Why I Hate The Suburbs [7 new paintings]

See the online exhibit here.

The future is more of the same.
Absurdity only takes one generation to be normalized.

////R//////////////R////////////////////////R///// These are large scale works derived from a series of studio paintings //////////////////////R//////////////////////////

These paintings, for me, embody industrial repetition through the aid of machines. They are endless mazes, not a labyrinth leading to truth. The sun now never sets on Hardt and Negri’s Empire; sprawl is power and environmental catastrophe is ownership.

 

Carnival – an exhibit of black and white street photography

inviteCHMay2015V2My first solo photography show opens this week in Ajijic, Mexico. I was lucky enough to be here for this historic village’s version of Mardi Gras.

Compositions exploring the dynamics of crowds in public spaces, centered on ceremony, has been an emerging interest for me. Formal issues relating to classical works, the sociological gaze within a post-colonial framework (in particular D.H. Lawrence’s problematic and revealing Mornings in Mexico) as well as critical interest of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Carnivalesque theories are reflected in this narrative.

If you happen to be in the mountains just south of Guadalajara stop on in and say hi.

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[This is the first online exhibit of 2014] “How to become an abstract painter”

Welcome and congratulations on wanting to improve yourself.

All you need to start is a pre-existing figurative oil painting (can be substituted for acrylic – consult your Doctor) with an impasto flare to it. It should have at least one area that wants to leave the confines of the canvas.

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I used a still life painting of fruit that I did in 1994. At the time I was living in Montreal and going through chemotherapy. There were over 15,000 empty apartments in Montreal, so I was able to live in a loft in the old port even though I was a student. I lived beside a hydro facility with lots of wires and conductors. I took so long to do the painting that the fruit dried up and a wasp flew in through the open window and worried me.

Step 1: Preparing your Palette 

Try to use a painting with at least as interesting a backstory to it and follow the video tutorial below before proceeding to Step 2.

Step 2: The Basics

Are you done? Great!

Now it’s your turn to create a pile of the paint flakes on a neutral surface. Like this:

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Now zoom in close with your camera phone, pretending it is a wooden frame. You should end up with something that looks a bit like this:

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Don’t be afraid to take photos from different angles or mix up the paint chips a bit:

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Great! Now that you’ve got the basics of abstract painting down, we’ll move on to more advanced techniques.

Step 3: Advanced Techniques

Let’s pull that “wooden frame” out a bit to make use of negative space. Don’t be intimidated – the post-it note was invented from negative space. Steve Jobs was famous for creating negative space in the office, and so can you.

Again, express yourself by randomly mixing the paint flakes around a bit. Yes. Good. Like this:

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Look at you!

Now, let’s create some “dynamic energy” and spread our paint flakes even further, with an even larger lens. Don’t be concerned about reaching deep inside, but do keep children and small animals away from the designated creative area:

So beautiful. Don’t forgot to pin it with a link back to this tutorial.

Step 4: Master class

You are truly ready to unleash your inner artist. For this final segment, we’ll be using negative space combined with a circle shape. You may recognize a circle from your yoga class or from that power point presentation, but it has actually been used in many civilizations throughout history – and now it’s our turn!

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Give yourselves a pat on the back – now you are ready for a rich and rewarding hobby.

And don’t forget about the painting we started with! It’s now a new work too and should be mounted with glee:

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Here’s what we call a “detail”:

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Step 6: Art as an object

And that’s not the only new work you have – don’t forget about the paint chips themselves. They make a nice ornament if you put them in a glass container. I’ve used a round jar so it will go well with the circles from our master class:

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Questions or comments? Please let us know below – and we would love to see how your home abstract paintings turn out, so please feel free to share in the comments as well.

Ai Weiwei and me

Ai Weiwei & me: A study of his perspective

Ai Weiwei and me

Ai Weiwei and me and you at the Whitehouse.

I went to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit at the AGO this weekend and came away with a new perspective and some re-enforced old perspectives.

You may remember I covered the 1001 Chairs artist protest in Toronto a bit when he was detained by Chinese authorities for being right about the Chinese authorities being typical authoritarian dicks.

I’ve become even more aware of his work since – count me in as a fan. However, I was not a fan of how this exhibit was put together by the AGO.

As my friend remarked, it looked like some sort of “sampler pack” and left us slightly … unsatisfied. They seem to have taken a bit of as many different series of his work as they could and crammed it into as few rooms as they could. If any art deserves lots of white cube space, it’s his work. Weiwei often works on an industrial scale and the AGO reduced his art series to a sort of token participation.

42 bicycles in this installation. During Nuite Blanche, there will be 3000.

7 different (truncated) series in this room. Really?

He is one of the giants of our age and will be a central figure of contemporary art history. If the AGO was ever going to clear as much as possible for an artist, then this was it – but they blew it. They did however have $25 dollar tickets for two hours of viewing, so that part of their machinery is well oiled. Oh, and the Ai Weiwei gift shop in the middle of the exhibit took up probably at least 15% of the total space…really?

One cannot help but think if his passport was not currently revoked, then he would of been able to be here to ensure they curated the work better than this. Then I kinda of realized that for me and many a retrospective at the AGO would be the height of professional achievement, but internationally maybe it’s more a provincial gallery.

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My pique aside, I was sincerely moved – almost to tears at one point – by his work to acknowledge child victims of the 2008 earthquake in the Sichuan province. The underlying political and social critique of labour, economy + government ambition that feeds into corruption in the construction industry strikes a cord that transcends borders. Montreal is dealing with a corruption probe and there has long been the stink of such practices where I live as well. And probably across Canada.

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What really moved me was the rebar that he collected from the disaster scene and then painstakingly straightened. Holy fuck. The poetry of this is reverberated in my brain pan and my eyes started to mist up. I’ve seen a lot of art in my time and I’m a bit jaded and desensitized at this point but this cut right through all that. The material, the process and the presentation are inseparable from it’s content and concept – and it’s simple. This guy is the real deal.

Another revelation for me occurred at this point: As an activist and artist, I understand that an incredible and obvious amount of labour is a way to communicate a powerful message a government authority. It becomes undeniable and that at the end of the day is perhaps the most powerful tool available to a contemporary artist in this day and age.

I also understand that the media is the art and my posts of my own work online is powerful and significant and valid. For Ai Weiwei’s, his social media presence acts as a herald for his work and bridges his universal themes into real spaces around the world. Again, his process and presentation is inseparable from his concept and contains an resolvable tension both conceptually and formally i.e. his studies in perspective. For me as an artist, this validates my own concepts and practice.

A few more photos of the exhibit are posted below – that the public is allowed to take photos at this exhibit is a rarity for the Art Gallery of Ontario and I think is due to the influence of the artist. He understands the power of media more then most artists and galleries.

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It may not appear so, but this is an acknowledge of respect for Ai Weiwei.

It may not appear so, but this is an acknowledge of respect for Ai Weiwei.

10 unsuccessful photos of Jim Lambie’s stairs at the Albright-Knox

And one normal one.

Was in Buffalo for the first time in my life and my partner and I loved it. The downtown architecture and neighborhoods were fascinating, dense and historic. Compared with the terrible state of the ravaged City of Hamilton it was truly a vision of what a community in a former rustbelt city could be – especially as a place allowing and encouraging the arts to flourish. If it made sense at this point in our lives my partner and I would live there in a heartbeat. That’s the power of preserving a city’s built heritage and making a downtown community livable.

One of the highlights of our visit was a visit to the Albright-Knox Gallery of Art. Finally, I was at this gallery I kept hearing about – and now I know why. It kinda was exactly the gallery you wanted it to be – not too big, not too small and full of famous art and unknown (to me) masterpieces.

Below are some of the photos they allowed us take – Jen sitting on these crazy ass stairs that my phone had trouble with. I think it’s the straight hard edge colour contrasts that defy media reproducibility – and I loved it.

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