In the history of computational art in Canada, a group of forward-thinking artists and technicians at Western played a starring role.
The results of their collaborations and musings are currently on display at Western’s McIntosh Gallery, as part of the exhibit, Computational Art in Canada, 1967-1974.
The show’s specific time period speaks to an age when the applications of information technology lived not in our pockets, but in the minds of the few who had access to large mainframe computers.
“This is the chapter before people ordinarily think of computer or computational art, with Western being one of a handful of universities across Canada to house a mainframe computer during that time,” said Adam Lauder, guest curator of the exhibit.
Lauder, a sessional instructor at OCAD University, recently finished a postdoctoral fellowship at York University focused on the origins of computational art in Canada. His cocurator, Mark Hayward, is an associate professor in the department of communications studies and associate dean of graduate studies at York University who studies culture and technology.
Their exhibit is the first to chronicle Canada’s contributions to first-generation computer art through a vast array of animated films, plotter drawings, digital paintings and computer-generated silk-screen prints. It also includes language-based experiments by London artist Greg Curnoe and the work of experimental filmmaker (and Western emeritus professor) Alexander Keewatin (“Kee”) Dewdney. Both highlight the interdisciplinary collaborations between artists and researchers, facilitated by John Hart, the first chair of Western’s department of computer science.
“Hart was an absolute visionary and instrumental in bringing a number of important artists to Western, where they then experimented with what was very rare, and possible at that time with mainframe computers,” Lauder said.
“This art often required the assistance and support of technicians and engineers who would do some of the programming, before the time of graphical user interface or anything that was user-friendly.”
It was also a time when the field of computer science was dominated by “white, straight men,” Lauder said, “making the inclusion of Montreal artist Suzanne Duquet’s work in even more interesting.”
Duquet was a painting professor at the L’Université du Québec à Montréal whom Hart met at a conference at York University in 1971. He invited her to come to Western, where she spent two summers as an artist-in-residence.
“She is such an exceptional figure,” Lauder said. “Because the technology was so complex, computer artists needed the help of engineers. She is one of the few artists that learned to code. Her paintings are based on programs she wrote herself.”
Other pieces in the show extend beyond those created by computer.
“There are works by artists thinking about computing in a larger sense ─ how it affects society and our thinking and behavior,” Lauder said, referencing Vera Frenkel’s pioneering series of teleconferencing performances which foreshadow the internet and social media.
“That really connects to the present day, whether you’re a computer scientist or someone who just works in front of a laptop, it touches us all,” Lauder said.
The exhibit runs until December 12. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, guests must book their visit in advance. Lauder and Hayward’s lecture on the exhibit was recently recorded as part of Western’s department of visual art’s Art Now! speakers series.
Cochrane based artist helps Calgary seniors craft public art installation – Cochrane Today
CALGARY— A local artist has found a unique way to celebrate everyday beauty with a carefully crafted arts package for seniors.
Karen Begg, of Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery, created the art installation Birds & Blooms using the Public Art Grant for Artist-initiated projects.
The grant was used to design and distribute a senior’s safe painting kit.
“I look at the project as two parts— One it was a senior’s safe activity … The second part of it was we installed them publicly at the Twin Views Communal Gardens in Dover,” Begg said. “The need was just unbelievable.”
The kit was distributed to 74 seniors located in Calgary, including Bethany River View properties who share a border with the community garden. Begg also worked with the Calgary Vietnamese Women’s Association. She added the partnership was especially neat because it allowed for the art project guide was translated into Vietnamese.
She especially enjoyed partnering with the Calgary Vietnamese Women’s Association as it allowed for some of the projects to become inter-generational through grandparents working with grandchildren while painting.
The youngest painter was five-years-old and the idlest was 92. The majority were seniors and was a cool experience as many of the artists who participated were born in the 1930s.
The cut-outs were created by Sunshine Laser Creations in Cochrane and embraced a garden theme by creating flowers, butterflies and birds.
Begg designed the kits to include eight paints, a bunch of brushes, stamps and stencils to decorate. She added the tools she chose were fashioned for arthritic hands to ensure they were easier to use.
“It was really great to give the seniors a safe project to work on as well as to put them on public display to show our community how valuable our seniors are— While keeping them involved in the community,” Begg said.
Seniors were asked to paint a cutout and then send the completed project to Begg to install at the community garden. Seniors were able to keep the art supplies and were provided a canvas so they could keep creating.
Begg was inspired to create the project because she felt bad for seniors who were living in isolation.
“I just got thinking about seniors needing activities … Because, they can’t see their friends,” Begg said. “I feel really bad for them it’s been a really hard year on them
Begg said she was impressed with the senior’s creativity in decorating the art pieces.
A popular pedestrian path runs through the community garden, Begg said, and she is looking forward to passersby enjoying the newly installed art pieces.
“It brightened a really dim corner and just brought some life back into the community,” Begg said. “I’m really proud of everything that they’ve accomplished.”
Ann Clow showing her art in Georgetown – TheChronicleHerald.ca
GEORGETOWN, P.E.I. —
Artist Ann Clow has an exhibit on display at the Kings Playhouse.
Running until Jan. 28, Through the Lense and Palette offers highlights from Clow’s collection.
Originally from Nova Scotia, but living in P.E.I. for the past five years, Clow is a self-taught painter and photographer who has followed in her family’s tradition and been an artist all of her life.
She has been selling her work and giving classes for more than 40 years.
Her work is influenced by her surroundings, and since she values travel, these change over time.
Much of her style can vary from highly realistic, abstract to deeply spiritual.
“My heart is filled with creativity and so is my mind,” she said. “In art, I combine my mind and my heart.”
Once the show is finished, people can also view her work in Montague at The Turning Point health store in the Down East Mall and Twice Upon Book Store. For more information, visit annclow.com and annclowphoto.com.
Art 101: The juiciest art war of the 21st century – CBC.ca
Let’s talk about privilege. It’s a huge part of our lives and a huge part of the art world.
Today we’ll talk about the art war that broke out when one artist decided he owned a colour and nobody else could use it. And we’ll tap into why that colour battle said something really important about the art world.
I’m Professor Lise (not really a professor) and this is Art 101 (not really a class). We’re going on a deep dive into an idea, an artwork or a story from the art world that may be controversial, inexplicable, or just plain weird.
Act 1 – Colour is Important!
Lest you think it doesn’t matter, take a moment to remember how much colour lets you recognize the work of your favourite artists. Like Mondrian, whose pervasive use of primary colour makes his paintings easy to spot. Or General Idea! Their vivid colour scheme is a signature element of their work, just as much as the slightly un-natural colours of any Group of Seven painting let you know you’re looking at a work from your uncle’s coffee-table book.
Artist have even tried to make a colour their very own: in 1960, artist Yves Klein patented International Klein Blue, or IKB, and other artists (including the Blue Man Group) still use it today, continuing his legacy. Sweet little anecdote, right?
Let’s move on.
Act 2 – The Colour War
You know that big bean at Chicago’s Millennium Park? It’s a huge reflective satisfying shape and every single person who visits Chicago is contractually obligated to take a selfie in front of it. It’s actually called Cloud Gate, and it’s by British Indian artist Anish Kapoor. It was made in the mid 2000s out of 168 plates of stainless steel joined by welding, and it cost in the vicinity of 20 million dollars.
Why does the massive and expensive bean matter to our story? Because it’ll give you an idea of the scale and scope of Kapoor’s art — he’s a huge deal, and his work costs a lot of money.
Why are we talking about Anish Kapoor? Calm down, I’m getting to it. Kapoor’s gotten a ton of honours for his large-scale architectural public art. He’s won the Turner Prize (the Oscars of the art world) and was even knighted in 2013. So let’s agree, he’s done good work and made his name.
In 2014, he started working with an entirely new material called Vantablack. It was developed in the lab of U.K.-based Surrey NanoSystems and it’s the blackest paint ever made. Originally fashioned to help in optics and aerospace, Vantablack’s dense black look is much easier to grasp in person than in photos and it’s made possible through pretty intense chemistry. In essence, light is TRAPPED by Vantablack instead of being REFLECTED by it — creating an effect that looks a bit like what it might be like to spot a black hole in space. In effect, Vantablack is pretty special and pretty new.
How did Kapoor start working with it? Well … he licensed it. Exclusively. That’s right, uncles everywhere — Anish Kapoor is the only person in the world that can use Vantablack in art.
Hey, did I hear somebody say that’s a dick move? You’re not alone!
On this Instagram post, where Kapoor shows off a work featuring his exclusive black, Willsmithfresh comments, “One man owning vantiblack [sic] is truly the loneliest bean that you’ll ever see.” And hannahjasmin_ says, “Selfish enough to keep an entire colour all to yourself, and all you’ve used it for is a circle. Congratulations, you’re the worst.” And that’s just two members of the general public — some artists were pretty upset that Kapoor took this incredible new invention and crafted a situation where he was the only person who could benefit from it.
Why’d Kapoor do it? He’s said a few things on the topic, including that “it’s not about possessing the stuff.” He’s also ascribed the response to the colour itself, saying, “The problem is that colour is so emotive — especially black … I don’t think the same response would occur if it was white.”
Enter Stuart Semple, popular British multimedia artist, nice guy and … well, for this story, let’s call him a “democratist.”
Semple was one of the artists aggravated by Kapoor’s snatching of the black, and so he decided to invent his own radically new paint: the pinkest pink. He made it beyond vibrant, very affordable, and available to any artist in the world — except Anish Kapoor.
The resulting war raged on through the late 2010s, marked by regular skirmishes. Like when Kapoor somehow got his hands on some of Semple’s pinkest pink shortly after its debut, and posted himself flipping the bird to Semple — the bird in question covered in Semple’s pink paint. Classy move, Anish Kapoor.
Semple, undaunted, went on to make other paints available to the world, including his own version of the blackest black, the mirroriest mirror paint and the glitteriest glitter.
Ok, so why are we reviving this story from 2016? Well, it’s fun! Artists fighting is hilarious! Uncles everywhere rejoiced. And you can find a good number of articles, explainers, and I dunno, maybe even a graphic novel about the Semple vs. Kapoor incident. But that’s not really why we’re here. I mean, it’s part of why we’re here. But there’s more to it.
Act 3 – Why it Matters, or, Kill the Rich
Here’s why Kapoor’s hoarding of black paint points to a problem in the art world, and why Stuart Semple worked so hard to steal Kapoor’s acorns.
It’s about access. Let’s talk about that for a minute.
When you go to your parents and say, “Uncle, I’d like to be an artist,” their inevitable question is, “How will you make any money doing that?” But there’s a missing question here. That is: how are you going to be able to afford to be an artist?
Let me explain: If you want to be a successful artist, you need stuff. I get it — our earliest evidence of art is with simple materials on a cave wall. But making art costs money, and if you want to make art now you need things like: a space to work in, materials, a computer, unlimited bandwidth.These things cost money. Cheap materials can, unfortunately, look like cheap materials. Expensive materials or processes can, unfortunately, look special.
Specialness and prestige are two words we don’t talk enough about when we’re talking about how artists get started. A painter who submits work to the gallery made on panels of stainless steel with the blackest black paint in the world is going to get some notice.
Artists level up. That Cloud Gate we talked about at the beginning? That wasn’t Kapoor’s first work. It’s the result of fame, skill, AND MONEY — both the money he makes from the work AND the money he had to put into it. I’m not trying to suggest that you can’t be an artist without money — you can AND YOU WILL. But it helps, right?
So when the rich guy snatches up the best materials and makes them exclusive to himself, he’s tapping into an issue that’s big in the art world: PRIVILEGE. What Stuart Semple is doing, on the other hand, is making prestige materials — the whateveriest whatever paint available to anybody who wants to use it, except Anish Kapoor. Look, it still costs money — we can’t get away from that. But Semple’s made a big gesture to acknowledge that artists have a rough go and gave them a little leg up.
So let’s give a little shoutout to Stuart Semple, because while this may have been a fun story about artists getting real angry, it’s part of something bigger. And I suspect Semple will keep doing his part to make the art world a more democratic place.
Act 4 – The End!
Thanks for listening! Especially because working from home is really lonely.
See you next time on Art 101!
Artworks featured in this video:
00:46 – Broadway Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian (1942)
00:51 – AIDS by General Idea (1988)
00:56 – Lake and Mountains by Lawren Harris (1928)
00:59 – Autumn Foliage against Grey Rock by Franklin Carmichael (1920)
01:21 – Cloud Gate by Anish Kapoor (2006)
01:47 – Leviathan by Anish Kapoor (2011)
01:54 – Shooting into the Corner by Anish Kapoor (2008-2009)
02:04 – Sectional body preparing for Monadic Singularity by Anish Kapoor (2015)
06:09 – Lady Gaga ARTPOP by Jeff Koons (2013)
06:13 – End of a Century by Damien Hirst (2020)
06:15 – Eroded Delorean by Daniel Arsham (2018)
06:27 – Gathering Clouds I-IV by Anish Kapoor (2014)
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