January 9, 2012



A few days after finishing up my last post about my visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery, I dropped in to a show at a private gallery that happened to be on my bus route and that, from what I could see from inside the bus, seemed interesting enough to get off the bus and check it out.  The show consisted of limited-edition reproductions of Leonard Cohen’s drawings and paintings from over the past four decades.

If one is a fan of Cohen’s poetry and music, as I am, the show is definitely worth seeing.  Is it great art?  Not according to any standard definition of ‘great’.  In some of his paintings, Cohen demonstrates a good sense of colour and, in some of his ink drawings, he demonstrates strong caricature skills.  Also, the “narrative content” (if one may use that expression for visual art) of many of his pictures is very touching–visually echoing the poetic sensibilities of his written work.  But none of his artwork that was on display at this show is very ambitious.  As I was told by one of the gallery employees, when I asked her about the reproduction technique used for these pieces, most of these pieces originally were very small, no bigger than a small sketch pad, and even the most graphically complex pieces probably were completed in no more than a day or two.  The work is that of a talented amateur artist, and it’s very unlikely that it would be shown at the relatively prestigious Granville Fine Art gallery, fetching prices of up to several thousand dollars for a single reproduction (when up to a hundred reproductions are being sold of each image), if the artist wasn’t Leonard Cohen.  Still, if I had sufficient money, and a large space that could accommodate a memento of Cohen’s large spirit, I’d buy one.  (I especially liked “the hat”, a self-portrait of Cohen wearing one of his trademark fedoras, with the hand-written caption, “one of those days when the hat doesn’t help.”  The image made me laugh out loud.)

The reproduction technique that was used for this work is another strong selling point.  Cohen’s pieces started as small watercolours and ink drawings.  These pieces were scanned using current digital technology, resulting in digital images.  The digital images were then reproduced, at a greatly-enlarged size, on high-quality watercolour paper, using a special printing process that produces what are called “pigment prints.”  The images look great, and the texture of the watercolour paper gives a sense of original watercolours or ink drawings. 

To give each of his reproductions a personal touch–and perhaps also to prevent his digital images from being unlawfully duplicated–Cohen has stamped by hand each of the reproductions with his personalized stamps.  These include a Chinese character for the name he was given when he was a Buddhist monk, two linked hearts forming an image resembling a Star of David, and a small bird reminiscent of the bird that figures in some of his paintings and drawings.

Seeing Cohen’s reproductions and learning about the reproduction technique employed got me interested in trying at least the same basic printing process to reproduce some of my iPad art.  I reproduced some of my tomato images for Christmas cards at a small, local, print shop, on a shiny card stock, and the images didn’t turn out particularly well–although it was fun to have made my own Christmas cards this year.  The employee at Granville Fine Art who was so helpful told me the name of the printing company used by Cohen, and where the company is located.  Apparently, there are not yet any printing companies in Vancouver that offer the process.

Incidentally, if anyone didn’t get the reference, the image I created to illustrate this post is a homage to Cohen’s song, ‘Suzanne’–especially the line “She feeds you tea and oranges . . .”  Of course, in this blog, you don’t get oranges but, rather, tomatoes.

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