Paths X

Paths X
Etching & Photopolymer intaglio
76 x 56 cm.

The Spell of Rock Art

A prize possession of mine is the 2003 Finno-Ugric Calendar published by the Estonian Society of Prehistoric Art and the Fenno-Ugria Foundation. The photo work was done by society member Loit Joekalda, whom I met in Tallinn in 2002.

It is full of gorgeous colour photographs of the rock art of the Finno-Ugric region as well as short bits of ancient folk tales and songs in the original languages and in English. It is an inspiration to me in my art work and because of that, I may quote some of the writings here from time to time.

Vaino Poikalainen, chair of the Estonian Society of Prehistoric Art, wrote a most beautiful introduction, which I quote here in its entirety (though it is long):

A great deal of ancient art is to be found in the present and historical territories of the Finno-Ugric peoples. Various figurines functioned of bone, wood, clay, or metal, figures painted onto rock (petrograms) or carved into it (petroglyphs), as well as cult constructions and arrangements (barrows, sacred seita-stones, labyrinths etc.) were created to animate ancient religion. Myths, traditions and rituals served the same purpose. They all reflected a vision of the world order and corresponding behavioural and communicative patterns.

Ancient art and religious practices were used to explain natural phenomena to heal the sick, to teach children and to ensure sufficient food for the community. Rock art provides perhaps the richest source of information for our present knowledge of ancient beliefs. But the very roots of our modern world views, our national identities, legislation, natural sciences, medicine, as well as many other branches of sciences, art and education were nurtured by ancient art in general and rock art in particular.

The richest sites for Finno-Ugric rock art are found in: the Tom River basin of Western Siberia (Proto-Ugrian tribes); the central and southern areas of the Ural Mountains (Proto-Ugrian and Proto-Permian tribes); the eastern coast of Lake Onega and the Vyg (Uiku) River estuary in Eastern Karelia (Proto-Finnic and Proto-Saami tribes); the islands of Lake Kanozero, the middle courses of the Ponoi River and Cape Rybachi in the Kola peninsula (Proto-Saamis); and in southern, Eastern, and Southeastern Finland (Proto-Finnic Tribes). Most of these monuments, which were created by ancient hunters, fishers and gatherers, date back to the Stone and Bronze Ages, for which no contemporary written sources are available. The oldest rock art ever discovered are the cave paintings found in the southern Urals. They are thought to be 15-17 thousand years old. The Karelian petroglyphs and the Finnish rock paintings are considered to be about 4-6 thousand years old. The Kola and Alta rock art was produced between 2.5-6 thousand years ago, while the age of the rock paintings of the middle and southern Urals as well as the Tom River petroglyphs is estimated at 3-6 thousand years.

Although the ancient images found on rocks may at first seem primitive, they eventually cast a spell over anyone who takes the trouble to look at them more deeply. Part of the reason for this may lie in their slightly childish yet aesthetically pleasing appearance. A more significant reason, however, is hidden in their power to reveal and make sense of the universality of creation, as it was reflected in ancient belief systems and a way of life closer to nature.

The significance of rock art is further enhanced by the very locations chosen as sacred sites. These were singularly shaped natural formations, bodies of water, rocks and stones where the essential magic and rituals necessary for the tribe’s existence were carried out. The aim was to achieve a harmony between the man and the environment and to ensure the continuation of the traditional way of life. Any conflict with nature, any wasteful misuse of resources or deviation from familiar patterns might have posed a threat to the livelihood and very existence of the tribe itself.

This is a way of thinking that has almost been forgotten today. In our consumer society, prosperity and a sense of security are ensured through constant growth and an increase in consumption, which can only result in constant change. Perhaps for this reason alone, it becomes difficult for the modern person to comprehend rock art. Moreover, the ancient world view and system of beliefs were doubtless part of a considerably larger whole than the fragments that have been passed on to us in the form of rock art. And yet, we can use our rich capacity for imagination together with our sense of the time and place to penetrate this ancient world in order to bring it to life in our minds, if for no more than a brief moment. The resulting spiritual contact with our ancestors from beyond millennia will prove to be an unforgettable experience; much like the first sensations in childhood: fragmentary, perhaps not fully understood, pictures, sounds and smells out of one’s memory, full of emotion and fascination, coming back to each person in its own way.

Jim Dine

Found this on Art Daily:

First Survey of Jim Dine at National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Leading American artist Jim Dine’s groundbreaking achievements as a draftsman beginning around 1970 are featured in Drawings of Jim Dine at the National Gallery of Art, March 21 through August 1, 2004. The first major survey of Dine’s drawings in over 15 years, the exhibition will include more than 100 of his drawings from around 1970 to the present, borrowed from public and private collections. Often associated with Pop art and the Happenings of the 1960s, Dine became known for his paintings, prints, and sculptures–works that employed recurring themes such as tools, hearts, and bathrobes.

I really really wish this show was coming to Vancouver – Dine’s prints were a big influence on me in my earlier work.

Paths XII

Paths XII
Photopolymer intaglio print
76 x 57 cm.

Kiki Smith at MoMA

In my blogstrolls, I discovered this treasure on MoMA’s site: Kiki Smith: Prints, Books, and Things. Take a look at the neat website with the videos displaying the actual printing process!

“Kiki Smith (American, born Germany, 1954) is among the most significant artists of her generation. Known primarily as a sculptor, she has also devoted herself to printmaking, which she considers an equally vital part of her work. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue, Kiki Smith: Prints, Books, and Things (2003), showcase the scope of Smith’s printed art and present it thematically, focusing on such topics as anatomy, self-portraiture, nature, and female iconography. This interactive Web site is similarly arranged and fosters a rich understanding of her innovative body of printed art, illustrating over 135 works in more than 50 comparative groupings. In the Process section, Smith’s creative thinking is explored through two series of evolutionary printed proofs and through video footage of the artist making prints.”

Print Exhibition in Grand Forks

The Art Institute at Capilano College: Celebrating 20 Years of Printmaking

This exhibition of prints is currently on at the Grand Forks Art Gallery, in the city of Grand Forks, BC.

For the past twenty years The Art Institute (Printmaking) at Capilano College** in North Vancouver, under the guidance of Wayne Eastcott, has been on the forefront of contemporary printmaking; not only in Canada but internationally, as it attracts students from across the globe.

This traveling exhibit was originally organized by the Burnaby Art Gallery as a showcase of some of the important artists who have passed though the Institute.

Read more and have a look at the installation photos on the gallery’s site. If you are planning a trip to the area, do visit the show – it is on until April 24, 2004.

The new Director/Curator of the Grand Forks Art Gallery is the very dedicated Paul F. Crawford, an avid art collector.

**The College has since been designated a University and the link has been updated.

more on prints

In yesterday’s entry What is a Print?, I asked for suggestions from readers for any good online lists of printmaking techniques.

Thanks to Jason DeFontes for responding with a link to Pace Prints’ list.

Addendum (Mar.25): See also Spencer Museum’s ‘The Printroom’ which has technique maps. Thanks to Anna!

What is a Print?

I have been searching online for some years for a good list of definitions of the many different types of printmaking, for the benefit of viewers unfamiliar with prints. None seem quite satisfactory, often covering older techniques and not the newer ones being used in the past decade. If anyone reading this can recommend one, please let me know. There is a good one in Finnish though, if you can read it, at Finnish Printmakers Association.

Browsing today at East London Printmakers, I found in the extensive links What is a Print?. This is a rather unique presentation done by MoMA, in the form of an interactive Flash animation showing the principles of woodcuts, etching and silkscreens. A glossary of terms covers other techniques.

Added: There’s a decent list at Pace Prints. Thanks, Jason.

digital art show

Georgia Straight has a review about an exhibition in Vancouver called Digitalis 3 Urban Poetry: An Exhibition of Digital Print, that has piqued my interest because of the opening argument.

Dave Watson writes: If digitally made art follows the pattern set by other technologically assisted art forms (such as photography, audio collage, and printmaking), it will be decades before artworks created using computers are accorded significant respect. There seems to be suspicion about new techniques, especially if they appear to be easier than the old methods, like the artist had found a way to cheat on creativity and bypass all the hard work by virtue of a machine’s help.

But local artist James K-M (who is also the assistant coordinator at Langara College’s electronic-media-design program) doesn’t agree with that opinion, which is why he curates Digitalis, an annual show devoted to the potential of this emerging artistic form.

Digitalis 3 Urban Poetry is open from 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday until April 3 at the Interurban (9 East Hastings Street).

This sounds like a presentation that printmakers who are also working digitally, like myself, may find very informative to visit. Calling printmaking a “technologically assisted art form” is not entirely true when many prints such as woodcuts can be entirely hand-made.

Paths XIII (Nexus)


Paths XIII (Nexus)
Etching 61 x 93 cm.