september 04 - november 1, 2015
i see france
Danielle Bartlette uses paint and mixed media to examine the complex relationships between place and memory. As she explores the cities she has travelled or lived—here Paris, Versailles, Bordeaux and other French locales—Bartlette plots her memories of a particular place, separating and recombining them into new formations. The materials she uses are chosen based on her sensory experiences with her environment, and the personal geographies that result explicate the selective role of the sensory environment in forming personal memory and subjective experience.
Bartlette’s encounter with France was chiefly architectural: walking its cities’ streets, contemplating its monuments, crossing its bridges, entering its buildings—places that relate to her own ancestry, full of both regular folk and aristocrats, the people who built and administered institutions like the Musée d’Orsay or the Louvre. As she did so, Bartlette used her camera to assemble a personal archive of French architectural accents and ornaments. As though in mimicry of the city’s street grid, Paris’s and other cities’ built structures elucidated their own labyrinthine vocabularies: textured marble, artful brickwork, ventilation grates, airport tarmac symbols, wrought-iron fences, patterned paving stones.
Each large painting in this series arises directly from one of these photos. And each comprises a layering of the architectural colours, textures and patterns of the city, sometimes augmented with textual elements, and then worked and reworked in acrylic, mixed media and accented with real gold leaf. Bartlette’s selection of materials is highly personal, designed to advance a feeling of connection with the places in her works. Drawing upon the rich legacy of more than two millennia of continual construction, this series is a powerful homage to the remarkable visual and textural aggregate that is urban France.
august 01 - september 14, 2014
Painter Danielle Bartlette traveled to Amsterdam to meet a Dutch man she’d known since her teens and reconnected with a year earlier in Paris. She found herself bound up in a relationship coloured by passion, vulnerability, broken hope and love. The Amsterdam Series: Touch Me! / Raak Mij Aan! presents Bartlette’s reactions and responses to this period in her life: fourteen large-scale paintings that examine moments, emotions and discoveries in a visual diary. It is a many-faceted investigation, in acrylic, ink, conté, glitter and gold leaf, of romance and the urban milieu, and how the two can activate one another. It is also a strategic embrace, on the part of the artist, of her own painterly subjectivity.
To represent this period of her life, Bartlette employs artistic strategies that she has developed over past works, notably her The Oyster Bar: Beyond Tourist series, based on her experiences living in Edinburgh, Scotland, and her Brandon Series, which drew from her memories of growing up in Brandon, Manitoba. For each painting in The Amsterdam Series, Bartlette begins with a multi-layered, intensively worked under-painting, drawing from her memories to recapture the visual vocabularies and moods of the locations or objects featured in the work. In some paintings, the colours and textures, emotional and symbolic, invoke Amsterdam’s rich urban colour palette: flowers, boats, windmills, signs and event posters. Bartlette’s use of gold leaf, in particular, references the play of light as it reflects off the water of the city’s canals. The result is an illusion of depth, with blocky gold shapes—sometimes suggestive of architecture or cartography—floating on top.
Bartlette then switches to a palette of solid colours, adding iconic visual and textual elements in a style reminiscent of comic books. This overlay of images and texts augments the more poetical background under-painting with a narrative component: boats and canals, room interiors, clothing, human anatomy and actual characters. These symbolic images also make reference to Bartlette’s memories of her lover. Each resulting painting functions like a page in a diary, relating a subjective narrative of moments and impressions, with the diarist-artist’s emotional trajectory revealed between the lines, as it were, activated by aesthetic cues.
I see London, I see France is dominated by a gigantic, comic book-style women’s undergarment, outlined in thick white lines, accented by a small white bow slightly below where the navel would be. The undergarment appears to hover in the air atop a background of painted yellows, oranges and gold leaf, its waistline horizon-straight. But its lower section curves and dips, sketching the outline of a pubis. The anatomy, here, is understated, sketched with a single line, yet it is at the same time self-consciously prominent, the focus of the painting—a witty contradiction. Where one might expect to see thighs is a pair of texts derived from schoolyard verse: “I see London” and “I see France,” the text coloured in the black, red and yellow hues may suggest the German flag. The body, like Europe itself in many ways, becomes a crossing-point for romance, politics and general naughtiness or prurience.
Are You Going to Kiss Me? salutes the popular visual vocabulary of love. Against a background consisting of various colours but dominated chiefly by reds and golds, Bartlette has sketched the outline, in red and pink, of a huge pair of lips. Following the lips’ contours, we read fragments of text: “are you going to kiss me?”, “sexy boy” and “echt … ja, zal ik je zoenen” (Dutch: “Really … yes, I will kiss you”). Absent, however, is the passion or urgency of a real kiss. The lips “float,” disembodied, in the frame of the painting, more like an icon or symbol signifying the memory of a kiss—or perhaps the dream of one, such as school-age girls might sketch in notebooks and lockers. The textual elements are like whispers from past or future. After a spell, the viewer begins to look past the narrow lines delineating the lips and text, and contemplate the rich, layered background, which takes on a sort of cosmic presence. So, perhaps, is the link between past and present: the passions of one’s past and future are mere outlines, but the universe is here, now.
Blossoming Almond Tree, inspired by Van Gogh’s painting of the same name, is based on the artist’s recollections of an art show, Vincent Van Gogh: My Dream Exhibition, at Amsterdam’s Beurs van Berlage. Here, a background of black paint and gold leaf creates a nocturnal, almost stormy effect. In the foreground are white, cartoon-like tree branches, with white and coloured floral blooms, a peaceable counterpoint to the raucous play of the under-painting. At top we read “Gnoissienne 4,” the title of a work by nineteenth century composer Erik Satie, which Bartlette encountered in an interpretive video at the exhibition. The word “art” is rendered twice, in capitals and lower case, which suggests a dichotomy, perhaps between “high” and “low” art (Bartlette’s works usually invoke both lineages with equal force), or perhaps between art and the way art is presented and contextualized in galleries.
The Penthouse Suite presents us with a large bed rendered in thick, white lines against a background of white paint and gold leaf. At top, in cursive script, is the phrase “this is the penthouse suite”; along the bottom, “slaap lekker” (Dutch: “sleep well”). A garret suite where Bartlette and her lover stayed while in Amsterdam, the room’s walls and corners are at odd angles, askew, as though nothing here is fully real or solid except the bed. Above the bed, framed in white, is a window—yet its palette, which echoes the room’s whites and golds, but also with orange, sparkly green, pink, lilac and black accents, suggests a painting. The truth is, in the coded language of art, a window and a painting-within-a-painting may function in much the same way, demanding the viewer’s attention and beckoning her to approach and, perhaps, pass through. The resulting dichotomy between world (bed) and world-within-world (window/painting)—stirs us to examine romance as a universe of possibility, multi-faceted and multi-layered, extending into dimensions beyond the strictly physical or sexual.
Against a subtly rendered background of silver, gold, green and lime green, Bartlette’s painting Echt! references images she encountered on the ubiquitous, colourful posters plastered throughout the city. Echt! is dominated by a cartoonish devil figure rendered in bold white lines accented in neon orange, an “x” for one eye and an “o” for the other, plus a pair of innocuous horns. The devil is shouting “Echt!” (Dutch: “really”), but the words “neon” and “milkshake” are also prominent in capital letters. Far from resembling the sinister or terrifying devils of religious iconography, this baby Beelzebub exudes an unyielding, childlike confidence. Bartlette’s romance is no social “bubble” sequestered from society—“two against the world,” as it were, a popular trope in Hollywood and elsewhere. Rather, by borrowing images from cultural event posters, Bartlette presents the love affair as something not opposed to, but thoroughly engaged with the world around it, in which it happened.
friday august 8, 2014 | 6:00 pm
artist will be in attendance
sunday september 14, 2014 | 1:00 - 5:00 pm
artist will be in attendance
july 4 to 13, 2014
The Artist Ranch Project is an initiative designed to create a discourse about western heritage and values for the 21st century while inviting contemporary artists to reexamine what it means to experience Western Canada from a traditional perspective… our western heritage and the majesty of our physical environment.
Contemporary artists are invited each year to visit and experience an Alberta working ranch for a weekend residency in late summer. Following the residency, the artists will spend several months creating artwork inspired by this experience, for exhibit and sale in the following Western Showcase at the Calgary Stampede.
We would like to thank the hosting ranches for welcoming our artists and volunteers. Thank you to our visitors and patrons for supporting this exciting initiative. We look forward to the next exhibition of art inspired by ranching in Southern Alberta.
2014 participating artists - the OH Ranch
K. Neil Swanson
Here is the video of the painting retreat I had the pleasure of guest teaching at last week in Amsterdam. What an amazing experience!
- Danielle Bartlette
IMAGINE - a full immersion, DECOMPRESSION week in Amsterdam this summer! Discover INNER COLOR through ART in this magical, FUNhistorical city of Amsterdam. We will spend each morning by getting our hands dirty by CREATING with a guided ADVENTURE in color session at Atelier Molenpad - our historic studio located in the heart of Amsterdam. Then, in the afternoon - create your own adventure, and explore life in Amsterdam! There are endless possibilities as our studio is situated with lots of shops, museums, as well as restaurants and eateries in every direction!
Join us for an unforgettable week, and increase confidence through the creative arts and strengthen your contact with your INNER GUIDES! Transform your being while having fun, and unveil the REAL YOU!
class times (choose a time slot)
tuesday: 9:00 am - 12:00 (noon)
wednesday: 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
thursday: 9:00 am - 12:00 (noon)
multi week workshops
friday: 12:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Calgary School of Art
531 Manitou Road SE, Calgary AB
in class, everyone works on their own projects, although projects are available. classes are laid back and experimental. whether you are a pro or just a beginner, you can learn from Danielle, but also from other students - sharing ideas & influences. the majority of students use acrylic or oil paint in class, but other mediums are encouraged as well: pastels, pencil, watercolours, charcoal, ink, oil stick. together you can discover your abstract style and develop it over time.
for more information on classes please contact Danielle
Though human memory is notoriously unreliable, within human experience it is also ubiquitous. Everyone has memories and everyone is attached to or driven by those memories in particular ways, holding them dear as something uniquely personal to ourselves. How can we resolve the condition of memory’s ineffability or subjectivity with the fact of its central situation in the formation of knowledge? Put another way, if our childhood experiences are contained within the “vessels” of memory, however do we reach adulthood?
Calgary-based painter Danielle Bartlette addresses herself to such issues of memory in a new body of work divided into two series. With one series in acrylics and another in oils, Bartlette explores her early childhood memories of Brandon, a small city of 46,000 on the Manitoba prairie, two hours west of Winnipeg.
Bartlette’s acrylic series, rendered in acrylic paint and collage media, is comprised of 31 small-format pieces, each a dense mashup of elements investigating the visual thought world of a Canadian prairie kid in the 1970s: chocolate bar wrappers (“Cross Country Skiing”), rock band posters (“Get to Bed”), hotel pools (“Red Oak Inn”), Oreo cookies (“Frozen Oreo”), Muppets (“Oscar”) and even modern art on the living-room wall (“Stereo”). Bartlette’s use of collage—as in the cut-out trees and towers in “Residential School” and the food items and text in “Smorgasbord”—together with her omnipresent fingerprint “signatures”—draw upon the childhood discovery of art as experienced in preschool or kindergarten: cutting and glueing, fingerpainting, and so on.
Certain elements return again and again. Bartlette’s generous use of oranges and browns evokes the design palette of the day. Meanwhile, reflective silver and gold recall particular childhood sensations: the early visual allure of coinage, the chrome of cinematic robots and spacecraft, those little jars of model paint and, of course, the advent of sickness and mom brandishing the thermometer.
The implied presence of a first-person subject throughout the series—implied, that is, by some of the textual elements (“Why can’t I be something else for once?” or “This little stool is mine…”)—is offset by the complete absence of human figures. This memory-world is a place of things seen, but of people only heard or implied. The certain selectivity of memory in evidence here may not be an accurate rendering of “how things were,” but it does plot a geography of a childhood captured in suspended animation.
Bartlette describes her paintings as “visual journals,” and while both series constitute reconstituted records of her early memories, the method of journaling changes appreciably as we move from the acrylics to the oils. Like the acrylics, Bartlette’s oil series contains fun, prominent child-like elements: giant ants and grasshoppers, children’s book-style textual elements, and so forth. Where the acrylics evoke a sense of free association, however, in the oils the imposition of the artist upon her work (and, indeed, upon her memories) is foregrounded. The oils’ much larger size also emphasizes their presence—nothing furtive here.
Bartlette has constructed her oil paintings in layers, the topmost comprised of didactic text one might find in an educational children’s book—“I igloo” or “U umbrella”—rendered in a clean, sans-serif font. Also included in this layer are large line-drawn images—an umbrella, tumbleweed, a grasshopper, an igloo—painted in simple, clean brushstrokes.
The institutional or iconic assurance of these elements contrasts sharply with Bartlette’s less defined but ultimately more complex paintings (or fragments of paintings) of natural motifs. These latter elements are available to us only in parts and pieces, cut up or arranged by the imposition of a plain white foreground. Drawn from the materials and textures of the natural prairie landscape—a terrain often mistakenly overlooked or dismissed as uniform or monotonous by non-prairie folk—these images are harder for us city-dwellers to place or to accommodate in the criss-cross compartmentalization of our urbanized minds.
Maybe that’s why they’re cut into pieces and boxed. The white foreground functions as an organizing strategy, recalling the layout of print publications—pamphlets, travel brochures, magazines, etc. A reference to the conventions of modernist graphic design would not be out of place, here, as Bartlette claims the massive artworks once housed in the former Winnipeg International Airport (John Graham’s “Northern Lights” and Eli Bornstein’s “Structural Relief in Fifteen Parts”) as early influences, and since subtle references to 1960s and ’70s design and décor appear throughout her acrylic series, too. Further comparisons might be made to windows open on a computer screen, or even postcards on a fridge door: an ordering of complex visual picture data that seems simultaneously careful and concise, yet somehow arbitrary, at the same time.
In a sense, where Bartlette’s acrylics are about recollection (and, indubitably, celebration) of diverse images and impressions via free association, her oils are about the process of reconciling such diverse elements to formulate knowledge. The raw impressions of memory held dear by the artist are cropped, collated and categorized, superceded by new images and subjected to the imposition of language. Bartlette’s oils show us the process of ordering and discrimination by which the impressions and observations of childhood, in all their warm, fun colours and elements, are parsed, honed and transformed into the polished arguments and mature postures of the adult mind.
- Edwin Janzen
Edwin Janzen is an artist, writer and editor based in Montreal. He holds an M.A. from the University of Ottawa, a B.F.A. from Concordia University and a B.A. (medieval history) from the University of Manitoba. Janzen serves on the board of directors of articule, a Montreal artist-run centre.
september 21 - november 04, 2012
Calgary-based painter Danielle Bartlette spent much of 2005 and 2006 working as a server at the Oyster Bar dining room in Edinburgh’s historic, ornate Café Royal. These paintings arose out of her efforts, as a newcomer, to adjust to the social world of this marvelous space, both a historical landmark and a magnet for travelers and tourists. Each painting is part retrospection, part melancholic reflection — recollections or entries in Bartlette’s pictorial journal.
Bartlette allows each scene to set itself with robust colours in oil and metallic powders, together with suggestions of architectural forms, square or rectangular. These shapes and forms represent the Oyster Bar’s chambers, fixtures and décor — a wine cellar in #4 Wine Bottles, chequered marble floors in #6 Castle, and so on. In contrast to the Dutch masters, in whose work every detail is fully, visibly present at every moment, here each moment is a blur, an overall imprint — the impression, perhaps, of an overwhelmed first-time visitor to a small, ornate space jammed with decorative clutter. Detail blends into detail, until the whole is merely a whirl to which the only meaningful response — and possibly all that remains as recollection — is a feeling.
Seemingly elevated above this background of indistinct, emotive forms and impressions are various paired, iconic devices: a lobster with an umbrella in #8 Lamp Post; a chess piece with a star in #2 Stained Glass; and so on. These icons recall other, similar signs and symbols erected all across Europe as tourist markers. If belonging is usually characterized by qualities like place and work, the characteristics of tourism must surely be displacement, play and (thus) imposition. Superimposed upon the painted regions beneath, Bartlette’s brightly coloured iconic symbols float fleetingly on the surface of each work, signposts calculated to beckon and then banish, as momentarily pertinent as the tourist is momentarily impertinent. The painter is fully apprised of this impertinence; indeed, aware of the vast social chasm between tourist and “regular,” Bartlette struggled to learn and adjust, a newcomer in a place of long histories and established customs.
Juxtaposed against the foregoing elements are scrawled large monochromatic symbols after which the paintings are titled, blazoned simply and boldly in graffiti-like gestures: in #10 Chandelier, a chandelier; in #6 Castle, a castle; a lamp in #8 Lamp Post; etc. These symbols clash with the impressionistic backgrounds and the designerly icons. We can read them as inscriptions or vocalizations, the artist laying aside one voice and then another (the newcomer, the tourist) to strike up a third voice. This new voice is truly her own assertion, the artist inscribing herself above the earlier ones, quite the way we accommodate ourselves to new spaces and situations, creating belonging by inscribing them with familiar symbols and objects.
As journal entries, artifacts that prompt or aid the act of recollection, Bartlette’s paintings are necessarily layered with impression and emotion. By incorporating these layers — multiple ways of seeing — into each work, Bartlette reveals how a well traveled public space may conceal complex social terrains. These paintings are an aesthetic account of the artist’s struggle to negotiate the social terrain particular to Edinburgh and the Café Royal, negotiating an uneasy passage from transience to belonging.
Edwin Janzen is an artist, writer and editor based in Montreal. He holds an M.A. from the University of Ottawa, a B.F.A. from Concordia University and a B.A. (medieval history) from the University of Manitoba. His thesis exhibition, “Guys In Caves,” was held in the Diefenbunker, Canada’s Cold War Museum, in 2010. Janzen is a member of the board of directors of articule, the Montreal artist-run centre.
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Winnipeg-born, Calgary-based painter Danielle Bartlette uses oil and acrylic media to examine complex relationships between place and memory. With each painting series, Bartlette draws upon techniques such as abstract expressionism, collage, typography and signage to plot her memories of a particular place, separating and recombining them in new formations. The resulting personal geographies evoke nostalgia, and then quickly bypass it, exploring and questioning the selective role of sensory experience in the formation of personal memory and subjective experience.