2008 - 21’sWhat if

I had a notion about a fundamental of painting and happened upon a renaissance?

Just prior to the Robert Genn episode that follows, with a background in sculpture and product design, I had begun to question the age-old tradition of painting on a two-dimensional flat surface. Canvas can be stretched in many ways. Stretcher bars don’t have to be straight!

I tested an idea. As part of producing Giclees for myself and others, I had to fabricate, stretch and staple over 100 canvases a year. I took the opportunity to experiment with the art of making the stretcher bars with washboard and angled surfaces, stretching the canvas every which way, inserting canvases into other canvases. Basically, just experimenting with a stick & fabric.

         Over time, I have completed a dozen structured art pieces from primitive to complex. I’ve shown them in several venues including TOSH, Kay Meek Center, West Vancouver City Hall, The Ferry Building Gallery and the Federation Gallery on Granville Island. The first major piece began by fabricating stretcher bars in a one-inch diameter washboard shape top and bottom only. I then measured the space between the curves. I transferred the measurements of the multi-curved surface to a flat stretched canvas, created a grid and painted the canvas. The secret was to stretch the canvas vertically only.

         The piece is titled The Space Between and joins nine other structured paintings. Some of the pieces require the viewer to actively participate by walking past slowly and looking at it from both sides as the image transforms.

     The closest thing I could find to these structured canvas creations was a movement in the late 1940’s called the Spatialists. Its members stated “we refuse to accept science and art as two distinct phenomena.” Unfortunately, at one of their last openings, they went about slashing all their paintings. The Spatialist’s demise soon followed.

     So, with respect, I refer to my pieces incorporating the renaissance of the movement’s themes as Spatialist Nouveau. I look forward to seeing other artists expand on the process. Why does a canvas have to be flat?