Surrealist automatism

This post is a post-conversation post. Peter Bartosh and his friend Louise were discussing potential ways to make art. Louise is planning to do some acrylic paintings.

Some fairly intense and engaging explorations of matters philosophical led Louise to a decision. She would paint neither non-objective abstractions, nor from nature. She would paint from her subconscious.

Peter was surprised to hear that the approach had a name, and many famous devotees. “You mean we didn’t invent it?”, he said.

Now it’s my turn to be surprised. Comedian Billy Connolly, now in his 70s, is producing Surrealist automatist art. I discovered it when casting about for examples.

Full Circle at Emily Harding

Danica and I attended the opening last night.

From the information sheet provided by the Emily Harding Gallery:

Opening November 15, 2018, Full Circle features work artists Robert Downing, Sylvia Singer, and Gord Smith, as well as the ephemera and archival treasures that connect them.

This exhibition pays tribute to three significant artists who, together and as individuals, spent a lifetime to stretch the Canadian perception of art as a practice, beyond the realm of Canadiana landscapes and the type of work that what we often conjure when imagining classic Canadian artists.

Having all participated in Expo 67, as well as in a group exhibition, Mystic Circle, in 1973, Downing, Singer and Smith collaborated and pursued solo careers that span several decades.

Opening like an altarpiece, the top panel of this Gord Smith piece is a mirror reflecting the crosses below.

Above: Overtly religious symbolism is seldom seen in contemporary galleries, unless it is iconoclastic. The Gord Smith piece relates to a long tradition in Western art and defies convention, at the same time.

I have no shots of Singer’s work. I’ll link to the gallery site for those. Up soon, I hope.

Knowing that Sylvia Singer work would be in the show, I searched online for information before the show, but could find nothing. Emily Harding has provided a rare opportunity to see work by a capable artist who died only last year. Singer was producing strong, advanced abstractions through years when female artists had special difficulty getting recognition.

Robert Downing was a pioneer in striving to have digital art accepted as fine art. It seems hard to believe, now that digital tools and works are accepted routinely by museums and public galleries, but in 1994, MS DOS-generated Op Art-ish prints were not given the status they have today.

Report from the trenches

This blog entry will probably hold little interest for anyone else, but it’s an all-consuming topic around our house this week.

We are having ye old cast iron sewer pipe dug out of the basement, to be replaced by ye new plastic pipe. Tree roots clogged the old one and experience says the iron pipes were likely to break anyway, from age.

Conceptually, it’s a simple process. In reality, it’s messy, difficult and costly. Modern detecting devices give some information about what’s under there, but there are always surprises. Bends, oddball connections, maybe some breaks, mixed pipe types.

Here’s a sample of today’s soundtrack …

Our excavation has to go the full length of the house, under the front porch, under the sidewalk and out into the front yard, to reach the city sewer line. Work continues tomorrow and maybe into Thursday.

Indian Horse

Peter Sever recommended this Canadian-indigenous-Hockey movie strongly, so when our local MP said he would be hosting a screening at the Fox Theatre, we signed up.

Danica and I hope to see it Wednesday on the big screen.

For the record, friend Red Bear dislikes (to put it mildly) use of the word “Indian” in reference to Indigenous people. He wasn’t born in India, he notes.

Poppy Day

Poppies are a good symbol, I guess. They mean different things to different people and they fall off easily.

I wear one some years and not others. Mixed feelings, all bad.

When I do wear one, it’s for my friend Frank, now deceased, but once a tank operator in WWII. It was one of many miserable experiences that Frank endured. Shelling made him deaf.

Frank always voted Liberal, disapproved of food banks (charity doing the government’s job) and liked Spinoza.

Century-old doorway

Carlaw Avenue, south of Gerrard, is a street full of creative shops, studios and condo conversions but it used to be a factory district. Some of the history has been preserved.

The practice of “façadism” keeps outer shells intact, while inner cores are completely rebuilt and extended skyward. It helps keeps the street from being all aluminum-and-glass monotonous.

Click to enlarge, if you want to read.

On the west side of Carlaw, the old buildings are still complete, adapted for modern use, but not hollowed out. Artists of every kind occupy spaces within. Unique shops, galleries and cafés are there, too. Rawspace and Snobstuff are a couple I like.

Promises made, promises kept

A popular political boast has inspired our local graffiti guy. In the spirit of getting even, Tokyo may be preparing to run for public office.

This very retaining wall held his campaign promise, “Take One Down, I Put Up Three”. When the city rub-out crew refreshed his canvas, he returned.

Not Tokyo’s finest work, but who says politics and mediocrity can’t mix?

Brushing up on Robert Downing

Here’s Danica, hanging around a Robert Downing (1935-2003) high-relief, concrete wall, under an overhang on the U of T Medical Sciences Building. It dates to the late 1960s, just as you might guess.

We checked it out because Downing is one of 3 artists represented in the Full Circle show and the Emily Harding Gallery. It opens on Thursday and our friend Gord Smith is one of the artists. He and Downing influenced each other and they were friends. Gord holds Downing works in high esteem.

Robert Downing’s symmetrical motif around the corner from the wall

I see that both men were drawn to the artistic possibilities of geometric solids. Smith’s metal works appeal to me more than Downing’s concrete, but Downing worked with colour and other materials, too. The show will be informative.

Organic shapes, also concrete, bulge out of the courtyard pavers adjacent to the wall. They act as a counterpoint to the planes of the block wall.

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