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I'm an arts journalist & PR consultant living and working in Scotland. I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. I write a regular column for Scottish quality newspaper, The Herald. I deliver a PR service with an arty bent and work on a consultancy basis with arts organisations, including Scotland's leading creative industries festival, XpoNorth & broadcast support body, ScreenHI. I am currently co-writing a book about the celebrated Scots artist, George Wyllie, with his daughter Louise. Instrumental in making a celebration of his life's work happen in 2012. For more information, see www.georgewyllie.com When I'm not being a mum/working, I talk to my dog. He laps it up. Contact me on janpatience@me.com (All work © Jan Patience)

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Kim Canale at The Dundas Street Gallery, Sep 26-Oct 2 2009


From time to time artists or gallery owners ask me to write a foreword (tricky word - tends to get called forward a lot) for an exhibition catalogue. I met Kim Canale earlier this year when I dropped into her house/art gallery in Montrose, with my best friend Ruth, who lives nearby.

Kim is warm-hearted and passionate about art, be it her own art or others. She has a real compulsion to share what she finds too and we hit it off right away. Because she is so good at talking up the work of other artists in her role as curator, I wasn't prepared to be so taken with her work, which is quite abstract (though she hates that word!). Strangely enough, the one painting I'd have happily taken home with me that day was one of Kim's, but I didn't know that until we started talking. The painting (right) was eventually bought by Liz Forgan, Chair of the Arts Council, who spotted in a wee gallery in Orkney in the summer. Pah.

Anyway, here's what I wrote about Kim for the catalogue:

We are all products of nature and nurture - a complex alchemy which when pinned down in a piece of art, makes life easier to understand, even if it’s just for a few brief moments.

Although she has delved deep into her own background for this new work, Kim Canale doesn’t like to be labelled. One day, she is organising an exhibition, the next painting and the next taking photographs or making short films. Mention the fact that her new paintings are taking on a more abstract form and she throws up her hands in denial.

“I don’t like the word abstract,” she states categorically. “In fact, I’ve never liked being pigeon-holed. It’s always something I’ve avoided in my life.”

Kim grew up in the douce town of Montrose on the north east coast of Scotland, the daughter of a Scottish mother and a second generation Italian father. The two cultures - one fiery and edgy, the other restrained and measured - have pulled at her throughout her life and now with her parents both dead, she has returned to live in the house in which she grew up.

From this stylishly homely house of memories, which often doubles up as a gallery for her art and design consultancy, Wall Projects, Kim has allowed herself to absorb and reflect on the influences which have gone into shaping her life.

Regular visits to the north of Italy in the last few years have connected with the side of her DNA profile which she has long wondered about, enabling her to develop a new visual language which is highly personal and memorable.

This new found (or should that be reborn) love of all things Italian has seeped memorably into Kim’s new work. In paintings such as Via Ricasoli, Firenze and Puccini’s Lake, Tuscany, it’s almost as if the process of being in Italy and allowing herself to retrace her life has had an almost visceral impact. Memories, influences and colour all explode into life on canvas taking the lifeblood of Florence as a starting point.

Perhaps this is why people respond with such strong emotional force to a Kim Canale painting.

I can only go by what I feel and what other people tell me they feel on seeing a painting, but recently, when I wrote about one of Kim’s projects in The Herald newspaper, a friend who has recently gone through a painful divorce told me that the painting by Kim which was pictured in newspaper ‘made her cry’ when she looked at it.

The painting, titled Ti Amo (I Love You), is an explosion of colour loosely depicting fading flower-heads with a weeping black form invading the scene from the left. I dread to think what reaction my friend would have had to it had she seen it in the flesh.

There is longing, desire and white hot energy running through these paintings. Although Kim makes her marks rapidly, the build-up to the actual act of laying down the paint is long and drawn-out, involving an extended period of mental preparation. She often has several paintings on the go at once and uses all sorts of different mediums to apply paint, from hands to pieces of fabric, to create the end result.

Although she is probably more at home talking up other artists’ work, Kim Canale is clearly coming into her own space as an artist. There has been a seismic shift in her recent work, which is bursting with sentiment but remains free from sentimentally. It’s not wallpaper art and it’s not for the faint-hearted, but it’s real and it’s raw. A big-hearted combination.

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