Author Archives: pnwartist Curator

Noah Becker

Noah Becker interview with Leah Taylor, Research Assistant with the Williams Oral Art History Project on Tuesday November 2, 2010 at the studio of Noah Becker in Victoria BC.

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“I don’t think my work has changed so much in the way I think about painting. I think the way I think about painting is the same, I’ve just, instead of having a heavy kind of Francis Bacon post impressionist sort of thing happening, I’ve gone more towards artists like Hieronymus Bosch and Chagall and their painting methods are not, they don’t have as much to do as abstract impressionism and post impressionism and that kinds of things as say like, Francis Bacon would or I was even into Degas in that era, I’m into like, I’ve been interested in different modes of expression. I’ve taken on different stylistic changes to support my interests, because there are certain images that you can’t paint with certain techniques, so you kind of have to change your technique to fit the image you are doing. But I am sort of starting to revert now back to something closer to like a Brushier approach, but then like apply it to some of my more recent stylistic interests.”  -Noah Becker

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“There is a certain amount of a viewer looking at art where they feel like they are the voyeur looking in on something they shouldn’t be looking in, or wouldn’t normally be looking in upon.”  -Noah Becker

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LT: “A lot of people have a fictitious idea of who they are anyway, right.”

NB: “But I mean if I had like portrayed myself with a tan, totally white teeth maybe the painting wouldn’t have appealed to Michael Williams and he wouldn’t have bought the painting if it had a different kind of depiction. I think he had certain taste, and the other thing is that depending on how far you push it, a painting can transcend its original objective, so if you say you want to do a self portrait you can push it to the point where it just becomes more of a painting than even like an interaction between the artist and their image, but I was also into like looking in mirrors and doing self portraits in a mirror.”

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LT: “This is kind of switching gears a little bit, but does locality play a part in your work? Does specifically painting in Victoria, being from here, do you find that that plays a role….”

NB: “It places it more within the Canadian, not necessarily the Canadian arts, places it with the Canadian art scene, although a lot of the shows that I have been doing in New York lately its still, you still are placed as being part of Canadian art. But you are also very remote in Victoria, you are more far away from the mainland and far away from anything that is happening on the east coast usually it all kind of ends at Vancouver. It’s kind of like a long ferry ride out here, and then you have to drive and by the time you get out here it’s like trying to see something cultural usually the cultural things that happen out here are very local in their way, like paintings of wildlife or aboriginal work by local artists, because it’s a tourist town there are a lot of knick knacks, there are a lot of commercial reproduction of aboriginal work here.”

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Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis interview with Katie Lemon, UVic student in the Williams Seminar on Monday, October 26, 2009.

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“Well, I wasn’t a close friend of Michael’s. I did live in Chinatown during the time that sort of Swan’s started and was part of that, what was sort of called the ‘Chinatown Artists.’ Michael was very supportive of artists so you got to know him that way and in those days, if you were spending some time in the pub you got to know him because he was always a greeter there.”  -Michael Lewis

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“These are the kind of things that happen when I paint for myself. I don’t know what I’m doing generally. I mean I have an idea of what I’m going to paint but the painting always turns out to be something else that I didn’t overtly understand when I started and the painting always teaches me something about myself.”  -Michael Lewis

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“Every human life has something to offer and that’s a huge amount of treasure that you’re discarding. The gleaner says oh that pop bottle you just threw out, that’s a few cents to me. Well, so are people. But we haven’t got that idea yet. And I think that’s what would make things better. If we could make that paradigm shift in this society and say, every human life has something to offer. How do we go about recapturing that? That’s my rant.”  -Michael Lewis

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KL: “In your work as an artist has there been anyone else who has really influenced you?”

ML: “Oh, a lot of people. I mean as far as art goes. Big time influences from the 30s. American Social Realists like Thomas Hart Benton, William Gropper, Ben Shahn—those kind of people and at the same time, there were the German Expressionists like George Grosz, Otto Dix—people who were painting about the social situation in Germany which was pre-Hitler; this is pre-Nazis. But it’s right after the First World War so Weimar Republic time—a lot of people come back from the war as damaged souls. Yeah, there was a lot of social painting during that time, particularly in those two areas that influenced me. And then if you go on to that, if you go further, then I am heavily influenced by the Sunday Funnies which is (laughter) something I grew up with. That was my major entertainment: radio and the Sunday Funnies—The L.A. Times and they had huge pages of Prince Valiant and Dick Tracy and those were my first visual images. Those were the first things that held me as a child and excited m about a world of color and image so they still live very strong in what I do.”

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Ken Flett

Ken Flett interview with UVic students in the Fall, 2009 Williams seminar.

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“Collecting art can be objective.  It can be like gambling; it can be a game.  It’s interesting just to discover the artist behind the work and to just fit all the pieces together it’s like a big puzzle and to see all that work over the years.  At least, that’s—I don’t collect art per se but at least that’s what I think and I think Mike enjoyed meeting and discovering and seeing where people went.  And he always said at the beginning that the work was going to be donated to UVic.”  -Ken Flett

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“The camera is just a way of recording the moment I guess.”  -Ken Flett

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“I always thought my work is about caring.  I mean I don’t want to sound sappy, but it’s just recognizing those that aren’t recognized.  I mean there are millions.  But in each of us there’s something.  I don’t know how to—it’s just about seeing other people as human and just caring enough to just strip away all of these thoughts on wealth and finance and money and what you do and who you are.”  -Ken Flett

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“It’s like my paintings are like buildings, I mean you could build a house with them sometimes.  Everything I put in has a strength to it.  Whether it’s a tiny little piece of fabric I found and stitched on, it all has some life to it.  I’m just building an icon of some sort I suppose.”  -Ken Flett

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John Livingston

John Livingston interview with Dr. Carolyn Butler-Palmer and Gareth Clayton, Research Assistant with the Williams Oral Art History Project on Thursday, November 20, 2011 at Swan’s Pub, Victoria.

“Well then,” he said, “look John, you know all the contemporary North West Native artists.” He said, “I know all the non-natives, through people like Fran Willis and people like that, I got paintings from hundreds of different artists I have been pursuing,  I don’t know the contemporary guys like you do.  I would like you to represent me and work with me as an art consultant or an agent on my behalf to acquire pieces for my collection” said Michael.”  -John Livingston

JL: “Anyway, Michael sort of…that’s how he sort of prayed, but he was always–his eyes and his ears were always open, what’s going on and what’s going on in art in Victoria and so when the family did this he was like all over this.  And I think he was a fan of Trudeau’s anyway.  I think he voted for him.”

CBP: “Trudeau was a big guy at that time…”

JL: “So anyways he scooped this up, not only that he bought the line drawing, the graphite art drawing, charcoal sketch.  So and you know that’s small money, I bet you he paid less for the painting than the government did for the painting.”

“Tony and I had always said if we had run our Raven Gallery in Vancouver for 20 years, we’d be multimillionaires.  Because we were first, there was nothing, there was junk shops, there was…you couldn’t sell a mask in Vancouver.  In 1968 you rarely saw a mask for sale in Vancouver, it was all wall plaques and s*** like that.  Tourist stuff.  -John Livingston

“No tourists don’t walk up the hill and go to the potlache in Alert Bay, there’s no tourists in Alert Bay.  But Michael was thrilled to go and it brought a lot of stuff alive to him, he went and sat up on the very top by himself.  I said “Michael, we’re gonna be really busy.”  I think this was Maxine’s father’s memorial potlache for her mother if I’m not mistaken. It was directly connected to us. So there was no issues with us inviting him, he was our guest at this potlache, because it was our thing.”  -John Livingston

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Eric Metcalfe

Eric Metcalfe interview with DJ Fraser, Research Assistant with the Williams Oral Art History Project on Thursday, January 24, 2013.  Interview transcribed by DJ Fraser.

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“You wanna go for it, and take it, so I went for it.  And that’s how I got in. So it took some maneuvering and this and that, that’s what you gotta do in the art world, a bit of this and that, I was determined.”  -Eric Metcalfe

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“I met Max in 1964, maybe mid-64. And he said, “I want you to come out every Saturday, bring your sketchbook and your paints and we’ll talk about what you’re doing.”  I’d spend the morning with him, get up there at about 9:30-10:00 and we’d go until noon and he’d have a glass of scotch midday and then I would leave probably around 12:30 and carry on with my day. He’d say, “come back next week”, give me a book to read or look at, “look at this, think about this”, really tremendous mentoring, he was so generous to me in doing that.”  -Eric Metcalfe

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“Dana was really the thing. He encouraged Kate and I to pursue this and leave Victoria. Once he saw my artwork, what I was doing he said, “I like what you’re doing, I like your art.  But I’ll tell you what the real artwork is, it’s the comic strips.”  He said, “that’s the real stuff.  That’s what you do best.”  I said, I think I’ll call myself Dr. Brute, he said, “What a great idea.” And that was the beginning of Dr. Brute, in Victoria.”  -Eric Metcalfe

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“So you can see that I’m still making art, I haven’t stopped…what I tell my students is that it takes years to find your form, find out what you do best. This was a very liberating thing for me to suddenly be able to step into Dr. Brute’s shoes and adopt leopardskin as the totem. I’d been reading Claude Levi-Strauss at this time and was trying to find the West Coast identity thing and all that. Everybody was doing something alternate. And so I thought, here’s Dr. Brute, his MO is going to be different from just being another painter. I can be a performance artist and do videotape and all the rest of it.”  -Eric Metcalfe

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