Friday, May 29, 2015

Rachelle LeBlanc @ Harbourfront

Rachelle LeBlanc Embrace, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
On a recent visit to Harbourfront Centre, I saw Rachelle LeBlanc's Embrace in one of the vitrines. Seeing a hooked textile vessel with no evident seams caught my attention. In school I flirted with rug hooking and I can attest that to accomplish this requires a fair amount of skill. I would have liked to see all sides of the vessel. LeBlanc shows images of the reverse side of Embrace on her website. Embrace reads like a three-dimensional painting. 
Rachelle LeBlanc Embrace, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
LeBlanc is a Canadian textile artist with French Acadian roots. She currently resides in Alberta. Embrace is visual autobiography with images pulled from LeBlanc's life story. In her artist statement, she compares each loop to a pixel, the accumulation of which creates "intricate and subtle imagery." 
Rachelle LeBlanc Embrace detail, 2014; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
What baffled me was that the shape of the hooked vessel was akin to a ceramic vase. My eyes saw a soft textile, but my brain registered that vases are hard. The visual tension of hard and soft is interesting, like seeing concrete pillows or felted stones. With its subtle, soothing colours and intriguing back story, Embrace is a fibre sculpture that I could spend a lot of time with and always see something new.

Rachelle LeBlanc Deep Woods:Visual Arts Exhibitions January 24 to June 14, 2015 at Harbourfront Centre Lasting Effect (in vitrines).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tom Thomson @ Art Gallery of Hamilton

Tom Thomson The Birch Grove, Autumn; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
On New Year's Eve, my beloved and I trekked out to the Art Gallery of Hamilton to see what was up. Tom Thomson's The Birch Grove, Autumn (1915-1916) was a highlight. From the time I was in high school, Tom Thomson was my favourite Canadian painter. 
Tom Thomson The Birch Grove, Autumn detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
His use of line and colour is astonishing.
Tom Thomson The Birch Grove, Autumn detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Tom Thomson The Birch Grove, Autumn detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
The Birch Grove, Autumn (oil on canvas) was painted shortly before Thomson's (1877-1917) mysterious death, less than a month before his fortieth birthday.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Quotes: Jane Hirshfield

"Poetry's work is the clarification and magnification of meaning." –– Jane Hirshfield (b. 1953), American poet, trained in Zen Buddhism

Friday, May 22, 2015

Last chance: Unrolled @ Dundas Museum & Archives

If you need some inspiration and haven't seen this exhibition of historic textiles in scenic Dundas, here's your last chance! Unrolled closes on June 2. Be there or be square. Please note, the Dundas Museum & Archives is tucked away in a residential neighbourhood and not necessarily easy to find, but it's well worth the effort.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Studio Series: Mixed Media tags

Mixed media tags © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Since January, I've been on a tag making, collaging, painting, stitching, and varnishing blitz. So far, I've completed about 165 collage tags. I haven't counted the completed textile tags since they are a different studio process and I keep them separate. The top photo shows a selection of the 165, all that could fit on my 1960s family room wet bar. The pink tags in the foreground are a significant shift in colour palette for me.
Mixed media tags © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Working with #6 shipping tags has been a gargantuan learning experience. I've learned plenty of what doesn't work and with a lot of persistent trial and error I've learned what does. As you can see, I've incorporated my screen printed and intuitive mark-making papers.
Mixed media tags © Karen Thiessen, 2015
After making the first batch of tags that I exhibited in my 2013 solo show Unit(y), I learned that acrylic medium never cures. This means that if a pile of collage tags are stored together, they stick. Not good. While reviewing old sketchbooks I learned that Fran Skiles varnishes all her completed work with Golden acrylic polymer varnish. I bought some in January. Resistance (a.k.a fear) kicked in so I made a lot more tags before I finally had the courage to learn how to use it and complete all that I had started. The Golden varnish was easy to use and very forgiving. Now that I have the hang of it, I complete tags in batches of fifteen, versus waiting until I have 120+ tags in limbo. Now it's time to start applying for shows.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Quotes: Jean-Marc Vallée

"I like to say some people go to a therapist for a year –– I make a film. It's my sort of therapy." –– Jean-Marc Vallée (b. 1963), Canadian director and screenwriter
Source: Geoff Pevere. "Trekking with 'ghosts, ghosts everywhere.' The Globe & Mail, Saturday December 13, 2014, p. R3 via my book of commonplace.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FYI: In praise of doodling

Mark Fenske. "Fidget, squirm, doodle – and think better." The Globe and Mail, Thursday December 1, 2011, p. L6  Link

Gibson, Ellen. "How a Doodle Saves Your Noodle." Businessweek April 6, 2009, p. 18.
"Often viewed as a sign of a wandering mind, doodling may actually help us absorb information. In a study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, Jackie Andrade at Britain's University of Plymouth played a rambling voice-mail message to 40 people, half of whom were given shapes to fill in as they listened. The result: The doodlers recalled 29% more of the message than those who just listened. Andrade says idle scribbling uses just enough cognitive bandwidth to prevent daydreaming, so it may help us stay focused. One boardroom doodler, retiring GM Vice-Chairman Bob Lutz, says he isn't surprised by the finding. "I can look at old sketches done in meetings 40 years ago," he says, "and experience sudden recall of the room, the table, the voices."(Gibson, 18)
(Source: sketchbook #8, May 10, 2009)

I've written here about my tendency to draw or write during church so that I am able to listen fully. When I saw the above quote about cognitive bandwidth, it all made sense. Without my hands moving, my mind tends to wander to the most wonderful places, so if you are giving a talk or a sermon and I am drawing: Congratulations! I am listening closely.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Quotes: Milton Glaser

"I think that, to some degree, this is part of my character as a designer: To keep moving and not get stuck in my own past. This is what I try very hard to do. I think at that moment in my life, I found a peculiar path: To continually discard a lot of the things that I knew how to do in favor of finding out what I didn't. I think this is the way you stay alive professionally." –– Milton Glaser (b. 1929), American graphic designer
Source: Debbie Millman. How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer, 2007, p. 31 via my book of commonplace.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Of Note

My printmaking class has started again and I'm back to screen printing. In future classes I'll learn how to make collographs, monoprints, and other good stuff. In a few weeks, I'll share my results.

This is what is rocking my world this week:

1. Dirt Pattern Material. Need I say more? I foresee breaking open my least favourite pens and seeing what beautiful damage I can do to some fabric. Found via Pattern Pulp.

2. The wrapped artwork of Ruben van Marroquin. He and the late great Judith Scott would have gotten along just fine. Source: I forget.

3. Once you've checked out Ruben van Marroquin's work, look at the glue and thread wrapped sculptures of Anton AlvarezFound via Pattern Pulp. Pattern Pulp, I love you.

4. I can't get the "paintings," a.k.a. pieced tapestries, of Canadian artist Brent Wadden out of my head. He weaves small textiles using recycled or discarded materials on a loom, sews them together, and then mounts the larger textile on canvas. He studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and he's hot stuff right now. Source: The Globe and Mail Travel section. Don't ask me when. Saturday April 4, 2015, p. T7.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rebecca Roberts @ BIG in Nova Scotia, MSVU

Svava Juliusson (foreground) and Rebecca Roberts (painting); Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Last September I saw the Big in Nova Scotia exhibition at the Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery near Halifax. The show, curated by Ingrid Jenkner, ran from August 23 to September 28, 2014 and featured the work of nine artists. Painting, sculpture, and textile-based work made within a 33 year time-span (1980 to 2013) were included and, as the title suggests, all the artworks in this exhibition were BIG.

One highlight was seeing Rebecca Roberts' sprawling oil on birch plywood painting Untitled in its entirety. It's 74.8 X 8 m (installed) and was painted in 2000. Roberts and I were at NSCAD at the same time and I remember seeing one section or a study for this painting in the Anna Leonowens Gallery. If I remember correctly, this is a self-portrait.
Rebecca Roberts Untitled detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The painting is modular, and this was the first time that it had been exhibited in the MSVU Art Gallery in its entirety.
Rebecca Roberts Untitled detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Roberts was born in Halifax in 1977 and now resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Rebecca Roberts Untitled detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The painting sat in her mother's basement until 2013, when she donated it to the MSVU Art Gallery. I'm grateful that it is finally seeing the light of day. 
Rebecca Roberts Untitled detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The painting is a fractured narrative, it is one of intimacy and vulnerability.
Rebecca Roberts Untitled detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Rebecca Roberts is the author of the quirky blog Manna from Brooklyn and set aside her paint brushes to be a wrangler of words.
Rebecca Roberts Untitled detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
All the photos were taken with permission.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Quotes: Albert Camus

"What gives value to travel is fear." –– Albert Camus (1913-1960), French philosopher
Source: Alan Morantz. Where is Here? Canada's Maps and the Stories They Tell. 2002, p. 3 via my book of commonplace.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Video: Heather Lawson, stone carver


Stone from Breakwater Studios Ltd. on Vimeo
Source: Canadian Crafts Federation email

"I learned long ago that it is really hard to be normal, or what people perceive as normal. It is hard enough being me without trying to be what people think I should be. So as soon as you step off that tightrope, sooner you just become odd, the sooner the world will accept you as being odd. And there is great freedom with that." - Heather Lawson, stone carver from Bass River, Nova Scotia