Artist Hawksley @NHGonJohn

Art Review

Beverley Hawksley
Beverley Hawksley

Beverley Hawksley – Memory and Identity

Beverly Hawksley’s show at the Nathaniel Hughson Gallery ends this Saturday (June 1) and you should certainly take the opportunity to see her beautiful paintings.

Hawksley’s uses single figures and portraits to explore identity and memory; something that many would never admit could be the source of creative research. In the last few years, however, this view has started to change.

Eleni Bastea wrote in her 2004 work entitled Memory and Architecture the following:

“Memory inspires us to create or re-create a fleeting vision from a dream or from our waking moments.  As that yearning and nostalgia for the visible and invisible past fares up, they inform and enrich our present.”

And Patricia Hampl wrote in her 1999 work entitled Memory and Imagination that the “true memoir is written, like all literature, in an attempt to find not only a self but a world.”

Nathaniel Hughson Gallery
Nathaniel Hughson Gallery

What I find most remarkable about Hawksley’s work is how she focuses solely on the body to explore the theme of memory and identity. The physical space within which her figures are set is almost a void.  As someone who believes that identity, memory and space are interconnected, Hawksley, nevertheless successfully creates a powerful series of works.  I particularly like her smaller pieces.

Again, Hawksley’s work is well worth the time and effort to see in these last few days.

The Nathaniel Hughson Gallery is located at 27 John Street.  Beverley Hawksley’s show ends June 1st.


James North Art Crawl
James North Art Crawl

Let’s make it a Social Media Event

The second Friday of every month, James Street North comes alive with people as local galleries and shops stay open late and throw open their doors to the public.

The event has become a great success and has established a way to attract visitors to the downtown by showcasing the latest works by emerging and mid-career artists.

What if we build on this success by using cell phones and twitter to:

  1. Promote audience participation
  2. Document the event
  3. Create a wider audience

All this and more without spending a dime!

What I am proposing is that visitors, galleries, shop owners and artists generate comments, photos, and videos of their experience of the evening – each from their own unique and authentic perspective.

Promoting Audience Participation

Everyone likes to share a good experience.  In fact, this is already happening with shout outs and photos of art, bands and galleries being posted to #Artcrawl via twitter (April12th, May 10th).  With encouragement, audience participation could be greater. See examples of my art reviews: Stephanie Vegh, Kyle Reed. As a result, artists, bands and galleries can have authentic, real-time, coverage of their events via messages, photos and cell phone videos.

Documenting the event

Just like a birthday party or a wedding, it is nice to have photos and videos of the evening.  Twitter messages, photos and videos create a great way of documenting the evening.  This documentation can be used to promote further efforts or simply record the evenings success. See Open Doors, example 1, example 2.

Creating a wider audience

As a parent of two small children, it is very difficult for me to attend evening activities like the Art Crawl.  At the moment, getting dinner ready and then sending everyone to bed takes priority.  Nevertheless, I am still very interested in what is happening and who is showing.  If I had access to messages, photos, or videos then I might later visit key galleries or artists.  This is how I found out about Kyle Reed’s art show at the Mulberry Street Coffee House (De Facto) and also discovered a great place for a coffee and a sandwich.

And what is most amazing about all this is it is free!

Cell phone messages, photos and videos cost nothing to the creator and nothing to the artists, galleries or others who may wish to use it.  It’s a win-win from my perspective.

What I would like to suggest to everyone is that using social media in this way is something that every artist, gallery, and shop should be exploring.

Why not start with the next #ArtCrawl and build from there?

Art of Kyle Reed

Art Review

Kyle Reed
Kyle Reed

The concept of home is an uneasy one and nowhere is that more clear than in the most recent works of Kyle Reed at the De Facto inside the Mulberry Street Coffee House.

While we tend to think of home as everlasting, as a physical place and a social grouping, home only lasts for the briefest of moments.

Our most vivid and powerful memories come from those few short years before we enter adulthood.

Each configuration after childhood is also short in duration: whether it is our first apartment or when we start raising a family, home is constantly changing.

Kyle Reed’s wonderful buildings perched on white outcroppings remind me of homes built on icebergs – solid structures built on temporary foundations.

Maybe home is more of a memory than most of us would like to admit.

Kyle Reed is on display at the Mulberry Street Coffee House until June 10th.

Mulberry Street Coffee House
Mulberry Street Coffee House

Kyle ReedKyle Reed

Mulberry Cafe
Mulberry Cafe

Drawing Trees

1n1p6 - trees 2

Trees are like people.  Each one is unique.  Each one is shaped by the world around them.  Each one is full of life. Trees live as long or longer than people. Escaping from the studio each summer, I search for trees that seems to have a particular influence or presence – something with real soul.  These are my favourite kind of portraits, created from life and during one sitting.

Only One Hamilton

While developers and city council are running away from our past – trying to demolish every last piece of distinctive local character –  hundreds of artists are rushing to it; trying to capture something that they can no longer find in Toronto – authenticity.

The social and aesthetic diversity of Hamilton’s different communities is providing a feeding ground to today’s emerging and mid-career artists.  A few are using the physical landscape to inform and shape their art. I believe the authenticity of their work comes not only from the unique physical features of the local landscape but our ability to associate personal experiences with particular places.

In the paintings of Christina Sealey, the city is almost like family – always present, always hovering over your shoulder; demanding your attention, questioning the process of creation even before you have started.  You wonder how fast you can run downstairs to the studio but you know sooner or later footsteps will follow. In Self-Portrait, Bold Street (2002) the buildings are jostling for space outside the window.  Their window eyes are peering into Sealey’s workspace demanding to know what she is doing. Other times the world seems indifferent to the blackness of mood and is full of lightness and energy as in Underpass (2003).

2001 Self-portrait, Bold St. 30 x 25 Oil on linen -compressed

Self-Portrait, Bold Street (2002)

Sealey’s world is full of unique places and unique individuals.  The urban landscape reveals itself as we experience it, one person at a time; one perspective at a time.  In Self-Portrait-Hamilton (2002), the car journey may cross the entire city but we only see that landscape that is immediately outside the car window.

Paul Elia, on the other hand, breaks down this tyranny of perspective and reveals the city that our mind constructs.  Instead of the city block moving beyond our perspective, we see the street as we know it, as whole.  You can see this with his pieces entitled Wellington Street North (2009) or Cannon Street (2009).

Wellington Street North, Hamilton (Ont)

Wellington Street North (2009)

If you spend any time in the core of the city then you will quickly develop this mental image of your surroundings. For example, a few years ago we lived in an 1859 stone townhouse on Bold Street.  In the summers, we would sit on the front porch and listen and watch the city turn from day into night.  We didn’t experience the street as one or two buildings but as several entire blocks – running from the new condos at 135 James Street South to the ancient 1853 Central Public School.  Using photography and a digital paint program, Elia re-constructs this is kind of experience using white, gray and black tones.

A recent series of pastel works by Clarence Porter explores the opposite effect to Elia, the individual feature of a building or object that captures our experience of place.  Porter, who lives in the Ottawa Street North area, depicts a number of local business signs from angles that you might see if you stood on the sidewalk and looked straight up. While revealing only a portion of a sign or object, the visitor who is familiar with the street would immediately recognize the building or location. Since many of these signs are from times long past, his work also captures memory as place.

Avon (2010)

Avon Floor and Wall Décor (2010)

Porter’s Avon Floor and Wall Décor (2010) or the Argyle Ave-Ottawa Street North (2010) works are good examples.  As a little kid, I still have vivid memories of driving home with my parents.  I lay stretched out on the back seat of my father’s Ford Mustang convertible.  The top was down, it was early spring and the sky was a brilliant blue. I remember the Avon sign passing by to the sound of my parents arguing over the ending to 2001-A Space Odyssey. These small landmarks capture not only a place but a time as well.

While Sealey, Elia, and Porter explore different themes, they each share a common desire to reference real places with real identities.  This focus on landscape allows the viewer to enter the work of art and associate personal memories and histories to a particular place.  The result is their art gains a meaning that is authentic.  This is something that you can’t create when the world is filled with glass boxes and generic landscapes like much of corporate Toronto.  In the global village, there is only one Hamilton.

Christina Sealey and Clarence Porter are represented by the Nathaniel Hughson Art Gallery on John Street.

Article was originally published in Raise the Hammer.

Where are the Bees?

English woodcut, 1658
English woodcut, yr 1658

Art Review

This weekend our back door was swarmed by wasps looking to build a nest.  It got me wondering about how rare it is to actually see a bee.  I remember being a kid and always seeing bees in the fields and around the garden.  No more, all the bees have disappeared.

Stephanie Vegh’s recent mixed media works of art gives you more bees than you are likely to see in a life time.  Bees by the dozens are depicted on white paper. What these creatures are doing remains a mystery but they certainly evoke the sense that the warm days of summer have finally arrived.

In my books, a good work of art is one that you can remember days or weeks after seeing it.  Stephanie Vegh is one of those artists.

While Vegh’s show has recently wrapped up, I am sure that the good folks at the Hughson Gallery can dig up a work or two to show you. In my opinion, you shouldn’t miss any opportunity to see the bees.