When An Edmonton Art Gallery Turns Into A Lake: One of The Most Incredible Art Exhibits I've Ever Seen!

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


When the Peter Robertson Gallery described Canadian artist Steve Driscoll's show, And a Dark Wind Blows, to me as "a water installation that would reflect his paintings" and an unusual art exhibit, I wasn't sure what to expect. Maybe a few oversized tubs of water placed under the works? 

What I didn't expect was what I saw when I went to the preview — the entire gallery had been turned into a lake. 

Specifically, the floor of the gallery, and a few inches up the wall, had been lined with a heavy plastic that was then filled with water and dyed black. On top of this water, a wooden walkway, a dock, and huge rocks were placed to give viewers a way to enter, and walk through, the space. The walkway and dock were built so that they move slightly as you walk over them, causing ripples. The art, reflecting in the ripples, seems to move along the surface of the water. 

Visitors to the gallery must walk along a wooden walkway that leads to a dock

The works were all inspired by the night sky, and the show cumulated in a stunning three panelled painting of the aurora borealis, or northern lights (image below). Though the paintings are hung on the wall like they would be in any show, the viewer can not actually get close to the pieces in the same way that you could in a more typical space. Instead, you must stay on the walkway that guides you from work to work at a distance.

These Are Truly the Last Days by Steve Driscoll 




Reads For The Road: "Master Thieves—The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off The World's Greatest Art Heist" by Stephen Kurkjian

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


Investigative journalist Stephen Kurkjian has written the definitive, revealing history of the famed Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist that took place 25 years ago. Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World’s Greatest Art Heist takes a look at the investigations, theories, blunders, and complex web of the Boston mafia that all contributed to the paintings being stolen and remaining hidden for all this time.

After twenty-five years, the biggest art theft in world history is still an open case… no one has been arrested and nothing has been recovered. In fact, there hasn’t even been a single confirmed sighting of the thirteen stolen pieces.
— page 217 of "Master Thieves"

On the night of the theft, two men disguised as police officers gained entry to the museum through the back entrance. They tied up the two security guards, and, wearing masks, ran through the museum smashing glass and cutting priceless works of art from their frames. They then disappeared into the night without a trace and despite the local police, the FBI, investigative journalists, and even members of the mob making inquiries; there has been no trace of these paintings.

The heist is second on the FBI’s list of the longest unsolved art thefts in the world.

Amongst the stolen works was a priceless Rembrandt that is thought to be the most valuable work of art currently missing from any museum in the world.

Well almost all investigative techniques have been exhausted in the search for the missing paintings; the last one that both the FBI and the museum are relying on is the public. The hope is that by getting the word out in the press and social media, there will be a tip that will lead to the recovery of the paintings.

Oh, and did I mention that there is a $5 million reward for any tip that leads to the recovery of the works and a promise that the tipster will never be prosecuted!?

Here’s hoping that the reward money and Kurkjian’s book will help generate even more interest that will lead to the recovery of this missing piece of art history. 




Artist Chris Cran's Fascinating Paintings of Modern History

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


House Head, 2009; Red Man/Black Cartoon, 1990; Awake, 2009

Award-winning Canadian artist Chris Cran has his work displayed in private and public collections all over the world, and it's easy to see why.

His painted work — which he has been creating prolifically for the last 40 years — takes traditional art genres and turns them on their head. Still-life, portraiture and landscape works suddenly become oversized, avant-garde works of brilliance.

The artist is clearly drawn to the Pop and Modernest movements which he uses to portray history in a pop-culture context that can be both hilarious and unsettling at the same time.  

Self-Portrait Just Two Maos Down from some Guy With a Goddamned Tea Cosy On His Head, 1985; Self-Portrait Watching a Man about to Shoot Himself In The Foot, 1985

In 1989, Cran began his Stripe Paintings series where he used a stencilling technique to draw lines on images that he had taken from magazines, art history, and advertising. He also integrated half-tone tones in the imagery as well. 

The process for each work involved blowing the images up from their half-inch scale to over nine feet in some cases. Though paintings, they look almost like pixelated photos that have become grainy because they have been enlarged larger than their resolution allowed.   

Large Orange Laughing Woman, 1991; Large Green Laughing Man, 1990; Large Pink Laughing Man, 1991; Large Green Woman, 1991

Large Orange Laughing Woman, 1991

Large Green Woman, 1991

Smoker, 1989

Hand Gesture, 1992; Hand Gesture #6 (OK), 1992 




The Mind-Blowing Paintings Of Ben Johnson

by Lindsay Shapka in ,


Mirador de Lindaraja, Ben Johnson, 2013. acrylic on canvas (image source)

British artist Ben Johnson is in no rush to get his paintings done. In fact, he has spent the equivalent of 17 years on one painting alone! 

He is best known for his works that show intricate architectural spaces, and large-scale city skylines from places like Hong Kong, London (you can see this one at the National Gallery in London), Jerusalem, and Liverpool. 

These layers of paint create incredible works, but Johnson has said that these creations are not something that he does for fun, but something he feels compelled to do. 

The BBC recently interviewed him for an upcoming exhibit. Click the link below to learn more about him and see him at work.




Is Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling at The Vatican Under Threat?

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,


The Sistine Chapel recently celebrated its 500th Birthday and, along with a huge party, it also got a warning — it may soon have only a limited amount of visitors.

More than 20,000 people a day — that's 5 million a year — visit the chapel, making it THE MOST visited room in the world! That's a lot of people packed into a space that is only 130 feet long and around 143 feet wide (approx. the same measurements that are recorded in the Bible for The Temple of Solomon).

Though many of these visitors are respectful cultural-tourists, more and more they are herds of people who are there only to say that they were, know little about the value of what they are looking at, and have no qualms about using flashes to take photos (camera flashes damage the pigments in the paintings) or even touch the work (NOT GOOD).

According to Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums:

"The anthropic pressure with dust, the humidity of bodies, carbon dioxide produced by perspiration can cause discomfort for the visitors and, in the long run, damage to the paintings." (From the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano)

The Sistine Ceiling by Michelangelo          Vatican City

Interestingly, if he were still alive, Michelangelo himself may not have cared if the work was damaged.

He hated it.

In 1508, he was ordered by Pope Julius to redecorate the ceiling which pulled him away from what he loved most — sculpture. In a letter to one of his friends, he called the work "a miserable job" and wrote, "I'm not a painter".

Not someone to do anything halfway, he mastered the fresco technique and, despite hating every minute of it, created one of the most iconic works of all time.

More than 20,000 people a day—that’s 5 million a year—visit the chapel, making it THE MOST visited room in the world!

So, with human breath damaging this stunning chapel that is important to the pious, the artists, the historians, and mass tourism alike, what is the solution?

Technology.

Apparently, the Vatican is searching for a high-end air purification system that will keep the work safe. Until a solution is found, constant restoration is the only other option other than limiting numbers or closing the doors of the chapel altogether.  

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Painted Pixels: Modern Art by South Korean Artist Sea Hoon

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,


One by Sea Hoon            Insa Art Centre, Seoul

Jeoung, Sea Hoon, an amazing artist from South Korea, paints in a remarkable style called pointillism. Pointillism is a term that was derived in the 1880s to ridicule the artists who were using the new technique at the time (Seurat, Van Gogh and Pissarro to name a few).

It describes a specific style of brushwork that involves small, distinct dots of pure color applied in patterns to form an image.

ellow by Sea Hoon            Insa Art Centre, Seoul

Resembling modern day pixels on a computer screen, this technique relies on the viewer’s ability to blend the spots together in their mind in order to see a fuller range of tones.

This way of applying paint is in sharp contrast to the more traditional method of blending pigments with fluid brushstrokes and, even today, there are few artists that use this technique.

Sea Hoon uses pointillism masterfully, creating works that are vibrant, alive, full of energy, and look like painted pixels.  

Blue by Sea Hoon            Insa Art Centre, Seoul