Friday, August 09, 2013

Visiting the Varley - The Plasticiens and Beyond exhibit

I took myself over to quaint Unionville today. The Varley Gallery is there in a very picturesque setting.
Right near the parking lot is a "pond" called Toogood Pond.
Pond doesn't describe how big the body of water is.

I walked the shoreline and two things struck me.

1) there are no barriers to the water. In fact, several spots invite the visitor to go right down to the water's edge.
In one part there are stone steps deliberately set into place with handrails leading you to the water. I found this very exciting.
It would have been better with swimming.

2) At Toogood Pond you can fish, (25m from the fish run spawning waterfall), but you can't swim.
Well, the water didn't look swimmable, truth be told, but there are few places to swim around here so I am always on the lookout.
Several people had their lines in the water but I didn't see anyone with anything.
It was 11:30am or so when I got there, bright and sunny, not what I think of as a good time to fish. So that could have been it.

I walked over to the gallery after doing the pond's perimeter and was surprised to discover free admission to The Plasticiens show. The regular entrance fee is only $5.00, but FREE is always good.

Mid-century abstract art here I come!

I've never been to the Varley before. There appears to be only one large gallery space subdivided twice. I kept thinking that I'd see "shapes" and what I forgot was that I would experience "colour". Some pieces vibrate. None of them are done any justice by seeing them in a book or online. You have to stand in front of them and feel them.

But the thing that brought me back for a second and a third look was the curator's information card for Claude Tousignant's paintings Hypnosis (1956) and Affirmations (1956). There it was in-between the two paintings and it said:
Claude Tousignant (b. 1932)
          Hypnosis (1956)  Affirmations (1956)

At that time I had an exhibition of hard edge paintings that I consider, along with Molinari's exhibition the same year, as one of the most revolutionary acts made in international painting.

This is how Claude Tousignant recalls the exhibition of his new paintings, including Hypnosis and Affirmations, at L'Actuelle in 1956.  Executed in enamel, applied with a roller, these paintings are composed of large, flat, vertical or horizontal planes of bold and contrasting colour. Tousignant sharply defined his edges using masking tape.
 The initial critical reaction to the exhibition was entirely negative.

Toogood Self Portrait

The Varley Gallery -- les Plasticiens and Beyond

les Plasticiens  entry in the Canadian Encyclopedia

Andrew Argyle -- b. Feb. 19, 1959 - d. July 16, 2013. My Only Brother.

I've not blogged in a few weeks. My brother died. Suddenly, during the heatwave we had in July. He was found dead on his kitchen floor, glass in hand, cupboard door open. Massive cardiac event, heart attack, imminent death. He was living his life and then it was over. Too soon. Everything gone too fast.

My brother was my creative engine for many years. We worked together, growing and developing Out of My Mind together. Meeting at his place or mine, cutting friendly plastic into a
"What is this Andrew?"
"Katie I don't know maybe it's a ____. Or maybe if you put a hat on it it would be a ____  Why don't you give it a ____."
I think we made one of everything, including the time he challenged me to recreate the flowchart of the development of prehistoric invertebrates to vertebrates. It was about a foot tall when I was done. Then we put a bar pin on the back of it, took it to the Byward Market and presented to the world as simply a brooch. What we did we did for each other first. The world out there gave us information but we played with that making things to make each other laugh.

Andrew was the one who named me Plastic Master. Being a Medieval Arts student I was well aware of masters and apprentices and he said I was a Plastic Master. He was as well but he didn't believe it. He had a streak of self doubt that ran deep and he would often reject the best of his work as not good enough. it kept him searching and never complacent, but he often threw the baby out with the bath water. The best example I have of this is the Happy Fish.
Andrew bought a pair of penny cutters. Scissors that were supposed to be able to cut pennies. He loathed the 1 cent coin. He loved melting them in a crucible with a torch in his living room (he had several full size torches in his small bachelor apartment) and he loved cutting them up. So the scissors worked on the copper coins and he tried to use them on the friendly plastic. He made a fish. He said it was too crude when I rescued ti from the bottom of the garbage can. I knew to always take a quick glance in there to see what he had rejected that was really perfectly fine. I showed him the little fish shape and said "why'd you throw that away? It's great?" He said it was no good. I fired up the toaster oven, stuck two eyes in it's head, and just to irk my brother, gave it a big smile. Happy Fish was re-born from the refuse pile. It remains my single most popular design, and it is also responsible for my expansion into painting. Long before I thought to pursue the Fine Arts I was intrigued with "trying to see what it would be like to paint this ridiculous happy fish." It made me laugh. It made others laugh. And my journey into painting took on more and more energy.
Andrew as Robespierre--painted one afternoon while vending at the Byward Market by artist Cassi Chounard.

Eventually our artistic partnership broke up. Andrew loved rocks and wood and metal and he gradually moved to these materials along with his skills in electronics and computer programming. He had his own company, Glowing Tech. He made nixie tube clocks, by hand, using all the materials he loved to work with.

Music video by Joseph Vincent called "My Queen" featuring my brother's nixie clocks

Andrew's clocks were also immortalized in the first episodes of Continuum.                                                           
Over the years we continued to share many interests. Each conversation would deal with whatever we had to deal with and then, very quickly, we'd have ideas to discuss, material suggestions for each other's projects and challenges we'd issue to each other.

These kinds of relationships are never replaced.

But as I move forward, I know my brother supported me and my artwork 100%. He was always as excited by my adventures as I was for his. I carry that with me. I still can't "get" that he is gone. It makes no sense, but I guess it's true. But, as I said at his funeral, I loved my brother and my brother loved me. And for that I will always be very lucky.

Obituary for Andrew Argyle

Sean Macguire's tribute to Andrew: A Minute of Silence, via one of his nixie clocks.

Farewell Andrew Argyle. You were a true original.