Sunday, November 22, 2015

Regarding the new book and Facebook Community, Vancouver Vanishes, I have to say it reminds me of the Modernist heritage battle I was part of in the early 1990's over the fate of the Main Branch Library, a silver Governor General's award winning building designed by Semmens and Simpson in 1957.

It's not that different an issue in the sense that the old character homes being leveled for the uber rich are the victims of the same old gang: greedy developers, super wealthy buyers who care nothing for Vancouver's history and may not even live in these giant houses, plus weasel politicians who dance to their tune.

Like Caroline Adderson, co-author of  both the book, Vancouver Vanishes and the Facebook Community of the same name, I believe whether it's character homes from the early 20th Century or the mid-century West Coast Modernism of my father's generation, we need a collective roar of disapproval from Vancouver's caring citizens.

This never came in the Library issue because at that time Modernism was the enemy. One wag wrote to the Georgia Straight calling that building "evil, phallic Modernism", despite the actual shape of the place. I blame many academics for fostering this ignorant attitude by systematically, and with the apparent blessing of so-called Post Modernist critics, laying at the feet of this movement all the ills of western society.

Doubtless they would say these early houses now being destroyed are relics of colonial and eurocentric thinking and are better off gone. Like the architect of the new library, Moshe Safdie, who called the attempts to save the old library nothing but sentimentality, we are again being over run by a cabal who cares nothing for Vancouver  history, short as it is, who will remind us that, like the old Main Branch VPL, these structures are not worth saving. 

I urge everyone to write Vancouver City Council and join with Caroline in her efforts to save our heritage:

Monday, July 13, 2015

Let in the Infinite?
Text by Paul McRandle
Collages by Gregg Simpson

Let in the infinite? What a racket it makes tumbling from the closet like a host of clown-shaped sponges rising in a water jug. The infinite is a porpoise trained by the CIA to attach listening devices and strange boring mechanisms that harvest the words onboard along with every noise—forever. So there isn’t to be more said than what might occur in the hull of a Russian trawler. 

I’m sitting on shore sucking a lozenge, pondering the shapes in the waves, the shadows of the surf, rocks, subtle things fleeing out to the horizon. It’s my way of garnering some bit of the world in this hideous present. The sea is a vast personality. A twisting, confused melange of impulses at war with itself and the world on every scale—diatoms having it out with flagella, carcids rising from sandy pits to pinch off angelfish fins, mankind scouting about above like children rubbing their butts against asphalt, dragging their deep-weighted prisons.

 It’s a numberless volume of death, energy, chaos, night, and we can do little more than watch its light from the shoreline flashing up towards the infinite from the skin of that denser infinite beneath.

A Phony War
Text by Paul McRandle
Collages by Gregg Simpson

 A phony war plagued the Balkans for the off-seasons of three consecutive decades. Generals babbled on television screens to the populace about necessary sacrifices to avoid the devastating consequences of an unjust peace. For Shlomo, it was a weary day when he finally had to pack up his family and move to a place in which he might be able to read a newspaper without unattributed sources speculating on the necessity of continued attacks. He found a roadster with a roof rack and attached a wide trailer to a new hitch.

With these he was able to pack a lifetime’s collection of pewter figurines, ewers, world atlases, and a range of pot plants from the exquisitely hued to the shockingly poisonous. His children rode in the trailer, playing cards on an old canasta table and inviting passersby to gamble with them. His wife drove and he consulted atlases at random to lead them across the continents in search of an intelligible realm. 

The passage over the Rhine into Austria involved acts of bribery he would have shunned in previous days. The guards were the usual sadists and Shlomo’s display of tears and hat-wringing, an act he’d practiced before in dealing with this border, proved insufficiently degrading.

 He was asked to unhitch the trailer and de-articulate the transmission of his roadster to demonstrate neither contained a bomb. When that had been done, they impounded the roadster anyway and Shlomo understood that it was the only bargaining chip he had. He left pulling the trailer, a roadster short, while wife and kids alternately heckled him and played canasta. 

What kind of a life had he let himself in for? He took counsel on occasion from his wise namesake, but as he trod the bitter miles he found himself increasingly bereft of uplift. He never had these kinds of problems. What kind of advice could a guy like him give a Balkan refugee? Shlomo shuddered on, feet plunging into the muck of the road until he’d sunk to the shins and then the knees.

He urged his family to climb out and help him, but they rigged a sail and set off across the mire sea without him, waving and wishing him well as they dwindled in the distance. 

He was truly encased, couldn’t move a toe, and felt vermin crawling about his calves. With some internal tugging, however he found that very gradually he could slough off his external husk, pulling himself up through aged skin and disposable organs until he managed to climb out his own mouth—happily he didn’t get turned around—and land with a splash naked on the ground. 

His new form had pleasing adaptations. He possessed a large and daunting third ear in the middle of his back and his eyes could be removed and relocated to sockets scattered across his body. He possessed a spare brain in a bucket, which would do him some good so long as he held onto it. His feet had long growths jutting forward from the toes like two ski-tips, allowing him to glide across the muck with grace. This wasn’t the body he wanted, but it wasn’t the world he wanted either. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


Exhibition: UBC Fine Arts Gallery 1971

bill bissett, Christos Dikeakos, Gilles Foisy, Gary Lee Nova
Al Neil, Terry Reid, Gregg Simpson, Ed Varney, davis uu, Jeff Wall, Ian Wallace,
Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov.

Review by Richard Simmins in the Vancouver Sun

A little known fact about today's so-called Vancouver School of photo-based conceptualism is that the original exhibition at UBC, which used this term first, also included several other artists who were not part of any academic coterie. This was a time when the battle lines hadn't yet been drawn between the different groups in Vancouver's developing avant garde art scene, which led Vancouver Province reviewer,
Joan Lowndes, to write: "As though through some time-warp surrealism has returned, along with alchemical visions, pop, eroticism, political satire and protest in the free-wheeling spirit of the West Coast".

What is amazing is that five of the six artists in the Canadian West Coast Hermetics exhibition, which was also launched from the UBC Fine Arts Gallery to tour Europe and eastern Canada in 1973-'74, were also in this show. However, following the mid-1970's the photo-conceptualists in this exhibition began an un-precedented, but well documented, collusion with the Vancouver Art Gallery to promote the idea that theirs was the only artistic movement that Vancouver would be known for. Protests over this were met with threats of defamation lawsuits.

With a dismissive attitude, they advocated exluding all traces of West Coast Surrealism from not only the VAG' s collection, but any further exhibitions, discussions, historical surveys, or publications at the gallery in the future. Serious critical  attention did keep coming for the surrealists in the exhibition, but it was almost all from Ontario, or Quebec, and even more so from Europe and Latin America.

Thus the "free-wheeling spirit of the West Coast" demonstrated in this exhibition in 1971 was buried in the mid-1970's by an unprecedented cronyism, characterised by a desire to keep out any other group of artists with a different philosophy from the inner circle of the Vancouver art scene. 
The main point is that by using a publically funded gallery for the sole advancement of their own careers, the so-called Vancouver School of today made a once open minded public gallery into their private club with no inclination to return to the 'free wheeling spirit of the West Coast."

One can only surmise what things would have been like if fairness and objectivity had prevailed instead.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I can recommend the Rouges-en-Verts Atelier and Gallery as a great place to get some serious painting done. During April and May of 2013 I produced fifteen canvases and numerous works on paper. Art Materials are available in nearby Alencon, or at the Bricollage in l'Aigle, where you can catch a train to Paris.

The series is called Perche Mode and it reflects the light of this beautiful region of Normandy.

The studio where I completed a group of work begun in 2012 and the spacious gallery where
I exhibited both paintings and works on paper from 2008-2013.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The exhibition is all doomy and deathly and obscure. It's not for normal people. It's for the artworld. ...Usually I flit amongst the artists who do the more jokey and ironic type of exhibition... But this one doesn't beat around the bush with japes and cleverness and banality, like Jeff Koons, but just goes straight for death and the body and sickness and millennial fears. Probably to normal people the smirky art and the death art are all the same old onions, and, if so, I kind of know what they mean. But anyway King Death is Joseph Beuys and Queen Death is Louise Bourgeois. King Smirky is Jeff Koons and Prince Smirky is Damien Hirst. So this is definitely a Beuys and Bourgeois type show. Long faces all round. -Matthew Collings from Art of the Moment (Modern Painters, Autumn, 1995) From a review of the Rites of Passage exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Duchamp's Uninformed Followers

God Protect me From Duchamp's Followers To paraphrase the above saying by Oscar Wilde's seems appropriate when we reflect on why Marcel Duchamp refused to be considered as the godfather of Pop Art, Neo-Dada, happenings, etc. He actually called Pop Art "Pup Art" and is on the record saying that none of this should be assigned to his influence, or to Dada. I have thought about this since reading these quotes by Duchamp back in the late 1960's and finally realized what he meant. The Dadaists did their protest as artists and writers who, because of War I and other horrors of the early 20th Century, turned fine art into low art. Duchamp's LHOOQ re-working of the Mona Lisa is a prime example. Fine art into low brow culture as a protest. However, his self-declared progeny from Warhol to all the grant-supported conceptualists of today, the loyal opposition to the fine art system, are doing the exact opposite. They are trying to turn popular culture, advertising logos and so on into fine art, which they can sell to museums and collectors. It's the exact opposite of what Duchamp and his colleagues were doing in their time. Also the ban placed on painting in the decades since his death wouldn't totally please him. His supposed disdain for painting is clarified by what he told André Derain after WW I. He told him he stopped painting because he had run out of ideas. He thought that the world had enough decorative paintings and was holding out for something new. But at the same time he was best friends with the major painters of the Surrealist Movement and helped design their exhibitions through the decades along with André Breton. Amy Ernst, the granddaughter of the great German artist Max Ernst, told me that Max, Duchamp and Picasso played chess by mail for twenty-five years. What would all the 'socially engaged' artists who conform to the rules of today's institutionalized subversion say about this? Here is the arch-fiend of all things politically incorrect, Pablo Picasso, actually right there on good terms with the figurehead of the 'ban painting' movement of today. There's Max Ernst right beside him too. He was also against formalist painting that was mainly about paint surfaces and not the poetic imagination that Breton called for. But surely Duchamp could be counted on by today's post-structural theorists to side with Man Ray, his oldest friend and back up this false, anti-painting lineage. Man Ray in fact is on the record saying that his paintings were his main contribution, that photography was mainly a way he made money in the 1920's and '30's. His technical discoveries, fascinating as they may have been then, like photograms, were also done by Moholy Nagy and others and 'solarization' was at least partly discovered by Lee Miller. So as the academies churn out classes full of Duchamp devotees waiting for a grant to pile stuff around the floor in homage to him, might do well to consider where Duchamp's true sympathies lay.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

William Baziotes

From The Artist and His Mirror:

"When the demagogues of art call on you to make the good art, the intelligible art, the social art, spit down on them and go back to your dreams, your mirror and the World."