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  This mobile is perfect for the visual development of babies (birth to 4 months), and will continue to delight children of all ages with its beauty. Each coloured piece of sturdy watercolour paper is backed by its complementary hue. The mobile is stitched together with thread. At the top a small silver ring provides an easy attachment (via fishing line or thread) to suspend the mobile at the desired height (beyond the child’s reach). The mobile moves peacefully with the slightest airflow, catching the child’s attention and providing an early introduction to the colour spectrum.

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Thank you to little Florence Marily for being my model. We change her mobile every two weeks and she told me to tell you that this one has been her favourite!

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At first I thought that I was looking at some new Amy Cutler illustrations…

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Kristin Bjornerud’s watercolour and gouache paintings similarly explore contemporary political themes, ecological motifs, and personal narratives through a feminine lens of folktales, dreams, and magical realism. Ms. Bjornerud describes her delicately painted tableaus as a world “wherein dream logic pervades, where women swim with narwhals and vivify hand-knit fauna. These eccentric landscapes are uncanny projections of a possible world where familiar activities are imbued with a mythic quality while, at the same time extraordinary deeds are carried out with unruffled poise by proud, unconventional heroines.”

 

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This style of art is very poetic to me. These images, like poetry allow one to see invisible threads that connect things, in introspective ways and occasionally with a bit of clever humour.

 

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In the vein of Cutler, Bjornerud’s illustrations born on an expanse of white, create contemporary surrealist fairy tales that “act as a medium through which we may consider our ethical obligations to the natural world and to each other”. Bjornerud finds that “retelling and reshaping stories helps us to understand how we are entangled, where we meet, and how our differences may be viewed as disguises of our sameness.”

 

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Originally from Edmonton, Alberta, Kristin Bjornerud earned her MFA at the University of Saskatchewan (2005), her BFA from the University of Lethbridge (2002), and is the recipient of several grants from the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Her work is included in the collections of the Canada Council Art Bank, the Saskatchewan Arts Board and Citibank Canada. She currently lives and works in Hamilton, Ontario.

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It was a sunny day in late July, I was wandering up Moss street, enjoying Victoria’s annual “Paint-In”, when I met William Kurelek. The sky was a prairie blue and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria was admittance by donation – the day was only getting better. Kurelek’s work drew me in right away. At first I was tickled by his illustrative style (reminding me of the linework of Eric Chase Anderson, Norman Rockwell and the colour schemes of Pieter Bruegel the Elder), from there I was drawn in to the details. Most of the paintings shown in this exhibition are done with oil paint, ink, and gouache, even scratching, on masonite boards. The subject matter ranges from childhood reflections to religious allegory, often set on the scenes of the Canadian prairies. The detail that ties his work together so tightly and uniquely is found in the framing. Some of the frames are trimmed with Ukrainian textile ribbons, others have carved patterns, highly detailed, and are painted to complimentary echo the colours that are used within the painting.

Kurelek received training as an apprentice to a fine-art framer in 1957 while institutionalized in England (he was recovering from a deep depression and being treated for schizophrenia). During his treatments he painted a work entitled “The Maze” (you may recognize a portion of it from Van Halen’s “Fair Warning” album cover?). In this painting he reveals the inside of his skull, showing interior vignettes depicting pressures and painful experiences he had as a boy, youth, and adult. In 1969 Kurelek spoke about this painting: “The Maze is a painting of the inside of my skull which I painted while I was in England as a patient in Maudsley and Netherne psychiatric hospitals. It is a story of my life… well in the sense that people tell stories by the fireplace to entertain their guests, trying to make them accept you. In this case, I wanted to be accepted as an interesting specimen.”

There has been a movie made about this painting. First began in 1969 by Robert M. Young and David Grubin, in an attempt to make a documentary about psychotic art. The final, full version was never completed, until recently when Robert’ sons, Nick and Zack Young, recovered the film and expanded it with an original soundtrack and modern digital animation. Nick speaks about the film: “We feel that the longer version of the film that the public has yet to see gives a much deeper insight into Kurelek’s story. We’ve been able to track down just about all of the paintings in the original film as well as others and have rephotographed them with equipment that was not available to our father when he made the original film. There is so much detail and hidden meaning in these paintings and William Kurelek’s story becomes all the more compelling when one experiences in High Definition what a masterful artist he was.” When making the soundtrack they researched what music Kurelek had listened to while painting and explored traditional Ukrainian folk music and Ukrainian instruments.

The film will be playing this week in Victoria. The screening will be followed by discussion with Stephen Kurelek, the artist’s son, who will respond to the film drawing on personal accounts and experiences.

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