Historical black holes


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For the 150th Anniversary of Canada’s union into a single Nation (1867-2017) the Department of Heritage has sponsored a televised serial presented by the CBC entitled the Story of Us.  It’s been a disaster from the get go, a producer was hired to produce these televised shows on what is suppose to be our National history and many scholars were consulted. The biggest problem of the entire series is the omissions of many very foundational moments in the history of Canada. The producer decided to start the story in 1608 with the founding of the City of Quebec, then it jumps to the Seven Years War and the battle of the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City in 1759.

Right away the screaming started not only from the public but from Provincial Governments who felt slighted by the omissions. The Story of Canada really starts for the French settlers in 1534 with the arrival of Jacques Cartier in the Gaspé Peninsula. The settlements of Louisbourg and Isle Royale, today’s Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and the Deportation of the Acadiens known as le grand dérangement 1755-1764 are completely missing and not mentioned. Given that these events by modern standard can be seen as British war crimes and crimes against humanity and help explain how the British came to control North America and much of the social tensions which exist to this day in Canada, it is rather strange that the CBC and the Office of the Minister Mélanie Joly gave the go ahead speaks of the lack of historical education of Ms Joly and the usual nonchalance of the CBC in such matters.

The same then happens for the period 1765 to 1864, one hundred years of history which shaped events that led to the Conference of Charlottetown in 1864 is cut out of the narrative. The CBC explained that they had to make choices and preferred to concentrate on what can only be described as Pop History. Given the lack of knowledge of our National History by the majority of Canadians, this if very unfortunate but illustrates a greater problem which is the little value placed on education in general by institutions like the CBC and our Federal Government. A cynic might say that the politicians try to control the official narrative too closely to suit their own purposes.








Art in the XXth Century

I work as a volunteer at the Art gallery of the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown. I have previously also worked at the National Gallery in Ottawa. Showing art to people and speaking to them about the art works on display is very interesting thing to do. But I have always said that Art only matters if people take an interest in it. The public can come to love an Art work by understanding it, even if it is difficult to approach at first. I see artist like Peter Laszlo Peri,(1899-1967) as artists who made art approachable and more accessible with his idea of having it in public for all to see.

Peter Laszlo Peri, the émigré artist, lived a most extraordinary life. By his death in 1967, he had left an innovative body of work that was characterised by the social awareness of his life and the spirit of the post-war years. Peri’s most famous work, The Sunbathers, created for the Festival of Britain in 1951 […]

via ‘It’s the people who matter’: The Post-War Public Art of Peter Laszlo Peri — Heritage Calling

Lunedi Lunacy

Those two Puppets are so funny.

Willy Or Won't He

aiweiweiIt has been suggested in one or two quarters that I tend to dwell on things of the past in my artistically inspired postings; that I am stuck in the Pre-modern world.  In an effort to dispel that base calumny I thought I’d post an art review on one of the darlings of the post-modern conceptional artistic world: Ai WeiWei.  Back in 2010 the Tate Gallery mounted (?) one of his works in the Turbine Hall – millions of tiny ceramic handcrafted sunflower seeds.  The artist’s explanation of the work and a fascinating film on its creation can be found here – but in the mean time who better to talk about the work of this popular artist than my old friends at the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre.

And it has also been remarked upon – okay one snarky comment from a person, who like his offspring, shall remain…

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21 April 753 BC


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Today is the Birthday of Rome, marking the day when Romulus drew with his plough the Pomerium (boundary) around what is today the Forum, a sacred line in the sand which would be the basis for the State Religion. His brother Remus laughed at him and he killed him for it, so Rome is 2770 years old.  C9xoQRKXsAEhpsK.jpg

Afternoon sun in Rome shining on the fountain of Piazza Repubblica, our home was near this piazza.   


One panel (paint on plaster) of one dining room wall of the imperial villa at Prima Porta of Empress Livia, wife of Emperor Augustus. First century AD. The whole dining room can be seen on the top floor of the Massimo Museum next to Piazza Repubblica in Rome. An enchanting room done with great taste, some 2000 years ago.

classes in Art


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For the last 4 years I have worked in National Museums here with school children presenting Art to them. I was trained at the National Gallery in Ottawa for 3 years and have read quite a few books on the topic and how to do it.

In Ottawa, I did presentations in school rooms and in the galleries of the National Gallery of Canada. My groups are about 20 to 25 students, which is fairly large and demanding. What helps of course is having a school teacher present who is also interested and engaged and on whom I can depend if a student misbehaves or if there is some problem.


National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.


Art Gallery, Confederation Centre, Charlottetown.


In the last two days I had 5 classes of grade 4 – 5 students in age 10 years old.

They came from Charlottetown, Summerside, Stratford. Some came by school bus and others like this morning came on foot. On the whole it went well and the exercise was about introducing them to Art in general, explaining how to look at Art and doing some exercise so they understand that art in itself is a large concept and not confined to what bourgeois society tells you it is. The students for the large part have never been to a museum, so it is a very new experience for them. The art I was showing them is all on display in the galleries and it is all contemporary, some is installations, all very modern with no easy reference, as I told them it is not about meaning but about observing and looking closely, trying to understand what the artist is trying to achieve and what the artist is conveying.

Getting 10 year olds to look closely at something can be difficult, attention span is short and by today’s standard anything you look at as to be self-evident, not so with contemporary art.

Some kids are good at observation, others have imagination, others have skill at drawing, others do not have a clue. In a class of 25 kids, at least 7 will not be interested and look bored, another 4 will try to wander away, look at other things in the gallery, will not be able to focus. Some will be talkative, others will be silent and withdrawn. From time to time there may be one autistic child or a child who is so painfully shy they stand apart of the group. By job is to try to include everyone and get everyone to share, talk and ask questions. I always make a point of encouraging them, there are no wrong answers, encouraging them to feel free to draw whatever they want, some children have a hard time with that concept, they prefer to be told what to do, being imaginative does not come easy in a world preparing them to be good little consumers.

I also realize that some parents are largely absent from their children lives and leave it up to the State to look after them, some come from troubled homes. Some children are never spoken to at home, there is no conversation between adult and child, no sharing, that is very sad to see. Parents themselves may never have been to a museum or art gallery, never read a book, have just basic education, enough to get a job and pay the mortgage. They have kids but what to do with them, in other words their parental skills are poor.

I had one autistic child in one group, he stood apart from the group in silence, he was lost in thoughts, he was in his own world, the teacher told me that at first he did not want to come to the gallery and would wait outside in the great hall. He appeared fearful or maybe not understanding what was going on. He did change his mind, was it something I said, I do not know. Once in the gallery he became animated, the art works seemed to speak to him and he had a keen interest. He even asked me questions , he noticed things other kids did not, he certainly appeared much more mature and very intelligent.

Next week the new Summer program will be installed in a period of 4 weeks, I am looking forward to it.

Monsieur Malesh


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In July 1989 I arrived in Cairo, our Embassy then was in Garden City just off Midan Tahrir in the centre of the City, on Mohammad Fahmy Al-Sayed street. The British Embassy was just up our street with its Victorian Gates and the US Embassy was one street over, a gigantic complex. Garden City has the name implies was built in what was before the 1952 Revolution, the vast garden of a Royal Palace. I lived in the middle of the Nile river on the Island of Zamalek, a beautiful area just to the North of Garden City.

There was always occasions to discover the arts and culture in Egypt and many modern artists at the time were still working. One artist who had designed many large modern sculptures in Cairo and Alexandria lived in one of the out suburbs of the city. From the outside you could not tell what was behind the great wall but once inside it was a beautiful riotous garden of greenery, flowers and art work.

The artist Adam Henein, b.1929 had a gardener to look after his house garden. He nicknamed him Monsieur Malesh. What a funny name, he explained that if he ever asked his gardener about the garden or something needing attention, the reply would be ”Malesh”. The word malesh in Egyptian Arabic means no matter, not to worry, you hear it all the time. Of course when you say Malesh your facial expression must match the meaning of the word, in speaking Egyptian Arabic you quickly learn the hand gestures and the facial expression which conveys the meaning of what you are saying.

Adam Henein captured in stone sculpture his gardener and named it Monsieur Malesh.  When I saw it in his studio I knew he had to come home with me. Monsieur Malesh is one of my remaining souvenir of Cairo and Egypt. He has been in our gardens and amongst plants ever since.



Dates, Anniversaries


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Today on the 18 April 1881 in London the British Museum opened. What a great institution it is.

Also on the 18 April 1506, the construction on the new Saint Peter’s Basilica started, it would last  100 years and a further 30 years was required to do the interior decorations the interior was decorated by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. In 1561 Michelangelo was asked to come and work on the building, he designed part of the dome but died before it was completed. The old Saint Peter which had been built in the 4th century AD was destroyed, the building was so old and in a state of disrepair, it had become unsafe.


Here is a fresco in the Church of San Martino in Rome showing the inside of the Old Saint Peter’s basilica before it was demolished.

Some 35 years ago on 17 April 1982 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which is enshrined in our Constitution.


Queen Elizabeth II signs the Proclamation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on Parliament Hill, sitting at the table is Prime Minister Pierre E. Trudeau.






If these words mean anything to you


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This past Saturday morning we got up early I had food shopping to do and other errands to run and wanted to have it done early before the crowds got out. Well I half succeeded since a lot of people had the exact same idea than me.

On CBC Radio I heard this program called If these words mean anything to you with Tom Howell who is a former dictionary writer. It was 8am PEI time and was having my morning espresso machiatto, here is one Italian word, a dash of, stained with milk.

The episode of the radio program was about the words reasonable and the other word was conservative. So the host asked; A)  Are you reasonable? B)  Are you conservative? Then he went on to interview guests and ask them if they were or thought of themselves as A and B.  Of course he explored the meaning of the words in their origin and today. It was fascinating because what he demonstrated was that you are probably conservative in some things you do, attitudes, opinions etc. while thinking of yourself as liberal in other areas of your thought process or attitudes.

As for the word reasonable the host approached the whole question of how we discuss issues, ideas, situations in our world of the internet and twitter sphere. He argued that we have lost the ability to listen to the other and even reflect on their point of view or arguments before deciding how to respond. Can we take a reasonable approach, ponder what is being said and maybe consider if we could reasonably adopt the other point of view. If not can we refute the arguments without resorting to the sort of behaviour seen so often now of personal attacks and gross insults on chatlines.

One guest, I forget his name, said that he despite being quite liberal on most issues, he was tired of the exclusive left leaning views of the CBC, excluding any right wing thought of any kind, on any topic. This is true, think of programs like The Current or As it happens or social affairs shows on Radio-Canada in French, same situation. Is it unreasonable to question the approach of the CBC/Radio-Canada.

The host asked his guests are you a reasonable person? We, the listener were also invited to ask ourselves that question.

On the word conservative, the host had several guests, one was the Leader of the Green Party, Elizabeth May, MP and the other was Michael Chong MP and leadership candidate to the Conservative Party, CPC. Both expressed their views on a host of issues showing that depending on the issue. they could be conservative or not. I think it is true of a lot of people, we may support or adopt an idea because for us it means something while see another issue totally differently. Chong for one has been at odds with Stephen Harper the former Prime Minister while in his Cabinet. Without naming Harper, he made it clear, he thought the man an authoritarian, top down style of manager and did not like him much. Chong did resign from Cabinet over a disagreement with Harper on Quebec.

May said that depending on the issues she could be Green, Liberal or Conservative. She did work for Conservative PM Brian Mulroney in the 1990’s and admired his approach to environmental policies. She also admired the late Flora Macdonald, MP, P.C. who was the first women Foreign Minister of Canada. I worked for Ms Macdonald and I really liked her a lot, brilliant woman.

Chong said that he did not consider himself a liberal, he believed in merit and not quotas. Attacking the position of PM Trudeau who claims to be a feminist. Chong gave the example of Trudeau achieving the 50% parity between men and women in his Cabinet and when asked about it answered glibly ”Because it’s 2015”. Chong maintains that this answer is revealing in the sense that Trudeau believes in social engineering to achieve his political goals and he, Chong does not, merit alone should be the criteria for promoting men or women to Cabinet. I agree with Chong on this point, does that make me a Conservative, no I don’t think so. But I do believe in Merit or Meritocracy to be promoted. Human nature does not respond well to social engineering by politicians. So far the women in the Trudeau Cabinet have not done particularly well in their portfolio, think of Jody Wilson-Raybould at Justice, Bardish Chagger, House of Commons reform agenda, Mélanie Joly at Heritage, Catherine McKenna, Environment, Maryam Monsef who was demoted after bungling Electoral reform and replaced by Karina Gould and MaryAnn Mihychuk who was simply dropped. So much for quotas.

An interesting program and leads listeners to question the meaning of words.

The Agony in the Garden: when Christ encountered the Angel

The Bowes Museum's Blog

When we think about the Agony in the Garden, we immediately recall the outstanding painting executed by the Italian Renaissance master Giovanni Bellini, which is in the collection of the National Gallery in London. The picture I present here to celebrate Easter, however, is in the collection of The Bowes Museum and was created by a Baroque artist, the Spanish painter José Antolínez (1639-1676). This artist was active in Madrid, becoming one of the leading painters in the second half of the 17th century, and depicted this image in 1665.

Agony in the Garden, José Antolínez (1639-1676) Agony in the Garden, José Antolínez (1639-1676)

The subject is taken from the New Testament (Mark 14. 32-43), where it is told that Christ, while praying near Jerusalem in the garden of Gethsemane, receives the visit of the angel who announces his imminent death. The dramatic moment when Christ accepts his destiny takes place after the Last Supper, on…

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