UK critic takes a stab at Milne

Is critical bad-mouthing about art worth reading? Jonathon Jones of the Guardian newspaper makes me ask, after I came across his scorn for Canada’s David Milne. He says Milne’s palette is not bright enough and his art lacks shock value.

It is entertaining to watch Mr Jones rise in animated wrath, verbalizing his feelings about paintings for which he clearly has no feelings. He doesn’t understand or appreciate Milne, and apparently that’s Milne’s fault.

To answer my own question, yes. It is worth reading such opinions. For one thing, it is rare to see anyone get so excited by a painting these days. As people, we are excited by seeing other people get excited. Thus, Jones is good for painting, in general.

It’s also worthwhile to see familiar works in a new light, even if it is a hostile one. Jones does get  me thinking. Is “decorative” a dirty word? It doesn’t seem to have harmed the reputation of Matisse. Are nature’s colours not bright and saturated enough? Is Guernica not “great” because of its greys?

Critics always say more about their own values and perceptions than they do about their subjects. Mr Jones has little time for David Milne, but that’s what is needed to appreciate Milne … time and quiet.

Jones finds Milne’s war art “not very powerful”, utterly missing the profundity of the gaping negative cavities, enormous voids, contrasted with the little buildings of villages that remain. If these are “potholes”, are Hokusai’s waves “splashes”?

Where’s the lid?

Andrew Horne has better pictures on his phone, taken from the Broadview Hotel rooftop restaurant (Happy Anniversary, BTW, Sheelah and Andrew), showing Bombardier Flexity streetcars from above.

Looking at the exposed hardware, we were both surprised to see no roof. Perhaps it’s good for accessibility to mechanics? Not when it snows, though.

Here we go …

Eileen sent this today:

This is a copy of a letter that Carl sent to the editor of the Star Newspaper. We feel very strongly about this position and want to get the message out to as many people as possible. If you agree, please forward to friends and family…..not just in Canada but to those overseas as well.

Marcus Berns and Ethel Shoul at GAS

There was a good turnout and a steady turnover of visitors to the retrospective show this afternoon, at Gerrard Art Space. If my slides emphasize examples of Berns sculpture, that reflects a personal bias toward the art form. Ethel Shoul’s collage-drawing-prints appeal, too, in a different way that’s expressive, narrative and abstract, all at the same time.

Opening slide: Smiles from Danica and Marcus Berns

Connecting the dots … I have been waiting for a while to meet Marcus Berns, having admired his representational piece at GAS for at least a year. Marcus knows sculptors Gord Smith (to whom I was introduced by Joanne Filletti, founder of GAS) and Avron Mintz, who collaborates with Gord on projects. Coincidentally, Marcus is a longtime family friend of our neighbours across the street. We met Lisa on her way to the show. I think her Mom was already there.

To cap the connections, our just-elected MPP was in attendance. Rima Berns-McGowan is the daughter of Marcus Berns.

The show will be up until June 24th. Hours and location, here.

An art day

Later today, Danica and I will be attending the reception at Gerrard Art Space to see a retrospective exhibition of sculptures , drawings and collages by Marcus Berns and Ethel Shoul. I’ll post about that when I have photos.

Meanwhile, here’s a look at my very first Fred Franzen piece. The image area is only about 4″ x 4″. Dry brush on heavy watercolour paper.

It is representative of many, many Franzen works, deftly balanced and seemingly effortless, but drawn from a well of lifelong experience and practice.

Hope for Beach Queen Street

Entrepreneurs running pop-up stores along the Beach Queen Street retail street deserve recognition for their efforts to make the strip interesting again.

It was a blow when Harold Zolte closed his ENDS store last year, after 35 years of clothing Beachers in bargains. Today, we were happy to see Harold’s cluster of stores reoccupied and active. Even the T-shirts are back.

The genial Tibetan gentleman selling from Harold’s old location drew my attention to a T shirt with appropriate words by the Dalai Lama. Beach merchants, Never give up.

Vision Zero

Zero is the number of traffic fatalities envisioned by planners who are trying to remedy Toronto’s worsening transportation problems. Vision Zero is an international movement, so safety ideas come from all over … even Beach Hill.

Yesterday, Danica and I participated in a well-attended, lively roundtable hosted by our local councillor. We used provided maps to communicate our observations. I pointed out places where cyclists on sidewalks are a problem, for example.

Roger Browne, City Traffic Control and Safety Manager, was there to collect our input for the database.

Mystery Bonus: Councillor McMahon will not be running for re-election this year, so who is going to try for the job? One prospect was sitting at our table. He let it slip that he will be announcing his candidacy soon, so I won’t steal his thunder, but Danica and I think he might be good at the job.


One short year ago, once-upon-a-time schoolmate Crawf was visiting us with his wife Ulli. This morning, we received Crawf’s message from their home in Victoria, British Columbia. Ulli has died after years of treatment for cancer that proved fatal in her 71st year.

Dear friends Crawf and Ulli, with Danica in the middle. Toronto, June, 2017

There is nothing to say, except that we admire the way Ulli handled her illness, with such grace, courage and consideration for her loved ones and her caregivers. There is nothing to say, except that we are deeply moved by the way Crawf stepped up to provide support, not just for Ulli, but for all of us … the many, many of us … who were part of Ulli’s journey.

There is nothing to say, but there are words. Gracious, elegant, intelligent, creative, principled, stylish, serious and light-hearted. Goodbye, Ulli. We love you.