Saturday, October 17, 2009

Near & Far - Opening reception - October 16, 2009

A Gallery Hop in Saint John, NB is an event that always brings out a crowd on Friday evenings as openings are held in several exhibition spaces in the port city. My son Jean-Luc was the official photographer during the evening of the opening of my own solo show at Handworks Gallery. At one point he said, there are too many people, I can't see the artwork.

It was fun meeting the public. I got to chat with fellow gallery artists Holly McKay & Lynn Wigginton. To share my enthusiasm with others who seem genuinely excited to see my new work. When the evening was over, 14 of the 21 paintings had a red dot. Many thanks to all the people who came to view the artwork, to all those who send me warm wishes and the patrons who acquired the paintings. Thank you to Cliff Turner and Shannon Merrifield, the gallery owners and their staff for doing such a superb job.

Photos- top- with Cliff Turner / Cliff is an amazing hyperrealist painter who had a solo exhibition that concluded on Thursday. The very large 5 x 7 feet painting entitled Hot Wheels in the bottom photo, was a piece of that show.

middle- with Jean-Luc / bottom- mingling !

In other news, I want to congratulate my wife Suzanne, whom this show was dedicated to. Today, she reached the final destination of Santiago de Compostella during day-28 of the 800 km walking / backpacking trek across Spain on the Camino Francés. Bravo!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Marbles on ''Three Coke Bottles''

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #176
5 x 7', 2009

Three Coke Bottles is an acrylic and silkscreen done by Andy Warhol in 1962. Here it appears as a blank card format on a semi out of focus Campbell's Soup Can 1 (1968), from the book Pop Art by Tilman Osterwold.

I leave you with famous quotes by Andy Warhol:

-''I am a deeply superficial person''.

-''Everybody must have a fantasy''.

-''Art is what you can get away with''.

-''Think rich, look poor''.

-''TV is not something to watch, but something to be on''.

-''Employees make the best dates. You don't have to pick them up and they're always tax- deductible''.

and of course,

-''In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes''.

This is the final piece for my solo show, Near & Far that opens this evening at Handworks Gallery in Saint John, NB. Everyone is invited to the Opening reception that will take place this evening from 5 to 8 pm and will coincide with a Gallery Hop with the other 10 art galleries/institutions of the city.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Reflecting on Andy Warhol

 Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #175
5 x 7'' - 2009

Pop art emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the USA. Pop art challenged tradition by asserting that an artist's use of the mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture is contiguous with the perspective of fine art. Pop Art removes the material from its context and isolates the object, or combines it with other objects, for contemplation.The concept of Pop Art refers not as much to the art itself as to the attitudes that led to it. (ref-Wikipedia)

Andy Warhol was a major contributor of the movement when it exploded during the 1960's. He was a larger than life figure. Often using other people photography and commecial items to create silkscreen prints and mixed media installations. From Marilyn Monroe to Wayne Gretzky, Brillo soap pads to Coca-Cola, Orange Car Crash to Double Silver Disaster (electric chair). He was also a photographer, illustrator, painter, avant-garde filmmaker and a socialite.

I've always admired his colorful art, and to a certain extent, have been influence by his body of work as a painter. He died the same month I started to paint, February of 1987. Painting #2 of my list of original paintings was entitled, ''Not Andy Warhol''. It was an experimental double portrait of my wife & myself in a se-tenant inspired piece based on his serigraphs. I've had a chance to see a few of his solo exhibitions including a show at the annual FIAC (Grand Palais) in Paris in 1989 and at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto during the spring of 1998. I hope one day to visit his Museum in Pittsburgh.

In this painting are a pocket size journal with two half Campbell's soup cans by Warhol, and an image, Self-Portrait (1967) as seen on page 55 of Tilman Osterwold's book, Pop Art. What surprised me the most about this piece was that I was able to pull off the portrait with paint, because the preliminary pencil drawing was awful. The Chinese ball was the object however that made this piece important enough to paint. Of linking the art with the artist on the reflective sphere.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tomate sur TOMATES

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #1747 x 5'' - 2009

The next three paintings are all inspired by Andy Warhol. Warhol's first solo exhibition took place at the Ferus Gallery, Los Angeles, during the summer of 1962. The show comprised of 32 paintings of all the varieties of Campbell's Soup cans sold by the company at the time. When asked why he painted them, he replied that he had eaten Campbell's soup for lunch for the last 20 years. On May 9, 2006, Small Torn Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot) - 20 x 16'', 1962 was sold at a Christie's auction to Gagosian Gallery for a whopping $11 776 000 (incl. buyers premiums)- click here.

Last week, as I was doing the grocery shopping, I notice a display case in the store that boosted more than 60 varieties of Campbell Soup Cans.

Campbell's Soups have been around since 1869, and the famous font lettering on red with the gold seal from the 1900 Paris Exhibition as been around for more than a century. Classic design are all in fashion. In 1968, Campbell's introduced the mail-in offer of the groovy Souper Dress , which could be bought for $1 and two labels.
Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Absolut Gerber Daisies

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #173
5 x 7'' - 2009

Absolut Vodka is a Swedish spirit that was first introduced in 1879. It accounts for 40% of all vodkas imported in the US. It's fame is very much attributed to the distinctive shape of it's bottle and it longest running ad campaign ever that started around 1980. The full-page ads in publications features the shape of the bottle in the center, with a headline of ABSOLUT ______ at the bottom. See this Google link for imagery. While many flavors of vodka have been introduced by Absolut, the shape of the bottle has remain, and with over 1500 later, no product has re-invented itself more over a such a period. Even artists like Romero Britto and Andy Warhol have been involved as commissioned artists.

The setting for this painting is our kitchen window with the cherry tree in the backyard explaining the greenery.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reciclaje de botellas de Coca-Cola

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #172
7 x 5'' - 2009

The photo study for this painting was taken in Ruitelan, Spain during day 22 of my trek on the Camino this past June. My walking day of 26,5 km was over and it was still very early in the day, before noon in fact. After dipping my tired feet in the cool stream nearby, I had lunch in the local bar. Upon exiting the premise, I spotted a stack of Coca-Cola crates sunbathing in the hot rays. This crate had been around for a while. It had a weathered look and the red had lost it's original punch.

Aquarius is an electrolyte replacement drink bottled by Coca-Cola in Spain. I drank some every day on the Camino. Here, Diet Coke is bottled under the name Coca-Cola Lite and sports a shiny metallic label with red lettering (bottle to the right). At the bars, they would serve Coca-Cola on ice from these mini bottles with a wedge of lemon.

I could probably do a series of paintings of Coca-Cola signs seen during my 800 km trek across Spain. The photos below are from Azofra, a small village I passed through on 
day 8. 

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

La Maison de l'Orchidée, Paris

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #170
6 x 6'' - 2009

This painting was initially started for my last solo show at Handworks Gallery in 2007. I found the subject matter a bit daunting, so I decided to shelf it very early on. Fast forward 2009, the subject matter seemed very a-propos for the theme of this current show, so I decided to attempt it once again. Parchment, my new color by Liquitex, came in very handy to tackle the whites of the orchid's blooms. La Maison de l'Orchidée (The Orchid House), is situated at Place Louis Lépine, very close to Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. We stumble upon it while strolling through the streets of Paris during the spring of 2006. I just love orchids. This painting comes with an Umbra aluminium gallery easel, with the option of wall hanging.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Study for Canoes at Moraine Lake

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #169
7 x 5'' - 2009

I've visited parts the province of Alberta three times. All three included visiting the Rocky Mountains. In December of 1983, I got the opportunity to ski beautiful Sunshine Village Resort in Banff during winter. The last two trips in 2005 & 2007 were in the summer. The majesty of the Canadian Rockies is breathtaking. It is difficult to stand in front of a scene like this without being in awe.

Just a few kilometers from Lake Louise is Moraine Lake. Moraine is a glacially fed lake situated in the Valley of the Ten Peaks. The emerald color water is attributed to the refraction of light off the rock flour deposited in the lake on a continual basis. Lake Louise & Lake Peyto shares the same phenomenon. Moraine Lake is one of the most photographed locations in all of Canada. It is known as the ''Twenty Dollar'' view, as it was featured on the reverse side of the 1969 & 1979 Canadian dollar bill. The rental canoes at Lake Louise are an orangy color, while those at Moraine Lake are in the primary colors + Hunter green. I had not painted a landscape for several years, but this one was irresistible. I am already planning a larger version.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Crayolas on Lichtenstein

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #168
5 x 7'', 2009

A simple composition of layering objects. A cat's eye marble on a basic 8 Crayola Crayon box, on the cover of Pop Art, an art book written by Tilmon Osterwold, with M-Maybe by Roy Lichtenstein on the cover. I only displayed the primary colored crayons from the box, as they are the colors used in Lichtenstein's artwork.

Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) was an American pop artist who's work was heavily influenced by both advertising and comic book style. Even though my own work technically is very much rooted in hyper realism, Pop Art has a definite direct influence and my love for primary colors probably started here. I've had the chance to view a lot of his work in major art museums in both North America & Europe. His art is also displayed in public spaces including the tuilerie gardens of the Louvres in Paris, the J. Paul Getty Museum grounds in LA, the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid as previously posted on my blog, and the large 6 x 53 feet Times Square mural entitled Next stop, Times Square (1994) in the New York City subway station at 42nd & Broadway. Although it was completed 3 years before his death, it was only installed on September 5, 2002. I got to see it on November 4, 2002 when we visited NYC before running my 2nd NYC Marathon.

Part of my solo show- Near and Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Heinz at Mel's Drive-In

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #167
12 x 10'' - 2009

This painting is from a vacation snapshot taken at Mel's Drive-in on Sunset Blvd in West Hollywood, during a family road trip in California in 2008. I knew instantly that there was at least one painting the moment I entered this very nostalgic restaurant. The whole time I was painting it, I kept wondering if this type of subject matter would have appealed to me if it wasn't for Ralph Goings, who's body of work for the majority has been to document diner interiors or it's content.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fabulous at 50

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #166
8 x 12'', 2009

Now for something completely different. This painting was inspired by a sequence of events that happened within a few days.
This year, Barbie turned the BIG ''5-0''. One week later, it was my wife Suzanne who turned 50. That same week, she was watching some entertainment program on TV and brought this to my attention. The following day, my wife's More Magazine was in the mailbox. As I was eating lunch alone that day, I started flipping through the magazine and saw a full-page tribute of Barbie in the Style section that really made me laugh. The following day, a woman who had undergone many plastic surgeries in order to look like Barbie, was the topic of discussion in a talk show. Finally, I spotted the collectible 50th anniversary Barbie at Wal-Mart.

She was born, Barbie Millicent Roberts on March 9, 1959. American, Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll using the German doll Bild Lilli as her inspiration. Barbie has been revered for her looks and figure by young and old alike, and has also been the subject of many controversies for those same attributes. Nonetheless, she remains as popular as ever, and no toy has re-invented itself more than her. Among her many careers, she was first a fashion model, an astronaut, a zoologist, and Ice Capade Skater, a Nascar Driver and has run for US president four times.

Here's an exert from More Magazine:
On maintaing perfection- Like most working woman, I have a simple routine: Fifteen artists apply my makeup using acrylics and tiny sable brushes. It takes only about three hours.

On a bad hairday- I've never really had one.

On over 40 style- I may only be 11½ inches tall, but age has given me confidence. Besides, when your a fashion icon, designers always take your calls. I adore this satin Nicole Miller gown, it flatters my perfectly toned arms.

On being plastic- They say you're only as old as you feel, but of course, I can't feel anything.
ref. - page 37, More Magazine- April 2009.

I dedicate this image to my wife Suzanne, who is currently in Spain with a family friend walking /backpacking the entire 800 km of the Camino, starting in Saint Jean-Pied-de-Port, France to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. The exact same trek I did in 3 months ago. On Day-18, she has walk over 500km already. So I can honestly say, that at 50.......she is absolutely FABULOUS!!!

Click here to see the first Barbie commercial wearing the black gown as depicted in the painting. The only thing I changed from my reference photo, was to add the word Barbie in the pink lettering replacing of a soft water pearl necklace.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Out to Play

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #165
12 x 16'' - 2009

What would be a solo show without a marble/mason jar painting? I recently purchased several tubes of paint when Michael's had a 40% off sale on Liquitex Acrylics. I discovered a new white called Parchment, which is kind of putty color. With this I was able to produce this bluish grey shadows. With a painting like this, everything relies on last stage detailing in order to create the perfect sparkling effect using Titanium White with glazes on top.
Near & Far - Handworks Gallery Oct. 16-30, 2009

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stamp collecting: A closer look at American Art

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #164
12 x 12'' - 2009

I have been collecting postage stamps since the age of 14. My main interest focused mainly on Canadian stamps. By the year 2000, I only had a few missing in order to have the whole Canadian catalogue. Since then, I've only been buying the odd stamp or First-Day cover. I've always considered stamps as miniature works of art. As they cover various subject matter like politics, history, biography, architecture, sports, art, botany, geography, folklore. I've learned a lot by just collecting them. After the French Impressionists and Canada's Group of Seven, it is now the turn to pay homage to American artists.

My muse was a US Postal 20-stamp sheet printed in 1998 entitled, Four Centuries of American Art. Here, the main focus is on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper and American Gothic by Grant Wood. Hopper is in my shortlist of all-time favorite artists. These two masterworks are among the most iconic art images of the 20th century. Other artists in this painting are Charles Sheeler, Franz Kline, George Caitlin, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Edwin Church, George Caleb Bingham, Asher B. Durand and Joshua Johnson. Also on this sheet were: Mark Rothko, Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer, William Harnett, Rembrandt Peale and John James Audubon, which would have made equally beautiful additions to the painting. After running the Chicago Marathon on Halloween Day 1993, I had a chance to visit the Art Institute of Chicago the following day. The museum had been opened for exactly 100 years old + 1 day. Their art collection ranks among the finest in the world, and these two paintings are among the masterpieces.

What surprised me the most was that I was able to pull it together with paint, as the preliminary drawing lacked a lot of details. The metal around the magnifying glass is brass. There were a few oxidation stains, which remains.

Part of my solo show- Near and Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A group of seven on The Group of Seven

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #163
16 x 20'' - 2009

Once again, a play with words inspired the painting itself. A bit daunting to paint in this size for me, as my artwork is usually smaller. The Group of Seven was an alliance of Canadian landscape painters that formed in the 1920's and were heavily influenced by the French Impressionists. They painted landscapes in the Georgian Bay, Algonguin Park, Muskoka and Algoma regions of Ontario. Later, they ventures to British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia and the Arctic. Eventually, other artists joined the group or were closely associated. The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinberg Ontario, contains 6000 pieces of art from The Group of Seven.

The book, The Group of Seven was published in conjunction with the exhibition, The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation, organized and circulated by the National Gallery of Canada. It was written by Charles C. Hill, then curator of Canadian Art at the National Gallery.

The popularity of The Group of Seven has not diminished. Their art is very sought after by collectors. The art cover on the Book is Island-MacCallum Lake by Lawren Harris. Many of his paintings have fetched upward of one million dollars at auction. In 2007, Pine Tree and Red House, winter, City Park II went for 2,875,000$ C, including premiums. Harris was a founding member and past president of the Federation of Canadian Artists, from which I am an elected member since 2004.

For this painting, the book itself was the fun part, the bottom of the bowl was an exercise of concentration and trying to see things as they are. The PLU sticker was an add on, and that lime in particular was taken from another photograph as my source.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Bel Air in Monterey

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #162
15 x 11'' - 2009

The photo study for this painting was taken on March 23, 2008 during a lunch break in Monterey Ca during our family road trip in California last year. My true point of interest in this 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air is the space age chrome taillight. During this era, it seemed that craftsmanship and design was a true art form in the automobile industry, and models re-invented themselves on a yearly basis. It was a great opportunity to paint with the primary colors, and even though the yellow is a tad loud, it was the only logical choice, to keep it like the original.

I believe that this is the image that the gallery will use in the promotion of my solo show at Handworks Gallery. Bel Air is also a town in California, and as faith would have it, we would drive by that vicinity on our way to Ventura that same day.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Two pinwheel candies on Target

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #161
12 x 12'', 2009

This mason jar was purchased on ebay more than a year ago especially as a prop for a painting because of the greenish tint in the glass. In the meanwhile, I've been using it in my studio to store some candy. This image is from a studio shoot I did on the spur of the moment while I was waiting on paint to dry. The art book is ''Pop Art'' by Tilmon Osterwold (page 2) with Jasper Johns ' Target (1974). The original artwork by Johns is en caustic and mixed media on canvas. There appears to be a collage of newspaper print underneath the paint. In the photo study, you get reds that bleeds on the yellow that does not occur on the original. It is probably cause by depth of field of the camera. The title was inspired by my son Jean-Luc whom I suspect sneaks into my studio to visit the jar sitting on a bookcase, since I have no explanations why I have to refill it once in a while since I don't eat any.

Near & Far - Handworks Gallery Oct. 16-30, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pansies in frappucino bottle

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, #171
7 x 5'', 2009

As a painter, whenever I see pansies at the market or greenhouse, they literally stops me in my tracks. You almost get the feeling that their interesting splattered color patterns had been created by some form of explosion originating from the center of their bloom.

I have a weakness for logos, commercial items that put a lot of thought in classic design that becomes part of popular culture. The Starbucks logo is one of them. It is based on a classic 15th century Norse woodcut of a mythical two-tailed mermaid siren. I remember visiting Vancouver in 1987, there was a buzz about a hip new coffee shop. Starbucks served fancy coffees, Jones Soda Pop and homemade desserts. The small coffeehouse that originated and first opened it's door at Pike Place Market in Seattle in 1971, has since become the largest coffeehouse chain in the world, with stores in 49 countries. During another trip to Vancouver in 1991, we rented a car in order to visit beautiful Victoria and Seattle. Pike Place Market is a historic property (1907) and one of the oldest continually operated farmer's market in the USA. My most vivid memory of that place was not Starbucks, but patrons buying seafood at the fish market while the fishmongers were bellowing at the top of their lungs and throwing salmons towards the clients who caught them in an open newspaper. It truly had a Carnival-like atmosphere.

On a sadder note.......I want to dedicate this image to my aunt and godmother, Rachelle Richard, who's funeral service I attended this morning. She has always been a part of my life ever since I was born. After I left home, even though my visitations were less frequent, our relationship endured. She was a very gracious, attentive, generous person who truly loved life and her family. She was a five-year breast cancer survivor. Last year, cancer would reappear in her lung, and she fought a very valiant battle until she accepted her faith with dignity. She also had an extended circle of friends who would often visit her. During the wake last evening, it was mentioned that on certain days there was probably more coffee served in her kitchen than the local Tim Horton. The word Pansy in french is ''Pensée''. ''Pensée'' has a second definition as ''a thought''. Today, my thoughts are with her and all those who loved her dearly.

Part of my solo show- Near & Far - October 16-30, 2009.