Vancouver From False Creek

July 30, 2008

“Vancouver from False Creek” (2008), photographic diptych, each image 16″ x 20″

Vilhelm Hammershoi

July 27, 2008

Thanks to the Royal Academy of Arts, I have discovered a new artist to explore.

Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916) was a Danish artist, inspired by Vermeer and Whistler.

Hammershøi’s most compelling works are his quiet, haunting interiors, their emptiness disturbed only occasionally by the presence of a solitary, graceful figure, often the artist’s wife. Painted within a small tonal range of implied greys, these sparsely-furnished rooms exude an almost hypnotic quietude and sense of melancholic introspection.

In addition to the interiors, the exhibition also includes Hammershøi’s arresting portraits, landscapes and his evocative city views, notably the deserted streets of London on a misty winter morning.

I’m going to enjoy this exploration, I just know it.

Northern Wheat

July 27, 2008

“Northern Wheat” (2008), acrylics on canvas, 30″ x 24″

Mixed Emotions As Both Tour and Basho End

July 27, 2008

The Tour de France ended about fifteen minutes ago.  And the summer basho in Nagoya finished just a fdew hours ago.  The men I had championed, Valverde and Kotooshu respectively, didn’t win.  In fact, both disappointed if truth be told.  But both events themselves lived up to pre-tournament hype.

The Tour, in particular, was more exciting than for many years past.  There were seven changes of the yellow jersey over the three weeks and the winner was in serious doubt right up until Carlos Sastre survived the Individual Time Trial yesterday.  Today was the typical parade into Paris, so Sastre takes the final yellow jersey and the overall win by about a minute.   One of the revelations for me has been Bernhard Kohl, who took the King of the Mountains title by a distance, and almost surprised everyone by his speed in the Time Trial.

Alejandro Valverde finished 9th, about 7 minutes down.   He was well-hyped for a podium finish and I thought he had a real shot at the final yellow.  He won the opeing stage with a terrific acceleration in the final sprint and I thought we were well set.  But he never seemed aggressive enough, never made the running, and when he lost time in the Pyrennees his chance was gone.   He did well in the Alps but, once again, his lack of aggression cost him dear in my opinion.  I wonder if he will be racing the Huelta?

In Nagoya, Hakuho powered his way to a 15-0 record in winning his seventh Emperor’s Cup.  In the final contest last night, he comprehensively defeated my man Kotooshu, bringing the ozeki to a lackluster 9-6 record.  Kotooshu won the basho in May and would have expected promotion to yokozuna, sumo’s highest rank, had he won back-to-back victories.  Now, he has to discipline himself for a much longer wait.

Ama continued his streak. His 10-5 was his sixth winning record in a row and he continues to generate crowd support and decent kensho bundles.  He was awarded the basho‘s Technique Prize for the fourth time in his career.

I didn’t get to see as much of this basho as I would have liked.  However, it is clear that there are a number of excellent young rikishi — eastern Europeans among them — who are beginning to break into the rankings.  I suspect we will see a number of the veterans forced out of the Makuuchi ranks over the next year or so.  These newbies are aggressive and want to grab the top spots as quickly as possible.  It makes for exciting watching!

Art For Sale

July 26, 2008

It used to be that direct sales of paintings by artists conjured up either the tawdry image of TV ads shouting “Canvases from $12!  Genuine oils!” or the quaint amateur airs of the county fair, eager watercolors in a small tent.  It used to be, but Damien Hirst is about to change all that.

In a move designed to shake the very foundations of the artist – agent/gallery connection that has driven the business for so long, Damien Hirst’s factory-like enterprise has assigned an entire suite of new works to Sotheby’s in London for exhibition and sale.

Hirst is said to regard the step of offering new material at auction as a logical development in his career but the broader implications of his decision are profound. It is widely known that auction houses have courted the emerging markets of China and India. Leading names without a firm gallery representation in London or New York have been encouraged to consign works to its catalogues. Furthermore, artists such as Jeff Koons and David Hammons have, in exceptional circumstances, placed new or historic work in auctions in order to maximise value or circumvent a dealer obligation.

But Hirst has crossed the market’s Rubicon with a gambit which opens a new front for an admittedly very special situation: an artist with brand name recognition and a factory enterprise capable of producing a completely new series of seasonal variations to order. At a stroke, the judicious management of an artist’s career by an agent who identifies which favoured collectors will be permitted to acquire material in conditions of secrecy gives way to the triumph of the highest bidder on the public stage. Now that Damien has demolished the moral barrier of using auctions for distribution and profit, other artists will follow suit.

The centerpiece of the show — entitled “Beautiful Inside My Head Forever — in September will be “The Golden Calf” which is estimated at $16m to $25m.

I’ve written before of my serious distaste for Hirst and his works, but he has certainly done remarkably well for himself.  Well enough that he could pay $33m for a Francis Bacon self portrait last November, and follow it up with a $3m Koons doodad this February.  All purchases again through Sothebys, who have become in effect his gallery.

Horseshoe Bay I

July 26, 2008

It was easy to find tranquility at Horseshoe Bay today.  The village wasn’t crowded, but there were enough people around to make it sociable.  Three big ferries came and went while we were there but it easy to ignore them.  The kayakers, canoeists and small boaters were far too interesting.  It was calm, everywhere was calm.  It was delicious.

We had planned to come to Horseshoe Bay with the intention of eating a way-too-big fish supper at Trolls.  However, after stopping off at Sophies Cosmic Cafe for breakfast on the way, we were way-too-full to eat.  We eventually left without eating, drove home, and happily slurped noodle soups many hours later.

Bye Bye Pee-Wee

July 26, 2008

The day that TV died was seventeen years ago today.   It was on July 26 1991 that Paul Reubens was arrested in the South Trail XXX Cinema in Sarasota, Florida.  From that day forward there would be no more Pee-wee’s Playhouse shows on Saturday mornings.  No more Magic Screen or Reba the Mail Lady.  No more Chairry and no more Conky.   Prurient cops with nothing better to do stripped us of our innocent weekend pleasures.   It just hasn’t been the same since.

Death Of A Slimmer Dancer

July 24, 2008

I want to mark the passing of a Vancouver boy who had an interesting life and who made real good.

Sidney Craig was born in our town in 1932.  His family moved to California where young Sidney became a dancehall instructor for Arthur Murray.  Over time, Sidney, a natural marketer, eventually owned five Arthur Murray franchises.  From the profits of those studios, Sidney Craig bought himself into a small chain of weight-loss clinics for women, called Body Contour, quickly building it to over 200 locations.  It was there that he would meet his future wife Genevieve — or Jenny.  Selling up their interest in Body Contour, the couple moved to Australia where they quickly opened the first Jenny Craig centre.   There were 655 centers in New Zealand, Canada, Australia and the US when the company was sold to Nestle for $600 million in 2006.

Sid Craig was an avid horse racing owner and breeder, winning the Epsom Derby with Dr. Devious.  He and his wife were also among the highest individual donors to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Craig died on Monday.

Lots of Flowers

July 23, 2008

“Lots of Flowers”  (2008), acrylics on canvas, 16″ x 20″

City Abstract XI

July 23, 2008

This Sporting Life #2

July 20, 2008

Another full week of all work and no play.  I finally shut it all off at about 2 today.  I had a nap, cooked a wicked dinner, and even managed to do some painting.

I can’t blame all my tiredness on the long hours connected to the office, because there are a few complications unconnected to work; first and foremost being the Tour.

While it is certainly true that I prefer cricket, football and hockey to cycling, it is equally true that my favourite sporting event of the year — the only one I actively look forward to — is the Tour de France.  This year it started about two weeks ago, at exactly the same time that work became hectic.  It runs in my time zone from about 3am to 8am.   I usually manage to watch from about 5 until I have to leave at 7:30, following the finish on my Blackberry as the bus chugs along.  I’ve been known to leave late some days.  On the weekends, of course, all sense is discarded in the realization that I can watch from beginning to end, so long as I sacrifice a few hours sleep.

It’s been a wonderful Tour, by the way, a few drug busts notwithstanding.   Today’s mountain stage was some of the most extraordinary sporting drama created by extraordinary athletes I have ever seen.  I am taking a mental health day on Wednesday so as to be able to watch in relaxation the ride to L’Alpe d’Huez.  The day includes both the fearsome Col du Galbier and the mountain top finish at L’Alpe d’Huez.   It will be an historic and fascinating day.

We are also in the middle of the Summer Sumo basho in Nagoya.   Here, that is shown from midnight to 2am.  With the Tour going on, I just can’t manage to stay up that late.  But we tape it and I watch it the next day.



This basho, the first after Kotooshu won in May, has produced some interesting stuff, too.   The great yokozuna Asashoryu lost an early bout and was then the victim of dubious referring in another bout.  He quit the tournament with a damaged elbow.  He seems to have lost his edge, his determination, and he looks to be on the downward slope of his career.   The other yokozuna, Hakuho, is cruising to another championship with an 8-0 frecord so far.   Our favourite, Ama, is second at 7-1.

Again, these last few days have given us a great Open golf championship.  The nostalgia of Greg Norman (and his melodramatic semi-collapse on the final day), the excitement of the 20-year old amateur coming in 5th, and the nice guy Irishman winning for the second year in a row.  Good stuff.  But it began in the middle of the night, too.  Thank God it is over.

Now, I just have to survive another week of sumo and cycling — and another couple of days of England;s cricketers getting thrashed by South Africa — and I’ll be fine.   Until the Olympics of course.

There Will Be Fireworks …

July 14, 2008

… and singing and celebrations as the French take a day off work to celebrate my gorgeous wife’s birthday today!

She is, of course, the shy and retiring type, but I do love her so!

Quite The Week

July 13, 2008

Boy, it has been a tough week.

My company is in the middle of preparing the largest and most important proposal that has or will happen in  my career.  We are bidding separately with two larger companies and I am leading one of the Proposal Teams.  The amount of work that needs to be done is immense, using up all my time last week and all this weekend until now (Sunday evening).  Obviously, there has been no time to post here. This is supposed to go on until the end of October.

However, now that the rush-rush Pre-Qualification proposal is complete, I hope I’ll have at least enough time to relax here for a while each day and post some interesting stuff.


July 7, 2008

“Treeline” (2008), acrylics on canvas, 30″ x 24″

The Geraniums …

July 4, 2008

… are blooming beautifully!


July 3, 2008

The other day we went to see Pixar’s new movie, “Wall-E”.   What a treat it was:  an interesting concept, well developed into a plot, and delivered in their ever-improving animation style.

Pixar’s ability to invest two-dimensional “cartoon” characters with believable life is extraordinary.  In this movie, there is an extended sequence where two robots Wall-E and Eva fall in love — and you can see it and believe it at least as well as watching the best live-action actors.

Technically dazzling and emotionally heart-warming, “Wall-E” joins the list of nine masterpieces in a row by Pixar — not many (if any) studios can boast of that.  I wonder what Walmart thinks of it?

In our location — and perhaps everywhere — “Wall-E” is preceded by a Pixar short called “Presto” about a magician’s troubles with his rabbit.  Don’t miss it — this five-minute wonder is worth the price of admission all by itself!

Oh To Be In New York Now That Turner’s There….

July 2, 2008

Sometime in my teens I fell in love with J.M.W. Turner, and forty years later he is still one of my consistently favourite artists.  I cannot count the hours I have spent over the years at the Tate just looking at his paintings.  Each time I see a collection of his works, I realise anew what a vibrant, almost revolutionary, talent he had. The influence he has on many of my own works is clear and direct.

Turner, obsessed with light and colour, was the key figure linking more “traditional” painting with the Impressionists.  But he is less well-known in North America than he deserves.   Hopefully, the major new exhibition that opened yesterday at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art will bring him to the attention of a new generation.

City Abstract XV: Hotel Vancouver

July 1, 2008

Green Engines Of Change

July 1, 2008

Today, British Columbians began paying the carbon tax of about 2 1/2 cents per liter of gasoline and other fuels.  Love ’em or hate ’em, the Campbell Liberals have had the guts to be the first government in North America to institute such a carbon tax — a measure thoroughly approved of on the environmentalist side.  There are constant complaints, of course; many spread to feed the needs of the media for conflict rather than with any other justification.

The same media thoroughly downplay the income tax cuts that also come into effect today.  These income tax cuts, combined with the $100 “climate change” check recently sent to every man, woman and child in the Province (and who really cares if it is an election gimmick?) make the carbon tax as damn near revenue neutral as any tax could be.  Anyway, I don’t want to get political so let’s just say I am proud to live in a pioneering jurisdiction like BC.

But there is so much more that can be done.  And someone who is already doing more is Britain’s Prince Charles.  I’ve always been a supporter of Charles.  Having been forced to live a sublimely surreal life since birth, he has turned out to be a thoroughly sensible chap, unafraid to voice his strongly held opinions.  He has used the perquisites of his position wisely, to further the causes he espouses.

Case in point, he has just converted his 38-year old Aston Martin to run on a biofuel created from surplus wine.  This now joins his other cars which have already been converted to run on used cooking oil.

I like his style.

Happy Birthday Canada!

July 1, 2008

Ya don’t look a day older than 141!