Saturday, March 23, 2024

Ann Clarke: a life in motion

Untitled (Vertical Stripes) acrylic on canvas, 1974 by  Ann Clarke

Ann Clarke was born in England and attended the Slade School of Art in London UK.  She graduated in 1966 and was awarded the prestigious Slade Painting Prize.  In December 1966, her work was included in the exhibition Five Young Artists at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, England.

In 1968, Ann Clarke moved to Edmonton, Alberta Canada with her then husband and two young boys. 

In 1973 she had a solo exhibition 'Ann Clarke' at the Edmonton Art Gallery.  Her studio for a period of time was in the municipal airport hanger.

glimpsed in the waves, acrylic on canvas, 1978, Ann Clarke

During the 70's and 80's, Clarke began to teach painting in various colleges and universities across Canada.  In 1975-76, she taught at NSCAD  (Nova Scotia College of Art and Design), and in 1979 - 80, she taught at Red Deer College in Alberta.   

She had several solo shows in Alberta during this period.  In 1980 she had a solo exhibition in Gallery One in Toronto.  
Inclement, Acrylic and Oil Stick on Canvas. 1980 by Ann Clarke

 Ann Clarke's painting, Inclement, was curated into a tribute exhibition for the Canadian painter, Jack Bush, by Ken Carpenter.  It took place in 1981 at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario.  

Clarke moved to Toronto in 1984.

Fantasy, Acrylic on Canvas, 1985, by Ann Clarke

detail of Fantasy, 1985, by Ann Clarke

Then in 1987, Clarke moved to Tamworth, north of Kingston.  

Leaping Deer Acrylic on Canvas, 1988 by Ann Clarke

Inspired by a dream, Leaping Deer is a self portrait. 

Leaping Deer, detail

In 1988 - 89, Dorothy Farr curated a solo exhibition at the Agnes Etherington Art Gallery in Kingston that included Leaping Deer.     Ann Clarke:  Recent Work

In 1992, Ann Clarke was invited to teach in the department of Visual Arts at Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario.  She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Art in 2008, and retired from teaching in 2009.  

Time, acrylic on canvas, 2000, by Ann Clarke

TIME, (above) was included in her 2000 solo exhibition, Sexta Feira, at Gallery One in Toronto. 

Ann Clarke has a website that includes recent work and also archives of her long career in painting.  Twelve artist statements reflect her commitment to continual change and growth.  Visit her website with this link.   Her work is represented by the Hatch Gallery  in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada.  

All images in this post are from the 6-decade retrospective Ann Clarke: A Life In Motion  currently on display in Kingston at the Agnes Etherington.  The exhibit was curated by Alicia Boutilier and Mark Birksted.  The text is taken from the wall signage.  Congratulations Ann Clarke!!!  

Friday, March 15, 2024

Vija Celmins

 My work is not meticulous, it is rigorous.  

It's like living another life.  As if you have a time here, with the work, and then you have a world in which you are living your other time.

Why do it?  The older I get, the more mysterious that seems.  

It's some kind of impulse inside you, and when you are working well there is a feeling of connectedness to the world, and occasional feelings of bliss.

It occurred to me that when I am really working well, the work has no meaning  You can work with less mind.  You see with your mind, not your eyes, because eyes are just the lenses.  But you only see what you already know, so maybe this is why I focus on something outside of me, that I don't really know  You might say it's copying , but it's re-imagining this thing in another medium.  

I thought I could fool my clever mind because it limited me.  I thought I could get to a sense of form that was more in my body - or my hand - and that comes from just making.  

I want to get in touch with something more mindless, more intuitive.  I'm not clear about the meaning.  Maybe its the spectator who puts the meaning in.  

I don't work from experiences that are fresh.  I tend to repeat things.  I've carried thoughts around in my head for months.  I have a feeling about a form that I want and I want the feeling to develop as far as it can go, and I want my work to be able to stand a lot of inspection.

The things I draw are formless, hard to grasp.  Like the ocean. Like the sky.  It's as if the ocean is like a ghost somewhere and what is in front of you is the real thing.

I have no technique. I gave it up as well as other obvious signs of self-expression.  

I never thought to call my work a pleasure.  I just felt the compulsion to do it.

They are visual chords.  They are dense, materially oriented images.  They don't really tell stories.

My feeling is that when you are not using your brain, you are not necessarily being stupid.  It's just that you're in touch with some other things in yourself.  Then they become brainy. . Because look how we talk about the art afterwards.  We can talk about these pieces in an intelligent way even though the work itself is ..... what is the work like?  I don't know..  I don't know what the work is like.

In  a way, I am building a self.  It's not really self-portraiture.  Rather, it's being able to get something out of yourself that has a life on its own.  That's step one.  And you recognize that it is step one and you're going to take another step.  You're going to try something else.

I found I had a tender touch.  I got more interested in projecting the spatial qualities.  I started doing darker things, like New Mexico night skies.  I started making the star field paintings.

The image itself has 2 or 3 qualities that you grasp at one time: a flatness, an illusionary depth, and a MADE quality.  How it's made is the thing that I think engages you in looking at my work.

But the process of making isn't an invocation of darkness.  And the making is not just busy work.  I like to leave subtle traces of the making and of the thinking, bypassing the brain but still leave signs of intelligence.  

I'm highly self-critical.  I'm critical of others too.

I want to work larger so that you can roam around  I'm finding it difficult to concentrate and make work that is so concentrated.  I'd like to make work that's a little more emotional.  I'm interested in a more ambiguous, more abstract space.  I may make some dimensional objects now.

I'm an outsider.  there is an outsider quality to everything I do.  Vija Celmins 2003 

Vija Celmins was born in Latvia in 1938 and immigrated to the USA when she was ten years old.  

There are many videos of her and her work on youtube.  

video about the surface of the ocean and the desert.

video of how she makes prints of the night sky

video of her speaking and shows her working

Vija Celmins was interviewed by Robert Enright for Border Crossings magazine in 2003 and her words were paraphrased by Judy Martin in 2024.  You can read the original in border crossing magazine #87

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Louise Bourgeois : The Woven Child

the found child 2004

Classical statues made of permanent materials awaken our feelings of mortality as we realize they will outlive us. 

A sculpture made from soft, perishable textiles, evokes the body's vulnerability much more directly, arousing our latent awareness that we are all essentially sacks of skin hung around a structure of bones and stuffed with blood and organs.             
Ralph Rugoff (director of the Hayward Gallery in London, England) 

untitled 1999

For Bourgeois, sewing goes beyond restoration.  Instead, it is a metaphor for psychological repair and for exploring the complexity of human relationships.  

In her artworks, repairs become conspicuous scars.  Sewing is a subtle form of communication and atonement.  The gesture and labour involved evokes complex feelings in another person.  Sewing, the act of reparation, was a defence against fragmentation and disintegration.  
 Julienne Lorz, chief curator 2018-2021. Gropius Bau, Berlin. 

couple IV 1997

Louise Bourgeois makes her passage through the intimate terrain of private and chaotic experience without being destabilized by its violent emotion.  Her triumph lies in the retaining of artistic objectivity in the face of the most fiercely subjective materials.
Rachel Cusk, novelist

untitled 2001

Bourgeois renews her allegiance to the truth of her female history and its origins in her child self.  Size, scale, and the monumental can be arrived at, stitched together, organically built up, as in her series of tall fabric pillar shapes, both assertive and resolutely handmade.  
Rachel Cusk, author of several works of fiction and non fiction

the cold of anxiety 2001

"I cannot renounce the past.  I cannot and do not want to forget it."  Louise Bourgeois

the cold of anxiety detail, 2001

untitled 2005

I would like to embroider and put everything in place and in a proper and predictable manner.  To simplify, reduce, organize, round up and retire after being sure of the method.  
Drawn in and concentric I would like to be.  Louise Bourgeois

untitled, 2006

Sewing implies repairing.  
When you mend things, it allows you to have your hands occupied.  To look intensely and never meet the eyes of other people.  You can even be moral about it.  
You can appear to do things for others.
You can say, "I am repairing your clothes."  Louise Bourgeois

untitled, 2002

My subject is the rawness of the emotions, the devastating effect of the emotions you go through.  Louise Bourgeois

untitled, 2004

Bourgeois' sculptures, at once baroque and schematic, subvert any possible association with platonic completeness.  Female forms simultaneously subvert and implicate a voyeuristic gaze.  At the same time, through its use of materials that we are accustomed to feeling against our skin, a dimension of haptic sensation and tactile association is opened up, beyond purely visual engagement.  
Ralph Rugoff (director of the Venice Biennale 2019)

the mute, 2002

This final body of work counts as one of the greatest late-career chapters in the history of art.  A body of work in which lifelong concerns of Bourgeois:  destabilising of boundaries, ambiguous sexuality, and a sliding register of meaning / identity, are revisited in profoundly enlivening ways.   Ralph Rugoff   

All images and text in this post are from the catalogue that documented Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child,  an exhibition that was presented at the Hayward Gallery, London England and Gropius Bau, Berlin, Germany in 2022.  All the works in the exhibition were made from LB's personal saved clothing and domestic textiles when the artist was in her 80's and 90's.  (Bourgeois died age 99 in 2010.)

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Magdalena Abakanowicz, the Abakans

Black Ball 1975, Sisal, 140 x 110 x 100 cm
and Abakan Red 1969, Sisal 405 x 382 x 400 cm

Polish artist, Magdalena Abakanowicz (1930-2017), created and displayed monumental woven textile sculptures in site specific environments so that people could move around in as if in a forest of large cloaked figures.   

The sculptures were named Abakans, after the artist's own name.   

Created in the late 1960's and early 70's, they remain hugely influential. They show how soft objects can have great expressive power.  When we move through them, there is a feeling of breath and touch, of fertility and decay, of connection between humanity and all living things, animal or plant.   

in foreground Abakan Festival 1972 Sisal 370 x 100 x 100
and Abakan Brown IV 1969-84 Sisal 290 x 300 x 30 cm 

I see fiber as the basic element constructing the organic world on our planet, as the greatest mystery of our environment.  It is from fiber that all the living organisms are built, the tissue of plants, leaves and ourselves.  

Our nerves, our genetic code, the canals of our veins, our muscles.

We are fibrous structures.  Our heart is surrounded by the coronary plexus, the plexus of most vital threads.

Black Garment VI 1976 Sisal 330 x 220 x 100, Abakan vert 1967-68 sisal 260 x 60 x 30,
Winter 1975 - 80, sisal 320 x 360, and Abakan Festival 1971 370 x 100 x 100

Handling fiber we handle mystery.

What is fabric?  We weave it, sew it.  We shape it into forms.

Abakan Brown 1969 Sisal 300 x 300 x 150 cm

When the biology  of our body breaks down, the skin has to be cut so as to give access to the inside.

Later it has to be sewn, like fabric.

Abakan etroit 1967-68 sisal and wool 320 x 100 x 100 cm

Fabric is our covering and our attire.

Made with our hands, it is a record of our souls.

sisal and wool abakan

My works are organic like creations of nature.

And like creations of nature, they will eventually turn into earth.

Assemblage noir 1966  sisal, wool, hemp and horsehair 300 x 220

They are born from the effort of my fingers, wrists and muscles.

Only in this way can I pass on to them my energy and my secrets.

Only in this way can I learn their secrets.

Brown Coat 1968 sisal 300 x 180 x 60 cm

The threads I weave make up homogeneous fabric, the expression of which depends on the tension or the relaxation of my nerves.

Abakan - Situation Variable II 1971  sisal and rope 400 x 250 x 100

Forms result from everyday emotions, like a diary.

They are a product and the record of my time, with its experiences, disappointments, longings and fears.

sisal and rope 1971 detail

My forms change as time goes by like my face.

Abakan Yellow 1970  sisal and rope  380 x 380 x 70

My Abakans are a protest against the weaving conventions.

A need to guide people into a world different from that of a noisy street and a brutal technique.

They are a cry of despair in the face of the ailments of civilization.

Abakan Orange 1968 sisal 360 x 360 cm  and Abakan Yellow 1970  sisal and rope 380 x 380 x 70 cm 

They are, like sweat, a symptom of my existence.

background, abakan orange on floor, abakan january february 1972 behind it, and some of the 800  embryology bundles.  Foreground is Abakan Red 1969  Sisal 405 x 382 x 400 cm

The text in italics is from Magdalena Abakanowicz's presentation at Fiberworks: Symposium on Contemporary Textile Art in Oakland California, May 1978.  The images are from the exhibition Every Tangle of Thread and Rope, curated by Ann Coxon, the Tate Modern, London, England for winter/spring  2022-23.   An excellent video produced by the Tate: click here

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Sun Spots at the Gladstone House

Sun Spots (1) detail, cyanotype on paper by April Martin, 2021

April Martin was one of the Toronto area artists who was invited to create new art for the renovated Gladstone Hotel, now called Gladstone House, one of the oldest buildings still operating as a hotel in Toronto. 

Sun Spots (1),2021, cyanotype on paper 

Her work responds to the Romanesque Revival architecture of the 1889 building, specifically the ten small windows made from pressed glass that are a focal point of the Queen street entrance.    

She made photograms of these windows by pressing photosensitive paper against the textured glass.     

To create the cyanotypes the artist needed to prepare good quality art paper with the photo chemicals and keep it protected from light until the last minute.  A tall step ladder was one of her tools. 

April Martin is a process-based sculptor. 

She enjoys creating art that allows things to happen.  

In this case the sunlight acted together with the materials of chemicals and paper.  

This blog has featured April Martin before.  Please have a look at the August 2019 post, or the January 2018 post or the May 2016 posts if you are interested in seeing more of her collaborations.   

This artist is curious.  She believes in magic.  She opens personal windows for herself and for us. 

Sun Spots (1) detail, cyanotype on paper by April Martin 2021

April Martin is my daughter and last month I visited Gladstone House (room 307) so that I could see her work.  The rooms are elegant and have a minimalist aesthetic.   I took this photo just before I left after a lovely two night stay (and a beautiful city visit with her). 

All the guest rooms have the neutral style seen in this photo yet each is made unique with original art created by local Toronto artists.  I've written about the Gladstone hotel's annual exhibition of textile art, Hard Twist, several times on Judy's Journal.  While that show is not happening anymore, the hotel is still committed to supporting the arts.  Read about the art program and find the names of the other artists involved in the new d├ęcor at this link.

"Look up!  Notice the ten panes of differently textured glass, as you come and go through the south entrance of the hotel. These photograms were captured by pressing photosensitive paper against early spring light that filtered through the unique crystalline surfaces.  Like the marks that stain your eyelids after staring at the bright sky, these shapes stretch as doorways into other, blue worlds."  April Martin

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Kirsti Rantanen

Kirsti Rantanen

A strong woman textile artist from Finland.   

She is having a retrospective exhibition this year at the Craft Museum of Finland in Jyvaskyla entitled The Space of Textiles.  It continues until the end of August 2022.

Although she was well known in her native Finland, she is almost unknown in other parts of the world.  The images in this post are from the exhibition of her work that took place at Helsinki's Design Museum of Finland in  2016-2017 that was simply entitled Kirsti Rantanen. 

Thank you to Camille who wrote a blog post about Helsinki's design district in 2017.

The above photo and the one below are from Camille's blog.  

Several circles and zig zags float through the exhibition space and guide us through the space.  

Kirsti Rantanen was born in 1930.

She graduated from the Department of Textile Art at the School of Art and Design in Helsinki in 1952 and during the 50's taught art and design there. 

During this time she also designed Rya rugs and furnishing textiles.

During the 1970's she began to experiment with sculptural textiles and also to advocate for women artists.

After the age of 40, her work became three-dimensional.

It takes up space.  

We move around it, yearn to touch it.  

The scale is awesome.  

Rantanen's textiles are large and in this way they mimic nature.

trees      mountains     clouds 

In 1983, Kirsti Rantanen won an award that allowed her to take time off teaching and be a free lance artist for five years. 

She moved out of Helsinki to the medieval town of Porvoo and began the most fertile period of her career.  She started to use the ancient Sumak method of weaving on a vertical warp that hangs from the ceiling.  To weave large scale on a free vertical warp means that she had to work on a ladder sometimes while weaving.  Yes, she was a strong woman artist.  

Her monumental weavings were made between 1984 and 1993 when she was in her 50’s and early 60’s. 

In 2017, after the exhibition of this body of work at the Design Museum, Kirsti Rantanen donated the collection to the museum.  
Women artists from pre-internet times are being discovered by curators today.  It's exciting.

It is good that the Design Museum is taking care of her work and that her work is being shared with other museums.  
Apologies that I have not been able to find the titles of most of Rantanen's sculptural pieces. I will keep looking.  I will be paying attention to her name.
Her name is Kirsti Rantanen.  (1930-2020)

She has a Wikipedia page that you can look up.  She has a daughter who is a respected artist named Silja Rantanen.  

A review of the Design Museum exhibition is available through this link.   The article is written by Satu-Lotta Peltola
Kirsti went on to make more sculptural work that involved wire and the spiral as a form.  

Requiem is the title of the blue piece, Abandoned Stage is the title of the black portal,  all work by Kirsti Rantanen