Tuesday, May 31, 2005

OK, maybe I should just stop living in the present


I've mentioned briefly e-Flux, before. And most everybody knows what I think about this fascination with the Group of Seven.

Well, I might have figured out why Canadian Art only accounts for less than 1% of the international art market.

Here's a list of the countries that have given the e-Flux dudes and dudettes $850 to publicize their entry at the Venice Biennale:

Slovenia, Scotland, The Netherlands, Turkey, Wales, Kosova, The United States, Portugal, Lithuania, France, all of Latin America, Luxembourg, Argentina, Greece, Denmark, Austria, New Zealand, Australia, Cyprus and China, so far. There are only 26 countries exhibiting, so with 12 days to go more than 76% have ran ads through e-Flux. Do you think Canada is going to get with the program before the gig is up?

Extra points if you can name the other missing countries. (Check the comments for the answer)

Monday, May 30, 2005

Is it possible to stop living in the past, please


Why can't folk get their acts together and start living in the present?

Marc-Aurele Fortin, "Near St. Simeon, Quebec."

Tom Thomson, "Autumn, Algonquin Park,"

AY Jackson, "In Jasper Park"

All the prices are from the Ritchies auction that happened today in Toronto. Man what a bunch of fuddy-duddies!

Giving props when props are due


After something like 5 months, the CBC's on-line arts thing finally gets an article worthy of the title. The Tao of Bill, a 1,195 word article by Alec Scott, complete with a 388 word sidebar about the impending retirement of William Hutt.

Let's hope that it doesn't take another five months for another worthy article to appear.

Listen to Porte ouverte, tonight at 8pm


According to their website, Porte ouverte will be talking with Rene Blouin. I wonder what about?

Slow news day


Museums make the front page of 24 heures.

According to the press release (and the article) the most popular museums were the Science centre, the CCA, and something called Cité Historia, that I previously did not know existed.

To clarify the press release (and the article), while the total number of people who went was a new record (125,153), it represented a 5% increase from last year. What they fail to mention, and probably weren't aware of, either (those darn arts reporters, always asking the tough questions) that there was also a 10% increase in the number of museums taking part (from 30 to 33). So the average number of people per museum dropped to 3,792 from over 4K, or a drop of 5%. And last year, they had increased total attendance from the previous year by 25%.

Also, someone should look into how they directed people, last year's most popular museums were the Musée des beaux-arts, the Biodôme, and the Biosphère. I never would have guessed that there would be so much churn in the most popular museums in town.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Philip Bottenberg Interview


A little more than a year ago, I had an exhibit of Philip Bottenberg's paintings, called Ocean of Intagibles. As with all the artists who exhibit here, we did an interview. Unfortunately, Philip's got buried under some other stuff, and it sorta gathered dust on my hard drive. However, now he's got another exhibit happening, this time at Sandra Goldie's gallery, and I thought it would be appropriate to publish it now. Thanks again to Lauren Wagner for an amazing amount of help with the transcription and editing of it.

If you have time, I highly recommend that you truck down to Ms. Goldie's gallery to see the stuff that Philip's been doing.

Originally conducted on May 18, 2004

Philip Bottenberg: A friend of my mother's came by the show who likes this piece very much, Ruth Auersberg, she used to be an art critic for the Montreal Star, and she's been a friend of the family for a very long time. She's always encouraged me and my art. She came, and she's like 85 years old, and she was almost the only person who said something to me in a analytical manner that I just couldn't answer, she's as sharp as an eagle and she always asks questions very deliberately to make you think.

Zeke: What sort of questions?

Philip Bottenberg: Well she was talking about a lot of things but to me it's the way a question is framed that can make it intimidating. She asked "what do the dots symbolize?" And why are they soft? It was basically about this painting. It was just one of those things about the way it was framed and I was like aaagggghhhhhh, you know? Put another way from somebody else I might have been easily able to come up with a coherent answer, but with her I just froze. But that art critic kind of talk - "what does it represent?"

Zeke: "All I do is slap the paint on the canvas. I don't want to interpret it."

Philip Bottenberg: Sure, it's like paint, it has a personality of its own - she's a good person, but its just funny...

Zeke: OK, let get down to brass tacks. Ocean of Intangibles why did you choose that for the title of the show?

Philip Bottenberg: Well, I had several different titles and I felt that, that one best described the works. Also I thought of the title of the show as not so much representing the works, but representing me; I thought how would I describe my life, the way I see it, I would say that it is an ocean of intangibles. Not in a negative or a positive sense, some of the most important things to us are intangible things; love and hate, things you are afraid of, the things you are attracted to, your successes, your failures, they are all really intangible. They're not necessarily ideals but they are intangible things and at the same time they are some of the most important things to us in life. Also in another way, this is how I see myself; starting my career and what I am facing is an ocean of intangibles, I don't know what is coming my way and that's kind of what being a painter in today's society seems like to me. It's sort of what I seem to be faced with: An ocean of intangibles. It's neither negative or positive, it's just out there, ambiguously.

Zeke: Speaking of the intangibility of a career, what would you see as your goals for an artistic career?

Philip Bottenberg: Well, I was thinking a little it about this last night and it's a bit of a shot in the dark but... I would like to try and make a living and thrive and prosper as a painter. I feel that I've done a good job and I've worked hard and I think that in painting or in anything else; you know, you got to do what you love. Right now, I'm just trying to survive, I'm trying to see if I'm even capable of surviving in this art world. An future goal; to be in museums, to be able to communicate with as many people as I possibly can. This might seem a little funny or odd, but to be kind of a bad boy not like Attila Richard Lukas, but a bad boy in the sense that you're not too... the market relies on an artist's consistency but at the same time it can be very formulaic and your painting can become constrained. I think that it is very true what Irene Whittome said "you always have to look for transformation." Ultimately your final painting should not be exactly like the original sketch there should be some sort of a process that is taking place between the two, so there is a constant evolution of the imagery. I would like, if I'm successful enough, to corner some kind of a market and be able to do my paintings in a similar style to what I'm doing now, but to also break out from that and to prove myself as a portraiture painter; to prove myself as whatever else, a realist painter, maybe a psychotic realism. I don't think that you should have real constraint, you should be able to branch off in whatever direction that you feel, as long as you can... you know if it's good, it's gotta be good, right?

Zeke: Would you say that the next set of paintings that you are doing are taking the next step on this?

Philip Bottenberg: I would hope so.

Zeke: Have you started anything?

Philip Bottenberg: Yeah. I have three or four works, pretty much completed at my studio now. Some large ones. In terms of color they are very similar to these, but in the composition and just dealing with the planes it's much more flat. Not so much depth and stuff, but I'm dealing with different collage elements. There is a lot of direction I can go, but at the same time it's a constant job of editing and I try to find what it is within here that I am going to carry through, but I never see them as a complete series with a definite beginning and an end; all the paintings kind of go into one another. For me there's not a clear break anywhere. But yeah I would like to move around and especially now that I'm not known or successful or anything.

Zeke: You're getting there

Philip Bottenberg: I'm getting there but I have a chance now to move around. Like I said if you can prove yourself; I don't think that you have to be a landscape painter or a portrait painter, you're just a painter. It's a challenge to do different things, why be stagnant?

Zeke: Along that line, pick any painting, can explain to me where you got the inspiration for it and almost a step by step process of how you went about painting it.

Philip Bottenberg: Okay well...some of them would be much easier than others; like I can choose that one Olympia you know it's sort of an easy ways way out of me to explain how that's very much an homage to Ross Bleckner, to be specific; a New York artist he does semi-abstract work, I won't try to talk too much about his work but it's very much a homage to him, a tribute in a way. In that sense, it's more about emulation; so maybe it's not the best one to really talk about... but we could take the one in the corner, if you want to try that one.

Olympia by Philip Bottenberg, 48" x 48" Oil on Canvas

Zeke: Sounds cool.

Philip Bottenberg: That's from a photograph. Often the starting point is an image, quite often it's a sketch, but that one is a photograph that I took. it was a frosted window pane in my apartment and through the sky in the horizon through the window pane.

December 22, 2004 by Philip Bottenberg, 48" x 48" Oil on Canvas

Zeke: I never would have guessed that.

Philip Bottenberg: No, of course not cause that's the whole thing that it has gone through a lot of changes and the photograph itself was, I hesitate to use this word but beautiful, but I found it really attractive and it looked like one of my paintings already completed. Which is where the problem kind of lies, because the photo in itself is good enough and to emulate it, that's the whole sort of thing I don't do.... why right now I'm not really painting portraits; I'm trying to find other ways to paint, cause I feel constrained and it's too much of a... it's not that the challenge is not acceptable but it's too restraining to feel that you are always trying to live up to reality.

Zeke: Although as opposed to trying to live up to reality because you are using a photograph, you can end up focusing on different things, and sort of basing it on reality but then changing it. At which point you're directing people's ideas and thoughts through your use of the medium.

Philip Bottenberg: Yeah and the use of a different medium requires a different sort of... I mean reality itself is funny word because everything that I am depicting is a reality, and then there are inner realities that are no less valid than the outside realities that simply that… and then the title too, Ocean of Intangibles. Cause people largely seem to find art work much more palatable when there is something very tangible in it for them to grasp on. For me, looking at paintings, that's no longer what I'm looking for, I'm looking for something more intangible.

Zeke: But I find that with your paintings there is something... like last night I had this guy come in and say "I see a face in that! Am I psychotic and I tripping out on something?" and I said "no" but there are different things that different people see, and three different people will have three different ideas.

Philip Bottenberg: Yeah that's very important to me, the ambiguity and the suggestiveness rather than being overt; being subtle rather than abrasive and in your face. I do believe that there is a lot of power in suggestion. That ideas can stay in the back of your mind, and then you mull them over without realizing it, and you come to your own conclusions and in the end, they make you think. That is something that I want very much in my paintings. If 50 people are able to see 50 different things in one painting then I, in a way, I have achieved my goal; it's a hard thing to explain but it's really what I am trying to do.

Zeke: Getting back to the question, starting with photograph, the step by step process that you go through.

Philip Bottenberg: I can give you the technical mixed in with a little of what actually went on. I had the photo, the photo was in a rectangular format very small. I started off knowing that a transformation will take place, whether I want it to or not. I don't just take a photo and then the painting ends up like the photo. It's not that that is a very interesting way of painting. Some of my favorite artists today paint that way. But for me, I start off with something realistic, I start off with what the background colors will be; knowing that I was going to cover it over in white and that would alter the color in a certain way. You're trying to exert a little control over things, with glazing and colors you are predicting in advance a little bit, what the effect is going to be. That's basically what I did with that one. I did the background and I put on the white later, a little bit sloppily if you ask me. I was at that point trying to break away from the photo a little bit and I was realizing that the photo really worked on its own as it was and it was… you know it didn't have to be... but it's the trigger and it's the starting point for the final piece. I finished the white glaze and I left it and I simply compared it with the photo for a long time, like over a month, and at a certain point I just decided that it was finished and then I varnished it and it was only afterwards that I decided that I wasn't happy with it, that I was not proud of it as a painting. That it hadn't gone far enough away from the photo to become something else. At which point I started layering greens and blues and a brown and finally a black up at the top and down in the corners, which alters it completely from what it originally was.

Zeke: So basically, you lay down the background, put on the white, said okay I think that this is finished, put down the varnish, then you went back over it, at which point would you be working with just one color at a time and then letting that dry; or would you be working with... you said that you went back.

Philip Bottenberg: It's several colors at a time, but one layer; usually that is the way that I work. So for the background it's ochre, fallow, an ultra-marine blue and umber and some burnt sienna but in any case, it's all a mixture and a blending of all of them together and I try not to have them, especially in this one... I try to really have them blend, so that there is no concrete... anything tangible for anyone to hold on to, and so I cover the entire surface and I wait for it to dry. Then once it's dry I go on with my next surface which, in this case would have been the white. In some of the paintings, like the first one around the corner there's 17 glazes and I just kept going back... and you have to let it dry and...

Zeke: Is that the one with the most layers, or?

Philip Bottenberg: I think so yeah. Around the corner Cepheus I think I called it.

Cepheus by Philip Bottenberg, 48" x 48" Oil on Canvas

Zeke: Then what is the one with the least amount of layers?

Philip Bottenberg: Quite possibly Olympia. Some of them, if you start out with a sketch or an image and then the painting just comes to life right away and then it's done. The best thing that you can do is just step back and leave it, and accept the fact that it didn't take you two months like you thought it would but it actually only took you three hours; but other ones can take a very long time. It's one of those things, the longer you take the better a job you can do, and that is what oil paint is really about. That's what that medium lends to that quality of time.

Zeke: Walking through the show, how do I phrase this in terms of... I'm not looking to get you to describe the paintings to me per se, although that would not be bad, but in a nutshell if you could go around the room and describe to me your relative level of happiness with each painting. I recognize that obviously you are happy with everything here, because if you weren't, it wouldn't be here. However I do recognize, like the one by my desk...

Neptune by Philip Bottenberg, 48" x 48" Oil on Canvas (if I remember correctly it was behind my desk during the show)

What is it that makes your level of contentment with the painting higher or lower, or i.e. if you could pick out the things that make that one particularly spectacular to you and why that one where you're think okay I could've done better next time.

Philip Bottenberg: Well I think that on a very basic level, I'm never really content with any of them; and I never have been and that is why I'll always be painting. It's not like manic depression or anything, and yes I am happy with these paintings on a very sort of basic level. I'm more content with the more recent ones that I have done, just because they are the most recent ones and the experience is still lingering of having finished them. So those for me would be the one in the corner.

September 13, 2003 by Philip Bottenberg, 48" x 48" Oil on Canvas

I work in isolation a lot and when I come out and have people see my work, if they respond a lot to one work it might very much encourage me that that work is the greatest one. For example with this show... when we had the vernissage a lot of people commented on the cloud one there and in a sense that is not necessarily my favorite one, but I'm definitely thinking about producing more in a similar fashion.

March 30, 2004 by Philip Bottenberg, 24" x 24" Oil on Canvas

Zeke: But that's never going to get 50 people to think 50 different things.

Philip Bottenberg: No it won't, and it 's also funny that it is the most tangible piece in the entire show, and it's the one that most people respond to, which I could of guessed. As far as the level of contentment, when I surprise myself and I challenge myself and I have surpassed what I have expected and that's a hard...

Zeke: So these are the ones that, you would say that you are surprised with?

Philip Bottenberg: Really, as for my level of highest contentment of anything in the show it might be actually the one that Tommy bought and it's very hard to explain why, but it's simply... it has more to do with the temperate qualities of the colors rather than the composition or anything, and the way that it is laid out and that might be my favorite. It's hard to explain why, it's also to me one of the most minimal and that to me is achieving the most, with not the least effort but.... you know... efficiency. It's funny too, because each different painting can lead you on a different path, for example one of the ones that are most influencing to me now would be that one of there. In the way that the dots are layered, that the patches of color have been layered over one another created a very interesting effect that is not going on so much in the other paintings, and although it is a very small format; for me what it is for me a maquette for ideas for large paintings to see if that technique would work or if I could achieve something. That for me is definitely something that I have been thinking about now that I have to do more with the oil paint because I haven't I feel been doing that enough; but there is a whole technique to doing that... there's glazing and then there is glazing.

December 13, 2003 by Philip Bottenberg, 24" x 24" Oil on Canvas

Zeke: There is that one and then this one which I've been calling "a speed painting" which both have a sense of movement to them, everything else that you have here is pretty much static, the ones with the movement in them the most engaging and the most fun to me. I also like very much sitting out here sometimes cause I realize that while you're talking I'm realizing, that it is the one which I see the least, just because of the position of my desk and stuff like that, and realizing that moving around the room gives you a completely different perspective on stuff.

October 15, 2003 by Philip Bottenberg, 48" x 48" Oil on Canvas

Philip Bottenberg: That is something that attracts me very much about the varnish is that it becomes a bit of a game when you move around the painting and the angle that you are looking at can reveal more than...

Zeke: Although to my mind, varnish per se doesn't give you a sense of movement and stuff like that, it sort of adds to it in layers. Almost like you are putting a pane of glass and watching something as opposed to being actively engaged in it.

Philip Bottenberg: Yeah that's an interesting point, that a lot of people talk about, and that Matthew Woodley mentioned in the review, that other artists also talk about a lot and that maybe… for example I mentioned Ross Bleckner at the beginning. He speaks about the paint being like a skin and then, yeah it's interesting that you can see it that way that the varnish is very much keeping you out, like a skin, which is maybe, but not necessarily why I was using it.

Zeke: You can say skin, you can say sort of like a glass, distancing somehow. And then back to concrete things, in terms of the show itself, I recognize that you had certain expectations, some hopefully were exceeded, I'm fairly certain that there didn't' come to fruition and so on. What can I do to make this place better, specifically using your show as the example.

Philip Bottenberg: I don't know if I could specifically speak about the show. I recognize that I really came back to the earth and realized why I was doing the show and what was I expecting from the beginning and realized this really actually... everything is going the way that I... maybe I wanted to sell every single work but I'm achieving what I set out to achieve; and that has a lot to do with a cv and stuff like that. In terms of you and the gallery I would like to say that it doesn't so much have to do with my show but I really do believe in what you're doing and what you're doing here helps emerging artists, but I feel that it is a little bit of a clique in Montreal, that the same artists circulate and it's very hard for new artists to get in on that. That what you provide is absolutely essential and if you weren't doing this somebody else would have to. Yeah I definitely think that what you are doing here is... I'm surprised almost in a way that you're the only one that is approaching it like this; more people should be able to see that this kind of thing is needed. Having said that I think that you've also cornered yourself a little bit in the market in a particular way in that by only exhibiting artists who have never had a solo show before and that there can only be, like I'll put it quite bluntly, there is only so much money you can ask for, there is only a certain clientele that's coming and this and that. It's funny, I wouldn't know so much how to advise you, I also think that you should have more people help, you need a team of people with you, that are consistently with you and then... but you need that to run a gallery, you can't do it all by yourself and I think that you probably realize that now. You probably realized that for a very long time, so you don't need me to tell you that. More essentially I think you've cornered yourself a bit in the market. It is a very important thing that you are doing, but at the same time... it seems so altruistic. I don't know it's funny. Like I said before I want to work hard at doing something good and be able to make a living off of it and I think that that is essentially what you want.

Zeke: Yeah, realizing that after 6 years, I am apart of the establishment here, which on one hand scares the hell out of me cause I've never wanted to be a part of the establishment. On the other hand pleases me to no end just because...

Philip Bottenberg: But you have to be within the establishment to change it though.

Zeke: Not necessarily, you can come at it from the outside.

Philip Bottenberg: To some degree, some of the changes that you can make will be more effective; but it's like the power of suggestion can sometimes get more done than the overt or abrasive way, so it's just a different way... but I think that it's very important, what you are doing here and in a way, you know, I've been painting for so many years and this is my first solo exhibition. I had my first vernissage, so my hopes were very high, too high and a little unrealistic but I was actually very happy with the outcome. You know in the end things could have been much worse and they really aren't so bad. So essentially yeah, I'm fairly happy, it's not bad... I've spoken with other artists and I've heard some really crazy stories, some very terrible stories about the experiences that they've had, which makes this look like a piece of pie compared to some things I've heard. But a neighbor of mine, who is an artist who does small works told me what vernissages are really about; it's your friends and family. But it depends as well, cause it's the very first. You know that the very first time I came here, I had actually looked for this place several times and just passed by because I never bothered to look up the address, but I was just in the neighborhood and I came here with Kate and you had that woman's work, she was doing her masters at Concordia they were large white...

Zeke: Oh yes, Martha Fleury

Philip Bottenberg: And she used the eraser, you know based on that I came here and I found this place and I was very very interested because it was the work that you chose to exhibit that brought me in.

A girl, by Martha Fleury, 54" X 24" charcoal and acrylic on canvas

Zeke: Cool. Are there any questions, since we are recording, that you would like me to ask you?

Philip Bottenberg: Ummm, No

Zeke: Okay are there any questions you want to ask me?

Philip Bottenberg: No, not too much, I think that everything else is all good.

Zeke: Thank you very much, that was fun.

Todd Gibson, always on the ball


From the floor, to The Art Newspaper article written by Marc Spiegler to the UK's House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee's Sixth Report to the Art Sales Index's Country Statistics to read in black and white that Canada's artists accounted for less than 1% of the worldwide art market last year.

For comparison (if you don't want to click) that places this country smack dab in between Belgium and Denmark, closer to Uruguay than Australia. Hmmmm.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal seems to have gotten it!


The Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal has a new website! Woo-Hoo! On first glance it looks wicked cool!

Edwin Holgate by Jacquline Mabey


Earlier this week
, a bunch of us went to see the Edwin Holgate exhibit at the Musée des Beaux Arts. I asked everybody to write down what they thought. This one is graciously supplied by Jacquline Mabey.

Edwin Holgate Retrospective at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

I went to the Edwin Holgate Retrospective at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts knowing little about the artist and expecting less from the show. Perhaps it was Holgate’s connection with the Group of Seven that tainted my opinion, put off, as I am, by their strangle hold on the common cultural consciousness of what defines Canadian art, and my own apathy towards landscape art in general. Or maybe it was vague associations of Holgate with female nudes in landscape settings, which set off my “problematic image” alarm, developed from years of art historical training.

Whatever the source, I went into the show with low expectations, but found myself pleasantly surprised by many of his works. The retrospective is arranged chronologically which, I suppose, is the odd and wonderful thing about a show like this: the luxury of watching an artist’s style change and (hopefully) grow, all in one convenient location. Holgate’s early works, such as On the Dkierpr, Ukraine (1914), a small oil on canvas, are marked by a noticeable uncertainty of formal handling, a seeming unease of execution. Filled with the artist’s work from the interwar period, the following two rooms are the sites of Holgate’s most compelling work. At a time when landscape painting dominated the artistic scene, Holgate’s portraiture reveals, not some representation of mythic and transcendental “Canadianness,” but the psychology of several very specific Canadians. Even when the artist takes up “Canadian types,” such as in the painting Paul, Trapper (1929), Holgate holds the treatment of an archetypal theme in tension with the depiction of an individual identity. Here, balance is achieved through the inclusion of the subject’s name in the title and the compressed visual frame.

Indeed, Holgate’s most compelling portraits employ a compressed frame, which creates a feeling of intimacy and concentration. My particular favourite, Ludivine (1930),

depicts the sitter in a ¾ length pose, seated on a couch. The lack of objects around her, the minimal palette, the direct lines and abstracted forms focus all emphasis on Ludivine. Her intense stare confronts the viewer with an almost awkward honesty. Evidently, Holgate made the portrait shortly after a death in the sitter’s family. The strain is evident in the manner in which she holds her hands and her stiff posture, and her weary look. All elements come together to create a meaningful psychological portrait and, perhaps most importantly, a dialogue between the artist/ viewer and the subject.

This dialogue is sorely lacking from his wartime paintings. While often formally inventive- see, for example, his innovative and dynamic use of line and colour in Ship Building in Sorel (1942)- these paintings lack the individuated personalities of his earlier works, although this is understandable given their function as war records. Holgate’s post war pieces, created in Morin Heights, lack the spark and conviction of the work of the interwar period. That said, Holgate’s wood block prints were a revelation. Works such as Pierrot Hung (1923) are both technically deft and formally original. Here, Holgate is able to convey a sense of injustice and sorrow with minimal line, creating a uniquely accessible and powerful image. Without the inclusion of the prints, the show would have been, overall, a disappointment. Their inclusion revealed to me a side of Canadian art that deserves more attention.
[Update, June 4, 2005: Sari Mandel on Edwin Holgate]

And if you want my thought's on Mr. Holgate, click here.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Silly kid stuff for a long weekend


Shamelessly lifted from the archives of Museum-L

Terry Allen, Truckload of Art
Austin Lounge Lizards, Truckload of Art.
Tonio K, Let Us Join Together in a Tune, explanation here (4th paragraph).
Toy Matinee, Turn It on Salvador
Dar Williams, Mark Rothko Song
Slick Rick, Mona Lisa
Bob Dylan, When I Paint my Masterpiece

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Alexander Calder makes the Journal de Montreal


It is rare when our local tabloid covers things visual, and rarer still that it is available on line, but today Le Journal hit the motherlode. They inform everybody that there is an "abandoned piece of art" here in Montreal, which someone thinks is worth $50 million. (I gotta hand it to 'em, it does make for a great headline.) Basically the news in a nutshell; Alexander Calder's L'Homme was made and installed for Expo 67. Unlike most stuff from that era it hasn't been burned, razed, or transformed into a money making machine. It has merely been forgotten. Because of the upcoming World Aquatic Championships, everybody at city hall is in a tizzy about making the city look its best. So Francine Sénécal conveniently remembered the sculpture, and then pointed out to people with the checkbook's that the graffiti on it was unsightly (if it's been tagged, who exactly are the people with the lousy memories? Certainly not the youth of this fair city).

Ms. Sénécal pointed out that the Calder sculpture that had been destroyed when the World Trade Center came crashing down had netted the owners $20 million from the insurance companies. Maybe because of this they decided to pitch in $116,000 of our tax dollars to get rid of the graffiti on it. I would imagine that the bulk of the money is going to this guy (nice work if you can get it, eh?). What I find most interesting is the arguments that Ms. Sénécal, used to convince the dudes with the fancy signatures to cough up the cash.

1. She dug up some old catalogues from Sotheby's and Christie's in New York (why they didn't think to look in London, Paris or elsewhere, I don't know).
2. L'Homme is the biggest unpainted Calder sculpture in the world (Instead of this being a feature, maybe it's a fault?).
3. The value of Calder's work continues to increase since 1998 (duh! He's dead).
4. Calder created it when he was at the top of his career (chicken or egg?).
5. Great sculptures of Calder are rare; and few cities have any: Chicago, Paris, Cologne, Berlin, Spoletto and Mexico City. (Ummm, I'd dispute the first point, and if your list of cities includes Cologne and Spoletto, I'm not sure what the point is.)
6. None of the large Canadian museums has a work of art of such a great value (Can you say "wrong?" Or if they are referring to solely expensive Calders, then how does this factor in to calculating the value of Montreal's?).

While I'm not against them restoring it to its original glory. I don't like the method or means with which the arguments were made to get the cash to do it. And given Montreal's past history of caring for public art, I can only guess that there are some shady back room deals being made. Why else would the Journal explicitly ask "are you going to move the sculpture?" And why else would Ms. Sénécal qualify her answer by saying "we are in the process of evaluating Jean Drapeau park, and we would prefer to bring people to the park." C'mon! The latest and greatest trend is to bring the fancy ass sculptures to where the money is! How much would you like to bet, that whatever company gives the most money to the World Aquatic Championships, gets to stick the Calder in their lobby, or better still in the backyard of the country house of their CEO!

Two takes on Manif d'art 3


It is unlikely that I will be able to make it up to Quebec City to see the Manifestation internationale d'art de Québec. But there are reports up and out about it that make me want to get a driver's license, so I can. First, you got Cedric Caspesyan's version. And then there's the interview with Claude Bélanger, Patrice Loubier, and Yannick Pouliot from Monday's Porte ouverte.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Edwin Holgate at the Musée des Beaux Arts


I just got back from the presser for the Musée des Beaux Arts latest and greatest exhibit, a retrospective on the one, the only Edwin Holgate. To get the easy stuff out of the way first, I'd give the exhibit a B+, a strong B+, but a B+ none the less. As with any exhibit it is way easy to complain, criticize and condemn, and believe you me, all my questions will be asked before I finish typing this sucker.

But before I get into the stuff that you're gonna think is catty, believe it or not I like the show. Before getting the invite, I wouldn't have been able to recognize an Edwin Holgate painting from a Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald painting, and I would have thought that the Beaver Hall Hill group was some insurance company that had offices in the Banque nationale building. Afterwards, though, I am full of learnin'!

Personally, I got a kick out of Mr. Holgate's portraits, and his woodcuts/engravings/prints rock like nobody's business. I wasn't able to get a gander at the catalogue, but I hope that the woodcuts are all reproduced. As per normal, I don't know much about how the suckers are made, but Mr. Holgate seems to know what he was doing. When he was making 'em. Given that an awful lot is made about the time he spent out west making pictures of the Gitxsan on the Skeena river in British Colombia (it gets the same amount of space as everything he did from 1946 until 1977) I wonder how much their carving techniques influenced him. I might have to go back and have a closer look at them in a chronological fashion to see if I can't figure something out.

In the room dedicated to the Prints and Illustrated books, I got quite confused over a couple of small things, that don't detract from the exhibit, but made me raise an eyebrow. First, there are these two prints, both entitled "The Bathers," one is with black ink, the other is with a brown or tan ink. They are right next to each other, and to my untrained eye I couldn't see a darn thing different between 'em, except of course the color. Some other small points that I saw, in my brief run through was that in the Skeena River room, they had three other prints, I think that two of the tags got messed up, 'cuz on the piece called Totem Poles No. 1 it says "color woodprint" or something like that, but there ain't no color that I could see (unless I recently became colorblind) however, the number 2 does have some color, but it is merely labeled "woodprint." My best guess is that someone should go back over the tags and proof 'em.

By far and away the best room, despite my preference for the prints, is the "Landscapes, Nudes and Portraits" all because of the portraits. I realized that I'm not a big fan of his landscapes, on a superficial level I found them all to be just a little too blurry, rounded, not precise enough or something. And there really wasn't anything jumping out at me on the wall text trying to explain the hows and the whys. Which then led me to believe that one of the reasons why I like the portraits is that for the most part the backgrounds on them is rather plain. Or on those that don't have plain backgrounds the faces themselves are so freakin' strong and in your face that unless I forced myself to focus and concentrate on them I didn't pay them no mind.

One of the portraits, and prominently displayed, too I might add, is of Jean Chauvin. It made me laugh, because strung out on the tops of the walls all throughout the exhibit are quotes, used like soundbites that I can only think are there in order to impress you with how important Mr. Holgate is, was and is going to be. As with most wall text, sometimes I look, sometimes I read, and most of the time I ignore. But I did read one (unfortunately I didn't write it down) that was by the very same Jean Chauvin, and it was very complimentary of Mr, Holgate's work. What you gotta realize is that M. Chauvin was one of the art critics in Montreal at the time, and the folk at the museum led me to believe that he was fairly influential, too. I like the idea (I don't know if it true or not) that Mr. Holgate was trying to curry favor with an influential art critic by offering to paint his portrait. Seems like ethics in the art world 70 years ago were as malleable as they are today. I'm going to have to remember to suggest to all my painter friends that they offer to do portraits of Nicolas Mavrikakis ASAP.

Beyond that the other things that sorta jumped out at me, were:

If you look closely at the painting "Wet Day - 1943" your standard issue military painting, you can see what I would guess would be the first known tag by local artist Zilon. I didn't know that Zilon was so old.

In the Prints and Illustrated Books section there's one piece that's a wash on paper, it sorta stands out like a sore thumb being next to all the woodcuts.

On the tag for the Coolie Girl, Brian Foss and Rosalind Pepall impose a late 20th century notion about the subject, going all misty eyed about how Mr. Holgate elevates the subject by painting her looking straight at the viewer, sort of apologizing for the racism at the time. From my seat, ignoring the title, given the nature of the earrings and the apparent quality of her dress, I would strongly question what they say about the nature of her supposed status. For what it is worth, Marcus Garvey founded the UNIA in Jamaica in 1914 (a full 15 years before Mr. Holgate painted Coolie Girl) and while I can't vouch for having first hand knowledge of what conditions were like in Jamaica at the time, my best guess would be that they were entirely different, and slightly better than in the United States at the time. As coolie in it's dictionary definition means an Indian or Chinese unskilled laborer, and she as shootin' doesn't look like she's from either place, I would imagine that Mr. Holgate used the term "coolie" to apply to anybody who's skin was darker than his irregardless of what they actually did in real life. Can you imagine washing floors, or cooking over a hot stove with earrings like that?

And while for the most part Christiane Michaud designed a very nice exhibition, I gotta point out that by placing the pen (or maybe pencil) sketches for the Fire Ranger and The Lumberjack, on an entirely different wall (and fairly far away) from the portraits of the Fire Ranger and the Lumberjack she almost made me miss 'em. If she could put two copies of The Bathers side-by-side, why couldn't she have done that with these? I'm certain it would have been eye popping.

So there you have it in a sort of large nutshell. Overall the exhibit rocks. I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to check the catalogue out. As I went to the presser with Sari Mandel, Jacquline Mabrey, and Rina Zigler (aka The Amazing Interns) anything they have to say about the exhibit I will post here as well.

[Update, May 28, 2005: Jacquline Mabey on Edwin Holgate]

[Update, June 4, 2005: Sari Mandel on Edwin Holgate]

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Jean-François Lacombe Interview


Back at the end of 2004 during Jean-François Lacombe's exhibit here I interviewed him. It has finally been transcribed by Jacquline Mabey, who I thank ever so much for her help. All of the photos were taken by Paul Litherland, unless they were taken by Jean-François.

If you'd like more information about Jean-François Lacombe's work click here, or here.

Zeke: First, what do you think about the show? Don't pull any punches.

Jean-François Lacombe: Qu'est ce que tu veux dire? [What do you mean?]

Zeke: Don't hold back anything.

Jean-François Lacombe: I'm pleased about it. I'm pleased with the changes you made. I'm very pleased with the effort. The only problem is the invitations. I would have hoped that they could have been sent out earlier.

Zeke: Yeah, I agree.

Jean-François Lacombe: There would have been more people at the event. But I'm also happy about the vernisage because there were lots of people who I didn't know.

Zeke: OK. What do you have as far as plans for the future?

Jean-François Lacombe: I'm going to be applying to the Jardin de Metis. And that's a big step for me. That's the direction I'd like to go. I want to continue sculpting pieces, small pieces, for inside, in gallery. But, this would be more an interactive work, a site-specific work. And, since there's about a hundred thousand people that visit the Jardin de Metis every year it's a nice opportunity. And since it's a garden, I can interact with nature.

Installation Shot from Above, Below, Center and Ether

Zeke: And beyond that? Do you have any ideas, plans, goals?

Jean-François Lacombe: I haven't thought about what's next yet. First, I have to do the exposition at the Centre des Arts Contemporains. It's going to be more of an installation, a big, big installation, with lots of objects interacting with each other.

Zeke: So it's more than just The Eels?

Jean-François Lacombe: Yes. It's gonna be a narrative. Not just poetic pieces, but pieces that you can relate to, like, symbols, objects in it, and the interaction between these symbols and objects in space.

Zeke: We can get back to that later, but I'd like to discuss the environmental nature of your stuff. Where did it come from? How far back? When you were you four, when you were two?

Jean-François Lacombe: I always played outside. I was a lonely kid. There was this field. I was always playing with wood or stones. As far back as I can remember I always liked to build tree houses. I was always fascinated with the phenomena of life, the cycles, the cycles of the seasons. Beside the house there was this big ditch and right after that there was the rail road. In the spring, the ditch would fill with water, so I would build rafts. I remember one time, the ice broke and I fell in the cold water. It was strange to feel wet in the heart of winter. I'll remember it always... So I guess it goes back to that time.

Zeke: When you were there was the stuff you were building and playing around with anyway similar to what's up here now?

Jean-François Lacombe: Not at all. But, I could make a parallel or you could relate it to the imaginary world that I built then. I always try to build stuff that has history. I always try to build a history around the objects. A beginning, a middle, and an end. So you can sense the growing process. So yeah, I guess that's a similarity. This expo was a bit in reaction to what I was learning at school. I started out studying graphic design. It was the coming of the computer, everyone was jumping on the computer, letting go of drawing, of the materials. They were trying to deconstruct the letters, Ray Gun... and all that stuff. I wasn't into that. I don't know why. But I started building things and going to the workshop. Working with wood. And at that time I started going on what I called "lonely expeditions" In old warehouses on the Canal Lachine. I would pick up discarded objects that I could incorporate into my sculptures. I felt that there was a connection I was looking for a sort of past. Not just the presence of newness, but pieces that were weathered, that had lived for a while. Just like the material I used when I was little. For me, it was that connection I was looking for. The direct feelings of things. The experience of the phenomena, the natural cycles of things, including death. Not just to make them abstract or theory, but experience them for myself firsthand. I don't want to lose that connection, that intimacy with the elements.

Zeke: I notice with certain pieces, like most of The Lampas and Hieroglyph, that there is a sort of design element to them. However, with The Eels, they are very different. Where did that idea come from?


Jean-François Lacombe: The Eels were produced during my residency at Saint Jean Port Joli Centre Est Nord Est. The purpose of the residency is to create something in a new context. I wanted to go further than The Lampas. For me, The Lampas were something in the past. Something that I've dealt with. And I was trying to go beyond that. The Eels actually can be traced back to my ideas formed while making an earlier work. The Ephemeral sculpture for the University de Montreal. Which was a wall going through from the outside to the inside made out of recycled cedar. With this project I was trying to grasp the essence of the passage, the transition, inside outside, from one material to the other. I was very pleased with the result with the wood part. You can sense the strong sense of energy, of movement. So I tried to build on that with The Eels. The installation is meant to mimic or represent a wave. A sense of movement, but inside. Saint Jean Port Joli is a River front, the St. Lawrence. So the St. Lawrence river was a big influence, during my residency, because of the tides. That phenomena was very appealing to me. I tried to represent that in this installation.

Passage Ephemere

Zeke: I'm thinking in terms of one very specific difference, most of your other pieces are made out of multiple media. Wood and stone, or leaves. Metal and wood. The Eels are only made out of wood. Was that a conscious decision based out of the Ephemeral Passageway or did it just happen naturally?

Lampa X detail

Jean-François Lacombe: I had to work in a very short period of time with the materials I had and since Saint Jean Port Jolie has a big history of carving. It's known as, the cradle of the sculpture for Quebec, so I tried to work with that. And I also tried to incorporate some poetic work in a narrative context.

Zeke: OK. I'm thinking that if you don't suspend them and put them all on the ground as opposed to eels they'd be snakes.

Jean-François Lacombe: Yes [laughs].

Zeke: So when you wanna exhibit them some place like Arizona just call them "Snake Project."

Jean-François Lacombe: [laughs.]

Zeke: Um, I'm getting the idea that most of your work is very very thought intensive, and that you almost think them out entirely in the abstract before actually doing any of them. Is that the case?

Jean-François Lacombe: No [laughs]. Especially not "The Lampas" or my first works.

Zeke: That would surprise me, because I would think with the Lampas that seems like a lot of thought went into them, and obviously they're gonna be certain changes along the way, but that they almost come out almost fully formed and you say "OK, this are the objects I have, this is how I want to combine them."

Lampa XII detail

Jean-François Lacombe: Well, I imagine you could sense the lampas are designed because each piece was created for and from a specific site, and the stories that emerge from that place. But things are different from what I imagine at first... and the result... I don't think is always planned. 'Cause always, like you said, the randomness of the materials and the process, and the techniques that we have to work with, and the accidents... that play a big part of it. But yeah, I've always drawn things first. I have a specific idea. Sometime of the purpose of the sculpture...that's never explained. Ah, and then that feeling or that purpose becomes informed at the end.

Zeke: OK. Is there any piece that you've done where you've done the opposite in terms of not sketching, just saying, "Oh, this is a beautiful object, a beautiful material, let's jut see what happens"?

Jean-François Lacombe: "Yellow Flower."

Zeke: OK. So it's like just slit the bottom...

Jean-François Lacombe: Yes.

Zeke:...and then slip in the glass rods?.

Jean-François Lacombe: Indeed.

Zeke: OK, 'cause people have asked me if the holes were drilled and I said, "Nope!" [laughs]

Jean-François Lacombe: They are. [laughs]

Zeke: OK.

Jean-François Lacombe: But yeah, it was quite the opposite for process for me with this piece. And this piece makes the transition from "The Lampas" For the show at O Patro Vys. I didn't want to show stuff that I'd only made in the past. I wanted to make some new pieces. That was "The Yellow Flower."

Zeke: OK.

Jean-François Lacombe: I think I was just pleased with the process of it. Just getting back into the moment, directly into the material.

Zeke: OK. You were a little bit reticent about showing old stuff here, why?

Jean-François Lacombe: For two reasons. One is that, as you mentioned, "The Eels" and "The Lampas" are so different. I didn't want to create confusion.

Zeke: Uh huh. It is the certain thing where you take, say, "Meet the Beetles" and "Sergeant Pepper's", they don't sound anything alike, but they're made but the same people "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" is as good as "A Day in the Life" for different reasons, but there isn't anyone who would confuse the two. Though, there are certain people who say they like earlier Beatles more that later Beatles. But there isn't a sense of confusion, and it is the same with any artistic career, the sense of progress that in my mind...

Lampa XII

Jean-François Lacombe: Maybe this apprehension comes from the fact that I haven't done shows before. Over the past seven years, and this leap to new stuff. And frankly, the new stuff, by itself, just "Eels" like that, doesn't say much.

Zeke: . I agree, but there from my perspective, taking any one piece out of here would not hurt the show. But putting good stuff, definitely makes the show better. Then with "The Eels," they're sorta like a sub section.

Jean-François Lacombe: Um, what can I say? I... since these are narrative installations...that you will grasp the sense or the feeling...when you see the other objects and their position in space, it felt just weird to put it like that.

Zeke: OK.

Jean-François Lacombe: The Lampas are pieces that can hold on their own.

Zeke: Uh huh. In my mind "The Eels" while not as powerful as "The Lampas"...

Jean-François Lacombe: Alone.

Zeke:…are worthwhile objects on their own, and it is the sorta thing where you're imposing a certain narrative and meaning on them from your perspective. Someone else's perspective is not necessarily wrong, incorrect, they get something different, you can get into endless discussions, which are fascinating and fun.

Projet des Anguilles [aka The Eels]

Jean-François Lacombe: You mean the next installation?

Zeke: No, I'm talking in terms of in theory, the sort of thing where "The Eels" 'cause they're there, give you a specific idea in mind, somebody else comes in and says, "Oh, I have this idea from them, I get this sense from them." At which point, you can say, "That's not my idea," but it can't be wrong." At which point saying that they are a good sculpture, installation, and that somebody else gets something else from it.

[ed note: While editing this interview Jean-François wanted to stress this point by adding - "Indeed, the idea is not to impose a closed meaning upon the work, but to go beyond the unique object (Lampa) and to use both the space and the juxtaposition of different pieces to create layers of meaning, layers of possibilities, layers of stories."]

Zeke: There's also, in terms of my thinking, one theory I have in regards to Quebecois art or Canadian art, Quebecois art more specifically, you view the stuff you're doing as projects and there's a sense that once a project is done it gets retired. It's like your gong from the Jardin Botanique. You have no plans on what to do other than it's gonna gather dust for the next couple of years until you say "Enough of this, let's do something with it." And maybe it gets turned into another sculpture. Whereas in the States, in Europe, there is a whole sorta sense of "Yes, I am making specific projects, but they are designed as opposed to just being seen," sold, and seen multiple times. And getting you to get that sense, that it may be four years old, but hiding it in your studio and letting it gather dust is not a good idea.

Jean-François Lacombe: Yeah, the project, "The Eels" is meant to grow I think. 'Cause I did an installation back at Saint Jean Port Joli with them, but then exhibiting them at Centre des Arts Contemporain it becomes a totally different thing. But I'm using the same elements... I'm very involved right now with site specific projects. Using the space, using the atmosphere, the spirit of the place. This gives me the opportunity to work on a larger scale.

Zeke: In my mind it's like, had we suspended the gong, right here.

Jean-François Lacombe: We could have. [laughs] Of course.

Zeke: That's one of the things I adore about this place, just how the art is forced to interact with the place, even though it was never created for the space.

Installation Shot

Jean-François Lacombe: Well, with any interior space, that's the case, 'cause at the Centre des Arts Contemporains it's not gonna be white walls. I'm doing this in their basement. It's the old bricks and the dirt floor...

Zeke: If you need any help with the hanging let me know.

Jean-François Lacombe: OK, great. Thank you [laughs].

Zeke: Yeah, you say after the Centre des Arts Contemporains you have a proposal for the Jardin du Metis. What's the idea behind that project? Because I imagine that you've started sketching for it, do you have any ideas?

Jean-François Lacombe: Yes, it's a about transition again, transitional space.

Zeke: Are you going to work with metal, wood, stone...?

Jean-François Lacombe: Wood. Yes...almost just wood. Trees, you know?

Zeke: When you incorporate different materials, to me works way better. If you're planning on all just all wood - that transition to one material...

Jean-François Lacombe: It's not just a transition for, Jardin du Metis, or any project that's outside, you work with the vegetation, with the rocks, with the ground, with the air, with the water, so all these elements become a part of the project, a part of the sculpture. So with the Jardin du Metis, what I'm planning to do is incorporate stuff that would go in the ground, up the air, and you would have a movement, you would move through the space. I would like to use the trees also, and incorporate that with the elements of the... So it's not a unique material that I'm going to be using. But then again, it's just a proposal. But once a project appears to me, I have to push it all the way out, even if it's not materialized. I realize the mental process, so I can sorta go beyond it.

Zeke: OK, so that brings in another sort of thing: What artist's do you emulate, do you appreciate, do you think suck?

Jean-François Lacombe: I will start with the Quebecois, 'cause coming from the design schools, I didn't learn anything about sculpture, especially not sculptors from Quebec. So I've just discovered sculptors recently from Quebec. But Roland Poulin, not inspiration, but I admire his simplicity, and his installations, I would say. But the installation part of his work, there's always three or four balance, and this is like one piece. There's a strong sense of humanity and spirituality in his work that I relate to. Of course there's Andy Goldsworthy. When I started doing sculptures he was a great influence to just translate the phenomena into materiality. What others? What's his name, the Japanese guy? I could send it to you...he did some work with recyclables, wood planks. Always invading the space, I would say.

Zeke: Any artists that you don't like?

Jean-François Lacombe: [laughs] That I don't like? There's no I can think of...the ones that I like, I like very much, and all the others are like in the same bag, you know? If I can't relate to the work, if I'm not touched by it, I'm not interested in it, I won't go and read what it means. 'Cause if it don't touches me at first, I'm not interested. So I'm always trying to do this, to appeal to the senses, the sensuality, so you can relate to the pieces. And then, if there's an intellectual process afterwards. But, yeah, very conceptual artists I don't like, I don't relate to it, it's just, how do you say it rendre compte?

Zeke: Rendre Compte? I understand it but I'm not certain I can come up with the translation.

Jean-François Lacombe: The, ah, much of the contemporary work, well at least in Quebec, is much too rendre compte, of something that is going on. We say "Oh this is going on, so we present it." There's nothing - well there's not much work, that project you somewhere else. That say, OK, "This is going on, but what could happen next? Could we go somewhere else than this reality?"

Zeke: OK. I do find within Quebec, the artists are very insular. No one thinks outside the borders of Quebec.

Jean-François Lacombe: Indeed.

Zeke: Which I find unfortunate.

Jean-François Lacombe: Not as much at the centres d'artistes but the grant system encourages that. It's very much the statement of the artist, the progression of the artist regarding the past history of art that seems important to them, more relevant than the pieces themselves, which I find a bit problematic. It's hard for me to explain because I took the opposite route. The first sculpture I did was a commission, and I did a lot of those before considering doing any shows. I came into that world of sculpture to use my intuition rather than my intellect. So theorizing about my work is outside the essential essence of it.

Zeke: Yes. I like where Canada Council is in the process of revamping their whole grant structure, and I really, really like what they're doing. Although they're a whole lot of people complaining up the wazoo.

Jean-François Lacombe: Well, as you mentioned, the art market is absent in Quebec. This is one of the big reasons the conseil des arts works in the way they do. 'Cause people are not interested in buying art.

Zeke: No, but they could force people to become interested. And you can't forget here in Quebec, no one is developing a secondary market, either.

Jean-François Lacombe: No.

Zeke: And that's why I say with regards to your art, to then get you out of "these are my past, don't want to be dealing with them." No. This is foundation from which you build.

Jean-François Lacombe: But the other thing about the art world, in particular, the one percent for art that gets integrated with architecture and new buildings. In the process of it, the artist gets a lot of money.

Zeke: Well that depends, sometimes they don't get a lot.

Jean-François Lacombe: Well they get a lot of budget. I don't know if they get a lot of money in their pocket, that's another question [laughs]. But this process is more like... more people are involved, not just other artists, unlike when they give out grants. It's not just peers, the architect, some artists, the owner of the building, users and citizens. Many people get involved: they chose something, they chose an artist, they chose a piece. So this process is more an open process, I would say. A closed process would be the artist creating alone in is studio.

Zeke: Oh no, I disagree with you entirely. Look at, the Laval metro extension. The artist got $80,000, 1%, for art. However, they have cost overruns. So when the cost has gone up do they increase the 1%? No, they don't. The woman who is running the whole show has already said she wants, some sort of video stained glass type thing. So she's already got it fixed in her head what she wants. To my mind that closes the door right there. You could submit you stuff for that, but she's already said, "This is what I want." She running the project. The four people sitting around the table are gonna probably listen. You take, down at the Palais de Congres, the Pink Trees and the Pixilated Face. I don't like 'em, I won't ask you if you like it or not, but hello! And how do they incorporate it into the whole space? They look like they were plopped down. You take the Bibliotheque Nationale. They're putting the, the 1% art back out. Nobody's gonna see it. And to my mind, it is like, yeah, on the surface they're doing a good deed, but they really aren't doing anything other than giving lip service, saying, "Yeah, we gotta support art," and so on.

Jean-François Lacombe: But it is the same thing, the same process, as when you get a commission from a company. They have something in mind and you have to work around that to produce something that you can relate to. You necessarily have to make some concessions, even if it's just the material chosen. I separate the commission from my other work. Two ways of doing things, different but similar. I find that the 1% relates more to a design process than to sculpture.

Zeke: To my mind, you should stand it on its head and say, "OK. This is what I've made, 'Lampa X,' is what I've made. Now, what can I do to incite someone to buy it? What can I do so as to then make sure that the value increases?"

Jean-François Lacombe: You have to be a seller to do that.

Zeke: Yeah.

Jean-François Lacombe: And artists are not sellers.

Zeke: Oh, some of them are.

Jean-François Lacombe: Well that's good for them! But I'm not.

Zeke: And that's why galleries come in, auction houses come in, why there are other players. But in Quebec there isn't that sort of way of thinking. And so you gotta find it elsewhere. To take "Lampa IV," take all the "The Lampas," go down to New York- I'm certain it would be as easy as pie to get them in some gallery there. And at which point, you go and make a whole whack of new stuff. Take "The Eels," after it's at Centre d'Art Contemporain, there are how many other places that can do installations like that? Take that out on the road, sell them off one by one by one, and then you're good to go.

Lampa II

Jean-François Lacombe: What I meant by the process of the commission, there is some good and bad things about it. I don't know if it's possible to impose a piece on someone that has the power and makes the decision. The power? It's a big issue.

Zeke: Yeah, but you don't have to impose it on them, but you can focus their thinking saying, "OK. This is really pretty, this is what it's worth now, and given the state of the career, given the state of the stuff Jean-François Lacombe has made, this is what I can see in the future." And for somebody solely focused on money, that's one way to focus their thinking. For somebody who is solely focused on aesthetics, and doesn't think about the money aspect; "No, once I get an object, I dust it off everyday, I look at it, I gaze at it fondly, it makes my life happy" and so on. That's another way of thinking. Making people more aware, having as many as exhibitions as possible. All of those things can be done, both in concert and separately. And to my mind, it is a matter of just figuring out which ones are important, and then going and doing them.

Lampa I detail

Jean-François Lacombe: Yeah, 'cause I think we'll have a big problem in the future.

Zeke: Yep.

Jean-François Lacombe: Big problems. But that's another story.

Zeke: Your thesis was the last sort of major topic I wanted to discuss - can you explain it to me a little bit?

Jean-François Lacombe: [laughs] This came from the project I've did for my diploma. I wanted to find a place to show "The Lampas" - that was the goal, that was the original project. I found this old quarry I was going to...

Zeke: Would you like more beer as well?

Jean-François Lacombe: Sure.

Zeke: OK. Where was this quarry?

Jean-François Lacombe: near Melocheville. The thing with the quarry is there's lots of old concrete walls, concrete structures made to move the rocks. It's like a modern Stonehenge. They're all aligned in a certain way. The vegetation - 'cause it's a abandoned - just sprung out. There was a strong feeling and spirit to it, so I had difficulty integrating the pieces in it. This led me to just study and assimilate the essence that was in the quarry. So I went on with that project to do my Master's degree. What I found was there is always a physical landscape. So this is like the ground, the air, and the sunlight, the vegetation. And the other part of the spirit of the place is the imaginary landscape, what I call imaginary, but it's more like the projectoral or the intellectual, it's the memoire du lieu. Thought always requires both physical and imaginary landscape to be complete. It's the interaction between the two that produces the spirit, the meaning of the place, the sense of the place.

Zeke: Sounds very cool. If you've got a spare copy lying around or you want to email me one...

Jean-François Lacombe: OK, sure. I will. So that was the big wrap up of all the experiments I've done with the sculptures. Integrating them with the landscape, taking some material in situ, and then bringing back the sculptures and taking photographs of the sculptures in the landscape. Sometimes I refer to "The Lampas" as embodying that landscape. But with the installation, they don't embody a landscape, they create one. And maybe the thesis help me to separate those two, to be able to combine them more effectively.

Zeke: Yes, to recognize which is...

Jean-François Lacombe: Which is which, yeah. Which belongs to which, 'cause it's not always clear... like your yellow wall. When people came here, the wall, the yellow wall was a physical landscape, but the association you make with that wall is more intellectual, more a projection. What does it project? A white wall with no holes in it or a yellow wall with some holes in it? But the couch is still here, the beer is still here, what's the difference?


Zeke: Yeah, it's why, one of the reasons were, when I could make the intellectual leap to say, "Yes, change is possible and I do have faith." But it wasn't until I said, "OK, I have faith." And now, having experienced the new space - the one thing that I'm most aware of - is that the space is not as bright, and that to me is a significant change.

Jean-François Lacombe: OK, yeah, maybe it's the green-

Zeke: - it's a dark green

Jean-François Lacombe: Yeah, but it's a nice color.

Zeke: OK, have you ever thought of incorporating sound as well into your installations?

Jean-François Lacombe: At the CACQM there's gonna be some sound and some projection.

Zeke: OK, video projection as well?

Jean-François Lacombe: We don't know yet. I have a friend who's a musician and composer. He did the soundtrack for my animation film, stop motion "Debacle." He did a good job so I might ask him to do it again.

Zeke: Are there any questions you'd like to ask?

Jean-François Lacombe: What about the show? What about the general feelings about the show?

Zeke: Oh, I like it very much. I recognize that this show is about as close to white cube as I ever want to get.

Jean-François Lacombe: Oh yeah?

Zeke: Yeah, it strikes me as being very white cube like, ie each piece has it's own space, it can be set off so it is contemplative, and to me- especially with the change in the paint job - it is the sort of thing where it is a little too neat and clean.

Lampa I

Jean-François Lacombe: OK [laughs].

Zeke: Nonetheless, it think the art is phenomenal, so it does make that sort of antiseptic edge less hard. I enjoy it very much, and if I didn't I, would not have pressured you so much into doing it.

Jean-François Lacombe: What about the vernisage and the comments you've had?

Zeke: The general commentary I've had is overwhelmingly not only positive but superlative. Everybody's said, "Whoa, this is cool." And I say, "Yes, you can touch it, you're not going to break it! They're heavy"

Jean-François Lacombe: [laughs] Yes, indeed.

Zeke: And just watching people as they interact with the stuff, whether they're coming in to do other business, and suddenly look around and say, "Whoa, that's cool." Or they come in totally expecting art in here, but their previous experiences with art here was about as radically different as you can imagine, and suddenly they're looking around, and saying, "Holy smokes, this is cool." With the vernisages, yeah, I was pissed off with the delays on the invitation. However in pure numbers I would have preferred way more, but, I think we ended up with about 160 odd people for the vernisages, so I figure that's alright, not great but alright.

Jean-François Lacombe: Yeah, that's good.

Zeke: I figure we'll probably end up with something like, I don't know, 1,000-1,500 people who will come through here during the course of the exhibition, which to my mind is very good.

Jean-François Lacombe: That's good. I like the multipurposeness of this gallery. I think this attracts many people, many different people. I think that's a good thing 'cause it's not just art lovers coming in, but people who are sensitive to art.

Zeke: That's why I'm so dead set against the white cube, 'cause it is sorta like how many people read Robbe-Grillet? However, you put him on Oprah's Book Club, people are gonna pick him up and say, "OK, yeah, cool." Most people in Quebec, and actually in my mind worldwide, think galleries are painful places to go into. I don't get it. They shouldn't be. To turn them into warm, inviting, open places. These things don't bite. But it's the sorta thing, you come, you look, and so OK, you don't like it, bamn, you walk out, no skin off of my back, no skin off of yours. That's why there's the crossover between the music, the poetry, the couches, the beer.

Lampa X

Jean-François Lacombe: Yes, indeed. And I have to say I had some positive comments about you.

Zeke: Well, thank you.

Jean-François Lacombe: And it's a good thing. They said you were very dynamic, and enthusiastic about the show, so yeah, it was a fun experience. It's not over yet, so that's good. I've liked the vernisages. I think that's a good idea too. And it's very important to get the feedback from people, to hear that people come, and get something out of the piece, and to hear what they get out of it. It's interesting 'cause it's always something you hadn't thought about.

Zeke: I find that difficult, 'cause I'm the gallery guy. I invariably set up a situation where I'm the one telling them what I think. So it is the sort of thing where I can foam at the mouth about any of these pieces.

Jean-François Lacombe: You can what?

Zeke: Foam at the mouth. Basically go on, talk for half and hour, go on about the dynamism of the sticks as they go from fat to skinny, in term of the connections between the verticality and horizontality, yet they're framed and stuff like that. However, although wood is a very light object 'casue it floats on water they're stuck in friggin' concrete! That sucker is 750 Goddamn pounds! [laughs] and riff off of that, so I very rarely hear other people's reactions. If you can talk long and wax eloquent about the latest U2 album, you can do the same thing about visual art.

Jean-François Lacombe: Yes.

Zeke: Same terminology too.

Jean-François Lacombe: But they have to be in contact with it.

Zeke: Yes, exactly, that's why I say experience it. It's the sort of thing where somebody who spends their evenings watching TV. Suddenly their TV. busts? They will pick up a book. Someone doesn't have a TV., they're gonna read lots. If you give them... if you set them up in a way so that they can experience stuff, that's great.

Jean-François Lacombe: But it's frightening at first, for them. I mean it's... my cousin came. She never went to a exhibition before, an art show before. She said, "I don't know what to wear, I don't know what to say."

Zeke: Tell her "Put on a t-shirt and some jeans!"

Jean-François Lacombe: What's the dress code tonight? [laughs] But their perception of art is deeply changed.

Zeke: I agree, and that's why, in a gallery setting, I'm doing my best to shift all of those perceptions.

Jean-François Lacombe: Alright.

Zeke: OK. Anything else?

Jean-François Lacombe: I think that's it.

Zeke: OK. Thank you very, very much.