dArtles: Weekly on the Arts

by Steve Rockwell

Weekly on the Arts hosts Irina De Vilhina and Kyle Shields at Pie in the Sky Studios
Weekly on the Arts hosts Irina De Vilhena and Kyle Shields at Pie in the Sky Studios

In Toronto’s cultural kitchen, a dish named Weekly on the Arts has begun to bubble. Hosts for this upcoming weekly TV show are Irina De Vilhena and Kyle Shields. Featured segments cover visual artists, collectors, curators, museum directors, art magazines, auction houses, art galleries and art dealers. Shooting began this spring at Pie in the Sky Studios, with rushes from the first batch of digital reels already in post production.  

While neither hosts are visual arts specialists, they bring their own unique areas of experience to bear on the subjects covered. From Angola-Luanda in Africa originally, Irina De Vilhena speaks Spanish and Portuguese, is at work on her second children’s book, and has worked in health care for the past seven years. Actor Kyle Shields is excited to be involved with this project, aware that his skills can be of use as host: “The most rewarding work I’ve had the chance to do has been in the creation of new Canadian plays, from workshop to stage. At the core, it’s always about compelling storytelling.”

Irina De Vilhina and Kyle Shields photographed in one of the many graffiti-laden laneways in Toronto
Irina De Vilhena and Kyle Shields photographed in one of the many graffiti-laden laneways in Toronto

Host Irina has already a tale to tell worthy of Mary Shelley: “I had the privilege to go to the studio of John Scott. It was amazing. His work was all over the place, piled on top of each other, yet organized in its own way.” She tells of John being hit by lightning twice in his life – once as a kid playing on a beach, where its charge burned little holes in his feet from the heated metal eyelets of his runners. More recently it occurred on the roof top of his studio building during the memorial for the tragic passing of an artist friend. A thunderstorm had come up as he was about to pour out a libation on the ground for those who had gone before. Perhaps he had it coming, the artist had felt, surrounded as he was by broken antennas and metal things. It was at that moment that lightning struck, knocking him out temporarily. For Irina, Weekly on the Arts has kindled a love affair with the arts, its artists and their history.

Artist John Scott with an image of his studio imposed on green screen background
Artist John Scott with an image of his studio imposed on green screen background

The visit that Kyle Shields paid to Alex Cameron in his studio was memorable. Alex’s wife Lorna Hawrysh recounted that, “for Alex, it’s always been about the art. It’s always been about painting, despite the ups and downs of the art industry.” Kyle saw that the studio itself of an artist tells its own story. “I’m sure this can make it challenging for living artists to sell their work for livable sums of money. So to see Alex’s studio, modest in size (he’s been at the same one for decades), filled with bright canvases, tables full of paint tubes, impasto practice swatches laid about, and what seems like a floor entirely covered in thick, multicolour, smatterings of paint from years of effort. It was a very vivid experience.“ From 1972 to 1976, Alex worked as a studio assistant to Jack Bush, who influenced the artist’s own painting style towards a lyrical semi-abstraction. Through the association with Bush, Alex developed a close friendship with critic Clement Greenberg and members of the Painters Eleven group such as William Ronald.

Alex Cameron in his studio
Alex Cameron in his studio

For several years now, Alex has been grappling with the lingering effects of a stroke. Though ambidextrous, he has painted with his right hand for the course of his life. Before leaving the hospital he had turned to Lorna to say that he thought that he had figured out how to paint with his left hand. She recalled often seeing him paint in his head, practicing before committing to canvas. Now he paints just as prolifically as before. Lorna said “painting for Alex is physical.” This accounts for the sculptural quality of his work. He primes his canvases with red rather than white. To Alex, it’s the red that makes him feel right. 

Lydia Abbott and Rob Cowley and the Lawren Harris, Algoma, (Algoma Sketch 48), which sold for $977,500
Lydia Abbott and Rob Cowley and the Lawren Harris, Algoma, (Algoma Sketch 48), which sold for $977,500

A December 2020 web article from auction house Cowley Abbott spoke of continued strong results for Canadian historical and contemporary art at auction. Solely online at first, Rob Cowley and Lydia Abbott only started doing live auctions because of demand. Online focus had prepared them for the age of COVID. “Finding a rare Lawren Harris painting in Australia and getting the chance to bring it home for auction was exciting – the delightful confluences of a storied artist, a pristine specimen, and a great anecdote to accompany the sale. Exciting also was to have broken records in the past year, particularly for the Jack Bush Column on Browns (1965), which sold for $870,000, a record for any work by him.”

Jack Bush, Column on Browns (1965) – selling price $870,000
Jack Bush, Column on Browns (1965) – selling price $870,000

What remains now is the stitching together of its parts and the release date of Weekly on the Arts.

dArt Magazine’s Playing Card Feature

by Steve Rockwell

dArt magazine is pleased to introduce TWINNING, the application of a game structure to its Playing Card feature. When presented with cards bearing images from dArt back issues cropped to playing card size, a participant is asked to pair up any two from cards presented. While the choice on the surface may be no more profound than “liking the combination,” something deeper may have been at the root of the picks. Even if this is not the case, the resultant pairing of images affords the chance to answer questions that the art itself may be posing. This had certainly been true for writer Bruce Bauman, who in his The Empty Deep article about Gehard Richter said of the exhibition that it “forced me to reevaluate why I write about art.”

Cropped details of Gerhard Richter’s 1982 oil on canvas, Two Candles (Zwei Kerzen), and on the right Deiter Mammel’s Saddy. Collage produced 2021 by Steve Rockwell on dArt International paper over pine frame, 8.5″ x 10″
Karin Mamma Anderson (left) and Philip Taaffe were “twinned” by dArt contributor Gae Savannah. The Anderson image was cropped from the Emese Krunák-Hajagos article When Darkness Falls in the Fall 2016 edition of dArt. The Philip Taaffe image came from the same dArt edition and was part of an article by Christopher Hart Chambers, Abstract But Not.
The above eight playing cards-sized images were cropped from dArt back issues. From left to right: Karin Mamma Anderson, Deiter Mammel, Alberto Giacometti, Kurt Schwitters, Philip Taaffe, Joe Goode, bunny and carrots from a Katharine Carter and Associates ad, and Gerhard Richter.

This TWINNING of images was inspired by a recent visit to the home of collector and former dArt associate, Roy Bernardi, when presented with eight of my playing card works mounted on dArt International paper. Two had stood out as ones that he preferred: Richter’s Two Candles and Saddy, an acrylic on canvas painting by Deiter Mammel, cropped from the dArt advertisement of his 2016 HOT exhibition at Christopher Cutts Gallery in Toronto.

Every copy of the coming edition of dArt International magazine will be unique. The projected signed limited edition will feature dArt‘s “Playing Cards,” hand cut from back issues and tipped into a reproduced image of a dArt International paper mat.

Images from past dArt magazines trimmed to playing card size.
Images from past dArt magazines trimmed to playing card size.
A printed image of the work of Julian Schnabel cut to playing card dimensions by Steve Rockwell from an article on the artist that appeared in the Fall 2010 edition of dArt (#27).