In: painting

Tony Calzetta – Art Is Hell
April 22, 2022

Tony Calzetta Art Is Hell Bart Gazzola sat down to talk with Tony Calzetta, whose decades long practice has been both... Read More
Ana Žanić – One Breath – Femme Folks Fest Repost
March 15, 2022

The first time you see Ana Žanić’s watercolor and pencil artwork is like taking a sharp blow to the limbic system. Every one of your senses screams “I know this” but cannot figure out what “this” is or why it knows it. They take on the form of something both organic and subliminal, communicating to us of the past (back to pre-history) and our deeply troubled emotional state we find ourselves in through the pandemic.

Her colour palettes are very natural and gently reassuring… mother earth will take us back into her bosom and help us heal. The meticulous marks speak of long journeys past, and reach out to our future selves to remind us that we have struggled before and have overcome those obstacles… we can do it again.

I reached out to Ana and asked her a few questions.

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Temptation of Saint Anthony | Hieronymus Bosch
January 18, 2022

High culture has pretty much disappeared along with the dress code.

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The Art of Richard Diebenkorn
December 18, 2021

The Art of Richard Diebenkorn, 1997

Jane Livingston, with essays from John Elderfield and Ruth Fine (The University of California Press)

Forgive me for saying something positive about social media, but it’s allowed for a proliferation of art and images online (which is one of the motivating factors that helped create the Covert Collective); the art historian in me welcomes this, as on Twitter, for example, there’s numerous ‘art bots’ that have filled the sphere with many fine artworks – such as those of Richard Diebenkorn. 

“Recognized as a major figure in postwar American painting, Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) was an artist strongly identified with California but whose work is beloved throughout the United States and the rest of the world. This catalog is the most comprehensive volume on the artist now available.

Jane Livingston’s extensively researched biographical essay covers Diebenkorn’s entire career and concentrates on the artist’s inner life and purposes as revealed in his paintings. Ruth Fine deals primarily with the figurative aspect of Diebenkorn’s work (1955-67), and John Elderfield concentrates on the Ocean Park period (1967-93). All three authors provide valuable insights based on their personal relationships with the artist and his widow, Phyllis. On both page and canvas, the reader can sense Diebenkorn’s complexity and highly self-conscious working methods, as well as his formidable integrity.

The Art of Richard Diebenkorn will give readers with an interest in all phases of modernism new thoughts about the relationship between abstraction and representation. Stunningly illustrated, with 192 full-color reproductions, this book is an exhilarating testament to a distinctive American artist.” (from the publisher, The University of California Press)

The essays are enjoyable and informative: but the majority of the book is defined by almost 200 full-colour reproductions and that’s why I recommend this book. From Diebenkorn’s still life paintings to his rough portraits to his ephemeral repeated meditations where place and abstraction intersect, this book is rife with beautiful images. “If painting doesn’t offer a way to dream and create emotions, then it’s not worth it”, to quote Pierre Soulages, a contemporary to Diebenkorn, and one can easily get lost among the many images of Diebenkorn’s in this book

This is hopefully to be found at your library (UC Press offers a space to request a copy for the same), or your locally owned bookstore. Since I mentioned social media in this Library suggestion, it would be remiss to not offer links to a Richard Diebenkorn #artbot on Twitter, as a teaser to encourage you to seek out this book.

~ Bart Gazzola

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Michele Mikesell
October 31, 2021

 The Morrigan, 2017 by Michele Mikesell

Michele Mikesell’s characters peer back at you. Often, they seem to look through you. This is understandable as her inspiration is so often taken from mythology, with figures like this one (or ones, considering that the Morrigan is sometimes a trio, all sisters, called the three Morrígna) that embody larger ideas that dwarf the individual viewer. The imaginary portrait that Mikesell offers here is titled The Morrigan (but she / they are also called Mórrígan, sometimes named Morrígu, a powerful deity from Irish mythology. In Modern Irish she is Mór-Ríoghain, meaning “great queen” or “phantom queen”). A divinity of war and fate, often a harbinger who foretells doom, death or victory in battle, she’s often been depicted – as alluded to in the shadows here – as a crow (birds which still unsettle us as dark omens, or as scavengers of carrion, perhaps those who fall in battle….perhaps a psychopomp, even, waiting to escort the newly dead to their just reward…). 

She looks fittingly unimpressed. (“It is better to fall in with crows than with flatterers; for in the one case you are devoured when dead, in the other case while alive.” – Antisthenes / Ἀντισθένης, c. 445 – c. 365 BC)

There’s a sense of whimsy to many of Mikesell’s anthropomorphic figures, blending animal and human, often titled for old gods like Artemis or Bastet. Another painting is titled Huginn, one of Odin’s ravens – another foreboding bird, knowing and seeing much. She lives in Dallas, Texas and Spain, and “her paintings hone in on the connectedness between human ideas and animal instinct. Irony, contradiction, humor and tragedy are themes throughout her work.”

Many more of her fine paintings (as it was very difficult to select just one) can be enjoyed here. ~ Bart Gazzola

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Throooom (a spell to wish away most days) – Scott Sawtell
September 21, 2021

Scott Sawtell is a painter who straddles abstraction and symbolism, and the manner in which he applies paint means that repeated visits with his work may reveal aspects you missed previously. His works are often significant in size, and this painting is 3 feet by 5 feet, created in 2021 (I mention the size as often Sawtell offers scenes that we might step into, that although tumultuous and frantic, they have a vivacity and vividness that is inviting). One of a number of works currently installed at the Latcham gallery in Stouffville, his paintings offer the contradiction that they are individually seductive, and one can hold your attention, but as a group they create an environment, with pieces having a conversation, whether formally or with some of the narratives Sawtell alludes to, with rough forms or poetic, yet sly, titles. 

Recently I’ve been engaging with the work of another painter, Tony Calzetta, and an observation about his work is apt here: there is the possibility of narrative in this painting, but not the necessity of it. It’s also worth considering Julian Bell’s remarks from his book What Is Painting? Representation and Modern Art : ‘In other words there was no prior context to the painting itself. The viewer’s eyes would submit, and the painting would act.’

More of Sawtell’s work can be seen here, at his site, and on his Instagram~ Bart Gazzola

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Mišo Smišek – Narrative Art
October 7, 2021

Mišo Smišek of Belgrade, Serbia, is a consummate artist. He paints and draws. He is an incredible photographer and has illustrated numerous books. He is a regularly published and acclaimed writer of short stories. He sculpts. He creates pottery and does frottage. The breadth and scope of his work is quite simply impressive. Best of all, every piece he creates has the ability to elicit deep emotion from the viewer or reader of his work. Often dark but rarely disheartening or depressing, his work typically incorporates two or more mediums as above. Mišo has uncanny an ability to create a short story in every piece of his work.

At 64 years old, Miso studied Slovak language and literature at the Faculty of Philology of the University of Belgrade and currently works as a librarian in Boľovce. He posts regularly to social media.

Facebook: Mišo Smišek Art
Instagram: @misosmisek

~ Mark Walton

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Eric Fischl 1970 – 2000
August 25, 2021

Eric Fischl 1970 – 2000 (2008)

Fischl is a complicated, sometimes brilliant, sometimes less so, painter. In offering Eric Fischl 1970 – 2000, I feel that it has to be enjoyed in tandem with his biography Bad Boy : My Life On and Off the Canvas, which is unflinchingly honest about his life and his work. As you peruse the many fine images of his work in this book, I enjoyed the writings of Arthur C. Danto, was less impressed with Robert Enright or Steve Martin, but found myself more so considering Fischl’s own words: “Old-school curators and historians who attempted to predict the zeitgeist failed spectacularly. They underestimated or completely misunderstood our generation’s embrace of irony, nihilism, and the absurd sincerity of the insincere gesture….None of us knew what work would enter the lexicon, what would last. No one really knew if any of it was any good. All we knew was that we were the next generation.”

Fischl, in many ways, is one of the few American painters that were ‘stars’ of the 1980s whose work hasn’t lost some of its appeal over the nearly four decades since that unique and complicated era. From Eric Fischl 1970 – 2000:  “Eric Fischl emerged in the 1980s as one of America’s most important figurative painters. His paintings, many of which show a single intense moment, compel the viewer to participate in a world of middle-class suburban ambiguity and drama. In Fischl’s engaging distinctly American canvases, narrative, morality, sexuality, and psychology are preeminent.” 

The book can be purchased here, but if you’re like me and lucky enough to have an excellent library nearby – and would prefer to eschew those lumbering e-commerce monstrosities – then that is what I’d suggest (there are also many smaller, independent book stores that would be happy to order it for you, too). Fischl’s images require attention to detail and repeated considerations, and this book offers both that and some interesting, contrasting voices, as well.

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Down the Old Bog Road: Frances Crossan Blanchard
October 14, 2021

Our first Guest Curator Kim Fahner writes about the work of her friend Frances Blanchard. “When you stay in O’Neill Cottage, you see Frances sitting in front of you, but then can feel and sense a group of ancestors standing all around her, thanking her for bringing that homestead back to life. Her paintings, then, are full of details that conjure up stories of her family and the land they lived on.” Click for more!

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Sophie’s Choice – A Muse for Stephen
October 13, 2021

A muse, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, is a poet’s inspiring goddess or the source of inspiration for creativity. Fredericton painter Stephen Scott is not a poet, but he has found his muse and certainly an inspiration for creativity in his wife Sophie Thériault Scott. Stephen has known Sophie since 2000 and they have been married since 2010. She has been the subject of many of his paintings since that first meeting, but being his muse is far more than being a model for him to paint. Her presence in his life has affected all of his art. After all, that is what a muse is supposed to do.

Virgil Hammock offers some thoughts on the art of Stephen Scott in this article.

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