Friday, October 26, 2018

POP Goes the World

14 x 11", acrylic on gessoed mounted aluminium panel
painting #267, 2018

Frederic Tuten (b.1936) is an American novelist, writer, art and film critic. Tuten was a friend of both Hergé and Roy Lichtenstein. He has published several essays on the work of Lichtenstein as well as catalogues of other artists such as Eric Fischl. With the permission of Hergé, Tuten took Tintin and plunged him into a coming of age adventure, this time going to Machu Picchu with Captain Haddock and Snowy. The narrative follows Tintin as he meets and falls in love with Clavdia Chauchat, which for the first time in his life will awaken and arouse sexual desires. During this process, a metamorphoses occurs as he shed his physical image of a boy-man. This dream-like escapade with political overtones included four characters taken from Thomas Mann’s 1924 novel, “The Magic Mountain”, of which Clavdia Chauchat is among the cast. Prior to this novel, Tintin had always retain the image of being asexual throughout the comic book series

The novel, “Tintin in the New World” was published in 1993, a decade after the passing of Hergé. However, chapters of Tintin in the New World had first appeared in it's entire form in Fiction (1975), Tri-quarterly (1975),  Syntaxis (1984), Artform (1984) and De Brakke Hond (1984). It is perhaps Tuten's best known and most critically acclaimed work. It has been translated into six languages and has gone through several print runs. I had a chance to read the novel during a recent vacation and am in agreement with several critiques I've read on-line which were mixed. Tuten will be publishing a memoir, My Young Life, slated to arrive in bookstores in March 2019.

Roy Lichtenstein had previously done artwork for a book cover of Tuten’s 1971 novel, The Adventures of Mao on the Long March. The artwork that appears on the cover of Tintin in the New World was especially done for the novel in 1993 and is entitled “Tintin Reading”. I only discovered the existence of the Tuten/Lichtenstein collaboration this past August by happenstance. 

I had acquired the collectible figure of Tintin reading in the big red armchair 2 years ago upon visiting the Tintin Boutique in Brussels, Belgium. "Coffret at home" was inspired from the pages of the comic book “L’oreille cassée" (The Broken Ear), published in 1937, page 10 and 11. Tintin was originally holding a book entitled “Voyages aux Amériques” by Ch. J. Walker, Graveau éditeur, 1875. I decided to play with the narrative and have Tintin read his own adventure in Tuten's novel instead.

In the beginning of the novel, it is revealed that Tintin is an art collector and is amassing a collection which includes Danse by Henri Matisse which appears in the artwork. 
Capitain Haddock: "What about your art collecting? Have you given that up, too? All those unopened crates of paintings you've left unexamined: that Matisse you spent ages to acquire- that one with all those naked dancing people- still in its shipping case."
 Photographed during a visit at the MOMA, NYC, Dec. 2015

Lichtenstein had previously drawn inspiration from Matisse's masterwork when in 1973, he incorporated The Dance in a very large scale painting entitled, Artist's Studio- The Dance.

Artist's studio - The Dance, 1973
magna, oil on canvas, 243.8 x 325.1 cm
collection of the MOMA, NYC

Sculptor Seward Johnson is another artist whom was inspired by Matisse's The Dance and created multi-pieces 3-dimension bronze sculptures that included Matisse himself painting on a canvas and models. 

Seward Johnson
photographed during a trip to Key West, Florida
March 2011. 

This painting marks the first time that I have use the camera from my iPod Touch to do the photo study for the painting.
Trivia- Lichtenstein's Tintin Reading was also used for a retrospective of his work held at the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Montreal in 1994.

This is my second of two paintings that will exhibited at Art Toronto with La Galerie de Bellefeuille of Montreal. The exhibition will be held from October 26 to 29, 2018 at Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, 255 Front Street West, Toronto.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

L'as du volant ( The Driving Ace)

12 x 12", acrylic on mounted claybord
painting #266, 2018

Where does inspiration come from? For me it is often from getting a visceral response when I see something. I'll make a mental note, then eventually when other elements present themselves, much like making a small jig-saw puzzle, the image is revealed to me as a concept.

It is funny how a mundane moment can inspire a painting. During my month long vacation in Europe this past May, I met a lady from La Rochelle, France while on my two-week, 330 km hike on the Camino. When I told her that my French ancestor, Michel Richard crossed the Atlantic in 1652 from La Rochelle, she replied that her first husband was actually a Richard and both of her children have Richard as their family name. After my return home, I received a friend request from her on Facebook. Some time had passed when she wrote me a short note on messenger to see what I was up to. She mentioned that their lives had return to normal and her husband was re-joined a club to play Tarot. I only knew Tarot as cards used for divination or fortune telling. 

When I Googled French Tarot, I learned that it is a card game using strategy played with 4 players. Among the Google images that appeared on screen was the French card game “Mille Bornes”. I got an immediate visceral response upon seeing this nostalgic game and the wheels started turning. Thirty minutes later, I would find a Tintin at the wheel of a race car on eBay. The die-cast car that also features Snowy and the Thompson Twins was inspired from the comic book, “Les cigares du Pharaon” (Cigars of the Pharaoh), page 66. I would also acquired a 1971 edition of Milles Bornes on eBay. I wanted to use this edition since it was that one that I played during my youth. 

Hergé's comic strip from "Cigars of the Pharaoh)

Milles Bornes was created by Edmond Dujardin in 1954, with the card illustrated by Joseph Le Callennec. This card game based on a road trip is for 2 to 6 players, usually played by 4 players, 2 on each team, as a partnership. The object of this game is the first player or team to accumulate a total of exactly 5000 points in several hands of play. In so doing, players try to complete trips of exactly 1000 km/miles= 1000 points in each hand played. The term "Bornes" refers to the kilometre milestones found on many roads in France and Europe. 

My son Jean-Luc on a roadside borne in France, 2006

During my research, I also found a special edition of Mille Bornes based on The Adventures of Tintin. Ironically, as I was searching for an image for this blog post, the same sports car with our merry cast is featured on one of the cards. 

Trivia- The pop band Thompson Twins,  part of second British invasion of the 1980 was named after the two bumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson from Hergé's comic books.

This is one of two paintings that will exhibited at Art Toronto with La galerie de Bellefeuille of Montreal. The exhibition will be held from October 26 to 29, 2018 at Metro Toronto Convention Centre, North Building, 255 Front Street West, Toronto.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Moveable Feast

11 x 14", acrylic on gessoed aluminium panel
painting #265, 2018

This painting is a commission piece for a lovely couple who have a summer home in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. My wife and I met them over a wonderful lunch she had prepared for us of seafood chowder, salad and trifle for dessert. I started to brainstorm ideas for a composition as we got acquainted, then did a photo shoot in their backyard overlooking the Minas Basin / Bay of Fundy. 

In the past, I have used mason jars in several of my paintings. These utilitarian bottles designed for preserving food become an allegorical form of symbolism when used in preserving personal objects, places, memories. I did the photo studies for the painting during low tide, when most of the basin had emptied out, revealing a muddy clay bottom floor. I was later sent photos taken at high tide and painted from several pictures. 

Without going into specific details, from our first meeting to delivering the finish painting I found the whole process informed me in creating a very biographical piece just by using props. Every objects and the space in the composition had personal meaning to her, all anchored on a table build by her grand father.

On a personal note, this area is also dear to me since my French ancestor came to Acadia in 1652 and settled in nearby Port Royal. Along this basin's shore lies Evangeline Beach where the late artist, Alex Colville owned a summer cottage and used the setting as a back drop for several of his paintings. He lived in nearby Wolfville. 

When I started to concentrate on still life painting at the turn of the millennium, the artwork of Mary Pratt would become my main source of inspiration. What distinguished Mrs. Pratt from most still life painters apart from her signature approach to painting glass, light and colour palette was that she used the natural setting in and around her home instead of setting up a composition in a very neutral and unassuming space. On a very sad note, she passed away on August 14 after a lengthy illness at the age of 83. I completed this painting at the end of August and would dedicate the remaining hours in her memory. It is a great loss for her family, all those who loved her and the Canadian artistic community.

Mary Pratt photographed in January, 2000
Globe and Mail