Tag Archives: abstract

[ab-strak-shuh n] the art and the act

[ab-strak-shuh n] the art and the act is the latest exhibit at the Gordon Smith Gallery in North Vancouver.  As the title states the works are all abstractions in a variety of media by many of Canada’s most well respected artists, including Alan Wood, Jack Shadbolt, Jane Ash Poitras, Guido Molinari, Jean McEwan, Betty Goodwin, Graham Gillmore, Etienne Zack, Gordon Smith, Toni Onley and Douglas Coupland.  The exhibition runs until April 13, 2017.

As always at the GSG the exhibition is well laid out with plenty of breathing room around the exhibits. Right on entering are a couple of George Rammell’s Archer’s Paradox paintings with an accompanying video running showing how he made the paintings. The two paintings on display were actually made just outside the gallery. His method can be seen in this video below.

I included a short write up on George Rammel on my TAOP blog which can be seen here so I won’t repeat myself as that was also about the Archer’s Paradox.

Gordon Smith Gallery

There were a couple of works that reminded me of Robert Rauschenberg’s collage oevres, but unfortunately I did not manage to get the name of the artist or a photograph.

Planets 1 – 6 by Douglas Coupland

Douglas Coupland is a very prodigious artist. He has written thirteen novels which have been published in most languages. He has also performed for the Royal Shakespeare Company and is a columnist for the Financial Times of London, as well as a regular contributor to e-flux, DIS, Vice and the New York Times. He has exhibited his wide range of works at the Vancouver Art Gallery, The Royal Ontario Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art as well as in galleries in Rotterdam, Munich and Paris. He is also an Officer of the Order of Canada.  Much of the public art work around my city can be attributed to Coupland.

Douglas Coupland’s Planets series were vibrant and had a sense of motion to them that I had not expected. When viewed close up the brush strokes followed through with the motion and created a visual depth which cannot be seen on the photograph – a definite mood lifter on such a gray and rainy day.

Gordon Smith - Birch Sticks
Gordon Smith – Birch Sticks

Gordon Smith is one of the doyens of the Canadian art world. His history is so extensive that it is too long for this post, but I have included a link for those who are interested. I found Gordon Smith’s paper mache quite endearing. This collection was the featured art on the Gallery’s website and I had envisioned these pieces to be quite large. Instead they are probably no larger than 12 – 18 inches in height and were displayed rather low down. I have developed a bit of a fascination for birch forests, especially in certain parts in the Lower Mainland, where the forests resemble ghost-like apparitions during the winter season. I found this collection to be rather reminiscent of this and was quite taken with the brightly coloured oranges and blues that appear in this work, which tend to strike a bit of a discord when compared to the real thing.

Confetti by Angela Grossman
Confetti by Angela Grossman

Angela Grossman is another Vancouver visual-based artist whose work examines gender identity and themes around social margins. In the little balcony gallery upstairs I came across an etching on inkjet by Grossman. In this piece Grossman has combined photography with markmaking. According to the Gallery information she handmade the paper that the work is printed on as well. The work is a metaphor for the coming of age, as the two young companions emerge ready to tackle life.

The exhibition was not overly abstract and the images were all interesting and engaging with just the right amount of abstract for a non painter student or audience to appreciate. Some of the pieces required a little more introspection, especially when I found a similarity with other painters or photographic work I have previously seen and I was pleased to be able to make the connections.

It was engaging to see how different artists interpret abstract art. The works ranged from sculptures, paintings, sketches, photographic (only one), collage and mixed media.

Abstract art seeks to break away from traditional representation of physical objects. It explores the relation of forms and colours. The exhibit speaks to both figurative and non-figurative abstract works and includes some of the finest examples of abstract art in our country. 

Gordon Smith Gallery

Reference List

Rammel, George Archer’s Paradox II [online] Creat. Artists for Kids.  Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art. 4 min 10 secs. Available at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg-jja7eUGk [Accessed 21 February, 2017]

Gordon Smith Gallery (2016) In the Main Gallery [online] Available at: http://www3.gordonsmithgallery.ca/Gallery/Exhibitions/Pages/default.aspx [Accessed 21 February, 2017]


Mirrored Explosions | Sanaz Mazinani

Mirror reflections have multifarious interpretations: some view the image as objective truth, while others identify its inherent reversal as proof of the mirror’s deception or illusion. Mirrors confine and frame the visible, although they may also exaggerate it infinitely — for example, when two mirrors face each other.

Pantea Haghighi, 2016

Sanaz Mazinani is an artist, curator, and educator who is based in San Francisco and Toronto. She has an undergraduate degree from Ontario College of Art & Design University, and a Masters in Fine Arts from Stanford University and has exhibited in Toronto, Zurich, San Francisco and Dubai.

In this body of work she addresses perceptions of war. Her intricate collages are more like scuptures hanging on a wall than photographs – not one rectangular or square frame to be see! Indeed upon entering the Museum the very first image one sees is an image which resembles the shape of the underbelly of a stealth bomber airplane.

Image in Mirrored Explosions exhibition by Sanaz Mazinani
Image in Mirrored Explosions exhibition by Sanaz Mazinani

Mazinani uses found images of war and political unrest sourced from the internet to make her collages. By duplicating and mirroring the components of her collages in a kaleidoscopic format, she creates intricate patterns drawn from her Persian heritage. The attention to detail is very evident.

Dark Explosion, 2011 by Sanaz Mazinani
Dark Explosion, 2011 by Sanaz Mazinani

She juxtaposes images of war in the Middle East with images of political protest; images of George W Bush and Bill Clinton; fighter jets with terrorists thereby jarring us our of our comfort zones and forcing us to look closely. The collages are small so one really has to zoom in and look at the structures very closely in order to make out the details and it is this realisation when the penny drops of what the collage actually consists of that stops the viewer in his/her tracks.

Redacted March, 2011 by Sanaz Mazinani
Redacted March, 2011 by Sanaz Mazinani

Mazinani ruptures our modes of observation, forcibly asking: How does an image’s mediation affect moral or political judgments? To what extent are these images real to us? How can the implications of war be more visibly, and tangibly, understood through representation?

Pantea Haghighi, 2016

Fireworks and Howitzer, 2014 by Sanaz Mazinani
Fireworks and Howitzer, 2014 by Sanaz Mazinani

Sanaz Mazinani states in a prior artist’s statement where some of these images were exhibited as part of the Frames of the Visible project:

I use the semiotics of pattern to re-mediate images drawn from the mediascape, and intervene into the very perspectival frames of vision. Creating a space to reflect on popular media’s representation of warfare and deliver a message on the complex and woven relationships that demonstrate the nature of modern existence in a globalized world.

Sanaz Mazinani

Some of the detail of her collages can be seen on her website. I was in awe of this work. It is so creative and painstakingly performed and at the same time so deceptive. And that brings us back to the age old question of what is truth in photography?

I came across an interesting video clip of Sanaz Mazinani explaining some of her work and I include it below for some extra insight into her work.

Reference List

Haghighi, Pantea (2016). Mirrored Explosions | Sanaz Mazinani. West Vancouver: West Vancouver Museum

Art + Activism with Sanaz Mazinani | KQED Arts (2015) KQED Art [School online] Creat. by Wanak, J; Farr, K; Williams, M; Brown, J.  30 June 2015. 5 mins 23 secs. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTp_nLgcPyU [Accessed 19 April, 2016]

Chris Shepherd: Constructs

Rounding off my tour of exhibitions last week was Chris Shepherd’s Constructs which is on show at the Bau-Xi Gallery on Granville Street.  It was another set of abstract work.

Shepherd’s images are the result of photographing something, then cutting, tearing, shredding or folding the print, rearranging it in another form and rephotographing it. He explains his methods in his wall text which was so helpful and a great learning tool.

Memory, nostalgia, documentation and other established tropes of the medium become secondary to the form and object, opening a dialogue about what an image is and what it means.

Chris Shepherd

Some of the images that I really was drawn to were his Bowie Sky images. He explains that the day after David Bowie passed away, he was out walking with his camera and he started to talk photos of the sky overhead. Upon returning to the studio he printed the images, arranged them in a sort of shuffled pattern, then photographed it (Bowie Sky Cubed). His other Bowie Sky Stripped image was made by slicing the photograph by hand using a ruler and utility knife – rather like large shreds, the rearranging the order and photographing again. When looking at the image one almost gets the impressing of movement from the way the strips have been arranged. His final image (Bowie Sky Stripped and Formed) was made by taking the strips he had used for the previous photograph, curling them and arranging them into a ball and then photographing the end result. I think this image was my favourite as there seems to be a bit of a mystery to this intricately formed ball of print strips. More of his work can be seen on his website.

Sky Crumpled, 2016 and Bowie Sky Stripped and Formed, 2016 by Chris Shepherd
Sky Crumpled, 2016 and Bowie Sky Stripped and Formed, 2016 by Chris Shepherd

This method of deconstructing an existing photograph and constructing a sculpture or another image from the result is incredibly interesting. But the economical me shudders to think of the cost of the prints that get destroyed in order to create another image. Reading Shepherd’s blog is extremely enlightening. His blog reads like a diary, documenting his processes and learning as he creates his images.

Reference List

Chris Shepherd [online]. Available at: http://chrisshepherd.net/ [Accessed 19 April, 2016]

Update 24 April, 2016

Photographer, Chris Shepherd stopped by my blog today and was kind enough to leave a comment on my review on the comments link above.

análekta: The floweriness, The bareness

Análekta means “to gather up; to collect” and this is what Merle Addison has done with this exhibition at the Grunt Gallery.  This series marks his switch from analogue to digital, using previously made images and reworking them with digital overlaps and hand-drawn lines.

Análekta at the Grunt Gallery
Análekta at the Grunt Gallery

The results are quite spectacular. Yes, most of the images are of flowers and nature, but quite unlike anything that I have seen before. As Dana Claxton states in her monograph ‘Merle has created photos that can be read as spiritual within the realm of the work’s own materiality.’ There is definitely a sense of serenity that is invoked when viewing his images. Even overlays of flowers with hand-drawn lines squiggling across the surface seem to mesh and meld into a strong sense of unity.

In his artist’s statement, Addison states:

Although generally I use photographic images and related processes as the start of the work, I don’t think of the final image as a photograph. Indeed in terms of how a photograph should look is not a concern. How the individual print looks is; the line, colour and textures of my world that I use to share my apophenia. There is an almost inherent lack of control that is integral to my work. Meaning defined and experience sensed is never the same.

Merle Addison

I find it interesting that he does not consider the photograph as the final outcome, but I suppose that would make sense seeing that he still manipulates the image further after doing digital overlays by adding hand-drawn lines.

His images are the kind where one really has to sit, look closely and meditate a lot. Surrounded by his images is a little like sitting in a shady arbour of wisteria and other botanical delights.

Ruby's light by Merle Addison
Ruby’s light by Merle Addison

In creating this oevre, Addison has drawn upon his own image archive bank. In some of the images, scratched lines, archival goo and film emulsions are evident in the work and these extra layers add to the depth of the work hinting at time and space.

These are images that will connect with everyone. How one will interpret them depends, I think, very much on on’s mood at the time of viewing.

Reference List

análekta (2016). Grunt Gallery. Available at: http://grunt.ca/exhibitions/analekta-by-merle-addison/ [Accessed 17 April, 2016]

Claxton, Dana (2016). Sharing Apophenia – Getting Lost in Merle Addison’s Beauty. Vancouver: Grunt Gallery

Karen Zalamea | Spectres of Desire

It would seem that most of the exhibitions I am hitting during this year’s Capture Photography Festival seem to be all about abstract work. We really don’t have so many photography exhibitions in my city that when this annual festival rolls around I land up just going to everything within a certain radius on a weekend.

Karen Zalamea is a Vancouver artist and much of her work is done with a large format camera using analogue processes. This particular exhibition was about the intersection of light and form. Zalamea uses a variety of materials that interact with light, e.g. reflections, refractions or amplification and arranges these in a controlled setting in her studio so that with the combination of the light source, material and camera lens, these combine into an array of rich colour, moire or prismatic patterns. Some of the resulting photographs look as if they could be photographs of outer space.

The resulting photographs are without reference to a per-existing image world: as artifacts of photographic events, performed by and for the camera, they are not “abstractions” but rather concretions of the pictorial possibilities within photography.

Franc Gallery

Spectres of Desire by Karen Zalamea
Spectres of Desire by Karen Zalamea

In a statement very reminiscent of Barthes (and semiotician C. S. Peirce) the gallery blurb states: ‘the photograph is inevitably “haunted” by its referent, and is thus a marker of absence.’ It is interesting that it is the play of light itself upon a surface that is photographed and recorded and not the intersecting object. This illusory spectre changes with each intersecting medium and gives rise to a totally different interpretation of light each time. Some of the images, such as the one above, make me think of water. There is an undulating current and elusiveness present in the image above – a sense of mystery if you will.

Spectres of Desire by Karen Zalamea
Spectres of Desire by Karen Zalamea

The following image (above) has a blurry moire pattern in red and black tones. Horizontal and vertical lines intersect with much frequency, almost as if they are at odds with each other, fighting for space within the frame. The image feels angry and invasive, like a migraine coming on, but yet it has a strange, compelling beauty to it at the same time.

Seeing the variety of these dialogues of light on surfaces was quite an eye-opener for me. The depth of the patterns and colours are rather astounding and totally unexpected. The take away from this exhibition was really just go and experiment, using a variety of surfaces and see what happens. I just wish I had my DSLR with me to take better photos rather than my covert little point and shoot camera which I tend to sneak into the galleries.

Reference List

Phillips, Kimberley (2016). Karen Zalamea | Spectres of Desire. Vancouver: Franc Gallery.



Erin O’Keefe at Gallery Jones

Another photographer who is featured during the month long Capture Photography Festival here in Vancouver is Erin O’Keefe. Her exhibition Things as They Are is on exhibit at the Gallery Jones.

I was first introduced to Erin O’Keefe’s work while I was doing the The Art of Photography module. O’Keefe is a visual artist based in New York and New Brunswick, Canada and has a background in architecture. This background in architecture informs a lot of her work which has to do with spatial perception.

Erin O'Keefe - Things as they are | The Flatness Series #30 & The Flatness Series #12
Erin O’Keefe – Things as they are | The Flatness Series #30 & The Flatness Series #12

All her work is very colourful and vibrant, exuding a cheerful atmosphere. One can’t walk away from her work without feeling lighter in spirit and refreshed from the rich vibrancy.

In her Flatness Series (see above) she builds a still life from painted plywood boards, photographic prints of Photoshop gradient patterns and photographs. O’Keefe states:

I am interested in the tension between the compressed space of the image and the visual clues that allude to the dimensionality of the still life. The camera is the agent of uncertainty that invites seeing as both an intimate and critical exercise.

(Gallery Jones, 2016)

One is impelled to look deeply at her work, trying to figure out how she has created these still lifes. Her work consists of strong geometric shapes, vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines and curves which all contribute towards the dynamics of each photograph. In Flatness Series #30 our eye is tricked into thinking that the photograph could very well just be paper shapes laid down flat on a surface, until we see the shadow of the diagonally placed dowel stick. It is the shadow that gives the photograph its dimensionality and changes our perceptions.

She goes even further in her illusory effects in the Natural Disasters series. In this series she also makes use of pipe cleaners, tape, mirrors, string and fabric.

Erin O'Keefe - Natural Disasters - Bullseye
Erin O’Keefe – Natural Disasters – Bullseye

The mise-en-scene is elaborately constructed, almost like a stage set. Again dimensionality is achieved through shadows, but also in the way the string intersects the various components in the frame. Is it passing behind the object or through it? In a way the photo above makes me think back to my childhood when children would raid their mothers’ cupboards for sheets and other paraphernalia and build a fort in the back yard, or living room if the weather was bad. There is definitely a sense of joie de vivre in O’Keefe’s work. For me it’s the kind of abstract work that one will not easily tire from. Every time one looks at the photograph something else is revealed.

Reference List

Gallery Jones. (2016) Erin O’Keefe | Things as they are. Vancouver. Gallery Jones.