About the Author

Tom Smart

Tom Smart is the Executive Director and CEO of the McMichael Canadian Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario, and the President of the McMichael Canadian Art Foundation. For seven years he was Director of Collections and Exhibitions at the Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he developed an ambitious international exhibition program, and at the same time, he was appointed a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. He served as Acting Director of the Winnipeg Art Gallery from 1997 until 1999 and was Curator of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton from 1989 to 1997. Smart is the author of nine books and catalogues. His most recent book is the critically acclaimed Alex Colville: Return, which moved criticism of Colville's works to a new intellectual level. His 1995 book The Art of Mary Pratt: The Substance of Light won the Atlantic Provinces Booksellers Association Booksellers Choice Award, the Studio Magazine Award of Merit, and the Printing Industries of America Award of Merit. It was included in Great Canadian Books of the Century.

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Alex Colville

Alex Colville

Return
edition:Hardcover
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Fabulous Peculiarities
Excerpt

Introduction

As is painting, so is poetry

Horace, the ancient Roman poet born some two thousand years ago, was one of the first writers to compare the arts of painting and poetry. Advocating strongly for radical and innovative ways to appreciate literature, he encouraged readers to transfer to poetry the same qualities that give pleasure in painting and visual arts, evoke mood and stimulate thought. Just as paintings can be read and understood either through close viewing or from a distance, Horace proposed, so too one could decipher a poem with both a close reading and with an eye to the bigger picture?the piece as a whole. "Ut pictura poesis"?"As is painting," he declared, "so is poetry."

This is a core idea that animates the drawings, paintings and prints of Canadian artist, Tony Calzetta, and which has inspired the poetry and prose of his author colleague, neighbour, friend Leon Rooke. Together, Calzetta and Rooke have bred book works whose parents are drawing, painting, printmaking and poetry. Their 2009–2010 offspring, How God Talks in His Sleep and Other Fabulous Fictions and Peculiar Practices are something else altogether: amalgamations of voices and styles, modes and meanings, that are truly operatic in their scope and that embrace many artistic forms.

Their creative marriage began in 2007 when Calzetta, and Dieter Grund, publisher at Presswerk Editions, were casting about for a project on which they could work collaboratively. The discussion evolved to include Governor-General Award winning author Leon Rooke. Together, the trio set their sights on creating a livre d'artiste. The creative process, however, would be reversed from the usual flow of words inspiring images; during a lively conversation, Calzetta suggested to Rooke that he (Rooke) respond to his (Calzetta's) drawings by writing whatever came to his mind and flowed through his pen. Drawing preceded word, resulting in a kind of word-based lyrical translation of the artist's lines that were the muses for the poet's imagination. Rooke chose nineteen and set down a suite of raucous tales. The image muses were selected from twenty-five studio sketches that Calzetta randomly selected from his production.

Rooke's mastery of language is matched by his absolute familiarity with poetry's rules and conventions. Rather than be content with exploring blandness wrapped in simple poetic verse, his deep appreciation of form and craft takes him and his readers on trips across a wide rainbow comprising lyrics, odes, sonnets and just about every other way poetry is put together. His bawdy, irreverent, humorous tales teach lessons by engaging the mind and body on equal terms.

When paired with Calzetta's prints, drawings and paper sculptures, a very mysterious thing occurs. It is as if the artist's simple, abstract lines and odd, allusive shapes that float and sway in and around his prints, drawings and paper sculpture compositions turned into alphabets of very different characters.

How God talks in His Sleep and Other Fabulous Fictions and Peculiar Practices explore the propinquity of image and word. The offspring of this creative mash-up of picture and poem is entirely new kinds of texts and objects altogether. The pages themselves have meaning in the very selection of components comprising the paper pulp?pulped dollar bills, twigs and leaves from Cézanne's garden, for example. Primary colours of end papers dazzle brilliantly and clash with each other. Prints are made from etching presses and from ink jet printers. Scrolls and pop-ups, folded origami-like shapes all collide with cutout doodles. These are the icons of a wholly new way to read and write, and to make art.

The manuscripts comprise suites of printed pages, made with the various technologies associated with woodcut printing, digital printing, and etching. Pictures rest beside typescript, sometimes enfolding it in pictorial parentheses. On other pages, texts of various sizes range around the page, complementing the images, and giving the sense of pictorial depth beyond the surface of the rag paper. The process of reading this manuscript is, in the first instance, visual. The experience of unlocking its meaning is sensual. As if they were clothing stripped away to reveal the body comprising text and image, things are taken away to unveil a truth. In and out, the focal points shift as letters and words emerge and recede in the imaginative spaces behind the picture plane, and as printed forms collide with one another in collage-like juxtapositions. The effect looks like two alphabets co-existing on the same page?one letter-based, readable and typographic, the other pictorial, hermetic and metamorphosed from a personal, expressive artistic style.

Reading these two books leads inevitably to the questions: Where do these fabulous books come from? What are their artistic lineages? And what, if anything, do they mean?

Let's see what we can find out by taking a trip back four decades to the beginning of Calzetta's career as an artist, and by tracing the development of his artistic career to the point where God talks in his sleep.

(Continued in Fabulous Peculiarities...)

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George McLean

George McLean

The Living Landscape
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
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Jack Chambers' Red and Green

Jack Chambers' Red and Green

Decrypted by Tom Smart
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Excerpt

(from “Down and Up?)

At the core of “Red and Green?, Chambers turned his agile mind to the distinction between being and existence, our relationship to God and to nature. He writes that, “the recurring theme of “God is Love” appears to mean exactly what it says; that there is a force, an energy, that binds the cosmos together and moves always in the direction of its harmonious action ... [In human beings], this force emerges and expresses itself as love, and this is the “spark of the divine” in each of us.” In no other quotation comprising the densely rich mosaic of the manuscript, does Chambers so succinctly express his thesis. The reconciliation of opposites – down and up – and synthesizing the dialectical nature of being and spirit, body and nature, object and subject is made manifest through the force and energy of love. Love unites opposites and reconciles disparate energies, blends complements. Moreover, Chambers asserts that when the force of love (the spark of the divine) is “acknowledged and reinforced by the culture” it contributes to humanity, relating harmoniously to one another, to the rest of the universe and “to move forward towards the most unique and awesome self-fulfillment.?

Just as it appears that Chambers has given us a moral centre to his manuscript, resolving the many threads which, up to this point he had been weaving, he opens another tangent to explore. If anything, the nature of the inquiry at the core of “Red and Green” does not advocate one to be passive. On the contrary, Chambers vouches for a hybrid form of contemplation that calls one to be active. To deny the potent agency of the force of love to lead one to be redeemed is to risk the energy being inverted and perverted to cause one to hate, hunger for power, be greedy and “the real possibility of ... disrupting the expression of ... energy as to end [our] part in the cosmic design.” He admonishes his readers, challenging them to tap into the energy of the universe and to accept the challenge that human beings are “a part of the energy of the universe and can only function harmoniously within it through [the] capacity to love – infinitely.” What began as an artistic journey in “Red and Green” has moved through the paths of a perceptual journey, a mystical quest, and arrives at this point as a profoundly spiritual inquiry into the mystery of God's divine love, divinity and omnipotence. Furthermore, Chambers adds nuance to the journey by also making it philosophical and phenomenological, taking up the voice of Merleau-Ponty probing the essence of consciousness by which we are both a part and distanced from the world around us. For the philosopher, this pure centre is also “absolute emptiness observable only at the moment when it is filled by experience.” Merleau-Ponty likens this centre to God. Through the authors Chambers quotes, he affirms that there are higher states of consciousness, and that these states are necessary for the human species to survive and, perhaps, overcome the day-to-day problems that plague the world – pollution, genocide, exploitation of natural resources, overpopulation, famine, disease and war. Inner space needs to be cultivated, and it should be the responsibility of humans to try to achieve at least a state of illumination in order to understand and process the higher aspirations of consciousness. This state of illumination is a form of animism, of magical perception of the world. Chambers calls for a counterbalance of the scientific worldview in the privileging of the magical perception and appreciation of the world – a perception that pays attention to the voices of the stones and plants and the magical essences of all things.

What Chambers advocated was a deep plumbing of the layers of reality to reach a mythic layer where archetypes rest below the level of consciousness. His view was that the universe is animistic, pantheistic, Christian and Jungian all at the same time. He also recognized the magical dimensions of reality, and the potentials of shamanism to provide alternative pathways for unlocking and channeling the profound currents of energy flowing through the entire cosmos. The perception of reality requires a belief in things unseen, graspable partly through contemplation and the practice of occult rituals. The occult, he averred, provided humanity with a vein of untapped resources that could be accessed in order to survive an external reality whose own resources are being depleted. The world of the occult is a reality defined by “secret knowledge?; it is a reality we all have the capacity to intuit and know, but choose to keep hidden from ourselves.

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Miller Brittain

Miller Brittain

When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears
edition:Hardcover
also available: Hardcover
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Palookaville

Palookaville

Seth and the Art of Graphic Autobiography
edition:Paperback
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Excerpt

Drawing and performance art

Seth, who lives in Guelph, Ontario, is an artist, author and cultural commentator, and one of the foremost graphic novelists working today. His unparalleled technical skills as a draughtsman and his unique ability to evoke an entire imaginative world based on a mythical mid-twentieth-century small Ontario town rank him as a gifted storyteller and part of a distinguished line of Canadian graphic designers.

But Seth can also be described as a sophisticated performance artist who cloaks his artistic practice in the garment of a cartoonist and illustrator. He is intent on examining the malleability of the comic book format to probe the nature and shape of time, and the many different ways that loss and longing can cloud one's memories of the past. His is an artistic practice that is entirely holistic. In his life he has immersed himself in the fashions, trappings, design motifs and manners of a mid-twentieth-century man. Just as the world he lives in echoes the past, so the world he describes in his art resonates with the same voice; this world has a fundamental integrity. Every detail is set down deliberately and with the intention of crafting an artistic reality that is true to what he sees as a period in Canada that existed perhaps a generation before he was born. His parents' time holds an uncanny allure for him, and he takes great pains to evoke it in the panels of his comic books, on the surfaces of his illustration boards and in the miniature buildings and streets that comprise his fictional southwestern Ontario town called Dominion.

(... Continued in Palookaville: Seth and the Art of Graphic Autobiography)

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The Art of Fred Ross

The Art of Fred Ross

A Timeless Humanism
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
tagged : painting
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The Art of Mary Pratt

The Art of Mary Pratt

The Substance of Light
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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Tom Benner

Tom Benner

Call of the Wild
edition:Paperback
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Tom Forrestall

Tom Forrestall

Paintings, Drawings, Writings
edition:Hardcover
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Charles Pachter

Charles Pachter

Canada's Artist
by Leonard Wise
introduction by Margaret Atwood
foreword by Tom Smart
edition:eBook
also available: Hardcover
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Excerpt

CHAPTER 1: CHILDHOOD

Charles Stuart Pachter was born prematurely at Toronto General Hospital on the night of December 30, 1942, during the Second World War. Charles has an older sister, Maida, born on April 13, 1941; a younger sister, Karen, born on November 20, 1946; as well as a younger brother, David, born on August 20, 1948.
Charles’s name was an anglicized version of both of his deceased grandfathers’ names. One reason his parents may have decided on an English name was in honour of Bonnie Prince Charlie; another was because they thought Hitler might make it to Toronto. It was, after all, 1942, the year Jews were being deported to Auschwitz. Whatever the reason, the name stuck. The family has always referred to him, and continues to refer to him, as Charles; although, most of his friends have called him Charlie since high school.
Both of his grandfathers died in their fifties before he was born, but Charles was told that his maternal grandfather was scholarly, rebellious, and determinedly anti-religious — traits that Charles cherishes.
His grandmothers were feisty characters — hardworking, funny, and the source of much mirth with their broken English, picturesque phrases, and old country sensibilities. One winter, for example, his maternal grandmother, Eva, announced matter-of-factly, that the unseasonably warm weather was due to “a general toe.” After some linguistic sleuthing, the family determined what she meant was “a January thaw.” Another time, she came home from selling her wares in Port Credit and asked her kids what a “bleddehyoo” was. Wondering what she meant, they asked her to explain. She told them she had sold a black half-slip to a woman whose husband had come home drunk, and called her “a bloody whore.”
Charles’s parents, Sara and Harry Pachter, were both Canadian-born and grew up in Toronto during the Depression.
When one of Sara’s brothers died of tuberculosis in 1922, the family moved from Edmonton, where they had been living, to Toronto where a cousin had a shoe repair shop on Queen Street East. Sara’s father opened a cobbler’s shop at 768 Yonge Street, which later became the Loew’s Uptown Theatre, now long gone. Her mother, widowed at thirty-five with four children, became a door-to-door peddler of dry goods that she bought wholesale on Spadina Avenue and sold in Port Credit.
Harry was born on March 11, 1914, on Peter Street in downtown Toronto, just north of the present-day Rogers Centre. He attended Sir Charles G.D. Fraser School.
A cousin introduced Sara and Harry at a party in Toronto in 1936. They were married in January 1937. After their marriage they eventually moved to a flat at 499 Palmerston Boulevard, where Charles was born.
His parents weren’t particularly religious, and the house where he grew up, at 84 Chudleigh Avenue in north Toronto, was in a neighbourhood inhabited mostly by middle-class Anglicans. His childhood playmates were well-brought-up little WASP and Catholic boys and girls, with names like Johnny, Gail, Betty, and Jeannie.
Johnny Macfarlane, who would grow up to be John Macfarlane — the respected magazine and book publisher — was Charles’s next-door neighbour. Macfarlane lived there with his divorced mom and his grandmother, who, thinking she was a coloratura soprano, spent humid summer afternoons at her piano practising operatic scales. Johnny and Charles, both four at the time, used to stand outside under her window howling like little coyotes whenever she sang a scale, then they would collapse laughing until she poured a bucket of water over their heads to shoo them away.
“Charles was my favourite of all the kids I knew then,” recalled John.

Charles didn’t really grasp what being Jewish meant until he turned six, according to his long-time friend, Margaret Atwood. When he was four, his babysitter, Mrs. Rupert, a Baptist holy roller, taught him to pray and roll at the same time while chanting, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” Not your typical Jewish prayer!
On Sunday evenings, after supper of peanut-butter-and-bacon sandwiches on brown bread at Johnny’s house next door, the two of them usually went to the basement of the local Catholic church to watch flickering black-and-white “Prince of Peace” movies, starring Jesus, dressed in a long white nightie with rope belt and sandals, his stringy hair parted down the middle, his aquiline nose highlighted by makeup. The kids would also sneak into the church where there were niches with statues of the Virgin Mary and the Annunciation. On the floor of the basement were little blue and red plastic chips, which they collected. For years Charles thought bingo was a Catholic ritual.
To this day he can still remember being bullied by a bunch of bigger kids when he was four and locked under Lawrence Park Collegiate stadium where concrete bleachers were being built. He will never forget the smell of the curing concrete, straw and mud, and the echo of dripping water in the pitch-black as he waited, terrified, to be rescued. Another time when he bragged to the other kids that Jesus was Jewish, he got beaten up and called “a dirty Jew.” He asked another babysitter, Mrs. Decker, if he was “a dirty Jew,” and she replied in her thick Scottish accent, “I wouldn’t know, dear, I’m not Jooweesh.”
One day he came home and asked his parents, “Why don’t we have a picture of the Baby Jesus in our house like all the other kids?” Another time he came home with a Gideon Bible he had signed in school, confessing that he was “a sinner in the eyes of Jesus Christ, our Lord.” On each occasion Sara looked at her husband and said, “Harry, say something!”
Feeling they should help their kids discover their Jewish identity, Harry and Sara decided to enrol five-year-old Charles and his older sister Maida in religious school at the Holy Blossom Temple because, as his father later admitted, theirs was the cheapest membership fee of the new synagogues being built in the then-suburbs around Eglinton and Bathurst. After being “consecrated,” Charles came home with drawings he had done of Jonah and the whale and Elijah riding a flaming chariot. In fact, Charles’s artistic inclinations were evident from the time he was a baby. One night when his parents returned home from a movie, they found his distraught babysitter cleaning the wall beside his crib. Charles had gleefully used the contents of his diaper to create his first mural.

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Written in Wood

Written in Wood

Three Wordless Graphic Narratives
by George A. Walker
introduction by Tom Smart
edition:Paperback
tagged : nonfiction
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Thoughts on Driving to Venus

Thoughts on Driving to Venus

Christopher Pratt's Car Books
edition:Paperback
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