Sunday, July 25, 2021


The "heat dome" of a few weeks back cooked my raspberries, but some have returned. Yesterday I found how a ripe one fell onto a bleached-out leaf and left its painting.

Leaves, like the one on Canada's current flag, are usually represented stem-side down. But this painting looks better stem-side up.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Jonathan Wells

Jonathan Wells is a performance artist I know and whom I associate with two other artists I met back in the mid-1990s: Brian Jungen and Geoffrey Farmer. For a time these three were inseparable, with Jonathan the most ribald; but over time Brian and Geoffrey left Vancouver, and Jonathan stayed.

Yesterday while touring an old friend through Vancouver galleries we stopped by Justin Ramsey's Interior Infinite exhibition at The Polygon, where Jonathan works part-time at the gallery bookstore. After introducing the two, Jonathan leapt from his chair, grabbed a catalogue from the shelf and flipped it to a page he had memorized."This," he said pointing to a picture of himself, "is what I looked like when I was young, lithe and beautiful." 

Friday, July 23, 2021

Reads (1989)

Brigid Brophy is a name that bubbles up now and then from that great tar pit known as postwar British Lit. But apart from her memorable 1966 "Introduction" to the re-issue -- and re-appreciaton -- of Elizabeth Smart's By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (1945), I'd read nothing of her. And then, as chance happens, I am in the "New Arrivals" section of Tanglewood Books the other day, and there she blows: a 1989 collection of Brophy essays (and rather baroque sentences) called Reads, covering some of my favourite writers (Simenon, Colette, Genet) as well as those I'd never heard of (Firbank), but am eager to read.

Brophy, it seems, has opinions on everything -- not just on writers and books, but on cities (Lisbon) and countrysides ("The Menace of Nature"). 

From the latter:

"Rustic sentimentality makes us build our suburban villas to mimic cottages, and then pebble-dash their outside walls in pious memory of the holiday we spent sitting agonized on the shingle. The lovely terraced façades of London are being undermined, as by subsidence, by our yearning, our sickly nostalgia, for a communal country childhood that never existed." (7)

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Divorce Negotiations

JACK: I want the art supplies I gave you on your fortieth birthday and any subsequent art projects you made with them.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962)

Earlier today I phoned Dean Baquet, Executive Editor of the New York Times. I told him about the paywall around the Shirley Jackson article, that we didn't like it, and he said he would get back to me. An hour later he phoned with a solution: that you and I get subscriptions. I told him his solution was a cop-out, that I was hurt by its insensitivity, and he suggested I lawyer up. I told him I didn't appreciate his tone and he apologized, said the next time either of us are in Manhattan to come by 620 Eighth Avenue for a tour of the paper's submissions library. I told him we would do better than that and write a story about why some NYT articles are paywalled and others are coded messages intended for a terrorist organization known as Merricat. He concluded the conversation by saying he would do what he could about those subscriptions.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

New Directions in Contemporary Art

It had been six months since I last visited the Vancouver Art Galley, but I was there a couple weeks ago and saw the collection show and the Second Vancouver Special Triennial, now five years removed from its founding.

Like its first iteration, the VAG is once more the adult in the room when it comes to curation. Former VAG Chief Curator Daina Auguitus represented the gallery for the First Vancouver Special Triennial, when it teamed up with 221A's Head of Strategy Jessie McKee; this time it was the VAG's soon-to-retire Grant Arnold who was charged with saying yes, no or maybe to four relatively inexperienced curators pulled tight to cover all corners of our current moment.

A couple of nice inclusions (Charles Campbell's free-standing tree had great presence and energy, perhaps more so without the dimly-lit, yet gorgeously coloured, drawings surrounding it), but overall an exhibition that suffered from the VAG's usual tendency to deck the halls with too much artwork, a diffident gesture that some see as the gallery's only "argument" for a new and larger building.

And what of this new building? Is it even worth talking about anymore? Remember: this will not be the "purpose-built, stand alone, iconic building" former director Kathleen Bartels held out for but space in a mall known as the Chan Centre for the Visual Arts. Last I heard the CCVA would be built to budget, and that the gallery was awaiting $100 million from the federal government. In the meantime, curatorial salaries have been cut by 20-40%. No amount of subtraction will ever be enough to move the gallery to its new location, but the VAG must be seen to be trying.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Two Galleries

On Saturday I drove west to Kitsilano for Anne Low's noon-7pm opening at Unit 17. I arrived early (1pm), not expecting to see anyone apart from the gallerist, Tobin, whom I caught up with.

Anne's two previous Vancouver exhibitions (Artspeak, then the CAG) began first with an installation that amounted to a witchy story (events/objects supplied by the artist, narrative determined by the viewer), then a more formal, if not grander treatment of events/objects. The Unit 17 show is more spare than twee, with Anne taking pure or abstract forms and adding to them decorative elements made of incongruous materials (wooden tassels, for example). As with Liz Magor's work, the aesthetic (pleasure) level is high enough to satisfy. And that is how I left the gallery -- satisfied.

From there to Ceremonial|Art on West Broadway, where Sarah was in the midst of installing work by Chief Henry Speck, Cole Speck, Pat McGuire and Corey Bulpitt, who was in the gallery as well. It was a pleasure meeting Corey, whose carved work I admire. Sarah pointed out a Pat McGuire piece I hadn't seen before and I knelt down to spend some time with it. Not a canoe on the water but the reflection (deflection? infection? intervention?) of its painted surface.