result of waiting for him to finish speaking to a professor, plus he appears shy and being conscious that he did not really enjoy the attention.

I said that there was 23, but the new Rennie show scored another one and of course Michael got one as well, as you would expect…


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A show worth seeing and enjoying,  just think of any great artist at the top of his game, and you are there to see it for the first time.. history.

Brian Jungen at the Catriona Jeffries Gallery until February 27, 2016 and for his older pieces at the Winnipeg Art Gallery until January 25, 2016. If you want to see more of his work click here.










Posted in Art Event, Art Exhibit, Artist Present, Brian Jungen, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Contemporary Art, Gallery Opening - Artist in Attendance, Vancouver Art Gallery | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Month to Come, the Past Month

The month looks very good with a new show from Brian Jungen at the Catriona Jeffries Gallery from January 22, 2016 and recent Turner Prize nominee Janice Kerbel‘s, Doug a performance piece is at the Contemporary Art Gallery on Friday, January 29, 2016; 7pm.  On the 23rd the  Rennie gallery is opening its first? mixed artist show from the Rennie vaults 🙂 The last month has been great with our new place final ready for hanging prints, Christmas book giving with  a whole bunch of new art books Anthony Gormley to Roni Horn and framing loads of prints for the walls.

Almost forgot had the chance to see John Irving again for the 6/7 th time; bigger venue, Queen Elisabeth theatre; he seemed much happier than he was a few years back.


The most exciting news is that Brian Jungen has gone back to using familiar 21st century materials  – running shoes to express his ideas and show his genius. If you like him as much as I do and must have something, you can get a scratched/signed Brian Jungen ” Carapace”  done in plastic with accompanying book from the Charles Scott Gallery at Emily Carr University.

A week later we have Janice Kerbel’s performance of Doug, an artist which I know very little about but that will make that much more interesting.


The Interview with Janice Kerbel from the Tate website, part of their usual Turner interviews, have a look.

The Anthony Gormley book on Sculpture and Chris Ofili’s book from the Tate show both were visually very good. The signed Roni Horn and the Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood: Paintings 1991-2011 were great introductions to artists I have read about but wanted to know more; been only dipping in so far.

Having some fun taking some old prints and finally framing  them; black frames really work, museum glass maybe not next time.  Thank you to OPUS on Granville Island for the help in getting the Cindy Sherman and Chris Ofili prints framed.

Looking forward to writing up the next few shows.



Posted in Art Event, Art Exhibit, Artist Present, Book Review, Book Signings, Brian Jungen, Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Contemporary Art Gallery, Gallery Opening, Gallery Opening - Artist in Attendance, Janice Kerbel, John Irving, Lisa Yuskavage, Ron Horn | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mircea Cantor – Rennie Lecture – at Emily Carr

Wit, Wit and visual treats. The themes of mortality and religion with a deep level of craftsmanship appear and disappear throughoutMircea Cantor’s work. The DNA images are the most fun with some being made out of kiss applied to a wall or gilded safety pins strung together creating a hanging helix from floor to ceiling or the DNAhelixes are carved into a gate and covered in gold leaf. This DNA motif is reminiscent of Damien Hirst cabinet of pills and its scientific nod to humanity.

Mircea Cantor, DNA Kiss, 2008-2013 Rennie Lecture

Mircea Cantor, DNA Kiss, 2008-2013

Mircea Cantor, Epic Fountain, 2012

Mircea Cantor, Epic Fountain, 2012

Damien Hirst, Day by Day, 2003

Damien Hirst, Day by Day, 2003

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Rodney Graham – Part 2 – TORQUED CHANDELIER RELEASE AND OTHER WORKS Lecture and Opening Night Belkin Art Gallery, UBC

Rodney Graham – TORQUED CHANDELIER RELEASE AND OTHER WORKS – Belkin Art Gallery, UBC – June 20 – August 17th, 2014

Rodney Graham has a magpie approach to work and follows the other photo conceptualist of Vancouver with staged (historical) scenes like Jeff Wall and Stan Douglas and uses lightboxes for his work like Jeff Wall and has been introducing himself into the scenes not like Hitchcock but more like a British artist (cannot remember part of Saatchi’s collection)  and maybe even Cindy Sherman.  He uses historical (artistic) references for his art like Jeff.. and he uses other artists to influence his work like John Cage and Donald Judd and further he builds on them.  This means the more you get art the more you get Rodney.

Rodney Graham, Cactus Fan, 2013

Rodney Graham, Cactus Fan, 2013


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Posted in Art Exhibit, Art Institute of Chicago, Artist Present, Contemporary Art, Gallery Opening, Gallery Opening - Artist in Attendance, Lecture by Artist, Morris Belkin, New Show at Gallery, UBC | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment