Sunday, October 23, 2016

Rebecca Belmore

Rebecca Belmore creates performances that address memory, photographs that implicate the body and sculptures that evoke a sense of place.

She asks us to examine our relationship to history by inverting the official narrative.

She uses natural materials, repetitive gestures and her own and others' labour.
She references the struggling or missing body.
Her earliest piece, Rising To The Occasion, Victorian dress with beaver dam, 1987 is now part of the Art Gallery of Ontario permanent collection.

It is a provocation,
Rising To The Occasion
untitled 3 2004 inkjet print on watercolour paper
In 2004 she produced three photographs of wrapped figures.
They are minimal.
The fabric appears to bind the body, restricting movement,
yet also cocoons it.
untitled 2 2004 inkjet on watercolour paper
They are beautiful, yet they strongly suggest conflict and struggle.
Life and death.
untled 1 2004  inkjet on watercolour paper
It is the beauty in these photos that disarms us.
black cloud 2001 wood and steel
Artifacts created during her performances remain as metaphors for human and environmental suffering. In Black Cloud (above) dozens of nails were driven into a blackened, gnarled piece of wood that looks like a broken spine.  Belmore narrows the divide between politics and aesthetics.

The Great Water, overturned canoe and fabric
"Belmore's work 'attempts something more difficult, something even more problematic: the unaccountable"  Charlotte Townsend Gault.

She overturns the signs of both Aboriginal and European culture, subverting their conventions while playing on our assumptions of both.  Above, an over turned canoe.  The disappeared body.

The mortality of both our cultures.
wana-na-wang-ong, lichen, moss, roots 1993
In 1993, she gathered spruce roots from logging sites, lichen from trees and laced them together to construct a monumental sculpture.  This piece represents a specific place.
Sioux Lookout, Northern Ontario.
Wana-na-wang-ong means curve in the land or gentle dip..
detail of wana-na-wang-ong side a (lichen)
detail of wana-na-wang-ong side a (spruce roots)
""it is crucial that we speak about our connection to the land. " Rebecca B
untitled (a blanket for Sarah) 1994  pine needles through metal screening
Untitled (a blanket for Sarah) is made from 800,000fallen pine needles pushed through metal mesh. Created in homage for a homeless woman who froze to death on the streets of Sioux Lookout, the artist and her assistants worked intensely with repetitive movements to create this metaphor for the severity and beauty of nature.
deatil of untitled (a blanket for Sarah)
The artist Robert Houle wrote an essay for the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition catalogue entitled
Interiority as Allegory

In it, he states that Rebecca Belmore's distinctive body of work is between 2 cultures, between order and chaors and between corporeal and visceral.  Her work is ambialent about the certainity of modernism, yet dismissive of the contradictions of post modernism, her performances and installations are impossible to categorize.  Houle says that the complex emotional resonance and diversity in her work are powerful allegories of her on inner self yet are also about all of us.

Belmore's main focus are the performances that she continues to do both in Canada and internationally. These address both the latest current event hile also scooping in history, language, land, pain and hope. Her performances explore the right to be ourselves.
Temple 1996  ater, plastic, fountain, telescope, dimensions variable
In 1996 she created Temple.  Plastic milk bags filled with water from Lake Ontario bring the viewer face to face with the utter simplicity of water.  Reddish brown, green, its illness and fragility is revealed.
Temple, 1996  water plastic telescope wood
Understanding this piece takes participation on the part of the vieer.  "At its foot a funcioning drinking fountain promises fresh ater, hile at its head a longish staircase leads to a small platform fitted ith a very small telescope.  looking through it, the vieer can see the great rolling aves of Lake Ontario, up close."  (from the 2008 catalogue, essay Marilyn Burgess)

How removed are we from acknowledging that we are part of nature?  How great is that distance?  Rebecca Belmore
white thread, 2003  inkjet on watercolour paper
There are three themes in her work.
The body
A specific place in nature
Response to socio-political condition of the moment.

Also, Rebecca remains unequivacally anishinabe.  She uses her body as a metaphor for the fragililty of the human experience.  By bringing the eoutdoors inside the gallery walls, nature is not separateed from culture, and culture is not reduced to ethnicity.

All images and the ground of ideas for this text are taken from the Vancouver Art Gallery catalog entitled Rebecca Belmore.  Curators of that exhibition Diana Augaitis and Kathleen Ritter.  Thank you to them and to the artist.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Sati Zech

bollenarbeit 244, 2014  oil on canvas  77 x 60"  sati zech
Berlin artist, Sati Zech makes joyful yet meditative artworks that she calls bollenarbeit that refer, she says, to the hills and low mountains of southern Germany, the region where she was born.
bollenarbeit no 242, 2014  69.5 x 34 inches  oil, canvas  Sati Zech
To make them she tears apart sheets of canvas into strips and then reassembles them.  Sometimes they are overlapped, sometimes she uses white archival glue, sometimes plaster or wax or thread to put the pieces together.  The domes and dots of thick red paint are placed in horizontals on the cloth surfaces before or sometimes after this assembling.
bollenarbeit no 19, 2006  oil, canvas  94 x 63 inches, Sati Zech
In 2006 she had an exhibition of this body of work at the Heidelberger Kunstverein in Germany, and has gone on to show variations on the theme around the world.  Her New York gallery, the Howard Scott has this to say about Sati Zech's bollen paintings.

"The artworks of Sati Zech are unique amalgams of historically ritualistic mark making and 21st century self-expression.  They emanate feelings of femaleness: her power and passion, her cycles and repetitions."
bollenarbeit 110, 2010  37.5 x 27 inches, oil, canvas, wax, Sati Zech
"The layering, gluing, tearing, sewing all give rise to the idea of labour.  Specifically women's labour, a kind of thoughtful, painstaking never-ending work that manifests itself in tactile visions of strength, beauty, necessity, serendipity."
 "They contain the emotional dynamism of Louise Bourgois, the semantic materiality of Joseph Beuys, the subtle tactility of Eva Hesse and the symbolic charge of African art."  all quotes from Howard Scott Gallery
Sati Zech's studio with her dog, Rudi
Why does this work resonate so much?
Is it the colour?
red .... white
Or the repetition of rounded shape
Or the variety within that repetition
like natural elements - like human figures
Or the emotion expressed with the tearing up of the cloth
and the made elements
the destruction?
Or is it the hand-made de-skilled repairing of that cloth?
Is it because the artist has created a new square
a new human scaled rectangle
fabric that looks to be careless,
but that has taken much thought and care.
much work
There is a feeling of safety in these pieces.
 "These works are about communication.  The single bollen are like elements of a piece of music, or flags, or skin that's been branded."  Sati Zech
for Louise Bourgois #17   Sati Zech bollenarbeit detail
 She is inspired by the large sensual traditional artforms of several African countries.
for Louise Bourgois #18  Sati Zech bollenarbeit detail
 She is inspired by female sensibility.
All information is from the internet.  Click here for Howard Scott gallery, here for an image-full Zeit visit with the artist and here for Sati Zech's own website.
Sati Zech speaks about destroying and re-building and about the power and rhythm of communication on this video from Paris.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

April Anne Martin MFA graduate exhibition Art Institute of Chicago 2016

The Sun Had Not Yet Risen   2016   copper blind, 3 feet wide, 10 feet high
The Sea Was Indistinguishable from the Sky  2016
  tupperware with cyanotype printmaking in process
MFA exhibition, April Anne Martin

Simplicity is the core
pared down to the essence
not removing the poetry,
but pared down
not removing the connective tissue between all the elements
not diminishing that quality that compels us to look again
and again and again
but pared down

in the far left  window sill, The Sea Rose 2016 paper sculpture, 
on the floor, The Sea Was Indistinguishable from the Sky,
 in front of the window, The Sun Had Not Yet Risen,
(this photo taken around 6 pm) 
pared down
every unnecessary element discarded
April Anne Martin's MFA graduate exhibition Art Institute of Chicago,
Sullivan Galleries April 29 - May 18, 2016
Like Eva Hesse,
Martin uses a complicated minimalism marked with fantasy
Like Roni Horn,
she pays attention to the physical qualities of her material
Like Mark Rothko,
she uses a vertical format marked with shimmering horizontals
Like a poet,
she wants to elicit emotional response
Like a scientist,
she asks questions about what would happen in nature and records the process
Like an artist,
she doesn't want to know the answer ahead of time

She allows nature to be her equal partner
April Martin works with the changeable daily elements that each of us experience and think we know. Water.  Air.  Natural light.  Time.

The objects in this exhibition hold the time of day within them.
Inspired by modernist women artists and poets, Martin quotes Virginia Woolf's 1931 novel The Waves, in her titles.  Quoted below are the first few lines of that poem-novel.
The sun had not yet risen.  The sea was indistinguishable from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creased as if a cloth had wrinkles in it.  Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other, pursuing each other, perpetually.
As they  neared the shore each bar rose, heaped itself, broke and swept a thin veil of white water across the sand.  The wave paused, and then drew out again, sighing like a sleeper whose breath comes and goes unconsciously.            Virginia Woolf
In the above photo,  Martin is installing lengths of watercolour paper that she has treated with a cyanotype process over a period of twenty days.
Nine papers were each washed and exposed simultaneously in the tub in the middle of her space. This happened every two days at times that correspond to the nine interludes in Woolf's novel where she described the coastal scene at various times of day.  April Martin isolated the first few words of each of Woolf's interludes to create titles for her cyanotypes.
The interludes were not put into the space until the final day as during most of the exhibition they were drying in her studio.  In fact there was a performance every other day as part of the exhibition.
Follow this link to see photos.

"During the 20 day exhibition I will make 10 cyano type prints that respond to the sun's changing position in the sky, using sun and water.  The prints wash and expose themselves in the gallery and then are moved to my studio in another building where they are dried and displayed."  April Martin

On May 16 (graduation day), she moved the last of the cyanotypes into the gallery..
My studio is a scaled down space to observe the perpetual motion and aliveness of things. I set up physical exchanges between dry and wet materials that appear if only for an instant, to slow or stop time. Formally it is a container for activity, and sculpturally many of my works address this contained boundary, threatening to overflow, to flood and leak. 

Outside where the scale shifts, and the permeable drywall boundaries of my studio fall away, everything is different. Weather stacks itself into the present daily form made from dry/wet and hot/cold exchanges. We experience it in the moment we spend with it, it blows our body, it drips down, burns the back of our neck; it moves itself inside of us. April Anne Martin
from left to right, The sun had not yet risen, The sun rose higher, The sun rose, The sun, risen, no longer couched on a green mattress darting a fitful glance through watery jewels, bared its face and looked straight over the waves. The sun had risen to its full height, The sun no longer stood in the middle of the sky, The sun had now sunk lower in the sky, The sun was sinking, Now the sun had sunk. 

The Sea Rose 2016  pad of graph paper with evaporated salt and miracle gro' 11" h 
Another modernist woman writer, H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)'s poem Sea Rose gave the artist a title for her paper sculpture in the window.   (shown above)
The Sun Had Not Yet Risen  2016  copper  10 ' h x 3 ' w, April Martin
this photo taken around 8 pm, the blind is closed
The vertical copper sculpture reacts to and holds the light and heat of the sun.  It changes with the time of day, but it seems to be timeless.  I will close this post with one more quote by a modernist poet.  This is from Marianne Moore's poem When I Buy Pictures

"It must be lit with piercing glances into the life of things; 
It must acknowledge the spiritual forces which have made it"

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Susan Lordi Marker

Soulskin: Seeding the Prairie  1999  nylon, iron, copper, pigment 76 x 41 x 3 inches Susan Lordi Marker
When Susan Lordi Marker was a little girl, her mother took her to museums.
Damiana's Cloth 1991 rayon, silk, thread, 22 x 25 x 3 inches Susan Lordi Marker
She also traveled to Sicily to visit relatives.  She was given vintage garments and other textiles by the older generations she met there.  She heard their stories and the old proverbs.

Damiana is the name of Susan Lordi Marker's great grandmother.  In the piece above, although text is visible among the layers,  we can't read it.  Lordi Marker's use of text is as symbol of experience and knowledge.  It communicates without naming.
Excavation: Soulskin #11 1997  linen blend, thread, dye, pigment 66 x 34 inches Susan Lordi Marker
She realized later that the tangible objects that she was given were evidence that those people had been alive.   That they were marked by wear made them metaphors for her relatives' life experience.
Excavation: Soulskin #11  1997 detail Susan Lordi Marker
In her early work, she experimented with using the actual clothing. Pale shapes of a woman's dress floats on a ground of asymemetrical spirals on a fabric made sheer with burn out.
a remnant: Helionthus  2010  linen blend, gold leaf, thread, dyed  48 x 84 inches  Susan Lordi Marker
Trained as a scientist in her first degree, she went back to school when her children were little and received an MFA degree with honours from the University of Kansas in 1993.
soulskin: cricket  2007  silk, dye, thread  96 x 84 inches Susan Lordi Marker
She then studied with Joy Boutrup at the Kansas City Art Institute and learned ways to layer, fuse, and otherwise manipulate cloth.  She learned about cloque (lye crimping) and devore (chemical burn-out), two methods that make her textile work unique.
the field is sewn 2010  silk, dye, thread  30 x 48 inches  Susan Lordi Marker
little marks
cloth that is hung away from the wall so that it moves
it breathes
it casts a shadow
soulskin: sun, lake, dragonfly  2000  linen blend, dye, pigment, gold leaf, devore  90 x 54 inches Susan Lordi Marker
Susan Lordi Marker noticed that cloth has an ability to survive.  In fact, it became more evocative through the variety of harsh chemical processes she imposed on it.  Stronger in a way.  More unique. To the artist, this makes cloth a metaphor for life itself.

Her work is about the essence of cloth.

"You must pull from within to access the universal"  Susan Lordi Marker
soulskin: sun, lake, dragonfly detail  Susan Lordi Marker
Currently, Susan Lordi Marker is working on a line of gift ware called Willow Tree.  She makes original figures based on her observations of life models.  She speaks here about how her small sculptures are for the giver (who will purchase the piece to express an emotion) than they are about the object itself.  Lordi Marker believes that there is a personal connection for both giver and receiver. Read more about the artist's work with Willow Tree here.
Susan Lordi Marker in her prairie
The artist continues to restore a piece of land in Missouri, re-seeding it with prairie grasses.
Seeding The Prairie:  Detail  Susan Lordi Marker 
Susan Lordi Marker and her powerful one of a kind cloths have left a mark in the world.
She has been an influence.

The aesthetic of time is in each piece.
The aesthetic of labour.
The work of the work.

These pieces also remind us of the organic rhythm of nature, evoked here with these small dimensional marks.

The images in this post are from the official website for Susan Lordi Marker's fine art textiles and also from the Telos Portfolio on the artist, published in 2003 with an essay by Hildreth York.  Go to the artist's website for more information and detail images.  Thank you and acknowledgements to Ms York for her informative essay.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reiko Sudo and Nuno

A post about the recent exhibition at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, Almonte Ontario, Reiko Sudo and Nuno: Textiles from Japan
Curated by Alan C. Elder from the Canadian Museum of Civilization, the exhibition was designed by Reiko Sudo in the wabi sabi - beautiful  Norah Rosamond Hughes Gallery, a re-configured space in what used used to be a working woolen weaving factory .    In the above photo, one of the twenty -two columns is wrapped red polyester fabric, Paper Roll 2002, a chemical lace embroidery designed by Reiko Sudo in 2002.
When Alan C, Elder showed Reiko Sudo images of the gallery, she focused her attention on the columns that line up in the temporary exhibition space and dressed them in her original fabrics.  The white pleated and slashed polyester screen on one of the walls is named Tanabata, and was designed in 2004 by Reiko Sudo and Hiroko Suwa.  (Tanabata is a traditional annual festival.  On the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, girls pray to become good at sewing by decorating bamboo with folded paper charms.
 Scrapyard, 1994 designed by Reiko Sudo and Hiroko Suwa.  Rust dyeing, 100% rayon and iron.
This exhibition was not only serenely beautiful, it was also very informative for those of us interested in surface design.  A dedicated wall of samples served to explain the variety of processes used to create the fabrics was an integral part of the exhibit.   Scrapyard was made by laying damp fabric on a square of rusty iron, shown above.
 Length of time was the variable in how densely the material would be coloured.
The exhibition was in Canada from July 11 - November 22, 2014) and celebrated the 30th anniversary of NUNO, the Tokyo based textile studio, and Reiko Sudo's association with it.
The natural light and the decrepit stone walls of the historic building added to the elegance and mystery of these minimalist yet sensuous fabrics.  Above, Cracked Denim Rounds, 2010 designed by Reiko Sudo and Hiroko Suwa. Burnout and bonding, cotton and polyester.
Denim was originally a French twill called serge de Nimes.
 Flower Almanac , 2006 designed by Reiko Sudo.  Jacquard weave, 100 percent cotton.
A double weave in threads of different hefts and twists.
detail of Skylights, 2012 designed by Reiko Sudo.  Another double weave.  98% cotton, 2% polyurethane.
left: Kamaboko Stripe, 2014  Designed by Reiko Sudo, jacquard weave, 100% cotton, Right: Skylights 2012.
Visitors were invited to touch the samples.
 By handling the cloth and reading the details, we learn.
Congratulations to Michael Rikley-Lancaster, Executive Director and Curator of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, and to all of the many who were involved in bringing such an important international exhibition to Almonte.    A catalog of the exhibition is available from the museum, with essays by Alen C. Elder, Naomi Pollock and Yoko Imai accompanying photographs of each cloth.