Sunday, September 14, 2014

A.Y. Jackson and Otto Dix – Art influenced by the First World War


The Canadian War Museum, Ottawa
“Transformations. A.Y. Jackson and Otto Dix – Art shaped by War” is the current special exhibition at the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa. I finally had a chance to visit that excellent show.

The exhibition sheds light on the artistic development of Canadian painter A.Y. Jackson (1882–1974), and German painter Otto Dix (1891-1969). These important 20th century artists are somewhat comparable, since both witnessed the First World War as soldiers. And the experiences they made had later a huge influence on their art. The War Museum's focus lies in particular on their landscapes, even though Dix is rather known for his critical and provoking depiction of the Weimar Society and the 1st World War, and turned to landscapes only later in life. Jackson instead is widely known for his Canadian landscapes.

The exhibition shows the parallel development of Jackson and Dix in five sections: Early Years (1882-1914), First World War (1914-1918), Post-War (1919-1932), Nazi Germany and the Second World War (1933-1945), and Later Years (1946-1974). To me it was very interesting to see how Dix' early landscapes were influence by Post-Impressionism (e.g. Van Gogh) and the Romantic tradition, in particular Caspar David Friedrich. Spending a couple of years in Dresden myself, I can imagine how Dix, who did grow up close by, was influence by that tradition since it is visible everywhere (very good collection at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden BTW). But Dix was also influenced by Friedrich Nietzsche's writings, and Futurist and Apocalyptic Art what the exhibition demonstrates. That's compared to Jackson on the other side of the room (very good set-up for an exhibition to demonstrate the similarities of the two artists, in which the exhibition rooms are divided with Jackson on the right, and Dix on the left side), shedding light on Jackson's travels to Europe and his interest in the Canadian landscape after his return 1912. The exhibition also makes clear what impact his European studies had on his later landscape paintings.

Main focus of the exhibition is of course the enrolment of both artists in the First World War as soldiers and how they became witnesses of destruction and atrocities. Both created landscape art during and after the war which reflects their experiences of the conflict. Dix and Jackson were both soldiers, and Jackson, after wounded in 1916, became an official war artist in 1917.

Both express brutal destructiveness of the war in their landscapes, but do that very, very differently: Dix showed the brutal reality with gruel paintings as well as drawings of death, mutilated and rotting corpses, while Jackson shows the destructiveness in an indirect way by painting shattered trees in an rather Impressionist style. His landscapes were still beautiful, even though they show battlefields of the First World War! Dix' intentions were therefore different from Jackson's – even if his landscapes play an important compositional role in his major works like “The War” (1932), the depiction of death and atrocities is the main focus of his post-war works. His paintings and prints of German soldiers as victims led to under the Nazis to the defamation of his works as “degenerated” art, and forced Dix to an “inner exile” after the Nazis had him sacked from his post as an art teacher at the Dresden Academy of Art.

On the other hand, in the Canadian part of the exhibition, we see how Jackson was one leading founder of the Group of Seven in 1920, and how his landscapes were strongly influenced by his experiences in the First World War. The exhibition demonstrates why his landscape art is widely accepted as an expression of Canadian Identity. It's a fascinating show about two entirely different artists whose works and lives were shaped by their experiences of war.



Furthermore, I had a chance to visit at the other remarkable exhibition at the War Museum “Witness - Canadian Art of the First World War”. It shows how Canadians depicted their First World War experiences in art, both at home and overseas. One painting in particular stroked me: “The Sunken Road” by Frederick Varley (1919). While working as an artist for the Canadian War Records Department Varley witnessed combat on the front lines. He depicted what war was really like, in clearly showing destruction and cruelties, like corpses lying on a abandoned battlefield. I found that much more analogous to Dix' work than Jackson's which never shows the brutality of the war directly. But maybe that's one of the intentions of the “Transformations”-exhibition: How witnessing a war can impact Oeuvres and lives in totally different ways ...

Both exhibitions were extended until September 26th, 2014.


Canadian War Museum, Ottawa. Unfortunately, it's not allowed to take photos inside the exhibition.

Facts:
Transformations – A. Y. Jackson and Otto Dix
Canadian War Museum
April 10, 2014 - September 26, 2014 (extended!)
http://www.warmuseum.ca/transformations/

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Chantal Gervais receives Karsh Award

Last week I mentioned the prestigious Karsh Award by the City of Ottawa. Today was announced that photographer Chantal Gervais is the winner!

The Jury statement emphasizes Chantal Gervais' focus on the human body, it's fragility and issues of self-conception and self-reference.

An excerpt of the Jury Statement from the City of Ottawa website:

“For two decades, Chantal Gervais has focused on the frailty of the human body. By means of her photographs and her videos, she investigates, with sensitivity, the marks left by accidents, illness and aging. The prospect of death lurks as a subtext in her images. Anchored in contemporary concerns, her work searches for identities as referenced through her own body.

Her aesthetic choices have sublime aspects that arouse paradoxical feelings of attraction and repulsion. She accomplishes this through fragmentation of the body, isolation against a black background, the ambiguity of the role of the skin, and references to écorché. She often presents her works as polyptychs or large prints. In her recent works, she has abandoned the camera obscura and turned to the flatbed scanner and magnetic resonance imaging, pushing the photographic boundaries.”


The award will be presented on September 12, 2014 at the Karsh-Masson Gallery.

The Gallery, located at City Hall, will host an exhibition of her artwork from September 12 to October 19, 2014.

Facts:

http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/arts-culture-and-community/arts-theatre-music/karsh-award

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Karsh Award will be announced next week

Excited! The Karsh Award 2014 will be announced on September 3rd - for "an outstanding work in a photo-based medium". I'll keep you posted!

The award will be presented on Friday, September 12, 2014 at the Karsh-Masson Gallery (at Ottawa City Hall now) in conjunction with an exhibition of the artist’s work.

 

Past laureates

Year  Laureate
2012 Rosalie Favell
2010 Tony Fouhse
2008 Jeffrey Thomas
2006 Robert Bourdeau
2005 Justin Wonnacott
2003 Lorraine Gilbert

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Gustave Doré at NGC is not a crowd-puller (unfortunately!)


I am sorry to hear that the Gustave Doré exhibit at the National Gallery is struggling to attract visitors. I'm sure it's a wonderful, enlightening show. But of course it's hard to reach the same numbers like the van Gogh exhibition...

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/national-gallery-s-gustave-dor%C3%A9-exhibit-struggling-1.2715952

Link to the exhibition at the NGC:

http://www.gallery.ca/en/see/exhibitions/upcoming/details/gustave-dore-1832-1883-master-of-imagination-7011

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Art on the Grass - Carp

At the Carp Farmers' Market

I'm always pleasantly surprised how local arts and crafts thrive in rural communities. On my recent visit to the Carp Farmers' Market, I've discovered not only a great variety of fruits, vegetables and backed goods, but also amazing crafts. In the market halls I've found pottery, jewellery, sewed and knitted textiles, wood crafts and even photographs and fiber art. It's really worth a visit!


Carp Farmers' Market

And on August 16th, the fairgrounds in the village of Carp host “Art on the Grass”: A Show & sale of fine art and handmade crafts. Organized by the West Carleton Arts Society, it's a wonderful opportunity to see works (and demonstrations!) by local artists and craftspeople. That sounds terrific!


Facts:


Art on the Grass
Carp Fairgrounds
August 16, 2014, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
http://www.westcarletonartssociety.ca/art-on-the-grass.html

Carp Farmer's Market:
Every Saturday in Summer
http://www.carpfarmersmarket.com/

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Controversial Exhibit at Karsh Masson Gallery

Entrance to Rehab Nazzal's "Invisible" at Karsh Masson Gallery, Ottawa

The current exhibition at Ottawa City Hall by Palestinian artist Rehab Nazzal has recently caused controversy. The art exhibit, titled “Invisible,” includes images of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, among other art pieces that portray the West Bank and Gaza.

Some pictures of the exhibit at Karsh Masson Gallery, now located in City Hall:
Exhibition view of Rehab Nazzal's "Invisible" at Karsh Masson Gallery, Ottawa

Exhibition view of Rehab Nazzal's "Invisible" at Karsh Masson Gallery, Ottawa

Rehab Nazzal's "Invisible" at Karsh Masson Gallery, Ottawa, Poster



More about the controversy about the exhibition:
http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/palestinian-artist-rehab-nazzal-talks-to-crowd-about-controversial-exhibit-artistic-freedom

Facts:
Rehab Nazzal: Invisible
Karsh Masson Gallery
May 9 to June 22, 2014
http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/arts-culture-and-community/arts-theatre-music/rehab-nazzal

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Art in Odd Spaces



Invitation of the RIA House Tour, 2014. The photo shows: Lynda Hall, Attic Stairs.

A basement, a guest room, a storage room, an attic, a lavatory or a staircase... all these “odd spaces” host art installations during the RIA House Tour next weekend. Research in Art (RIA) has been a hub for discussion about the state of contemporary art here in Ottawa for a while now, and the house tour proves how exciting the Ottawa art scene actually is.

The invitation mentions strange features of these spaces like a secret staircase and a hidden door. Behind them you will find unexpected works of six well-known Ottawa artists:

Gail Bourgeois, Vera Greenwood, Dipna Horra, Deborah Margo, Stephanie Nadeau and Svetlana Swinimer.

The works – in video, sound, drawing, and sculpture – refer to the history and present use (or non-use) of these odd spaces. The tour may be an amazing opportunity to explore art with a unique approach. I hope I will still get a spot, since all participants have to register in advance!

Facts:
May 3rd, 2014, 1-5 p.m.
May 10th, 2014, 1-5 p.m.
Please register at researchinart.ria@gmail.com
This is Tangent # 6 in conjunction with Deborah Margo’s Salt and Paper project. For more information on RIA, the Salt and Paper Project and its Tangents, visit: http://researchinartottawa.wordpress.com/