Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Eye's Cold Quarantine"

...a quote from Ted Hughes'  volume Crow.

I think this quote aptly describes Luca's painting style in the monumental painting.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Laura Secord, William Henry Harrison and Ft. Niagara.

In this panel, Laura Secord is present - she is represented running across the bridge (left). 

William Henry Harrison, who was named commander of the Army of Northwest on September 17, 1812, appears standing in the background right. Fort Niagara is seen in the upper right corner, across the river.


 The five panels are now ready and here is one of them:  the aerial view of the St. Catharines area with a composite of Brock campus and an 1880 map of the same region. Underneath it, an earlier stage of this panel.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Florence Egerter

 Florence Egerter and the Allanburg Women's Institute were strong proponents of a university in the Niagara region. 
Luca has provided me this link, with a photo of the Allanburg Women's Institute from which he drew upon as he included this group in his painting.
I found an article in the St. Catherines' Standard, where an interesting narrative brings together Florence Egerter and General Brock - similar to their proximity in the painting.

In the Thick of the Battle

There are several scenes in the painting that suggest to us a battle field or perhaps last minute preparations & training for a battle: careful aiming & positioning.  In one of the panels, the allied  English and First Nations forces appear. Some pictures of the earlier stages of this group:

The English and The First Nations - details

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Genesis - II

Luca is painting away in his studio at West Marine.

A more recent photo  from his studio & a previous one from this post.

A Rider: John Norton

 Represented on horseback and riding alongside General Brock in the painting is John Norton.
John Norton was born to a Cherookee father and a Scottish mother.
At the battle of Queenston Heights on October 13th, 1812, John Norton and the 300 First Nations warriors he was leading had an important contribution to the victory of the British army.

The Likely Impossibility

"A likely impossibility is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility." (Aristotle).

An equation that might apply to both art & poetry.

Shooting Star

As he prepared for the initial set of sketches, Luca intended to include a representation of Tecumseh, who, as a leader of a confederacy of First Nations tribes had become an ally of Sir Isaac Brock and had sided with Upper Canada's forces in the War of 1812. 

As the painting progressed however, Luca discovered that Tecumseh had never traveled to the region around Brock University and thus the final version of the painting Tecumseh – whose name signifies “Shooting Star” or “Panther Across The Sky”- does not include a rendition of Tecumseh per se
It does however include a symbolic allusion. In a detail, indicated in the left hand corner of the panel above, a First Nations warrior points to the sky where a shooting star floats, almost imperceptible, above the canvas. This First Nations warrior symbolizes Tecumseh’s brother Tenskwatawa, "the Shawnee prophet", a charismatic leader himself, who had helped Tecumseh in his efforts to create the coalition of First Nations tribes. 


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sir Isaac Brock

Apart from the figure that dominates the center of the one of the panels - whom I have referred to as The Blue Rider - there are other riders in this monumental painting.

One of them represents Sir Isaac Brock, for whom Brock University was named.

Born in 1769 in St Peter Port on the Channel Island of Guernsey, Brock had an illustrious military career and took part in battles in  Holland, the Caribbean and the Battle of Copenhague, among others, before he and his regiment, the 49th Foot were transferred to Upper Canada in 1802.

As the war broke out between the United States and Britain on June 18, 1812, Brock was in command of the forces that defended Upper Canada.

In the monumental painting created by Luca, Sir Isaac Brock is represented on horse, riding along John Norton.

In our conversations, Luca, who has painted quite a few portraits in his career, alluded to the conundrum he faced when he began the painting of Sir Isaac Brock. He knew of several  paintings representing Brock but he was not certain which one best represented him. 

Here is Sir Isaac Brock's portrait by Bogdan Luca in the monumental painting:

and an image  of Sir Isaac Brock from Wikipedia:

Credits: Wikipedia.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Artist - Poet Weyman Chan, Governor General Literary Award Finalist

I'd like to thank poet Weyman Chan for accepting to appear as a guest artist on this blog, and to share work from his own artist's studio, in a parallel art-literature.


Weyman Chan (CAN) is a Calgary-based poet whose writings have appeared in many Alberta anthologies over the last 2 decades. He won the Stephan. G Stephansson Award for his first book of poetry, Before a Blue Sky Moon.

He was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award and the Acorn-Plantos People's Poet Award for his second book of poetry, Noise From the Laundry

His new featured book at Wordfest is entitled Hypoderm, a collection of occasional apocalyptic verse. When he is not writing poetry at night, he is an electron microscope technician by day.


I paint my tree
into the wind.
The plot wishes
to release an
exuberant moth.  A citizen of common allegory.
I’m fascinated by ignorance, all its hopes and refusals,
and moving restraints
in starlight:  we’re
ever pushed back
just when we think
we’re near.


A young embittered face passed me by on the snowy walk.
The cold narrowed our frames.  Last year.

We had to time our breaths before we intersected on that narrow pass
so as not to breathe each other’s cloud.

Something about personal space and its visible
effect.  Bitterness.  I realize

I’m still judged somehow by myself through her eyes
clasped back in despair.

Knowledge can’t remedy this nor distance.
Maybe all she and I have is time.  Nothing

I thought is worse than bitterness
that wears its stroke on your face.


Administer the sycophant
to a glossary of sucking noises.

You can shill pink manifestos of
flaccitude, or pluck

money power off the Neruda flower,
that still smells of white guilt, aboriginal

problems among aloof barons.
Nation obfuscates nation.

Maple sugar logjams my throat
when we call representation fair.

Everyone needs an animal spirit
that can stand up in court

before the judge turns into a
cat.  I too would love nothing more than

to trick out these paws
with pounce.  Let the sun lick my nuts.

© 2009-2010 Weyman Chan

On Weyman Chan -->link

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Time and the Place: Niagara Peninsula

The ‘setting’ of this monumental painting is the Niagara Peninsula, in Ontario, Canada.

In its early stages – a set of charcoal sketches – one of the panels included an aerial view of the area around Brock University and a rendition of the Skyway bridge near St. Catherines, among others.

For anyone who has ever driven on the Skyway bridge at 100 km/hr, which is how this crossing happens, even on a day of black ice and heavy snow falls, at the height of a Canadian winter, the boundless serenity of landscape and water, in the constant shifting of winds and in the speed of the movement, is not something that is easily forgotten.

It will be interesting to see how the dual nature of the Niagara Peninsula - its torrential & thundering movement of people and cities (like the waters of the Falls themselves) and the dreamy mists of greenery above its bike lanes and winery paths – will appear in the final painting.

The “time” of this history painting is a continuous timeline that meanders through a collective memory of the Niagara Peninsula: the war 1812 (detail shown above)– whose bicentennial anniversary is approaching –the contemporary times of the first president of Brock University and the ‘here and now’ of the region.

In a future post I will start writing about who’s who in this monumental painting.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Lad With The Knapsack

In the panel noted in the previous post, a few protagonists - soldiers marching on - are rendered with their  backs to the viewers, looking somewhere “ahead” & into the distance, whose contours we barely distinguish, but nevertheless intrigue us. 

A natural reaction might be to get closer the painting to understand where these characters are going and why, as they seem to hold the key to some future events. 

This knowledge confers them a role of an (almost) embodiment of an auctorial voice. Or perhaps, as Luca suggested in our discussions, they symbolize the fact that we may never know how some historic events truly happened and our efforts to explore the past yield new angles and new points of view each time. 

The viewpoints mentioned me wonder whether the lad with the knapsack (above) is not a hidden self-portrait of Luca. 

Is it possible that, in spite of all the efforts of contemporary artists and writers to abolish the ‘narrator’ and the ‘self’  in their creations, fragments of their personalities surface,  hidden and half-banished, in their respective works?

The lad with the knapsack also made me think of two well known self portraits.

The first one belongs to Velasquez, in “Las Meninas”, where Velasquez had painted himself in the left hand corner of the canvas, in the same quadrant where Luca placed his character. 


 The second one is found in the painting called “An Artist’s Studio” by Jan Vermeer, where Vermeer has painted himself with his back to the viewer.


The image of “Las Meninas” is taken from  wikipedia -->link
The image of “Artist’s Studio” by Vermeer is taken from Rudolf Frieling’s article whose own credits indicate:  “Netherlands | 100cm*120cm cm (W*H) | Archive / Collection: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Gemäldegalerie, Vienna”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Blue Rider

Let’s step closer to a section of the painting (above).
This is perhaps the aftermath or the prelude of a battle, perhaps a march, with the British forces in red and the American ones in blue at the time of the War of 1812.

A blue rider fills the middle of the panel – horse and rider, in a sweeping movement, full of energy, looking ahead into the unknown. 

Luca’s brush arrests the nervous prancing of the horse in a pose of steadying calm. 

A blue rider.

I am reminded of Kandinsky’s own blue rider here, and of Kandinsky’s belief that blue awakens in us a desire for the eternal.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


One of the key concepts in Luca’s painting is its organization into vertical panels that are aligned into what is a deliberately orchestrated & imperfect visual transition. The sides of the adjoining panels appear to align to one another and yet they do not align: there is no seamless transition. This visual “glissando” effect that Luca has created reflects the painter’s thoughts that history is a collection of events that are real, but which appear different in our re-enactment of them, as a sequence of ‘voices’ whose meaning we strain to interpret and which may forever be lost.

Luca’s view is that what we call ‘present’ is an experience mediated by our immersion in the digital environment, by the ubiquitous laptop & TV screens, the downpour of images from YouTube and the snippets of information, each one of them contending for our over stretched attention. Contemporary art and the way we look at it is shaped, suggests Luca, by our interaction with the digital world, where something rarely lasts beyond the momentary flicker of a screen.

Luca’s 2010 exhibition Unmoorings was an investigation on “ how we, as embodied consciousness, function in a world of images? How do images work when they appear in the bodies of paintings?” 

 The palette of Unmoorings   was a mix of deep blue, cerulean light blue pink, red, white, undertones of lilac and shades of black. Luca’s choices were based on his study of the RGB scheme, that has yielded a mix of colors whose backlit color tinges provides them with an air of eerie levitation. (Think the colors in  Monet’s water lilies).
This same eerie and floating palette is carried over in his monumental painting.

                                         Painting by Bogdan Luca from Unmoorings, June 2010

Genesis - I

 I visited Bogdan Luca’s studio’s at the end of August 2010. It was a cool evening & a fine drizzle was still sifting above the West Marine compound, where Luca had set up his studio for his newest work of art: a monumental painting. 

The studio, a tall and huge space, lighted ‘a giorno’ by neon lights, appeared gray throughout, a bleak and Spartan enclosure against whose walls five massive panels were leaning.
Scattered on the floor, cans of paint, sketches, brushes, boxes, a ventilator, and in a corner, a chair.

As we began our conversation, a rapid exchange on shifting topics, an understanding of what the painting is began to emerge.  

The five panels Bogdan was working on would eventually merge into one, creating a huge canvas (8’x60’) and which will include, in a symbolic rendition  key events and figures from the history of the Niagara Peninsula, the War of 1812, the first president of Brock University, James Alexander Gibson and an aerial view of the surroundings of Brock University.
But where to start? The details Bogdan was pouring on, with joy, were almost overwhelming. First and foremost I wanted to look at the panels, to take my time and bask in the effulgence of the colors and in the movement of a blue rider and his horse, barreling away into the unknown, at the center of one of the panels.

Yet, as the evening progressed, I discovered there that there was a sense of uniting harmony in the panels, from the blue rider in the panel that Luca had first finished, to the very last panel, where sketches were mostly de rigueur.

As I was getting ready to step out with my notebook already full,  into what was now a pitch dark night by the lake, an image flashed through my mind – the fingers, gently parted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, a painting that depicts a different kind of genesis, yet still an artistic one.