Montreal

This summer I spent two weeks in Montreal for an artist residency at Atelier Graff. My aim was to spend as much time possible in the studio and print, print, PRINT! And print, print, print I did. I proposed a silkscreen series based on The River Woman I made last summer. What came from it was three new prints: At My Father’s Feet, The Heart of Man, and Where You Cannot Follow.

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Graff was a cute studio that had everything I needed to create my pieces. The weather was hot and humid but the big open windows (and surprising lack of bugs) gave me enough fresh air and energy to keep me going on those long studio days. I met the lovely staff, who were very helpful and knowledgeable. They got me settled into the studio pretty quick! I also met a couple of artists who were working on personal projects there, one girl visiting from Paris working on a great silkscreen project and a local artist working in lithography who was an incredibly skilled illustrator.

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I mostly worked independently, which I prefer only because I tend to spread all of my stuff out all over the studio. I am a space queen. The studio was pretty quite since it was in the middle of opening just after their summer holidays and just before the fall class sessions began. I worked until dusk, listening to classical music and French radio throughout the day. Needless to say it didn’t necessarily improve my French skills, but I hummed along anyways.

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The Heart of Man in progress, just before the final layer was added.

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The Heart of Man complete but just before editioning, resting on the drying rack.

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At My Father’s Feet without the transparent red layer added. This was a varied edition since I wanted to keep some monochromatic.

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Where You Cannot Follow just before the final colour was added. This was my last print completed at Graff. I had three days left of my stay. I wasn’t sure what to make but after forcing myself to sit in front of a blank piece of paper I came up with this idea. There is more of a write up to this piece in my portfolio. This was my “goodbye to Montreal” piece.

Aside from spending most of my time at the studio I did manage to roam around Montreal in my off time. I visited the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and saw the Rodin exhibit.

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I had a moment in the exhibition where I was studying some smaller sculptures of Rodin through a glass panel. My eyes suddenly unfocused and I saw the reflection of The Thinker, lit up and brilliant right behind me. I turned and marveled at the iconic sculpture, not understanding how I could have missed it when I walked into the gallery! What would have been wonderful is if they placed the sculpture in a room on its own with a stool facing it so that you have the option to sit and pose exactly like it and meditate. What gets me is how tense The Thinker is actually posed. I look at his curled toes and think that even though he appears stationary he’s ready to spring into action at any moment. That’s how it should be: Think then act.

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The Kiss is another famous Rodin sculpture. I think this was originally supposed to belong to the Gates of Hell, but remained isolated on its own. It’s a beautiful sculpture and one of my favourites of Rodin. I like how light the man’s touch is on the woman’s hip. He doesn’t seem greedy and grabby. The woman seems a little greedy and grabby, though.

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I think this was called Unwrapping Rodin, or something like that. You just can’t take any chances when you’re transporting a masterpiece! I appreciate the gallery for giving us some insight into the work involved in getting an exhibition ready, piece by piece.

I had also visited the Contemporary Gallery, which had an amazing, alarming and breathtaking exhibition on David Altmejd. I didn’t take any photographs because I wanted to enjoy the exhibition with my eyes and not my camera. Actually, most of my trip was spent that way. I wanted to experience with my eyes and not rely on taking pictures to tell my stories. Instead I wanted to absorb art and culture and be as present as possible without being attached to technology. It was exhilarating exploring a city on my own for a change. I wandered the streets at night, people watched, crashed street markets, climbed to the cross on top of Mont Royale without the intention of actually climbing to the top, got lost many times, talked to strangers and magically was able to give someone directions, rode the metro across the city more times than I can count and, yes, I had poutine. Twice.

My only regret is that I didn’t do any free sketching on the streets, but at the same time I was there making art every single day, so I can only feel a tiny twinge of regret for not making a visual journal of my stay in Montreal. This will be the first of hopefully many artist residencies I will experience in my artistic career. Who knows where I’ll go next! What an amazing gift it was to go and do this on my own.

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Who knows how far an open door can lead?

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