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Showing posts from 2010

Doris McCarthy's Inspiration

In 2001, Doris McCarthy was invited to give the Convocation Address at the University of Toronto's graduation ceremonies, where she received an honourary Doctorate of Law degree. A good friend of Doris's and mine, the portrait artist, Judy Finch attended the ceremony and sent me a copy of Doris's speech.  I love Doris's simple, wise advice. I remember her being interviewed on CBC radio one summer when she was 89.  She said, with her characteristic enthusiasm, "Every decade is better than the last.  I can't wait to be 90!"

"Mr. President, Mr. Chancellor, Members of the Faculty, happy Graduates and all your proud parents and friends who have come to celebrate this landmark occasion, welcome, and thank you for the opportunity I have been given to tell you something that neither your professors nor your parents have had a chance to learn, but that I know because I am old, older than any of them.

This is the wonderful secret I want to share with you.  Life …

Doris McCarthy 1910-2010

When I was in Can Serrat in Spain, I learned that my old friend, Doris McCarthy died on November 25th at the age of 100.  She was an icon in the Canadian art world, honoured and loved for her constant, dedicated focus on painting the landscape of this country that she loved so much.  
In 2005, in honour of her 95th birthday,  Toronto's acclaimed Amadeus Choir, paid tribute  Doris McCarthy in a special multi-media concert - "Amadeus and the Artist - A Portrait of Doris McCarthy" - on October 22 at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church in Toronto. The program featured the world première performance by the Amadeus Choir and the Bach Children's Chorus of 'Salutation of the Dawn' by Canadian composer Eleanor Daley, commissioned by the Amadeus Choir.

Along with three of her friends, I was invited to give a speech about my travels with her.  Here's the speech I gave that day.

"It’s not the journey you take with Doris; the adventure is being with her and feeling t…

Can Serrat Exhibition: ¨And Then There Were Three¨

Just three of us left now at Can Serrat. On Saturday we had an exhibition of the work we´ve done while we have been at the residency.


Natalie McQuade exhibited a  video comprised of her black and white photographs of ceramic sidewalk tiles in Barcelona and El Bruc.  She also created a sculpture using three Spanish cigar boxes she found here that she made into pinhole cameras.
Erica Scourti´s piece was a video remake of the movie Three Kings.
My painting, called Colores del Monasterio de Montserrat was an edited assemblage of the more than eighty small acrylic/monastery pigment paintings I´ve made while I´ve been here. 
The residency is over.  It´s getting cold here in the hills of El Bruc overlooking Barcelona.  I´ll be happy to get home to central heating. And just happy to get home.

Colores del Monasterio de Montserrat

Before I came to Can Serrat, I had hoped to use local materials in my work.  In the first few days here, I found all of these small containers of dry pigments in the upstairs studio. I learned from Marcel that these pigments were used to paint the Monastery of Montserrat when it was restored about five years ago. 

Over the weeks I have been here, I have been using these dry pigments mixed with acrylic matte medium on paper.  I tore the paper into sheets that are approximately 9x12¨...some are smaller because I used various sizes of watercolour paper.  I tore each sheet of paper into eight sections.  I´ve consistently worked on this small size, playing with these various pigments, pouring and experimenting with them.  I´ve been interested in the colours of Spain...reds, oranges, golds, the colours and shapes of the mountains behind the residency... blue greys, warm greys, oranges, browns and blacks, depending on the time of day.  I´ve also been interested in using the circle...the glo…

The Residency Residents

There are only two other artists here now.  The rest have finished their residencies. Can Serrat will close for December.  Things are winding down here.  But I still have eleven days left and will continue to absorb this area of Cataluña, Montserrat, El Bruc and Barcelona.  I´m loving spending time with the other artists and learning about their work.  Erica Scourti is an exceptionally creative artist/filmmaker from London, England who works mainly with digital media, and is interested in language/word-based video art. She has recently done a residency at I-Park in Connecticut.
 Natalie McQuade is a brilliant multi-media artist from Melbourne, Australia. She incorporates sculpture, sound, installation and printmaking into her work ...among other things. At Can Serrat, among other projects, she is making several pinhole cameras out of found Spanish cigar boxes.

These are two very creative, very exciting young artists and I so much enjoyed sitting with them while they discussed their w…

Second Week Artist Residency

There are some beautiful hikes nearby the residency that eventually lead to Montserrat. I haven´t quite made it to the base of the mountain yet.  The weather here in the more mountainous region of Catalonia has been cool, around 14 degrees and mostly sunny. Great for hiking.

Yesterday I went into Barcelona to meet up with my friend Rebecca Crowell and her husband Don Ticknor from the U.S.  We met up at theFundacion Antoni Tapies where we saw a small number of Tapies pieces and a terrific film about him and his work..  On the lower level of the museum was a retrospective of the work of Anna Maria Maiolino, an Italian-born artist who lives in Brazil.

The Tapies website says that Maiolino´s ¨complex works have developed through a variety of media: poetry, woodcuts, photography, film, performance, sculpture, installation and, above all, drawing. The wide spectrum of subjects, interests and attitudes that underlies her work does not follow a linear development, either in the work itself or i…

Visiting Barcelona from Can Serrat

I spent the day yesterday in Barcelona, which is less than one hour by bus from El Bruc and Can Serrat.  Easy access to the city center by Metro.  My destination was first, an art supply store...where I wasn´t too impressed by the supply of paint and paper....and then to the CCCB...the Centre de Cultura Contemporanea de Barcelona.  Before I left home I learned that there was an exhibition about the history of Labyrinths at the CCCB which runs until January 2011.

I walked down Las Ramblas, the main pedestrian walkway, on my way to the CCCB.  It was bustling with excitement on a warm November day in Barcelona.

A couple  dressed up for the crowd as though they were sculptures, and covered with something that looked like clay.

Below is the entrance to the CCCB.  The exhibition I went to see was called ¨Through the Labyrinth¨.

This was a kind of video of people walking the labyrinth at Chartres, taken from above.

 This part of the exhibition was laid out as a maze, with walls to imitate shrub…

Can Serrat, Spain

I arrived in Barcelona on Saturday October 31 for a one month artist residency at Can Serrat.  As we drove toward the town of El Bruc, an enormous rainbow arched over the highway  and stayed there for the entire drive to Can Serrat-definitely a good omen.

 The residency is located in a little valley at the base of Monserrat-the serrated mountain, or Magic Mountain as it´s  called here.  The famous pilgrimage site, the Monastery of Montserrat, home of a Black Madonna is located on the other side of these mountains.
I´m here for a month, along with five other artists: one other Canadian, a sculptor from New Brunswick; a film-maker from England; a performance artist from Barcelona via the US, who is here with her partner from  Honduras who a mixed media artist; and an artist from Australia.  Another American artist, a painter, just left today.  Two other artists are coming within the next two weeks.
I went with a couple of the other artists yesterday to visit the monastery at Montserrat. It…

Poems from the Moon Garden Opening

My exhibition,Poems from the Moon Gardenopened on Friday night at Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville, Ontario.  The show continues until November 7th.  Here are a few of the installation shots before and during the show.

My painting of the past several years has been strongly influenced by the archetypal concept of pilgrimage.  This current work has increasingly become more experimental and exploratory, turning inward and moving toward abstraction.  As I began this body of work, I decided to drop all my known reference points—to step off the edge of what is familiar to me.  In Buddhism, this attitude of setting aside, for the time being, preconceived ideas, beliefs and expectations is known as 'beginner's mind". Beginner's mind is like a child’s mind, just present to explore and observe and see things as they are.
As time went on, I returned to a combination of abstraction and representation, each influencing the other. Images of flowers in a moonlight garden came back into …