Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Lois Schklar @ Hard Twist 2014

Lois Schklar Hanging On: Balance, 2013; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen 2014
Hanging On: Balance is brilliantly odd and a bit creepy. In a good way. I've long admired Lois Schklar's work, which constantly changes. A few years ago she was creating ethereal drawing/installations that I could not get enough of. When I saw that she was exhibiting at Hard Twist 2014, that is what I was expecting. Nope. Schklar has moved on.
Lois Schklar Hanging On: Balance detail; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen 2014
The five pieces making up Hanging On: Balance are for sale individually (at $350 each). Several of the pieces appear to include units made with pantyhose (the first, third, and fifth modules).
Lois Schklar Hanging On: Balance detail; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen 2014
I like the fact that I don't know what each component was in a life prior to Schklar's imaginative transformation of it. Mystery is a good thing. My favourite memory of Mrs. Thompson's grade three class was a guessing game where each student had to reach into a cloth bag and blindly identify each object and then record those objects on a list. My classmates and I had a week to feel around the bag and tease out the identity of each shape and the student with the most correct items on the list won a prize. One of the items was a potato that I liked to dig my fingernails into. The pantyhose encrusted objects remind me of that tactile guessing game, except without the potato.
Lois Schklar Hanging On: Balance detail; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen 2014
If my walls weren't already full and I could buy one piece, it would be the fourth, with its expressive coiled wire and the bonus cast shadow. I wonder if Schklar was aware of the gorgeous shadows when she was making this body of work. Sometimes we make things in the studio and then discover more about the work when it is in a gallery hung on clean white walls and lit properly.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Lenten Intuitive Mark-making 2014

Lenten Intuitive Mark-making practice © Karen Thiessen 2014
It's hard to believe that Lent is over. I see myself continuing this intuitive mark-making practice beyond Lent. Some days I'd make several unattractive drawings and the fifth would be a game changer. All of the tools that I used are found in most households: marker lids, a plastic razor blade dispenser, a pizza cutter, a metal tea tin, the bottom of an ink bottle, the plastic lid of an ink bottle, a key, the lip of a glass beverage bottle, and a wooden chop stick.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Lenten Intuitive mark-making update

Bicycle Tires © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Lent is nearly over. Here's my blatant attempt at replicating Jennifer Shamo's lovely lines. Mine aren't quite so fine and delicate, but I did learn a lot about how to use my brush (and obviously how not to). Although I admire Jennifer's mastery, I don't mind this loose first try. Happy Easter to all who observe it!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Valerie Knapp @ Hard Twist 2014

Valerie Knapp Post, 2013-2014; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
A few weeks ago I ambled down to the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto to see Hard Twist 8: This is Personal. My mission was to view the exquisite post cards of Valerie Knapp, a former professor of mine, and to see what Lois Schklar is making these days. In the process, I discovered other inventive textiles not on my radar. I'll share these discoveries in future posts.

Valerie's Post was the piece that stayed with me the most. It has inspired me to play with the spiral in my own way. Her spiral has the feel of a delicate nest. I dream about this piece.
Valerie Knapp Pressing Matters, 2013-2014; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Above is an overall view of her installation. It was difficult to photograph since it's in a narrow hallway, the glass protecting it is highly reflective, and a cleaning cart was parked in front of the end of the piece, thus limiting my options for an optimal photograph. Pressing Matters consists of 14 Japanese kozo postcards (hagaki), each 4" X 6" in size. She incorporates embroidery, relief print, drawing, assemblage, paper, pressed plants and thread into her mixed media artworks.
Valerie Knapp Headspace, 2013-2014; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Headspace incorporates plant matter, collage, stitching, and drawing. A long look at this postcard invites the viewer to conjure up a handful of stories. What is the woman thinking? Could the woman be a romantic poet who speaks in flowery language? Do you see what I mean?
Valerie Knapp Red Shoes, 2013-2014; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
As much as I am a sucker for shoes, it's the woman's hat that grabs me in Red Shoes. At first I thought that the woman was a young Queen Elizabeth, or her sister Princess Margaret garbed in fanciful clothing.

I would love to see Knapp's intimate, thoughtful work paired with poems or short stories written in response to each of the 14 postcards. The work is imaginative and holds narrative qualities. Pressing Matters is one of the strongest works in the Hard Twist 2014 show. The show is on until April 27, 2014.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Jennifer Shamo @ Hamilton Artists Inc. II

Jennifer Shamo Untitled 2013; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
In the two Untitled watercolour-based mixed media works in this post, Jennifer Shamo carries forward her theme of life cycles and plant biology with an autumnal colour palette. The imagery in the above artwork references the underwater plant life that one would see snorkelling along the Great Barrier Reef.
Jennifer Shamo Untitled detail 2013; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
The longer one looks, the more one sees.
Jennifer Shamo Untitled detail 2013; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Jennifer Shamo Untitled 2013; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
From a distance, this piece looks like an abstract face. Of her works, this is the most tightly clustered and centred on the paper. While the previous artwork had an underwater quality, this work is decidedly above ground. I see wheat sheaves, tree rings, and seed pods.
Jennifer Shamo Untitled detail 2013; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Shamo plans to attend teacher's college and graduate school in the future. I hope that she intends to devote herself to a studio practice because it would be a waste to let her raw artistic talent and sensitivity to her surroundings lie fallow. Jennifer Shamo is an emerging artist to watch.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Jennifer Shamo @ Hamilton Artists Inc. I

Jennifer Shamo Tree Rings 2013; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Ignition 2 was an exhibition of three exceptional McMaster University Studio Arts Program students who graduate this year at the Hamilton Artists Inc. (March 6 to 29). Jennifer Shamo was one of the artists whose work caught my eye and I haven't stopped thinking about it. As I have written in a previous post about the work of Harold Klunder, normally watercolour isn't my cup of tea. In the hands of Harold Klunder and Jennifer Shamo, it's brilliant, fresh, and innovative. To be fair, Shamo uses more than just watercolour. She employs pencil, oil pastels, acrylics, thread, and possibly gouache to render her ethereal mixed media works. The work is simultaneously delicate and strong.
Jennifer Shamo Tree Rings detail 2013; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Shamo's line quality and use of colour are exquisite. Her contrast of light, translucent washes and bold, opaque colour are what make the work so successful. It's not easy to balance delicacy with assertive colour. She uses enough white space to give the work room to breathe.
Jennifer Shamo Tree Rings 2 2013; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Shamo is a first generation Canadian who is influenced by nature. In her artist statement she states that process and exploration are important to her art practice and "I attempt to create an ethereal place that draws influence from the natural world through a spontaneous process. Only after completing my work do I analyze and make connections to plant biology, life cycles and a fluidity of motion." Before I set eyes on her statement, the words ethereal, fluid, and life cycles" came to mind. Tree Rings 1 and 2 have a feel of female fertility.
Jennifer Shamo Afloat 2014; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Afloat is a departure from her watercolour-based mixed media pieces. It's a large piece on panel, and although it lacks the luminosity of the Tree Rings artworks, it still conveys a balance of delicacy and boldness.
Jennifer Shamo Afloat detail 2014; Photo credit: Karen Thiessen, 2014
Don't you agree that her line quality is gorgeous? I'll write more about her work in another post.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


Baldwin Village Fence; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Spring is here and I'm happy to be alive to enjoy it. My husband and I had a close call last weekend: we were rear-ended (a chain reaction with two cars). Then the driver who caused our 3 vehicle accident made an improper U-turn and smashed into another driver, totalling both cars in the process. Oh, he was on his cell phone when he caused the second accident! My husband and I watched the second accident, helpless to prevent it. No one died, thank God. 
Baldwin Village Fence; Photo credit © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Earlier this year, I read Rebecca Solnit's The Faraway Nearby. In it she spoke of "rupture events" that have the capacity to change us. A rupture can be a divorce, a serious illness, an accident, the death of a loved one, anything that shifts our thinking. To quote Solnit: "A major illness or injury is a rupture that invites you to rethink, to restart, to review what matters. It's a reminder that your time is finite and not to be wasted, and in breaking you from the past it offers the possibility of starting fresh (Solnit, p. 137-138)." Later she says: "Many lives have a moment of rupture that is an awakening and a change of direction (Solnit, p. 151)." I wonder if experiencing an accident and then witnessing another is my latest rupture event, and if it is, what changes will it introduce?