Chris Cran in Canadian Art Magazine

Seriously Funny: Chris Cran at the National Gallery of Canada

Chris Cran, Self-Portrait Practising Signatures, 1989. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Self-Portrait Practising Signatures, 1989. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran is one of Canada’s most celebrated painters, but he’s rarely written about as just that. The cult of the Calgary-based artist’s personality precedes him. Many reviews of Cran exhibitions reveal that he is down-to-earth, charming, very funny and prefers to wear all black. Known as a godfather of the Calgary art scene, he’s a board member at Stride Gallery, a teacher at the Alberta College of Art and Design and a mentor and magnanimous supporter of up-and-coming artists in his hometown. To six kids, he’s also Dad. Before his National Gallery of Canada survey exhibition, “Sincerely Yours,” which is on view in Ottawa until September 5, Cran was there in spring 2015 to put together “It’s My Vault,” a showcase of works by 15 artists he admires and is influenced by—a wonder wall of sorts. He included one of his own works in that selection, which makes sense, because he has long been one of his own favourite subjects.

Chris Cran, My Face in Your Home, 1986. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Photo © NGC. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, My Face in Your Home, 1986. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Photo © NGC. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

The person responsible for this Cran fandom is Cran himself, of course. In 1984, he began painting The Self-Portrait Series, whose central character is the artist, bedecked in a brown or blue suit and trilby, often playing the self-satisfied salesman. Like a photo-bomber, the main character of the series—Cran’s surrogate, his puppet—wanders in and out of massive realist paintings that depict shop-worn jokes, idioms, tropes and fantasies in flawless oil renderings. There’s a man literally shooting himself in the foot; a wife admonishing a husband (both roles played by Cran) for coming home late; and even a group of gun-toting naked women in wartime Vietnam up to their waists in water, while Cran, in suit and trilby, impotently holding a plywood rifle, enters from stage right. It’s all utterly ridiculous, and it’s meant to be, without equivocation.

Chris Cran, Self-Portrait Accepting a Cheque for the Commission of This Painting, 1988. University of Lethbridge Art Collection. Gift of Peter D. Boyd, 1995. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Self-Portrait Accepting a Cheque for the Commission of This Painting, 1988. University of Lethbridge Art Collection. Gift of Peter D. Boyd, 1995. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

The first work he produced in this series was Self-Portrait with Large Audience Trying to Remember What Carmelita Pope Looks Like (1984). Cran remembers being a kid in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, watching television, when a woman came onscreen and introduced herself, saying, “Hi, I’m Carmelita Pope.” Cran, then 10 years old, remembers thinking, “Why does she think I’m supposed to know who she is?” In the painting, he sits in a chair trying to recall this trivial childhood memory, while a large, crudely sketched audience eagerly waits for the fuzzy picture of a woman beginning to form above his head to sharpen into focus. The real joke here is that the woman depicted isn’t Carmelita Pope at all; Cran ripped the image out of an advertisement for a Magic Art Reproducer in one of his old pulp magazines, where he sources much of his material from.

Chris Cran, Large Orange Laughing Woman, 1991. Collection of Wade Felesky and Rebecca Morley. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Large Orange Laughing Woman, 1991. Collection of Wade Felesky and Rebecca Morley. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

In other works from this series of self-portraits, we see beginnings of techniques that show up in series to follow. After The Self-Portrait Series, Cran moved away from photo-realism and experimented with Op art, Pop art and abstraction. He likes experimenting, keeping things fresh, but what remains near constant is his Kodachrome palette, suitable for someone whose aesthetic sensibilities were moulded by an early love of 1950s toy and product packaging. In Self-Portrait – Temptation of a Saint (1986), the Cran character temporarily loses his sense of self as he becomes transfixed by an image projected by his cathode-ray television set: a tarantula has crawled onto James Bond’s pillow, and Cran’s crept to the edge of his seat, gripping the armrests. On the surface of the glowing-blue television screen, which is painted with lighter brushstrokes, there are faint traces of horizontal scan lines, the kind that used to appear on television and computer monitors when you tried to capture their screens on another screen.

Chris Cran, Red Man Black/Cartoon, 1990. Collection of the artist. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Red Man Black/Cartoon, 1990. Collection of the artist. Photo M.N. Hutchinson. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

We naturally know how to look past such visual obstructions and isolate the images contained behind the lines. Cran’s Stripe Paintings (1989–) and Halftone Paintings (1990–93) play with this human propensity to find and make meaning. He distorts still lifes, portraits and landscapes by adding screens of stripes (also nodding to Modernist painting conventions) or by enlarging images until they nearly dissolve into abstraction entirely, becoming collections of dots that only coalesce into discernible shapes when you squint or step backwards. Nowadays, of course, you get the same effect when you view the paintings through a smartphone, whose screen does the work for you—or takes the fun out of it, depending on how you look at such things. These distortions are cheeky misdirections that hold the viewer captive for a little bit longer than they ordinarily might linger in front of a painting. “It’s a cheap trick,” Cran tells interviewer William Wood in the exhibition’s award-winning catalogue, “but it works.”

Chris Cran, Mirror, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo David Miller and Petra Malá Miller. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Chris Cran, Mirror, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles. Photo David Miller and Petra Malá Miller. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of the NGC@AGA exhibition series, with the generous collaboration of the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Audience engagement is paramount to Cran. We see it in his Abstract Paintings series (1995–2009), where he creates optical illusions that reward the viewer who takes time to move around and consider the picture plane from various angles, and notably in his Chorus series (2012–15), which positions tondi of blown-up, close-cropped faces, ripped from 1950s and ’60s ads, displaying ranges of emotion, around works from other series, such as Framing Device Paintings (1996–2001). Just as the Cran character in The Self-Portrait Series is a stand-in for the artist, the anonymous faces that make up Chorus—how quick we are to try to see if we can recognize any of the faces, to ascribe meaning to them—are stand-ins for the audience, like the chorus in Ancient Greek theatre. They smirk, gasp, look apprehensive, quietly observe, or ooh and aah like rock ’n’ roll groupies, creating different dialogues depending on how they are arranged and around what other works. They set the tone. As anyone who’s bad at telling jokes knows, it’s not what you say that counts, but how you deliver it. At the end of the National Gallery’s exhibition, there are works from Chorus installed in the staircase, surrounding you, in effect making you the artwork.

Cran has called art “a mute apparatus”—it’s not complete until a viewer applies thoughts, words and meanings to it. It can only speak when spoken to. The words “Sincerely Yours” necessarily preclude “Dear —.” They’re an invitation in, addressed to fans, long-time and first-time alike. When Cran came up with the title, he was thinking of signed photographs of movie stars that were mass-produced in the 1950s (so not really “sincerely” anyone’s, in fact).

Cran’s autograph appears in the last work in The Self-Portrait Series: Self-Portrait Practising Signatures (1989). In it, Cran’s writes various versions of his name, in curlicued cursive, block capitals and simplified minimalist construction of loops and lines. But the painting isn’t a self-portrait at all. Cran took the image he based it on from in a British publication made in the 1950s. He found it and thought, well, “Close enough.”

“Sincerely Yours” is also a signing off, signifying the end, but the prolific Cran isn’t nearly finished yet. After this exhibition wraps, he’s showing a suite of new paintings at Toronto’s Clint Roenisch Gallery, in a show cleverly called “Anon Anon”—the perfect punchline to end a retrospective with.

http://canadianart.ca/reviews/chris-cran-at-the-national-gallery-of-canada/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Weekly%20August%2025%202016&utm_content=Weekly%20August%2025%202016+CID_93aaadabf2ad0aae1b9bd43b2888a77e&utm_source=E%20Weekly%20Campaign&utm_term=SERIOUSLY%20FUNNY%20CHRIS%20CRAN%20AT%20THE%20NATIONAL%20GALLERY

 

Jason McLean "Son of a Salesman" opens November 6 at Michael Gibson Gallery

Opening Reception on Saturday, November 7 from 8-10pm. 

SNAIL'S PACE, Acrylic Ink & Ink on Paper 2015, 30 x 22 in

SNAIL'S PACE, Acrylic Ink & Ink on Paper 2015, 30 x 22 in

"Son of a Salesman" features new large-scale drawings by London-born-Brooklyn-based Jason McLean.

The new drawings respond to Jason's time spent living with his family in Brooklyn, NY and explore his experiences, observations and perceptions of life living in the US.  They act as mental maps or visual diary entries that pictorially represent McLean's relationship with local environment.

One drawing tells the story of his obsessive search for celebrity autographs outside of the David Letterman show, while another weighs the pros and cons to moving from Brooklyn to Pittsburg because of lower housing costs.

 

Through these drawings, Jason McLean uses humour to touch upon challenging subject matter such as sadness, loss, displacement, mental illness and economic challenges.

Jason McLean was born in London, ON in 1971. After attending H.B. Beal Secondary School, McLean graduated from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver in 1997.

Since 1994, Jason McLean has exhibited nationally and internationally including shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa in Venice, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Loyal Gallery in Malmo Sweden, and at Richard Heller Gallery in Santa Monica.

In 2012 he had a solo exhibition "If you can read my mind" at McIntosh Gallery, Western University (catalogue) and was included in Museum London's "L.O. Today" group show featuring 6 other artists & collaborators.

A Canadian art darling, McLean was chosen by Maclean's Magazine as one of the top 10 artists to watch in Canada in 2004. In 2013, McLean was the only Canadian artist selected by Canadian Art Magazine to collaborate with smart Canada to paint on a smart car that travelled across Canada. McLean has also collaborated on t-shirt designs with designer Jeremy Laing, was commissioned to paint a mural inside of the Drake Hotel on Queen Street, Toronto and co-runs the Canadian Pez Museum with his 2 sons Felix & Henry in the basement of their home.

Jason McLean has work in major collections throughout North America including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, BMO Collection, TD Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada.

http://www.gibsongallery.com/exhibitions/jason-mclean-son-salesman

MICHAEL GIBSON GALLERY
157 Carling Street London, Ontario, Canada N6A 1H5
519.439.0451 / 1.866.644.2766
Tuesday - Saturday 11-5

2 INTERVIEWS WITH CHRIS CRAN // CANADIAN ART & THE REFLECTOR

Chris Cran, RCA, king!, 2012. Courtesy TrépanierBaer Gallery and Clint Roenisch.

Chris Cran, RCA, king!, 2012. Courtesy TrépanierBaer Gallery and Clint Roenisch.

Questionnaire: Chris Cran by Canadian Art

Calgary-based artist Chris Cran, a longtime mentor to emerging artists in Alberta, takes our questionnaire. Cran’s work can be found in the National Gallery of Canada and the Glenbow Museum, among others, and he selected works for the current exhibition at the McMaster Museum of Art, “It’s My Vault.”

What work of art have you seen recently that you can’t get out of your head?

Rita McKeough’s installation, The Lion’s Share, at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at ACAD.

What images live in your studio?

Paintings by Ron Moppett, John Will, Gladys Johnston, Ryan Sluggett, a Vikky Alexander collage piece, an Evan Penny photo, woodcuts by Herald Nix, a number of my own works going back to 1978 and a painted illustration on canvas of a behatted man looking ecstatically at a bottle of beer in his outstretched hand. It was for a beer ad, I believe, and I purchased it in an antique store in St. Louis in the eighties for 25 bucks.

Where would you like to show your work and why?

The Prado, so I could get an all-expense-paid trip to Madrid.

What’s the best exhibition you have ever seen?

A toss-up between an Agnes Martin exhibition I saw in the 1980s at the Glenbow Museum that produced in me an inexplicable emotional response, and the big Roy Lichtenstein show at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2012 that knocked my socks off, which I have not found to this day.

Can you name a work of art that changed your life?

A small Cézanne painting in a collections gallery at the Guggenheim in NYC. Don’t know the name nor have I come across it again. The painting was of a meadow on a hot summer day. I stood in front of it for a few minutes and suddenly I could feel the heat. I felt like I was 10 years old and in a field close to my home in the middle of summer. I knew how he did it. He got the light right by getting the colour right and my nervous system knew through zillions of experiences what the temperature of that light was. I stood there for several minutes, said, “Wow! Cézanne! Pretty good!” And then I decided to leave. My body turned but my head didn’t and I wrenched my neck painfully because I hadn’t extracted my gaze from the space of the painting.

Do you collect anything?

Books.

What do you like to read?

William S. Burroughs, Cormac McCarthy and a recently acquired set of books called The Colophon: A Book Collectors’ Quarterly, with many printed pages including a David Milne drypoint.

Who is your favourite Canadian artist?

Agnes Martin.

What does the Canadian art world need?

It doesn’t need anything. The rest of the world, however, could benefit from more exposure to what Canada has to offer.

What do you wish you thought of first?

Where I put my keys.

http://canadianart.ca/features/2015/01/27/questionnaire-chris-cran/


 
Calgary-based painter concerns himself with illusion in his works

Kari Pedersen
Arts Editor
 
Walk through the second floor of the O wing to see the works of Chris Cran on display. The Calgary based painter has been reviewed by many, including the New York Times. Photo: Albina Khouzina
Walk through the second floor of the O wing to see the works of Chris Cran on display. The Calgary based painter has been reviewed by many, including the New York Times.
Chris Cran, a Calgary based painter who has had his work reviewed by many around North America including the New York Times, focuses his work on perceptions and illusion. But as a sectional instructor at ACAD, he wants people to see art as a journey of self-discovery. An opportunity for people to think and feel in their own ways.
 
The Reflector: Your pieces often have interesting visual tricks or components to them. What is it about this concept that you feel catches the eye of a viewer?

Chris Cran: I remember, in my young days as an artist, someone saying that the mind cannot entertain two things at the same time. My response to this was to present two, or several things which cause the mind to travel and which, in the apprehension of those particular “things”, enjoys the travelling. Examples of two things — an image and the particular way it is made — the juxtaposition of two elements — an image and a title — an image and a framing device. Any number of possibilities.
 
TR: There are some similarities of your work to pop art. What artists have inspired your work, and if not who, then what has inspired your work?

CC: When I was 15 or 16 I heard “Highway 61” by Bob Dylan and it was a revelation. The surreal, casual, sassy language seemed so familiar. I began painting when I was 19 and I was most fascinated by Picasso, Matisse, Beckmann, David Milne, Vermeer. Later, artists like Warhol, Richter, Agnes Martin. My interest in some artists faded and others rose to the surface. Some have potently stayed with me such as Roy Lichtenstein, Matisse, Philip Guston, Raoul Dufy, Fernand Leger, Juan Gris, Cezanne and locally Ron Moppett and John Will. I am absolutely interested in individual works of art that surprise me when I happen upon them, whether I know of the artist or not. I saw a Walter Sickert painting from the mid 1930’s in the Beaverbrook Art Gallery selection at the Glenbow Museum last year that prefigured pop painting by twenty years. Several days ago, at the Hamilton Art Gallery, I saw a Charles Comfort painting from 1929 that did the same thing. Roaul Dufy was misregistering colour and line forty years before Warhol.
 
TR: You have said in the past that you like to leave room for interpretation in your work, not a definite message. How do you think that changes the way viewers look at your pieces?

CC: Something I learned specifically from Cezanne — do half the work. Let the viewer finish the work. In the case of Cezanne, he gave brushstrokes, some form, and precise colour, which translate into light and temperature. The viewer follows those few suggestions and supplies the space in the work.
 
TR: What upcoming art and culture projects in Calgary are you most excited for?

CC: Contemporary Calgary, National Music Centre and C-Space
 
TR: Why do you think the art and culture scene is so important for university students to be a part of?

CC: Art is about pleasure, feeling, thinking, discovery, self-discovery, sometimes all in a moment. It is useful to help increase attention spans. If it is not, then it is not. The art scene is a community and there is plenty of exchange there.
 
TR: What is your advice for university students?

CC: Learning is not about what one is taught, it is about what one learns. Who is responsible for that learning? The learner. Get excited. If you cannot get excited, there might be a job waiting for you at 7/11.

http://www.thereflector.ca/2015/01/16/q-arts-chris-cran/

An art collection that pays homage to artists connected to the Canadian West

Peter Boyd

Peter Boyd

Marsha Lederman profiles our friend Peter Boyd in the Globe and Mail:

As soon as he left the University of Western Ontario and landed a job, Peter Boyd bought a car, some furniture and his first work of art.
He has since spent “hundreds of thousands” of dollars on his art habit, running out of wall space at home and keeping much of his collection in storage (necessitated, in part, by the 2009 sale of his oil-field seismic-services company Arcis Corp., and the subsequent disappearance of office walls on which to hang the work).
Influenced by childhood trips to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont., he began his collection with historical work by artists such as David Milne, but has sold or gifted most of it and now exclusively collects contemporary art. His collection of about 100 works (it peaked at about 200) is populated with artists connected to the Canadian West, including Chris Cran, Douglas Coupland, Attila Richard Lukacs and Geoffrey James, but he also owns work by Robert Mapplethorpe and Eric Fischl. “You’re always falling in love with art if you love art,” he says.
His latest entrepreneurial venture is Genius Wines; its first release a pricey Sonoma County cabernet sauvignon he calls Creo. “It comes from the Latin word for creativity,” he says. “It’s my tribute to artists who are geniuses.”