Heidi Mckenzie | Heidi’s Inspiration
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Jean-Pierre Larocque – Quotable Quotes from a Master

I attended the one day workshop at Sheridan College with ceramic sculptor, Jean-Pierre Larocque – who is currently based in Montreal and on faculty with Concordia University. Rather than write up my personal reflections, I thought I would post some of the truisms, advice and wisdom that I captured during the day:

“I cannot abide a blueprint – too much happens in the process.”

“I work a lot from chaos…I need the chaos in there because it speaks of something.”

“Material is an embodiment of an idea.”

“When I pushed away limited to reference to recognizable images, then the images just came.”

“I work from behind the curtain, under the surface, so that the surface looks like it’s made itself.”

“I am outraged by the idea of the nobility of the mind.”

“Sculpture is an experiment in the round.”

“I’m in the business of making ghosts appear.”

“Making art is about love – you work on this thing until you love every part of it.”

“I like to arrive there, but I don’t like to prescribe how to get there.”

“Play is the thing that keeps me coming back.”

–photos posted by permission of the artist.

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Figuring a Way..

I attended day one of Crafting Sustainability yesterday at OCADU facilitated and produced by Craft Ontario. The opening keynote speaker, Judith Leemann challenged us in thoughtful ways to consider how we understand and approach our world as craftspeople and makers, citing historical  anthropologists and contemporary thinkers Gregory Bateson, Margaret Meade, and Naomi Klein . Highlighting the fact that most see objects, as makers we might consider the materials in which the object is made, shifting the lens, and considering source materials as a state of constant unfinishedness, seeing the re-purposing of material as life itself, rather than ‘recycled’.  Key thought: material is always on the way to becoming something else.

Another key idea – is that makers create stories and that stories are the indirect media through which our creations are carried forward and communicated to a larger community. That we might try and see the inherent value in “the thing” rather than make it dependent on the outcomes associated with its environment. In the spirit of this insight, two stories I care to share that Leemann shared. The first – two wood firing potters set up a pottery and realize that they need a lot of wood – so in order to fuel their craft, they retrained as arborists, and began a business “Treecycle” where they cut down unwanted/old trees and take the wood away for free for use in their kilns.  Nice.

Second story is about Theaster Gates – one of my favourite artists since I saw him sing and dance with brave irreverence at the AGO last year, and keynote at Milwaukee’s NCECA. Leemann was involved in a progressive performative exhibition installation in Seattle, where each invited artist had a space to transform based on the instructions of lack thereof of the previous artist – Gates was last, and he chose to coat the entire exhibition space with white porcelain slip, all the while singing his hymns of praise to Dave the unknown potter.

Stories whether true or fabricated, are imbued with a certain degree of fiction, and as Leemann reminds us “fiction opens up a spec in us to feel how much we want some thing. Parting words of wisdom: Craft has never been learned by waiting to know enough.

craft ontario

Macau Visual Arts Exhibition

This stunning array of contemporary to traditional calligraphy and ink painting is open to all amateurs in Macau – what a treat! Feast your eyes:

Lilibeth Rasmussen: Being Human Being

Lilibeth Cancua Rasmussen’s Being Human Being         at the Nikolai gallery in Copenhagen is transformative – the video documentating the performance art and the exhibition left me with a sense of deep empathy for her plight as an individual mis-read, mis-understood, and struggling to be seen. Her use of her family in her work (and I saw two earlier video’s of hers at the National Gallery) is kind of a genetic extension of herself and her situation – growing the microcosm slightly larger – this work is universal in theme, and the work with her siblings really moved me – tracing the footprints across the floor.

BMO 1st Art – CERAMICS RULES

I just went to see the BMO 1st Art Student Awards at MOCCA (while I was viewing the Cronenburg curated show – which is another story altogether!) and I couldn’t get over the fact that there were two, count them TWO ceramic artists in the mix!  Kudos to Sam Knopp (whose crackle celedon evokes Donald Judd’s minimalism) and Hilary Smith – whose work, is in my view, pretty much “the highest compliment” – i.e. a copy of Sherry Boyle’s recent work – but, hey – GO FOR IT!!!!

Korean Ceramics at Topkapi, Istanbul

Happened into this exhibition – thought I’d share – there was e a 7th century flattened bottle bamboo brushstroke painted vase that just makes me melt – sadly the photo didn’t come out…one of those reminders that the mind really can capture an image —

One Step Forward: Two Steps Back

Bilijana Ciric’s curatorial triumph at Times Museum in Gwangzhou – I am pitching to review this exhibition. It was seminal, provocative and its poignant political activism set a tone of open critique of the institution at a global level.

We then travelled across the city to the Times Property Museum, a 100% privately funded major contemporary art space where curator, Bilijana Ciric was opening her major 30-artist exhibition, One Step Forward: Two Steps Back. This exhibition is a critique of the institution from the perspective of the artist and historically positioned over a 30 year period. I had met Bilijana in Toronto during the Toronto International Art Fair, and had attended her book launch on a similar theme. The work about Thai migrant workers berry picking in Sweden was especially poignant for me, as was the installation of Jean Hubert Martin’s Les Magiciens de la Terre (the seminal 1989 Paris World Fair that signaled to the world that Eurocentricism in contemporary art was no longer absolute).

Next to Times Museum is a small alternative artist education space founded by Xu Tan. We met some of his “disciples” and had a tour by one of the artists of his installation in the space.

Xu Tan introduced me to the whole community of regional curators and curators from Shanghai and Beijing – this was in important opening and officials, dignitaries from a number of consulates had flown in for the event. I ended up being invited to dine at the head table with the lead curator of the Times Museum, the curator and a number of international artists. I was also able to meet some of the Hong Kong contemporary art leaders at that same dinner – and having been to their galleries, and seen the recent exhibitions, was able to make meaningful connections.

On July 2 we spent the morning and early afternoon at a privately run Gwangzhou arts centre and video research library – we spent a couple of hours sharing our portfolios with the artists who work in the centre. I came away with a strong sense of the breadth and scope of what is happening on many levels in the non-commercial contemporary art scene in this vibrant city.

OCT Terminal & Shenzhen

Siya Chen, Yam Lau and I had a guided private tour of the OCT Art galleries. The shows were by an artist couple: Inga Svala Thorsdottire (Iceland) and Wu Shanzhuan (China). The exhibition, What a Form: A Reportage, was minimalist, yet provocative – and challenges its audience to consider the dynamics of form and space, and the journey to discovery – quoting Wittgenstien heavily – and drawing on Euclidian geometry. (images will be posted on my blog later this evening).

I suggested cold-calling one of the artists in residence at the OCT, an American, Adam Avikainen. Adam ended up coming to lunch with us, and then decided to join us in Guangzhou. Adam is an emergent, yet internationally exhibiting conceptual artist – and we spent some time having him discuss his portfolio with us. He was preparing for a group show at OCT Terminal. Adam was open about the pitfalls of working with a super star curator, with whom he is currently working – Anselm Franke.

We also toured the local Fine Art Museum, the Design Studios of OCT and the Contemporary Art Gallery in Shenzhen. The photo’s are highlights.

Bangkok in 24 hours

Let me start by saying in reached 52C with the humidex the day I spent in Bangkok. It’s an incredibly easy city to get around in by cab or “tuk tuk” – and I literally got taken for a ride with the usual tourist scam (the government has declared a special day, all temples are free, you just have to visit the government emporium…) It was fun – hot, but fun. I bought a new set of clothes for under $10 in the market I sweat so much. It’s a beautiful city – and catching the Wat Po (one of the three main attractions of Bangkok, and the only one still open by the time I regrouped) was an experience of a lifetime – this is the LARGE reclining buddha, and all the amazing ceramic roof tile work and light poles – giving Jingdezhen a run for their money! In the evening I googled great vegetarian restaurants in my area, and found myself at a LOVELY vegan place, and ended up sharing a table with three lovely young women, interns at the United Nations – an unexpected pleasure.

Moving Images…of the ceramic kind

I can’t explain the feelings I have when an artist truly makes an indelible mark on my soul. There have only been a handful, at least in the ceramic sculpture sphere – Brian Kakas, Wouter Dam, and Eva Hild. Yesterday I happened upon a solo show of Eva Hild at Gallery Nilsson et Chiglien – apparently Hong Kong’s only contemporary ceramic art gallery. I couldn’t believe it! I mean I was determined to find this other little gallery, and had been wandering trying to find it for some time when I just saw the vinyl on the glass out of the corner of my eye. It took me a few seconds to register, and when I walked into the gallery I was standing amidst over twenty of Hild’s works – and I felt an intimacy with the artist that is hard to define. I felt as if I had made some kind of psychic connection with the artist without her physical presence. (She had been there in person two weeks prior for the opening, and I’m kicking myself for not having known, but things happen for a reason…). The young woman, Elizabeth, who managed the gallery struck just the right chord –she was informative and respectful of my viewing experience, but in the end we found we too had a connection, and before I knew it, it was time for me to head back to Kowloon Tong. I bought the catalogue – not something I do lightly while travelling for nearly five months – every book is a considered acquisition, and means giving up something else in exchange. Eva Hild is astonishing. Her work is transportative. It is a dream of mine to meet her and have a chance to just sit down and “talk shop.”

The last few images are a charcoal grey Wouter Dam – a beauty, and a few others…