Saturday, March 25, 2006

Four Points of View at the Leyton Gallery

I always have a hard time reviewing shows at commercial galleries. Or even thinking about shows at commercial galleries. The expectation is that while I might see some pretty paintings or a few nice sculptures, chances are I'm not going to find a work that profoundly changes the way I view the world or art. The primary focus, of course, in opposition to work you might see in an Artist Run Centre or other public gallery, is for the work to sell.

Four Points of View at the Leyton Gallery in St. John's features four "new and much celebrated" painters, two from NL and two from the mainland of Canada.

Taryn Sheppard's landscape paintings of the hills, cliffs, roads and shorelines of Outer Cove and surrounding area are absolutely stunning. Compositionally very strong, there is a confidence and delicacy in the application of paint that far out-strips that of the other artists in the show, whose work can sometimes look a little clumsy in comparison. Her palette is fresh, crisp, and bright. You can almost feel and smell the wind coming in off the ocean in her paintings. It was a wise move on behalf of the staff to give Sheppard the majority of space in the front room of the gallery as her paintings are a great hook to get people inside off the street.

I've heard that Sheppard has been accepted into a Master's program for September and won't be making art as much as she'd like, which is certainly a loss for lovers of painting in this province (and perhaps causes a sigh of relief to ripple through the ranks of the younger painters in Newfoundland who've had their run of the market since leaving Grenfell).

At the bottom of the show is Denis Chiasson, whose derivative Cubist manglings just don't work for me. I mean, I love Picasso and Braque and Matisse, but do we still need somebody out there making their way toward Cubism in the cafes and bars when some of the greatest minds of the last century already cleared that path for us? When I see work like this in galleries I know there's been some very cynical calculation put into the painting based on what the artist thinks might sell. Not my cup of tea at all.

The other two artists, Michael Pittman and MJ Steenberg, are in the middle. The work by Steenberg, in particular: murky, static and heavy feeling, gets bullied off the wall by Sheppard's painting, which, again, is some of the finest painting I've seen in St. John's for ages. And that includes the beloved Grant Boland.

Thanks to Bonnie Leyton for being such a hard core supporter of visual art in Newfoundland. Though we've never met, I just think she rocks.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice review
i have to agree with some of what you said. keep in mind picasso was not trying to clear the way for anyone and definately not trying to put an end to painting. no real intellectual mission i'm afraid. He was doing some of what he realized could be done with paint and, in the end, opened up some doors for other artists to explore. i do agree with you about the cynical approach to these "cubist", if you will, works. that being the case i'm more disappointed in the landscape paintings by sheppard. mother nature worship is definately the best route to take if you want to sell work in this province. These paintings will sell i'm sure. some of the tones work and they are simple and smooth. not as good as ice cream. i doubt any painter will be coming back for seconds. no offense, but for such an accepted subject to paint i expect more. Alot more. you've got everything you need right in front of you. in sheppards case that is probably a photo. The only job is to then make it interesting. I am still waiting for balls.

1:29 p.m.  
Anonymous Gill said...

I’d like to make a point regarding format. This is not a new debate, its been an interesting and controversial issue for eons, but for me anyway particularly relevant since the advent of the internet. That’s the question of anonymity, or rather anonymity vs accountability. I too am a supporter of free speech and responsible anonymity. In order to take someone or their comments seriously though I have to attach an identity to those comments. There is always a balance. I don’t care if it’s a persons real or made up name, or first or last, or nickname or whatever. I just want to see an identity otherwise they are just words from an amorphous ungrounded source. I have a lot of respect for Craig and this blog because he’s doing what most people in a small community like this are afraid to do: give his honest, frank opinion, WITHOUT anonymity. He is accountable and he knows it. It makes him an easy target, not just in cyberspace, but out in the real world where he actually has to interact with people he writes about. I think that takes a lot of guts and integrity in the name of good dialogue. For the most part I think this forum has been a very interesting read and much needed here in the province. I tune in a lot and hope more and more people will. I’m having a hard time following which anonymous comments are attributed to which identity. If I could follow comments from a name (pseudonym) then I would be able to develop a sense whether or not I buy into this or that persons line of thought or integrity for that matter. For those of you that don’t know, after you type your comments in, you could consider clicking “other” and typing in your name, or your dogs name, or grandmas middle name….and stick with it
Thanks Craig, keep it up, sorry to divert attention from the real focus here.

8:28 a.m.  
Anonymous stopping said...

I would like to agree with Gill. Please get a handle.

I appreciate the value of writing in anonymously but it is like one great MsMr"A". Maybe I will start two handles, one kind and one evil! That would be interesting yes?

till then


2:17 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i would like to respond to the last comment. When we were first told about this blog, there were quite a few artists at the eastern edge members meeting. I didn't even know what a blog was and thought it was a great idea. Craig gave us his reasons for starting this blog. He told us that most people around here would rather talk about people behind their backs then ever critique them or their work in a responsible way. Probably being quite sick of these types of discussions, he started a blog. Please correct me if i'm wrong craig. Gill, i seriously don't think you are going to get what you want here. it would be nice but remember the reason this started in the first place. Why would people start being accountable now? I'm just glad it's happening and becoming such a popular forum. Personally i don't need to read the name Gill to understand your concerns and take them seriously. The comments are thoughtful and most people here will respond. As you might have noticed, people will also respond to crap as well. I think we will just have to figure it out for ourselves. The fact that we can even respond to the crap means something is improving here.

2:37 p.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

The thing is, it's really annoying and difficult trying to keep track of the various anonymous comments. Then you have anonymous people logging in to say they didn't make that last anonymous comment, or whatever. A handle would make things clearer, while allowing people to remain anonymous. As of now, things are just confusing. I don't think anyone will know who you are if you call yourself Mr. T.

CFP -- I'm glad you were able to review the show at the Leyton. I haven't checked it out myself yet, but I'll be back with some comments when I do.

I'm not represented by a gallery myself -- do artists who are find that a part of themselves try to make their work more marketable in some way, whether they like it or not? I imagine it would be hard not to.

5:38 p.m.  
Anonymous "Gutless Conservative" said...

Bravo Craig. Anonymous takes it all back. I'd like to read more reviews like this, and give all genres equal time. Don't knock commercial work too much, because it takes talent to devote yourself to art and make a living without selling out. A few people pull it off. Is it better to work other jobs and not have time or energy to hone you skills or make art in the first place? I agree that Bonnie has done a good thing for Newfoundland. There are more and more emerging artists with a lot of potential and I don't believe one dealer can not be expected to represent more than a handful of artists fairly or well. RCA and Eastern Edge may serve their purpose, but we need more commercial galleries of this calibre to keep up with the growth in the visual arts. Parallel galleries are well and good for experimental work and for people starting out, but commercial galleries are not only home for sell outs, but for good artists that find their voice. It is also a way of reaching a bigger audience. For the record I've seen as much (or more) selling out in artist run galleries all in the pursuit of being acceptable to the Canada Council. Sometimes there is more freedom in commercial work. I will keep an eye out for the painters you mention. I don't think most artists are afraid of competition. I've always found Newfoundland nurturing that way. The more good work there is to inspire one another the better. The market is as big as the world. Little sells within the province anyway.

10:14 a.m.  
Anonymous Gutless Again. said...

just followed the link to the show. thanks for that. I have to agree Sheppard works is by far the strongest followed by Steenberg whose palate may be more subtle, but there are moments to be found. The other two are a little too stylized to speak to me much more than the average magazine illustration. (Not to knock illustration because at it best it can be high art.)

I look forward to seeing what Sheppard will do in years to come. Her work has great resonance, warmth and spirit. I look forward in seeing it away from the computer screen, which I've found rarely does oil painting justice. I also enjoyed the watercolour pencil piece. She has a touch that shows sincerity and true connection to here subject and materials. One of the "real deal" artist's that emerge out of Newfoundland once in a blue moon. What's a year or two out for time to grow? Good painters tend to think in terms of decades and centuries.

I have a feeling Pittman is finding his way, but I wouldn't write him off just yet. Some great artists grow out of awkward beginnings. It is good to see Bonnie nurturing people while their work has a chance to grow.

The last time I had a chance to get to the Leyton gallery it was very small. At this rate they will have to find bigger digs.

4:02 p.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

the only thing is, gutless (ha), is that Sheppard will be studying architecture. not painting. go figure.

4:08 p.m.  
Anonymous Gutless said...

oh but the buildings she will build... and then she can paint murals in them. (-: It's not easy to make a living as a painter even if you are good. It's good to have a job that you don't hate to pay the bills, and sometimes a break is just the thing to keep keep creative enegy alive. I'd be curious to see how it would influence her work. With that kind of gift I don't think she will be giving up painting for good.

5:36 p.m.  
Anonymous early bird said...

It's giving Chiasson's style too much credit to refer to it as as an cubism. He might make a great illustrator and his imagery is not without imagination, but it is not serious painting. Stylized is an apt description. It picks up the style but lacks the substance, in the same way many dabblers and amateurs pick up on surrealism because they think it looks cool without really understanding surrealism at all. But what hasn't been done before? The point is to take something in a new direction, and for a painter to put something of their own unique spirit in a work, or to (God forbid, and save us from tired and easy poststructualism, the great 20th century cop out)play with an interpretation of the original.

I don't think it is optimistic to say there are and will be brilliant and genuine painters somewhere, who may or may not be working in the current vogue of the time, but to understand Braque and Picasso intimately enough to go down that path. Chiasson lacks that sensitivity that is the hallmark of all great painters. (Unless you happen to love cynical and empty postmodernism, which is more often about style without substance.)

6:06 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You'll have to point me in the direction of matisse's attempt at cubism. I think I missed those. But to be fair, there may also a nod to matisse in the imagery and use of picture plane.

6:20 a.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

it always surprizes me how so many people can so easily write off an entire movement (postmodernism) with one or two throw away lines at the end of a comment.

oh, and i meant matisse more as another influence on chaisson. i guess that wasn't very clear in my post.

12:18 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

because if you take a walk through soho or any other art centre the amount of postmodernist crap is over whelming. i'm sure it had it good moments, but it's time to move on. more often that not the work i've seen coming out of it is a cop out. being genuine takes guts and true talent, while easy irony has remained still so very "fashionable".

2:25 p.m.  
Anonymous Joseph B'ys said...

This is good discussion but I wonder if anything can useful can be said about paintings after only seeing them as 4 inch by 4 inch digital photographs on a website.

I mean often the same website will have different shades when viewed in different browsers on different machines. So, is colour a mere externality? How about texture? From my understanding of Mike Pittman's work, the process of layering and scraping is quite important to what he's up to. I think of it as a palimpsest.

Anyway, I find, Gutless agains' comments to be weightless without attention to the aspects that make painting painting. Stroke, colour, paint, technique, etc... I'd be interested to see what you think once you actually see the paintings.

2:30 p.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

I have no idea what you mean. Please explain what you're talking about.

I've heard similiar comments from people to this effect and am always quite baffled.
Once you identify something as postmodern, how do you justify it as a "cop out"? What are these artists copping out of?
What does being genuine mean? Seriously. Is an artist's sincerity so easily recognizable? Does sincerity equal "good"?
I just have a hard time with such sweeping remarks, it's like saying all jazz is just masturbatory noodling. As someone who would self identify (possibly) as a post-modernist, or at least as a post-modernist influenced artist (who hasn't been influenced by it?), I can tell you that all of my work has been very sincere. That is, it's come from my head and my heart. How is that not genuine?

2:49 p.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

oops... the above is for anonymous, of course.

2:50 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad you left your last comment. I read the post about post-modernism (ha)and didn't have a chance to respond. Thanks for doing it for me.I would like this person to explain modernism to me and tell me that it isn't empty and cynical. Please don't read too many art history books and use them as your truth and opinion on all this. I've heard too many people explaining things away before because they learn how to do it. Please respond to my comment about modernism i really want to be educated here.

3:06 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to joseph yes by
i've seen the paintings in actual real life and my comments remain the same.
i also agree with most of what was said about them. Except for what was said about the ones that look cubist. They do not. He draws his women with a jagged edge, that's all. There is really nothing at all cubist about you wouldn't call his paintings post - modern if all post modernism is cynical. This guys paintings are romantically appropriating parts of the past.

3:18 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i made the 1rst anonymous comment and i would like to eat some of my words. Sometimes i say things out of an over all frustration and then feel like an ass. - not that this painter cares or not, but i truly feel different about what i said and since i try to be honest in life i have to say this. From what ive seen, Taryn probably has the most potential at becoming a really great painter. I think i just wanted to see more then what was there - not really fair. It really feels like painting that is going somewhere and maybe that is what i see lacking in alot of work. I think i feel disatisfied with work that appears to have stopped progressing - like "that's enough, i'm content now to repeat this process over and over again." Anyways, enough said. Goodnight

1:49 a.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

If people can't get to the gallery I encourage them to follow the link to see Taryn's work. It will be a loss to Newfoundland if she doesn't continue to paint again. But perhaps she has the makings of a great Renaissance woman, (I always dreamed of studying architecture in another life). Whatever she chooses to do I am sure there will be great things ahead of her. Not everyone can juggle multiple careers, and do it well. I have a feeling she can, or at the very least it will be a great period of growth for her creative vision.

For me at least sincerity does translate to good. Even in the case of bad. Just look at Ed Wood! Sincerity and drive can make up for lack of talent, but talent without sincerity is for me cold and empty. (Part of the reason I have little respect for Dali who aligned himself to the old masters out of ego, not true feeling.) But whatever speaks to you! Warhol has his share of advocates.

I wouldn't be surprised if most of Newfoundland's best art will find a market outside the province, but just by way of timely reminder that some does find a home within the province, one of Newfoundland's patrons and greatest lover of art was featured on the news last night. If I wasn't so busy chasing my toddler I was hoping to see what on his walls lately. Gerry Mugford has helped a good many young artists when they couldn't make rent, and given them a meal when they were hungry. For that he deserves our gratitude and love. (I think he said something about leaving his collection to the Newfoundland art gallery.)

To throw my two cents in to the debate, I've grown tired of post modernism and find it too often shallow, but if it is a inspiration for someone I would never take that away from them. Seek the best in everything, and perhaps you have found the best in post modernism that I have overlooked.

If you have to have a role model or seek inspiration isn't it best to find it in the genuine?

Taryn's work is genuine. Somehow I don't think her digital files were so enhanced that I couldn't get that from a computer screen. (I'm lucky to have one that is high resolution and very well calibrated. It's a risk, but I post my paintings not knowing how they will translate on monitors around the world, but I like the thought of sharing with a wider audience, and giving a painting life outside of itself.)

I look forward to seeing her work in the flesh, and hope to see more from her in the future.

Not ignore the other work, but it's time to go feed my baby...

"We have more possibilities, more freedom, more options than any people who have ever lived. Yet there is more junk, more mediocrity, more garbage to sort through than ever too." - Michael J. Gelb

3:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

modernism is my favourite "movement", but perhaps i'm out of my time. i respond to work that speaks for itself and from the spirit. that was what modernism was. it did not exist to merely be a statement on some other. it. there was no easy irony. artists struggled to find voices that could transcend time and space. it did not live through the cynical regurgitation of those things that are genuine.

of course this is only one outlook, and no, i'm not speaking from an art history book. i'm speaking from first hand experience and from the heart. sincerity is not so easily faked. it is in the sensitivity of a painter's mark. it is in the authenticity of their vision. it is in their connection to subject and material. like body language, if know paint well enough you know when art is sincere, or shallow, has substance or mere style.

i'd like to hear what about post modernism has inspired you. i'd like to learn more too. that's why i'm here, even if we each are biased in our own way. the world and history is too big for one person to filter it on their own (unless they happen to be da vinci, and he had a lot less to filter all those centuries ago.)

is that enough of a rambling response?

5:06 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cynical movements such as modernism can have substance and sincerity etc.. A very romantic struggle, whatever. Alot of postmodern art is an attempt to debunk the cynicism and myths of modernism. modernism was a cynical reaction to other traditional and accepted ways of working. Neither is any better or worse than the other. We are alive now and able to see the shit. With a movement that not alot of as have lived through we miss out on some of the shit. Alot of good has sprung from reactionary art. The critics of post modernism today are the critics of modernism yesterday. Long live the visionaries!?

7:56 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

modernism wasn't a single movement which i'm sure we are all aware.

7:58 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

our lives are postmodern to the point where deconstruction is meaningless... how long can we tear things apart? I celebrate those artists that create meaning. that build instead of break down. play and irony and pop culture and the blurring the lines between high and low are all well and good. but it's been done to ad nauseum. Give me a genuine painter with something of their own original spirit to express (like Taryn and many others who are out of step with the times. Modernists may have reacted to much of the art that came before, but they were also inspired by, and celebrated it. And what the likes of Monet and Van Gogh offered the world was a great gift for all time.

Deconstruction has served it's purpose in philosophy.. in film... in waking up society, and it's influence will continue to be felt in many positive ways, but I think there is a yearning for something real in a transient and all too disposable world. too much of what we see today is no longer earth shattering.. it is too often the hollow imitation of a style that is slick and commercial.

give me a mondern day da vinci or van gogh. give me the builders of something good and true and real. keep your easy irony that has become a cop out for too many. yes it "takes guts and talent" to be genuine. the walls have been torn down for long enough people...

If you want postmodern give up painting and go watch tv.

10:24 p.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

"sincerity is not so easily faked. it is in the sensitivity of a painter's mark. it is in the authenticity of their vision. it is in their connection to subject and material. like body language, if know paint well enough you know when art is sincere, or shallow, has substance or mere style."

I'm sorry, what the heck does this mean? It sounds like something from a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" book. I don't think you can tell if an artist is being sincere unless you've acutally spoken with them or read what they've written/said. Even then, there are still some excellent bullshitters out there, there always have been and always will be. I aced some english tests based on my BS ability back in school.
Similarly, sincerety can be used as a front. In the end, what does it matter, as long as the work does something for you?

"give me a mondern day da vinci or van gogh" -- Why would you want that? They did what they had to do, people have moved on.

And which anonymous is which??

12:21 a.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

give me a break!

12:23 a.m.  
Anonymous stopping said...

Whoa La!

What is this argument?

Isn't it true that these profound cultural changes of direction with be with us forever? Seems to me like the mods and the rockers, bickering rich lunatics and post-mod hippies, Maciaveli and Freud, George Bush and Al Green? It is a part of us. We can't distroy it or smeer it away.

I think we have crisis because there is nothing (no movement) to cling to, no name to conjure and that is problematic and wonderfull. I think it is dangerous to attempt to reconcile all our thoughts under a name these days, peticularly when it is in the name of "sincerity" or "truth" or Fascism. What about this idea of the critism and disolution of these forms and constraints while learning from there strongest aspects.

God... I hope this doesn't sound like I'm talking out of my ass.

1:44 a.m.  
Anonymous stopping said...

Btw Taryn Sheppard's work is really great... and it is captivating even at 3x4"! Appologies to the artist as I will not see the show.
The ones that stand out for me are Torbay and Outer Cove because they convey the most spatial sense.

1:56 a.m.  
Blogger bleyton said...

Thank you for your review of 4 Points Of View.

I of course, am very proud of the show and as your correspondence indicates, Taryn Sheppards' immense talent is well recognized. It is said that the geography where we are born is the geography by which all other land masses and road routes are measured. Taryn has a wonderful sense of the planes of a canvas as well as that important sense of line and colour depth and she paints her landscape with such a delicate love of place.

Michael Pittmans' work is full of memory, Nfld folkore and cultural references all created with the simple gauche and charcoal, his adding and subtracting, applying and hiding of materials to finally create the subtle imagery. As livers in our bodies collect and rid our systems of the poisons,,livers in jars, livers floating in ether, depict the sometimes hidden secrets of Newfoundland family fable. His work deals with memory, and cultural mores but done through a very personal dialogue.

JM Steenberg is also doing landscape but she does a landscape that is not her first memory but one she has fallen in love with. She is excavating the land by washing her canvases on the rocks, and the wooden floors, using natural ashes from the beach to preserve the memory of the place. Steenberg also has a wonderful sense of the planes of a canvas.

Denis Chaisson's work is deceptively simple but he too is using a kind of memory and empathy as he portrays the innocence of young women. He does this in a non prurient manner and there is a pleasure in searching out his symbols in each painting.

Obviously I love this show as I am the person who chose it and I don't know if it is my place to comment but I couldn't resist.

My other MAIN point in writing this is to thank you for your attention to a commercial gallery. The great masters all had patrons, dealers or and museum exhibitions. These were essential for their living and public viewing. We are lucky today that grants etc are our main patrons, and that we have wonderful artist run centres. Yes it is true that some people bend to Canada Council trends when making art and some galleries are looking for the commercial. I feel very fortunate to be able to show art that is striving to be the best it can and I love the fact the commercial and artist run galleries can work together.

Thanks again and keep up the good work.

1:50 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

bonnie leyton
you seem like suck a great person. i agree with craig that you rock.

to the anon person that talks about postmodernism as decontruction and then says go watch TV. 1rst of all. Modernism and Post are nothing more than neat little summaries. Secondly - go back to school, you obviously missed some important points. Stop talking about monet and van gogh in the same sentence. different agendas.
Are you aware that impressionism was just an extention of reaissance painting which was about being true to life? Cezanne is the godfather of modernism which DECONTSRUCTS the picture plane. Have you ever heard of jackson pollock? (modernist deconstructing????????)Daniel Buren, Robern Irwin? modernists you sweet thing.

2:39 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i seemed to have ruffled a few feathers with my thoughts.

jennifer b. if had spent more time painting yourself you'd be able to recongnize sincerity. no offense. when you get that connection you get it...
not to be mean. just being honest... paint every day for twenty years and tell us if you feel differently then.

i won't lie and say i haven't been fooled by men before, but let's just say i know paint, and can tell when someone is sincere, or disconnected. call it a'll have to take my word for it. i picked monet and van gogh because they were too of the very greatest modernist each with supremely unique visions who changed the way we saw the world. agendas aside. they built something. they gave us something entirely new and beautiful and genuine. they were completely void of cheap irony and cynicism. their motives were pure... van gogh may have sold nothing, and monet may have been one of the most financially successful artists of his time but both had supremely honest and sincere vision. of that there is no mistake. even the most insensitive clod would have to pick up on that sincerity.

yes deconstruction in modernism, decontstruction has been part of art since time began if you want to play with semantics... and yes the dadaist were among the forerunners as well, but things are never so cut and dry. it doesn't change the essence of what I was saying. it is the difference between tearing something apart and building something. it is philosophical difference between the two. i happen to think things have been torn apart for too long, that post modernism/structuralism has served its political agenda, that our lives have become such a fragmented post modern experience.. and that the world is ready and hungry for something new. something genuine.

breaking the rules serves it's purpose, but what then? anarchy, or do we start to find meaning?

for all the contributions that post modernism made in waking up the world it could not tear about the contributions made by the likes of Turner, Van Gogh, Monet, Da Vinci or any number of genuine artists. there is a reason why so many of us still look to these ideals for inspiration.

post modernism is a hollow shell of what it started out to be. it's purpose has been fulfilled.. and there is a fake warhol for every decorating show. all that is left is a cheap and empty imitation..

so yes give me a modern day van gogh or monet. give me an artist with the guts and talent to have vision and a voice of their own, and one that doesn't hide behind irony or sarcasm.

10:03 p.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

There's probably a lot of truth in that, but I don't think that anonymous is suggesting we throw out the baby with the bathwater. Nothing is lost. Too many people are afraid to find or use their own voices today, and art can seem like a sound bite between commercials. But if we were to have such lofty goals I think there would be more awkward beginnigs, fewer painters and less room for mediocrity. I'm still going through my awkward beginning, but lets be hopeful. The world population is only getting bigger. Chances are at least one artist of truly great vision will come along sooner or later. But will society be too busy watching tv and buying matching shoes to notice? okay enough late night musing. it's past my bedtime. i'm an early morning painter these days...

1:02 a.m.  
Anonymous No Name Brand said...

"but let's just say i know paint, and can tell when someone is sincere, or disconnected. call it a'll have to take my word for it."

heh heh ...I don't know where to start to comment on something so pompus.

the last 150 years has brought along so many changes that movements or styles do not have the time to come full circle. The Rennisance had hundreds of years to explore the changing face of society , cubism had what... 15?

Insperations, material, knowledege, technology...they change daily now. It is hard to keep up with the latest artistic hot ticket let alone fully contemplate your place in history.

Artistically alot of styles have alot more to say so you will need see artists painting in "modern / classic" styles that were not able to mature before they were grafted into a post version of themselves.
Cubism, as with other styles retains a contemporary voice as well an historic one. Just make sure it is your own voice and not a Braque fetish.

Bonnie Leyton, in regards to your comments: impressive and passionate.

2:24 a.m.  
Anonymous stopping said...

I think anony 10:03/ 10:24 is actually craig trying to frustrate people. Craig... cut it out will ya?

Does any one have some miricle art history site that might shed some light here?

10:03 if you are not Craig.... Dunno you must be in a bad mood to be going rhetorical and attacking people like that. I happen to agree with Jen B. about your take on the current social/ cultural landscape.

For a good time read...
Rosalind Krauss, "Sculpture in the Expanded Field" in The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, 1985 refered to by Adrian Blackwell in the "Unboxed- Engagements in Social Space" a book that may still be on the shelf at Eastern Edge.

Bonnie Leyton... hello if your reading this. I was wondering if there is some way see images on your site that are even higher rez. Is there, like the photo sites on line, a password to see the work in more detail? If not, too bad. This is to say that I would like to see the work; both as a lover of painting and so you could reach more clients on line. (I imagine there are copyright issues.) Bon chance, I hope you sell many.

4:10 a.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

No name, that may have been a pompous thing for anonymous to say, but isn't the beauty of this blog that people can feel free to share their gut feelings... and to be honest much of what they say rings true to me.

I try to keep an open mind and think that opposing view points are not always so irreconcilable, and often it's the best way to learn or develop new thought. Both of the last posts are interesting to me for that reason. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for the book, but you have to admit a lot has changed since 1985.

For the curious maybe this will help. There is also a link to selected articles here. Postmodernist society does have its conveniences (^;

As both a self proclaimed feminist and a tradionalist behind the easel I've had to reconcile both sides of the argument. I've had radical feminists so caught up in poststructualist theory that they've asked me how I could possible work in a genre with such a patriarchial tradition. But if painting is in your blood you paint. Can I help it if too many of my role models happens to be men? Yes things are changing faster than we can keep up with them, but maybe that is all the more reason to meditate on something as simple and unchanging as a painting.

No body should have to apologize for talking about Monet or Van Gogh in the same sentence. It's about more than agendas or politics.

time to feed my baby, but there you go. my three cents worth for the day.

p.s. Maybe no name brand is right. Perhaps we should just leave the labelling to the critics, and more of us would have a chance to flower. And "chicken soup for the soul" jb? I think not. How about calling it yoga for the soul? I'm all for stretching a little.

2:51 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to the anon who thinks they have ruffled feathers. the reason i responded to your comments is because you seemed unaware that modernist painting has been about deconstruction. You talk about post modern paintings agenda as being about deconstruction. why, when you mention modernism do you only speak of van gogh and monet? I cant take you seriously when don't seem to grasp the scope of modernism. its not that i'm so obtuse that i cant feel what you are saying. I paint and know what you mean. Modernism has done some great things, but still is about deconstructing the picture plane. Genuine is very subjective. Would rothko be a genuine modernist painter?how about ad reinhardt? Would Mondrian be considered genuine? What then of Daniel Buren? Tell me the formal differences between these painters and the level of cynicism of each.I definately have my own subjective opinion. Each deconstruct the picture plane - so which of these examples are for art and against art?
I'm curious to know how serious of a painter i am speaking to.
Cezanne has done some good yes? Beautiful denconstruction at its best.
Please take the quiz.

3:56 p.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

jpohl: A lot has changed since 1985? Jeez, and here i am reading lame old Walter Benjamin and Baudelaire. If art from fifty or a hundred years ago can still teach and inspire, why can't books about art do the same? Even those written only twenty years ago?

5:52 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is my new handle but i can't seem to get the handle to work. so i remain ANON #1.
A truly great vision has been the widening of brush strokes.
A truly great vision has been evident brush stokes.
A truly great vision has been the play of light on on canvas
A truly great vision has been addressing paints properties and formal qualities.
A truly great vision has been davinci's realization that color has properties to be exploited.
How did these visionaries walk among men?
If anyone upholding and starving for a traditional visionary wants to know the secret to becoming the next great painter, just ask and i will let you know.

6:34 p.m.  
Anonymous No Name Brand said...

jphol: I am not up for censoring anyone; the good and bad of the internet is that everyone gets an opinion. I just have to call BS on someone who thinks there opinion is the be all and end all.

How can you argure an intangible (subjective at best) concept like art in absoulutes?

1:48 a.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

Craig, of course thoughts and writing through out time are relevant. That wasn't my point. I haven't had a chance yet to read the article in question. My thought was that if there was reference to political or social trends that were current in 1985 there is much more to be considered today. I often find the work by more recent critics that haven't passed the test of time to not have the same universal value. That's all. No big sweeping statement or generalization there. If I didn't think it was relevant I wouldn't be considering reading it or have thanked the person who posted the suggestion. I stopped by to follow the link and try and find the article for no other reason that to learn something new, and was surprised to find people still commenting.

It must be the deconstructionist in you that likes to leap upon single words and tear them apart. that was a joke btw.

No Name, I don't believe words like "sincere" and "genuine" refer to the same moral absolute truths that they do in life as they do when it comes to paint. It's about connection to the material, and is the kind of thing that shines though a painter's work How do we know Taryn is good? What is about it her paintings that is genuine? The sincerity (sensitivity and sense of connection) is obvious and moving to me, and I have never met her. Although I have to admit it more obvious in some artist's work that others. I didn't find it to be BS at all. Maybe anonymous is just that sincere and it takes one to know one.

Their thoughts on current trends also ring true for me, something you won't find in a book written 20 years ago. It's a bit more forward looking than that. Remember as somebody just pointed out more is changing faster than ever before.

Here's a little quote from one of my hubbie's blog entries from a few months ago by way of a timeline perspective":

"But information was harder to come by, and –I believe– dissected slower. They say that in 1900, we encountered 1000 pieces of significant information per six months. In 1960, it was within one week. Today, it’s within one hour."

btw Is that last person commenting selling something? If not I have a morbid curiosity in hearing what they have to say, although I'm half afraid to find out. :-)

10:24 p.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

Sorry that last question was to Anon # 1, although I sometimes buy no name brand. I'm not a very good comedian (only half newfoundlander you see...) I better stop now before I dig myself deeper. You notice that I don't ramble on like this on my own blog ;^)

10:31 p.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

Not to answer for someone else Anon 3.56 (and who knows if they will be back), but I have to admit you raise some very good examples that question such a position. I believe they are all genuine painters, but if someone else were working in a similar vein it might extremely hard to know without following their career. I especially love Rothko, perhaps because I find his work to be the most genuine and spiritual. And there goes that word again...

You make good points, but let's be fair. The term "deconstruction" wasn't coined in the sense in taken on by postmodernism until the 1960's. I don't think there is such a thing as work that is for or against art.

There will always be exceptions to every generalization. I'd write more, but I've said far more than my share already, and have to get up early.

11:10 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and for yet another perspective:

Feeling sorry for Rosalind Krauss
by Roger Kimball

11:41 p.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

Back to the Leyton show --
I visited it myself today and the work by all four artists is, of course, much more impressive than the images shown on the website. You should definately check it out if in the area.

Mike Pittman's work stands out the most for me. His pieces seem to be the most thoughtful and sensitively handled. They are actually sheets of MDF that have been painted on, drawn on, scraped up, and carved into, and easily require multiple viewings. I don't know if they represent memories or dreams or stories, but they sure are interesting to look at and pick apart. Some are more abstract than others, and I'm told he often works subtractively, and then returns to build things back up. A couple of the pieces there look like woodblock plates, which I really enjoy. I usually love the way my plates look in any type of printmaking before the actual prints have been pulled.

I suppose I'm really trying to emphasize the fact that you cannot see any of these details from the website images, and that goes for the work from the other three artists as well. I enjoy the landscape works by Sheppard and Steenberg, but they don't really get me at an emotional level. As for Chaisson's figurative paintings, I dig the bright, rich colours, but the composition and subject manner don't do much for me either.

It's a fine show, nice to see such a variety in one space.

2:30 a.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

Just to respond to one of the previous anonymous comments:

It's fine and dandy to say that you've painted for over twenty years and know what sincerity truly is, but since yours was an anonymous post, and we don't know who you are or what you paint (which is fine, of course), there's really no point in mentioning your personal accomplishments here because no one can respond to them in a concrete way. I don't mean to say you shouldn't voice your opinions, but to mention personal work is moot.
Likewise, you probably don't know what I do either, so you can't compare my work/experiences to your own (no offence was taken from your earlier comments).

2:44 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know it isn't always easy , but I wouldn't take things too personally Jennifer. B. It's entirely possible they followed the link to your work that you have been posting for the past month. You may not claim to be a painter (how did that cow turn out anyway?), but you do interesting and unique work that you should be proud of. I'm not in town so thanks for another view on Pittman's work. I'm sure some work translates much better on the screen than others. Much of this depends on the skill of the person handling the copy work and scanning. I may not have found Pittman's work polished, but it did come across as genuine. Nice to hear more details.

6:33 a.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

Nope, I certainly wouldn't call myself a painter, but I'd be happy to talk about my own work over at my own blog. I think my point was missed.

10:08 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JPOHL, im glad my quiz wasn't offensive to anyone. Art can be for or against the current trends, to be clear. This blog is great for picking apart language. Your definition of genuine sounds a little to me like experience. Connection to materials etc. I don't want to be fair on my definition of deconstruction. I don't care when the term was coined. It is an activity that was ongoing long before the 60's. You mentioned that you had a morbid curiousity to hear what i had to say. I think that the word morbid was a great way to decribe your curiousity. Have you ever read Ad's list of rules for making a painting - the only way to make a painting? You should check it out if not. I'm curious to know what you think. I found them morbid. Here is part of a quote by Rothko - "It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints, as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. there is no such thing as good painting about nothing."

3:09 p.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

I've always heard and believed that, but didn't realize that it was Rothko that said it. I also didn't realize you were one and the same anon, anon. (-:

Just came across this work by Cezanne by pure chance to night, and dropped by because I thought you might enjoy it. Cezanne has always been a little overlooked and it looks like he may finally getting his due in the centennial year of his death.
I think it's one of his better pieces.

I can't say I've come across Ad's list, but a painter friend once told me to avoid orange because it was the least popular colour. I'm still not certain if they were joking...

I just did a quick search and came across:

I'm not sure it's the same list you mention. All I have to say is that I admire his spirit and there is much to be gleaned from this artist, but it sounds like a starvation diet I couldn't follow. I identify with and love far too many genres. This is not where my soul is.

p.s. Jennifer B. I'm sure a lot of people would like to hear what inspires you. I really enjoy where you are going with what I've seen of your drawings, especially the freedom in them. (I only wish they would show up a bit larger on my screen.)Myself, I never really took to printmaking despite the great printshop we were so lucky to have in Grenfell and my best attempts. Although one of these days I'm going to make use of that month at St. Michaels I booked years ago. (We had to move before I had a chance to work there.)

But perhaps you are right, maybe this is not the place to discuss this type of thing. btw. Your blog was still not accepting comments from non members last I tried. Just in case you didn't know that...

12:17 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

followed the path to cezanne.
I certainly think he was fantastic. Don't think he was overlooked though. His influence is felt even today. Are you farmiliar with the paintings of Peter Doig? They are some of the only representational works being done today that i find truly interesting. This guy is totally Cezanne influenced .. the way you are able to look through the figures. what isn't painted becomes just as important as what is. this happens towards the end of his career. Brilliant. Representational painters everywhere -
stop painting photographs and make cezanne your daddy

12:44 a.m.  
Anonymous Anon no. 2. said...

that sounds a little freudian, but compared to other painters of his ilk he was likely overlooked by many if you look at the time he has been given in art history books. Interesting debate, which makes me wonder why are so many genuine artists who express their souls relegated to the annals of history, while patently fake artists whose work has lost all the political relevance which was its impetus still heralded as current. Maybe because fashion is that shallow, and too much high profile art is that shallow. Time for a wake from decadent and self indulgent society indeed... is this the rumblings of a new movement? Or are you still stuck in the 1980's?

9:33 a.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

I much prefer Gary Hume (who ironically often works from fashion imagery) to Peter Doig, although it could just be that his work translates better in print and on screen and I haven't had the chance to see them in the flesh yet. It is refreshing to see a new outlook/vision, and I can't help but be slightly amused that Saatchi purchased boat paintings. Pehaps I will take that leap from away from more representation one day. I have a confession. Every time a passer by compliments me on my blog saying "it looks just like a photograph" I cringe. Although many are from life the net effect on the screen may be the same. It may be one of the reasons I've switched to a less easy to handle medium. For now I'm honing my skills while trying to learn what I can and working through awkard beginnings. My hope is that I'll just be getting warmed up by the time I'm 60.

10:06 a.m.  
Anonymous stopping said...

Who is stuck in the 80's? Without a class critique the idea's of high art and history mean near nothing. How about this..... the artists who have made history (in general..... duh) have been the wealthier breatheren. Like many artists today it is possible if you are interested in art to look at and understand lots of it if you have money and time. If you understand it and you are aware of the cultural Zietgeist it is again possible to profit by taking peoples ideas and putting them in a understandable package. Sometimes this happens by accident sometimes with infuence of patrons (CCouncil/ Bonnie Leyton). I am not supporting this activity just suggesting it exists. I think this vocabulary of pastishe con and holy referance is underdeveloped in the "viewing public". That's why people can get away with it.

4:21 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon #1
Fruedian? I thought it sounded pop culture. Overlooked in history books? I really have a problem with that. Why do you consider history books to be some perfect measure of accuracy and relevancy? You really need to start figuring things for yourself. Can you think of any artists that will be rewritten about? Their achievements seen in a new light? I'm not talking about cezanne. I'm talking about more conceptual artists. Can you see the need for it? With so much information it is time to start using our brains for the common sense i know we all have. Looking at photographs reproduced as paintings is boring as all shit. I don't know what is worse.i would rather watch mike holmes renevate a house. please start the filtering process now and forget about 75% of the garbage you are learning in school. Stop critiquing words and work the way you learned in school. it is just as boring as painted photographs.

4:33 p.m.  
Anonymous no name brand said...

How did drawing from photographs become the ONLY thing frowned apon in "fine art"?

3:53 a.m.  
Anonymous In Defence of Realism said...

"It looks just like a photograph" sounds like something people who don't know how to articulate their appreciation of art might say. Heck I know one lady who swears her sister's cross stiched Santa "looks just like the real thing". It may also be something that people who don't or can't appreciate it say to scare away gifted painters from their calling. It is more accessible to the general public than conceptual art tucked away in an artist run temple, but is that a bad thing? When it works realism can be far more than a painted photograph. The human hand is still in there, and can have a depth, a luminositiy, a presence, and timeless quality that raises it somewhere photographs don't go. Especially in this age of all too easy photographic digital manipulation (which will probably fade and look like a joke in a few years as technology advances.) There is a digital camera in the so many people hands (even of small children) that it often feels cheap and disposable. I'm not saying realism can't be cheesy and bad, but because it take longer and requires so much dedication and sweat equity there is a meditative quality that is often less ill considered , and also rich and interesting with symbolism and metaphor. There is often a keen sense of abstraction and a wonderful connection to materials that may be lost when reproduced. I can appreciate much, but I'd still take Vermere or a Rembrant over Cezanne, strip painting, or a white on white canvas anyday. They can tell you painting and/or God is dead, but you don't have to believe them. Paul Fenniak, a Canadian painter is just one example of a classical realist doing enigmatic and powerful work in oil paint. Sure not all is good, but when it really works it can be absolutely wonderful.

7:01 a.m.  
Anonymous Joseph B'ys said...

Attila Richard Lucacs is another canadian realist with a twist.

a postmodern painter? how does that fit into this traditionalist vs. theory induced art debate?

more later. heading off to the thing at the rooms. 11 am.

10:09 a.m.  
Anonymous stopping said...

Thankyou for that cross-stiched Santa analogy, I love it! Sounds like the conversation has come full circle too.... back to the show and the painters we started talking about.

I too am for Vermere, despite my own post-mo pratice. Correct me if I'm wrong but if I were Ms Sheppard and my work was compared with Cezanne I would be horrified (Cezanne, even though not compared directly has been implicated by proxy). Mr C is sooo romantic/ dreamy and Sheppard if I may say seems much more pragmatic and imediate.

Part of the imediacy is achived through her "impressionist" approch to her subjects. Once the image is firmly pressed in your brain it turns 3-d maybe a bit like a pop-up book (no offence).

10:29 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no name brand.
who said that? don't make stuff up
just happens to be the conversation of the moment
will talk about what's wrong with the rest of the art world soon. Pick a topic!

1:48 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, nobody has to worry about being compared to Cezanne , Vermeer, Rembrant, Van gogh, or anyone like that. Esp. Sheppard. Nobody will be having a brand of paint named after them anytime soon.
i don't have a problem with realism - meaning depicting nature, life whatever,when it is done well. If you rely to heavily on a photograph your work will suffer. I think it is a great tool that can aid a painter but it shouldn't be the sole crutch of a painter. I can mention a hundred painters that realist painters would benefit from looking at. The thing is, when it looks - Just like a photograph - and not the way your grandmother means it, it is boring painting. Give me the photograph any day. Put some balls into it ladies!

2:24 p.m.  
Blogger bleyton said...

To answer the question of why the images on the Leyton Gallery web site aren't larger......yes I worry about copyright and also if the images are too big, they are harder to open.
Good conversations. I am learning a lot

3:05 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


romantic/dreamy.........i almost had respect for you. Have you had any critical debates about modernism lately?
vermeers paintings are about showing the world what a great draftsman he was..thats about it...oh i almost forgot, there is probably a metaphor thrown in for good measure. I don't have to say he was good to cover my tracks, but i can see why anyone interested in pleasing middle class america/canada would respond to his work. good luck with honing your craft. pretty soon you will be a great second rate craftsman. And you will be good and relaxed.

6:12 p.m.  
Anonymous Joseph B'ys said...

actually I've been reading a great debate about modernism lately. Johanna Drucker's The Visible Word. She's outlining why the typographical experiments of the futurists (Russian and Italian), Dada and the like were ignored by the vizart world as being too much like poetry and not "pure". A similar claim is made as to why the Lit crowd never took to them either as they were seen as too pictorial.

and hey, lighten up. ad hominum attacks bring the whole project down. cause, I agree with Ms. Leyton, I've learned a lot here. and it would be a shame to let an atmosphere of meanness prohibit anyone from posting.

7:33 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

joseph by's
tounge in cheek humour
flexing my man power
not to be taking too seriously, I think these differences of opinion keep us all on our toes, and i too would be disappionted if people stopped posting
A question
Do they mention Gertrude Stein anywhere in there? I'd like to know what they or the author thinks about her.
Please dont take offence, and keep up the art making everyone

10:23 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i left the 10:23 comment and i would like to add one more thing. Tone of voice doesn't translate well and i will pick my words a little better. I did find with the outlandish attack on craig, some of us did seem to get our backs up a little. This does make me question some of what i wrote now and the way it might be interpreted. The fisrt thing i would like to say is - vote for craig for the kippy goins award. This dialogue that is happening should be recognized for what it is worth and everyone should get involved. It can benefit everyone that chooses to use it. secondly - i have no anger whatsoever towards any artist in this province. I am very academic and traditional at heart. I realize as well now, how serious other artists in this province are. Traditionalist, Realist, or other( for lack of typing),i feel that there is so much talent, brains and heart in such a small place. I'm being romantic perhaps but i don't care. I want everyone to realize these same things - realize that we can perform,as visual artists on a national and international level with the best of them. There is only ourselves that can keep us from achieving these goals. I don't care what art you create, when it is done with a sense of purpose, nobody will be able to tell you otherwise. It just gets me going when some artists seem content to do just enough to please middleclassamericans/other/ or simply follow a trend in a mediocre fashion. We are better than that and that is what pisses me off. Sometimes i find it takes more effort to follow a trend than your own originality. if you dont believe in yourself nobody else will. When you feel like you have made a great piece of art ( and this isn't meant to sound mean) give up and try again. push your work, make mistakes, make them on purpose, don't question your ideas to death, and forget about the text book while you do it. It is written by critics - not artists.
bye for now

11:31 p.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

Hey Anonymous, thanks for that. And thanks Joseph too. I'm always worried that commenters forget that there are real people involved in these debates. It's so difficult to know on sites like this when someone is being funny, or ironic or whatever. The most innocent of words can be so easily misconstrued.

11:51 p.m.  
Anonymous s said...

I am told it is a cold media. When I reread some my posts I am surprized by their lack or saturation of tone but perhaps it is the nature of the e-mail/ blog and obiously we have strong opinions. That's why we are here.

On the other side we need to understand the medium, read with the understanding that it is cold and listen for the human dispite the afront.

Nature of the medium you could read this old text that is foundations of Catholic (and western) light mysticism. Desribes how we are controled by light and how to best manipulate the masses.

Forgive me A6:12 but I like Cezanne less because I hate paintings with purple!

11:24 a.m.  
Anonymous Joseph B'ys said...

You're not going to find any discussion of progressive poetries or the american avant guard (however dated the term) that doesn't mention G. Stein. Drucker acknowledges that Gertie, Pound and Hilda Doolittle (H.D.)had some similar concerns re:verbo/visio but lies outside the scope of her book which is about what was happening in continental Europe. Good call though, that correspondence was well trainspotted.

Drucker is a very cool thinker and artist. Anyone into artist books or who wants to slip between the slash of text/image might be interested in her.

3:25 p.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

I think there is a little confusion. Cezanne was not compared to Sheppard. His name came up in a discussion of deconstruction and post modernist philosophy. Anonymous #1 brought him up as an example of deconstructing the picture plane. This is another slight confusion as it is not the same thing as the concept at the centre of post modernism, the word as coined by Derrida.

I appreciated the examples of artists that Anon #1 posted to question the notions of cynicism/sincerity in postmodernism/modernism, and as a sign of good will decided to post a link to an example of Cezanne's work which I had come upon by chance earlier that night. (I've never been an ardent admirer, but it was one of the very best examples I'd seen.) I love it when I gain new appreciation for an artist's work. It has happened for me with several artists including Blake, Monet, Colville among others, and hope it happens again.

There is nothing wrong with honing skills to become a great craftsperson. Every incredible painter from Picasso to Manet and in between was one in their own way. The thick is to not lose something far much more essential in the process (things like originality, freedom, rawness and joy...)

I've really been enjoying what I've seen of St. John's artist Laurie Leehane's work for this reason. There is a boldness and an originality in her painting and sense of composition that I find inspiring and unlike anything I've seen produced in the province. It is a reminder to me. I hope she never becomes so polished that she loses this edge..

I couldn't believe people are still posting, but after 68 comments, some complex debate and so many posters calling themselves anonymous confusion is bound to happen.

12:24 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did anyone follow the "in defence of realism" link to the Paul Fenniak painting? Is it just me or is there a play on the monochrome painting (Malevich, Ad Reinhart, Yves Klein, Mosset etc), and the likes of Newman's "voice of fire"? Somehow I don't think Fenniak believes that painting is dead either. One person commented and said they had little time for Vermere. If you are pleasing everyone you are likely doing something wrong. No matter, the tiny 17 paintings he left behind will still be inspiring billions centuries from now. The mathematicians and Hockney can deconstruct all they like. It is his touch, and the light across a wall that makes his work truly great. Not verisimilitude.

btw. thanks to everyone for links to books and articles.

9:34 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend of mine from Newfoundland has just been sent a book by an author with the request that he review it for his blog, which has a fairly large international readership. The writer said that he hoped my buddy liked it more than the New York Times which called it a "bucket of slop not fit for starving pigs". So here I was thinking that's kind of thing that critics are paid good money to come up with, and it makes Craig look like a nice guy. :^)

Are you taking note Gutless?

10:26 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i made the comment about Vermeer. I made no such comment about having little time for him. Why do people read so much into things that are meant as simple facts. Some people just want to disagree for the sake of disagreeing. Painters had to have a certain virtuosity back then. Play of light is part of these technical skills. I never said painting was dead. I don't believe that. I could say that Vermeers painting won't be around in billions of years because the sun will be burnt out by then. It is over the hill. Red Giant - White Dwarf - Gone. That would be petty, because i understood what you meant when you said billions of years. You should have said millions - or - perhaps our relics will have graduated to a new planet. To throw Hockney into the mix of dead painting is unfair and uninformed once again. It is as if people have seen a few paintings by these artists and sum up their careers in a heartbeat. for anyone who wants to have serious conversations here, I'm all for it. Hockney idolizes these
virtuoso painters and has spent years researching them and their techniques.
Picasso was a virtuoso painter, Vermeer was. Leave the pickles in the jar.

3:24 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks jpohl,
I only brought this guy up for that reason. It is not as if i have a shrine for him like some people seem to have built for their choice artists. He was just the first guy to twist the picture plane to suite his composition - before cubism. Why would that need to be debated any other way. If there was a guy before him then correct me. Since I'm on the topic of him and people seem unaware that he is a celebrated painter i will say this.
Have you heard of Jeff Wall, Canadian contemporary photographer? he uses Cezanne as an example of extraordinary compostion. Check it out for yourself.
P.S nobody said you have to like him.

3:36 p.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

I'm really pleased that so many people are inclined to leave comments and so on, but for the love of God, please use a name of some kind, I feel with all the "Anonymous" comments that things are getting really confusing. Thanks.

3:47 p.m.  
Anonymous anon#1 said...

i want this for my full time name

5:38 p.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

That could lead to some very creative names...

I'd heard of Jeff Wall (likely through the white cube gallery), but I do need to brush up on my contemporary photography. I'll have to give his work another look. I wish they'd update the gallery website and get rid of the flash that most people find so frustrating these days. With the artist's they have they should be able to afford it.

btw. the comments made about hockney were true. I believe he recently wrote a book/article about Vermeer's possible use of a lens, and may have made reference to recent mathematical "evidence". The comment said billions of "people" not "years", and centuries. But to take your point of view, let's be optimistic that we'll have the means to move to another planet, and have brought with us all records of cultural achievements. Pehaps in holographic form :-)

I don't blame you though. It's easy if people are busy, and in a hurry to gloss over comments and get details mixed up.

Hockney is an inspiration to me, because of his versatility and range of voices. So many dealers/critics and or collectors expect artists to limit themselves to a single style/genre or even imagery if they are to be taken seriously. Having said this Vermere remains an even greater inspiration for me because of his heightened sensitivity to light, and uniquely expressive handling of paint. Vermere is not dead for me, any more than Turner, Van Gogh or Kahlo. Great paintings transcend time and have a life force all of their own.

btw. I mispoke myself. I should have said pictorial space, not picture plane.

5:45 p.m.  
Anonymous Joseph B'ys said...

I've never seen any real live Jeff Walls either but this link about a big exhibit of his work is cool because it shows some scale.

And, no flash!!

I saw the Kahlo exhibit there last summer. Made me drool about what a public gallery could be.

6:37 p.m.  
Anonymous Joseph B'ys said...

and hey Craig.

I hope all involved in Lulu break legs!

6:45 p.m.  
Anonymous anon#1 said...

hey b'ys
thanks for that link. his work is gorgeous. that is the way i like to see staged photography.
He makes wicked reference to art of the past and his photos feel very farmiliar.

jpohl, i do believe we will have graduated to another planet by then and will take our Vermeer paintings with us.
Maybe another dimension/vibration.

Are you farmiliar with Caravaggio?
Some critics have argued that his lighting, compositions, and foreshortening etc.. may be among the strongest ever produced. It may not be the kind of light you are looking for but damn worth checking out.

8:06 p.m.  
Anonymous stopping said...

Prefix Photo is the magazine to get for Canadian contemp. photo articles. Esp. issue #7 with an essay by Ken Hayes about Jeff Wall. Hayes has also made referance to The Celestial Hierarchy (as mentioned above) in regards to glowing advertizing boxes and Jeff Wall.
I think Jeff Wall is still Canada biggest art export and he is (or was for a long time) a teacher at Simon Fraser U in Vancouver. The current rising conceptual and contemporary photographers out of Vancouver owe much to the talents of Jeff Wall.

10:48 p.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

Thanks for the Jeff Wall link, I was actually talking about him to a friend the other day and couldn't remember his name, haha. The current trend with many successful Canadian artists these days is that they're appreciated almost everywhere but in their own country (Wall, Janet Cardiff, Jana Sterbak, Frank Gehry, etc...). Or so I was taught in an art history class.

12:34 a.m.  
Anonymous anon#1 said...

i checked out a couple of the last artists mentioned. I was farmiliar with some of the work but didn't know who did what. For instance Frank Gehry. Now i remember why. I really hate his buildings. Art nOUveau? i didn't like most of what came out of that movement unless it was craft oriented. ...and the meat dress girl. Can't say that i appreciate her work much either. I also find it hard to say to myself that i would appreciate it better in person. I'm just sick to death of that conceptual look. I've already seen furry tea cups.

4:46 p.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

Anon #1: I don't know what you're talking about. What does "that conceptual look" mean? What does Oppenheim's piece have to do with the artists stopping mentioned? I'm confused. Please explain what you mean.

6:31 p.m.  
Anonymous Gill said...

Haaaaaa Thanks Craig yeh the latest anon comments were hilarious. Oh my god

8:37 p.m.  
Anonymous anon#1 said...

that conceptual look refers to the unintelligent, no brains, approach to conceptual art. If i have to see another meat couch, or a twisted ladder, or a ladder made out of rubber bands, i'm going to be sick. Conceptual art use to be challenging. I find a vast majority of it gimmicky. Alot of what i see these days reminds me of bad teenage poetry. Yes i can see that you definately want to be an artist - fantastic. I'm also bored to death with walking into a gallery and seeing a bunch of headphones requiring you to listen to some crap. Make me see your ideas when iwalk into a gallery. Bash me over the head with it. That is what i want. Don't give me a miniscule thought to lightly ponder.
Oppenheim's piece has nothing to do with those artists. Those artists are all different. I'm reacting primarily to the meat couch, meat dress. I "GET" the piece but would rather not. As for the architect. Ugly buildings quite simply. Art nouveau architecture was ugly too. that is why they belong together. too the raised eyebrows - Gill in particular - defend these artists if they are worthy of it.

9:29 p.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

I guess you don't like Gehry's scribbly concept drawings either (I love 'em!)

10:16 p.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

I know it's getting redundant for me to say this again, but I can't believe people are still posting. I love Jana Sterbak's work for what it was and for the time she did it in. It made sense. Some things like the meat dress need to be taken in the context of their time and politics. Or maybe you have to be a woman to truly appreciate it. It's a part of history, and the lessons are worth remembering, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't move on. I'm also a fan of Janet Cardiff's work. What you say about Canadians being appreciated elsewhere is probably true Jennifer B., but I don't think that applies to the visual arts alone. There is a certain democracy and freedom in that when you think about it.

Thanks for the no flash Jeff Wall link. It's been a while since I've visited the Tate site. I'm looking forward to taking it in when I get a chance. It will have to do me till my next trip to London and both my babies are bigger.

Don't take people feedback too hard Anon #1. I understand how you feel, and do think much conceptual work has grown stale and is often very contrived, but people will always get upset about generalizations. There is always good work out there to be found amongst it. It's just as well, or we'd have no bench mark. And yes, I'm sorry to say I did study art history and am familar with Caravaggio.(Just kidding. I've been lucky to have been taught by some wonderful art history professors, even if I was late for way too many classes because I had trouble pulling myself from the studio.) It goes without saying that he is inspiration for all time, and I did my share of studies of his work to help pay bills in art school, but lately I'm drawn to more subtle lighting. I should think the only artists who don't know about him are likely very original. (-:

I'm going to have start writing down some of the links people are leaving on index cards for future reference. This blog is starting to be a great resource for that reason, and I hope people keep sharing inspiration. It makes it worth coming back. Cafe's in Paris and Florence may have made a wonderful place to meet, but you have to admit the net makes it easier for far more people to share images and text.

10:44 p.m.  
Anonymous Questioning Jeff Wall said...

As with many photographers much of Wall's work is inspired by painting. The light boxes and scale are almost intended to give the work the luminosity and presence of oil paint or the film screen, so I have to wonder what if. What if these images with painted by someone with the skill of Paul Fenniak. Would they have more presence? Would they feel more (or less) contrived? Is being contrived the whole point? Would it make sense for some images but not for others?

These are not candid shots or photojournalism. Jeff Wall's work like reality tv is careful staged, scripted and recreated, so what if it was taken another step? If these images were paintings would his work say more, less or just something else? I only have questions.

11:48 p.m.  
Blogger Steve Topping said...

Stopping says,

I have been looking for okay images of artists I appreciate on line. So far I have some but maybe not the best.

Jeff Wall is not one of my most loved mostly because his work is so cool and calculated. Forgive me for saying that I like this aspect of it and I don't like it is diminished for being conceptual.

Some real favorites are,

Gordon Matta-Clark

Dan Graham

Anish Kapoor

James Carl

As seen at Eastern Edge last summer...

Again these are not likely the best links.

Just thought I'd share some links.

The Jeff Wall link is a wiki and is well writen.

12:24 a.m.  
Blogger craigfrancis said...

anon#1: I'm afraid I still have no idea what you're talking about. All of the complaints you make about contemporary art can just as easily be leveled at the billions of bad painters in the world. Does the presence of headphones in a piece automatically render the work crap? What do you mean by "gimmicky"? I'm not trying to be an asshole here but would really like to understand. Can you be more specific in your criticisms?

1:14 a.m.  
Anonymous anon#1 said...

I'm not upholding paint over conceptual art.
I think that is rather ridiculous. I'm for good art. Craig, you said you are reading Baudalaire, that you want art that is moving and changes the way you see the world. Critical provocation versus passive moderating. That is my interpretation. Quietly asking me to participate doesn't cut it. Perhaps the gallery stranglehold doesn't cut it either. Art use to be a critical medium. Now it begs to be looked at.
It appears to be whipped, begging for forgiveness. When did we become players in the sport of good conduct?
To answer you question about headphones, i can't. I'm for Baudelaire and change. How is anyones guess.
to answer the question about Frank Gehry's sketches. I would rather see his sketches than his buildings. At least they know what they are.

2:48 a.m.  
Blogger Steve Topping said...

Let me try that again...

James Carl
this is a very funny artwork.....

the link in the last e-mail to James Carl is actually Kapoor, sorry.

Hey A2:48 can you be more illustrative in your criticism? Sounds like your only interested in trashing and not bringing somthing to the debate. You get points from me for trashing Gehry but only because he is a star from the success of one good looking building (Bilbao).

5:18 a.m.  
Anonymous Gill said...

Dear Anon # 1 4:46

Sorry for the snarky comment. I guess I am just amazed, like a few other people, at your blanket dismissal of art with any type of intellectual capacity,what you call conceptual art. I am curious how you might characterize my work. If you have not seen any of my work you could visit the Rooms,I am in a two person show there now (or perhaps that’s where the comment re ladders came from).
Personally I enjoy work that is engaging on many different levels: on visual, emotional, spiritual, and yes intellectual levels, preferably all at once. I strive to make work that emcompasses all those things and once in a blue moon I feel successful in having done that. Granted a rare occasion.
It sounds to me like you are not actually very experienced in going to galleries and seeing art in real life. Tell me I’m wrong. Do your visual references come mainly from books and the internet? Also I’d be curious to know if you make work yourself, and how you would characterize that.
About the artists mentioned earlier. I am a big fan of Janet Cardiffs work, respectful of Jana Sterbaks work, luke warm about Frank Gehry architecture and uninterested in Jeff Walls work.
One more thing… I know you?

Thanks, Will Gill

10:19 a.m.  
Anonymous anon#1 said...

I have to say for the record that i have nothing against conceptual art. My comments are knee jerk reactions and i am aware that gerneralizations make one appear small minded. It speaks more from frustration. It is easy to mimick a good idea/concept in art. The same goes for more traditional modes of working. Contrary to some of the statements i've made, i give most everything the time of day. headphones included. I knew that my comments would elicit a "who do you think You are" type of response. I would rather have verbal diarrhea though. I don't claim to have anything figured out and am aware that being an artist can put you in a vulnerable position. I have been to many art galleries, attended many openings and viewed much artwork away from the internet and computer screen. Just becuase we have been educated doesn't mean we shouldn't talk out of our asses once in a while. I definately don't feel that i must put on an intellectual front. If i generalize in that way i offend way more people/ myself included. The ladder comment wasn't directed towards you. work that is engaging on all those levels is very refreshing. I think it is obvious that you know what you are trying to do. You may not always feel that but it comes accross in the work at The Rooms
I don't always have to see eye to eye with someone to appreciate what they are trying to say. Your work seems to come from a personal place. Maybe i'm wrong. I also don't think it is a mistake that you are nominated for the Sobey's award.
Craig has elicited many similar responses on this site and I'm still listening with an open ear.I happen to agree with what he's trying to do. Keep in mind - alot of people don't always take to craigs voice being authoritative. I think it is refreshing and i hope he continues to scrutinize art in this province. I feel that there are very few solid critics left. Please continue.

3:14 p.m.  
Anonymous Gill said...

Thanks for your response anon1

Will Gill

5:05 p.m.  
Anonymous jpohl said...

Re: "questioning Jeff Wall". It's hard to say, but perhaps questions are more important than answers. (Fennniak would never be able to produce imagery in such quantities. There would be a lot of editing, and I don't doubt if Fenniak were the author the work would have more presence, but the meaning would be different.)

Thanks for the sharing the links Steve. I'm sorry I was too busy with a baby and out of town at the time to be able to catch the Hoffo show. It sounds as if it may have had that combination of elements that Gill talked about. It also makes me think that more options will open up for artists as technology progresses in years to come. I visited a holograph museum in New York some years ago and have been smitten by the possibilities for the distant future ever since. Somewhere beyond headphones.

But I can't help it. It's the painter in me, I really get off on Anish Kapoor's scupture work with dry pigment. His work almost has the emotive quality of a three dimensional painting for me. The power of colour I guess. I can see how he has been inspired by Picasso in his sense of shape and form. (A very sincere artist. Picasso that is. Sincere in his work and sincerely a jerk in life. I almost hate to admire his work, but how can you not? Then again, like the meat dress he was a product of his time in more than one way.)

11:45 p.m.  
Anonymous Sick of Art-Speak said...

I thought James Carl's artist statement was much funnier than his work. It's a rare artist statement that doesn't sound pretentious, and I don't think being rude, crude or just plain nasty should have to be the only option. We can thank post structuralism for getting us in this mess. I'm not sure what the numbers are, but do writers tend to do better with grant applications than visual artists? Maybe Greenberg was right, and visual artists should let their work do the talking. But where does that leave us? At the mercy of critics? I encourage more people to try to write statements that people without a mfa can relate to, and decipher.

my rant for the day.

12:24 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey sick of art speak
i couldn't agree with you more, rant away.

1:38 a.m.  
Anonymous Joseph B'ys said...

Grant applications are peer reviewed so artists from the writing community read writing applications and visual artists read applications for visual arts applications. Artists don't competing across media. ( I could be wrong here but that's my understanding based on experience).

3:56 p.m.  
Anonymous Re: Sick of Art-Speak said...

It's a bit of a hemisphere shift isn't it? I swear I was a better writer before I went into art school than coming out of it. Thoughts get more complex and convoluted, and you almost have to retrain yourself to write to avoid sounding like a dictionary that has imploded, or at least find a decent and patient writer to help interpret your thoughts. I have to wonder if this is the reason why on average more conceptual artists will be more successful with grant applications ie. More of them tend to be left brain thinkers, or because they are used to talking the talk? It's more about theory,and concept and "words, words, words... " Then again, for that very reason they often are the worst culprits. And yes there should be more options to academia than hard nosed, pseudo working class cynicism.

4:17 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

woo-woo. comment 100. Do I win a t-shirt? (-:

4:19 p.m.  
Blogger Steve Topping said...

Looks like you missed 100 by two minutes A:101!

Hey sick of art speak your argument sounds a bit like pseudo working class cynicism, no?

I don't like overly complicated language. I have never understood the reasons for this phenomenon and I'm not capable of doing it myself. However I think it has to be said that desribing visual art, sound or films etc. is not the same skill or language as writing for writing sake. Talking about a hemi-paraghim shift most writer who try to describe art fall flat... maybe it takes years for writer writers to get visual skills. Artists can't write because we are so focus on visual and spacial problems. To then try to relate those same problems in a entierly diffrent language is counter-intuative. But we must! I have learned so much about art by writing about it. At this forum here it has been super-informative to write a bit. Ever noticed how you get more critical of your own work after you have writen about it.... like a grant. For me this is a good thing since I never went to art school and have learned everything I know about art from discusions like this. So kudos(sp? to you.

7:14 p.m.  
Anonymous Sick of Art-Speak said...

"Hey sick of art speak your argument sounds a bit like pseudo working class cynicism, no?"

Ha! Fair enough. Me and Matthew Collings! btw If you haven't followed the link to the salon article you might enjoy it. I learn every time I try to put my thoughts in words, but I'm always my biggest critic, but it's mostly through viewing my work. It's what keeps me going.(My head is always ten years ahead of the work the rest of the world sees.)

I've written my share of boring and pretensious art-speak, but am trying my best to avoid it these days. There is a painful hemisphere shift whenever I sit down and try to put things into words. Then the time comes when I need to stop talking to be able to do the work. Lots of people must experience this.

The whole grant application process itself can be counter intuitive, and for all it's done for art in Canada, it has resulted in a plethora of contrived work. Sometimes art just needs to emerge on it's own and evolve in a natural way.

12:43 a.m.  
Anonymous reese witherspoon said...

I have to say that both of you make great points. Writing grant applications hasn't put my art into perspective for me, but helped with talking the talk. I feel that i understand things without words, then must choose the right words for the right people. for example my parents / art councils. I have been pretty anti art speak myself because i find that it can become pretentious. Sometimes you have to learn the language to change the language. Visual mediums are pretty abstract by nature. I certainly wish someone could come along and see in my art exactly what i know i'm doing. Hopefully the art you are passionate about will be the fuel a great writer/critic is looking for. not that that determines successful visual art. I believe good work does speak for itself. Everything is not always best explained in words. the language we choose is alot slower, but you will catch up to you brain. I believe when the 2 are in harmony the work will be strong. Maybe that is the success i'm looking for.

1:40 a.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

Hey Kids,
Here's a link to the Saatchi Gallery, a site I just discovered today. There are tons of great pics from many contemporary artists. I've only just started browsing it myself:

6:20 p.m.  
Blogger Jennifer B. said...

There's a few interesting essays on there, too.

8:06 p.m.  
Anonymous Oh Yeah said...

Hey Craig, how about a new post

9:01 a.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home