Author Archives: Linda

Introduction to Quebec artist, Claude Bolduc

The job of a muse, says Germaine Greer, is to penetrate the male artist and call forth a work from the womb of his mind. She is the anima to his animus, the yin to his yang. When I saw the work of Claude Bolduc from Quebec, I wondered if the same muse spoke to him and Hieronymus Bosch across the span of 500 years.

Bosch was a respectable, Catholic citizen of a small town in the Netherlands in the mid-15th Century. Sometimes called ‘the devil’s painter’, Bosch’s fantastical imagery portrayed heretical religious narratives; the most memorable are those that depict his nightmarish images of Hell. Bosch’s paintings are instantly recognizable, for it would be impossible to see one without stopping to stare, in trippy wonder, at the abominable events that await us in Hell (as depicted in image above.)

It’s not that Bolduc’s artwork is heretical. It is not, especially from the perspective of the 21st Century viewer. Rather, his work is Bosch-like because it commands us to stop and consider his proposition from an anything-but-orthodox perspective. I was intrigued when I first encountered Bolduc’s work a few years ago in Quebec, but I had no appreciation for the extent of his work until I met him recently. Bolduc has a long history of creative ventures. Always invested in personal creative expression, he started his career as a composer until life showed him another path – one that he didn’t have to share with others. The decision to pursue art wasn’t so much an epiphany, but rather his lingering memory of the artwork of Arthur Villeneuve, a Québécois painter whom he met as a young man. Although Villeneuve’s early (and private) work was eccentric and unorthodox, he went on to become a well-respected member of the Canadian art establishment. But it was Villeneuve’s early work that inspired Bolduc: unconventional images and an intensely personal means of self-expression. Bolduc describes his own art as ‘art singulier’, a term that describes self-taught artists who are entirely outside the fine art system, either by choice or by circumstance. As Bolduc says, it gives him the right to be himself.

The subject of many of Bolduc’s paintings is the skewering of the Church, literally and figuratively. (Above: Coup D’Etat Sur L’Eglise (A Coup on the Church), 1999 – 2000.)  It’s not that he has lost his faith; in fact, he is a deeply spiritual person, who believes in the fundamental teachings of the Bible. It is the failings of the Church that trouble him and fuel his prolific art practice. He tends to work in themed series, like the Tarot, The Seven Stations of the Cross, Spirituality, and so on. There is much to show you in next month’s blogs, from early paintings, to drawings, to pastels.

 

 

Scott Colin at Outsider Art Festival

I have always been fascinated with self-portraits. Although the modern version of the ‘selfie’ is ubiquitous, it is the artist’s rendition of himself in ink or paint that interests me. The artist knows his subject intimately or, as we say, warts and all. So, to render his image permanently on canvas is a revealing exercise indeed. It is, perhaps, an entry into his visual journal: “This is who I am today.”

The recent Outsider Art Festival in Vancouver offered a vast and varied array of art created by artists on the margins of the art world. What caught my eye, though, were Scott Colin’s self-portraits, modestly painted onto buff paper.  Pictured, left, is Spirit of the Halting: a demure figure, partially obscured by a mask of dots, his soft-focussed head blurring into the background. Pictured, right, is The Fall of my November, a more definitive and stronger statement of himself.  The obscuring veil has lifted enough to see the world with both eyes. The masks that obscure Scott’s face in both portraits not only block his view of the world, they hamper our view of him. The person behind the mask is unknown, perhaps even to himself.

To impose an interpretation on an artist’s work, especially a self-portrait, is a risky exercise and my reading only grazed the surface of its meaning. I had a chance to talk with Scott and he told me, very candidly, about his debilitating struggle with drug addiction. These self-portraits were done just before a relapse, at a very, very dark time in his life. Scott describes himself as an extraordinarily ‘open’ person – a sensitive medium of sorts – who has trouble keeping the world at bay. These dots, then, are perhaps a screen to filter the barrage of sensations the world flings at him.

As tragic as Scott’s lost years were, he is now committed to ‘clean’ living and art plays a large part in his journey of self-discovery. What began as sessions in art therapy turned into a daily practice of personal expression. He continues to explore how to open up just enough to keep himself protected. I did notice, in fact, that there was no evidence of the protective veil in his recent self-portraits – the mask was replaced by a bolder, colourful version of himself. I got the sense that Scott is still surprised at what he is discovering beneath the mask.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sans Soucie Zero Waste Texile + Design

This blog is about a Vancouver artist I know, Katherine Soucie, and her incredible work as a zero-waste textile + design artist. Her business, Sans Soucie, turns pre-consumer waste hosiery into new textiles for high-fashion women’s clothing and, more recently, 3D forms. Although Soucie is not an outsider artist, I met her through my outsider art connections and since this is my blog… I get to write about all sorts of cool art events.

When I first met Soucie, I couldn’t really imagine the world of re-used textiles she described. As a person who can ‘almost’ sew a button onto a shirt, I was at a loss to imagine the extent of her industry or the breath of her skill and creativity. I remember thinking that her work embodies everything an artist ‘should be’ in this century:  exceptionally skilled, fully committed, highly imaginative, and engaged in global issues. In Soucie’s case, the issue is the staggering ecological impact of the clothing industry on the environment. It is second only to the big oil producers. Few of us think about our carbon footprint when we buy ‘fast clothing’, with its long chain of getting clothing to market: growing natural textiles (with pesticides), producing synthetic textiles (from oil by-products); dying it (with toxic chemicals), manufacturing it in industrial settings, shipping it around the world (using fossil fuels), and its ultimate disposal in landfills. But Soucie does think about these serious issues and her life’s work has revolved around creating haute couture – truly wearable art pieces – from pre-consumer waste hosiery.

Soucie’s zero waste design philosophy means that she creates items from products that manufacturers have discarded; the process is environmentally sound, low-impact, and free of metal toxins. Any waste she produces is collected and re-purposed by other artists in the design community. In short, Soucie creates gorgeous clothing from waste that would otherwise end up in the trash. And what vibrant and sensuous clothing it is! Her highly-collectible work was lauded in British Vogue magazine last year.

Having mastered the art of clothing design (in my view), Soucie is turning to other creative ventures. At her recent exhibit at Seymour Art Gallery, she displayed some of her quirky ‘wrapped’ sewing machines, each one a unique and colourful reflection of her creative energy. They remind me of the objects that outsider artist Judith Scott so lovingly bound with strips of cloth. For Soucie, the machines are the tools of her trade, dating back to the Industrial Age of the 18th Century when garment manufacturing began in earnest. If only those cloth merchants could see her now! The other artist in the exhibit was Michelle Sirois-Silver, who uses scraps from Soucie’s production to hook colourful rugs.

The word ‘garbage’ doesn’t exist in either of these artists’ vocabularies.

The most intriguing of Soucie’s recent ventures has been her residency with HCMA Architecture + Design, an architecture agency that explores the public realm, seeking to ’tilt’ their perspective by watching artists at work. In Cast ON, Cast OFF, Soucie ‘knit’ a sculptural room from waste hosiery. A crown of LED lights hangs above the sculpture, inviting us to step inside the warm glow. The other pieces are seats, filled with natural latex foam.  Soucie asks us to consider what its like to be inside a garment that is not a garment. For Soucie, the residency was a perfect fit because structure and architecture has always informed her work as a textile designer. The project was another reminder that we all, as consumers, must step away from the frenzy of fast fashion. There are more sustainable ways to make the clothes we live in.

Raw Vision Magazine – The quirky world of Jordan MacLachlan

My article about Canadian outsider artist, Jordan MacLachlan, was just published in the current edition (#94) of Raw Vision, the international magazine of outsider art. Titled, The Stuff of Life: The sculptures of Jordan MacLachlan, the article begins like this:

Jordan MacLachlan is a storyteller, describing to us what is, was, and could be. Sometimes the stories are a Grimm’s fairy tale of horror; others are benevolent and quirky propositions that ask: what if this happened?

The article introduces readers to her current sculpture series, Unexpected Subway Living, in which  MacLachlan explores the consequences of a catastrophe that forces people and animals into the underworld of subways. Her 300 sculptures populate a 24-foot surface, doing ordinary and extraordinary things, from a man smoking a cigarette to a headless woman walking a sounder of swine. It is, undeniably, an intriguing, horrific, and funny story. Check it out.

More about MacLachlan and her work can be found in earlier blogs.

 

Martine Birobent and Jordan MacLachlan at Norway Exhibit

COOL: THE ARCTIC OUTSIDERS in Norway is featuring the work of two Canadian artists: Jordan MacLachlan from Toronto (see previous blog) , as well as Martine Birobent (Quebec). The exhibit  is at the Museum of Outsider Art in Harstad as part of the Northern Norway Festival. This photo shows MacLachlan’s sculptures and Birobent’s dolls (hanging on the wall). The first report from the curator is that the exhibition is a great success, with more than 1500 visitors in the first week. Remarkable feedback, too.

Birobent, who passed away too young last year, has two pieces in the exhibit. Both speak to the oppression of women, their bodies bound, their mouths covered, barely mobile in their confined state. Below (top) is Muzzled Milk Chocolate. The other is Muzzled Lilas Verte, which reminds me of Atwood’s eerie foretelling, in The Handmaid’s Tale, of a society of subjugated women, kept for the sole purpose of bearing children.

 

 

Visitors are particularly relating to MacLachlan’s sculpture of Marius and the giraffe, which documents the killing of Marius in front of a gawking crowd at the Copenhagen zoo in 2014.

It is wonderful to see two of Canada’s top artists being in the spotlight. And it’s perfect timing for Canada’s 150th birthday celebrations, eh?