habit-defying labour — thinking with the art of daisy tsai

Daisy Tsai describes her work, presently on display at Luz Gallery, Montreal, with these words:

Painting is habit-defying labour… As our world dazzles, rushes, and burns, i peek-a-boo through forms and colours to contend for an alternative coherence, stillness verging on celebration and distress.

The notion of habit is a powerful one, speaking as it does to those areas of our lives where we have perhaps stopped paying attention or ceased living intentionally – where we have allowed lethargy to withhold us from the possibility of the new. Of course habit is not always a negative dimension of human life, since the formation of positive and constructive habits is a necessary resource for living well. But our habits of sight, and habits of thought, and habits of behaviour can also be, and invariably are, a way that we close ourselves off to precisely that possibility – the possibility of living well, or faithfully. The possibility of encountering something new and enlivening (from Christ? who makes all things new?).

The artistic vocation is multi-faceted, but a significant feature of this vocation has always been to undermine our habits of thought and life – to invite the receiver to see the world within a different frame of reference – to refuse to let neighbour or stranger be seen in the same way she or he has always been seen. Vocation: contending for an alternative coherence. Continue reading

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Can there be an excess of colour, light, and texture? #chihuly

Today I went down with Becky and the kids to take in the Chihuly exhibit at the Musée des beaux-arts. It is a good-sized, though not huge exhibit – though regardless of its size it represents a cornucopia of colour and shapes and light. Chihuly has the capacity to create enchanting pieces of glass – and astonishing larger pieces made up of multiple piece of glass. More than enchanting, his pieces are remarkable for their colours and patterns and the ways that light is used to set them off as a feast for the eyes.

Another important aspect of these pieces is that they could never have been created by one person. The level of physical effort that goes into blowing, or otherwise creating, pieces of glass of this size requires a team of creators, with Chihuly at the lead.

I can only imagine that there is, out there, an fairly vast literature about the significance of Chihuly’s work and, more specifically, on the question of whether it is mere “decorative arts” – that is, whether it offers some statement on the nature or meaning of human life and community or is simply intended to add colour and beauty to the background and foreground of our daily life. At a minimum, the display I saw today suggested that we are drawn to his work because we are drawn to light and colour and beauty – symmetry and organic shapes and a diverse but generally bright palette. Here are a few of the pieces.

But after these photos I took this morning, and after the jump, I also want to briefly consider (and contrast with the work of Chihuly) a painting I saw in another section of the gallery today.

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Continue reading