Contest: Kick-Off Your Collection with Le pARTy 2016

May 3, 2016 11:48 am
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Photo by David Barbour.

Looking for artwork by regional artists? We have two tickets to the Ottawa Art Gallery’s 20th Le pARTy Art Auction, the spring celebration that may be the best way to get inspiring artworks off the gallery walls and onto your own. Both tickets will go to one lucky winner.

To enter your name into our contest draw, all you have to do is follow or like the Ottawa Art Gallery (on Facebook at ottawaartgallery and on twitter at @OttawaArtG) and use Facebook or Twitter to tell us who your favourite artist is! The artist doesn’t have to be local, or even alive. You can choose anyone from Bernini to Warhol. Make sure to include the hashtag #LepARTy2016 in your post so we can find it and add it to the draw.

You can enter separately on Facebook and Twitter for two chances to win, just make sure to follow/like the Gallery on both networks.

Here’s an example of a tweet that would work perfectly:

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The night will feature art from 65 emerging and established artists, and the food will be fantastic. Fantastic culinary artists including Beckta, Sidedoor, Thyme and Again, and Town will be behind the dining, so you know that every bite is going to be scrumptious. Our contest winner will receive regular tickets, priced at $85.  Art Lovers Tickets, which give the holder a chance to see and bid on the art an hour early, are $150.

The contest will run from May 2 to the 17th, when we will make the draw and announce the winners. That will give you plenty of time to plan for the auction, which is on June 9th! You can find more information on the event at ottawaartgallery.ca/le-party. For our contest rules, click here.

Good luck and happy collecting!

OAG Announces a New, Very Artistic, Gift

April 26, 2016 1:36 pm
#212 - Frenchtown, Cobolt, Ontario, (Chambers-Ferland Mine), 1939

Wilfrid Flood, Frenchtown, Cobalt (Chambers-Ferland Mine), 1939, watercolour on paper, 38.1 x 45.7 cm. Collection of the Ottawa Art Gallery. Photo: David Barbour.

The Ottawa Art Gallery has received a generous gift of 88 paintings and sketches done by late Ottawa artist, Wilfrid Flood. The paintings were donated by Flood’s daughter Francesca and her husband, George Heaslip.

“We are so honoured to bring such a substantial donation of Wilfrid Flood’s work into our permanent collection, especially now as we are building a new expanded home for the Ottawa Art Gallery,” said Alexandra Badzak, the gallery’s Director and CEO. “Particularly skilled in watercolour, Flood’s artworks evoke a strong sense Ottawa and surrounding region during a period of great change. This acquisition allows the OAG will be able to research, interpret and most importantly, share Wilfrid Flood’s work with generations of Ottawa citizens.”

#181 - Paper Mill, Thurso, (Quebec) 1944

Wilfrid Flood, ‘Paper Mill,’ Thurso, Quebec, 1944, watercolour on paper, 40.6 x 50.8 cm. Collection of the Ottawa Art Gallery. Photo: David Barbour.

Flood was an artist throughout his 42-year life (1904 -1946). He was associated with fellow painters like Henri Masson, Dr. Maurice Haycock, Captain George Pepper and A.Y. Jackson. Although Flood’s early death put his artistic output to a stop, his daughter Francesca was strongly influenced by her father’s work. Born in Ottawa, Frances studied Fine Arts at Alfred University in N.Y. She and her husband George were married in the 90’s and lived on Long Island, as well as the Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. Frances passed away in 2012, and George in 2015. Flood’s artwork was gifted to the OAG through their wills.

#170 - Storm Over Farrelton, (Quebec) 1938

Wilfrid Flood, ‘Storm Over Farrelton,’ 1938, watercolour on paper, 38.1 x 45.7 cm. Collection of the Ottawa Art Gallery. Photo: David Barbour.

John Flood, son of Wilfred Flood and Frances’ brother, says that Canada was his father’s first love and that is why Frances wanted the paintings to remain in Ottawa.

#184 - Self Portrait, (Ottawa) circa 1930s (1)

Wilfrid Flood, ‘Self-Portrait,’ c.1942, oil on canvas, 45.7 x 35.6 cm. Collection of the Ottawa Art Gallery. Photo: David Barbour.

Flood’s works are a mix of urban and rural landscapes, and portraits that will be a lovely contribution to the new art gallery set to open in 2017 at 50 Mackenzie King Bridge. To keep up with the expansion of the OAG and the Art Now-L’art ici Capital Campaign, visit artnow-artici.ca.

Glen Bloom on the Art of Collecting

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Glen Bloom and wife Deborah Duffy with Leslie Reid’s ‘Cape Pine: The Barrens,’ 2012, Oil on canvas, 127 x 182.9 cm.

When Glen Bloom thinks about the Ottawa Art Gallery’s annual Le pARTy fundraising art auction, the first thing that comes to mind is the list of talented Ottawa artists who’ve shown at it over the years.

One of the paintings he mentions from his primarily Canadian collection, which also includes works by Evan Penny, Rodney Graham, John Massey, Barbara Steinman, Arnaud Maggs and Max Dean, is by Ottawa’s Leslie Reid.

“Leslie creates her paintings from photographs,” says Bloom, an Ottawa lawyer who lives in Perth. “This is one about fog. It’s in a very abstract environment that includes reference to the fog and landscape.”

Bloom didn’t purchase Reid’s painting at the auction, but the painter has donated works to it for many years, and will return for 2016’s event in June.

When the collector perused the list of artists contributing to this year’s auction, he found nine artists whose work appears in his collection, including Jinny Yu, Andrew Morrow, Mimi Cabri, Jeff Thomas, Uta Riccius, Marie-Jeanne Musiol, Carol Wainio, Anna Williams and Russell Yuristy.

Related: OAG Announces a New, Very Artistic, Gift

Asked about the auction’s value, Bloom said it’s especially useful for people who want to start a collection.

“In recent years, there are larger, more substantial pieces in the auction, and for those looking to grow their collection, they’re quite affordable,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to see a wide selection of works by a large number of Ottawa artists working today. You might like the work at the auction and might want to purchase it, or you might want to follow up on that artist separately to explore what they’re doing. That’s probably the greatest opportunity.”

The man speaks from experience. He himself has used the auction as a survey of what Ottawa artists are doing today and who he’d like to add to his collection.

Bloom suggests Ottawans should count themselves lucky to live in a thriving art city: “There have been, over the years, some very important Canadian artists who’ve participated in the Le pARTy art auction,” he said.

Le pARTy Art Auction is Ottawa Art Gallery’s signature fundraising event, a silent art auction of 65 original artworks by regional artists working in a variety of media. It will be held June 9, 2016 at the Ottawa Art Gallery, 2 Daly, Ottawa. Buy your tickets today at ottawaartgallery.ca.

High Art and Hot Tea

March 17, 2016 2:52 pm
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Springs Dream, by Ramona Organ.

The Tea Party Café is making its walls even more colourful next month with a brilliant exhibit from local artist Ramona Organ.

Beginning on March 31st and lasting until the final day of April, the “Colour in Motion” showcase will feature Organ’s vibrant and flowing works. These paintings are inspired by the artist’s own life and experiences, and each one captures a different emotion. Many are quiet and contemplative, while others surge with an almost-angry energy.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase my work at the Cafe,” says Organ. “It is my hope that my art work can bring as much joy to someone as it has brought me while creating it.”

Organ’s show is part of a larger effort by the café to promote local artists, and work like hers is right at home in the already quirky space.

“We recently filled some of our walls with Alice in Wonderland chalk art from various local artists and had great feedback from customers,” says Christine, The Tea Party Café’s owner. “I thought about how we can use our entire space, including our hallways, to exhibit their own art work. It is a colourful and beautiful way to change up our space every month.”

The “Colour in Motion” vernissage will begin at 6 p.m. March 31 and run until nine. That night, and for the rest of April, anyone who visits the Tea Party will have a gorgeous accompaniment to their locally roasted coffee, scrumptious scones or afternoon High Tea.

You can find out more about the artist on her site ramonaorganfineart.com or by reading the Q and A below:

How did your art career start?

I actually started in photography and took classes at The School of Photographic Arts of Ottawa.  That first course and my instructor John Hewett Hallum opened my eyes not only to photography but how I saw art in general.  After a few years in photography I wanted to do a photographic project.  My goal was to do some small abstract paintings and photograph them for a series.  My style was very much macro photography and I thought close ups of abstract paintings, especially ones I had created would be a great subject.  I asked someone I knew who was an artist and an art teacher if they would give me some basic painting lessons.  They refused and as I generally do when someone refuses to help me I find a way to do it myself.  So I read books, I watched videos; I studied other artists and taught myself how to paint.

How do you know that a painting is complete or that you are happy with it?

Knowing when a painting is done is more of a feeling for me and if I stand back and find myself smiling, I know that the painting is something I am happy with and proud of.

In your exhibit “Colour in Motion,” did you have a particular theme in mind when you put it together?

Yes, I gathered all of the art I had that made me really happy and that I was proud of and I thought people would respond to. I picked pieces that in my view were strong and demonstrated my style, how I looked at colour and how the pieces flowed together. Seeing them all together in one room, the title “Colour in Motion” described how the paintings made me feel and how they fit together.

You have mentioned that it can be tough for emerging artists to be recognized and find establishments where they can display their work.  What advice would you have for other artists starting out and encountering the same situation?

Never give up.  Believe in yourself and your work.  If you are passionate about it, do not give up on your dream.  Talk with artists and learn from them.  Share as much and as often as you can. Takes risks and don’t be afraid of applying to exhibitions, galleries or smaller out of the way venues.  You never know where opportunity awaits.  Always remember there is a difference between “critique” and “criticism.”

Kat Jetté Showcases Work at Oz Kafe

February 12, 2016 1:54 pm
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All photos by Samantha Lapierre

Local artist Kat Jetté will be showing her magical abstraction paintings in Elgin Street’s Oz Kafe until March 13th. The show, titled HighLights, is an exhibit of Jetté’s most recent works. All paintings are for sale.

We chatted with Jetté back in September about her 15-year history as an artist in Ottawa, and Jetté showed appreciation for Oz as a cafe that makes an effort to showcase the work of local artists.

The show launched on February 7th, and Jetté is thrilled to have her colourful fine art on the walls of the restaurant.

“I am delighted to have my work hosted at one of my favourite eateries in Ottawa,” Jetté tells us. “My dreamy sci-fi landscapes look right at home on the dark walls and cozy corners.”
Oz Kafe is located at 361 Elgin Street. You can learn more about Jetté’s work by visiting her website.

The Art of World Peace

January 28, 2016 5:48 pm
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Edith Betkowski and Dominik Sokolowski in front of the artist’s Heart painting. Photo by Eric Murphy. 

From February 10 to 21, Alpha Art Gallery is completely dedicating its walls, and plenty of the floor, to love. In their Love and Peace exhibit, gallery owner Edith Betkowski and artist Dominik Sokolowski will spend 11 days and nights on a bed they’ve set up in the gallery, surrounded by Sokolowski’s meticulously detailed heart paintings.

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The first day of Lennon and Ono’s Amsterdam Bed-in. Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons.

This living exhibit is inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s two 1969 ‘Bed-ins,’ where the couple famously spent a week in bed, first in Amsterdam, then in Montreal.

Alpha’s Bed-in is also meant to be a message of peace, and Betkowski argues that symbols like that are as relevant now as they were in 1969.

“How, with all our education and experience, we’re still not able to keep the globe at peace?” she asks. The exhibit’s living element is also something Ottawans often miss out on in the art world.

“Nobody has ever seen anything like that in Ottawa,” Betkowski notes. “Why not bring art to the level of New York, where they have performance art all the time?”

The gallery owner is adamant that there will be no cheating in the exhibit. All their meals will be brought to the couple in bed, and they are only leaving for two nights. The first will be on the 12th, to attend a Valentine Gala Betkowski has been organizing at the Museum of History – more on that later – and the second night will be to go dancing at the Mercury Lounge.

“They also have a bed for us there,” Betkowski points out.

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Edith Betkowski and Dominik Sokolowski will spend 11 days and nights on a bed in the Alpha Art Gallery.

The bed-in is only one aspect of the Love and Peace exhibit. Alpha will also host a number of poets and guest speakers who will discuss love, and of course, there will be the hearts.

Sokolowski’s heart paintings are a more detailed take on his geometrical style that emphasizes colour and found objects. During the gallery’s press conference there was only one heart painting from Sokolowski’s collection on display, but promotional photos suggest the hearts will come in a wide range of sizes and colour schemes.

Although it’s easy to see hearts as kitschy, especially around Valentine’s Day, Sokolowski elevates the symbol with the gorgeous fields of colour and the found items. Each work holds an incredible collection of tiny objects from the artists’ life. There are lines of pins from a clothesline, pieces of Edith’s sewing machine, gifts from friends, comic book pages and lego men. These items are artifacts from Sokolowski’s life and many represent his connection with the people he loves.

“Every time I lose an earring the second one goes automatically on the painting,” Betkowski laughs. “I have to really watch my buttons. If I lose one before I have a chance to sew it on it’s already on a painting.”

By adding these real pieces from his life, Sokolowski turns each painting into an autobiography, and elevates the once-stale heart symbol. Trust me, if the works start off looking kitschy at all, take a few steps closer.

Dominik Sokolowski turns 40 next month, so in celebration of the milestone, he’s painting 40 hearts. 37 of them will be up for sale in the gallery, and he’s donating three to CHEO. Those three extra paintings, which in honour of the CHEO teddy logo are named papa-bear, mama-bear and baby-bear, will be auctioned off at the Valentine Gala, with 100 per cent of the money raised going to the children’s hospital.

Organizing the non-profit gala is a big way for Betkowski to give back to CHEO. Over the last 20 years, she’s spent far too much time there. When Betkowski’s daughter was born, the girl suffered from heart failure. A serious heart surgery left her in a coma for five weeks, and she’s since had more work done on her spine and foot.

“Facing a dying child on life support, five weeks in a coma, when everyday you don’t know what’s going to happen next…you realize how fragile life is,” Betkowski says. “How quickly it can be taken away by war, by sickness.”

Although war and sickness may seem like impossible opponents, Betkowski and her husband are doing what they can to fight them next month. The fundraising gala is practical as the bed-in is idealistic, and both are worth the visit.

Tickets for the gala are $200 per person. The event will take place on February 12, three days into the Love and Peace exhibit. If you want to have a chat with Betkowski or Sokolowski you’ll be able to find them on their bed in the Alpha Art Gallery from the 10th to the 21st. You can find out more about both events at alphaartgallery.ca.

Sokolowski Explores the Lighter Side of Black

December 7, 2015 2:00 pm
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A revolution is sweeping Ottawa’s Alpha Art Gallery from November 18 to December 6, as renowned visual artist Dominik Sokolowski challenges us to see black as more than tenebrosity or despair.

nocturne 17. 34x40.2015“Black evokes strength, elegance and sensuality, with a hint of mistery”, says the artist, adding: “The impetus to paint this series came while listening to Chopin’s Nocturnes. But to me, black also evokes the chic and boldness of Chanel’s ‘petite robe noire’, the emotion and sensuality of Nina Simone, the pomp of black-tie dinners, the romanticism of Paris nights and the awe-inspiring starlit nights of Gatineau Park. Those are the emotions and sensations I felt, and wanted the viewer to feel.”

The exhibit, entitled Nocturnes, runs at the Alpha Art Gallery in the ByWard Market from November 18th to December 6th. For more information, contact Edith Betkowski at edith@alphaartgallery.ca, or Alpha Art Gallery at 613-241-7671).

Seasons of Catherine Schissel

December 3, 2015 2:14 pm
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All photos courtesy of Catherine Schissel. 

Catherine Schissel has been painting for as long as she can remember. Raised in Kimberley, BC, her father, a game warden, passed on his love for the outdoors to his children.

Schissel’s early adulthood was spent raising her four children while farming in southern Alberta. During this time, she would paint elevator scenes, old buildings and barns in small prairie towns, exhibiting her creations in Calgary and southern Alberta galleries.

Schissel1Schissel says that she has been fortunate to be surrounded by people who support her passion. “In their younger days, my children were my best critics. When I was working on a piece, I would line them up on chairs and ask them what they saw. I still have them critique my work today.”

Schissel currently lives in the Ottawa Valley near the Trans Canada Trail and breaks out her sketchbook as soon as she wakes up in the morning. Much of her recent inspiration has been gathered from experiencing the changing seasons, sounds and habitats along the trail.

With sketchbook, camera, easel and paints in hand, Schissel has travelled across Canada and the United States several times. By extensively documenting these trips through thousands of photos, Schissel is never without source imagery for her paintings. She says that something new will often jump out at her while revisiting her trips through the photos, begging her to be painted.

During a painting trip to Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy, Schissel was fascinated by how quickly the tides changed a scene in a matter of minutes. Another excursion found Schissel hiking in Utah among the canyons, a storm brewing on the horizon.

 Schissel is also been moved by the changing of seasons. She loves the vibrancy of fall and the first signs of new life in the spring.

“My art is an expression of what I love…I am constantly motivated to translate my life experiences onto canvas.”

Schissel3Recently, Schissel has been inspired by the Gatineau Hills, the Laurentians, the Algonquin region, the Maritimes and landscapes from recent roadtrips that have taken Schissel across the continent. Her next ambition is to get to Fogo Island in Newfoundland to paint the Atlantic Ocean. Schissel is also looking forward to a trip along the Alaska Highway to the Yukon in the near future.

Visits to Schissel’s in-home studio can be made by appointment or make a date to attend the Nepean Fine Arts League Fall Show and Sale, December 4-6, 2015, at the Ukrainian Banquet Hall located at 1000 Byron Avenue in Ottawa.

You can find out more about her work at ceschisselart.ca.

Jennie Lynn MacDonald’s Masterpieces

October 15, 2015 1:52 pm
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Ottawa artist Jennie Lynn MacDonald’s art is a force to be reckoned with.

After attending fashion design school, MacDonald taught fashion illustration for three years before deciding to focus on her art in a broader way. MacDonald worked for an art supplier for almost nine years, giving her access to many different supplies for all visual art forms.

This job also gave MacDonald access to different artists with different styles, techniques and mediums. Working and meeting with different artists influenced MacDonald on her own work.

“As an artist, I’d say I am mainly driven by a need to create rather than (spreading) a message I need to convey.”

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© Jennie Lynn MacDonald

MacDonald’s father was a talented artist who would encourage her to draw from a young age. MacDonald gained an understanding of basic human and animal body composition at an early age. Books on Art Nouveau and Norman Rockwell influenced MacDonald’s movements and expressions in her drawings.

MacDonald likes working with Golden acrylic paints, as well as soft synthetic, long handled brushes. While MacDonald likes drawing and painting on thick smooth 300lb watercolour paper, she also likes creating her pieces on interesting wood grains or a treasure item that she finds in the woods.

But sometimes, simplicity is key.

“There’s nothing quite like the feeling of a totally unconscious ballpoint pen doodle. I think most of my favourite creations have been ballpoint doodles that have all been discarded.”

One look at her work and it’s clear that MacDonald’s style is unique.

Inspired by dark emotional subjects, as well as “psychedelic chaotic neon imagery,” MacDonald enjoys the work of pulp artists Robert Bonfils from the 60’s and Nouveau artists such as Alphonse Mucha and Egon Schiele.

“Music and horror films have always influenced me and still pop up in my work now and then,” says MacDonald.

Slimy drips, skeletal imagery and flesh eating plants reoccur in MacDonald’s work, as well as her use of crystal imagery.

Jenny Morgan and Audrey Kawasaki are two artists that MacDonald has been recently drawn to, citing Morgan’s figurative painting and Kawasaki’s rendered elements of nature.

“Lately I’ve been collecting birch park pieces on my hikes, so I seem to be gravitating toward these organic themes more and more.”

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© Jennie Lynn MacDonald

When asked about her thoughts on Ottawa’s art community, MacDonald says that the idea that the art scene would be more different or exciting if Ottawa were more like Toronto or New York is a toxic mindset to be in.

“Ottawa is teeming with artists of all kinds, not to mention new galleries, cafes, festivals and groups popping up all over the city every year. The more we do here, the more it will grow.”

In particular, MacDonald likes local galleries such as Orange Art Gallery, Grey Area Gallery, Cube Gallery and PDA Products, the Ottawa Art Gallery as well as the National Art Gallery.

As for local artists, MacDonald enjoys the work of Andrea Warren, Ben VanDuyvendyk, Marisa Gallemit, Phil Osborne, Kat Jetté and Stefan Thompson.

MacDonald will be showing some pieces at the Cyclelogik Art Show in December, organized by local artist Andrea Stokes.

MacDonald’s latest projects include working with video artist Lesley Marshall by creating her costume design sketches for an upcoming film, as well as preparing and creating for MacDonald’s own sixth solo career show which will be shown at the Manx Pub in July 2016.

You can view Jennie Lynn MacDonald’s works on her tumblr.

Take a Look Inside Jordan Clayton

July 21, 2015 2:01 pm
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“Toxoplasmic Encephalitis,” Oil on Linen, 127 x 132, 2015.

If you stepped into Jordan Clayton’s studio, it might take you a minute to find anything out of place. The room in his Toronto apartment has just about everything you’d expect. There’s a wall with giant canvases leaning against it, brushes, a bit of oil paint splattered around, and of course, bacterial cultures growing on the window sill.

Like many artists, Clayton finds inspiration in his own body. He just goes much, much smaller.

It all started when Clayton was diagnosed with a digestive parasite after living with it for three years. He went through a series of procedures that introduced him to the organism, and how if affected his body, firsthand.

“It sparked this real morbid curiosity,” Clayton says. Already a visual arts student at the University of Ottawa, he began harvesting organisms from his own body and growing them in his studio. Once he’d spent enough time observing the cells, he started to paint them.

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“Periodontis: S. Mutans,” Oil on Canvas, 137 x 137, 2015.

“It sort of just made its way into my work,” he says.

Sitting inside Studio Sixty Six on Muriel street, Clayton and I are surround by that work. Although Clayton speaks like a biologist, casually throwing around words like “formic-conjugation,” he looks like an artist. He wears his short hair blonde on the top and brown on the sides and he’s got a tiny splatter of white paint in the middle of his thick-rimmed eyeglasses.

The paintings around us are like huge, colourful, Rorschach inkblots. It’s easy to stare into one and imagine a beautiful landscape or a den of snarling monsters. Some are defined by delicate spirals and others by sharp corners. While some people might find Clayton’s research methods a little unpleasant, it’s hard to see the final product as anything but beautiful.

Although the works are based off organisms that Clayton collects, none of the paintings look like what you’d see through a microscope.

“There is a lot of conceptualization involved,” Clayton says. He lets each organism’s growth process and its effect on the human body altar his painting.

“It’s all simulation, it’s meant to be familiar, not accurate,” he says.

Although the paintings are mostly abstract, Clayton does sneak in a few recognizable images to draw the viewer in.

You can see one of those images in his gorgeous painting Toxoplasmic-encephalitis, featured at the top of this article. Encephalitis is a swelling in the brain, and to represent that, Clayton painted a lobe-like streak of pink in the middle of the painting. Toxoplasmic-encephalitis is also one of the only circular paintings in the exhibit. Its bulging shape reflects a swelling brain pressing against the edge of its skull, and the meticulously detailed work carries a painful urgency.

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“Formic Conjugation,” Conté on Canvas, 142 x 147, 2015.

“To me I thought it was some sort of imagined, abstracted landscape,” says gallery director, Carrie Colton. “I guess it is, it’s sort of the landscape of cells.”

“I think he’s doing something really new, and different,” she adds.

Colton isn’t the only person to have seen something in Clayton’s work. The young artist has also shown in Toronto, and his work is currently part of a group exhibit in Chelsea, Manhattan.

Aside from his own body’s cells, Clayton also paints bacteria from blue cheese and probiotic yogurt. His next project will look at single celled organisms growing in Lake Ontario. So far though, Clayton’s findings have been a bit disappointing.

“I’ve always heard that Lake Ontario is this nasty, dirty environment,” he says.

“But it’s actually deceptively clean.”

Jordan Clayton’s exhibit, “A Dialogue with Taxonomy,” is on display at Studio Sixty Six until August 2. You can find out more about it, and the artist, on the studio’s website.

OAG on the Verge of Expansion

July 20, 2015 2:00 pm
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The view of the future gallery’s south side. Rendering by Barry Padolsky Associates Inc. Architects / KPMB Architects.

After spending a quarter century in the historic Arts Court on Daly Avenue, the Ottawa Art Gallery is set to expand into a brand new building with four times the gallery space and a ton of other perks.

Workers are poised to begin construction just beside the old building. The machinery is in place, they’re simply waiting for city approval to start digging.

“We’re just waiting on them to finalize the contract now, which seems to be imminent,” says Alexandra Badzak, the OAG’s Director and CEO.

The new gallery should be open in time for Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, but the move was in the works long before city council announced their sesquicentennial projects.

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The gallery lobby and shop. Rendering by Barry Padolsky Associates Inc. Architects / KPMB Architects.

“We’re currently one of the smallest art galleries in Canada,” Badzak says, “and given the size of Ottawa and its importance, that’s a little embarrassing.”

The new building is set to fix that problem. During the move, the OAG will go from its current 12,000 square foot space to a new gallery with more than 80,000 square feet. It will also become much more accessible than the old building.

Completed in 1871, the courthouse is impressive and beautifully detailed, but it was meant to hold police officers, judges and criminals, not art exhibitions. The building’s elevator doesn’t even reach every floor.

“We’ve always felt that we were kind of buried within this building,” says Badzak. Inside the Arts Court, the OAG didn’t have much of a public profile. People walking by the historical building had little way of knowing what was going on inside. But the new building, with its enormous windows and banner space, should draw in plenty of passers-by.

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The building’s hotel and condominium tower. Rendering by Régis Côté & Associés.

The new structure will also include a 130-seat theatre, a multipurpose room for events, and a gallery shop. The first 14 floors of the building’s tower will be an environmentally friendly Groupe Germain hotel, with condos in the remaining floors above it. The gallery itself will have five floors, breaking through to the original stone Arts Court so visitors can easily hop between the two buildings.

“When all that’s done, we’ve got almost one city block dedicated to professional arts in Ottawa,” Badzak says proudly.

The project still requires a lot of hard work before Badzak’s dream is realized, though. Over the next year, the OAG will run a “Capital Campaign” to raise money for the new building. They haven’t announced their fundraising goal or events yet, but Badzak says “they’re definitely coming up.”

Other local galleries have already begun stepping forward to help in the fundraising. Wall Space Gallery on Richmond road raised money for the OAG on their “Paper” exhibit’s opening night. That show runs until August 2.

A slight complication in the OAG’s expansion is just how close their building is to the construction site.

“We’re waiting for that moment when we start blasting,” Badzak laughs. “We’re going to watch it very carefully, because of course, we’ve got very valuable art.”

The construction team is going to give gallery employees warning before each detonation so they can make sure all the art is safe and secure. That will also give employees a chance to warn the guests, as there are few things more out of place at an art gallery than dynamite blasting.

The Arts Court expansion’s tentative completion date is fall 2017. You can find out more about the project on the OAG’s website, or by following Alexandra Badzak on Twitter, where she’ll be tweeting regular work updates once construction begins.

Playing Chicken: The line between beauty and tension in Andrew Moncrief’s “Unseen”

July 13, 2015 3:01 pm
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Moncrief stands in front of paintings featured in this month’s exhibit. All photos by Kerri Fukui.

Andrew Moncrief is a 28-year-old artist who’s talented enough to create beautiful, classically styled figures, and brave enough to smear paint over their faces. His latest exhibition, a collection of portraits called “Unseen,” is showing at La Petite Mort Gallery until August 2.

Moncrief’s obsession with baroque art is clear in each delicately-rendered figure and the way he uses consuming shadows to help them stand out. What makes his art new and exciting are the thick, often jagged brushstrokes and his use of colour, which varies from sparing to haphazard.

In each work, the Salt Lake City-based artist carefully balances perfection and chaos. If the painting looks too classical, he finds it boring. But, if he adds too many brushstrokes or extra colours, he risks obscuring his subject and putting the whole painting off balance.

“Quite often I’m playing chicken with my paintings,” Moncrief says. “When it goes good, it goes good. And when it doesn’t…I just made a car crash on my painting.”

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Andrew Moncrief, “Unseen,” Oil on Canvas, 2015

One of the most successful examples of this process is Unseen, the exhibit’s namesake. The most experimental piece in the collection, Unseen is a huge departure from Moncrief’s other work.

Normally, Moncrief uses his own likeness or a model’s in each painting, but Unseen is based off an already existing work, Saint Veronica with the Veil by the baroque artist Mattia Preti. Even more daring, in Unseen Moncrief has wiped out St. Veronica’s face with a thick layer of pink, grey and black paint.

The classical and contemporary elements of Unseen fit with Moncrief’s ‘beauty versus tension’ game of chicken perfectly. St. Veronica’s hands are familiar; they remind the viewer of hundreds of other beautiful paintings we’ve seen in textbooks or museums. The melted face though, is shocking, and it’s the reason everyone keeps going back to Unseen.

“[Unseen] is a different ballpark,” says Guy Berube, La Petite Mort’s director. According to him, part of what makes the painting so attractive is that it may represent Moncrief’s next stage.

Unseen 2

Andrew Moncrief, “Lost,” Oil on Canvas, 2015

“People want to be involved in the beginning of things,” Berube says. “They want to be part of finding something new.”

Berube’s job, as a gallery director and art dealer, is finding the next, best thing. Right now, he seems confident that thing is Andrew Moncrief, and Unseen.

The “Unseen” exhibit will be on display at La Petite Mort Gallery until August 2, you can find out more about it on the gallery’s website. La Petite Mort itself is closing at the end of the summer, the gallery’s last exhibit features Japanese-Born artist Noriko Shinohara, subject of the documentary Cutie and the Boxer.

“Velickovic” at Alpha Gallery is the Season’s Biggest Art Event

July 10, 2015 12:44 pm
Vladimir - 1

More than seven feet tall, Corbeaux by Serbian-born painter Vladimir Velickovic draws you in like a door to another world. Feeding crows dot the grey foreground, and in the distance you can see swirling smoke, tinged pink by either sunrise or fire.

Like every piece in Alpha Art Gallery’s “Velickovic” exhibit, Corbeaux is both dark and hopeful, with the ability to calm and disturb. In these paintings discussing war and death, nothing is certain except the artist’s genius.

Vladmir --3

“Corbeaux,” Oil on Canvas, 225×165, 2008

“We still can’t believe that this is actually happening,” says Edith Betkowski, looking at the canvases covering her gallery’s paper-white walls. Betkowski is Alpha Art Gallery’s owner and director. She opened the gallery in May, just a half-block down Murray Street from the National Gallery of Canada. Sometimes, when she looks up at the Velickovic paintings she seems surprised to find them there.

“It’s like you’re opening a car dealership,” Betkowski says, trying to put her excitement into words. “You’re selling little cars, then of all the sudden somebody drops you a Lamborghini and Maserati and they say ‘here, for a whole month.’”

The Lamborghini analogy might seem like an exaggeration in Canada, where Velickovic is less known, but it wouldn’t sound out of place to a European museumgoer. Now a French citizen, Velickovic has had his work in museums all across the continent, including Paris’s Musée National D’art Moderne as well as top galleries in London and Copenhagen.

In contrast, the first ever Canadian Velickovic exhibit began in Montreal less than four months ago. The works were supposed to be sent back to France by the end of the summer. However, Betkowski convinced the Montreal curator to call Velickovic and ask to extend the paintings’ stay.

“And Velickovic said yes!” Betkowski recalls, loud enough that her voice rings off the room’s high ceiling.

The one thing that’s been tempering the gallery director’s excitement is how few people in the Capital have actually heard of Velickovic.

“This is very puzzling for me,” she admits.

There could be dozens of reasons that Velickovic’s fame hasn’t Vladmir -- 2managed to cross the Atlantic, but if there’s one thing about his work that might be off-putting to Canadians, it’s the paintings’ apparent darkness.

Most of the canvases feature a corpse. Often the body lies on the ground right in front of the viewer, with crows in flight behind them. Many are naked and so pink they seem skinless. One has lost his head.

But if you step back and really see the whole painting, you begin to take in how calm some of the pictures are. Often, smoke swirls quietly in the background, and it’s easy to spot tranquility amidst the horror. Crows jump out in sharp detail against the hazy backgrounds, and you can get lost in the precision that went into each brushstroke.

In short, the collection is breathtaking.

The paintings are inspired by Velickovic’s own experience. In what he called “a disturbing childhood,” the artist survived the horrors of the Second World War before he turned 10. The scenes he paints could be from any war though, and the bodies could be any victim, as few have recognizable faces.

“He doesn’t paint it because he wants it to be violent,” Edith Betkowski says, staring at Corbeaux. “He wants to create controversy that says ‘hello, this is happening. It’s happening next door, to your neighbor.’”

Betkowski wants visitors to walk away with that thought in their heads. She also wants a few to walk away with Velickovic paintings. That way the French artist’s work may finally find a foothold in Canada.

It’s hard to say why these paintings are not on display in the National Gallery, or even in the War Museum. Betkowski says she’s been spreading the word but few people have picked up her story.

“I see people pass through our market,” she says, “and they don’t realize that this is treasure. It’s treasure!”

While they may be underappreciated, Velickovic’s paintings are on display in Ottawa until July 26. After that, the remaining works will be packed up and sent back to France with no immediate plan to return.

Alpha Art Gallery is holding a public vernissage Saturday, July 11, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. You can find more information on their website.

Margaret Chwialkowska Illustrates Reflection in Annex Gallery Exhibit

June 6, 2015 10:00 am
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All photos by David Barbour 

Ottawa-based artist Margaret Chwialkowska’s solo exhibition, “The Illusion of Reality,” brings a marvelous must-see energy to the Ottawa Art Gallery’s Annex Gallery at Ottawa City Hall.

In this collection, Chwialkowska delves into the theme of reflection. Her
work explores the evolving natural landscapes and the mind of the artist, allowing Chwialkowska to self-reflect on her relationship with nature, her work and her life.

Drawing inspiration from the Ottawa-Gatineau landscape, this award-winning artist is able to capture emotion in her work. Dynamic colours and textures make the scenery come to life with a remarkable sense of vibrancy and splendor.

This is Chwialkowska’s signature technique. Working mainly with a palette knife in the ‘alla prima’ style, she builds layers and layers of wet paint to evoke a feeling of movement.

The whimsical beauty of nature is an integral aspect of Chwialkowska’s work. Born and educated in Poland, she moved to Canada in 1979 and fell in love with North America’s diverse landscapes. Although she focuses on the Ottawa area, her work is expansive. Chwialkowska has captured the natural beauty of the Northwest Territories, Ontario’s lake country and southern California. In addition to her current display at City Hall, Chwialkowska’s work has been featured in several other Canadian galleries and private and corporate collections across Canada, the United States and Europe.

Mayor Jim Watson (left) and Margaret in the Annex Gallery.

Mayor Jim Watson (left) and Margaret Chwialkowska in the Annex Gallery.

Ottawa City Hall is perhaps the perfect place for Chwialkowska’s paintings. Her impressive body of work, from “The Illusion of Reality” and beyond, is a vision of Canadian identity and a proud example of local talent.

“The Illusion of Reality” is on display at OAG’s Annex Gallery at Ottawa City Hall until July 12, 2015.

Click here to learn more about the exhibition.

To learn more about Margaret Chwialkowska’s work, visit her website here.

 

Eryn O’Neill Explores Ottawa’s Urban Side

May 25, 2015 9:54 am
Infrastructure(Crane)_OilonCanvas_30x48_2014

Above: “Infrastructure” Oil on Canvas by Eryn O’Neill, 30×48, 2015.

If someone asked you to describe Ottawa, what would you say?

The first images that come to mind might be the canal, Parliament Hill or one of the many museums in this historic city.

But Eryn O’Neill had a different idea.

O’Neill, a proud Ottawa local artist, wanted to create a body of work representing her city from a different perspective.

“I’ve done a few paintings of the classic Ottawa scene, but I thought this is just a different way for someone to engage in the city,” she says.

"Off Duty" Oil on Canvas, 20x40, 2015.

“Off Duty” Oil on Canvas, 20×40, 2015.

“I thought, ‘Okay, Ottawa is where I live, where I explore. I walk everywhere. This is going to be my version of Ottawa,’” she says.

The result: a creative, oil on canvas collection titled ‘Obdurate | Endurci,’ currently on display at the Ottawa Art Gallery. O’Neill’s paintings illustrate a unique, urban outlook on Ottawa scenery. From a pile of crumpled pylons to a towering crane, O’Neill turns the simplicity of the city into art.

“These are objects that people don’t see. They are purely functional. You pass them every day. Those are the scenes of what cities are made up of,” she says.

“It is to me, as pure Ottawa as I could find.”

Growing up in the west end of the city, O’Neill found her love of art at an early age.

"Obdurate I Endurci" Ottawa Art Gallery ART Rental & Sales. Photo credit: David Barbour.

“Obdurate I Endurci” Ottawa Art Gallery ART Rental & Sales. Photo credit: David Barbour.

“I guess it was my parents who put me into art classes. It started quite young, I think I was about seven and then teachers helped keep me into it and focused me in different classes,” she explains. “From there, I studied it full-time and there you go.”

O’Neill completed a one-year portfolio program in Ottawa and then moved to the East Coast to attend the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts and then returned home.

“I came back not really intending to be a full-time artist. It just sort of happened organically. I was working at other jobs but I thought, ‘Okay, I have to put full attention to this or I’m never going to get it off the ground.’ So, I took that leap of faith and here we are now.”

O’Neill says this show is one of her proudest moments as a professional artist.

Zara Ansar (Photographer) Stephanie Germano(Curator & Director) Eryn O'Neill (Artist)

Stephanie Germano, ART Rental & Sales curator and manager (left), and Eryn O’Neill in the gallery. Photo credit: Zara Ansar.

“This is a pretty big deal,” she says. “I was able to take some risks. So, I’m very excited that I’ve got to this point and that I’m just going to keep going and see what happens next.”

Obdurate | Endurci is on display at the Ottawa Art Gallery until May 31.

Click here for more information.

To learn more about Eryn O’Neill, visit her website here.

Ottawa Art Gallery Launches ArtWise

May 19, 2015 12:22 pm
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Bridging the gap between older adults and younger generations is exactly what the Ottawa Art Gallery hopes to do with ArtWise, its new volunteer programming council.

Collaborating with gallery staff, local artists and invited guests, the OAG ArtWise council will aim to provide opportunities for a broad range of ages to actively participate in projects at the gallery that reflect their passions. Some of these new programs will include lectures, showcases, field trips, workshops and events.

N7xTQdq6QK6odkab8wQRNAfsvGiFwJvt2uKBZ01oTy8 (1)ArtWise recognizes museum planning often strengthens the separation of generations by dividing audiences based on age (youth, families, seniors, etc.). OAG created ArtWise to combine people from all walks of life in a culturally embracive environment, allowing them to explore common interests together. Ensuring maximum inclusion, ArtWise will make translation and accessibility support available for anyone requesting it.

“There is so much that generations can learn from each other, but in our society, engaged interactions between older and younger people don’t often happen naturally. It is something that is well worth working at” says Petra Halkes, an Ottawa-based artist and independent curator.

OAG is Ottawa’s independent public art gallery featuring contemporary and 20th century art. For 25 years it has been a cultural meeting place for artists and community members, where they can examine and take part in exhibitions, talks, tours and publications. The Ottawa Art Gallery operates as a not-for-profit registered charity and is run by a volunteer Board of Directors.

For more information visit the OAG website.

Ottawa Art Gallery is looking for volunteers of all ages and from a diverse background to be part of the ArtWise programming council. If interested, please contact Stephanie Nadeau at snadeau@ottawaartgallery.ca or 613-233-8699, ext. 227.

Eat, Drink, pARTy

May 6, 2015 10:13 am
David Kaarsemaker

Artist: David Kaarsemaker

Looking for new artwork to freshen up your home?

The Ottawa Art Gallery’s leading fundraising event Le pARTy Art Auction will lead you to the perfect piece!

On Thursday, May 21, prepare to be whisked away in a cultural fantasy land surrounded by
Ottawa’s best food, drinks and of course, art!

Artist: Meredith Snider

Artist: Meredith Snider

The event is a silent art auction featuring the art of 65 accomplished regional artists, each individually chosen through a peer-based selection process.

While some of the participating artists are in the midst of their careers, others are new talents who are increasingly rising into the scene.

Featured in the show will be a variety of media types, including ceramics, printmaking, mixed media, fashion design, photography…the list goes on and on!

The selection committee puts a strong focus on highlighting every aspect of our region’s ethnic and linguistic differences, bringing attention to important forms of cultural expression in our community.

Whether you’re replacing an old piece of artwork or looking to add something new to your home, there’ll be a painting, a sculpture or a photograph that is destined to be adopted into your household.

For nearly 20 years, Le pARTy has been a primary source of the gallery’s overall operating budget. All funds from the event go towards preparations for the gallery’s new building, curating the famous Firestone Collection of Canadian Art and supporting Ottawa’s artistic community.

When the event arrives, take a moment to glance around the room for pink stars. These mark the five pieces included in the Critics’ Choice, which is an initiative that aims to shed light on the auction’s most noteworthy pieces. After being selected by a group of Ottawa’s arts experts the Critics’ Choices’ will be announced on Monday, May 18.

Join fellow art lovers and foodies this spring in the pursuit of the perfect piece.

Are you ready to place your bid?

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