Tag Archives: painting

Paul Klee’s “The Vase”

Paul Klee, 1938, Expressionism, Late Works, still life, 44.3 x 60.5 cm. Via Wikipaintings

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Handbuilt boxes made of clay, the Pak-hing Kan way

Pak-hing Kan makes boxes out of clay and what may sound mundane becomes poetic at her touch… When I look at her work, I am transported, almost to another realm. Ethereal. Her imagination seems to soar over the rest of us, but we can hitch a ride on her shirttails…. I’ve had her website up on my desktop for some time and kept coming back to it. Each time I saw it I was entranced…a quiet, private entrancement. Not once was I disappointed when I came across her page. Instead, I was thrilled.  So it’s time to stop being selfish by keeping it to myself…. Her site is called ART OF CERAMIC BOX(ES). An artist based in New York City, Pak-hing makes one-of-a-kind pieces that are quite small. Her work would be painstaking but the results are exquisite. You can learn about her through two other sites: the Asian American Arts Alliance and the Chinese American Arts Council. From Hong Kong, Pak-hing was a fabric artist and a painter before she made the transition to ceramics. Her bio on the CAAC site says, “She works with traditional materials (clay and glaze) to make an old conceptual form (the box) in a contemporary way. She creates intimate, small-scale boxes that are exquisitely painted on all surfaces. She designs a unique silk wrap to accompany each piece.” I like that Pak-hing Kan has continued to paint and be involved with fabric. It is often the case that one gives up other mediums to work in a new one, but she manages to combine all of them. Her LinkedIn page states that she also works in concrete and glass. To me, she is very inspiring, in part because I adore boxes. When I was in high school, I made many boxes in my Dad’s shop, fashioning them out of any material at hand. They were all small, some tiny. I remember drying them in the vise on the workbench. About the same time, I began collecting small boxes and I treasure the ones I have, one inset with mother-of-pearl, another made of mahogany, and a tiny octagonal one of cloisonné, to name a few. I have several other irons in the fire right now, but when I have some time to begin working on something new, I might entertain the idea of small boxes, my own rendition. It’s wonderful to find such an inspiring artist and I hope you enjoy her work, too!

New York: Gallery 456, 1999. 1999 catalogue of the exhibition at Gallery 456 in Soho. Bright and Fine in its pictorial wrappers. 16mo, 96 pgs.

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An energy shift in the clay studio

When someone leaves, they take their energy with them. Sure, there may be a trace after they leave, but it’s never the same again. So it is with my friend Gale as she leaves our Open Studio. She’s moving to Vancouver Island, not that far away, but further than an easy drive to the art centre. A fine painter and maker of clayscapes, she’s a talented woman.

I will miss her during our Open Studio Tuesdays and lunches downtown. She taught me to listen to and hear the understatement and subtlety of Scottish witticisms. I’m sad to see her go, especially since we only recently recognized the extent to which we got along and enjoyed each other’s company. It hasn’t been easy for me to make friends in Canada. But Gale was from ‘somewhere’s else’ and that commonality spanned any divides. I’ve enjoyed our walks along Rocky Point and the cuppa that waited for us at the end of the trail.

Gale welcomed me to her home for a proper cup of tea served with accompaniments on the dining table built by her husband’s father, or was it grandfather? A massive, dark, Arts & Crafts style table from the birthplace of the style. She showed me the massive brass tea scales, her father’s trade, polished to perfection.

Gale taught me a few things, too. I learned that my stereotyped notions of the Scottish are incorrect…that it is not a country of homogenous peoples and that Glaswegians come in every stripe. That the dialect of the Highlander is soft and soft-spoken. Also that one might move to the Highlands but will never shed the label of outsider. Also that a man’s kilt isn’t nearly as expensive as the sporran that adorns it….

One of the most important things Gale taught me is to not feel bad about my heritage. Putting down the United States or Americans is a Canadian national pastime. While I’ve become a naturalized citizen, I’ve had to stomach much prejudice since I arrived 20 years ago. She reminded me that the U.S. has many high points…the people are friendly…it’s the birthplace of jazz and of many literary figures, along with artists and thinkers. Her message is, in fact, that much of it is good. It was refreshing to hear. While I, myself, utter my fair share of criticism about my birthplace, the bashing by others here can get old…and boring.

Lawrence, Gale’s husband can only be described as a Scottish leprechaun. It’s been a long time since I’ve been held in stitches by a master storyteller. He is that but, even more so, a sailor. He’s sailed since the age of four. Yes, four. Today, during lunch, I listened to talk about shimmying up masts and following winds…. Some time ago, Lawrence and Gale sold their house and bought a sailing yacht. When I heard that, I thought, perfect…people who actually followed their bliss. Soon, they’ll spend their time on the Strait of Georgia when they’re not on land. They’ve traded in the hectic pace of the Lower Mainland for Island Time. The slide show below is of pics taken during one of our walks along the waterfront here. I wish them all the luck and Godspeed.

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Rollo May’s “The Nature of Creativity,” Part 2

Existentialist psychologist Rollo May discusses the creative process in his work, The Nature of Creativity. Previously, I covered May’s definition of creativity and if you haven’t seen that post, you can find it here.  —  “Let us now inquire into the nature of the creative process, and seek our answers by trying to describe as accurately as possible what actually happens in individuals at the moment of the creative act,” writes May. “I shall speak mostly about artists because I know them, have worked with them, and, to some extent, am one myself. This does not mean that I underestimate creativity in other activities.” May said that the first thing you notice in a creative act is that it is “an encounter.”
 Artists encounter a scene they intend to paint, for instance; they become absorbed in it.
 The encounter for abstract painters might be “an idea,
 an inner vision.” The materials, paint, canvas, etc., “become a secondary part” of the encounter. “They are the language of it, the media.” The encounter, May explains, can involve will power, but the main point isn’t the “presence or absence of voluntary effort, but the degree of absorption, the degree of intensity.” May further explains that there must be “a specific quality of engagement.” He goes on to talk about the distinction between “pseudo,
 escapist creativity” and genuine creativity. The former lacks encounter, he said. A patient of his exemplified this: The man was very talented and would become inspired to write, but “would stop there, writing down nothing at all.” May said the “vital link of experience…was missing” and, therefore, “the encounter was lacking.” He continued, saying that with escapist creativity, not only is there no encounter, there is “no engagement with reality.” In addition, he said, “the concept of encounter also enables us to make clearer the 
important distinction between talent and creativity.” Talent may be inherited and might or might not be used. “But creativity
 can be seen only in the act.”  Further, he claims that purists, instead of referring to creative people, would refer, instead, to a “creative act.” With Pablo Picasso, there was great talent and “great encounter” which resulted in “great creativity.” Of F. Scott Fitzgerald, May said he had great talent, but “
truncated creativity.” A very creative person might seem to have little talent, he said, citing the novelist Thomas Wolfe. “But he was so creative because he threw himself so
 completely into his material and the challenge of saying it—he was great 
because of the intensity of his encounter.”

(Next, the “Intensity of the Encounter.”)

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