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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. 

The studio that I've occupied since 1999 to the present is situated in a magnificent old building in the Mile-End neighborhood of Montreal. The building was formerly known as École Luke-Callaghan (a school). My studio had three walls graced with very charming blackboards and original woodwork.

The use of slate blackboards in North America extends back over 200 hundred years, and the use of black writing tablets and white writing material in schools has been traced back to 11th century India (Alberuni’s India, Dr. Edward C. Sachau, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co. Ltd, Dryden House, Gerhrard Street W., 1910, p. 182).

The probable destiny of the École Luke-Callaghan is that it will be renovated and brought up to present-day building codes. The built-in blackboards will be destroyed (as has already been the case on certain floors of the building), following a trend in the education field where white boards and SMART® boards are increasingly used, and the use of authentic slate blackboards as a pedagogical tool is increasingly uncommon. The ongoing video series “Blackboard Demos with Frank Mulvey” has emerged from a love the blackboard medium, in all of its simplicity and clarity.

Click here for views on the black-board centered classroom by Lewis Buzbee.

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.

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