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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One man's garbage is another's vista

One man's garbage is another's vista

Harcourt House artist-in-residence David Janzen explores the sharp contrast of landfills found in pristine settings

Visual arts Preview
David Janzen: PileDriver
Where: Harcourt House Gallery, 10215 112th St., 3rd Floor
When: Until Nov. 10
More info: 780-426-4180 or

Harcourt House Artist Run Centre has actively encouraged contemporary artists to explore ideas and media within their creative practice since 1988. The not-for-profit organization offers 38 very reasonably priced studio spaces, life-drawing sessions three times a week for both professional and amateur artists, as well as a variety of art classes.
For the last 10 years, Harcourt House has also operated an artist-in-residence program, providing the chosen candidate with a studio for one year, a monthly art supply stipend and a gallery exhibition to showcase the work created during the residency.
"The artist-in-residence program is an opportunity to nurture the artist," says executive director Derek Brooks.
"They spend a year working on a brand new body of work based on their proposal. The program also ensures that we have a professional artist on-site most of the time."
This year's artist-in-residence is local painter David Janzen, an active member of Alberta's artistic community since graduating in 1983 from the Alberta College of Art in Calgary.
With an impressive list of solo and group shows behind him, Janzen's painting skills are finely tuned; he is a master of the brush, capturing detail and creating mood with ease.
"His technical skills are unparalleled," Brooks relays. "He can paint anything he wants to."
Missile launches were his muse in Thrust, a February 2010 exhibition mounted with artist Julian Forrest at the Peter Robertson Gallery.
Janzen boldly contrasted the inherent discord created by the missiles by painting on needlepoint frames and old LP vinyl records, even adorning the work with gilded Baroque frames.
The unexpected twist meshed old world sensibilities with new world realities.
The new work in PileDriver explores trash - literally.
"My proposal was to drive around scenic places in Alberta and take photographs of landfills set against the backdrop of beautiful wilderness or bucolic or interesting landforms."
Janzen toured 17 of Alberta's 350 landfills the summer of 2010, driving from Banff to Drumheller, Grande Cache to Exshaw. He immersed himself in research, visiting and photo-documenting waste disposal practices in beauty spots throughout the province.
Two months and 5,000 kilometres later, a large collection of photos formed the backbone for the PileDriver paintings.
The inspiration for this show was sparked by an online image of a landfill in Maui (Janzen's painting entitled Hawaiian Landfill is on display) and an image of "sheets of metal set against a beautiful verdant forest" by famed photographer Ed Burtynsky, on the cover of Alberta Views magazine.
Janzen was drawn to the dichotomy of garbage nestled in pristine settings: "One's a foil for the other."
"Since the early '90s I have been working with how human activity, settlement and habitation changes the horizon, changes the look of our environment."
When Janzen locks onto an idea, he sinks his teeth into it with painterly gusto, exploring every conceivable nuance the topic has to offer. He seems to excel at themes demanding an inquisitive mind and has the ability to deliver eye-appeal while instilling the significance of the image.
Janzen's delight in this topic is obvious. His residency was prolific; 38 paintings of various mediums on surfaces ranging from oval, square and vertical canvases, to vintage wooden-handled saws and circular saw blades fill the gallery.
There is a paradox in pairing the chaos and human recklessness implied by a dump with heavenly skies and mountainous backdrops, but therein lies his entry point for the viewer to investigate the work.
While a wall of 50 photographs expose the harsh reality of our habits of consumption, the paintings are more poetic with a painterly beauty. With images that attract rather than repel, the work swiftly engages eyes and invites the viewer to jump into work Lumber Pile depicts the mist-shrouded Exshaw landfill set against the mountains, what Janzen describes as the "most beautiful dump," while Demmitt Mattress Pile and Fridge Garden offer more sobering evidence of consumer folly. Platforms toys with the notion of putting garbage up on raised stages once the landfill space is exhausted.
Skies of crimson, lemon, azure and cornflower are focal points offering an atmospheric element while lifting the viewers sightline above the horizon.
Janzen's wish is that the show might encourage the viewer to look at things differently.
"I hope that their lens changes a little bit so that next time they look at that image, they bring a different context to it."
As a side note, the brighter side to Janzen's landfill jaunt was his discovery that waste disposal is very well managed in Alberta.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Cycle Ends

This coming week, I move out of the studio that I've occupied since the beginning of November 2010.

My stint as Artist in Residence at Harcourt House is winding down. My exhibition, PileDriver, showing alongside Stacey Cann's presentation, Personal Matter, reflects the range of directions that I've taken during the past 12 months. The forecast is good for a continuation of the subject matter that I'm working with. Breaking away from expected, empirical depictions of waste disposal practices, land, water and atmosphere appears to have been key; the crowbar needed to pry me away from hitherto pedestrian notions of what the paintings should look like. Creative liberation can be a gradual thing, it turns out.
I'll miss the community at Harcourt House Arts Centre. Not quite like an extended family, but I knew when I trundled down the corridor in the annex, or trotted up the stairs to the galleries in the main building, that I'd be running into other artists, engaging in dialogues that might be random, absurd or meaningful. I am grateful and proud to have served as HH's A.I.R. It was an honour that I took seriously! The baton is passed to Sydney Lancaster, whose talent, energy and forthright manner will positively effect all those artists and art enthusiasts that she'll come in contact with. She's already immersed in Edmonton's arts milieu, having been Administrative Officer and Development Officer - from 2007-2010  - and now volunteering at Latitude 53, another of this city's esteemed artist run spaces. Have fun with it, Sydney! Represent!


                                             Views of the Harcourt House
                                             annex studio after I first moved in:

                                          The floor

                                           Artworks by:
                                           Jack Niven
                                           Peter von Tiesenhausen
                                           Angela Inglis

                                           Fresh gesso!


Next posts will feature art that I have (recently) found stimulating, profound, sublime, epic, or having all of those qualities. Installation shots of PileDriver will be posted soon, as well.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Polychromatic Eyegasm: Recent Paintings by Susan Ross

 Crane and Nanabush  2009   oil on canvas   18 x 24"

Susan Ross was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario. She attended The Alberta College of Art and Design between 1979 and 1983, majoring in painting. Her art production had slowed down in the closing years of the late 20th Century but has recently been 'ramping up'. After creating a series of landscapes that fall somewhere between Fauvist and Tom Thomsonesque sensiblities, Ross embarked on a cycle of work employing imagery derived from petroglyphs that she had researched during a visit to Woodview, near Peterborough, Ontario. These sacred and mysterious rock drawings take on new meaning(s) when filtered through Ross's aesthetic scope. Riotous skeins of dizzying hallucinatory colour coalesce with retina-burning intensity in this group of paintings; pictures that could induce the very visions that inspired them.

Contact Susan Ross at: 

  Geometric Trance  2011  oil on canvas   36 x 30

  Kitchi-Manitou    2009     oil on canvas      48 x 36

 Shaman Vessels   2010    oil on canvas  40 x 30

 Shaman's Gallery (tryptich)    2010    oil on canvas  30 x 120

 Shaman's Gallery  Part I     2010   

 Shaman's Gallery   Part II   2010

 Shaman's Gallery  Part III    2010

 Solar Boats    2009   oil on canvas   48 x 36       

 Soul Boat   2010    oil on canvas   30 x 30

 Woman and Double Snake    2010      oil on canvas  36 x 48

 Cumash Cosomology   2011    oil on canvas  30 x 36

Agawa Rock    2009    oil on canvas     40 x 60

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Images of Interest

A woodpecker that I found behind my car

'Mending' firewood with a cast

A stack of documents

A really long carrot


Bacteria as pop art (contributor: Julian Forrest)

Maunsell Forts

C-130 Hercules cockpit/nose


Melting Deer

Launch gone terribly wrong

Golden Launch Green Dawn  2006 Stephen Hannock  12 x 10"  oil/canvas 

SM-3 Ship Launch   2009    David Janzen     oil/canvas     12 x 12"

Doe Sinnlichkeit    Franz Stuck    1891   etching

October    William Merritt Chase

Ferdinand    Robert Lawson   1936

   Tintin      Raymond Lemstra

Tilted Mule  2008    Jack Niven 9.5 x 6 x 1"  oil/masonite

Universal Mule   2008  Jack Niven  16 x 7.6'  latex on plywood

Goatse   Shary Boyle  polymer night-glo clay & goauche  9 cm tall

Below: An informal survey of my own efforts, from 1985 - present.
(Requiring annotation)