Note: This is not a formal critique. I have some art training, but do not consider myself an art critic. Nor do I have any interest in becoming one. This is strictly an informal report on what I saw and what I thought.
As this is the first of these articles I’m writing, it behooves me to (quickly) explain that I did very little in the way of photojournalism, because I was already feeling self-conscious enough about muttering inane comments into my digital dictaphone. Therefore, to appease those who wish to see something, here’s a picture of me with my blue sweater, badly-made HCC pin (next month’s will be far superior), and the tools of my trade:
As you can see, I look just odd enough to draw concerned looks and questions from patrons, so I try not to make too much of a nuisance of myself, despite my muttering.
Now, let’s go see if my recordings are coherent…
…Hmmn… so much ambient noise and chatter in the background that I can’t easily erase might have to wing this one and start muttering louder in future episodes.
Okay, so, as I recall, I started viewing art at the Focus Gallery on James, because it’s the first open gallery I found upon turning onto James from King. The artists were photographer Hollander Maui and landscape painter Fred Franzen.
I was introduced to both (once again by Tracee Lee-Holloway), and was surprised to learn that Hollander was also something of an inventor. Hollander (whose nickname I’ve forgotten, sorry), uses a process of printing diffused photographs that give his compositions an almost impressionistic feel. One particularly vivid piece with autumnal colours really stood out for me, but sadly, the title escapes my recollection (it’s in my mumbled recording). If you get a chance to see his work, I’m sure you won’t get it confused with any of the others; it really was remarkably strong with reds and golds and browns, almost like Jackson Pollock painting after applying Gaussian Blur.
Fred proved to be a charming and approachable gentleman who took time to play with an infant boy that was visiting the gallery with his parents. He also took time to talk to me at length about some of his pieces, including one IIRC was called ‘View From Margo’s House’. It is a seascape in heavy matted hues of cool greens and blues on wood panel, with sections of embossed paint as if done using emulsion inks over some sort of bubbled paste. I didn’t grill him too much over his technique, and it surprised me that the piece grabbed my attention so much, because it looked so very little like the sort of thing that would normally grab my focus. Very interesting, almost naive painting style. Very relaxing and yet personal without being so specific as to lose its audience.
After this, I left Tracee and headed out into the rain to make my way to CBC Hamilton in the Lister Block building, where paintings done by artists with mental health issues were on display. I remember seeing a few pieces by one landscape artist that really caught my eye. Sadly, I’ve lost his name (I suck). The artwork was somewhat brash and stylized, but without the sort of polish that might have rendered his art pastiche. The other artists on display were charming, but felt a little underdeveloped, so I don’t believe I made many comments about them; I may have forgotten one or two pieces by the other artists that appealed; again, it’s on my recording.
I slipped next door to The Annex, where I was happy to learn there were a number of pieces on display by several artists. These pieces are of course selected in part for their pleasing colours and compositions, as the Annex specializes in selling art and artisan furniture for the home. I seem to recall one woman’s abstract pieces catching my eye, but sadly, her name too is locked in my inaudible recording. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant surprise to find so many pieces on display there; previous ArtCrawl visits have had few exhibited pieces on display, and my past experience with the Annex when it was still in the AGH was that they have a catalogue of paintings from a number of local artists. I hope they continue this trend of sharing their catalogued pieces at future ArtCrawls.
I can’t recall if I had an opportunity to visit B Contemporary, as I don’t have any literature from that gallery. I do recall walking down that far, but I was pretty drenched by that point, and may have simply been a bit miserable and failed to notice if it was open or not.
I DID remember to visit the Urban Arts Initiative, where I spoke with Erika Morton for a bit, before visiting Studio 12 upstairs to look over a some fine art photography. I failed to visit Melanie Gillis’ studio, but I’ve promised myself to visit her in June if she’s open.
I fought torrential downpours (sans umbrella) to visit Barbara Cooper at the Hamilton Hotel studio, where I got to see two of her latest pieces, larger scale abstracts that seem to be challenging her (in a good way) to step outside of her comfort zone and work in larger scale. I’m eager to see how the larger of the two turns out, as it was unfinished, and looked like it was developing into something quite powerful.
I also visited Lester Coloma’s studio across the hall, where a few nice pieces were on display, but he looked as if he had either sold off or moved some of his more flamboyant pieces of the last year that I was hoping to see once more. Hopefully next time, something in his studio will catch my eye, as he really is a fine large scale artist.
I saw a room full of art by various artists, and came away with a strong impression of the portraits of Owen Masters and Helen Griffiths.
I saw the Road Sign Project series at Centre3. Very amusing, and I later was one of the pieces in person when I headed down King William, but more on that later.
I stopped into the new Julia Veenstra gallery, which she had opened up for a sneak preview of her grand opening this June 13th/14th. I saw a number of very impressive abstract nature paintings, including one canvas several feet square, which she insisted wasn’t done yet (too much red base coat showing). I may have irritated her slightly (sorry, Julia), but if that was unfinished, it’s going to be amazing when she puts the finishing touches on it.
I also popped in to the gallery next door to the space formerly occupied as the satellite showing for the Tiger Group, where Rick Cook’s work was on display. Seeing so much of his art in one place, you can really appreciate the continuing development of his conceptual nudes and portraits.
I did stop in to visit with David at Mixed Media, but the store was pleasingly packed, so I didn’t chat with him for long.
Finally, I elected not to walk through the rain to visit the Tiger Group proper, even though I really was hoping to speak with Eric Ranveau or Leslie Cordero, two artists I’m terribly fond of.
Instead, I made my soggy way to MANTA Gallery on King William and viewed the adaptive art of two artists who both have different takes on repurposing old still life and landscape paintings and adding interesting iconic/ironic imagery to make various statements. I wish I could say one or two pieces stuck out for me, but by this point in the evening, I just wanted to get home and dry off, so I waved to the preoccupied Stephen Seguin and headed home.
I stopped briefly on my way up King Street to take a short clip of the just-opened clothing store, ‘girl on the wing’, which was packed and looked for all the world like another art opening. I wish them well.
I plan to follow this article up with another review series, this time outlining the art I saw at Hamilton Artists Inc this past Saturday at the Art Sale/Auction/Fundrasier. That will probably have to wait until tomorrow. To all of the artists whose art I failed to mention or name, I apologize; I’ll try to get these little hiccups worked out before the next ArtCrawl. Thank you for reading.