Portraits of songwriters by a Kronick photographer

Thursday, February 1, 2012

Jamie Kronick
is now a working pro—but for his graduating exhibition at the School of Photographic Arts Ottawa last May, the local music lover created a portrait series capturing inspiring Ottawa songwriters where they work. The shots were accompanied by brief bios. Here we present a selection of the portraits with links to a track for each songwriter.


Adam writes and performs music for solo piano, no-input mixers and VCRs. His most memorable performance was at the Bulgasari Festival in Seoul two years ago, because neither Adam nor the audience knew what to expect. They were all equals. During the day, Adam puts his musical knowledge to use as a music producer for CBC Radio and hosts his own show, Bandwidth.

Listen to "Fire" by Adam Saikaley


Ana started writing poetry when she was thirteen and wrote her first song at the age of sixteen. She owns four guitars, one of which is a 1964 red sunburst Gibson B-25 she calls 'her baby'. Managing her time between Babes4Breasts, a cross-Canada concert tour benefitting breast cancer charities, and working for the Ottawa Folk Festival, Ana has recorded and released three full length albums.

Listen to "The Boat and the Shore " by Ana Miura


Andre isn't particular about where he is when he writes his songs. Whether this happens at his piano or sitting on a couch with one of his five guitars, he writes wherever he feels comfortable. With one full length record released and one unreleased demo in his discography, Andre occasionally feels the pressure of the business side of music. Despite these pressures, he doesn't see an end to his songwriting days anytime soon.

Listen to "Green Eyes" by Andre M Bluteau


Jill writes her songs in her little home office. When stumped, she sits and looks out the window to find bits of inspiration. Jill is knee deep in the writing of her second studio album, splitting her time between her music and working half-time at the Ottawa Mission. At the Ottawa Folk Festival in 2010 Jill had a dream come true when she sang her song 'Wish' with Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo. There are times when the music life can leave Jill feeling overwhelmed, but she maintains that every job has its highs and lows, and with music the highs are pretty fantastic.

Listen to "Come Here Easy" by Jill Zmud


Jim has recorded and released five full length solo albums including his most recent which is a collaboration with The Weakerthans. Jim is known not only for his songwriting, but for his contributions in other groups as a guitarist. Notably in 2009 he toured as a member of the internationally acclaimed group, The Tragically Hip and his guitar is a staple in Kathleen Edwards' band.

Listen to "The Falcon Lake Incident" by Jim Bryson


Jonathan spent his formative years in Ottawa, moved to Montreal for almost a decade, and has since returned to Ottawa, a place he once again calls home. After writing his first song with his sister when he was twelve, Jonathan knew that he would continue making music in some capacity for the rest of his living days. During the day, Jonathan works as a producer at CPAC, the Cable Public Affairs Channel, and by night he is the primary songwriter in both Poorfolk and Winchester Warm.

Listen to "Sky One Room" by Winchester Warm


Matt Ouimet has a day job that many drummers fantasize about: he repairs and builds custom drums at Dave's Drum Shop. Matt has appeared or worked on eighteen released albums with a number of different projects, and has two solo records released under his own name. Along with a plethora of drums Matt owns twelve guitars he's accumulated over the past ten years. His songs are written absolutely anywhere and everywhere, admitting to calling his answering machine to record little bits so the creative moment doesn't pass.

Listen to "Is It Me?" by Matt Ouimet


Sarah writes her songs where she feels most comfortable and calm, on her bed. She has recorded three albums and released two, and she splits her time between being a songwriter, visual artist and a graphic designer, while also as working as a early childhood educator. Sarah has been writing songs for almost two decades thinks that while occasional breaks from music are good and necessary quitting is too final and not an option.

Listen to "Electricity" by Sarah Hallman


Steve was born and raised in the suburbs of Ottawa, has spent time living in both Toronto and Vancouver, and has since returned to life in Ottawa. Steve has been writing songs since he was eighteen, has released two solo records and one with his band Old Crowns. Working more than full-time as a graphic designer, Steve claims his life would be easier without the added stress of music, but admits he won't ever be able to put the guitar down.

Listen to "Old Crowns" by Old Crowns


Can negative space have a positive?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A reading of Gail Bourgeois' Incidental things
by Barbara Cuerden   /  Photos by Gail Bourgeois

We can recall moments of passing our father’s or mother’s or grandfather’s shoes tucked by the front door or left tumbled on balconies or verandas, seeing the imprint of their tracks inside, the places of shiny imprint, traces of lives they have lived and the work they have done, and how, in slipping these on our own small feet, it was not just these particular things that we engaged but a whole world, their world and its deep familial intersection with our own. We can all recall, too, how we may have warily avoided those shoes and the life they stamped on us or others.

— ecopedagogical author, David Jardine

Like the pause in a sentence [ ] Gail Bourgeois’ current work speaks to me of the absence of imprint and of how these absences might be detected and felt through.

Derivatives of nothing, discarded cardboard shoe forms were the base material for Bourgeois Incidental things
installations and drawings on view during November and December in the Research in Art Projects Room, i.e., the living room of Petra Halkes and her partner Rene Price.

So that unbought shoes won’t collapse in on themselves, the forms take the shape of the right kind of empty space, the negative structure of a shoe, or an invisible foot, silently alluding to a missing or ghostly appendage.

Holding spaces for others to live in, produced to occupy an emptiness, when discarded, the shoe forms are estranged even from their function as space-fillers. Like a weightless monument to materialism, the forms are non-entities made deliberately to have a non-life and to be cast aside as trash. There’s tragedy here, as well as commentary, on the intent behind contemporary production of things, a feeling of the unlived, or the pre-lived-in. As an artist/writer I feel increasingly anxious about things made specifically not to be appreciated. As if by participating in a culture of waste, embryonic dead things like shoe forms and Styrofoam cups become the offspring traces of our uncommitted longings.

In contrast to all this emptiness and non-living, Bourgeois had installed lovingly hand-made sculptures derived from the shoe forms as if they have just crept in, silently occupying corners and crannies of a living room for strangers to observe. The forms are re-formed as ghostly invaders, remnants of non-lives, finally granted an audience.

Perhaps my own shoes once held these forms? It feels possible. If installed in a hypoallergenic gallery space or perhaps in an industrial studio, the forms might reference modern de-personalized uniformity of production. In Halkes’ household, however, they become a touch more personalized and the artist’s relationship to the forms over time is a more obvious element in the work.

Additional evidence of the artist’s care in this show were the 39 meticulous and beautifully dense renderings of the same bone-like discards, shards in reddish-brown conte or pencil, very faintly threaded through with an accumulation of lines, like capillaries. Built up in layers, the unloved and overlooked objects in the drawings are seriously considered by the artist from every angle, as if she has gotten to know them by moving around them. As viewers we also are moved through and around the forms in 39 drawn views of them.

Even with all the viewpoints offered, the rendered forms are difficult to know in the absence of a history. Where did they come from, these things? What are they? Did they live, die, and deteriorate into fragments? Devoid of associations, the things become nightmarish and sinister. Meant to be unrecognizable and indistinguishable from one another, the drawings question mechanical reproduction and the meanings of things made deliberately to be overlooked. By drawing objects that are made for nothing and no one, Bourgeois amplifies absence and presence.

Together the installations and drawings offered a bizarre inversion of a place occupied by empty or negative space. Positioned as a pile of discards in one corner and in a grid of 39 intricate drawings, the shoe forms dwelled there, having never gone
anywhere at all.

The Research in Art Project Room

Petra Halkes is well known in Ottawa for her own artwork, her work as a writer and curator, and for the art salon forums she hosts in her home. Most recently, she has begun a group she calls Research in Art and has held various kinds of gatherings and performances centred on contemporary art. With the RIA Projects Room, Halkes extends further by opening her home to artists as a gallery space.

Why am I so delighted? Too often at gallery openings I find myself shuffling around with a glass of wine talking about the weather or whatever, while discussion of the actual work and the intent of the artist is bypassed. The gallery space does not seem like the right venue for the sorts of conversations that can occur in small gatherings in living rooms where funny little insights can erupt. A gallery space can itself be a sort of non-space, like the Styrofoam cup. It does not feel inhabitable. At best it is a space for silent contemplation, somewhat worse than a library.

I’m being glib of course, but the Project Room invites people to be present to the work and to engage conversation pointed towards it—after the Hi howareya’s. Artist Anna Frlan will be featured in the RIA Projects Room in February.


The order and chaos of a place

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jokkmokk I, Sweden, 2009

By Tony Martins  /  Photos by Pedro Isztin

With his wayfaring photographic practice, Ottawa’s Pedro Isztin seeks places to examine in his own back yard and in regions far and wide. Yet the specific settings don’t matter much, ultimately, because essentially Isztin looks everywhere for the same thing, for some subtle assurance that he is making a mark while alive.

His showing of photos called Study of Structure and Form
that opens Friday, January 13 at the School of Photographic Arts Ottawa offers 13 images of natural settings touched to some degree by humanity. In some instances that touch is only Isztin’s. In the photos the photographer is looking for patterns or “messages” as he puts it. Exactly what those message are, he’s not quite able to say.

“I can't really analyze them too much,” Isztin said of the works. “It's important to know the language of nature is extremely vast and simply complex.”

As he approaches the age of 50, Isztin becomes increasingly philosophic about ideas such as life journey—and it shows in his work.

“It feels like we are all wanderers to some extent,” said the photographer. “I think coming to this planet as a baby and leaving whenever it is the ‘right time’ offers some insight into how each of our lives is truly an individual and separate journey.”

Isztin’s traditional methods are important to note. He shoots using colour negatives and uses only natural light. Several of the images in the show date back a few years to a trip to Sweden. One such image, shot in the moody light of the midnight sun, shows a tree with a ring of bright red paint.

“The markings or stains we leave behind while we are visiting this planet came to mind,” Isztin muses. “I shot on intuition knowing that our mother earth is alive and I picked up some interesting messages.”

Referring to another image from the show that depicts a spray-painted boulder, Isztin notes: “I was interested in what the tagging could mean, or not mean, that had transformed that specific form of nature. However, what fascinates me more is that I know how temporal are those two interconnected forms of material energy. That is, nature and we are intertwined … always being born and always dying, transforming.”

Despite such constant transformation, the title of the show reveals Isztin’s desire to somehow understand the order of his surroundings.

“I think order can also mean chaos,” Isztin adds. “Nature destroys itself in many circumstances. It is very creative. That fascinates me or inspires me as well because I know some kind of birth isn't very far away. A birth of consciousness, hopefully.”

Study of Structure and Form
is the fourth installment of SPAO’s year-long Call and Response project on its Red Wall Gallery. Sandra Ridley’s collection of poems entitled Shadow Lines responding to Isztin’s works will be available online and in the gallery during viewing hours.

Vernissage: Friday January 13, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Show on view until February 6, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


For more on Pedro Isztin, visit his web site.

Jokkmokk III, Sweden, 2009

Dechênes I, Canada, 2011

Dechênes III, Canada, 2011

Wakefield, Canada, 2010

Stowe, USA, 2011

Barcelona, Spain, 2011


Abbotsford last winter

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Text and images by Shannon Delmonico

These landscapes reflect the quiet, somber moments I experienced when leaving my hometown of Abbotsford, BC to move to Ottawa in August of 2009. Through unemployment, loneliness and the loss of a loved one, the 12 months that followed were the most significant year of change in my life. Upon returning to Abbotsford last winter, I spent one week photographing places I had sentimental attachments to. I was at one moment elated to be among these familiar places, but also felt a subtle sense of detachment. Life continued in my absence and this once well-known environment had become distant to me. While I knew that these places were forever changed, the opportunity to rediscover them with new eyes granted me a renewed appreciation for the beauty of my former surroundings.

Shannon Delmonico, 25, is a second-year student at the School of Photographic Arts Ottawa.





Whispers of oh-so-delicate death

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cindy Stelmackowich, Eye Wreath (detail), human hair, wire, glass beads, hand-painted glass taxidermy eyes, 2011. (Photo: C. Stelmackowich)

By Tony Martins

Though famous for their sexual repression, the Victorians were strikingly comfortable with matters surrounding death. Bodies of the deceased, for instance, often remained at home in their deathbeds for days and were frequently photographed in family portraits.

Unheard of today, such practices make the Victorian era of key interest to contemporary artist Cindy Stelmackowich, whose ongoing exhibition Dearly Departed
is nestled snugly in the suitably historic chambers at the Bytown Museum until January 8. (The museum’s home is Ottawa's oldest stone building, constructed in 1827).

Delving into the delicacy of death as once conceived, Dearly Departed
is the fruit of an artist residency that Stelmackowich completed at the museum in February and March of this year—the first collections-based art-in-residency ever offered there. The exhibition is a blending of the museum’s artifacts that Stemackowich studied “set in dialogue with my various contemporary artworks,” explained the artist.

Stelmackowich was inspired in particular by the Victorian grieving and funerary rituals as well as the imagery and aesthetics that were strongly influenced by Queen Victoria when she went into deep mourning from 1861 until her death in 1901.


Walery, Queen Victoria, c.1887-89, carbon print. Bytown Museum, P240. (Photo: James Hare)


“After the residency, I started collecting Victorian artifacts that were of interest to me—mourning lace and fabrics, 19th Century frames, hair jewelery,” Stelmackowich said. “I was even able to eventually acquire a Victorian hair wreath for my own collection. This past summer I incorporated many of these materials into new sculptural artworks and digital collages.”


While the project proved to be research-intensive, Stelmackowich was more than happy to roll up her sleeves to investigate what she called “research obsessions” even when details on objects such as hair wreaths were hard to come by.

“Perhaps because they were a ‘craft’ practice—done in the home by women and girls—the canon of art history has traditionally ignored these types of art,” reasoned Stelmackowich. “The fact that they included human hair, and that some were connected to the dead, also might have made them something historians wanted to ignore.”

These same factors, however, were motivating for the artist, who “found them endlessly fascinating, intriguing, and totally fetishistic,” she said.

Cindy Stelmackowich, For Thee, Margaret: The Dearly Departed, ultrachromium print, 2011. (Photo: C. Stelmackowich)

Hair is literally threaded throughout the exhibition. Hair jewelery and hair items were made as tokens of love and endearment during the Victorian period.

“They believed that hair was the most personal, individualized, and sensuous item one could give as a keepsake,” explained Stelmackowich. “Today, hair that is no longer on the human body is associated with the abject, the creepy, the macabre.”

On the subject of hair and much more, the project revealed to Stelmackowich the vast differences between Victorian and contemporary approaches to death.

“It became obvious to me that the Victorians embraced death as part of life,” she said. “Today I find people grapple with how to mourn and how to deal with loss. The Victorians seemed to embrace the sensuality of mourning, they saw the various rituals as sites of pleasure and creativity.”

Cindy Stelmackowich, Hair Crown Suite, 2011, synthetic hair, metal, glass, lace, light fixture, 2011. (Photo: James Hare)


For Stelmackowich, the exhibition aims to probe questions “about memory, loss, and what the various cultural responses have been to death and dying—but also how cultural ideas related to the body and its materiality have changed so drastically.”

Stelmackowich will dig deeper into these topics when she gives a talk at the museum on Saturday, November 19 at 2 p.m. The talk will allow her to discuss “the cultural responses to the art and rituals of mourning, both in the Victorian period as well as today,” Stelmackowich said.

Dearly Departed was curated by Acting Curator at the Bytown Museum, Judith Parker.

“We were in constant dialogue about the themes of the exhibition,” explained Stelmackowich. “Judith did frequent studio visits, and we collaborated on the installation of the exhibition.”

Parker will deliver a curator’s talk on Sunday, November 6 at 2 p.m., presented in English with bilingual discussion.

Maker unknown, Memorial cloth of Wilhelmina Ross
, c.1814, rough wove linen and black ink. Bytown Museum, R477. (Photo: James Hare)



Radjenovic's newly knitted reality

Monday, October 17, 2011



Text and images by Barbara Cuerden