Beyond Representation

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Oh for a Thousand Tongues
visual, video, illustrator, Aboriginal heritage, colonialism, indigenous people, native heritage, between two cultures, mixed blood, Métis, place, prayer language, Cree syllabics, Christian hymns, organic form, figure of the body, surface, double meanings, power, touch Saulteaux, figurative, symbolic, abstract, ambiguity
description
start quoteA lot of my work really is about examining art history of the 19th Century, and George Catlin was one of the most fascinating characters that I came across.end quote-- Kent Monkman

Monkman is a visual artist, illustrator, and video artist. He draws on his Aboriginal heritage and deals with the impact of  colonialismThe practice of domination of one group (i.e., the colonizers of a country) over another (i.e., the indigenous population of the country colonized). See the Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy for further information and examples: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/colonialism/  on  indigenousNative; produced, growing, or living, naturally in a country or climate; not exotic; not imported. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  people in his work. In an interview he said all of his work “… is somehow related to or inspired by my Native heritage and the place that I sit between two cultures because I’m of mixed blood, so I think I’ve always been trying to define that place in between to some degree….”  (Monkman, Cybermuse.com)

His first series of paintings, entitled The Prayer Language, reflects his childhood experience of being exposed to Christian hymns translated into  CreeThe largest group of First Nations in Canada, and part of the Algonquian language family. See the Canadian Encyclopedia for more information: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0002005  syllabics, without actually learning his ancestral language. The series title, Monkman explains, comes from the Saulteaux, who referred to  CreeThe largest group of First Nations in Canada, and part of the Algonquian language family. See the Canadian Encyclopedia for more information: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0002005  as the prayer language because it had been translated into a hymnal. All of the paintings in the  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  - including Oh for a Thousand Tongues, presented here - take their titles from hymns in the  CreeThe largest group of First Nations in Canada, and part of the Algonquian language family. See the Canadian Encyclopedia for more information: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0002005  hymnal. All of the titles carry sexual double meanings, which relates, Monkman explains, to his exploration of the significance of power in relation to touch and sexuality.

Monkman describes his approach in The Prayer Language series this way: “In this series of paintings I transcribe Cree syllabic translations of Christian hymns into multiple layers of semi-transparent  acrylicSynthetic paints, with pigments dispersed in a synthetic vehicle made from polymerized acrylic acid esters, the most important of which is polymethyl methacrylate. First used by artists in the late 1940s, their use has come to rival that of oil paints because of their versatility. They can be used on nearly any surface, in transparent washes or heavy impasto, with matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finishes. Acrylic paints dry quickly, do not yellow, are easily removed with mineral spirits or turpentine, and can clean up with soap and water.(Artlex.com)  paint. Suspended between these layers are organic forms, at times resembling the  figure1.  The form of a human, an animal or a thing; most often referring to an entire human form.  2.  A person of note (i.e., an important figure in history...)  or organs of the body. In a  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  range that suggests the varied pigmentation of human flesh, these visceral forms emerge at the  surface(an element of art) The outer or topmost boundary or layer of an object. Colours on any surface are determined by how incident rays of light strike it, and how a surface reflects, scatters, and absorbs those rays. The material qualities of a surface, as well as its form and texture further determine how it is seen and felt. (artlex.com) See also texture.  of the  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  like veins, muscles or bones that rise from within the body to become visible just beneath the skin. In some paintings, the forms are decidedly more  figurativeUsed to describe an artwork which visually references, depicts, or describes the human body as a focus.  (in other words, more  symbolicAn image that stands for something else to convey meaning and information in an art work.  or abstract, ed.), depicting bodies entwined together. Drawing inspiration from erotic photos of men wrestling, I create  ambiguityAny idea that is not clearly stated within an art work, leaving lots of room for interpretation  in the final image.”  (Monkman, 2001)

additional resources Early Inspiration
Duration: 2:12 min
Size: 9628kb
George Catlin Influence
Duration: 2:24 min
Size: 10066kb
Oh for a Thousand Tongues
Duration: 2:12 min
Size: 9616kb
The Prayer Language Series
Duration: 2:17 min
Size: 10237kb
The Théâtre De Cristal
Duration: 1:49 min
Size: 8110kb
Things to Think About Advanced Activity

Research into the beginning of writing

Advanced Activity

Links: Tips on Making a Collage: http://www.geocities.com/lorna_k_19150/SchoolProjectsCollage.html

Go to How to Make a Collage at Wikihow (http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Collage) and follow the instructions and tips for making a collage.

Cross curricula

Create a poem in that is made up of a  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of sound phrases. As Monkman works also in  performanceAn art form in which the actions of a person or group in a particular place at a particular time constitute the artwork; all works of performance art therefore incorporate time, space, the performer’s body, and the relationship between performer and viewer.  art, you might consider using your finished piece as basis for a dance or movement sequence, projecting your sound and image through the computer, as part of the piece.

 

Online Activity
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Remix

gender
conform
nonconformist
rebel
image
gesture
demonstrate
syllabics
language
misunderstanding
shunned
minority
people
identity
message
design
expression
belief
persona
racial
longing
sensuality
sexuality
ambiguity
hidden
secret

 

Studio Activity

Monkman represents Aboriginal and gay streams of expression. He is mostly known for high “camp” performances and art that include commentary about Aboriginal oppression and sexuality - sometimes in combination. His work is humour through satire.

Monkman began as a designer for theatre and dance. The piece presented in this theme (Oh for a Thousand Tongues) is a forerunner of the work he is mostly known for but could be read with “clues” to his present work. The title Oh for a Thousand Tongues might be interpreted as a comment on  CreeThe largest group of First Nations in Canada, and part of the Algonquian language family. See the Canadian Encyclopedia for more information: http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0002005  syllabics in which he is interested and in which he did some work. The  colourProduced by light of various wavelengths, and when light strikes an object and reflects back to the eyes. Colour is an element of art with three properties: (1) hue or tint, the colour name, e.g., red, yellow, blue, etc.: (2) intensity, the purity and strength of a colour, e.g., bright red or dull red; and (3) value, the lightness or darkness of a colour. When the spectrum is organized as a color wheel, the colours are divided into groups called primary, secondary and intermediate (or tertiary) colours; analogous and complementary, and also as warm and cool colours. Colours can be objectively described as saturated, clear, cool, warm, deep, subdued, grayed, tawny, mat, glossy, monochrome, multicolored, particolored, variegated, or polychromed. Some words used to describe colours are more subjective (subject to personal opinion or taste), such as: exciting, sweet, saccharine, brash, garish, ugly, beautiful, cute, fashionable, pretty, and sublime. Sometimes people speak of colours when they are actually refering to pigments, what they are made of (various natural or synthetic substances), their relative permanence, etc. (Artlex.com)  pink is connected with gay pride and often with gay culture and social movements. This work may relate in  symbolicAn image that stands for something else to convey meaning and information in an art work.  ways to the body and refer to certain aspects of sexuality, especially as he plays up to stereotypes.

Art can question and voice viewpoints, values and attitudes

Create a  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  that represents your beliefs about any aspect of life.  Include words or letters in your work to help accentuate your message. Use mixed media: charcoal, pastel, collage, commercially printed or “found” images.  Use bold colour,  lineA mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form). (Artlex.com)  and  shapeAn element of art, it is an enclosed space defined and determined by other art elements such as line, colour, value, and texture. In painting and drawing, shapes may take on the appearance of a solid three-dimensional object even though they are limited to two dimensions — length and width. This two-dimensional character of shape distinguishes it from form, which has depth as well as length and width. Examples of shapes include: circle, oval, and oblong; polygons such as triangle, square, rectangle, rhombus, trapezium, trapezoid, pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon, nonagon, decagon, undecagon, dodecagon, etc.; and such other kinds of shapes as amorphous, biomorphous, and concretion. (Artlex.com)  to emphasise your message. Consider  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  or  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  or adding paper over some words, symbols or images so they only partially revealed – or partially covered.

Collage

Collage on  canvasCommonly used as a support for oil or acrylic painting, canvas is a heavy woven fabric made of flax or cotton. Its surface is typically prepared for painting by priming with a ground. Linen — made of flax — is the standard canvas, very strong, sold by the roll and by smaller pieces. A less expensive alternative to linen is heavy cotton duck, though it is less acceptable (some find it unacceptable), cotton being less durable, because it's more prone to absorb dampness, and it's less receptive to grounds and size. For use in painting, a piece of canvas is stretched tightly by stapling or tacking it to a stretcher frame. A painting done on canvas and then cemented to a wall or panel is called marouflage. Canvas board is an inexpensive, commercially prepared cotton canvas which has been primed and glued to cardboard, suitable for students and amateurs who enjoy its portability. Also, a stretched canvas ready for painting, or a painting made on such fabric. Canvas is abbreviated c., and "oil on canvas" is abbreviated o/c.  (Artlex.com)  (permission to reproduce this image as per GNU Free Documentation License)

Studio Activity References

Monkman, Kent.  Artist Statement for The Prayer Language.’  Urbannation.com, 2001.  Taken from http://urbannation.com/kentwritings.htm, January 7th, 2008.

---.  ‘Meet the Artist:  I am trying to define that space between the two cultures.’  Cybermuse.com.  Taken from http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/showcases/meet/artist_e.jsp?artistid=26919 on January 7th, 2008

Waboose, Jan Bourdeau.  ‘Setting the Stage: Kent Monkman.'  Aboriginal Voices, Sept/Oct, 1995.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning