Made in China: new mixed media

Made in China - Mixed Media

The taste of sulphur coated my tongue and the air clung to my skin as I emerged from the Beijing Capital International Airport on an unseasonably hot October night in 2007. I was on a whirlwind tour of the Asia-Pacific region as part of my work on an online network of universities. I was touching down in China’s capital for a 48 hour stay. Continue reading “Made in China: new mixed media”

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Something about Catherine Paleczny

Catherine Paleczny hanging “Fin” at the Burlington Arts Centre. Click on the image to get insider view of hanging her show – Pars Pro Toto: A Sundry Ceramic Installations.

There is something other-worldly about Catherine Paleczny’s work. The organic shapes belie the underlying ceramic structures – whether arranged on the floor or mounted on the wall they beckon you.

When I was invited by Lauren Judge, founder of the Maven Project to photograph Catherine hanging her current show at the Burlington Arts Centre, my journalist’s instinct kicked in. The opportunity to poke ones lens into other people’s business is not to be missed. Outside of the obvious value and need for the project, having the chance work up close with an artist is the main reason I volunteered to work on the Maven Project.

Lauren conceived Maven as an “an online initiative to begin a cultural archive of Waterloo Region’s artists. By creating audio and visual records of artists’ creative processes, supported by interviews, photo essays and written articles about each artist, MAVEN provides a learning tool for communities.” You can read more about it on the project website.

As I was putting this slideshow together, I was listening to a recording of a recent live show my son Nick Storring performed at Gallery 1313 in Toronto. The music had an other-worldly vibe that resonated with the work that Catherine was hanging. Also Nick’s live performances are truly live – the music is composed on the spot using cello, laptop computer and usually an array of other instruments. This improvisation – this outpouring of an artist’s accumulated experience – is reflected in the mounting of an exhibition.

The music enhances my sense of swimming underwater that Catherine’s work evokes in me – one of the pieces in the show is appropriately called “Fin”. For me, it made great sense to bring the two elements together in the slideshow.

I’m looking forward to more Maven assignments.

Resource Notes:
  • While the embedded YouTube video is decent, the Vimeo version is better.
  • For the best viewing experience watch the Vimeo version in full screen and headphones or decent speakers – pipsqueak laptop speakers just don’t cut it.
  • Unfortunately WordPress.com only allows you to embed YouTube or Goggle video.

1+1+1 = All Mixed Up

All Mixed Up
Colour Mixing Experiment

I’ve been taking classes with Kitchener artist Alan Daniel. Alan is a master of technique and a marvelous illustrator. You can see his illustrations in the much-praised books The Story of Canada and recently in Fireside Al’s Treasury of Christmas Stories.

One of the tasks that Alan set for me was to learn how to mix a wide range of colours using the three primary colours – red, blue and yellow.

The accompanying image is of one of my mixing experiments using acrylics on wet watercolour paper. I love the way the colours spider across the wet paper, but unlike watercolours you can lay down heavy layers of paint while the paper is still wet, getting a more textured effect.

So much to learn, so little time.

Turning Reflections 2009 upside down

Reflections -2009New Painting: Reflections 2009 — I’ll start 2010 with good intentions to post here more often. Despite my best efforts I was unable to keep a consistent flow of ideas in 2009.

Perhaps this painting is an appropriate image to start with. Reflections 2009 is a piece I struggled with over the summer and fall.

It began as an anthropological examination of what you might find if you took a slice of the earth at the horizon line. I started out with newspaper pages attached to the board with several coats of gel medium. I gradually built up layers of paint, both washes and opaque colour. During different epochs found objects were attached to the board, then later removed leaving behind remnants of their presences. Sections were scraped down to the original  board. More colour and texture  were added.

The breakthrough came when things got turned upside down — the bottom became the top and the top was transformed from sky to shimmery echo of the textured other two-thirds.

In the end it is a much darker piece than I anticipated, but only now, after emerging for a tumultuous year, I recongize this is a more satisfiying representation of the my original intention.

A Year in the Making

sculpture - untitled 2009

Yes, a year in the making! How can it take that long to enshrine a tree root in a concrete arch?

  • Create a cardboard form;
  • cover it with a chicken-wire armature;
  • apply a  2 cm. layer of mortar mix concrete;
  • add a finishing coat white Portland cement;
  • polish it with a rotary sanding disk;
  • and add the centrepiece made of tree roots sanded smooth; ebonized with a mixture of vinegar and steel wool finished with three coats of clear water-based polyurethane.

I’ve been mulling this over — for a year — and then it was revealed to me last Sunday morning. An epiphany of sorts, while driving along a bleak section of Highway 407 with my wife on our regular pilgrimage to visit our mothers who living in nursing homes in east-central Ontario.

It was the piping of Joan Biaz singing “We Shall over Come” on CBC Radio 1, The Sunday Edition that evoked not only a deep wave nostalgia, but also a realization that it is in the “singing” that I take the greatest pleasure. I connect to my art through the process, so I’ve had a year of savouring the “singing” while making this piece — not bad.

Resources (added July 22, 2009):

Art Concrete: website by Owen Sound, Ontario artist Andrew Goss (opens in new window) – great how-to section with mixture recipes and gallery of work from various artists

The Creative Fire by Clarissa Pinkola Estes (opens in new window) – 3 CD set of poetry, storytelling and myth to fan the inner fire