It’s one thing to go to a gallery and soak in the work. It’s three levels up from awesome to go to a gallery, hear the artist talk about her concept, trials, process, and execution of the work.
My good friend, Cathy Farwell, blew my hair back this past rainy Saturday with a detailed walk through of her latest endeavours that led to her Relative Distance show at the Homer Watson Gallery. Also showing at the gallery are Kathryn Bemrose and Nicole Waddick who gave really personal and insightful talks of their own.
Cathy really pulled back the curtain to show us how she does the work she does. Great in-progress photos of the work and the gear required to achieve these amazing controlled patinas on copper. To scale up to these 4-foot panels, Cathy had a special tank fabricated that was large enough to handle them. Makerly points for experimenting with various resists and chemistry, and especially for employing a wide variety of materials to control the patterns on the copper. Everything from barley, to wood shavings, to medical gauze was used for patterning. Cutting and sewing gauze into a precise organic design and then shoring it all up with a frame of bamboo skewers to maintain its integrity during patination takes some mad skills. It takes substantial creative courage to open up about your process. Some artists worry that by revealing the inner workings, that it will somehow take the magic out of their work. From a maker’s viewpoint, sharing this insight just serves to deepen the appreciation for the work and further solidify the integrity of the end result.
Great to meet Joe Fansher, Curatorial Assistant at the gallery, shown here at the podium.
Funny to think that I lived around the corner from this gallery for five years and never set foot in here. It’s beautiful. Of course back then, all my free time was spent commuting to T.O. for work.
Nicole Waddick’s show Strata, inspired by the grasslands of Saskatchewan, included these wicked lichen-inspired relief sculptures. Nicole, too, had great photos of her work in progress, and talked about both the concept and method behind these pieces. Very cool to hear firsthand how these relief sculptures, her free-standing sculptures, and her paintings are all connected. The very best work is no accident; it is a conceptual and technical evolution that is fuelled by hard work. That’s what really struck me about these three artists. The depth of what they’re doing is inspiring.
Kathryn notes my favourite painting of hers.
Kathryn Bemrose spoke on her work at the gallery from The Above Series. Hearing about the inspiration for this abstract series of tire tracks in snow as seen from above resonated for me with my Looking Down series and the DISCONNECT show I worked on last year. Kathryn drew some sympathetic chuckles in describing her years living in Algonquin Park and the challenges of pursuing abstract painting in that locale. Now working in Toronto, she noted that when it comes to abstract art, “Toronto gets it.”
Now I better understand the layers in this piece by Cathy. There is a very specific order in which the layers must be executed. Cathy noted that a piece like this can take 18 studio days of studio time, and in addition to the chemistry also involve manual abrasion through sanding and painting applied over top. Ultimately, the work must be sealed to freeze the patina for an enduring appearance.
I met Cathy back in 2009 when I was helping start up kwartzlab, and we rented space in the same building where Cathy still has her studio and where she also created the BOX Art Show. Some of us makers wandered upstairs to meet our neighbours and that was my first encounter with this awesome work on copper. It has been fascinating to watch her work evolve and develop over the years.
Originally a sculptor, Cathy transitioned into two dimensional work, and is now returning to those sculptural roots with this three dimensional piece that fuses all her explorations. Bravo!
Thanks for the invite to these talks, Cathy. New work, smart artists, great talks, and a beautiful venue beat the hell out of a rainy fall day. I can’t mention Cathy Farwell without noting her brainchild of an awesome show: BOX Art Show & Sale, which is coming up Nov 16/17, is hosted in 15000 sqft of industrial space, and features a full-sized flatbed railcar for a stage (not even joking). Photographers take note: there will also be free tours of the adjacent Double R Steel fabrication plant on the Saturday, so gear up y’all.
In the meantime, get down to the Homer Watson Gallery and check out this work in person. Show runs through Nov 17.