Thursday, November 08, 2012

Jane Murdoch Adams: 'Life Boats' at the Propeller Centre


I went to see the Jane Murdoch Adams art show, 'Life Boats' at the Propeller Centre for the Visual Arts on Queen W. in Toronto tonight. It was a lovely show.

Here are two of her boat paintings.



'Life Boat, Toronto Harbour 2, MR Kane,' Jane Murdoch Adams, 2012



'1 Skyboat,' Jane Murdoch Adams, 2012

Jane Murdoch Adams is a woman who, "on the sea-crashing Malin Head, County Donegal, on the most northern tip of Ireland in 2001" discovered she had to paint, and has been painting ever since. Her work is vibrant and bright and bordering-on the almost-fully abstract. She works with pure colour, striking yet simple forms, and symbolic subject matter.

In Jane's paintings, the abstract qualities express the symbolic meanings of her work, in personal and universal ways, while also freeing themselves from these subjective associations to become Zen-like moments on the canvas. How she achieves this simultaneous 'personal'/'freed of the personal' expression is part of the magic of her art, what draws us to her vision.

Her work contains biographical-that-become-universal references while simultaneously expressing an art freed of these constraints, something that hits you straight on when you are standing before one of her canvases.

At the Propeller is a show of paintings of boats. On the wall is an old photograph of Jane's father standing in a canoe, a number of people around him, and on the wall we learn that his team represented Canada in the Commonwealth games in the 1920s, and you know that boating was very important to her family, and is full of rich memories for her. But she takes this part of her growing-up, of her memories of her father, of the paddle, of the slap and dip into the water (in the show you will find the real paddles her father used hanging on the wall), and expands her sense of 'boat' to hand-made small renditions of canoes in twigs and branches that line a wall, to abstract paintings of tug boats in the Toronto Harbour that are also a personal memento of her not-for-profit union work, and to all of Celtic Ireland. Her vision is intimate and expansive; in a word, breathtaking.

The show at Propeller is quite amazing, and well worth visiting if you are in Toronto. Listen to Jane speak in this short video of her boat series:



direct link: Jane Murdoch Adams Introduces Exhibition of LIFE BOATS Paintings, November 2012

One of the most memorable aspects of Jane's show was not just the use of colour, a palette of pale cream yellow, shiny golds, pure life-force reds, charcoal blacks and vivid greens that ran through most of the paintings and prints on the walls, unifying them as a cohesive series, but the boat imprinted in the Celtic series.



"The Broighter Gold or more correctly, the Broighter Hoard, is a hoard of gold artefacts from the Iron Age of the 1st century BC that were found in 1896 by Tom Nicholl on farmland near Limavady, Northern Ireland. The hoard includes a 7-inch-long (18 cm) gold boat..." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broighter_Gold. This priceless gold boat became a talisman, a symbol imprinted in her Broighter Boats series.

This screen capture from the webpage on this series at Jane's website gives you an idea of what spans the walls at Propeller, and of that spectacular gold Iron Age boat which appears in each of the paintings of this series and which are all named after Irish women that she and her partner know in Ireland, as in the Celtic tradition of naming boats after women.



'Broighter Boats Series,' by Jane Murdoch Adams, a screen-capture of a webpage at her website - the paintings are 4' wide by 3' high.

That boat, abstracted, a symbol in paint, appears as a simple yet historical boat with oars, the eye of God as it is imaged in Medieval texts, and a fish with long gills in the ocean. When you learn that it is a representation of the exquisite Broighter Boat, which echoes and connects in deep personal ways to Jane's Irish heritage, the layering of the personal and universal, of the explicit and the abstract, that she does so adeptly in her work comes flooding in.



'The Broighter Boat: Finnoula,' acrylic/mixed media on canvas, 36” x 48”, 2012. Jane Murdoch Adams.

The charcoal blacks are rich and tactile, formed as they are (in this particular piece) from manoeuvred washes of acrylic paints on the canvas lying on the floor. We see the Broighter Boat like a divine gold stamp in the middle of what is an abstract boat in charcoal blacks and vivid pinks. The sun is drawn as a child would draw it. Such is the child-like simplicity and sophistication of Jane's work. Not just in this work, but everywhere you see confidence, a mastery of line, of shape and colour. There is no hesitancy, or nervous re-working; rather, bold, bright, confident, warm, joyful and enlightened. Her paintings are as delightful and warm as Jane herself is in person.

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 brendaclews.com

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A Featured Poet at The Record Vault on Nov 25th

The Record Vault is where you go in Toronto when you are looking for vinyl music - seriously! Album city! It is also the locale for a new series of monthly poetry readings organized by Nik Beat. And coming up on Sunday November 25th, from 3 -5pm, are three featured readers, Penelope J. Smith, Jennifer Hosein and me, Brenda Clews! Inviting everyone who is in Toronto or who can make it here to come and hear us! Mark it on your calendars. Ok?!!

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 brendaclews.com

Friday, November 02, 2012

Keesha and Aria

The kitten, Aria, was sleeping on my lap - on a down sleeping bag beside a portable oil heater. Cat heaven, no? No. When I patted the old dog, Keesha, who was sleeping further down the couch the kitten noticed, and she immediately went and curled up with her favourite.



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 brendaclews.com

Thursday, November 01, 2012

AROS (A River of Stones) for Nov 1

I sit before a large painting I am ready to trash to fret about my feelings towards it. Soon I am slapping paint all over the canvas.

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 brendaclews.com

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tentative Ghost Under a Green Moon

The Tentative Ghost.

But..... under a green moon. Yes, it is (green).

Have a spooky day!




Tentative Ghost Under a Green Moon, 2012, Charcoal, India and acrylic inks, Moleskine Folio Sketchbook A4, 8" x 12", 21cm x 29.7cm. (His ink lines are black and I'm not sure why the scanner read them as brown - unable to colour correct without changing the colours in the whole drawing.)

He smiles, doesn't he? A debonair skeleton, perhaps on a date, 'Where would you like to go for dinner, dear? Or how about a wine bar with a plate of appetizers?' He only needs a black top hat, a tuxedo starch white bow tie.... ::giggling here::

He is drawn from an actual mini skeleton model. Drawing our bones while listening to newscasts of the flooding and destruction of the massive storm that blew in on the East Coast of the US, and in south Ontario and Quebec in Canada.

Yesterday's iPhone pic of the sketch with a Camera+ 'Grunge' filter.



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 brendaclews.com

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Poetry Reading and Music at The Record Vault

Went to Poetry Reading and Open Mic this afternoon at The Record Vault, featuring Gadist poets, Nik Beat, Brandon Pitts and Stedmond Pardy, Vanessa McGowan and Laura DeLeon... with Laura L'Rock and Crushed Ice… great readings, music, and it was crowded. I did my recent 'Palmistry, a Psalm' on Open Mic, and will be a featured poet next month. So that'll be nice. Looks like I might be on Nik's radio show 'Howl' on CIUT in December too. A great group of poets and musicians who I really enjoy hanging out with.

My little 10 min sketch of Stedmond Pardy performing poetry at The Record Vault last Sunday. (I misspelled his name! O, sorry! Will have to correct that.) Along with a Record Vault photo of the three featured poets that afternoon.

9" x 7", charcoal on archival paper (drawn there), then set with GAK100 (at home).



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 brendaclews.com

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gabrielle Roth 1941-2012

'Our Mama Raven's wings have lifted her spirit from this lifetime and she is in flight to her next journey, where she will dance in our hearts forever.'

Gabrielle Roth 1941-2012

-Jonathan A Horan, her son, 5 Rhythms Global



She touched me in such deep ways as I cannot express. Raven, in your deep stillness, fly with the spirit...

I only took one three day workshop in Toronto with her, but I've danced her dance for 15 years. What that dancing did for me is inestimable. I read her books, too. I carried her teachings in the innermost part of me. And I danced with a freedom I didn't know was possible. She taught me to be who I am, on the dance floor, in my life. I can't express how tremendous this gift was or how gifted a teacher Gabrielle Roth was.



The best video I've seen of her work. This is how I understand 5Rhythms, and the dance practice that I have practiced for 15 years. Sad, and incredibly grateful to her for the gift of free-form dance.

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 brendaclews.com

Sunday, October 21, 2012

One of the Walking Narratives

This drawing is in my writing Moleskine since my art one is finished. It began as a doodle but became quite a complex drawing. The figure is... well, divide it in half and see.*

 

One of the Walking Narratives, 2012, 21cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", graphite, India and acrylic inks in a Moleskine journal.

Written into the drawing:

CINDERBLOCKS OF TIME
DON'T WAIT FOR ME

moments
redeem
themselves

baby
you are
a walking
NARRATIVE

OIL
MAN
OIL WOMAN
OILMANOILW
OMAN OIL MA
N OIL WO
MANOILWOMA
NOILMANOIL
WOMANOILMAN
OILMANOIL

always there
should be
reeds blowing
in the
wind

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*hint: I wanted to do a half woman/half man figure and am surprised at how uncanny the image is. You have to hold the straight edge of something, an envelope or a pen, on that blue dividing line, and look either way. To my eye, it's not a manifestation of the same figure in two sexes, but two similar yet different figures who are combined as one.

One of the potential titles had been, Man On the Edge of Becoming Woman, or Woman on the Edge of Becoming Man. In many ways, we are both.


 brendaclews.com

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Self-Portraits in Black & White


Self-portraits because sometimes you just have to know that you exist. They are against a painting not yet finished. A tea towel over the clamp lamp with a daylight bulb in it. Wearing the grey cap I always wear; teal cloisonné earrings dangle that belonged to my mother.

They were taken with an iPhone 4, Camera+ app; the first one with a Contessa Fx filter. It's a bit over-exposed. I have to wash my hair, lol. Hence the braid (which you can't see in this pic) and the cap (which I do wear a lot, and sometimes all day and evening at home too even when washing is not needed). Silly polyester thing that's probably made from recycled pop bottles (which is good = recycled). No idea why of my huge collection of hats, it's become a fav. It takes the rain really well too.

The second one I prefer. It also was originally colour, and I think I used an 'antique' filter on it. After seeing the Frida and Diego show at the AGO last week, and the many gelatin prints of them, I came away loving black and white for its shadows, its focus on form, its play with light on the skin, in the eyes. Hence these little self-portraits in the shades.

There is quite a different view when a photograph is in strong shades of blacks and whites. The form of the face becomes more of a focus; the expression deeper. We are not seduced by colour. It's a harsher view and yet because photography grew out of this play of shadow and light, also nostalgic. The colour cones in our eyes are only active during daylight; at night, the rods on the sides of our retinas become active, and they only 'see' in black and white. So, we could say a 'gelatin' print appeals to our nocturnal vision.




And this is my favourite. It barely looks like me; in fact, I doubt anybody would recognize me from it. Likely I look 10 years older in it. But the shadows... oh! Rich mantle of shadow over the eyes. What mystery. You are being seen without seeing exactly who is watching you. And the neck with its creases and folds. The imperfect skin. I just love it.




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 brendaclews.com

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Woman in Gladiator Corset and Ribbons, from Nuit Blanche

(An update.) Still tinkering. Her bent leg was too long in the version posted below this one, I thought. And without the pillar behind her, the shadow didn't make sense, so I've tried to decrease it. While I have used some Golden titanic white acrylic to cover the original charcoal lines, the Cretacolor Aquastics, or water-soluble oil pastels, all the colour that you see, do rub off mostly with water (which is a very nice thing about using them on canvas). Once I spray with an archival fine art fixative, everything, of course, sets permanently.

That arm is bothering me still. The original sketch was done too quickly in a darkly lit room (for the artists, the models were well lit with stage lights) for my normally slow drawing.

I really am more interested in the energy, sensuality and colour of these small charcoal and pastel paintings, and anatomy must serve that, and so I don't worry too much unless it interferes with the overall flow. Does that arm interfere in your viewing, and what would you suggest for 'fixing' it? If the eye skirts over it, as a vertical line, like the dancer's pole, then it's ok, no?

Woman in Ribbons, 2012, 11" x 14", charcoal, oil pastels, acrylic on triple-primed canvas sheet.




(Original post.) Today I finished one of the sketches I started at 'LES CHEVAUX, a late night drawing extravaganza,' hosted by The Keyhole Sessions, a Rogue Nuit Blanche event. She wore an incredible headdress composed of many multi-coloured ribbons, and I could not see her face from my angle.



Woman in Gladiator Corset and Ribbons, 2012, Brenda Clews, 11" x 14", charcoal and water-soluble oil pastels on triple-primed canvas sheet.



Original raw sketch.

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 brendaclews.com

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Drawing of My Niece

She was drawing me while I was drawing her. Last night, our Thanksgiving, here in Canada. It doesn't 'look' like her in a photographic sense, but she said I could post it. Photo taken on iPhone4 with daylight bulbs. Charcoal and water-soluble oil pastels (cretacolor aquastics) on 11" x 13" canvas sheet.

Basically, she sat in this position for maybe 5 minutes, long enough to do a quick charcoal sketch. Then I had to imagine the way her body was. Though I did get the terrific colours she was wearing, that green sweater and those red tights, smashing, really, and perhaps something of her spirit, when she is pensive, that is.



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 brendaclews.com

Sunday, October 07, 2012

FRIDAY VIDPOFILM: 'Myra Walks' by P E Sharpe



Myra Walks from P. E. Sharpe on Vimeo.

How do you approach "situations which require a significant amount of critical distance"?1

Is this moving away from what you are close to in order to understand it? 'To approach' with 'critical distance' seems awkward as an emotional strategy, let alone as a methodology. An artwork arising out of a paradoxical I-approach (in the first person) /I-am-an-onlooker (in the third person) will surely be fraught with tensions, fissures, cracking points that threaten or overwhelm.

Who is Myra, and why does she walk?

The thumbnail shows a split screen with two blurry landscape images. Let us enter: hit Play.

As I watched, I wrote: "[the video is] certainly playing with the horizon line, not only the artificially created vertical one in the middle of the screen that splits the two clips, but the way the horizons in the landscapes in the split screen seem to attempt to meet, again and again, within the pace of the rhythm of the footsteps of the videographer. The sonic scape is ominous, and the sounds of children playing, absent from the screen, again, ominous. I did just see a figure momentarily, a man, perhaps a child with him. In the meditation, we, the audience are being taken to a point in the landscape, we travel a path to a moment of consciousness. Finally, at the end, clarity in the clip on one side, and a psychedelic strobe on the other, and sonically, we have arrived at the ocean, where we read the final inscription, and realize we have been traveling in a memorial, and feel the splitting inside us, the immediacy of the tragedy, our sadness."

Because what I wrote was in a thread in her post of the video on G+, P.E. Sharpe responded: "It's also playing with the testimonies of Myra Hindley, who said she waited by the car in the layby on the other side of the road and yet at some point she decided to draw a map of the sites in question. I traced her steps and I stopped at the bridge over a drainage ditch that she refused to cross, unwilling to elaborate further. I tried as best I could to grasp her sense of what she had actually done, the potential for a range of human response within her, very much trying to assimilate her character. The soundscape is layered with both ambient (present when I shot the video) and recorded sound from a variety of sources. I think I may have had as many as 9 tracks when all was said and done."

Wikipedia tells us: "The Moors murders were carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965, in and around what is now Greater Manchester, England. The victims were five children aged between 10 and 17—Pauline Reade, John Kilbride, Keith Bennett, Lesley Ann Downey and Edward Evans—at least four of whom were sexually assaulted. The murders are so named because two of the victims were discovered in graves dug on Saddleworth Moor, with a third grave also being discovered there in 1987, over 20 years after Brady and Hindley's trial in 1966." We learn that, "Hindley made the first of two visits to assist the police search of Saddleworth Moor on 16 December 1986[;]....and her second visit to the moor in March 1987." It is these latter walks to find the graves of the children that forms the reason for the walk of the videographer along the same route in Myra Walks.

Why would I consider a video without an actual poem a videopoem in VidPoFilm?

Poetry at VidPoFilm, among many approaches, is that a video can be a 'visual poem' that does not require words on screen or by voiceover. Myra Walks relies on a historical narrative to explain its raison d'être, and why the footage has been edited to portray emotional schism, a comprehension of a collective memory that is fraught with contradiction, horror, tragedy in a landscape that takes on these qualities in the handheld clip of the videographer walking, in the editing with its split screen and blurs, and ominous soundtrack.

Historical poems rely on the historical narrative they are referring to in the poems that are written in context of both the recorded story and the present-day situation of the poet. Myra Walks is a visual poem that P. Elaine has created as a kind of splintered mirror of a specific geographical location where the modern traveller is in juxtaposition to crimes committed many decades before. She explores the strange relationship we have with visiting sites where murder occurred, and the way these memories, that aren't our own, but are 'ours' in a social sense, in a cultural context, impact us. She wordlessly carries the memory of these crimes, and their locale, to us through her visual poem, her video.

How do you approach "situations which require a significant amount of critical distance"? Her videopoem answers itself: through a witnessing that requires emotional connection.



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 brendaclews.com

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Emotions Running Through It (Surreal Sketch)

One of my composite drawings from Nuit Blanche at 'LES CHEVAUX, a late night drawing extravaganza,' hosted by Keyhole Sessions. There were 5 or 6 concurrent poses, which changed perhaps every 15 minutes. In this drawing I did quick sketches of 3, and almost 4, of the models, and kept turning the paper.

I enjoy working in Photoshop occasionally and have finished this drawing digitally. I include the original sketch as well.



The Emotions Running Through It (Surreal Sketch), digitally finished, 2012, 20" x 13.5", charcoal, coloured pencil, water-soluble oil pastels on 90lb archival paper.



Original sketch.
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 brendaclews.com

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Backpack

On my way to Yorkville, I had an adventure. When the train came, I jumped onto it, leaving my 20 year old leather backpack behind. Hundreds of dollars of art supplies, my jacket, the $400. prescription eye glasses that had been a birthday present. Finally at the next station, I ran up the stairs and over to the stairs down to catch the train back. Three endless minutes waiting for the train, then the ride back. I was going crazy inwardly. What a dumb thing to do! At Ossington I looked, nothing, and then waited for the train to move on and... no backpack on the bench. Oh, dear beautiful Torontonians, please. Ran up multiple flights of stairs to the ticket booth. As I went to ask the TTC ticket taker, I saw it on the floor behind him. Geez, I LOVE this city! People here are so gracious. Thank you, whoever you are, for your honesty, care, grace.


(The pic from the Roots website; mine looks a lot like this, since it's really never been used, though it is softer, and the tassels on the zippers are long gone.)
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 brendaclews.com