Posts Tagged: "Vince Cherniak"

Benj Gallander: The Contrarian Investor

Vince Cherniak - - Interviews
The London Yodeller

INTERVIEW CHERNIAK Benj GallenderBest Picture Oscar wannabe The Big Short is a cautionary moral tale for our age, exploring Wall Street greed, fraud, ineffectual or complicit government regulation, and, inevitably, the cynicism of bankers preying on the ignorance of the public and the poor. It’s also a bit of a philosophical investigation into the moral bankruptcy of making money for its own sake and the dangers of high finance’s investment vehicles that few can understand and yet affect everyone when they crash. Whether it’s best picture of the year, no matter: it’s certainly the best picture to explore and comment on the biggest financial crash since the Great Depression. With compelling central characters played by Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Brad Pitt to name a few, The Big Short unravels a complicated subject in a very entertaining style — yet with all the players and jargon, it’s a bit of a challenge to keep your bearings. It brings to mind that Keith Richards anecdote about going on stage: “I look around me, and there’s Charlie, there’s Mick, and there’s Ron… now, where’s the guy who knows what’s going on?”

Fortunately for us, Benj Gallander is just the guy who knows what’s going on here and can parse the proceedings. The Western grad is one of Canada’s most successful investors — the president of Contra the Heard investment letter has achieved 20% + annualized returns over two decades. He’s the author of The Contrarian Investor’s Thirteen and other best-selling books on investment and business. You might know him from his Globe and Mail column, or through his regular appearances on Business News Network. He prides himself on his contrarian ways, and not just on a philosophy that made him rich. He’s the kind of guy to take up ballet lessons as an adult on the premise that we should try things we don’t like. And at the age of 50, he engages in competitive piano lessons with his kid to keep them both on their game. Gallander believes in keeping both brain hemispheres in tip-top shape, so in addition to the business focus, he’s written and staged six plays over the years, and is a founding member of Toronto’s SummerWorks festival. He wrote his first book at the age of 18, the recently published Thoughts of a Teenager, which reads as a precocious version of Blaise Pascal’s Pensees.

When I first met Gallander, with his disheveled hair and a backpack full of newspapers, I mistook him for a street person. But there’s something endearing in a guy who holds his cutlery unconventionally like a little child (“It’s contrarian, but it gets the job done,” he says.) He’s also written a book of poems, MBA Hobo (I’m not making this up) and contrary to the old adage, Gallander is a guy you can judge by the cover of his book. Though to be fair, he informs us that he does in fact own a nice suit.

What was your first reaction coming out of The Big Short?

Well, it was interesting for me. I went with my 15 year old. He was by far the youngest in the room and he asked me if I understood it all. He said it was a very complicated film and I said I understood 99 percent of it, partly because I had read the book before. I guess when I look at the film, I see much of what has happened before you see the same kind of greed, a lot of the same kind of players who are only out there for their own purposes and to get rich. The difference now is that technology has become a major player in how things can get done, and you also see how the public bought into it, and you see how the government did not regulate it, and it all came down in the end into a major panic that almost brought down the system far further than it did. It was a great movie, entertaining, that in many ways is very sad.

Was it faithful to the book?

I read the book quite a while ago, and I think that it was. I thought it was wonderful the way they made it more entertaining. Because the content of this film is so complex, part of the question was how to create entertainment out of something that is difficult to understand and I thought that the direction was wonderful and a very different way of presenting a film. I thought it helped people stay engaged and gave people a better understanding of what was going on.

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Documentary Film Maker, Dennis Mohr – The Small Miracle of Making Movies

Vince Cherniak - - Interviews
The London Yodeller


Amelia Does and Dennis Mohr co-producers of Remembering Arthur

Amelia Does and Dennis Mohr co-producers of Remembering Arthur

With the return of the Star Wars franchise to theatres, it’s worth noting film history might not have been the same but for a little known Canadian influence. Excepting the most avid fans, few realize that George Lucas found creative inspiration in the work of NFB experimental filmmaker Arthur Lipsett and his nine minute abstract masterpiece from 1963, 21-87. From robots to a very C3PO-like mime to the inventive contrast of found sound and images, 21-87 was a film that intrigued a young Lucas as a student at USC, one he studied in depth over twenty times. It even includes a snippet of dialogue: “Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature, and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of Force….”

Stanley Kubrick was so impressed with Lipsett’s genius and technique that he asked him to cut the trailer for Dr. Strangelove, but it was Lucas who clearly took inspiration from his work that informed his first student film (set in the year 2187) and his first theatrical release THX 1138. Further numerical references to 21-87 appear in the first Star Wars film, and the latest, The Force Awakens. Much of this only came to light with the publication of Londoner Amelia Does’ Lipsett biography, Do Not Look Away (2012) and the Lipsett homage documentary by Toronto filmmaker Dennis Mohr, Remembering Arthur (co-produced with Does).

And in interesting parallel to Lipsett’s influence on Lucas, the making of that doc spawned a vibrant film career for Mohr as well. Does elaborates on what followed: “Dennis Mohr’s documentary practice is, unconsciously, centered around stories of the human personality encountering diverse uses of the photographic medium. How the power of the photograph can be used to manipulate, represent, tell a story, a lie, incriminate or make us think. Each of his films explores a unique adaptation of this medium usually by an eccentric character, and how the pieces are viewed from diverse perspectives of society and the art world. In The World of Ted Serios, an alcoholic bellhop from Chicago convinces a psychiatrist he can project images and thoughts onto film as a photograph is being taken. In Remembering Arthur, Canadian filmmaker Arthur Lipsett uses scraps of footage from the waste bins of a government institution to create an Oscar-nominated art film which influenced George Lucas and Stanley Kubrick. In Disfarmer, an unknown photographer misanthropist in small town Arkansas leaves a body of stunningly stark portrait photography only to be discovered decades later and sold for thousands in New York City. The use of the photograph as a weapon to incriminate and solve crime is explored from all walks of life in Mugshot. The Ravenite is a new film beginning with a chance candid photograph taken of John Gotti on the streets of Little Italy.”

Since Mohr began his Lipsett project by way of an interview with Lucas — with most of that discussion left out of the final cut — we sit down with him to reveal a bit more of what they discussed and how Lipsett has influenced two quite varied film careers.

Where did you first encounter the work of Arthur Lipsett?

Like Amelia I was at Sheridan as a film student taking an English course, and an English professor played the films over a few classes, and he actually had known Lipsett at some point. So I was introduced to Lipsett’s films not at a film class but in an English class by this professor who was blown away. Even though I’d been interested in film my whole life and working on films, like Amelia and a lot of other people that saw Lipsett’s films for the first time, I wanted to make films like that. They weren’t documentaries but they use real images, and real sounds, and they were put together in this fantastic kind of way I’d never seen before. They represented humankind on this intellectual, psychological and creative level. It was only later when I was doing research on Lipsett that it all came together and I realized that Lucas was really influenced by him, and now I get THX 1138. I had the same kind of feeling George Lucas must have had as a film student thinking — Holy shit — I want to do this kind of thing!

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Seth – Devoting your whole life to an idea

Vince Cherniak - - Interviews
The London Yodeller

INTERVIEW Seth-3“I agree with the famous Faulkner quote: ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past’.” That certainly couldn’t be truer for me

Sitting down for a chat with cartoonist Seth is always an immense pleasure: it’s like having a tete-a-tete with a professor emeritus expounding with consummate knowledge and insight on the history of art, culture, literature, film and obviously, the comics genre. To get an idea, pick up a copy of Seth: Conversations (2015), thirty years of conversations compiled by Brescia prof Dominick Grace and Eric Hoffman… or simply read on.

Seth may appear to be living in the past, but he’s diligently focused in the present in his production and work ethic. Out this year is the Palookaville Twenty-Two compilation with further installments of his ongoing series of the Matchcard brothers and their struggling business, Clyde Fans, along with more of the artist’s memoir Nothing Lasts. He’s also had a series in The Walrus, new covers for the New Yorker, more illustrated work in the Lemony Snicket books, and somehow he finds time to present at The Walrus Talks series on urban design. Oh, and this just out, Seth designed and illustrated Christmas Ghost Stories from Biblioasis, (Charles Dickens’ The Signalman and A.M. Burrage’s One Who Saw). And presently, two gallery shows, one in Manhattan at the Adam Baumgold Gallery, and Group Portraits at Renaan Isaacs in his hometown of Guelph until the end of the month. Here Seth casts his gaze back on the half-toned formal group photos from the mid-century world he grew up in. Be they church groups, awards or groundbreaking committees, these are images of an older civic life that was already beginning to disappear from the culture of his childhood. Continue Reading

The City We Build as a Conscious Form of Art

Vince Cherniak - - Art & Books
The London Yodeller


Derek McLarty, Kingsmills The Front Doors, Oil, 24x36

Derek McLarty, Kingsmills The Front Doors, Oil, 24×36

“Our institutional architecture, even at its worst, inevitably leaves indelible marks in long term memory.”

Unless one is fortunate enough to live in Paris or Rome, a daily traverse in a city might be visually underwhelming: most of the structures and streetscapes that compose the urban experience are not constructed with high architectural aesthetics in mind. The urban world tends to grow along perfunctory, utilitarian and pragmatic needs and budgets. What results is a built environment known as the vernacular: it has more in common with every day speech and dialogue than a high-minded lecture on ideas and ideals. Of course, that doesn’t occlude a deep influence from the urban vernacular on our psyche. “The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant heap,” urban theorist Lewis Mumford wrote in The Culture of Cities. “But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind.” This week, several new exhibitions around town explore those “simpler and more personal” expressions of the urban fabric conditioning our minds.

Urban is a show of new paintings and drawings by London artist Derek McLarty at Westland Gallery that puts a frame on the transitional nature of the urban environment with a focus on the variety of materials — stone, tile, concrete, steel and hardware employed through time and stylistic shifts in taste and design. As with Matt Tarini’s recent Liminal show at McIntosh, McLarty’s gaze often catches the transitional zones of the city: alleyways, subway platforms, under and over-passes, zones designed for passage rather than aesthetic perspective.

As one might expect with such subjects, there’s an egregious, off-putting proliferation of muted tones of gray and beige in this series, though it could be argued McLarty is merely capturing the anti-aesthetics of much of our urban infrastructure and utilitarian building principles. But his eye tends to capture something interesting at play in most of these works, be it a crinkled blind disrupting the orderly linearity of a modernist façade or the contrast between a banal air grate and the dazzle of sunlight screened behind a curtain.  

Elsewhere, McLarty expertly documents the various sheens of the surfaces of materials, the weathering, patina and stains borne through time in the paintings Spadina, Tiled Corner and Wall Drain. His technical prowess brings high realist detail to a café storefront in Daily Brew, andfully captures vintage copper handles in Kingsmill’s: The Front Doors.And yet, paradoxically, it’s some of the simpler forms and representations here — a rendering of the ubiquitous galvanized fence slicing through a snow-laden field (in February Dusk)— that lend true intrigue: it’s not so much a barrier or divide performing just another practical urban function, but an object of beauty in its own right.


Derek McLarty Urban at Westland Gallery until October 3

Artist talk: Sunday September 27 at 1 p.m.

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Explorations of the Barely Perceived

Vince Cherniak - - Art & Books
The London Yodeller

“As we don’t tend to observe or think about transitional spaces, we don’t fully understand how they affect our conscious state”

The liminal space, the in-between or threshold of experience and place, occupies both physical and psychological dimensions. Two new exhibits exploring the liminal terrain of uncertainty, indeterminate identity and transition are on display this month.

VINCE Michael Sinkins ROUNDING Digi work in Muro program

Michael Sinkins: Rounding, Digi work in Muro

New Works by Michael Sinkins effectively promises to be a document of an artist working through the indeterminate space of creative block. While it’s been 20 years since Michael Sinkins’ last exhibition of paintings at the McIntosh Gallery, after a few career diversions the Fanshawe College-trained London artist has found new inspiration. A flurry of recent work, from Rothko and Klee-influenced colour field and abstract expressionist paintings to digitally-enhanced media — as well as custom-painted party hats! — inscribes the artist’s navigation from disillusion to productive insight after a long sabbatical from the public art world.

Post art school, Sinkins encountered some interesting diversions in his métier, including working as a surrogate artist. “A friend from high school was in Manhattan, a trumpet player in John William’s orchestra. While awaiting his green card, he’d enrolled in an arts college and hired me to do most of his assignments. It was challenging, as I was mostly doing abstract work at the time and these were mostly realistic paintings, it was overwhelming . . . but I (he) wound up top of the class with high honours.”

Afterwards, Sinkins found himself in a bit of a dark tunnel until two disparate technologies sparked a creative reawakening: his experience with a Dreamachine re-established an emotional and creative flow, and the advent of social media connected the artist with like-minded creators and collaborators. Continue Reading

Letters to the Editor

- - Everything Else
The London Yodeller


Mondo Phono: The Boss Town Sound (Then Play On, April 30, Dave Clarke) Yeah, yeah, yeah. For years, we’ve all heard this same story over and over from sweaty, overweight, know-it-all record collectors donning ridiculous pony-tails (see “Comic Book Guy” from The Simpsons). The tired line goes, “The Boss-Town Sound was all hype conceived by some greedy New York record label execs who wanted to cash in on the San Francisco Sound.” Borrrrrrrring. I used to buy this counter-culture propaganda until I actually decided to start asking these dolts if they had ever sat down and listened to albums by any of the Bosstown Sound groups. All I got was a lot of “uhhhs” and “ummms”. Suddenly I realized that they were all repeating the same line they had been told by other chubby donut-eaters.

Dave Clarke gives us nothing new here and it’s obvious that he has never once explored any of the material by the aforementioned bands – in particular the four classic albums by Orpheus. Does Dave even know that artists like Brian Wilson, Laura Nyro, Steely Dan and Elvis Costello have all lauded the group and its lead singer / songwriter, Bruce Arnold? The band has a huge following of twenty and thirty-somethings where countless artists like the legendary J Dilla, St. Etienne, Jimi Goodwin (Doves) and Tom Misch have sampled their records. Then, of course, there is Hootie & The Blowfish who apparently at the behest of Steely Dan’s Donald Fagan, covered the classic 1968 Orpheus single, Can’t Find The Time for the Farrelly Brothers 2000 comedy Me, Myself & Irene. Continue Reading

Terrance Houle Reimagines First Nations Identity

Vince Cherniak - - Art & Books
The London Yodeller
Terrance Houle: Urban Indian Series #7, C-Print, 2004, 24"x34" courtesy Michael Gibson Gallery

Terrance Houle: Urban Indian Series #7, C-Print, 2004, 24″x34″ courtesy Michael Gibson Gallery

Michael Gibson Gallery features Terrance Houle’s Urban Indian Series from 2004 in the middle gallery space. This suite of photographs documents the artist in day-in-the-life urbanite scenes — riding public transit, working in an office cubicle, grocery shopping — all while dressed in powwow regalia. Continue Reading

Face to Face with James Kirkpatrick

Vince Cherniak - - Art & Books
The London Yodeller
Kirkpatrick: More Math, acrylic, acrylic gouache, watercolour on panel, 2015, 36”x48”, courtesy Michael Gibson Gallery

Kirkpatrick: More Math, acrylic, acrylic gouache, watercolour on panel, 2015, 36”x48”, courtesy Michael Gibson Gallery

“I’ve always loved faces,” admits James Kirkpatrick in his studio as he reveals several dazzling new panels where it’s evident faces are central.

Then there are, of course, the many faces of this dynamic multi-media artist. At once he is an avant-garde hip hop musician, inventor, sculptor, graffiti artist and visual/musical collaborator; Kirkpatrick has various creative miens and personas at play and may just be the hardest-working creator in the neighbourhood. In little more than a year, he’s had exhibitions at McIntosh Gallery, Parenthesis Gallery in Halifax, the Judith and Norman Alix Gallery in Sarnia and a tour of Japan, along with contributions to Unity Project and Casey House charities. And now, a show of new Kirkpatrick paintings opens at Michael Gibson Gallery on July 10.

A face is so primal to our visual matrix that there’s even a specific corner in our grey matter devoted to its processing. And while many artists tackle the rendering of the face through representational portraiture, Kirkpatrick seems more interested in its component elements. He doodles aspects of the face, and then dissects, shuffles and reconstructs them in provocative assemblages in his work; he treats the face like an elaborate mandala, where dissecting or fracturing the geometry of a circle provides an infinity of possibilities. Continue Reading

Brian Jones – A Quirky London Master

Vince Cherniak - - Art & Books
The London Yodeller
Walking The Dog, Oil on Canvas, 1983. 37x36 in, Private collection

Walking The Dog, Oil on Canvas, 1983. 37×36 in, Private Collection

“There is a hint of lurking menace or dysfunction just somewhere off the canvas, hidden from the view of these idyllic and rhythmic façades of suburbia.”

You might need to only take in a painting or two from the late Brian Jones’ oeuvre to realize that this was one London artist not just coming up in the footsteps of our acclaimed Jack Chambers, but a painter approaching his status as a distinguished original stylist. Also like Chambers the Chatham born, Beal Art-trained artist died much too young in 2008. Jones would have turned 65 this year: a graceful if brief survey of his work from the early ’70s through the late ’90s, Neighbours, at Michael Gibson Gallery is a must-see reminder and celebration of Jones’ accomplished career.

Post-Beal Art training, Jones spent a few years under the tutelage of Chambers and had an early influence from his “perceptual realism” style and his mastery of the play of light. But by his mid-twenties, Jones was evolving his own compositional technique and a subject focus on his childhood memories in the suburbs of Chatham. Working from old family album snapshots, and perhaps with inspiration from Chambers’ intimate investigation of everyday family life scenes, Jones found his “Neighbours” style, taken from the title of an early ’70s painting. “In my work I hope to achieve a certain awareness of time, and a sense of something mystical without being gimmicky or surrealistic, but just working with colour and tone, remaining ‘pure’ or true to reality as it is,” Jones wrote in an artist’s statement in 1975. “I want to make the viewer aware of the passing of time (our parents’ lives, our lives, our children’s lives) rather than something nostalgic or sentimental . . . I’m just trying, with as little style or invention as possible, to create something special in the everyday.” Continue Reading

Imperfections Are Part of the Art in Old School Photography

Vince Cherniak - - Art & Books
The London Yodeller

VINCE lisa“The whole process flies in the face of the ease and accessibility of the ubiquitous digital image.”

A couple of curious thoughts cross your mind as you watch photographer Jim Kost prepare a wet plate emulsion in his studio, a technique going back to the beginning of photography. Why is it that, while technologies get displaced constantly, there’s always someone out there who knows how to do things the old school way? Someone knows how to shoe horses, set up a Gutenberg press, or fix a spring wound watch. Still.

Kost is an accomplished digital and film photographer but recently he’s been smitten by the wet plate (or collodion) process — which replaced the daguerreotype in the 1850s as the main format of commercial photography for several decades — and he is demonstrating how it’s done. It essentially involves pouring collodion (a solution of potassium iodide dissolved in alcohol and ether) over a glass or metallic plate, immersing it in a silver nitrate bath to make it light sensitive and taking the photograph within ten minutes while the plate is still wet.  Fixing and washing the plate also have to be done immediately, and a varnish coat applied to protect the image — the whole process takes about an hour. In the 1880s a dry plate method of suspending silver halides in a gelatin displaced the collodion technique, eliminating the need for immediate chemical processing, leading in turn to the development of portable film. But perhaps, as with the transition from analogue vinyl to digital music formats, something essential got lost in the evolution.

Looking at some of the 400 wet plate images Kost has taken over the last year, it’s difficult to elaborate on their allure. As with the vinyl album analogy, there can be rich definitions in detail and texture in parts, but also scratchy and dirty artifacts inherent in the process that become part of the appeal. Streaks and smears from dust, organic contamination and chemicals that are ever in flux contribute a certain mystique to the wet plate photograph.   Continue Reading