Seldom do I write cantatory poems, but last Thanksgiving during a week at a Northern lake, my rhythm changed. The poem “Casting Off” feels to me almost like prayer. Out of awareness comes oneness.
When mist hangs thick as cloud blanketing the dark lake in translucent veil magical and mysterious walk the damp path beyond alizarin maples glistening birch-bark and hemlock soaring skyward rough bark breathing moss and fungi shallow roots clinging to ancient bedrock walk out onto the dock feel the quiver of your weight settle breathe wood smoke as the sun bursts through in topaz glow.
Kathryn MacDonald Devour: Art & Lit Canada (page 42)
Before the sun burst through the mist, a fisher-guy broke the quiet and entered the cloaked world:
Previously published in the Intelligencer on: June 6, 2019 | Last Updated: June 6, 2019 10:08 AM EDT
By Kathryn MacDonald
Quinte Arts Council
On a cool afternoon last fall, I met Daniel Fobert at Gallery 121 on Bridge Street East in downtown Belleville, where he was exhibiting two oil paintings.
One of Fobert’s greatest strengths is the narrative in his paintings. In Kensington after the Rain, the foreground is taken up by a man gazing at a cell phone, while two friends look on. Behind them, people go about their daily business beneath colourful awnings. Imagine the story.
In the second painting exhibited at Gallery 121, a colourful nude fills the canvas. Here the oils dance in bright rainbow hues. In Untitled, a portrait of an unnamed woman, we have an example of Fobert’s balanced use of complementary colour.
He tells me that his greatest challenge “is to feel that what I do is relevant in the face of a world where everything is non-representational.”
Abstract expressionism has been a dominant trend in Western art since the 1950s led by artists such as Jackson Pollock. Essentially, it defines non-representation work that strives to show the interior energy of experience rather than the outward image. Fobert adds even “[Jean-Paul] Riopelle returned to representational work after developing his renown in abstract expressionism.”
To compose the scene, Fobert uses photography as a guide to street paintings.
He doesn’t copy them; rather, he says, “I translate the photographed scenes into my composition.”
Daniel’s paintings demonstrate his drawing skill and his strength of composition. He also successfully achieves a sense of atmosphere or mood, a quality that is reminiscent of colourful expressionist artists such as LeRoy Nieman, whose name sports fans are especially likely to recognize for his paintings of athletes and sporting events.
Fobert began painting in high school, which is when he decided to “pursue an art career.” After studying graphic arts at Sheridan College—a wide-ranging program that included such courses as life drawing, print making, and colour theory—Fobert became involved with Toronto-based Screen Art Products.
There he was mentored by the owner, Ira Noble, who had studied with Arthur Lismer of Canada’s famous Group of Seven. Fobert eventually became co-owner of the company with his life-partner Mervin Patey. Among their clients were the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Aga Khan Museum. During this period, Fobert “kept his creative spirit alive” by participating in Artists 25, a non-profit artists’ cooperative in Toronto.
A few years ago, Fobert “came home” to the Quinte region. “Part of my retirement goal is giving back,” he says. He is an active member of Gallery 121, the Baxter Art Centre, and the Quinte Arts Council.
To see more of Daniel Fobert’s work or to be in touch, please visit his website: danielfobert.com. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter as well.
This article about artist Emebet Belete was first published in the “Intelligencer,” Belleville Ontario’s daily newspaper (2018-10-17).
By Kathryn MacDonald
“Creating art is constant reflection: I love finding the perfect colour to express a mood, or to balance a painting so that I can look at it again and again and lose myself in the scene.”
Emebet Belete is a world traveller, a woman who was born in Ethiopia where her career as an artist began and who moved from East Africa through South Africa and Zimbabwe, Eretria and Egypt, Europe and finally to Canada in 1997 where she earned Fine Art and Education degrees from Queen’s University. In 2008, she taught art in Tianjin, China, returning to Canada to settle in Belleville in 2013.
“In school I learned about Ethiopian art. I was fortunate to have a good art teacher. My parents were very supportive and I had a studio in our family’s yard.” Unfortunately, that studio burned down, but it was replaced, and Emebet continued to create art out of the materials she could gather together. These early roots have since branched into collages in which she explores her Canadian context.
Emebet Belete’s philosophy lives in her art. Her intention to seek something mysterious and lasting through colour, mood, and balance draws viewers deep within the work. In “Birch,” our eyes are pulled from the foreground birch, past the evergreen, deep into the depths of the Canadian landscape. This is also true of “By the Door,” a painting in which she captures a doorway into Debre Berhan Selassie, one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful churches.
As with the Canadian scene, we find a story unfolding. Here we see the hot colours of Africa and our eyes are drawn to the partially open doorway to wonder what lies beyond. The white-robed figure looks forward, while we see only his back. We enter with him. We can read the painting in different ways. Perhaps we see the fading frescoes or the ceiling of winged cherubs within the mid-15th century church. Or perhaps, instead of a sanctuary to contemplate, our mind focuses on the dark beyond the open door, on the unknown future. Art expresses a vision of the artist, but it also welcomes viewers with ambiguity, sparking curiosity and enlarging knowing.
“Art is a journey for me. I can see paintings…watercolours I’ve done. They relate to my life, my experience, my background. I like to put things together, to go deeper, to learn who I am.”
I glanced at the table between us. It is covered with work-in-progress and bits of birch bark and paper. “So your life is a collage, like your art?”
“Yes, it is.”
Emebet Belete is preparing for a show at the Modern Fuel Gallery, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, January 2019. It will explore “white space and mood. I’ll use traditional fabric from Ethiopia” combined with music—Seongah and Jimmy by Neil Diamond—“that I listened to again and again and again.”
For more about Emebet’s art, please see her website: Emebet Belete.
Travelling provides a portal between cultures, a bridge between what’s known and what’s unknown.
Travelling makes me foreign; my perspective shifts from that of an insider to that of an outsider.
While I love the adventures and the hikes, exploring historical sites and the art world of the places I visit, it is people that intrigue and engage. One thing that soon became clear, as I wandered the neighbourhoods of Baracoa, is that people don’t shut themselves inside—even when home or at work—they peer out from windows and doors. Often, I was greeted with a dias (abbreviating the more formal buenos días/good morning) or simply hola (hi).
This collection of photos called “Windows & Doors” taken during my March-April 2018 trip to Baracoa focuses on people. Each photograph records a mere moment in time, capturing the liminal space between public and private, between personal and social. Each photograph documents spontaneous, transient moments, none were posed.
Travelling, I become an observer of people’s connections with each other, and at times with people engrossed in their phone, newspaper, or thoughts. Sometimes—especially with the children—there’s awareness of my intrusion. The children, like me, are observers.
Outside Baracoa in the little fishing village of Boca de Miel on a day when the rainforest earned its name, I captured this man who rode quickly down the muddy road. He took refuge under the awning of the park’s booth (entrance to Elemento Natural Destacado Mara-Majayara). I’d taken refuge with my friend “Alber the Hiker” on a cafeteria’s bougainvillea-verandah. (More of this later and about the Oriente’s rainforest where it poured proverbial buckets.)
Also for a future blog: Excursion along the Toa River, seen here through the kitchen window where we enjoyed a visit with Alber’s relatives and a feast.
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I’ve just returned from nearly a month’s stay in the eastern tip of Cuba where I explored nature, history, the unique Baracoa style of art and its many studios, and so much more. It was my third trip to the area and each visit opens doors to new experiences and insights.
Cuba’s eastern tip, known as Oriente, offers
one of the few rain forests in North America (although most of us think of Cuba as Caribbean, and it is that too) where Hurricane Matthew left a path of destruction but didn’t dispel the indomitable spirit of the people;
the tallest waterfall in the Caribbean (the 20th tallest in the world) and many lesser ones with their own special beauty;
a semi-desert in the region of Maisi (say My-see) and the Terraces that step up from the lowlands to the sea with breath-taking twists and views (and for geography buffs, the Maisi lighthouse on the Windward Channel is only 80 kilometres from Haiti);
the Farola Highway, which creates passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, is known as an engineering marvel, not to mention an adventurous ride (and on the south shore where I set off on foot to the site of poet-revolutionary José Marti’s famous landing in 1895, which set off a revolution that aimed to free Cuba of Spain’s rule);
Baracoa — a provincial city with a two-kilometre-plus-long malacon, that brims with art galleries, parks, and the friendliest people you will ever meet. It’s the biggest city in the area and the starting point for numerous day-trips to places like Rio Yumuri, Rio Toa, Rio Miel, each providing its own unique experience and ambience — and Alejandro Humboldt Nation Park, a United Nations designated site to touch on only a few places to enjoy a boat ride or to hike.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting photos and stories; click below to follow my many adventures in one of the most varied and beautiful landscapes in the world (and this is not hyperbole).
Travel memories: Winter in Canada has kept me reading and sketching, hence the book reviews and now this ink and watercolour sketch.
Without travels, I’ve been kept inside reading-like-a-writer (my creative writing muse seems to be on vacation) and sketching. These moccasins, purchased from the Beaver People in northern British Columbia Canada, now have holes in the soles. I still treasure them and the memories of that visit in the 1990s. Here they’re rendered in ink and watercolour.