OMO…. GET READY!

Omo is less than a month away and I’m painting hard to get ready.

Chazz Balkwill, the owner of Artspace Oakville has also been working hard lately marketing the show. Chazz is putting an ad in Slate Mag this month and designing the invitations that will be ready next week. I’ll be sure to send one out to all, but in the meantime please mark the date Aug. 5th on your calendars.

Auction in Toronto

Good morning all!

On Thursday June 23rd I had the privilege of participating in an auction at the Ontario Bar Association in Toronto to help raise money to fight poverty in Africa.

Dave Toycen, president of World Vision Canada spoke about the many programs that have been implemented over the years and about how well we have been contributing to fight poverty, but that we still have a long way to go. He really is a wonderful speaker who gives the impression he is truly committed to the fight.

There were several items up for auction (it was a silent auction by the way) including Leafs tickets, dining gift certificates, autographed photos and of course….art! I’m not sure what the final tally was but every little bit helps, so congratulations to the OBA for organizing this incredible event.

Oh, in case you were wondering I sold one of the four paintings I brought, so at least I got my expenses paid for and now Sheryl Johnson owns ‘Girl in White’, a beautiful painting that was part of the City2Sunrise collection.

Please make note in your calendars that my new exhibition ‘OMO’ will be showing at Artspace Oakville on Aug. 5th. Hope to see you there!!

OMO IS COMING AUG. 5TH

Well, the date is set....OMO is coming August 5th!!!

We hope you all can join us for the opening on August 5th at Artspace in Oakville this summer. For those that can’t make it there will be a second show in Belleville at Gallery Artplus sometime late August/early September. Check back for confirmed dates.

SHOW

I’ve been working hard over the past couple of weeks getting ready for my upcoming show. The new work is, of course, all about my trip to the Omo Valley in Ethiopia.

It’s imperative, for me at least, to capture my adventure while the fires are still burning, so to speak. Usually when composing a new body of work things are fresh and exciting in the beginning but then as time goes by its a struggle to maintain momentum. It’s been a little different with Omo simply because what I saw there has never been captured on canvas and I want to get this out there so everyone can share this unbelievable experience.

Omo has been captured by many a photographer, amateur and professional alike, but to my knowledge has not been truly put down on canvas, save for the odd image here and there. Perhaps I have been the only professional artist to have visited Omo or at least the only one to do a show of it.

This series is different from anything you have seen from me in the past in so far as the paintings are much more aggressive than previous work. My palette has expanded and I am now incorporating more vivid colour into the paintings. Slowly I am growing into this work, taking time to develop new techniques and colour combinations.

Murzi child, 4' x 4', oil on canvas

It looks like the new show at Artspace Gallery in Oakville will be on the August 5th-7th weekend. I will confirm as soon as schedules are nailed down.

Brian Talks About Omo

Gallery Artplus in Belleville has been very kind to me these past couple years. Recently they heard about my foray deep into the Omo Valley in Ethiopia and decided this might be a good time to delve into video. As a result, Dianne and her husband Chris ventured out to the studio to film me talk about my adventure.

Have a look!!

Here are a few more images from the trip.

OMO ETHIOPIA: A Lost World

I recently returned from Ethiopia where I visited one of the most remote places on earth: THE OMO VALLEY. Only three degrees from the equator it was hot, dry, barren and well… inhospitable. Despite all this there are people living there much as they have for centuries.

I was introduced to the tribes of the Omo Valley through a documentary film by Joey Lawrence, a Canadian photographer living in New York. What I saw here created an excitement I hadn’t felt in a while, I was hooked. Before I new it I had booked a flight to Addis Ababa, the capitol of Ethiopia.

A little history: From the early days I was always interested in how people survived, made a way for themselves and their families. Specifically I wondered how they did it under the most dire of circumstances, be it from urban poverty or rural isolation. How do they survive? This fascinated me, but what was even more intriguing were those that lived this way by choice. Such is the way of the people of Omo Valley.

And so I was off, but unfortunately Margie couldn’t join me on this one so I was going solo. My plan was to get in, work and get out. No time for sightseeing, this was going to be all business. My focus was to capture as best I could the tribes people and their culture in order to construct a new series of work. This would be the first time I traveled specifically to gather material for work. I was excited.

I was greeted at the airport by my guide, Daniel Damtew of Glory Ethiopia Travel. http://www.gloryethiopia.com/ Although I was two hours clearing customs and waiting to obtain my travel visa, Daniel was still there at the gate waiting for me. I was relieved, because you never know when arriving in a strange country what you will encounter there. After all, I made all my arrangements over the internet including money transfers and it was always possible that things could have gone terribly wrong.  However,  right from the beginning
Daniel inserted confidence in me  that I had made a good choice.

After taking me to my hotel for the evening Daniel and his team picked me up bright and early the next morning. Daniel, a driver and cook, and myself jumped into the Land Rover and headed south towards Omo, some 800 kms from Addis. The road started off OK but it wasn’t long before things got bumpy and I don’t just mean a few potholes, I mean serious off-roading. The highway was under construction and we were forced to go off-road every few kilometers where we encountered many goats and cattle along the road. Not a cow here and there but rather herds of cattle, often a hundred strong or more blocking our path. This continued for basically the entire trip and after a while you just got used to it.

Without getting into too much detail the trip basically consisted of early breakfast, departure around 8:30am, travel for several hours, arrive in village, work, find lodging, sleep.

Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, many kilometers from the nearest settlement, there are small villages consisting of little more than a few grass-roofed huts. These are home to the Mursi, Karo, Hammer, Borena and Erbore tribes among others. They all have distinctive cultures with traditions unique to each tribe but perhaps the one aspect that is similar to all tribes is the ever presence of Kalashnikov’s. The men carry them everywhere fearful of attack from neighboring factions as there always seems to be ongoing disputes among the tribes.

Lip plates of the Mursi women to body painting of the Karo and scarifications of the Hammer, these people are unique in todays ever-changing world. Mostly untouched by western society save for the odd tourist or photographer they continue to be ambivalent to advancement, content to live a simple life. In many ways I am struck with envy. Perhaps this is why I strive to tell their story.

Currently I am working on a new body of work describing what I saw there on this mind bending adventure that has transformed me both as an artist but also as a person. The new paintings are fresh, exciting and I believe worth a visit. Stay tuned for the dates of my upcoming solo exhibition at Artspace Gallery in Oakville this summer.

City2Sunrise… Down Under Was Over The Top!!

Well folks, City2Sunrise: A Journey Through Asia went down under in November and to all accounts was a smashing success. Margie and I left for Australia on November 4th and after 20 hours in the air and two days later we were greeted at the Sydney airport by my good friend Tom Bender .

The frenzy builds

We spent a few days in Sydney before heading up Australia’s east coast to take in the sights. We flew, drove, scuba dived, trekked and flew some more before heading back to Sydney for the Big Night.

November 25th came quickly and we had work to do. There were paintings to uncrate, tickets to sell, a ballroom to set up, paintings to hang and all this in four hours. Whew! This very special night was being held in the historic Arthouse Hotel in downtown Sydney. The place was magnificent, everything we could have hoped it to be and more.

As the hour drew near the excitement was beginning to build and slowly the room began to fill with strangers. Oh, they new who we were but we had no idea who all these people were that came just to see us. To be sure we were a little overwhelmed. Of course the place wasn’t completely filled with people we had never met, after all the usual suspects were also in attendance, Tom, Mat, Paul, Goeff, Christopher, Vickianne and Geraldine.

The evening began like so many parties do, people milling about making small talk, drinking and munching on snacks being hoisted around by the staff. Before we knew it the moment of truth as they say, was upon us. Unlike most gallery openings where folks simply wander around looking and discussing the work on the walls, this show was going to be a little different…a full on Auction. There was an auctioneer and everything, Cool!! You see, that’s how they do things down there, everything including selling your house is done by auction.

To say the least I was a bit nervous. What if nobody bids? That could be embarrassing. To get things started Mat did a wonderful presentation about the adventure of riding through Asia and then Geraldine said a few words describing how the whole event came to be and how happy and proud everyone at the orphanage was of the City2Sunrise gang. Next Margie got on stage, did I mention there was a stage and everything. Margie spoke from her heart as always and made me proud. No shaky shakes this time. Last but not least yours truly got up and mumbled my way through a couple of minutes on how the art came to be.

Finally the auctioneer stepped up to the microphone and BAM, it was on. I couldn’t believe what was happening before my eyes. One by one the paintings sold, each fetching more than the one before it. People were going crazy trying to outbid one another. Then, in what seemed like a millisecond, all the paintings were sold. To say the least I was relieved, happy and more than anything proud to have been a part of this incredible adventure.

And so comes a close to what has been an amazing adventure for Margie and myself. Together with City2Sunrise we managed to raise over $135,000 for the kids.

You may have noticed the heading for the new blog is Vanishing Worlds: Remembering the Forgotten. Well 2011 is shaping up to be even more exciting. Although C2S will be hard to top, Margie and I are up for the challenge. Already there are plans in the works but you’ll have to stay tuned right here to find out. Wish us luck!!