By Bookmarked - Monday, February 4, 2013 - 0 Comments
Toronto author Modris Eksteins has won the ninth annual British Columbia National Award for Canadian nonfiction for his book Solar Dance, which examines 20th century Western culture and politics through the lens of artist Vincent Van Gogh. (Read senior writer Brian Bethune’s feature on Eksteins and the book here.)
The three other finalists, George Bowering, Robert R. Fowler and Candice Savage–who were chosen from a total of 143 authors nominated this year–will each take home $2,500.
Previous winners of the award, which celebrates “a genre that stimulates our national conversation and shares knowledge about the complex world in which we live,” include:
- Charlotte Gill for Eating Dirt: Deep Forests, Big Timber and Life with the Tree-Planting Tribe (2012)
- John Vaillant for The Tiger (2011)
- Ian Brown for The Boy in the Moon (2010)
- Russell Wangersky for Burning Down the House (2009)
- Lorna Goodison for From Harvey River (2008)
- Noah Richler for This Is My Country, What’s Yours? (2007)
- Rebecca Godfrey for Under the Bridge (2006)
- Patrick Lane for There Is a Season (2005)
By John Geddes - Thursday, May 24, 2012 at 3:11 PM - 0 Comments
It’s hard to look at a Vincent Van Gogh painting, especially certain great paintings, without thinking about his life. A café under a night sky is where the crazy genius stopped for a drink. A yellow house is where he lived a bit of his unhappy life. A room with a single bed must be where his troubled dreams arrived.
To try to wrench the art away from the artist’s endlessly mythologized biography would be futile, of course, but the new show, Van Gogh: Up Close, which opens at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa this week for what’s bound to be a popular summer run, offers the best chance yet to take in the paintings without summoning Vincent’s story at every turn.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, May 8, 2012 at 10:06 AM - 0 Comments
Marc Mayer goes with a safe bet in mounting Van Gogh: Up Close
Marc Mayer, director of the National Gallery of Canada, isn’t exactly a Vincent Van Gogh guy. Growing up in Sudbury, Ont., in the 1970s, Mayer decorated his bedroom with poster prints of abstractions by Kandinsky and Mondrian. He speaks gleefully about how, over his career as a curator and administrator at major public galleries in Canada and the U.S., he has persuaded skeptical boards of directors to buy and display “hundreds of pounds of barbed wire to hang from the ceiling, an actual airplane crushed by a boulder, a giant colour photograph of a toxic dump, a stained rag stapled to a broken stick and glued to a piece of old Styrofoam.” He gets more worked up championing contemporary art than 19th-century oil paintings of flowers that look cheerful on the coasters and calendars that sell briskly in a gallery’s gift shop.
Yet Mayer’s life is bound up, for the next few months at least, with Van Gogh’s reliable ability to draw big crowds. The exhibition, Van Gogh: Up Close, slated to run at the Ottawa gallery from May 25 to Sept. 3, is its most surefire crowd-pleaser in years, which is saying something after last summer’s Caravaggio show, a critical success and popular hit. If Mayer’s tone is exuberant when he talks about living artists, he’s more matter-of-fact on the Van Gogh stakes. “The summer is when you need the big numbers,” he says. “What you want is to make sure that you’re delivering programming that is relevant to the largest number of people who are interested in art. But you also want to bring them around so they have broader tastes and broader interests. That’s kind of tricky.”
Pulling off that trick has long been the central challenge at the National Gallery. Tens of thousands turn out for exhibitions of dead masters, many taking a detour to see, say, the permanent collection’s Group of Seven paintings. New work is more likely to trigger “You call that art?” reactions. But that didn’t stop Mayer’s predecessors from buying, for instance, an Andy Warhol sculpture of Brillo soap boxes in 1967, Barnett Newman’s infamous three-striped Voice of Fire in 1989, and the giant bronze spider called Maman, by sculptor Louise Bourgeois, in 2004.