ELAINE QUEHL, Quilt Artist, Teacher, Dyer, Designer

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Art of Mary Pratt

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the National Gallery of Canada, viewing the Alex Colville, Chagall, and Mary Pratt exhibits. Until a few months ago, I had never heard of Mary Pratt, a Canadian artist living in Newfoundland. I learned of her when the Ottawa Citizen published an article this past April, called "The Erotic Jellies of Mary Pratt". Oh, the transparency, the light and shadow, the colour red, the joy of "Red Current Jelly", below. Pratt is the only living female artist ever to have a show of her work at the National Gallery while still alive (she is now 80). 

Red Current Jelly, 1972

I was especially taken by her comments about how photography informed her work and how it elevated her painting ability. I am quoting here from the Citizen article by Peter Simpson:
This Little Painting,” as it is referred to by Pratt and in the exhibition title, is 45 by 45 centimetres (18 inches or so), but it was made just as she began to use photography as a reference for her painting. That moment was the big bang in her development as a painter." 

The article goes on to say that, "She took a photograph, and discovered that “photography is a great teacher.” Though she downplays her photographic skills — “I don’t know what an F-stop is” — she recognized how “photography stills everything, so you can look at things, and see how they work.” She describes how a photograph showed her how on the oval lip of a jelly jar, “every quarter inch, the colour changes. The colour is transient and beautiful, and just breath-taking.

The discussion about photography as inspiration for artworks happens with regularity in some of the on-line art quilt groups I belong to. There is a significant contingent in those groups that looks down at the use of photography, and realistic art along with it.

Seeing the exhibits of Colville and Pratt brings me joy because of their success as artists using realism. While I am not overly fond of Colville's statue-like figures, I was moved by his story of success, which at the same time often brought harsh criticism. I think what the careers of Colville and Pratt highlight, for me, is that there will always be praise and criticism at the same time and we just have to keep trucking, making the art we need to and want to make.

Mary Pratt's work seems, to me, a celebration of the joy in the everyday. It captures ordinary moments in an ordinary life and elevates them to the extraordinary.
Jelly Shelf, 1999.

Smears of Jam, Lights of Jelly, 2007

All Things Lavender

My house smells like lavender! That would likely be because of the number of lavender products that found their way back from Provence, including essential oils, soaps, lotions and sachets. Unfortunately by mid August most lavender had either been harvested or was drying out in fields, so you won't find a bright purple colour in these photos.

This is Senanque Abbey. You can visit the website to see what the Abbey looks like when lavender is in full bloom: 

Driving along the lavender route.

Lavender bouquets and products for sale everywhere!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

All Things Vincent

One of the biggest highlights of Provence was the visit to St. Remy de Provence for a visit to St. Paul de Mausole, the hospital where Vincent Van Gogh lived for the last year of his life. While being treated for mental illness he painted more than 150 paintings in the gardens of the hospital and around the town, sometimes accompanied by a nurse (a very humane hospital for the time!). The hospital is now a museum dedicated to Van Gogh, where you can visit his former room and walk the very peaceful gardens where he painted. The drive there under the canopies of plane trees is exquisite. 

Arm in arm with Vincent. This sculpture, by Gabriel Sterk, is named "The Sunflower Thief".

Van Gogh was actually born in the Netherlands. He came to Paris, France to live with his brother, who was an art dealer. He eventually settled in Arles, Provence, and then was hospitalized for the last year of his life in St. Remy.

As you walk throughout the site, there are copies of Van Gogh's artworks on display.

The hospital courtyard.

The door at the back of the hospital that leads to the garden.

The beautiful garden of lavender that greets you when you walk through the door.

View of the hospital from the back of the garden. 

We sat to enjoy the sound of cicadas.

Inside you can visit the actual room that Van Gogh stayed in.

This is the view through his window. Sadly Vincent died at 37 having only sold one painting.

The hospital is surrounded by olive groves. In the landscapes of Provence I saw what Van Gogh saw.

On our drive back from St. Remy we enjoyed passing under the canopies of plane trees once more.

A Feast for the Senses

Ah, summer in Provence! Country markets are everywhere, in every small village. Every day of the week there is a market in a different village! These photos were taken in my favorite market on Thursday mornings in Lourmarin

Hope you enjoyed the colours, textures, and imagined flavours and scents!

The Beginning of a Bucket List Trip

I don't know how some people do it, but they manage to blog and post to Facebook while they are away on vacation or away teaching. I am not able to manage that without feeling stressed. I want to soak up the new environment I am in and need time to decompress. I suspect others probably prepare blog posts ahead of time and then just add in details. In any case, I have been back from my bucket list trip to Provence for a week now, and have been working on cropping and re-sizing images, while I also had my sister visiting (so I had an extra week of vacation!).

My text is centred for this post because I simply cannot get it to align to the left!

We flew to Marseille on August 7, picked up our rental car, and headed to the countryside of the Petite Louberon. Our accommodations for the first week were in a lovely old "villa", that used to be a silk factory in the 18th century. It was situated about 2 km outside the village of Lacoste. La Bastide des Magnans has been restored to the period.

The lane way was lined with cyprus trees.

Our upstairs room had this wonderful little terrace. It was great to relax there at the end of the day, listen to the cicadas sing, and enjoy the view, the breeze,

and the sunsets. The stars were also stunning due to there being no light pollution at night.

The Village of Lacoste is old and charming with narrow, winding streets.

Both restaurants in the village hug the edge of the roadside and provide a beautiful view.

The main feature of the village is the castle where the Marquis de Sade once lived (yes the word "sadism" comes from his name). The castle is now owned by Pierre Cardin, along with 30 houses in the village. We managed to photograph it on a misty morning, giving it a decidedly eerie feeling.

Beautiful views from the castle.

Sculpture: "Arbre de la Vie" by Ettore Greco, 2010.