Thursday, September 9, 2010

Retrospective on JC Heywood, A Life in Layers, FAB Gallery, until Sept 25, 2010*

An extensive retrospective on one of Canada's most respected printmakers, Carl Heywood, opens the season for the University of Alberta's Fine Arts Building Gallery, where he has worked with students and faculty alike over the course of 40 years.

Organized by the Burnaby Art Gallery, A Life in Layers chronicles Heywood's artistic practice and life, from growing up in Ontario to moving to Paris to work at the infamous Atelier 17 with SW Hayter, studying and living in Germany to Japan, and his devotion to the multifaceted possibilities of printmaking.

Heywood's works are recognizable at first instance, with a bold use of colour that can only be summed up as painterly. A chameleon in artistic range within the faithful folds of print, Heywood's career is one that changes, evolves and grows with a mind that is both knowledgeable and curious.
Heywood is a print artist where the hand is still very much present, as best exemplified in his series of working with oil stick on mylar. Working across styles mastered from dry point to giclée, lithography, chine collé to even experiments in 3-D media, the illustrative side reveals itself, often through the brilliance of bold colours.

The UV screen prints are spectacular in person, where the layering of patterns and colours and techniques are not just blended, but are discrete zones of detail coexisting together in harmony. There is a finesse to their presence that no reproduction can conjure, filled with the subtlety and intricacies of tonal variations.

Image credit: J.C. Heywood, "Carpe Diem II" 2002

As the first major retrospective of Heywood's works, the original exhibition at Burnaby featured 76 of Heywood's pieces spanning over 40 years of pushing the techniques and processes of the never-ending curiosities of printmaking. With a wide and varied practice from his realistic still-life prints that modernized the Old Dutch Masters, to his collage mentality most noted in his suite to Kurt Schwitters, to the influence German or Japanese techniques had on him, the one clear line through the endless maze of Heywood is his respect and integration of the knowledge he has sought and his integration into a voice that is uniquely his own. There is a dynamic energy to his works that does not shy from his points of inspiration, whether it is Manet or Picasso, and he has a voice that holds true, as evident with the passing of time.

Accompanied by a handsome catalogue edited by curator Geraldine Davis, the show becomes illuminated with personal interviews, essays and full-colour reproductions of some of the key works throughout Heywood's lifetime.

*First published in Vue Weekly

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