VASA literally gets figurative
Show features four artists who work with the figure
Wednesday, Sep 03, 2014 06:00 am
Works by Gisele Jerke, Julie Kaldenhoven, Richard Tosczak and Samantha Williams-Chapelsky
Opening reception tomorrow from 6 to 9 p.m. during the September ArtWalk event
Artists will be in attendance
Runs until Saturday, Sept. 20
in The Hemingway Centre at 25 Sir Winston Churchill Avenue
Call 780-460-5990 or visit www.vasa.ca for more information
The figure has a long tradition in the visual arts and four local artists have compiled some of their recent works for a new exhibit.
It Figures is the aptly named show that opened at the Visual Arts Studio Association Gallery yesterday. Gisele Jerke, Julie Kaldenhoven, Richard Tosczak and Samantha Williams-Chapelsky each have their own takes on the subject matter. For two of them, however, there was one classical statue at the Louvre that inspired them both but in different ways.
Williams-Chapelsky explained that the statue of Nike (better known as the Winged Victory of Samothrace) is indeed a powerful representation of female strength and artistic prowess.
“She’s one of my favourites. It’s set up perfectly where you come up to the stairs and you’re just looking up at it. It’s very strong.”
“When I was in Paris, I saw her and she just blew me away. She’s basically all by herself at the top of the stairs in this huge hall, but she holds it! It’s hard for a piece of artwork to hold a room or hold a space… but she does.”
“Nike is headless and she’s armless and yet she has this powerful presence about her. She’s an inspiration,” she continued, using the piece to evoke ideas of the influence of the goddess figure. This was the starting point of her Victrix series.
“The term victrix comes from the Latin feminine for victor or conqueror,” she explicates in her artist’s statement.
“It is also a genus of moths in the family Noctuidae, for which Victory may owe her wings. Nike, as the Winged Victory is also called, is the ancient Greek goddess of strength, speed, and victory. Ascending the marble stair toward the goddess, one is struck by her graceful yet commanding presence. With outstretched wings, she engages the entire space of the marble hall as if it were the turbulent sea through which she sails.”
Williams-Chapelsky, on the other hand, was led to consider the concept of victory, especially Pyrrhic victories. She elaborated on her inspirations and how it involved one prominent local painter who passed away last year.
“It’s a basically a victory at great loss to the victor. These pieces are just looking at struggles with stories that I’ve been working with or personal loss as well. I did one piece that was based on Pat Wagensveld, going through that victory of the mind and the body and incorporating them into this really powerful female figure that we see often as that Nike statue with these big wings and what it represents.”
She admitted that she doesn’t create figurative works as much as she’d like to but these ones are newer works completed in the last year or so.
For Kaldenhoven, it was a bit of a revelation to discover that the figure would hold such an influence over her body of work. A mentor once asked her to show him some examples of the kind of work that she likes to paint.
“I thought, well, I like everything. He said to send three and I ended up sending 25. Then I realized a lot of them were figurative pieces. I had no idea I was that interested in the figure. I guess I am. I decided that the figure is a way to express a state of being, kind of a spirit or a struggle… a transcendence.”
For Tosczak, working with the figure can lead him either to canvas or to the foundry. He says that he is very interested in the materials and the media of his art. He sometimes sculpts in bronze, although it’s rare because of the expense, the time and the sweat that goes into it.
“The bottom line is that it’s expensive to produce. You have to make a mould, which is already starting to get costly. It is very labour intensive. The bronze works I do are typically the same idea [as my paintings]: I work from a single drawing so I’m not using the model any more. I’ll do a lot of quick drawings and then from those I’ll just select pieces that are interesting that I can visualize three-dimensionally being interesting.”