Dilettante's Diary

The Artist Project 2012

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Two Novels by BARBARA PYM
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How Fiction Works
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About Me
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OTHER STUFF: Art Exhibitions, Concerts, etc.
Herewith, another event worthy of a page of its own....

The Artist Project 2012 (Art Show)

Let’s say you’re a really good artist – as are nearly all the 200 artists in this, the 5th annual juried edition of The Artist Project. Still, you might not get mentioned here. There could be a couple of reasons for that, apart from the obvious fact that mentioning everybody would be meaningless. If you’re omitted here, it could be that I’ve seen your work in several previous shows and can't think of anything new to say about it. Or you may be doing very good work on motifs that just don’t appeal to me (ones that are dorky, whimsical, cartoon-ish, sci-fi, fantastical or featuring cute animals or people with animal heads). I’m not the guy to express the proper appreciation of such things.

One thing that really does appeal to me is cityscape An artist who wows me in that vein is Tibi Hegyesi, whose scenes of streetcars and taxis, large gleaming works of fused acrylics, are bursting with an urban vitality that many artists strive to convey without nearly so much success. www.tibi.ca Stewart Jones, as often noted here, also communicates a lot of energy in his paintings of old brick walls seen against the sky. www.stewartjonespainting.blogspot.com Another of our faves when it comes to cityscapes is Brian Harvey, whose paintings are full of light and air. www.brianharvey.ca While Peer Christensen does lovely landscapes, it’s his paintings of the complicated subject matter of shipyards and train stations that really do it for me. www.peerchristensen.com An astonishing abstract collage from Mary Karavos, composed of fragments of coloured paper, expresses the rectilinear perspectives of an urban enclave. www.karavosart.com And one of the city scenes that appealed to me most is Annie Lvesque’s somewhat indistinct grouping of concrete structures on a corner, perhaps a convenience store, a bit of an expressway, some greenery thrown in for good measure: all of it expressing something of the forlorn beauty of neglected spots in our cities. www.annielevesque.com

But cityscapes aren’t only about buildings. An artist who introduces the human element very well is Nancy Oakes. In several previous shows, I’ve admired her drawings of streets crowded with people. What’s remarkable about these works (seen here in the Toronto School of Art’s booth) is that they look like masses of scribbles but, if you stand back to look at them, you see that they’re constructed with a good understanding of perspective and an excellent eye for composition, maintaining a perfect balance between darks and lights, busy spaces and calm spaces. www.nancyoakes.ca Slightly odd, but excellently painted cityscapes, such as one of a Havana street with old cars and dilapidated buildings, come from Dwight Baird. www.dwightbaird.com Pete Kasprazak paints over photos to give them the speed, flash, colour and movement of the city. www.seewhatinspires.me One of Elizabeth Hardinge’s roughly-sketched paintings – a bustling street, apparently somewhere in Europe, with tall, shuttered windows and pedestrians blocked out in white shapes – has the drama and poise of a theatre set. www.elizabethhardinge.com Charlie Easton’s small painting of a downtown street with some dark human shapes between industrial-looking buildings has the very convincing look of inner-city life. (His landscapes have a fresh individuality to them, possibly, in part, because he paints them largely on location.) www.charlieeaston.com

As for paintings that focus more exclusively on people, there are Lorne Winters’ somewhat scary closeups of faces that have been badly scarred. www.lornewinters.com Adrienne Dagg does large, painterly portraits of people with lots of colour and personality. www.adriennedagg.com In the works of Nissim Ben Aderet, you don’t exactly get recognizable people, but his very intricate and convoluted black and white compositions give the sense of masses of human-like creatures huddled together. www.nissimbenaderet.com The people in Ali Golkar’s paintings have a somewhat split-personality "Picasso-esque" quality, yet they always seem to be in close communication with each other. I particularly like some small works that appear to be in watercolour. This artist also does some very attractive, schematic paintings of scenes that appear to be in hilly southern Europe. www.aligolkar.com

And then there are people in the natural world. One artist whose work seems to bridge both categories is Dara Aram. This artist’s blurry human figures always seem to be hurrying through landscapes with fierce intent. www.rukajgallery.com Peter Barelkowski’s desolate little people always seem to find themselves adrift in ominous settings that might feature things like ladders or lighted boxes. (This artist is surely one of the most original and expressive voices in the show.) www.peterbarelkowski.com Ellen Cowie’s paintings could be considered landscapes but, for me, it’s the people in them that give them life, as in, for instance, a painting of kids in sailboats or a girl sitting on a rope swinging from a tree. www.artincanada.com/ellencowie/index.html The same could be said for Elizabeth Lennie’s paintings of people jumping into water, wherein a living moment is captured in light and colour. www.elizabethlennie.com Brian Barrer’s photo-based works combine people and animals – such as polar bears and buffalo – in somewhat surrealistic scenarios. www.brian-barrerphotography.com

For pure landscape without the human presence, there are the very fine and austerely simple paintings of Julie Demarais. www.juliedemarais.com I especially like the scruffy, snowy fields in the paintings of Carol Westcott; they truly give the feeling that you know so well if you like tramping in our countryside in winter. www.carolwestcott.ca A similarly bleak feeling comes through in the paintings of birds and hydro wires by Tammy Shane. www.tammyshane.com You get a very different take on winter in the resplendent watercolours of Micheal Zarowsky, where the blue shadows make the snowbanks dazzle. I was pleased to see a certificate in Mr. Zarowksy’s booth indicating that one of his paintings had been chosen for a special purchase award by a show sponsor. (His paintings of collections of bicycles, delicately executed in gorgeous colours, have a beauty all their own.) www.zarowsky.net A much more subdued take on nature comes through in the paintings by Peter Rotter, featuring mostly greyish tree trunks in solemn gatherings. www.peterrotter.com Janice Tayler continues to express her unique take on nature with jagged paintings in which the natural components of the subject matter look like shards of coloured glass. www.janicetayler.com

With so many nature paintings in the show clamouring for attention, it was very pleasant to contemplate the still, quiet allure of Peter Fischer’s works that zero in on the waterlines of some wooden boats. www.peterfischer.ca David Marshak’s single car on a lonely road under a towering sky evokes strong feelings. www.davidmarshak.ca So do the out-of-focus landscapes of Lisa Free. www.lisafree.com Laurie De Camillis has an effective way of simplifying scenes in nature. www.decamillis.ca Through something of a pointillist technique, John Visser makes his landscapes vibrate with light. www.johnvisserart.com As mentioned in other reviews, Rose Hirano’s bold woodcuts make very striking designs of botanical elements. www.rosehirano.ca An artist who has an obsession with one particular aspect of nature is Annette Kraft van Ermel, whose fuzzy bees hover over all her canvases. www.kraftvanermel.com  In the Toronto School of Art’s booth, one work by Betsy Bell McKimm – a magnificent ink and watercolour picture of a dragonfly on a yellow flower – stood out for me. www.tsa-art.ca

For an unusual take on natural subject matter, there’s the work by Casey Roberts, an artist from Indiana. His paintings are created by using cyanotype, a light-sensitive medium which, when exposed to sunlight and developed, gives a vibrant blue image. Substances like baking soda, bleach and peroxide are used to add layers and a range of colours and textures. Sometimes the work is finished with watercolour or collage elements. To my eye, the finished works – butterflies on a tree trunk, say, or birds poking their beaks out of holes in a tree – have a stark, graphic look with an emphasis on design. www.wildernessoverload.com

When it comes to celebrating one of the most popular features of nature – flowers – Mary Mclorn Valle does it with great exuberance and panache. www.marymv.com Joanna Czub also offers some luscious closeups of orchids (fabrics too). www.joannaczub.ca You have to admire Anna Bateman’s rough, blocky flowers, in that they show a different approach to a subject that’s too often sentimentalized. www.artistsincanada.com/bateman

Some flowers are included in Joanna Strong’s paintings but the pieces are more notable as collections of still life objects such as scissors, cups and rubber bands, done with exquisite hyper-realism. www.joannastrong.com You find some of the same attention to realistic detail in the paintings of Andrew Verhoeckx, particularly his closeup of fish for sale. www.andrewverhoeckx.com For stunning realism, though, nobody surpasses Olaf Schneider, a master of the genre. His closeups of colourful glass objects are every bit as sensuous as his red canoes in wilderness settings. www.olaf.ca Julie Himel also paints glass objects very well, in more silvery tones. www.juliehimel.com Another artist who has amazed me in the past with her paintings of glass bowls is Sally Milne, but this year she stuns me with her shimmering icebergs. www.sallymilne.com

In what I could call a separate category of "Interiors", there are the carefully executed paintings by George Boyer of the inside of a subway car and of a dome car on a cross-country train. Each conveys an uncanny appreciation of these quiet spaces. www.ontariosocietyofartists.org/georgeboyer  An interior with a completely different mood, Lee Richmond’s bright, sunny bedroom, with yellows, oranges and purples, caught my attention from some distance away. www.leerichmond.org For photos of interiors, there are Maureen O’Connor’s homages to the faded, peeling beauty of lofty rooms that were once grand and impressive. Russell Brohier also photographs rundown interiors but his are darker, more industrial. www.twistgallery.ca

Moving almost completely away from tangible subject matter, there are Bruce R. MacDonald’s splendiferous abstracts of gleaming, brushed metal. www.brmdesign.com A similarly metallic but more subdued feeling comes through in the cool-toned paintings of Sabine Liva. www.sabstudios.com Erin Crowley’s rectangle-based compositions in subtle tones have a very soothing effect. www.acornnatural.com There continues to be something irresistibly enchanting about the somewhat inchoate encaustic abstracts, vaguely like landscapes, by Anne Shier. www.annshier.com You get a mellow feeling from the earth tones bubbling up in the abstracts by Laurie Skantzos www.laurieskantzos.com By contrast, the simple, bold statements in reds, yellows, blacks and whites by Robert Kamnatnik make a very strong impression. www.infinityartgallery.com/porfolios/KamnatnikR Laura Culic used to do watercolour landscapes in sombre, brooding tones but her new encaustic abstracts are bursting with colour. I especially like some that have hints of architectural elements in them. www.lauraculic.com

Another artist whose work has evolved a lot since I’ve first noticed him is David Brown. His encaustic abstracts, in strong, dark colours, used to suggest something like industrial settings. In recent years, though, his works are getting happier and happier, with lighter colours, to the point that they now seem ready to fly off the frame and embark on adventures of their own. www.encausticcollage.com A cheerful feeling also comes through in the luminous blobs of the abstracts by Cathy Yantsis. www.cathyyantsis.ca The colourful squiggles in Adi Zur’s abstracts have a joyous feeling about them too. www.adizur.com The abstracts by Neil Young explode with dynamism in bold colours. www.neilyoungart.com 

All of the artists were invited to submit single works on the subject of Energy, the theme of the show. It’s hard to take in all of these submissions, crowded together in one end of the hall, but two that leapt out at me are by artists whose work I’ve admired very much in other shows, as well as in this one. Anne Barkley’s abstract on this theme shows an inferno-like rectangle in the midst of a dark surround. www.annebarkley.ca And Anne Renouf’s painting shows something ominous, like a metallic rocket launcher, rising from an idyllic setting of blues and oranges. www.annerenouf.com One of the most striking expressions of the theme is a nude male torso pulsating with strength, by Adrienne Dagg (who is mentioned earlier in this review). The black fighter jets by Peer Christensen (also mentioned earlier) strike fear into you, especially in juxtaposition to the innocent blue sky behind them. Julia Veenstra’s painting of blackbirds on a branch bowls you over by the sheer power of the paint slathered on so fervidly.

Some sixteen "emerging" artists were selected by competition to show their work for free in the "Untapped" section of the show. One of the ones that impressed me most is Sarah Ammons, whose very-well painted groupings of people suggest some sort of dramatic narratives. www.sarahammons.ca  Elly Smallwood’s has painted enormous faces of people. Although very well executed, they’re disconcerting because it seems like something is going horribly wrong with their mouths and eyes.www.elly.ca Morgan Kamocki Allaby has crafted male nudes in white ceramic that look almost too perfect, until you notice things like the animalistic bulges of their lower faces. www.kabukidragon.com Jenna Faye Powell paints pictures of towns and houses with a sweet, innocuous air about them – except for the odd detail such as the fact that the clouds are hanging from the sky by means of hooks. www.jennafayepowell.com

You can respond to: patrick@dilettantesdiary.com