A child smeared in paint lingers sheepishly in the foreground of a stark white canvas. The aftermath of an unsupervised art session is a recognisable image of family life, but in The Painter (1994) by Marlene Dumas, the girl’s sinister stare and blood-coloured hands disrupt the trope, taking us somewhere darker.
After 37 years, Canadian Art is closing up shop. On its website Tuesday, the board of the visual art magazine announced that it was ceasing operations immediately due to financial losses associated with COVID-19. The magazine, which has lost both advertising and fundraising revenue during the pandemic, had already ceased print publication six months ago, and had also stopped updating its website while laying off most of its staff.
“The pandemic has disproportionately affected arts and culture institutions and organizations across Canada and we know that this will leave a hole in the Canadian arts landscape,” Lee Matheson and Dori Tunstall, co-chairs of the Canadian Art Foundation board, and board member Gabe Gonda, said in their statement. (As well as serving on the foundation’s board, Gonda is managing director of corporate development at The Globe and Mail.)
Canadian Art had long covered the art-museum and commercial-gallery scenes across the country with artist interviews, exhibition reviews and cultural essays, but it had entered the pandemic in a state of political turmoil. The magazine had become increasingly embroiled in controversy over how to respond to accusations of systemic racism both within its walls and in the art world beyond.
After he stepped down as editor-in-chief in 2019, David Balzer published a scathing critique of both Canadian Art and the cultural establishment in Hyperallergic, an online art magazine based in Brooklyn, N.Y. In that essay, Balzer drew a link between the source of money for cultural institutions and their ability to address racism, arguing that Canadian Art’s need to raise funds from private and corporate donors meant it only paid lip service to anti-racist principles. He described continual tension between the need to please wealthy white donors and the quest to publish politically challenging material in the magazine, saying that staff on the revenue side did not want to see the words “white supremacy” or “colonialism” in articles.
After Balzer’s essay appeared, Jas M. Morgan, the magazine’s former Indigenous editor-at-large, wrote in an open letter to the board that Balzer and other managers supported the role in theory but not in practice, and cited the magazine’s need to address its “institutional racism and inequity.”
When the Black Lives Matter movement came to the fore in 2020, the magazine made a renewed commitment to anti-racism and put the word “interim” in front of the job titles of senior staffers, including the new editor-in-chief Jayne Wilkinson, saying it was reimagining its structure.
However, before it could do that, financial losses became too great and it was forced to lay off 12 staffers last April. The magazine, which published a quarterly print edition of longer articles and maintained a newsy website, was a charity only partly funded by subscriptions and some government grants, and it lost income from advertising, corporate sponsorships and in-person events during the pandemic.
Last June, all of its board, aside from Matheson, Tunstall and Gonda, resigned, in theory stepping aside so that a fresh group could shake up the magazine’s structure. In a statement at that time, the board said it needed “to assess new business models and organizational structures that would be both financially viable and reflective of our commitments to the principles of decolonization, diversity, equity and inclusion … We also fully acknowledge that the charity has failed in its attempts to address these principles in a meaningful way in its operations.”
In Tuesday’s statement, the board said the windup would preserve the organization’s charitable status while donating a single copy of every previous issue to the Art Gallery of Ontario for safekeeping.
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Marlene Dumas: The art exposing the evil in the ordinary – BBC News
The Painter (1994) by Marlene Dumas (Credit: Marlene Dumas/Photo: Peter Cox, Eindhoven)
Perhaps the painter in the title is in fact Dumas, engaged in what she calls “the power struggle between the artist and subjects”, and her daughter – the painting’s focus – merely an accessory to broader questions of innocence and identity. “Art is not a mirror,” Dumas has said, writing that “a good work of art is essentially elusive”. In a ground-breaking departure from the conventions of portrait painting, feelings, rather than fixed representations, dominate.
A decade earlier, with self-portrait Evil is Banal, Dumas interrogated her own duplicity as a white girl brought up in South Africa under apartheid. In this portrait, a black-stained hand and face, within an otherwise peaceful pose, explores the symbolism of the light-dark dichotomy, and suggests a malign complicity contained in the outwardly ordinary. Later, the scarred face in The White Disease (1985) would provide an even bleaker evocation of the moral decay of the apartheid regime and its disfiguring of her homeland.
Evil is Banal (1984) by Marlene Dumas (Credit: Marlene Dumas/Photo: Peter Cox, Eindhoven)
Leaving South Africa behind and moving to Amsterdam in 1976 afforded Dumas tremendous artistic freedom. She could wander the city in relative safety, see masterpieces close up, and there was easy access to pop culture and media − the basis, no doubt, for the collages that formed part of her early work.
Returning to portraiture, she shunned formal sittings, instead conjuring diverse, often transgressive, subjects – from sex workers to pop icons and playwrights − from the myriad newspaper cuttings, books and Polaroids that cluttered her Amsterdam studio − images that she says “are familiar to almost everyone, everywhere”. This detachment from the original subject, described by Dumas as “the transformative magic of portraiture”, created space for artistic interpretation, while drawing out the commonality of the human condition. “I deal with second-hand images and first-hand experiences,” she writes.
Night Nurse (2000) by Marlene Dumas (Credit: Marlene Dumas/Photo: courtesy Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp)
Texturally, Dumas has always worked unhindered by expectation – producing dynamic, confident brushstrokes in unpredictable colours, and displaying a vigorous freedom of expression that differentiates her from most of her predecessors. Being painted by Dumas is no vanity project. Her works provoke compassion and aversion in equal measure, and prioritise a thickly meshed meta-text over an immediate likeness. Babies feature in morbid blue-green oils – alien arrivals with baffling dimensions, while the ephemeral beauty of a top model dissolves and warps as water bleeds into the ink.
Dumas’s recent work includes a series of 15 paintings, exhibited at the Musée d’Orsay from 12 October 2021, to mark the bicentenary of the radical 19th-Century French poet Charles Baudelaire, who shared her fascination with the interplay of beauty and evil, eroticism and disgust. The works illustrate prose poems from Baudelaire’s posthumous The Paris Spleen (1869), and demonstrate Dumas’s extraordinary range, from her perceptive portrait of the brooding poet’s genius, to the abstract melancholy of The Old Woman’s Despair.
Charles Baudelaire (2020) by Marlene Dumas (Credit: Marlene Dumas/Photo: Peter Cox, Eindhoven)
Donatien Grau, advisor for contemporary programmes at the Musée d’Orsay, worked with Dumas on the exhibition. “As opposed to other artists, there is no one way in which she paints,” he tells BBC Culture. “She’s consistently redefining, reinventing, trying things. What’s really striking with the Paris Spleen, is it’s really an encyclopaedia of her ways of painting, rooted in an engagement with Baudelaire.”
With the exhibition, Dumas – now 68 – becomes the first living artist to present her work in the museum’s celebrated Impressionists Gallery, where three of her pieces will be hung in dialogue with paintings from the museum’s collection, including Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night.
This unprecedented honour is a mark of the esteem in which Dumas is held and the pivotal role she plays in art history. “It’s really extremely rare to see paintings that have such extraordinary charisma,” says Grau. “She is a master, in the classical sense: she makes masterpieces.”
“There aren’t many artists who can match historical paintings,” Grau adds, pointing out “the density of time” abundant in Dumas’s multi-layered work. “That is an extraordinary challenge to certain preconceived ideas, according to which, it wasn’t permissible – or even possible – for women to tackle history,” he says. “Every painting she makes is a contradiction to that preconceived idea.”
The Trophy (2013) by Marlene Dumas (Credit: Marlene Dumas/Photo: Peter Cox, Eindhoven)
Dumas’s overtly political or historical pieces are partly governed by a desire to make visible the under-represented. As such, her broad oeuvre includes all that touches her. Paintings relating to Palestinian-Israeli relations and gay rights show how Dumas does not shy away from battlegrounds that are not strictly her own, while The Trophy and The Widow, painted in 2013, both set in her home continent of Africa, speak universal truths about female oppression.
“Marlene has such unbelievable empathy and sensitivity,” says Grau. “And that is apparent when you meet her, and that is apparent when you look at her work.” Like Baudelaire, whose essay on photography advocates for art based on imagination rather than empty reproductions, Dumas seeks our emotional engagement, taking us somewhere beyond prosaic materiality – a rat, a stripper, a celebrity – and showing us something new.
Sad Romy (2008) by Marlene Dumas (Credit: Marlene Dumas/Photo: Peter Cox, Eindhoven)
In Sad Romy (2008), for example, the tragic life of actress Romy Schneider is evoked by the lachrymose grey paint, while Dumas’s unexpectedly benign portrayal of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden (2010) suggests an uncomfortable shared humanity. Here, as with her 1985 masterpiece Die Baba − a ghoulish-green baby with a quizzical eyebrow, unflinching stare and disturbing resemblance to Hitler – the question again imposes itself: what does cruelty look like, and is it in all of us?
In the frame
Dumas is probably the first woman artist of the post-war generation to have made portraiture and figure painting the focus of her work, says Theodora Vischer, senior curator at the Beyeler Foundation in Basel, where the exhibition Close Up recently opened, showcasing nine pieces by Dumas, alongside key works by eight other pioneering women portrait artists, including Frida Kahlo and Cindy Sherman.
Teeth (2018) by Marlene Dumas (Credit: Marlene Dumas/Photo: Kerry McFate)
On show will be Teeth (2018), an example of the intimate and confronting close-ups favoured by the artist, and typical of her fast and free − but highly controlled – style. “It’s a pure, energetic painting composed of colour and gesture that merge somehow to form a face… that seems almost to hurl itself at the viewer,” Vischer tells BBC Culture.
The painting is based on a photograph of opera singer Maria Callas, but this is less important than what the piece says about human existence. “Her portraits no longer seek to capture a person in his or her unique, independent individuality,” explains Vischer. “They show people closely connected with the events and the world that’s around them. A face, a portrait by Dumas, contains a variety of experiences, a plurality of knowledge and truth, but all have a real, lived origin, and at the same time are of a timeless nature.”
“As an artistic personality, Marlene Dumas is certainly a role model for many artists,” Vischer says. Speaking to The Independent in 2015, US-born British artist Chantal Joffe (born in 1969), for example, described her as “the greatest living painter”. For Joffe and her contemporaries, Dumas had blown open the canon of portrait painting, paving the way for new forms of expression. “Even though I always painted figures, she gave me a freedom,” Joffe says.
And if the value of work is also what buyers will pay for it, then Dumas has also helped trailblaze for women. In 2005, The Teacher became the most expensive work created by a living female artist when it sold for £1.8m at Christie’s. Three years later Dumas broke her own record when The Visitor fetched £3.1m at Sotheby’s.
The Teacher (Sub A) (1987) by Marlene Dumas (Credit: Marlene Dumas/Photo: Peter Cox, Eindhoven)
Dumas, for her part, admires among others Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon, and the US portraitist Alice Neel (1900-1984), who also features in Close Up at the Beyeler Foundation. Neel’s expressed desire “to catch life as it goes by, hot off the griddle”, and to paint “people” – body and soul – rather than models, made a mark on her, and she acknowledges in hindsight The Painter’s debt to Neels’s Andy Warhol (1970).
As the Musée d’Orsay exhibition prepares to open, Grau cannot emphasise enough Dumas’s influence on “every young painter”. “She belongs to that great generation of artists who are women and who have completely shaped the way of art history,” he says.
Sensuous but cerebral, cruel but tender – Dumas’s work has overturned the aesthetic of portraiture, stripping back the veneer to reveal something loathsome and visceral but also sublime.
“There is no beauty if it doesn’t show some of the terribleness of life,” Dumas writes. “Art is there to remind us that all laws about what is beautiful and valuable were made by humans and can be changed by them.”
Close Up is running at the Beyeler Foundation, Basel until 2 January 2022.
Marlene Dumas, The Paris Spleen and Marlene Dumas, Conversations are showing at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris until 30 January 2022.
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The new resurgence in tablet art – ArtsHub
Over a decade ago, iconic British artist David Hockney first started using a tablet (an iPad) in 2009 to create digital artworks. And we’re not talking just some colour graphics on a screen. We’re talking artworks that have been exhibited in some of the world’s top museums from Tate in London, the Centre de Pompidou in Paris, Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the National Gallery of Australia.
Hockney said in an interview with Louisiana Museum of Modern Art curator Anders Kold in 2011, ‘I just happen to be an artist who uses the iPad, I’m not an iPad artist. It’s just a medium. But I am aware of the revolutionary aspects of it, and its implications.’
The artist, now in his 80s, added in his book of ipad drawings published by Tauschen last year: ‘There was great advantage in this medium because it’s backlit and I could draw in the dark. I didn’t ever have to get out of bed.’
However, it would seem that a next wave of enthusiasm for the digital medium has rolled across our screens with the pandemic, and a fresh take up of Procreate – an app that touts it is ‘made for artists’.
Procreate is not new; its first edition rolled out in 2011 (developed by Savage Interactive), and by 2018 was voted overall bestselling iPad app. Even Disney and Pixar use Procreate in-house.
Lockdowns have forcing many onto screens, and for other artists unable to go to their studios – there has been a flurry of activity recently.
Tech journalist Munroe Brackney writes: ‘With the rising popularity of TikTok during the beginning of COVID-19, Procreate and artists who use it have thrived using the app to promote their work.’
Procreate is not alone in the market – not surprising given the demand. Also popular are the apps Paper by WeTransfer, iOrnament, Zen Brush, iPad Pro, After Effects, and even old favourites like Microsoft Paint and Photoshop.
Brackney continued: ‘Photoshop has been the top program for digital art for years, but with the rise of TikTok and other social media, Procreate has become a top competitor that might one day surpass Photoshop.’
One of the reasons is that, unlike Photoshop, Procreate is available on any iOS device and is extremely portable, plus it is a one-time purchase that is half the monthly Photoshop fee.
‘Price has a lot to do with why it’s so popular,’ one reviewer said.
RECENT SPIKE IN USERS
In August this year, Apple posted a new video to its official YouTube channel to highlight the power of the iPad when it is paired with Procreate. Sure this is about marketing and money, but it is also an indication of the traction and growth experienced around using digital platforms for art making, especially with the rise of Tik Tok and YouTube during the pandemic.
The video was by Olivia Rodrigo, for her new song ‘brutal.’ Featured in the music video were a number of masks that the artist created in the Procreate app.
FAMOUS TABLET ART MAKERS
ArtsHub has put together this list of iPad and tablet artists, well-known for their use of Procreate. Understandably it is a popular medium for comic artists and illustrators, but it does not stop there. Fine artists, filmmakers and artistic directors are all turning to their tablets to capture creative ideas on the hop.
Comic artists & illustrators
- Jim Lee, comics artist and DC Comics Chief Creative Officer who has used it to sketch Batman and the Joker.
- Eric Merced, another cartoonist for Marvel and DC recognised for his use of this platform. Preferred Apps: ProCreate.
- Jorge Colombo, The New Yorker Illustrator has been using the apps since 2009.
- Sara Faber Artist and illustrator running my small illustration business.
- e r g o j o s h Digital artist and illustrator.
- David Hockney: British fine artist turns to the medium largely to create landscape paintings. Preferred Apps: Brushes.
- Stefan de Groot: The Dutch illustrator and the children’s books. Preferred Apps: ProCreate.
- John Dyer: The English landscape painter, used Procreate as part of the ‘Last Chance to Paint’ project, in partnership with the Eden Project. During the project Dyer to stayed with the Yaminawá people in the Amazon rainforest, where he painted the experience on a tablet.
- Seikou Yamaoka: Yamaoka and the great works of art history.
Video game artists
- Mike Henry: Zatransis – designer and illustrator for the gaming world.
- Sam Gilbey: From Sony Playstation, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Twitter.
- Kyle Lambert: a poster artist notable for creating the Stranger Things poster in Procreate, is also known for his viral Procreate finger-painting of Morgan Freeman. Preferred Apps: ProCreate.
- Nikolai Lockertsen: Concept Artist and illustrator in the movie and TV industry.
- James Jean: The artist uses Procreate for film poster work, as with his poster for Blade Runner 2049.
- Doug Chiang: A concept artist who creates robot, vehicle and creature designs for Star Wars in Procreate.
- Raphael Lacoste: Art Director for Ubisoft and Electronic Arts, who uses Procreate for studies.
Australians artists to follow on Instagram
- David McLeod: An Australian digital artist specialising in CGI with 221,000 followers.
- Anna McNaught: Describes herself as a photoshop artist, with over 139,000 followers.
- Ryhia Dank: Combines painted and digital works together, using iPad Pro and Procreate to incorporate her art into all sorts of mediums such as textiles, digital planners, vinyl wraps, and gift cards. The First Nations artist lives on the Sunshine Coast and has 31,800 followers.
- Jessica Johnson: Uses Adobe Creative Suite, Indesign, Illustrator and After Effects to create digital designs. A First Nations artist who use the medium for activism, has 41,000 followers.
- Madison Connor: First Nations artist who uses Adobe Suite, affinity designer, and Procreate with 33,400 followers.
- Miranda Lorikeet: Sydney artist who describes herself as a Microsoft Paint artist, and has 12,200 followers.
The Art in Life — When textiles meet art – University of Virginia The Cavalier Daily
The Fralin Museum of Art and the Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection at the University hosted another webinar in their “The Art in Life” series Oct. 7.
The textiles panel was part of the Kluge Ruhe’s “The Art in Life” series, which has previously focused on other topics such as food, tattoos, comic books and children’s books illustrations. The next installment of this series will be available on the Kluge Ruhe’s event calendar.
The “The Art in Life” series aims to explore aspects of everyday life that are not normally considered to be fine art. This most recent installment showcased the artistic nature of textiles and featured three evocative panelists.
The first speaker of the night was Diane Kappa, a pattern designer who previously designed for Nordstrom and is now the founder of Diane Kappa Designs. Working with mediums like block printing and digital illustration, Kappa’s unique designs appear on everything from clothing to wallpaper in retail.
Mili Suleman was the second speaker of the night. Born in India and raised in the Middle East, she started off as a graphic designer, later pivoting to exploring the world of textiles in the home space. Her “KUFRI” line was inspired by a visit to an Indian hill station which shaped her passion for handloom weaving. Suleman spoke about what textiles in her art mean to her, calling textiles a “connector.”
“It has helped me connect to other people around the world, such as right now,” Suleman said. “I’m able to do all the different things that I love in it… It is not as much about the product, it is more about the connection that it creates for me.“
The last panelist was Kieren Karritpul, a Ngen’giwumirri artist specializing in printmaking, painting, fabric and ceramics. Karritpul’s work is inspired by his culture and family, and has been featured in the National Art Gallery of Australia and The Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The highlight of the event was the panelists’ evocative, insightful discussion about textiles in their work.
Kappa spoke about how digital printing has made painting and drawings less restricted, and how they have led to a general appreciation for artisan craft — knowing who the artist was, where the product came from and how it was made are important to consumers now.
Another compelling part of the webinar was the discussion on how family and cultural connections have influenced the panelists’ work.
Karritpul spoke about how his great grandmother, grandmother and mother as well as his community have had a great impact on his artwork and use of textiles. Coming from an artistic family of weavers, he decided to be an artist at just five years old, wanting to make art about his culture and language. He spoke about how his family and community have inspired him to make art that looks both back and ahead — art that draws from his culture and past, yet also aims to inspire a future generation.
Similar to Karritpul, Suleman’s work is also heavily influenced by her family. The concept of East and West is prevalent in her textiles, as her parents each come from Eastern and Western India. This duality has influenced her outlook on art as well as the patterns she creates. She also draws from tribal patterns and designs because of how one of her parents grew up in a rural village. Suleman describes her work as “very rustic and imperfectly perfect [and something that] could belong in the family together” — a diverse set of pieces that still belong together.
Another interesting point of the discussion was how each of the artists thought about the sense of touch when using textiles.
“Everytime I pick [painting silk] back up again, it’s a very tactile experience for me,” Kappa said about painting silk, an activity she did in college. She expressed, however, that the physical, tactile aspect of textiles is not something she thinks about anymore.
Suleman and Karritpul offered a different perspective on this topic. Karritpul made a connection between the texture of pandanas — a scratchy palm found in Northern Australia — and how it looks, relating it to the importance of looking at how a textile moves on the body rather than how it feels physically.
Suleman expressed a similar opinion, saying that in her “KUFRI” line, texture is everything: “[I want to create that] imperfectly perfect feel where you can see the slubs [of the yarn] and touch the slubs and really see the reflection of the hand of the weaver.”
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