A melted face with two round cavities standing in for eyes, a misshapen lump approximating a nose, and an agape maw of a mouth: Behold the latest art “restoration” gone completely wrong in Spain.
The Palencia “restoration” is the latest in an infamous line of nonprofessional art rehabs in Spain, including a 2012 repainting of a 19th-century fresco of Jesus, done by an 81-year-old church member, that gained the unfortunate international nickname of “Monkey Christ.”
More recent incidents in Spain include a day-glo repainting of a 15th century wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary, St. Anne and the infant Jesus; the redoing of a 500-year-old St. George figure that turned him into a toy soldier; and multiple failed attempts to give the Virgin Mary a makeover in a copy of a painting by the Baroque artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
The Palencia statue, which formerly was of a smiling lady placed within a country scene, adorns part of the facade of a bank in this city of some 78,000 in the country’s north. The Art Newspaper reports that the statue was originally unveiled in 1923.
In Spain, professional art restorers and conservationists are once again calling for stricter oversight. On Twitter, the Madrid-based organization of professional restorers and conservators, ACRE, deplored the work in Palencia, writing that the rehab was not professional.
ESTO #NoEsRestauración. Es una intervención NO profesional.
Polémica en Palencia por una restauración que deja hecho un «cristo» el relieve de una fachada https://t.co/18pEBXjKH4
— ACRE (@A_CR_E) November 9, 2020
After languishing for decades, an important piece of Acadian art gets a new lease on life – CBC.ca
For more than 40 years, an important piece of Acadian art languished in the basement of Louis-J-Robichaud High School in Shediac.
The theatre curtain, measuring three metres by 5½ metres, depicts a scene from the deportation of the Acadians in the mid-18th century.
Commissioned in 1931, the canvas was painted by Acadian artist Edouard Gautreau.
The curtain hung in the Shemogue parish theatre hall until the 1960s, when the hall fell into disrepair, but the work of art was spared.
Over the years, the canvas became increasingly damaged until it was rescued by the late Father Maurice Léger in 1979 and put in the care of the Société Historique de la Mer Rouge.
It sat in the high school basement for decades, before ownership was transferred to the Nation Prospère Acadie charity in May 2020, with the promise of restoration.
“When we first unveiled it here when it was brought here a lot of us thought “Oh my goodness, this is so damaged, what can we do with this?” said Daniel LeBlanc, the organization’s executive director.
“But the work began and suddenly we started to see colours appear, very beautiful colours, and I think we got the sense that this could be restored to a very high-quality painting.”
A grant of $7,500 from the Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation helped get the restoration work started.
Over the summer, the canvas got its first treatment, which removed dirt and consolidated some of the missing sections. It had been ripped in half in the 1970s.
It was also put on display, at the Musée de Kent in Bouctouche, for the first time in a half a century.
“Throughout the painting we see sections which were lost unfortunately with deterioration over time,” LeBlanc said. “There was a lot of filth and mould over it and so the work of the restoration expert was to prepare it so that it could be saved for future restoration work and also to expose it so that the public could see.”
It will soon be taken down and rested on a flat surface for the winter, stabilizing it so it doesn’t have any stress on the threads of the painting. Then it will be ready for the next stage of restoration.
“Painstakingly all the sections of the painting which have more filth on it, even mould, need to be cleaned thoroughly and the sections finally need to be patched in with paint,” LeBlanc said.
A specialist will match colours and repaint some of the damaged sections so it can finally be completed. A canvas will be needed underneath to keep everything supported.
The final stage will be to frame the piece and have it permanently displayed.
LeBlanc said this was one of artist Edouard Gautreau’s largest works of art.
Born in Saint-Paul-de-Kent in 1906, Gautreau started painting at a young age, and he painted many large pieces in New Brunswick churches. LeBlanc said that unfortunately, many of those pieces were lost in fires.
LeBlanc said this canvas is special.
“Gautreau was very skilled in copying paintings but also bringing his own intuition and colours on paintings, so this is quite a much improved version of the small picture that you find in the Evangeline book,” he said.
LeBlanc said the first phase of restoration cost about $15,000, but the next phase will be more costly, at more than $75,000.
LeBlanc is still working on raising the funds, but hopes the restoration work can begin again next summer. He’d like to see it completed by late 2021 or in 2022.
LeBlanc said the canvas has had a long journey, one he’ll be happy to see completed.
“We went from discouragement to hope that we can actually complete this project and it can be a beautiful project for Acadia.”
'Masked bride' reveals identity, holds domestic violence-themed art exhibit in Saskatoon – CBC.ca
A Saskatoon woman who arranged a performance art piece across the globe has decided to share her story through a unique art exhibit in the city.
It’s called To Whom It May Concern and features a collection of photographs and letters which address the rise of domestic violence during COVID-19.
The project was started by Natalie Feheregyhazi in Toronto a few years ago.
Feheregyhazi dressed up in a wedding dress with a white mask covering her entire face. She would sit in various places in the city and write letters to be left where she was sitting.
She was given the nickname ‘Toronto’s Masked Bride’ as her identity remained anonymous.
Feheregyhazi said the idea to do an art project about a bride had been in her mind for several years prior to the performance art piece but some experiences in 2015 and 2016 inspired the final project.
She said one of the experiences happened after a brief conversation with a local artist, Daniel O’Shea, in a shop in Saskatoon.
“[He] showed me a painting he had done for a friend of his who had recently been murdered in a domestic violence situation,” Feheregyhazi said.
The woman in question was Beverly Littlecrow, a 36-year-old woman who the Crown prosecutor argued had been a victim of manslaughter at the hands of her spouse Gabriel Faucher in 2016.
In 2018, Faucher was found not guilty of manslaughter in the death of Littlecrow as the judges could not rule out the possibility of Littlecrow’s injuries having been accidental. The appeal of Faucher’s acquittal was dismissed earlier this year.
“We talked about this painting and he ended up gifting it to me because he said he didn’t know what to do with it,” Feheregyhazi said. “He felt it was meant to go to me.
“I really feel like Beverly’s spirit has been with this project since that moment.”
Leaving a dangerous relationship
Feheregyhazi said getting the painting coincided with her leaving a dangerous relationship after she had found out “all sorts of kind of terrifying things” about her partner who she had been with for eight years.
“It was a whole host of things that had happened kind of simultaneously and when it came to that summer and that spring, I didn’t know how to process all of this,” Feheregyhazi said. “And that’s when all of the pieces kind of came together.”
She said she knew the bride in the project had to be masked, and had to be voiceless, because she didn’t know how to express it otherwise.
Feheregyhazi said she didn’t want people to know who she was since the project involved her leaving notes around Toronto with real life stories, and she did not want the stories to be brought back to the people they involved.
She described the letters she left around the city as love letters, as the experiences she was trying to express in the art piece had to do with abusers being loved by the people they abuse.
“That conflict, that love is really what keeps us kind of caught in these cycles and I mean it’s complicated,” Feheregyhazi said. “There are a lot of elements to it and sometimes it’s fear and sometimes it’s unfortunate conditioning but it’s also love.”
She said she hoped that through writing in this uncensored and spontaneous manner it would bring to light the positive feelings often felt in abusive relationships which make it harder for victims to leave.
“One day and one moment you’re remembering the beautiful anniversary you had or that time when it was snowing, like it currently is in Saskatoon, and you decided to cuddle up and watch five movies in a row and just be loving,” Feheregyhazi said.
“Versus being assaulted, being yelled at, being sexually violated, those are the things that don’t get addressed nearly often enough when we talk about domestic or intimate forms of violence.”
The performance art project took Feheregyhazi to many places including Europe and Africa. She said she met many people, including men and people with mental illnesses, who shared their stories with her.
“What strikes me is how deep our collective longing for kindness and connection and love is,” She said. “Sometimes I didn’t catch everything but they would come and identify with the vulnerability of the figure that was just there to kind of listen, it wasn’t speaking it created the space for them to share.”
She said many people came up to her to share intimate and painful parts of their lived experiences with her and she just listened.
“There was kind of a silent agreement of trust [and] these stories are confessed and shared because no one knew who I was.”
Taking the mask off
Feheregyhazi said the reason she now decided to take the mask off and attach her name to the project has to do with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re living in a situation where since the quarantine went into effect domestic violence has been on the rise,” she said. “And this is all happening in very confined, restricted basis.
“People who are already isolated are even more isolated and have less easy access to help.”
She said the exhibit in Saskatoon, which runs until Nov. 29, touches on some young women who died in the spring and summer of this year due to alleged domestic violence.
One of those women is Tina Tingley-McAleer who was killed in her home in Hillsborough, N.B., in May. Police arrested her partner, Calvin Andrew Lewis, and charged him with first-degree murder.
Feheregyhazi said the exhibit also includes on Darian Hailey Henderson-Bellman, a 25-year-old woman from Brampton, Ont., who was allegedly shot to death by her boyfriend Darnell Reid in August.
The last woman who is honoured in the art exhibit is Brittney Ann Meszaros. The 24-year-old Calgary woman was found dead in her home in April, and her common-law boyfriend, Alexander Moskaluk, was charged with manslaughter.
“I really hope [the exhibit] will bring to surface a reminder of who these people were like these aren’t just statistics they’re mothers, they’re sisters, they’re friends and they got caught in a situation that for some reason socially we still tolerate to some degree,” Feheregyhazi said.
“I don’t know why we mind our own business when we hear something going on or how we’ve been conditioned to kind of just accept that there’s a certain level of violence that women and girls may encounter.”
The To Whom It May Concern art exhibit is in Saskatoon at 20th Street West at Avenue E and is free to view.
“I hope people will be moved to ask and demand that these kinds of violences come to an end once and for all.”
If you need help and are in immediate danger, call 911. To find assistance in your area, visit sheltersafe.ca or endingviolencecanada.org/getting-help. In Saskatchewan, pathssk.org has listings of available services across the province.
Vancouver Art Gallery's fall lineup shows there's more to Victor Vasarely's universal visual language – Ubyssey Online
A huge print of David Bowie’s self-titled album cover. Neon tubing inside the frame of a painting. A tube-shaped sculpture made of suspended rice paper. What do these all have in common?
The fall exhibition lineup for the Vancouver Art Gallery.
On October 17, three new exhibitions opened at the Vancouver Art Gallery: Victor Vasarely, Op Art in Vancouver, and Uncommon Languages. Op Art in Vancouver was developed in conjunction with Victor Vasarely, while Uncommon Languages responds to themes throughout Vasarely’s work, specifically that of a “universal visual language.”
So this review is a buy one get two free. Lucky you!
Imagine you’re standing in front of a huge painting. Taller than you, if you were the approximate size of, say, a 5’5” man. The painting is of a grid. Small black diagonal squares — like they’ve been italicized — against a white background.
Except some of the squares are going the wrong way. No matter how long you look at it, your eyes keep going back to those squares, the ones that are pointed in the opposite direction as the rest. There isn’t a pattern of directions reversed. There are just three splotches of nonconformity. But it makes the whole painting jump; you can almost see a weird moving S shape in the grid of squares — except there definitely isn’t one. You’re seeing things.
That’s Vasarely, baby.
Victor Vasarely was a Hungarian-French artist renowned for his colourful abstract patterns and largely credited as being the father of the Op art movement. Op art, short for optical art, is simply art that plays with optical illusions.
When I think of optical illusions, I jump past pieces that invoke movement or depth in a completely still 2D surface. I tend to look for works which make you squint really hard to see the young woman instead of the old lady. To be fair, those are both optical illusions. But this exhibit, which focuses on Vasarely’s work from the 1960s and ’70s, is much more the former.
It’s simplistic and highly abstract. Shapes and colours.
Vasarely worked with such simple shapes and a limited palette for a straightforward reason: he wanted to create a universal visual language. Like, really wanted. Victor Vasarely doesn’t just contain paintings. There are sculptures, books, an album cover, a tea set, screenprints, a mass-produced woven piece and what basically amounts to a board game. (Called Planetary Folklore, it’s basically a build-your-own-Vasarely kit, with patterns matching his actual pieces.)
Despite his impressive breadth of mediums, the pieces I kept returning to were his paintings. I think it’s the scale that gets to me. From far away, they look simple and clean, experiments in design and colour.
But if you get close enough, you can still see the brushstrokes; the medium betrays the presence of the artist.
Sorry, Vasarely. There’s no universality. It’s all just you, all the way down.
Op Art in Vancouver
Unsurprisingly, Op Art in Vancouver is about the emergence of Op Art in Vancouver during the late 1950s and early ’60s. This small exhibition is the bridge between Victor Vasarely and Uncommon Language — quite literally because you have to walk through it to get from one exhibit to the other.
While the pieces in Vasarely played with literal optical illusions to convey a sense of movement or depth, the Op-art here is just as concerned with challenging what the viewer expects to see as it is with challenging how the viewer sees.
Which is to say: most of the pieces in Op Art in Vancouver are paintings or screenprints — weird ones. (Neon tubing! Mirrors! Mirrors in the paintings!)
In fact, there’s this fun divide in Op Art in Vancouver between pieces that are noticeably visually jarring and pieces that look essentially identical to contemporary graphic design.
With digital art software, straight lines and solid colours are easy, or at least, easier than they are with paint on canvas. Which is, in itself, something a lot of people don’t think about often, because straight lines and solid colours are meant to look easy.
Why am I so emotional about straight lines? Michael Morris, that’s why.
Michael Morris is one of the artists in Op Art in Vancouver. The thing that set Morris’s work apart for me — aside from the mirrors and plexiglass — was the fact that, unlike a lot of his peers, Morris painted without the aid of masking tape and paint rollers, which were used to create the sharp lines and smooth surface that feels so graphic design-y about op art.
The lines in Morris’s work wobble. They’re clearly and visibly imperfect. Yet his design compositions are just as abstract and shape oriented as his counterparts in Op Art in Vancouver. It’s surreal as hell to look at. I highly recommend looking at it.
Uncommon Language is the third exhibition in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s fall lineup and the most visually distinct. Quite simply, it’s not op art. While Op Art in Vancouver explores how Op art traditions emerged locally, Uncommon Languages addresses the thematic undertones of Vasarely’s work, specifically his desire for a universal visual language.
But, once you think about it, the concept of a universal visual language is, in a lot of ways, not all that utopian. In fact, it’s deeply Eurocentric, not to mention colonialist. You idealize the concept of a single universal language when society’s standards of “universal” have always included you.
Uncommon Language is a broad and vast exhibition in subject, medium and tone. There’s a marble bench, several poems, a mask, a painting leaned against the wall, a row of books painted black, spliced-together videos of people exercising — it’s a lot.
The pieces here not only expand on a desire for universality and question whose voices are and aren’t being heard, they also challenge the viewer’s expectations of art, similar to op art. It’s just more … conceptual. Like, if we lean a painting against a wall instead of hanging it up, how does that change how we approach the painting?
I agree. That question sounds incredibly conceited when I say it like that. But I also can’t describe how physically uncomfortable it was to see Andrew Dadson’s Black Lean Painting.
Even though Uncommon Language plays with thematic disruption and visual disruption, there is a third, more subtle layer of disruption going on, which is clearest to see in the presentation of Françoise Sullivan’s Dance in the Snow.
Dance in the Snow is a series of photographs of Sullivan performing a dance routine that only three people ever saw. (It was filmed, but the film was lost.) The photographs that comprise Dance in the Snow are presented next to an essay by Sullivan about the dance, published on the 30th anniversary of its single performance.
But the most riveting part of seeing this piece in Uncommon Language is the historical context that the didactic text — the gallery wall text — provides. This is context that Sullivan is deliberately not addressing in her work, or her reflection on her work, like how one of her dance instructors was known for appropriating African dance movements and percussion, or how Sullivan herself positions her reflection on this dance within colonialist tropes of being alone in a landscape.
Uncommon Language pulls a lot of big, theoretical punches. It’s a deeply thought-provoking exhibition.
But mostly, I wondered why it wasn’t the exhibition literally named after and focused on the works of Victor Vasarely that contextualized his desire for a universal visual language in the historical context of ongoing colonialism. Why it didn’t attempt to contextualize his work in any historical context aside from his fame in the 1960s and ’70s? Why it framed his use of mass production to make artwork more available as revolutionary, instead of, you know, deeply consumerist.
Is it a disservice to present something as simple when it’s actually complex? How much of a disservice, if at all? What might Victor Vasarely and Op Art in Vancouver have gained from talking about their historical contexts within those exhibitions?
I don’t know. But I wonder.
Victor Vasarely, Op Art in Vancouver and Uncommon Language will be open until April 5, 2021.
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