The ‘In-Between’

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I recently read: ‘Life Is What Happens In-Between: For More and More Americans, Stability Exists Mostly in Memory’ by essayist and cartoonist Tim Kreider. So much resonates and it is simply a great read. Here are some highlights.

“My friend Robin grew up in an army family, and learned early on that she wasn’t going to live anywhere or know anyone for very long, that houses and schools and best friends were strictly provisional, temporary. Kids like me, with stabler lives, grew up secure in the delusion, fuzzy and comforting as a favorite blanket, that our homes and friends were givens, fixed forever. But, as Robin points out, transience wasn’t just a peculiarity of her own upbringing; it turns out to be the reality of life, for all of us. Everything is contingent, ephemeral; the flimsy little Potemkin villages of permanence and security we rig up for ourselves — real estate, possessions, tenure and retirement plans, circles of friends and long-term relationships — are easily demolished by layoffs, divorce, accidents, and diagnoses, or by non-metaphorical floods and hurricanes.”

“Even those periods we look back on as idylls of stability exist mostly in retrospect: when we’re in the middle of them they feel as blind and confusing as any other interval of our lives. “

“…my friend Harold and I were driving south on I-95 over the Susquehanna River, on our way down to Baltimore. Harold was in between, too, though he had not enough going on in his life, whereas I had too much. It had been a misty morning, but most of the moisture had burned off by then except for a dense fog bank that followed the contours of the river. As we drove out onto the bridge it was like flying into a cloud; we were completely enveloped in dewy gray blankness. Out in the middle of the bridge we could see neither the bank behind us nor the one ahead, only the bridge itself, a road stretched across nothingness, vanishing into obscurity in both directions. Up ahead of us a tattered banner of clarity was streaming out from the bridge’s edge where the mist split and furled around it. The Replacements were playing — “Alex Chilton,” which might, after all, be my favorite song in the world. We couldn’t see where we’d come from or where we were going but I was in the car with my best friend listening to a song we both loved and, inside that moment, everything was all right.“

Thanks to writer and artist Austin Kleon for this - check out his website and subscribe to his newsletter, always good stuff there.

Papier 2019

In late April, I was in Montreal to see Papier 2019, a contemporary fair with a large focus on works on paper. While there was a vast range of excellent work, I was drawn to the more intimate mostly black and white work. Here are some favourites, and links to the artists’ websites: Janie Julien-Fort, Jim Verburg, Luce Meunier, Chris Cran, Marla Hlady.

Karim Rashid (1)

I recently attended Karim Rashids ‘Analog Versus Digital’, a talk given by the industrial designer in connection with his retrospective show ‘Cultural Shaping’ at the Ottawa Art Gallery. A captivating speaker, he spoke for 90 minutes, without notes. Images of his work were projected continually on the huge screen behind him, as he walked and talked. 90 minutes, no repeated images. Based in New York, he is currently involved in projects in 42 countries. It boggles the mind. Karim was compelling, informative, expansive, inspiring. And funny. I admire the simplicity and elegance of his work, the organic forms, and the sense of fun. Below are some of the furniture designs that stood out for me. I highly recommend this wide ranging exhibition, which runs until February 10, 2019.

"The role of a designer today is to make the world a better place. By replacing the clutter of poorly designed objects with beautiful, high performing ones that are hopefully sustainable, ergonomic, and sensible yet seductive, we reduce the stress in our environments." — Karim Rashid

Karim Rashid (2)

In addition to Karim Rashid’s iconic object, furniture and footwear designs at his ‘Cultural Shaping’ retrospective at the Ottawa Art Gallery, I am enchanted by ‘Facet’, printed lenticular lens, 2012

The Kajitsu Playlist

Ryuichi Sakamoto (Nathan Bajar for The New York Times)

Ryuichi Sakamoto (Nathan Bajar for The New York Times)

In heavy rotation in my studio, this is an excellent 3+ hour playlist by musician Ryuichi Sakamoto – contemplative, spacious, introspective, varied.
Here's the Spotify link: The Kajitsu Playlist

It comes with an interesting back story, here’s the full article by Ben Ratliff, New York Times.
"Annoyed by Restaurant Playlists, a Master Musician Made His Own"

Thanks to writer and artist Austin Kleon for this - check out his website and subscribe to his newsletter, always good stuff there.

Thoughts on images

In ‘Where I Be Is with the Image’ (Canadian Art, Summer 2018), Nasrin Himada talks about her interest “in thinking with images as a way out of the limits of language.” While the focus of the article is on the experience of exile, I find what Himada has to say about images resonant and worth thinking about more broadly. Himada also quotes a 2014 interview with Etel Adnan by Lisa Robertson in BOMB Magazine. Both articles are good reads, here are some ideas that especially resonated with me:

“Images are not still. They are moving things. They come, they go, they disappear, they approach, they recede, and they are not even visual—ultimately, they are pure feeling. They’re like something that calls you through a fog or a cloud.” Etal Adnan

“If images are calling us through a fog or a cloud, it’s because at times they get at the limit of something before we can even speak it or write it. Instead they allow us to feel it.” Nasrin Himada

“Light is an extraordinary element. It’s a being on its own, it’s something you look at, and that also you inhabit.” Etal Adnan

“Art is not separate or alienated from how we live through the day—rather, it saturates the experience of what makes the day a day.” Nasrin Himada

Work in progress


Here are few photos and short video showing stages of 'At the window', along with an extract from my Liminal series artist statement:

“This series is photography based. I make monoprints by transferring laser printed photographic images manually to translucent plastic film using an acrylic medium transfer process. The laser toner transfers into the medium on the plastic film. I then carefully peel and rub off the layers of paper. The result is a transparent image on translucent film.

There is push and pull between control of the process and surrender to the accidents that inevitably happen as the work is done while everything is wet. The imperfections - tears, scratches, finger marks, unevenness - are integral to the work. These marks contribute to the ephemeral, not-quite-solid feel I want and are often some of my favourite elements. I feel a sense of the time worn, like an old film negative or film strip. I have an ever growing appreciation for the fact that the best things often happen by chance while I am busy working.” 

The finished piece is 28.5x35.5". Click here to see more from this series.


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A serendipitous walk in Montreal's Rosemont La Petite Patrie neighbourhood recently introduced me to the work of Portuguese artist Vhils (Alexandre Farto). The striking mural on the corner of Avenue de Chateaubriand and Rue Belanger shows Vhils' bas-relief carving technique, which makes the work part of the wall, and the wall integral to the work. I highly recommend a good look at Vhils' work on his website, starting with this excellent video from his recent 'Fragment Urbains/Decombres' exhibition at Galerie Danysz, Paris. Wish I had been in Paris to see it.

Free play

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I recently read 'Free Play - Improvisation in Life and Art' by Stephen Matchnanovitch, an improvisational violinist, author, computer artist and educator. Published in 1991, it's not a new book, but the right book at the right time for me. Much resonated. Two of many sections highlighted: "One of the many catch-22s in the business of creativity is that you can't express inspiration without skill, but if you are too wrapped up in the professionalism of skill you obviate the surrender to accident that is essential to inspiration. You begin to emphasize product at the expense of process." And on patience with one's work and process: "If we operate with a belief in long sweeps of time, we build cathedrals; if we operate from fiscal quarter to fiscal quarter, we build ugly shopping malls."


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In heavy rotation: Bonobo's Sweetness. I didn't know this album when it first came out way back in 2002. But I'm listening to it a lot right now. Highly recommend it.



Stress test

When I began working this year with matte duralar, a translucent plastic film, I wanted to embrace the material, to let it move and breathe, be immediate -- and not mount it under glass.

I am working with laser image transfers to the duralar using acrylic medium. There is likely a chemical bond between the plastic particles in the laser toner and the acrylic medium, and between the acrylic medium and the duralar.

To be sure the combined material and process are robust and stable, I stress tested the work. I took a discarded piece, applied two thinned coats of fluid matte medium, then once dry cut it into two pieces. One piece stayed inside as the control and the other spent over a week outside in very hot, intense sun as well as some full days in the rain. The result? The two pieces match up and look exactly the same: no stretching, fading or chipping. 

I have mounted the work in white shadow boxes with no glass. The duralar pieces are hung by white ring nails 1/4" away from the back of the boxes so they float in their frames. See In Transit and Between.

Sidewalk art

Always there, underfoot.

Richard Serra's 'Sequence'

Recently I experienced Richard Serra’s Sequence at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I loved it. What an amazing and wonderful thing it is to be able to walk inside -- to be inside -- this work of art.

Best explained by the wall text at SFMOMA:

“Serra was raised in the Sunset District of San Francisco and worked in East Bay steel mills as a teenager. Throughout his career he has investigated both the physical impact of sculpture on the surrounding space and its psychological impact on viewers. Of his large-scale works, Serra has noted: ‘I found very important the idea of the body passing through space, and the body’s movement not being predicated totally on image or sight or optical awareness, but on physical awareness in relation to space, place, time, movement.’

Sequence consists of two vast, torqued steel ellipses connected by an S-shape to create a winding path through which we experience the sculptures’ massive leaning walls and graceful curves. It was made in a German steel fabrication plant that has worked closely with Serra for nearly twenty years to develop machinery and manufacturing spaces capable of achieving his complex forms. The first artwork to be placed in the new SFMOMA, Sequence was installed here in spring 2015, and the unfinished gallery’s exterior walls were built around it.“

The houses of Shasta Hanchett Park

A few weeks ago, we packed up on very short notice, game for an adventure in California. We dropped in from the sky with just carry-on bags and landed in a house in Shasta Hanchett Park, San Jose.  All a little surreal.

The neighbourhood - separated from downtown by train tracks and the elevated 101 - has a storybook feel about it. The houses seem cozy and well loved. Some a little prim, some more relaxed. All are built on a human scale - not ostentatious, but clearly not inexpensive.  There are lots of big trees, as well as lemon, orange, lime, and yes, palm trees. People were warm and friendly, everyone said hello - even teenagers (!). Altogether very nice.

And yet I felt a sense of unreality about it. Was it almost too perfect? Or maybe it was just me, in a strange state of disconnection.

Corner stores

I like these old-school corner stores in San Jose - so much more personal and interesting than Mac's or 7-Eleven.


Last week I saw ‘Beauty’, the Cooper Hewitt Design Triennial at the San Jose Museum of Art.  

Divided into seven themes -- extravagant, intricate, ethereal, transgressive, emergent, elemental and transformative – it is a thought provoking feast. Three standouts for me:

PolyThread Knitted Textile Pavilion by Jenny Sabin. Polythread yarn can absorb and collect light during the day and deliver it at night. It is a stunning structure, wonderful to walk in and around, to look at up close and far away. Exciting and uplifting to think of where this could go. Transformative indeed.  

Also in the ‘transformative’ section of the exhibition were 3D-printed glass vessels with lights suspended above on pendulums.  When the lights move, the light patterns change. These were ethereal, exquisite, transfixing. As it was put to me that day, what is the art: the vessels or the light patterns they create? by Neri Oxman + MIT Media Lab Mediated Matter Group.

And last, Tuomas Markunpoika’s powerful piece ‘Cabinet’, part of the ‘ethereal’ section. From the wall label: "In honor of his grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, Markunpoika created his Engineering Temporality (2012) series by welding hand-cut rings of tubular steel over a traditional wooden cabinet. He burned away the cabinet, leaving behind a shell of blackened metal rings, a ghost or shadow of the original form." Intensely moving.

The exhibition is on until February 19, 2017. I highly recommend it.

Diridon Station

I have a soft spot for this station. It feels at once nostalgic and of today. The central passenger rail depot for San Jose and a major transit hub for the South Bay area, it is still somehow mellow and friendly: both the place and the people. Maybe it's the sunshine. Or maybe it's the fact that people taking the train are NOT stuck on the freeways. 


Ah the gesso stage, happy, wide open, all potential. Love being on the edge of new.