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Canadian Artist Collaborations Inspired by Famous Art Collaborations in History

Group of Seven at table

There I was, a young artist beginning art college, excited about all the possibilities of art and romanced by the stories of famous artists’ lives and artists of the past. As a Canadian artist the most famous artist group is perhaps the Group of Seven, created and led by Canadian landscape painter, Lawren Harris. Assembling a number of Canadian painters into a group or club, Harris managed to direct the aesthetic of the group and create the ‘aesthetic of the North, the aesthetic of Canada’. Though not truly a collaboration, the group did create an outcome of a group effort, much like a collaboration achieves.

Andy Warhol Basquiat Collaboration

Back to that art history class. Art history classes begin with the ancient, European Art, which mystifies and romanticizes the artist life. Ancient art and specifically paintings were based on technique, craftsmanship and knowledge. Fast forward to the 1950’s and early 60’s of the New York City art world, a movement which challenged the traditions of fine art by including imagery from popular and mass culture. This movement included many artist collaborations, which saw artist’s paint together and even on the same canvas, imagine two artists painting in opposite, yet complimentary styles, on the same canvas. Inconceivable!

Most famous is perhaps the collaborative pop art meets street art paintings of Andy Warhol and Jean Michel Basquiat, where a famous Warhol took a less famous Basquiat under his wing and painted together on the same canvas in his studio. Even though some critics didn’t appreciate Basquiat and Warhol‘s relationship — some claiming that Basquiat was a fame-hungry leech trying to ride on Warhol’s reputation while others stating that Warhol was an opportunist who was using Basquiat’s talent for his own ends, the truth seems to show that the relationship was genuine, if fraught with frustrations.  Whether intentionally exploitative of Warhol or not, it is true that the young Basquiat felt deeply for the man, and created masterpieces with his idol.

Douglas Coupland Vancouver Art GalleryFast forward to artists in Canada in the 20th century, and one in particular, Douglas Coupland. For his major solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2014, ‘everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything’. Often incorporating everyday materials and objects such as plastic lids, children’s toys, pencils and books, Coupland’s work and installations require a collaborative effort with everyday people, asking them to participate through collecting and sending him items to include in his pop culture creations.

Collaborative art is an interesting phenomenon, I mean we are artists, we are very independent with singular signature visions of what we want to create, so how can visual artists collaborate? If you look at the musicians, collaboration is important in their process and often better when one or more are together, such as the case with Lennon and McCartney and the Beatles. Collaboration made these artists better and stronger as they riffed off each other and pushed each other forward. Prior to the establishment of formal artistic training schools, the close bond between artists was often forged in the studio or the gallery. The sense of camaraderie – as well as competition – between artists presented opportunity for them to learn, and steal, from one another – collaboration can create better art through outcomes you cannot control.

So what is collaboration in terms of art? is it teamwork? The key difference between teamwork and collaboration is that in teamwork, a group of people perform their individual roles to contribute to the achievement of a goal whereas in collaboration, all individuals are partners that share work as well as ideas and insights to achieve a common objective.

In the footsteps of past artist collaborations and famous artist collaborators I came to create two collaborations in art. The first began in 2014, shortly after I visited the Douglas Coupland exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. The People of Canada Portrait Project, a collaborative portrait painting project, between myself and everyday Canadians. Through photos submitted by Canadians, I paint portraits based on the stories they share with me about their lives as Canadians.

For the project, I used social media and the internet as a tool for connecting to a diverse audience of subjects. I never know what photo will grab my attention and you never know what the backstory will be, but the photo has to ‘grab’ me, I have to be invested in the subjects I will paint. The original images selected as reference points for portraits are displayed in a stream on the project’s website (Peopleofcanada.ca). Through interviews, process photos, and short films the original subjects of the photographs become part of the project’s archive, material for future excavation into how people define themselves as Canadian. By choosing their own photographs, my subjects participate in their own self-representation. Yet they also cede control as I invent a landscape intended to amplify the relationship between the people and landscapes depicted.

As this Canadian portrait project continues to grow and evolve, the project guidelines I set forth in the beginning have also evolved, because of the collaborative experience.

The second collaboration I am currently working on, is inspired by the tradition of landscape painting in Canada, and the Group of Seven. In 2017, I began collaborating with anotherCanadian artist collaboration Canadian painter, based in Calgary, Alberta. The idea: paint mountain peaks on the provincial border of Alberta and British Columbia (the border that divides us as artists) Painting mountains on the continental divide, the painting begins in one artists’ studio in Calgary, and the painting is completed in the other artists’ studio in Victoria.  Inspired by famous collaborations of art history past, such as Warhol and Basquiat, Johns and Rauschenberg, and Rivera & Kahlo – this was going to be interesting as in our case we live 1059KM apart, a 13 hour drive and a ferry boat. Each painting rendered in brushstrokes from each artist. Each painting a collaborative effort and celebration of two styles, creating a new language, expressing a combined love of the Rockies. Beyond the borders of the paintings, and beyond the borders that divide two provinces that have been locked into a political battle over a pipeline. Moving us beyond the borders of our differences, and bringing us together, over art. In honour of Group of Seven luminary, Lawren Harris, we selected a name under which to paint, and the Mountain Forms Collective is born.

The art of collaboration is truly one that requires patience, an openness to learning no matter your level of experience and expertise (leave your ego at the door) respect of your collaborators, working as a team to achieve something bigger than yourself, the creation of a new community in which to grow and propagate your ideas and the unique experience of creating something important, together. For if it is important to you, it is important to make it heard in any way you can conceive!

Sincerely Yours,

Brandy Saturley

Becoming the Voice of Canadian Pop Art, how I kept things rolling in 2018

Here are my ‘Art’ highlights from 2018.

January – POP Canadianisms are born

New paintings, new work expressing a symbolic view on our landscapes and culture of the time. What began as #iconiccanuck in 2011, morphed into #Canadianisms in 2017, this year coming full circle, re-framing the idea of landscape painting in Canada. These are figurative landscapes, with vividly saturated palettes.

February – Takashi Murakami in Vancouver

Art & The City Trip: Travel for connecting to a worldwide art market continued with an opportunity to participate in the momentous Takashi Murakami visit and exhibition in Vancouver BC. While the Octopus may have eaten his own leg, I enjoyed hearing why from the mouth of the artist himself at SFU in Vancouver BC. The following days included the members opening and dinner of the International art exhibit presented by the Vancouver Art Gallery. A great way to begin the year, the learning never stops and this was one opportunity this year for continuing education.

March – University of New Brunswick

In March, I was contacted by the UNB requesting use of one of my images for their current project; Pioneer Lies and Propertied Lives: Cultures of Colonial Unknowing on Turtle Island. “Let Your Backbone Rise” painted in 2016, is featured on the project website. 

April – Art Collector Homes

Sometimes the art on the walls helps sell the home, and sometimes they want the art thrown in! A collector of my work puts their custom dream home on the market in Cordova Bay, BC and we have the opportunity to peek inside and view the paintings on the walls. The house sold, they did not include the artwork, we shipped that out to their home in Edmonton, Alberta.

May – Collaborative Paintings Taking Shape

Formed at the end of 2017, The Mountain Forms Collective, named for Lawren Harris famous work, is in full creative flow. With two female Canadian painters, one from Victoria, BC and one in Calgary, AB. These paintings are a first in Canada, with two painters working together to paint Rocky Mountain Peaks onto the same canvas. As this project grows more news will follow, for now, here is a little peek at what is to come.

June – Move to a BIG studio & some Vimy Jamming

In June I bid adieu to a condo with an ocean view, my work now taking over the entire living space, it was time to find a larger space to continue my work as my career and the size of my work grows. I finished two portrait paintings for the People of Canada Portrait Project, both presented opportunities to connect with those who serve in military and civilian roles here in Canada. Vimy Jam went on to become one of my most popular paintings of 2018 as it garnered much attention and support across Canada and abroad.

July – Toronto Show & Cover Feature 

In July my work, ‘BALANCE’ made it into the Society of Canadian Artists 50th Annual Juried International Art Exhibition. Taking place at Papermill Gallery in Toronto, this show featured the best of the best from across Canada and overseas. My painting also made the cover of the catalogue, which was published to the Library & Archives of Canada.

August – Maui Residency & Whitehot Magazine

Maui was on the docket for the whole month of August, as I continued to re-trace the steps of Georgia O’ Keeffe and find deep connection and inspiration in the landscapes, flora and fauna on the garden isle of Maui. While there I had the chance to discover many new art galleries and institutions including the stunning property at the Hui N’eau Arts Centre in Makawao. I also spent time getting to know photographer Michael Gilbert. Acting as Curator of Corporate Collections at the Waldorf Astoria and Director Napua Gallery, Gilbert originally hails from Toronto, Canada and splits his time between Maui and Paris, both as photographer for hire and as instructor. Other gallery visits included;  Paia Art Projects and the many galleries on the Lahaina strip. In August I also found myself talking with Whitehot Magazine, NYC about my Pop Canadianisms and gaining notoriety as the voice of Canadian Pop Art.

 

September – On the Cover in the UK

In September my painting, ‘Let Your Backbone Rise’ graced the cover of Art Reveal Magazine UK, as I became the featured artist for the September issue. I became a supporting patron of the Canadian art cataloguing service developed by Ryan Mayberry, of Mayberry Fine Art, called ArtMoi. This revolutionary cataloguing service is helping to record the provenance of artworks around the globe through a unique identifier, much like an ISBN number issued by libraries. This year’s commissioned work began as I started in on a large diptych for a client in Victoria for his home in Palm Springs.

October – Art Toronto & The Falls

Art Toronto: founded in 2000, Art Toronto is Canada’s international contemporary and modern art fair, and this year was my second time attending the fair. Highlights included works by; James Lahey, Ivan Eyre, Katherine Boyer and Jason McLean. After the fair I took a road trip to ‘The Falls’, Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. It was my first time visiting the falls and it is one of the world’s natural wonders and must be experienced by all. Niagara Falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that straddle the international border between the Canadian province of Ontario and the US state of New York. They form the southern end of the Niagara Gorge. During peak daytime tourist hours, more than 168,000 m3 (six million cubic feet) of water goes over the crest of the falls every minute. Horseshoe Falls is the most powerful waterfall in North America, as measured by flow rate.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bpc2Vp8DMCW/

https://www.instagram.com/p/BpfoDmFD_8J/

November – Art in Vancouver

My mission in November was three-fold; visit my art crate maker, take in the remarkable opening of Guo Pei at the Vancouver Art Gallery and explore some new landscapes and viewpoints in greater Vancouver. With every trip comes new opportunities for learning and sharing, further inspiring the direction of my work. These trips are a continuing education and an opportunity to connect with others in the industry.

December – Another Magazine and a Charity

My annual self-published magazine is mailed out every December as a thank you to clients who have collected my work over the years. This year the title for the new magazine is #POPCANADIANISMS and offers collectors a look at new work as well as a review of favourite paintings from the past decade. This year my charities of choice included CARFAC Alberta, Nature Canada and BC Children’s Hospital. A favourite painting from the past of a child nose to nose with a polar bear graced the face of thousands of Christmas cards in Vancouver and across Canada, with proceeds going to support the invaluable programming and services of this remarkable organization in Vancouver.

And finally, your favourite nine on Instagram in 2018!

https://www.instagram.com/p/Br_pFasjp8H/

That’s a wrap! Wishing you a healthy, prosperous and art-filled 2019.

Cheers ~Brandy Saturley