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Tiny moments

A blood-red abstraction from Paul Boultbee’s latest installation at the Harris-Warke Gallery in Red Deer is linked to an article about art and war.

The related text that originally ran in the Globe and Mail on Nov. 10, 2012, states there’s no reason art should only depict decorative subject matter, such as Renoir’s boating party or Manet’s picnickers on the grass: the ugliness of war can be as suitable as anything else.

Boultbee’s exhibit in the gallery upstairs at Sunworks on Ross Street takes this idea a step further by suggesting that pretty much anything in life can be associated with art.

In his Tiny Moments display, Boultbee has hung one year’s worth of calendars — from September 2012 to August 2013. Each day on his 12 large calendars is made up of four-inch-square abstract artwork created by Boultbee.

And each of these 365 small works has been paired with text from a daily newspaper — “something that would make me stop, chuckle, gasp or ponder,” said Boultbee.

The Red Deer artist first began painting and collage-ing on the small mat-board squares while attending an art residency in Ontario in 2012. Boultbee recalled he didn’t want to have to ship large artworks back to Alberta, so he worked small.

After a while, his tiny artworks began to intrigue him, as each suggested a different mood or thought process.

After discussions with his wife, fellow artist Glynis Wilson Boultbee, he decided to use the abstract pieces as daily visual entries on a year of calendars. The paintings are displayed as a “Book of Days.”

Boultbee found text by going through a newspaper until he was struck by a comment or paragraph that appeared in an article, column or letter to the editor. Sometimes the words were comic, sometimes bizarre, appalling or thought-provoking, he said. Boultbee then picked an art square that seemed to go best with the sentiment of the article.

If he had painted something that was directly inspired by text, he believes the artistic result would have been too literal. “Too literal doesn’t work for me. There has to be something intuitive about it.”

Sometimes the link between his visuals and text is fairly obvious, as in the Nov. 10 article about art and war. At other times, viewers will have a harder time seeing a co-relation.

But Boultbee feels that’s OK — while this exhibit deals with societal happenings, art is always, to some extent, personal.

The text for July 11, 2013, for instance, is a quotation from an Abercrombie and Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries, who admitted the retailer goes after only cool, good-looking kids as customers. “Are we exclusionary? Absolutely,” said Jeffries.

Boultbee was struck by the “wrongness” of that sentiment, so he paired the article with a simple art square consisting of one line of green masking tape on a blue background. “It’s off-centre, the colours are wrong, it’s square ... the whole thing is wrong,” he admitted.

Boultbee saw the logic of pairing a blob of veined white paint that resembles a brain with a Nov. 2, 2012, statement by Yoko Ono that defines the perfect partnership as when two people “push each other outside their comfort zones ... to the next phase in the creative and personal.”

His pairing for July 29, 2013, is somewhat less nebulous. The words “If pot does disconnect you from the world, one would assume Conservatives have been smoking it for years” come from a letter to the editor. The accompanying collage is made with a Chinese fortune cookie prediction that states: “The current year will bring you much happiness.” A cheerful duckie is stamped onto it.

Boultbee doesn’t mind if some viewers only appreciate his art designs and don’t connect them to any of the texts, which are presented in separate booklets. “People will take away different things from (the exhibit),” he said.

Astute viewers will come to realize that art can correspond to moods, ideas or really anything at all. “It can come from a sense of how you look at the world. ...

“This is a year of art in my life,” said Boultbee, who hopes his display inspires people to think more artistically about their own lives — even if it’s just noticing the artistic lines of a chair in their homes.

The show runs until Feb. 15. A reception will be held on Friday, Feb. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. as part of Red Deer’s First Fridays.



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