"According to a profile of Paul Arthur published in Quill and Quire in 1949, the appropriation of indigenous motifs for the cover design of the poetry series was intended to lend the books a “distinctive Canadian quality.” This practice of borrowing from First Nations and indigenous cultures to signify a unique national identity has a long history in Canada, promoted by such figures as anthropologist and ethnographer Marius Barbeau of the National Museum (now the Canadian Museum of Civilization). Barbeau believed that artists could provide an important contribution by imagining and reproducing designs and motifs from the “soon to be extinct” races whose artistic and cultural heritage had been compromised by contact with settler culture. In this conception, borrowed patterns and motifs serve as inspiration to artists who freely adapt from what was considered a dying culture, thereby preserving the original spirit of the culture for future generations.
"This adaptation is evident in the cover designs for the Indian File books which variously suggest Northwest Coast formline design, the skeletal elements of “x-ray” drawing, and the repeated patterns of pictograms. At the same time, Paul Arthur’s designs evoke the printing process itself through the use of woodcut and lino block as print matrix. The typesetting employed for the books is also precise and meticulous and this adds to the sense of a finely crafted object."
Paul Arthur design for Robert Finch’s The Strength of the Hills (1948).
“To Dress Our Letters in Such Strong Fancy”: The Indian File Poetry Series, by Debra Antoncic, Queen’s University.
Article from Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing.
A few of us UWO students have organized afternoons of department talks. The first installment of Insight: Visual Arts Forum is next Friday, February 28th. Organized for the sharing of research, work, and ideas between faculty, students, and the public, this first installment features Patrick Mahon (artist/curator/faculty member), Mark Kasumovic (photographer and PhD candidate), Jared Peters (painter and MFA candidate), Kelly McKenzie (MA candidate), and Tom Baynes (PhD candidate). The poster for this session features work from Mark Kasumovic’s photo series, “Searching for Jesus.”
Talks begin at 3:30 in UWO’s Visual Arts building, room 100. Tea, coffee, and snacks will be served, so come early and bring your mug!
Patrick Mahon, Faculty member, Visual Arts
Towers, Shipwrecks, Printed Allegories
Taking an interest in the relationship between human culture and water, my recent works invest in the historical potential of graphic art, including by artists such as Durer and Hogarth, to mobilize critical rhetoric through printed visual language. A series of highly embellished wall sculptures (meant to operate according to a Benjaminian conception of allegory), the structures and vessels are between destruction and becoming. They are baroque objects that embody a past while suggesting the possibility of a future – a fragmentary one.
Mark Kasumovic, PhD Candidate, Studio Arts
Searching for Jesus
From small town museum displays to stadium-sized mega-churches, fanatic preachers and avid believers, this body of work traverses throughout the American South, capturing the many manifestations of religious sentiment strewn throughout its landscape.
Jared Peters, Studio MFA Candidate
Discipline of Painting
This presentation will investigate the formation of subjectivity through social discipline and regulated spaces, and the potential for independent agency enacted through the practice of painting. A medium defined and determined by material and historical parameters, painting is perhaps uniquely poised to convey, confront, and possibly to subvert, the disciplinary procedures that define and determine social experiences and interactions. Painting has the potential to interrogate the aesthetic and formal conditions of disciplinary space and normalized subject formation, and in so doing find a means of enacting gestures of resistance and agency.
Kelly McKenzie, MA Candidate, Art History
Exhibiting the S-21 Photographs: Images of Atrocity in the Gallery Space
Exhibiting images of murder victims is tricky business and all the more problematic when those images are visually presented as art objects. The recent exhibition of the S-21 photographs at the Royal Ontario Museum’s Institute of Contemporary Culture tested boundaries with its highly aestheticized design and subject matter.Touching on themes of affect, history, and art exhibition practices, this discussion stretches across multiple disciplines in order to better illustrate the challenges associated with exhibiting images of atrocity in gallery spaces, especially the S-21 photographs.
Tom Baynes, PhD Candidate, Art History
Enchanting Machines: Picabia’s Portraits Mécaniques and the Social Circuit
Nine years before the theatrical release of Fernand Léger’s Ballet Mécanique, Francis Picabia created one of the earliest in a series of images that are variously described as “machinist,” “mechanomorphic,” and “portraits mécaniques,” “Girl Born Without a Mother” (1915). Bearing an obvious resemblance to Picabia’s cubist painting, the work also features clearly legible depictions of mechanical parts. Many scholars have connected this shift to the emergence of an urban sensorium characterized by fragmentation and shock. My presentation extends the standard analysis by examining how these shifts entailed a corresponding reevaluation of the logic of depiction and the point of contact between portraits and their subjects. I analyze this shift through the anthropological concepts of sympathetic- and contagious- magic. Picabia’s portraits mécaniques register the simultaneous enchantment of the machine as an organ of distributed human personality and disenchantment of the human as a producer and product.
Thanks to Conrad Brown for designing a great poster.
Georgia O’Keeffe’s studio, via Flavorwire.
William Henry Jackson, Pulpit Rock.
"Child art is not pure wildness. Children are trying to get something right. They want to but they can’t. Their drawing desires are ahead of their bodily knacks. And this gap between want and can’t – this failure – is the secret of children’s drawing. It’s where its charm lies. The tension between want and can’t is what gives children’s lines their electricity. This failure is what taught adults find so hard to imitate."
Tom Lubbock, “Great Works: Portrait of a Young Boy holding a Child’s Drawing (circa 1515), Giovanni Francesco Caroto,” The Independent.
"For a final thought I rather like Thomas Struth’s comparison between photographs and riddles. He was speaking in a very different context, in terms of what he thought made an interesting art photograph, but I think his point can be co-opted for the sake of this argument. He described the photograph as a constructed series of clues, which if correctly interpreted might lead the viewer to understanding the photographer’s message. Still viewing photographs as riddles bothers me in that it again seems to imply there must be a single definitive answer or reading. I think the thing that makes photographs most interesting, and which most fundamentally challenges any notion of a photographic language, is their total ambiguity. I can only speak for myself here but this is what keeps bringing me back to photography. If photographs were as explicit as words I would have lost interest in them long ago." - Lewis Bush