Category Archives: art

“Cat Contemplating Crops”: A Study in Line and Colour

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Here you go, have a piece of art to look at. It’s really deep, and meaningful, and stuff.

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World Photography Day!

Helen Jones says it’s World Photography Day (go follow the link and check out some of her awesome photos). So I figured I’d join in the fun with a few pics, some old, some new, a few that I’d saved for using on my blog, and a few of which I’d already posted their brothers (i.e. another photo of the same scene from a different angle). Enjoy!appebarrelsbreadCoffee Creekgranny glassesRose (3)sunset

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Zootopia and The Power of Story


I’ve been thinking about the importance of Story again. My friend E. L. Bates recently posted the transcript of a talk she gave at her local library on that topic (read the full thing here, it’s well worth it). “This is what stories do,” she says, “they sink into our hearts and give us the tools we need to live more fully, more richly, in the everyday world around us.” Yes, exactly.

Last weekend, we went to see the new Disney movie, Zootopia. I’d heard that it was good, so while I wasn’t expecting any great profundity of the flick (it’s a Disney talking-animal movie, after all), I went into it hoping to be amused for a couple of hours and not have too many groaner moments. And those hopes weren’t disappointed.

But what bowled me over was the message of the film. That’s right, a Disney talking-animal flick with a message that I actually found really meaningful. And not the standard follow-your-heart-you-can-be-anything-you-want-to-be one, either (which nowadays just causes an eye-roll reflex in me, but that’s a rant for another day). Now, I don’t want to give any spoilers, the movie still being as new as it is. But what I found astounding is that the makers of Zootopia, who have been working on this movie for, I dunno, years, put out a film that hits right smack-dab at the bull’s eye of the current social issues. It’s as if they’d had a premonition of what the political and social climate of March of 2016 was going to be like, and they set out to tell a story that makes its point far more effectively than any sermon or political rant could do.

And that’s something I found profoundly encouraging. Because, you see, young children aren’t going to go to political rallies. And, let’s face it, most of their parents and grandparents won’t, either. But they’ll go to this movie, because it’s Junior’s birthday and you’ve got to do something with that horde of little hoodlums he’s insisted on inviting. So you take them to the movies to see the story of a perky little bunny rabbit from the country who wants to be a big-city cop, and hope that her and her sly-fox sidekick’s adventure will keep the kids quiet for a couple of hours. And in the process, Junior, his friends, and Mommy, Daddy and Grandma, without even noticing it, are being taught some lessons that couldn’t be more important in this moment in history, lessons about the insidiousness of fear and prejudice and of the power of acceptance.

But let me quote E. L. Bates again: “But [the stories] are not instruction manuals thinly disguised as entertainment! Perish the thought! If you set out, in writing a story, to point a moral or teach people something, you have failed before you’ve even begun.” In the case of Zootopia, Disney most certainly did not fail. It’s a well-told story in its own right, full of endearing characters that will enter the Disney canon, with great animation and jokes (including quite a few that will zip right over Junior’s head, but provide Mom & Dad with a good chuckle – including the teensy little Mafioso shrew with his nasal Godfather drawl). We’ll keep watching this film for decades to come for its story, because it’s a good movie – and in the process, its profound message is going to be absorbed into our collective psyche.

The pen (or in this case, film camera) is mightier than the sword – and that is something that can give us all hope.

Life, the Universe, and Zootopia. Story wins again.

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Holiday Slide Show, Part 2

Okay, the second slide holder is in. Lights off, here we go (chick-chook):

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Palaces aren’t the only buildings that were dripping with gilding and marble in the Baroque. This is the Abbey Church of Fürstenfeld, outside of Munich, which was one of the strongholds of the Counter Reformation. They pulled out all the stops to convince the people that the Catholic church was worth sticking with. Speaking of pulling out all the stops, we got to hear an organ concert here – it was fantastic.

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Yes, that’s a dead guy. A 1900-year-old dead guy, to be precise – St. Hyacinth, who starved to death at the age of 12 around the year 100 AD because he refused to eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols. You can tell that his weight loss program was effective. But at least he got impressive duds out of the deal, even if it was a millennium or two after the fact.

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Munich has several world famous art museums. I took the time out to visit the Neue Pinakothek, which holds a selection of 19th-century art – well, from the late 18th century to the early 20th. I was thrilled to find that there were several pieces by Angelica Kauffmann – for example, this, her most famous self-portrait. She’s got to be awesome with a name like that, no?

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Moritz von Schwind, “The Fairy Tale of Cinderella”. Probably my most favourite piece in the whole collection… (sorry, Vincent van Gogh).

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Cinderella tries on the shoe.

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One of the labels in the frame.

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Fernand Khnopff, “I Close the Door Upon Myself”. There’s something about this chick’s eyes that I find kind of creepy, in a rather awesome way.

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Klimt, “Margaret Stoneborough-Wittgenstein”. My favourite of all the famous pieces there.

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A German supper: at least three different kinds of bread, cheeses, meats, tomatoes, stuffed peppers… I miss it. Can I go back?

Another slide holder change…

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Just Me and Art

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Vancouver Art Gallery

It’s been quite some time since I got to be alone with art (I mean small-a art – visual constructions, not big-A Art – person named Arthur who had his name chopped down to a three-letter word; I don’t know any of the latter). But this past weekend I had some business to do in the big city – Vancouver, to be precise, a five-hour trip over the mountains – and when I was finished with what I had to do, I indulged myself with a visit to the Art Gallery.

It was lovely. They had a show of a collection that included works by Cezanne, Manet and Toulouse-Lautrec, and another of Chinese art that examines the interaction of traditional art with the modern. It was in the latter, when I was standing in front of a marvellous work – an installation of ceramic art by Liu Jianhua – that suddenly a realisation took  shape in my mind: visual art is something I need to experience alone. Inside my head, I was having a dialogue with an imaginary partner, telling them (it’s not a specific him or her, or it, for that matter) what I thought of this piece – half-baked sentences that bubbled up and sunk away again unfinished as my mind walked through the visual realities in front of me and then moved on to the next piece, focused on seeing. I was looking, I was responding – I was, pretentious though it may sound, communing with the art work.

In the fabulous art instruction book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain author Betty Edwards talks about how visual art, or visual perception, primarily takes place in the right hemisphere of the brain, while the brain’s language centre is located in the left. Because of that, it’s not uncommon for artists to be unable to draw and talk at the same time. I know that’s certainly true for me – if I want to really focus on what I’m doing visually, my flow of words dries up.

I’ve had friends say “Let’s get together and make art!” Well, actually – that doesn’t do much for me. Sure, I have fun hanging around with friends and mucking about with art supplies, no question of that; but the result is practically never one of my better pieces, artistically speaking. If I am with another person, my thoughts are focused on that person – and as I think in words, by definition my brain is stuck in the wrong modus operandi for thinking of art. If I’m talking to someone else, I cannot communicate with the art.

So art is something I need to experience alone. In order to get the most of a visit to an art museum or art gallery, especially one of the calibre of the Vancouver Art Gallery, I need to be by myself. I need to be able to get stuck in front of a piece that grips me, just staring at it, letting it impact me, without having to get back out of myself and explain to whomever I’m with. It’s not that I don’t enjoy looking at art, or making art, with friends – but the experience of the art will be far more shallow than anything I could get on my own. I’d never realised it quite like that before – but for real depth, it has to be just me and the art.

So, what did you do last week? Me, I went on a date; we had some great conversations, myself and an installation of Chinese ceramics in celadon and oxblood glazes. We got real close.

Life, the Universe, Myself and Art. It’s got to be just the two of us.

2139PS: I wanted to post a picture of that marvellous Liu Jianhua piece, “Container”, but sadly, I don’t think it would be right under the fair use copyright law. If you go here and scroll down, the second picture on the left is of an earlier installation of the same work; at the VAG it was sitting on white ground, which made it even more amazing. But just so you’re not deprived of a photo of an interesting piece of pottery, here’s one of mine: “Squashpot, Untitled (2011)”. Yes, I know, it’s stunning.

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