Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Japanese sun goddess, Amaterasus, and her followers arising from her cave on the Winter Solstice. The date is 1857. Utagawa Toyoumi was the artist

Thanks to Judith Copithorne for this.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Favourite Quotes

"In art, the prime history-makers are painters and sculptors. As indicated earlier , there are writers and cultural commissars who wish to appropriate this privilege of the artist and to use him as an instrument for their own art-history-making. The result is a new kind of conflict - between the artist and the professional representatives of his public.

Art criticism today is beset by art historians turned inside out to function as prophets of so-called inevitable trends. A determinism similar to that projected into the evolution of past styles is clamped upon art in the making. In this parody of art history, value judgments are deduced from a presumed logic of development, and an ultimatum is issued to artists either to accommodate themselves to these values or be banned from the art of the future. An aesthetician founded on art history wields a club of dogma similar to moralistic criticism in the nineteenth century or political criticism in the Soviet Union.

At Documenta 5, the crossing of boundaries was carried out by a team of curators and art historians instead of by artists - a significant take-over, in that a curator is likely to lack the imaginative and emotional limits of an artist and to go as far as reason will allow.

Dead art movements are the normal life of art; all that can be expected of them is good painting. In regard to creation there is nothing to indicate that a new art movement has any advantage over an obsolete one; the contrary may well be the case.

After 1972 anyone could be an artist, except, perhaps, painters and sculptors.

The aim of every authentic artist is not to conform to the history of art, but to release himself from it in order to replace it with his own history.
Harold Rosenberg
(From Criticism and its Premises)

Rosenberg on Museums and their
Acquisition Policies:
: "Moreover, its new position of power led the museum to develop its own version of bureaucratic corruption: favoritism in buying and showing, falsification of recent art history, using museum prestige to enhance investments by trustees, secret deals in the acquisition and sale of museum properties."

Geoff Olson, Vancouver Courier

"Curators and critics of the late 20th century have dominated the visual arts - intimidating, contaminating and corrupting artists who want to play the game and ignoring and deprecating those who won't. Beauty has become an ugly word. In the process the public has become alienated by effete, elitist, theoretical, and academic versions of what art should be. Meanwhile the best artists starve while the curators and academics get fat and advance their own careers."
Edwin Varney (From Preview Magazine, Feb./March,1998)

"We are told to accept non-art as art because our obsessively democratic culture is too craven to acknowledge that artistic standards should exist. Art is whatever an artist says it is, whether that be a Renaissance fresco or hasenpfeffer al fresco. Anyone who dares challenge this nihilistic dogma is anathematized as élitist, yet art is inherently an élitist enterprise.

I recognize that artists must seek new means of expression to remain vibrant and relevant, and that censoring bad art will only make matters worse, but the bar of what is classified as art has been lowered so much that anything, no matter how moving or mindless, is treated equally. The fault lies less with these "artists" than with the politically motivated ignoramuses who allow such work to be funded."
Greg Felton
(from the Courier,Vancouver, October 10, 1999)

"The buying and selling of art is nothing more than organized robbery."
-Vincent Van Gogh

"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."
- William Baziotes (From The Artist and His Mirror)

"I think literature has only done harm to art."
-Edgar Degas

"The exhibition is all doomy and deathly and obscure. It's not for normal people. It's for the art world....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 Bourgois type show. Long faces all round."
Matthew Collings, From a review of the Rites of Passage exhibition at the Tate Gallery, London Modern Painters, Autumn, 1995

...mathematics, trigonometry, chemistry, psychoanalysis, music and whatnot, have been related to Cubism to give it an easier interpretation. All this has been pure literature, not to say nonsense,which brought bad results, blinding people with theories." -Pablo Picasso
Quoted by Herbert Read

"Renoir once said to me: They think we are nothing but makers of theories - we whose only object, like the old masters, is to paint with clear and joyous colours. These literary people will never understand that painting is first of all a craft, that the material side of it comes first. -Pierre-August Renoir (Statement made by Cezanne, as quoted to Ambroise Vollard)."
-Pierre-August Renoir

Criticism moves in a false direction, as does art, when it aspires to be a social science. - Robert Motherwell (from a 1944 lecture)

I am an old man now. In sixty years you can do a lot of work. I did a lot of things in sixty years, my paintings, my photography, my objects. I change all the time. I have periods were I do one thing, then for a few years do something else.

I am a free man. I do not work for a padrone, or a boss. I am indifferent to things that do not interest me. But never would I attack them. Especially in the creative arts. Because I say anybody who does creative art is a sacred person. I do not care what he does. Whether he paints academic pictures, or he is modern, or different from anything else. He cannot do any harm. Whereas a bad politician, or a bad doctor, or a bad cook can kill you!"
-Man Ray From The American Masters Documentary Film

"The elaboration of the term ‘post-modern’ is not due to real change but is due to naked fashion and the need to cover it with words.
Donald Judd (from an essay in Art in America, 1984)

A woman artist needs feminism like a hole in the head.
-Bridget Riley

"The transavantgarde means nothing to me, signifies nothing, just as neo-expressionism
signifies nothing." Sandro Chia (Flash Art, Trevi, Italy)

"Thaw appears to be a typical rich American Europhile, whose collecting taste has an undertow of fierce disillusion with the modern world. I know this because the catalogue features a marvelously haughty interview in which he frequently interrupts his own display of high connoisseurship to take a pop at modern life. "In a period of declining standards, its staff has maintained the old ways of scholarship, and I believe in that," says Thaw of the Morgan Library. "In the current age people are looking forward to museums with nothing in them except television monitors where you can dial the Louvre and get some kind of holograph," he opines, casually, of the electronic revolution. - Waldemar Januszczak ,London Sunday Times

"Because museum, arts councils, art service organizations, and even some artists are subsidized, their reasons for negotiating/dealing with each other are often difficult to divine. In his chapter on art museums, a fictitious cultural worker admits: I don't know for sure what I'm supposed to be doing and if I did I would have no way of being sure I was doing it -- but I would like to go on doing what I'm doing, whatever that is, and I ask you to give me the money I need to do it."
- Dr. W. Grampp Prof. of Economics at the U. of Chicago
from Pricing the Priceless (1989).

"Today it is a fact that the art market has placed itself almost to a man under the flag of a dominant ideology…. American Minimal Art, and its paler European imitations, only accord favour to painting which is only painting, that is to say that which forbids any modulation, vibration, emotion, form, any manifestation of the sensitive and even more of the unconscious and of myth. This admirable conjugation of puritan iconoclasm, of neo-positivist empiricism and of Wall Street is sometimes - like the olive in a dry martini- accompanied by a pinch of Maoist ideology."
-José Pierre, Author, historian and assistant to André, Breton from his book, Surrealism, 1979

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Ron Stonier Exhibition

The current exhibition of the late Ron Stonier's work at the Trench Gallery in Vancouver was an opportunity to view some rarely seen works by a master painter.

In 1965 I took a summer painting session at the old Vancouver School of Art.
Ron was the teacher and quickly gave me exposure to the visceral realities of paint.

That is what Stonier did so well and he knew how to convey this knowledge without being pedantic. He was a natural artist.

Apart from exploring the nature of the materials he used, Ron Stonier possessed an acutely tuned colour sense that Matisse would have appreciated. His use of colour was also deeply rooted in Abstract Expressionism and in the influence of Hans Hoffman, whose push-pull theory continued Cezanne's idea of conveying space through the use of advancing and receding colours.

In fact there is also a bit of the School of Paris in Stonier's oeuvre, in works like Cardboard-12 from 1963 (below.

This is an art of its time yet it stands up very well in the light of today. Its freshness is only enhanced by being out of sight for so many decades. The hard edge paintings of the 60's are another example of being in tune with the times but not letting style dictate content. Colour is still his forte in these works which glow with an almost neon intensity.

His abstractions also include tachist works with their heavy impasto and abstract expressionist series with gestural brushwork, while in his wonderful line drawings we see that the figure is never far from the surface in his work. The direct and spontaneous lines in the drawings bring us close to the realm of the surreal, which has always had a figurative basis. Stonier was not confined by any one style and ranged freely among the tendencies of Modern Art.

We so rarely get to see first rate abstract painting like this in Vancouver that any students in the system today who want to buck the academic trends in 'contemporary art' and see what good painting is all about, should go and see this exhibition.

Ron Stonier at the Trench Gallery,
148 Alexander St. Vancouver, BC.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Momentum: 25 Artists From Past to Present

MOMENTUM: 25 artists / from Past to Present

When: February 2 - 27, 2010
Where: Leighdon Studio Gallery
190 W. 3rd Ave. Vancouver, BC

Reception: Sunday, February 7th, from 2 – 5 pm

This exhibition features two works by each artist - one recent, and one from
before 1990. This is a group of established artists who have continued to follow their vision and have expanded their creativity over many decades. This is a rare opportunity to see a comprehensive overview of art created on the West Coast
of British Columbia

The exhibition is offered by the Coast Art Trust Society, which has the mandate of assembling historical and contemporary art by artists who have been active in British Columbia for the last 30-50 years.

The exhibiting artists are:
Donna Balma, Joan Balzar, Anna Banana, Mary Blaze, Susanna Blunt, Ross Bollerup, Audrey Capel Doray, James W. Felter , Stephen Gibbons-Barrett, Pnina Granirer, Sherrard Grauer, John Haig, Jeannie Kamins, John Koerner, Jeanne Krabbendam, Leo Labelle, Sally Michener, Marilyn S. Mylrea, Kal Opré, Sharon Perkins, Friedrich Peter, Henri Robideau, Gregg Simpson, Bob Steele