Sunday, May 17, 2009

(Christine Cheung at Truck Gallery; exhibition page here)

Noticing a low interest in conversation about painting recently (I was particularly surprised at the audience during a recent talk by Christine Cheung), I was ecstatic to find, as a recent accompaniment to Jan Verwoert's stand on painting via Thoma Abts (for example), Raphael Rubinstein's essay 'Provisional Painting', which suggests:

"works that look casual, dashed-off, tentative, unfinished or self-cancelling. In different ways, they all deliberately turn away from 'strong' painting for something that seems to constantly risk inconsequence or collapse"

"Why would an artist demur at the prospect of a finished work, court self-sabotaging strategies, sign his or her name to a painting that looks, from some perspectives, like an utter failure? It might have something to do with a foundational skepticism that runs through the history of modern art: we see it in Cézanne’s infinite, agonized adjustments of Mont St. Victoire, in Dada’s noisy denunciations (typified by Picabia’s blasphemous Portrait of Cézanne), in Giacometti’s endless obliterations and restartings of his painted portraits, in Sigmar Polke’s gloriously dumb compositions of the 1960s. Something similar can be found in other art forms, in Paul Valéry’s insistence that a poem is 'never finished, only abandoned,' in Artaud’s call for 'no more masterpieces,' and in punk’s knowing embrace of the amateurish and fucked-up. The history of modernism is full of strategies of refusal and acts of negation."

"Provisional painting is not about making last paintings, nor is it about the deconstruction of painting. It’s the finished product disguised as a preliminary stage, or a body double standing in for a star/masterpiece whose value would put a stop to artistic risk. To put it another way: provisional painting is major painting masquerading as minor painting. In their book Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature (1986), Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari described how Kafka’s linguistic and cultural condition (as a Jewish author writing in German in Prague where the type of German he spoke was 'minor' in relation both to the locally dominant Czech language and to standard German) involved the 'impossibility' of writing in German and the 'impossibility of not writing.'Kafka’s solution was to fashion a mode of writing that seemed to erase all literary precedents, and to create an oeuvre that barely survived into the future. Faced with painting’s imposing history and the diminishment of the medium by newer art forms, recent painters may have found themselves in similarly 'minor' situations; the provisionality of their work is an index of the impossibility of painting and the equally persistent impossibility of not painting." (read the entire essay here)

Some of the artists mentioned in the essay:

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Last week I visited the 2009 BFA Grad Exhibition at ACAD, which seemed to include only half as many graduates as usual, although this might be the case of students needing one more class, etc. but are so ready to graduate. Work which stood out to me:

(work by Elaine Shandro)

('Grad Peace - The Unicorn' by Bree Horel)

(work by Bogdan Cheta)

And I was chased around the halls by the student security system for snapping photos, so I didn't get an image of Aidan Cartwright's video of a metal trashcan character (with an anguished expression carved out in gaping holes) walking around Calgary, dancing a bit with street people (but his heart wasn't in it), and walking around shopping malls. When I came in, he was walking away from the 'Welcome To Calgary' entrance sign, his devastated metallic expression a silent foreshadowing of his experience of the city.

This morning I found some great advice to recent BFA grads -

"I want the students to break free. I want them to delve into what terrifies them and come out the other side. I want them to stop fighting the medium and hiding in the comfort of safe ideas. I want them to step outside of their minimum daily requirement of past and contemporary art history...Dear gradating class of 2009. Don't be scared. Get the hell out there and transform, grow, and do things. Read. Write. Engage, participate and challenge." (source)

intuitive criteria

found: Rebecca Morris

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Her artist talk at the Renaissance Society can be seen/heard here, and there's a lengthy essay on her work here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

found: Angel Otero

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

'Early Work' at Trianon Gallery


Early Work, May 2nd- June 27th at Trianon Gallery
Opening Reception, May 2nd at 8 pm.

Early Work is an exhibition of early work by fifteen Calgarian painters in the traditional spirit of the collective exhibition. The works selected are 'early' in terms of the stage of career, but the invitees are emergent, mid-career and established artists. Vitality and quality of the commitment to contemporary painting unite the group across diverging content and approaches to the painting medium.

Initiated by emerging artists Jane McQuitty, Christine Cheung, and Kim Neudorf, this bottom-up blending of emerging and established artists reactivates the viewer as responsible for forming his or her own response. There are no certainties. Amidst the messages of gallery architecture and the canonicity that is implied by the generational, the viewer must engage with the work in manifold and complex ways. The exhibition's contents will bring the viewer into intimate connection with preconceived judgment and the complexity of artists' productive histories.

The show includes work by Chris Cran, Christine Cheung, Eric Cameron, Harry Steen, Jeffrey Spalding, Jane McQuitty, Jennifer-Rae Forsyth, John Will, Kim Neudorf, Marcia Harris, Dave and Jenn, Mary Scott, Melanie Aikenhead, and Susan Menzies. For the citizens of Lethbridge, this project will show a range of paintings from Calgary, spanning generations.

A dynamic part of the show will be Jeffrey Spalding’s reenactment of his 1976 wall work. Come watch this obsessive activity as a wall is roller-painted a new colour once each day for the duration: two months. Fifty-seven coats later, the under-painting will leave a halo of residue colours and marks around the perimeter; the middle colour will resonate against the surrounding halo.

The gallery opens Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm.

For further information, interviews and images, please contact:

Jane McQuitty, Kim Neudorf and Christine Cheung


John Savill, Trianon Gallery,


(close-up of work by Mary Scott)

(work by Kim Neudorf)

(work by
Chris Cran)

(work by Christine Cheung)

(work by Susan Menzies, Harry Steen)

(work by Jennifer Rae Forsyth)

(work by Marcia Harris)

(work by Jane McQuitty)

(work by Eric Cameron)

(work by Dave and Jenn)

(work by John Will)

(work by Susan Menzies)

Both 'Galleries West' and FFWD gave mention of 'Early Work' in inventively incomplete ways. Particularly the former, which states the exhibition includes only twelve artists, then lists eight. Harry's painting is featured:

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

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After last week's grad school and residency application rejections, I found this essay of Charlene von Heyl's work, seeming like another recent preference for abstraction and deliberate avoidance of figuration/ornamentation, while still a great essay about painting:

"not so much meaning as over achieving desire to invent something that has not yet been seen; a refusal to rely on the existing visual world, to surprise not only the viewer but first of all herself...a wilfully isolated practice, a monologue that continues in the face of information streams and image overload, regardless of dissenting or disbelieving noises around single meaning but invades our reality with what the artist has called ‘existential surplus value.’...The fluidity of image making, in all its banality, is thematized while the chance decisions involved in von Heyl’s abstract painting practice are extrapolated and literalized...‘The work of art must offer a resistance to the spectator’s fantasy, a check as well as a stimulus’, wrote Sylvester; ‘in non-figurative art, it is the reality, the presence, of the painting itself that has to fulfil this function.’8 "

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Also, in Donald Kuspet's review of Steven Assael's figurative painting:

"I think art justifies its existence -- becomes serious rather than just another shallow and transiently charismatic cultural phenomenon -- when it helps us intuit them: invokes, as it were, the esthetic, existential, human realities "latent" in appearances. I suggest that naïve realism is insufficiently artful and thus comparatively insignificant, however undoubtedly "interesting" it is to bring some physical particular into objective focus, that is, seeing it for what it apparently -- but never really -- is. Naïve realist works are not completely memorable, because they lack the universal esthetic, existential and human interest that would give them lasting value, allowing us to return to them -- re-engage them with yet another look -- without becoming bored. Realists whose works successfully integrate esthetics, existentialism and humanism, with no loss of observational acumen -- respect for the material facts -- are "ultimate realists." Steven Assael aspires to be one; a few works convince me that he is one...Assael struggles to integrate traditional and modernist ideas of art, but he also keeps them apart, inviting us to compare and cross-examine them: Which is esthetically better, which is more existentially meaningful, which gets the gist of the human more convincingly?...Perhaps Assael’s most convincing marriage of modernist abstraction and traditionalist imagery are in his extraordinary drawings -- pure perceptual, esthetic and psychodramatic epiphanies."