Getting ready for Myths and Confetti that opens on Dec 2 at the Rotunda Gallery in Kitchener Waterloo.
Getting ready for Myths and Confetti that opens on Dec 2 at the Rotunda Gallery in Kitchener Waterloo.
How do you know when a painting is done? Some artists have a very concrete vision from the onset, others like myself propose visual problems and then try to solve them. I obliterate most of what I do only leaving faint traces. The ghosts of paintings past. Mapping the creative process is an engaging endeavor ripe with insight and regret. What if you push it too far and it all falls apart? What if you destroy the superior image? Artists have been painting over their own images since the beginning. Some for simple economic reasons and others for the constant desire to do better. Making art is a never ending action. The solution to one composition is the problem to solve for your next. Sometimes you end up nowhere near from where you started.
The rolling mountains and bamboo thatched roofs of Northern Vietnam informed this one.
Another painting from the residency. This is a bit of a departure for me; as I am starting to incorporate the landscape in a more direct and literal fashion.
Another image from my trip. This one is inspired by the power lines in Thailand. If you’ve ever been there, you know they’re simply mad, but strangely beautiful. I also included a pattern I found in their Temple of the Golden Buddha. Power comes in many forms.
It’s been a little quiet around here this summer. I was away for a month, where my wife and I had the extreme pleasure in participating in an Artist in Residence program at the Muong Cultural Center near Hoa Binh in northern Vietnam. We were there for a week and then spent another 3 exploring that brilliant country. Here’s one of the works I made with my time there.
Summer is the perfect time to re-watch a classic, here’s a repost to wet your appetite.
I believe Martin Scorsese’s GoodFellas may be as close to perfect as a movie gets. It’s got a compelling arc based on a true story, brilliant performances, fantastic soundtrack, style for days, and of course this little piece of outsider art. The painting itself is based on a photo that appeared in a 1978 issue of National Geographic and was painted by the mother of the author of Wise Guy: Nicholas Pileggi. Wise Guy is the story of Henry Hill’s life in the mob and the basis for GoodFellas. The painting itself has no real bearing on the plot of the movie, but rather plays a delightful role in an impromptu meal during the wee hours of the night; between a boy, his friends and his mother. Scorsese masterfully juxtaposes the sweet tender caring of an elderly mother (played by his own mother) with the ruthless cold-hearted apathy of a group of killers whose next victim is locked in the trunk of their car. Scorsese says the scene was mostly improvised with the only line written in the script being: –mother shows the ‘dog’ painting.
A painting that had a much more significant role in a film would have to be the double-sided Kandinsky that appears in Six Degrees of Separation. In real life Kandinsky never painted a double-sided work. The filmmakers combined existing works from two of his radically different styles to illustrate the fine line between chaos and control. The painting symbolizes the fleeting grasp the central characters have on the story of their lives. A young grifter cons his way into the lavish lives of an affluent couple on the Upper East Side. By the end of the film, it is a blur as to who is using who: the grifter getting a taste of the sweet life or the couple endlessly milking their “near death” anecdote that makes them the life of the party.
The Upper East Side is also the location for an art collection of truly epic television proportions. Gossip Girl finally ended its’ six season run last year; closing the elevator door on the lives of some truly two dimensional characters. If you are wondering why Gossip Girl is included here? The answer is that the producers had wonderful taste: in music, ridiculous plot-lines that went nowhere and surprisingly enough -art. Multiple paintings by Richard Phillips could be found along with this little gem. Prada Marfa refers to the small roadside replica Prada store created by artists Elmgreen and Dragset sixty miles outside of Marfa Texas. Another reason this show should be included in a post with GoodFellas: Dorota. Who else could be the maid for both Blair Waldorf and Tony Soprano?
Badroute is the name of this painting by Miguel Calderon. It is owned by Wes Anderson and appears in his film The Royal Tenenbaums. I am a fan of Anderson and believe this to be his best picture. It was co-written with Owen Wilson and stars Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston and Bill Murray. The premise: all grown-up child prodigies once again find themselves under the same roof trying to come to grips with their eccentric family dynamics.
To say Elwood P Dowd is eccentric would be a little bit of an understatement. Elwood has an unusual friend; a six foot invisible rabbit named Harvey. Jimmy Stewart plays a wonderful drunk who sees the world through rose coloured glasses with the help of his friend. Harvey is meant to be a pooka or a mischievous spirit from Celtic folklore. The only time we get to see what Harvey looks like is when Elwood brings home this painting. The image is fantastic and so is the movie.
A movie that is a real secret gem is David Salle’s Search and Destroy. The film was produced by Martin Scorsese and stars Christopher Walken, John Turturro, Illena Douglas, Ethan Hawke and Dennis Hopper. A failed businessman has plans for turning a self-help book into a movie. Trying to secure his finances turns into more than he bargains for. David Salle was known predominantly as a painter and his painterly style is reflected throughout the film. A wonderful example of this is the Alex Katz that hangs in Christopher Walken’s office.
I tried to focus on paintings that were unique to these individual films and show. Sorry no Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte from Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. At the end of the day, this would be a gallery show I’d like to go see.
Summer for me is the time to sit back with a good book, here’s a repost to wet your appetite.
Every decision that Baz Lurhmann made in turning F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book The Great Gatsby into a motion picture was the right one. Right, but not necessarily good. The problem with making this film is; the source material is a fundamentally flawed piece of writing that has had more greatness foisted upon it than are hidden in its pages. Don’t get me wrong, the first time I read the novel I enjoyed the world of West Egg sure enough, and having just seen the film I still enjoy it but……….. let the spoilers begin.
The world that Fitzgerald created is one of longing rather than one of condemnation. Many words have been devoted to the corruption of the American Dream and the marginalization of the valley of ashes all under the guise of an apathetic blind God … yadda yadda yadda. If that was truly Fitzgerald’s intention, than it kind of makes him a hypocrite. Fitzgerald in real life wasn’t adverse to tipping a few back and seeing where the night would take him. He surrounded himself with eccentric and interesting people who came together in one of the most decadent scenes in human history: Paris in the twenties. He didn’t stay at the party for a brief moment but rather checked out seven years later. Fitzgerald drank the Kool-Aid and then handed it to Baz. It’s the spectacle that the movie uses for its armature to hang everything around and I don’t believe this would have offended Fitzgerald in the least.
Say what you will about the American Dream; a theme that works for me is that there is nothing more exhilarating than arriving at a good party already at full steam and nothing more depressing than staying a little too long and watching the steam slowly escape. ‘The sweet life’ always ends with the party goers standing on a beach starring at an enormous dead fish. You can never recapture that initial high and if you try you will always be disappointed. Chasing the dragon is a fruitless endeavor and in Gatsby’s case his dragon is Daisy(Carey Mulligan).
The movie shifts gears from the book with its portrayal of Daisy and her relationship with Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). The love story never really translates in the book. Everything Gatsby does is for her but you never can reason why. She’s like that girl in those Twilight books: an extremely two dimensional character that the people around her are willing to move mountains for. Why exactly? Well Hollywood tried to answer that question by amping up the love story and turning Daisy into a more sympathetic character. This is all about dollars and cents; no one would go see a movie where you don’t care if the guy gets the girl. Baz knows where his bread is buttered. This leaves you with the feeling that The Great Gatsby is no longer a book or even a movie but rather an industry. It is a pop culture artifact engineered to sell fashion, sell a soundtrack, be a star vehicle, sell a technology (the first thing I thought of when I heard Gatsby was 3D!) and most importantly make money. Take that: corruption of the American Dream, pass the Kool-Aid. It feels like a movie made by a committee. You can hear the pitch meeting in every frame. It’s too bad too, I loved the style of Strictly Ballroom and didn’t even mind the Jay-Z soundtrack but I felt like I was constantly being sold something. Sad thing is, I got the same feeling when I read the book; Fitzgerald was trying to sell the idea that he was a more important writer than he was.
The book has some wonderful imagery and symbolism but feels a little inconsistent overall. The movie is more consistent but tends to spell everything out and goes a little overboard on the symbolism, especially that of the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. It seems the film can’t go twenty minutes without checking in on how the green light is doing. I predict college kids will eventually turn this into a drinking game. The Great Gatsby is told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator: Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). He goes along with everything that people put in front of him and then at the last minute is indignant at the results. The film doesn’t even touch upon his relationship with Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki) with very little consequence. It is theorized that Nick represented one side of Fitzgerald’s personality while Gatsby represented another.
“Who is this Gatsby?” This is supposed to be the big mystery that never really is a mystery in neither the book nor the movie. Having said that,I have to admit Leonardo’s reveal would be my favourite part of the film. Baz nailed it; it was so over the top it was kind of awesome. Close-up, champagne glass, smug expression, Rhapsody in Blue playing in the background and epic fireworks all added up to one of the most perfect/hilarious entrances for any character anywhere. Gatsby: ‘the poor son of a b*tch’ (a line conspicuously absent from the film) becomes more of a tragic character in Baz’s hands than Fitzgerald’s, along with the rest of Generation Egg. We are intoxicated by their decadence and apathetic to their plight.
Both the book and the movie are unabashed constructions of their times and this is where in their greatness lies, but just like the green light off in the distance we never quite get there. ‘Pass the Kool-Aid old sport’.