Jan 5, 2012

Where the ice meets the brush

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Mark Ruddy's Pond Hockey Painting
Mark Ruddy of Concord was commissioned to make a painting of last year's 1883 Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament. His image, "The Spirit of Hobey Baker," is being sold as prints and posters to raise money for this year's tournament, which starts Friday, January 27, 2012.

Artist creates painting for Black Ice tourney

In Mark Ruddy's painting "The Spirit of Hobey Baker," the hockey players are in the background while the young spectators in their brightly colored snowsuits and hats get center stage.

"I wanted to capture the feeling of the whole festival," said Ruddy, unrolling one of the poster prints being sold to raise money for the second annual Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament.

But talking to Ruddy it's easy to see that those children with their hockey sticks and skates have a personal significance too.

Ruddy discovered his two great passions - hockey and art - at an early age. He learned the sport on the pond at White Park before Concord even had an indoor rink, and when he wasn't in school that's usually where he could be found.

"I spent my whole childhood over at the park," said Ruddy, whose open face seems to retain traces of that boy. "I was there pretty much every day of my childhood."

As his love for hockey developed, so did Ruddy's artistic talent. Evenings found him sketching his favorite hockey players, or scenes from his daily surroundings.

Like many people, though, Ruddy eventually had to choose between his passions. He majored in art at the University of New Hampshire, and after graduation he left Concord - and hockey - behind. "I realized if I wanted to make it as an artist I had to move to New York or someplace," he said.

After a few years as a freelance illustrator, when he also got married and had a son, Ruddy carved out a successful career painting murals in people's homes. He lived in the Hamptons for 20 years, until family matters drew him back to his childhood home.

When his aging father fell and broke his back while trying to fix a leak in the roof seven years ago, Ruddy and his wife, Kathy, rushed to Concord to care for him. For two years, Ruddy made the grueling weekly commute between New York and Concord, while his wife began to put down roots here, volunteering as a substitute teacher in the Concord School District. After his father passed away, Ruddy's wife persuaded him to stay here.

They now live in the same home where Ruddy grew up, surrounded by Ruddy's paintings, his father's woodwork, and

treasured pieces of art by his grandmother and mother, who both discovered their artistic talent late in life and both died young.

Here in Concord, Ruddy has sustained his art career, teaching art at NHTI and maintaining a few clients in New York during the summer months. He also continues to paint and exhibit: He just wrapped up a show at the Thanassi Gallery in Provincetown, Mass.

Here, Ruddy has also rediscovered his love for hockey. He plays in an indoor men's league, and when the inaugural Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament came to his beloved park last year, he immediately became involved.

"It was such a thrill because I grew up here playing hockey," Ruddy said. "And the big thrill was getting to play against the governor."

After last year's tournament, one of the organizers approached Ruddy about doing a painting that could be used as a fundraiser for this year's event, which will take place Jan. 27-29. Working from dozens of photographs his wife took at the tournament, Ruddy produced a 48-by-28-inch, oil-on-canvas painting that he hopes captures the essence of that festive day. Posters of the print are on sale now at Rowland's Studio and the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce for $25 apiece, and larger prints that are truer in color to the original can be purchased for $225. The original is also for sale for $4,000 (for purchasing details, visit blackicepondhockey.com).

Ruddy also donated a giant polar bear sculpture he had made for a display in New York to serve as the tournament mascot. Now outfitted with a hockey shirt, gloves and stick, the 8-foot bear will be making the rounds to local bars where the new Black Ice Ale is now on tap.



Iran holds painting biennial exhibition

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Iran's 8th national painting biennial

 Iran has held its 8th National Painting Biennial exhibition, showcasing works by more than 250 artists in the capital city of Tehran, Press TV reports.

Organizers of the event have chosen the 'Herat School of Art' as the main theme of the biennial in an attempt to encourage painters to study this part of the Persian art history.

“One of the highlights of the biennial this year is to reveal the Herat school of painting,” artist Kioumars Qourchian told Press TV.

“Young Iranian artists can mix hundreds of years of artistic experience with modern skills and create masterpieces,” he added.

The Herat school is a 15th-century style of miniature painting that flourished in the Persian city of Herat, now in western Afghanistan.

Shah Rokh the son of Timur founded the school, but it was Shah Rokh's son, Baysunqur Mirza, who developed the Herat school into an important center of painting.

The eighth Iranian National Biennial of Painting kicked off on December 29, 2011 and will run until January 28, 2012. 



Artist puts his best foot forward

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Douglas Fales at 82 is still a student of life and a believer in painting 'what should be remembered'

Douglas Fales came to my attention with his response to my review of the Quebec Triennial, an event at the Musée d'art contemporain full of art designed more to provoke the mind than the eye.

"I see no reason for your coverage of the loony sector of artists," he wrote, "who bind one foot in cloth and shoe-print the other to be hung as art." He was referring to François Morelli, who turned strolls with cloths wrapped around his feet into investigations of the poetic possibilities of the act of walking, and hung the cloths as flags.

Fortunately, the art world is big enough for anyone who wants to be part of it, including both those artists whose investigations into the ordinary expand our minds, and those who revel in the beauty of the physical world.

Fales, who is 82, describes himself as a "man with a 19th-century frame of mind," and titles like By a Murmuring Stream confirm it. He has made thousands of pastels and oil paintings - 8,142 since he started keeping a log in 1976, including 47 last year. The only change over the years is his brushwork: "It's getting looser, and I like that," he said in an interview in his studio/apartment.

If Fales doesn't seem open to new trends in art, he is certainly open to everything else. For instance, he has immersed himself in the culture of India. "The first time I heard live Indian music, I felt a flame in my chest that spread through my body," he said. "There was an instant rapport: 'It's my music.' "

He met Ravi Shankar and bought a sitar from the maker of Shankar's instrument, teaching himself to play it. When he met his future wife, Maria Maniate, a student at the École des beaux-arts in the 1940s, he told her that her mystic figures reminded him of paintings from the Ajanta Caves in India.

Fales had his first exhibition in 1943, at the Millette photo studio in Verdun, where he grew up. That was also the year he began a fouryear apprenticeship in the Bishop St. studio of Adam Sherriff Scott, who was making recruitment posters for Ottawa. That led to a job as a junior artist at Morgan's department store, where he created newspaper ads until 1964, when Marina Greciano hired him to be Ogilvy's senior artist. " 'Your men (in the fashion ads) are so beautiful,' " she told him.

"Three deadlines per day and I never missed one in 40 years," he said. "A superb discipline that demanded great skill in brush and ink renderings."

And always a student: bodybuilding and training for Highland games helped him learn anatomy and body mechanics.

In building a fine-arts career, Fales studied the Old Masters. He showed at Max Stern's old Dominion Gallery and is now represented by the West End Gallery on Greene Ave.

His favourite artists belong to The Hague School of realist painters in the second half of the 19th century, when landscape came into its own as a subject. He learned how Van Gogh, who shared some of The Hague group's influences, including Jean-François Millet, achieved luminosity by combining opposites like purple and yellow and varying the intensity of their tones over the canvas.
"I like diffused colours," he said. "I tend to make brightly lit canvases, but with the vivid tones broken into smaller areas to create contrast." Those bright canvases often depict blue skies, but Fales is quite capable of creating beautifully atmospheric, backlit scenes.

His main subject is ships, and they are always particular ships. On the back of a 2010 painting: "Sir Lancelot, 1805, 197 feet, 886 tons, clipper."

Another subject is North American aboriginals. He does portraits from vintage photographs, some by Edward Curtis. Installed together as a wall of images in a gallery of contemporary art, the portraits might have the sombre impact of Gerhard Richter's 48 Portraits of businessmen.

"I paint what should be remembered. ... Everything of the past that functions, I revere," he said, picking up a pocket watch from a table and showing me a bare wrist: "No wristwatch."

Over the years, he has given away 800 works to fundraisers, friends and people he admires. The Age of Sail Heritage Centre in Port Greville, near Parrsboro, N.S., will take 56 ship paintings. His offer of portraits mailed several years ago to news anchor Mutsumi Takahashi was returned unopened, but two pastel paintings are still waiting for her.

"I like the idea of sharing," he said. "I paint for the viewer, not to have it around me."



Artists share visions of Italian landscape

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A scene of Tuscany by Verna Friedman is among the “en plein air’’ works to be discussed tonight in Marlborough. 
A scene of Tuscany by Verna Friedman is among the “en plein air’’ works to be discussed tonight in Marlborough.

Verna Friedman of Marlborough had long considered herself a seasoned artist, but nearly all of her experience involved working in a studio.

So when the opportunity arose last spring to get a taste of “en plein air’’ painting, following the European Impressionist tradition of setting up easel and palette and painting amid a beautiful landscape, Friedman seized the opportunity. After all, this wasn’t just any spot she was being given the opportunity to paint - it was the rolling hills of Tuscany in June.
Friedman was one of 12 local artists, all members of the Concord Art Association, who accompanied instructor Ilana Manolson to the Italian countryside.
Their base for the eight-day experience was Tenuta di Spannocchia, a retreat center for writers and artists of all types.
Not only is the scenery surrounding Tenuta di Spannocchia magnificent, the center also teaches and inspires its visitors by working on a self-sustainable model.
“The staff at the estate grows everything they serve,’’ Friedman explained. “They grow grapes for wine, olives for olive oil, pigs for meat. It’s all organic. And along with maintaining a self-sufficient community, they are also trying to preserve a way of life that existed from Tuscan times, and provide this authentic experience for artists and writers. That’s why we’re calling our exhibit ‘Green Tuscany.’ ’’
Some of the 12 artists who participated had done this kind of work before; for Friedman, both the venue and the technique were new.
“When you’re painting outdoors, you have to deal with the elements,’’ she said. “It requires you to look closely and try to pick out things in the landscape that the casual observer might not see.
“But along with depicting the colors and shapes, we were trying to capture the Tuscan landscapes, to communicate a vital sense of place,’’ she said.
“We’d have a morning session of painting in which we were each outside somewhere by ourselves and Ilana would visit us individually and give us pointers. We’d gather for lunch, paint all afternoon, and then at six o’clock each day we’d gather for a critique and to talk about our work. It was an intensive and very productive experience.’’
As soon as they returned, the artists began collaborating on an exhibition to reflect their week of immersion in Italian painting. They did a small show at the Concord Art Association, but a better representation of their labors is now on exhibit at the Post Road Art Center in Marlborough.