January 25th: Contemporary First Nations Art

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Ahoy, ahoy!

We’ve moved onto to contemporary First Nations art, which is a huge category and also a favourite topic of mine.  The term “First Nations Art”often brings to mind the traditional black and red works, so popular as emblems in Canadian culture.  Off the top of my head, I know that I own a scarf, shot glass and stuffed bear that all bear traditional First Nations art work, in the style of various bands from the Pacific Northwest.  In my family’s home, the first thing you see when you enter is a beautiful traditional First Nations carving of Raven and Killer Whale.  These designs are very beautiful and widely recognized throughout Canada as art likely executed by someone of First Nations descent.

Haisla Raven

However, First Nations art has taken on a new direction in the recent years.  Traditionally, First Nations art was seen as an artifact, something to be placed in an ethnographic museum.  It was an art form that belonged to the past. When First Nations artists began creating contemporary art to reflect their situation in life.  When First Nations contemporary art began being placed into galleries, it was the source of confusion for many scholars and curators.  This new art had to be looked at in new ways, as the works did not fit into the context of European art history traditions.  These works could not be classified as artifacts, because they were being created in the here and now.  The First Nations people were proving that they had a culture that was alive and vibrant, not something that existed only in the past.

One of my favourite contemporary First Nations artists is Carl Beam.  We haven’t talked about him yet in class, but I am sure that we will at some point! Beam often uses the medium of collage in his works, and is not afraid to make very public political statements with his work.  Carl Beam works primarily with collage as a medium in his work.  He combines countless arrays of images into one whole piece, along with using paint, ink, writing or anything else he deems necessary to complete his message.  He aims to create collages that contain images that will mobilize and counter each other.  The images will often oppose one another, such as Native mythology juxtaposed with Christian imagery.  The images play off one another, provoking thought.  He wants his images to transpose time and space, to represent the First Nations person as not belonging to a particular time in history, but rather as being all encompassing and ever present.

The North American Iceberg by Carl Beam

That’s all!

Brit

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January 20th: Artistic Ownership/Conceptual Art

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Ahoy, ahoy!

Ownership is a complicated business.  How we validate and regulate ownership of objects and properties is mainly tied up in legal forms and documents.  Contracts, agreements.  Sign on the dotted line, please.  We often do not give the process much though at all, unless an unprecedented circumstance arises in which the process is delayed or slowed.

Along with the advent of conceptual art, the lines of ownership become blurry.  All the artist may have really created is the concept of the art, and nothing else besides that.  An example that comes to mind would be Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs. Certain aspects of the work will change each time it is installed at a gallery.  The chair and the photograph of the chair are never the same, because the curator is to select a chair for the installment and then take a photograph of it, exactly as it is.  The results in varying installations of One and Three Chairs.

One and Three Chairs

One and Three Chairs

One and Three Chairs

As you can see from the three examples I have found of the installation, the physical chair is not the same one each time.  The only constant chair, which is the dictionary definition.  This is the only part of the work that Kosuth signed and it is put on display with the varying chairs each time.  What the galleries are paying for is the ability to use his idea in their exhibition.  One and Three Chairs was first conceptualized in 1965.  However, the artwork is still always changing, and the physical chair used does not belong to the artist.  It is the property of the gallery or the curator.  So how do we define who owns what part of the work?  Conceptual and theoretical art can prove to be thought provoking in many different ways!

That’s all!

Brit

January 18th: Golden Ratio

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Ahoy, ahoy!

Today we spent quite a bit of time focussed on Alex Colville, which is understandable, because not only is he a Canadian artist, he is also a Sackville artist!  We spoke about how his work was very centred around measurement and mathematical proportions, and the Golden Ratio was mentioned.  The Golden Ratio is a rather interesting crossover between mathematics and art.  The desire for the replication of human perfection has been around for centuries, and the Golden Ratio has inspired people in all sorts of disciplines for over 2’000 years.

The ancient Greeks developed the figure of the Doryphoros or spear-bearer in approximately 45 – 50 BCE  in their quest for a perfectly proportioned human body.  Additionally, it is thought that the Parthenon was created using golden rectangles as a basis for it’s architectural design.

Doryphoros, marble copy of bronze original

It was during the Renaissance that artists began to really pick up the use of the Golden Ratio in their works.  The quest for perfect proportion in human figures was made example of in Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, which laid out a set of specific measurements by which representation of a person should follow.  Human symmetry was seen as an extension of the symmetry of the universe, as it existed as and because of nature.

Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man

The Golden Ratio is a highly transferable to all sorts of different disciplines.  Le Corbusier made use of it in his new, international style architecture.  He referred to this style as the Modular, and began using the concept in his buildings around the 1930’s.  Twenty years later, measurement of his own house would inspire Colville to begin working with the Golden Ratio in his paintings.   Symmetry and straight lines can be seen in Colville’s works, along with works executed by other artists of this timeframe.  The label of “magic realism” to works of this time could be seen as referrring to the fact that in nature, symmetry does exist, but not to the degree of perfection expected and aimed for by artists and architects alike over the years.  Perhaps it is following these ratios that results in such a super-real quality in these pieces.

That’s all!

Brit

January 13th: Model Art

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Ahoy, ahoy!  Sackville experienced the wrath of a Nor’Easter a few days ago– yuck!  I am not the biggest fan of snow in Sackville unless it means a snow day, which, unfortunately did not.  Oh well!

January 13th we talked about the influence of Dada and readymades in Canadian Art.  We also talked about Murray Favro and his interest in recreating models of just about anything.  This concept fascinates me.  How does one distinguish between a model and the real thing?  Most often, when I think of a model, I think of it being smaller than the real thing, like the model planes and model cars that people sometimes buy and spend hours labouring over, getting the paint just right and gluing together every individual piece.  In many ways, a model kit reminds me of “Paint By Numbers”.  You know what your end result is going to be, you just have to follow the step by step instructions:

Model Car Kit

Paint By Numbers

Both of these kits allow you to create a representation of something else.  However, it’s not the real thing, and everyone knows it.  So why do people bother with creating models in the first place?  The concept of model building, and maybe even paint by numbers or any other kit that allows you to “create” but not really, because it is a replica, functions as a vessel by which a sense of process is conveyed to the participant. Process as art.  Favro’s sculptures remind us first of how much they look like an object, ie, large scale, but at the same time, there are fundamental differences that separate it from being the real thing.  Most of the time, his sculptures cannot operate in the same way as the real thing.  Also, they will often be made of different materials.  But for the most part, they seem to be an accurate representation.  Similar to Duchamp’s readymades, once again they present the question: What is art?  And who decides?

That’s all!

Brit

January 11th: After a long hiatus…

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Ahoy, ahoy!

It’s me Brit, and I’m back again for part two of Canadian Art.  The winter break was lovely and refreshing, and now it is yet again time to hit the books.  We’re picking up Canadian Art again in the 1960’s to present day this semester.  So without further ado, I’ll be launching back into it.

Canadian Nationalism.  Oh long studied and disputed and mulled over topic by artists, writers, politicians and everyone in between, how I have missed you!  To me, I feel that Canadian patriotism comes in waves.  We are always at the height of our national pride during times when the Nation is put in spotlight.  Positive spotlight that is.  The sixties brought Expo 67 and the Centennial.  2010 brought the Vancouver Olympics, and more gold medals for Canadians on Canadian territory than any other country, in various different sports, including, of course, men’s hockey gold.  The truest epitome of national pride for almost any Canadian male between the ages of 2 and 200, showing the rest of the world that it was (and always will be) OUR game.  This time of pride for our country was so meaningful to some people that they are actually repeating it in Vancouver this February.

http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=161787573855201

This Facebook event has over 6’000 people agreeing to attend and over 20’000 people “waiting to respond”.  This event is organized to revisit a time when Canada was number one.  So what makes these moments so special to people?  I think it’s because it’s a chance to show off.  How are we showing ourselves off to the rest of the world?  How are we defining ourselves?  In the sixties, it was common to want to establish ourselves as not American, but not being American does not make you Canadian.  What makes us Canadian?  What do we want others to think of us?  What do other countries make of our anthem, flag, cities, people, culture, landscape?    I asked my friend on exchange in Britain, what do people ask you about Canada?  Expecting some profound response, I was shocked when she told me “They ask if we always have red beer cups to party with because they don’t have them there, and they (the British university students) associate them with movies about college.  You know, National Lampoon, that sort of thing.”  Another friend from the States, responded “You’re altogether too tolerant of the cold and snow.  If it’s cold out, it’s not beautiful outside, I don’t care if the sun is out.”

Not exactly what I was looking for, but I suppose it’s a start, and definitely different answers than what I would usually expect to such a question.  More to ponder on Canadian national identity?  Because really, I still don’t think anyone has figured it out yet!

That’s all!  And welcome back to second semester musings with me!

Brit