Wednesday, September 7, 2016


and a hot Vespa
Art, in all of its forms, moves me. I believe artists make some of the most important contributions to society. They play a key role, yet they are, for the most part, not compensated enough for their work.

There was a cartoon, most likely Dilbert, or the Far Side. Its punch line was  '... will work for recognition'. Even on that non-monetary scale, artists are often left wanting. The well-deserved recognition that some eventually earn, only comes when they are dead and long gone.

Susan and I are amateur art collectors. We have a modest art budget, and we agonize over the works we purchase, yet we are slowly but surely running out of wall space to display our collection. This considerably raises the stakes and makes any decision to purchase a new piece all the more difficult. In spite of our limitations, we are always on the hunt.

We have no delusions we are building a collection that will some day yield a windfall. We just really like art.

In part, I satisfy my need to live with art by photographing paintings in the museums we visit. I display my collection of photos as screen savers on our two TVs and on our iMac computer.

As nice as the digital collection may be, nothing is as satisfying as the real deal.

This past Sunday found us roaming through Toronto's Distillery District. This small nook east of downtown Toronto is about as close as Toronto comes to anything remotely resembling the ambiance of Montreal's vieux Montréal. We met two artists in particular whose work appealed to us.

Sarah Phelps and Christopher Masoure are abstract artists. Abstraction and other forms of modern art once left me somewhat indifferent. I may, years ago, have made light of abstract art, remarking "I could do that". Now I think differently.

Abstract art seems to connect more intimately with me than figurative art. A tangible thing, however well-rendered by the artist, however skillfully the artist respects perspective and scale, dominates the work, and limits what can be evoked, the emotions it can convey. Abstraction is more complex and when it appeals to me, affects my mood more directly, opens my mind, frees my thinking. It's like the difference between a traditional house with time-honored conventions and structures, and a modern residence with clean lines, white space, and expanses of glass.

It's fascinating how art evolves. We are privileged to have visited the Musée d'Orsay and its amazing collection of impressionist paintings. Impressionism sits in the spectrum between the classical figurative painting of the renaissance at one end and abstraction at the other. The work of Lawren Harris, recently featured in an exhibition that's wrapping up at the Art Gallery of Ontario, inspired by Steve Martin, shows how the artist moved from more traditional figurative painting to a form with elements of abstraction. The later works with altered perspectives, and simplified exaggerated colour palettes, convey so much more than the physical landscape that inspired the artist.

Sarah invited Susan and I to visit her studio on Case Goods Lane in the Distillery District.

Today I needed to take the Vespa for a decent run. It is having a coolant issue. I needed to know whether I really need to tear all the plastic off to get a good look at the cooling system, or whether the leak that occurred just before we left for the West Coast was just an isolated incident on a very hot day. The plan was ride all the way downtown and back and see what was what. I topped up the coolant and headed for a quick spirited run downtown via the Don Valley Parkway. When I got downtown, near the Distillery District, there was coolant on the floorboards. Definitely not a good sign.

I needed to let the bike cool down, top up the coolant again and ride sedately back home.

What better way to pass the time than to drop in on Sarah's studio. I had never visited a studio before.

Sarah took the time to chat. She explained the path that took her from being a biologist working on environmental issues in some pretty exotic places, to being a full time artist. She explained how her work was evolving and showed some of the techniques that she developed along the way. I promised her that Susan and I would be in touch some time during the fall.

The hot bike, having had the time to chill, was receptive to a tall drink of coolant, and managed to make it back home at a leisurely pace, along Front street to Jarvis, Jarvis north to Mount Pleasant, to Lawrence, west to Yonge, and a straight shot home, all accomplished on a hellishly hot midday.

If you'd like to know more about Sarah or Christopher, by all means check out the links to their websites.

If you're curious about what is causing my Vespa to spew coolant all over this good green earth, stay tuned.


RichardM said...

Abstract art! I guess that explains the Vespa.…

Just kidding ;-) I'm afraid that I'm still on the I don't understand side.

Unknown said...

Interesting post, David. As for art, I'm mostly a fan of industrial art and abstract expressionism...

Abstract expressionism: the stuck-in-limbo approach to art, somewhere between recognizable and not.

David Masse said...

No need to kid Richard, on the continuum of motorcycles as art, cruisers and Urals are on the literal end, and Vespas are certainly edging towards some form of non-literal representation, maybe art nouveau or impressionism. Full-faired sport bikes and BMW touring bikes would be... let's see... futurism?

David Masse said...

Abstract expressionism is what I think I call simply abstract art. As for industrial art, is this what you were thinking about?

Or maybe this?

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.