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I wish to share my love of image-making with people, hoping to make a connection with those who recognize something of the texture of their own lives in what they see here. 

photo credit: Alex Kasyan, Lightbox Studio

Photo credit: Alex Kasyan, Lightbox Studio

Charcoal: contemporary explorations

If one enters the words “charcoal drawing” into an Internet search engine to see what images materialize, a plethora of portraits copied from celebrity photos will spread across the screen, partnered with academic treatments of the human figure and the occasional representation of fruit. Innovative creative explorations using charcoal as a medium may not rise to the surface.

After applying a “Mulvey” filter to the quest for contemporary examples of charcoal drawing, I have assembled a series of links and commentary on artists who I feel are truly deserving of attention.

Below are two artists who I have recently added. This archive of other charcoal artists can be accessed in its entirety by clicking here.

Kelly Blevins (Lives and works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.)

Kelly Blevins’ imagery is populated with a variety of human, animal and insect subjects. The occasional hybrid image or strange juxtaposition, combined with a generally gritty or shaggy appearance to most of her subject matter, unsettles the viewer. Kelly’s drawings are like electric prods that push viewers away from complacency and towards a series of questions about societal norms, acceptable behaviour and conventions of beauty.

Iskra Johnson (Lives and works in the Seattle area, Washington, U.S.A)

The eloquent Iskra Johnson has developed a visual language rooted heavily in printmaking techniques and aesthetics. A range of materials, including charcoal, are thoughtfully explored and layered into challenging pictorial spaces. Natural and architectural forms emerge. The work of this artist reveals a deep sensitivity and reflection upon the fleeting visual experience that inspires its production, whether related to transformation in nature or in man-made environments. In all cases, Iskra embraces the textures and atmospheric effects to which the physical properties of each medium lend themselves.

The spring of 2016 marks the end of the fifth year of my involvement in the exciting S.P.A.C.E. initiative (Sciences Participating with Arts and Culture in Education). The mission: to facilitate interdisciplinary and collaborative projects in many forms by many people from a wide range of backgrounds. It is an ever-expanding experiment that focuses on a selected theme each year to give a center around which multiple orbits form. It defies easy description, but one of our valued advisors wrote the following:

“With each new theme, S.P.A.C.E. is reborn as a new love: new excitement, new joy, and a new open horizon, making students the Casanova of knowledge, falling in love with knowledge over and over again” (Maimire Mennasaemay, email communication, 2015).

My position on the team, in association with many people in the college community and beyond, has been to explore, develop, realize and manage content connected with the visual dimension of the S.P.A.C.E. webzine, the yearly exhibition and the associated catalogue productions.

The S.P.A.C.E. team is a highly dedicated, sleep-deprived and high-achieving group of individuals. From left to right in the photo: Joel Trudeau, Andrew Katz, Ursula Sommerer and myself. There are five successive exhibition catalogues visible in the photo, all designed by the intrepid Catherine Moleski. Not seen in the photo is the tireless Barbara Freedman (Dean of Instructional Development), and other vital individuals who have contributed much to the success of S.P.A.C.E., including Bob Kavanagh (consultant) Richard Filion (Director General) and a group of advisors. Thanks to all for entrusting the team to creatively expand upon this initiative over the years, with the resources necessary to meet the challenge.

The exhibition catalogues:

Transforming Futures

The Human Body




Event: Group exhibition

Time: April 26 to May 11, 2016

Space: The Warren G. Flowers Art Gallery of Dawson College, Montreal

Please visit the online exhibit.

Heartfelt thanks go out to Jean Perrault, who has been welding my steel frames for the past 32 years. Thanks to Catherine Moleski, who designed the exhibition poster, and also to Catherine Braun-Grenier, who created certain elements from which the poster was derived. Pictured here above right is the charcoal drawing Seen by One, 2016, 28" x 19" including frame.

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