Walking in the street, walking in a landscape, walking through her imagination—all lead to a form of artistic expression for Emebet Belete.
To welcome visitors during the reception for her show this month, Emebet wore a traditional Ethiopian costume made of shemma, a cotton that is grown in her native country and woven into gauze-like or crêpe-like fabric. Her long white dress with shirred bodice was covered by a wrap with a border of bands of green, yellow and red, the colours of the Ethiopian flag.
Indeed, Emebet’s artworks reflect ties to her birthplace. Her series of female portraits, often back or side views that show head coverings and hairstyles, are a kind of homage to Ethiopia. The paintings were created after she attended an Ethiopian New Year’s celebration in Toronto. The streets, which had been closed off, were filled with her people, and she revelled in the festivities and the familiarity.
White is emblematic of Ethiopian dress, but for Emebet it also brings to mind winter, a season she had never experienced before coming to Canada, although one she finds beautiful and inspirational. In her series of white canvasses with names such as Together, Gratitude, Forward, The Lake Calls, she has let her imagination dictate the subtly textured white forms that are embedded on a white or pale blue ground.
Spring Beckons also falls into the white series, but its genesis differs. For five years Emebet worked in China as a primary art teacher at an international school. While there she witnessed the blooming of the white cherry blossoms of spring. But she also discovered the smooth white rice paper that is made in China, as well as the textured coloured rice papers of Japan and Korea. The former has found its way into the white series; the latter add colourful textural elements to her birch tree collages.
Emebet considers the changing of the seasons an exciting event. In her series that incorporates birch bark she has created a forest of bare trunks, repeated, rearranged, enlarged, miniaturized, marching through the colour spectrum of spring, summer, winter and fall. In looking at the exhibition as a whole I couldn’t decide whether they accentuated the white series or the other way round. I understood clearly, however, that in this grouping of works Emebet has displayed her attachment to place: Canada, then China, punctuated with a nod to Ethiopia.
The Language of Walking continues until September 30.
Two photographic series, two approaches. One conceptual, one more abstract. Both rely on a variety of artificial lighting—outside at night using a flashlight with a diffuser; in the studio from below or using a light box.
For his first solo exhibition, 21-year-old William Carroll has chosen five images from his “Congealed” series and five from the series entitled “Above”. The latter includes three close-ups of natural objects, but there’s a twist. William has manipulated the colour spectrum as well as the focus to produce dusky, unnatural images. The remaining two photos in the series, in black and white, show unrecognizable manufactured objects shot to create intriguing abstract shapes.
The “Congealed” series looks at food in an entirely novel, if initially off-putting, way. Each image focuses on one vegetable or piece of fruit. If viewers can get past the congealed green goop (William’s word) covering the broccoli, the past “best before” banana, the oozing Nappa cabbage that looks like layers of mucous membrane, they will be rewarded with the visual interest William has created in the slickness of the artichoke, the shape and movement of the cabbage leaves, the richness of the white banana, the beauty of the Dragon fruit, the texture of the broccoli. Hung in staggered fashion in one corner of the gallery, the series draws the eye and pulls in the viewer.
A word about the goop. William explained that it was a cornstarch-sugar mixture, boiled and applied with a paintbrush, pressed onto the objects, or thrown at the objects. Because it was extremely hot, it cooked the objects just a bit. And then the objects were put in the freezer before they entered the light box where the goopy glaze truly came into its own.
William became interested in photography in Grade 9 when, being bored in the middle of the night, he took random cell phone pictures. His high school curriculum was based on arts-related courses. In 2012, he proudly told me, he was in the top 50 of an international competition entitled “Children’s Eye on Earth”. Now, as a full-time artist, he continues to work at night when it’s easier to achieve the effects of technical lighting. Because he’s autistic, William likes working alone, in a quiet space, away from the brightness of daylight.
“Photography is a way of showing people how I see the world,” he said. His work can be seen online at greenmothphotography.myportfolio.com.
“Congealed” and “Above” continue until September 1.
After hanging his work at the WAG yesterday, Gary Barnett laid out six hand-held magnifying glasses beside the richly colourful booklet of his paintings called A Closer Look. Gallery Director Marsha Gormley and I each picked up a glass, positioned it over a small section of one of Gary’s paintings, and marvelled at what it revealed—minute details that brought to mind structures at a cellular level and, at the same time, cosmic formations on a grand scale.
“I’m inspired by nature in the sense that all life is energy and chemistry. But rather than copying nature, I try to recreate the energy of its continual regeneration.”
Gary works in thematic series in his art practice. Synthesis explores the effects of colour in sometimes dramatic ways. Starlight is a series inspired by galaxies, while the Pearl series uses opalescent paint in delicate underwater hues of blues and greens. Essence of Pearl won an Honorable Mention at the recent KSOA juried exhibition.
“I was proud and happy to win that award,” said Gary. “I only started painting again five years ago after a 30-year break. When I painted in this style (poured paint) in the 70s and 80s, I wasn’t recognized by galleries and couldn’t get into juried shows. My wife (then girlfriend), Lynn, encouraged me to take up making art again. I had forgotten how much I loved painting and how exciting it is to create.”
Indeed, Gary was smiling the whole time as he explained his method of working with acrylics. Once he has chosen colours, he mixes them with a commercial acrylic paint thinner, which, unlike water, prevents bleeding. Then, the addition of a small amount of silicone produces an oil-and-water effect similar to marbling. Finally, he adds a product called Floetrol to create chemical reactions in the paint. Wearing headphones and listening to New Age music, Gary pours the paint onto canvas or panel, then makes it move with air from a hair blower. Or drags it manually with plastic sheets or butcher paper, following along with the music he hears, sometimes in control, sometimes not. Videos on his web site (www.garybarnett.ca) document the evolution of some of his paintings.
Gary is currently experimenting with layers of liquid glass to produce works in the series that he calls Timeless. Three pieces from this series, along with 26 paintings from other series, are now on view.
Just as I was preparing to leave the WAG, Atallia Burke, instructor at the KSOA art camp, brought her young students into the gallery and encouraged them to pick up a magnifying glass to take a closer look at the artwork. Which they enthusiastically did.
A Closer Look goes until Sunday, August 19. A reception will take place on August 12 from 2 to 4pm.
During the well-attended reception for the Juried Exhibition and Sale the winners were announced as follows:
First Prize—Teri Wing for “Pink”
Second Prize—Danielle Ouellet for “Intuition #1”
Third Prize—Alex Jack for “Marsh, Rocky Hillside and Overcast”
Honourable Mentions went to Gary Barnett, Phileen Dickenson, Ian Kennedy, Jane Hamilton-Khaan, Sylvia Naylor, Danielle Ouellet, Liz Rappaport, Nancy Steele and Teri Wing.
THE JURY IS IN: A successful blend of styles, media and skill
By the time the deadline for entries into the KSOA Juried Exhibition and Sale rolled around, the school had received 138 submissions from 65 artists. On Monday came the difficult task of whittling the entries down to 61—the 61 that will hang on the walls of the gallery from June 29 to July 29. On hand were co-ordinator Margaret Brackley, along with Mary Lou Jaansalu and Nancy Ball, who moved paintings from back room to hallway to gallery as the works were chosen.
Judges Bruce St. Clair, Evelyn Rapin and Lori St. Clair tackled the job with coloured dots in hand. The works that received three dots were automatically in the show. Those with one or two were further scrutinized until all of the choices were unanimous. Judges were looking for works that successfully expressed the artists’ intentions: important were colour harmonization, use of space, technique, originality, and authenticity in the case of figurative works.
All three judges have long careers as professional artists and all three work in different styles. Bruce, one of Canada’s foremost realist painters, favours representational subjects, but appreciates many art expressions; Evelyn’s work veers toward abstract expressionism—her paintings are often inspired by music; Lori, whose background is in graphic design, currently works in more than 10 different media--including brush markers--used for tangling, illustration and calligraphy. Grounded by experience, intuition therefore also played a role in how the judges assembled the final pieces for the show.
“In choosing works we are recognizing individuality. Each one represents personality, “ said Bruce. “A show such as this is a form of recognition and encouragement for artists in the region.” When it came time to choose the prize winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd and nine honourable mentions), the judges likewise took into account medium, support and mastery of technique. Prizewinners will be announced on Saturday, July 7, at 3pm, during the reception that takes place in the gallery from 2 to 5pm.
Final week to catch this show!
Ryan Monahan explores colour in the work he is showing at the WAG this month, but he also wears his artistic creations on his body, albeit in monotone. I spoke to him while he was hanging his acrylic paintings on Friday, and discovered that the tattoos are a reflection of his earliest interest in drawing. As a LaSalle high school student, Ryan liked to make patterns and geometric shapes. He created his first tattoo at the age of 18 and, after five sessions in a tattoo parlour, now wears his own designs on his arms: a series of thin, irregular and wavy lines encircling his upper arm and shoulder; a geometric Möbius strip-like shape; an Escher-like configuration that he calls Impossible Triangles; and an intricate circular pattern reminiscent of an old-fashioned doily. His most recent tattoo--a smaller and simpler creation comprised of parallel gently curving lines that bring to mind a shell or a fountain—is perhaps a more accurate indication of his current interests in abstraction.
For Ryan, who is employed at Sodexo (Queen’s hospitality services), painting is a hobby. It began after high school when he used watercolour to make landscapes and flowers. He moved into abstraction when he became interested in using a tablet to create digital paintings. One-and-a-half years ago he switched to acrylics and now, at age 22, his abstract expressionist canvasses cover a range of sizes, the largest, Cerulean, dominating the walls of the WAG.
With only 12 works on view, the paintings have room to breathe. And breathe they do, as each of them conveys a kinetic energy. Chroma, a blooming of reds into browns and golds, demonstrates deftly animated brushstrokes, as do all of Ryan’s paintings, in this case short, curved irregular marks. Radiant, on the other hand, uses longer, textured, sinuous strokes that evoke fire.
“How do you know when a painting is finished?” I ask the inevitable question that addresses one of an artist’s conundrums. “I just have a sense. I do a painting all in one day. I’ll take a break and then determine if it needs more work.” Torrent was the most difficult to finish, Ryan recalls. In contrast to the works in which paint has been added in thick, opaque layers, or work with overall colour, this painting is composed of bold, wide, red, black and beige brushstrokes on a white canvas. The starkness is alleviated by transparent drips, created when Ryan added water. Imagine the artist with paintbrush in one hand and squeeze bottle in the other. Torrent was his first attempt at this method and he says it was hard to know when to stop.
The paint/drip process is one Ryan has continued to use and then further exploited by hanging his paintings with drips appearing sideways or upside-down. Incandescent, as a result, feels more horizontally striated, while the upward-flowing drips in Cerulean conjure stalagmites in a cave-like setting that draws the eye to a central opening of textured blue light.
COLOUR THEORY continues at the Window Art Gallery until June 23, 2018.
There is a new brewery in town, Spearhead Brewery! They have set up brewing on Development Drive beside Raxx. When you walk in, you enter their little Spearhead shop. It is full of Spearhead swag, including t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and a huge wall-sized fridge filled with their tall cans of freshly brewed beer. Their staff are friendly and are able to help with any inquiries. In the next room, the lighting is dimmed with a bar in the middle, an amazing life-sized mural to the left, and the back wall covered with ceiling to floor windows where patrons can look into the brewery itself. The space is industrial, warm, inviting, and the new venue for KSOA associated artists to hang their art work.
Tap Room and Retail Manager Steph reached out the KSOA in hopes of finding interested local Kingston artists to cover the walls of the brewery. I was lucky enough to have answered her call and to quickly find artists that would jump on the Spearhead wagon! Spearhead Brewery had a private opening late in March so time was of the essence to find one or two people who would be ready to hang. The first round of artists was Margaret Brackley and myself. We both were able to put up at least a handful of artworks including alcohol inks, paintings, and wall weavings. We were extremely lucky in hanging as the walls were grated and all we had to use were “s” hooks. Easy peezy.
With a two-month rotation, there is now a new pair of artists with work up in the Brewery for May and June. They are Tina Barnes and Gaylan Fitsell. Both of these ladies brought a wonderful variety to the space. This includes fibre art with steel and wire, painting on barn wood, and little moody landscapes.
The KSOA is extremely honored and excited to be working with Spearhead to provide local artists with the opportunity to showcase their work in such a unique location. So, if you are looking for a new local hangout, a tour and tastings, and possibly thinking of adding some amazing artwork to your place, visit Spearhead Brewery at 675 Development Drive, Kingston, ON.
Carolina Rojas "The Isabel Bader"
Janis Grant "November Evening at Lemoine Point"
Irene Marie Dorey "The Tradition Continues"
The walls are never bare for long at the WAG. Once one exhibition comes down, only a day or two go by before the next show goes up. The gallery truly serves the community well.
On Tuesday Carolyn Huff-Winters and Peggy Lum-Brouillard were hard at it. Armed with ladder, hammer, nails and hooks, as well as a keen eye, they were searching for aesthetic flow. By day’s end the two artists-cum-gallery technicians had found places on the walls and on plinths for 58 pieces by the Bath Artisans.
Currently at 41 members, the Artisans are comprised of an eclectic group that produces jewellery, paintings, woodcarvings and fused glass. Not all have contributed to this show, but pieces by the artist members are also on display at St. John’s Hall in Bath, which is a permanent venue for their work and serves as a monthly meeting place from September to June.
Carolyn Huff-Winters wears many hats in the group. A painter of abstracts and figurative works, she is also VP and Education Co-ordinator. In the latter role she organizes workshops as well as 15- to 30-minute presentations by members, who are encouraged to talk about their artistic process as well as their sources of inspiration.
The variety of subject matter in myriad media now on view at the WAG is impressive: from pendants made of sea glass and shells, through landscapes, portraits and still lifes, to intensely coloured abstractions, large and small.
The Bath Artisans exhibition continues until Sunday, May 27, with a reception on Saturday, May 5, from 2 to 4pm.
Marta Scythes tells little stories, makes fun of herself, and has no qualms about saying “Cool!” when one of her demos looks pretty great. She’s been teaching pen and ink techniques for years, and last Sunday marked her 20th using her engaging teaching style in aid of the KSOA. Marta’s workshop paid tribute to Helen Stannard, who was a founding member of the art school and a studio member in Marta’s printmaking class at St. Lawrence College before the visual arts program there was cancelled.
I, along with eight other men and women, had signed up. Spending a day drawing with pen and ink was a good way to support the school, I thought, and to rekindle an interest in a medium I had used early in my career as a graphic artist. Back in the 80s my first professional income came from doing editorial cartoons and illustrations for small magazines and newspapers. So, out came my 30-year-old bottles of India ink (with caps that needed a good soaking to loosen), pen nibs, nib holders, pencils (4H to 6B), soft-brush pen, hard-nibbed pens (0.3 and 0.5), sketchbook and paper.
Okay, so some of these items were more recent acquisitions, and some I didn’t even use during the workshop. Too busy. Marta introduced us to 10 pen and ink textures; she had us making small tonal studies using whichever texture we fancied, and then we created a complementary decorative border; she had us drawing with sticks (see the accompanying sketch); we laid down ink like watercolour; she had us spraying our paper with water before and after drawing to create sometimes moody, sometimes unpredictable, and sometimes uncannily realistic trees, creatures and faces.
“Open workshop for the next half hour,” Marta would call out as we went back to our spots after a demo. Some of us had brought photos to use as reference material. I spent some time creating spontaneous images that allowed me to stand and move—my preferred method of making marks on paper. But then I buckled down and found a corkscrew to draw. It provided a suitable challenge and prompted me to use a tool I hadn’t really mastered—a soft-brush pen.
By 4pm each of us had a small portfolio of pen and ink drawings using various techniques, all different according to our own styles and interests. Thank you, Marta, for your initiative, generosity and enthusiasm.