About Me

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MICHAEL SCHREIER Michael Schreier is a professional artist and photographer who has dedicated his considerable professional career to the celebration of both the public and private hero. Recent work includes Storyteller, Waiting for Words at the Ottawa Art Gallery, curator Emily Falvey, 2009, and the curating of the exhibition Dave Heath, A Heritage of Meaning, 2013 at the Ottawa Art Gallery. Selected works are represented in both public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, the National Archives Photography Collection, the Agnes-Etherington Art Centre, the Canadian Portrait Gallery, Visual Studies Workshop, (Rochester, New York), Light Works Workshop, Syracuse New York, Carleton University Art Gallery, and the University of Ottawa Library Special Collections.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Post #16

(Cursor on the image for a detailed viewing,
all drawings, Hilde Schreier,
all  images copyright Michael Schreier)

'Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). 

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

                                                                           "Tears for an Empty Desert"

                                                                                                       (Double-page layout, artist's book, Michael Schreier)

                                     Post #16, is dedicated to my mentor, and close friend,                                                                                              
                                                      Jim Borcoman, Curator Emeritus, 
                                                          National Gallery of Canada.

Following closely on the heels of the previous post, #16 might be considered a continuation. My intention throughout the structure of Camera Obscura is to offer cross fertilization, and while it may result in repetition, either of image and or of concern, it is intentional. And with respect for Carl Chirenza's previously expressed concerns, I have often returned to an image for its structure and additional thematic vitality, having always understood the relationship between image and text as being complementary. 

 Alice's musings, Curiouser and Curiouser, echoes my empathy for Lewis Carroll's understanding that an artist's sensitivity for the unknown, and the portal is critical in serving the mystery for poetry and thought. 
I remember one of the first observations Jim Borcoman offered me concerning both a photographer's perspective, intent, and the photograph, is the attention to be accorded the edge rather than the center. Certainly the process of photographing requires a sensitivity to that which occurs outside the frame and understanding its influence on the final subject represented. The photographer is required by process to select from the quotidian and the rationally perceived. And in so doing, an abstraction is both linked, yet independent of evidence and fact: passage underscored.

 The history of photography has referenced the equivalent, equivalence,and as so eloquently highlighted by Nathan Lyons , a process of notating, a Notations in Passing. Dave Heath's  A Dialogue With Solitude extends meaning and intent towards a deeper experience, a reflective attitude that may actually challenge one to reconsider Robert Frank's The Americans an "on the road" suite rather than as a social document: even as both attitudes might be interconnected.

                                                                ...the writers pallet...

Frederick Sommer occupies a profound niche, embracing music, drawing and photography. He enjoys that space within, a space so necessary for the poet, where one can challenge one's own sense of place and existential breath.

palpable, with feel-
words at the departure-

Paul Celan

                     (I would suggest the reader cursor,double-click on these images, and highlighted Paul Celan

The introductory poetic muse by Pablo Neruda with added meaning for the double page spread from Tears for an Empty Desert, suggests the existing nuance between reader and author. Rational thought remains only slightly traceable, as the reader experiences either doubt, or affirmation. 

Michelangelo Antonioni's Red Desert as described, can certainly reflect our contemporary environmental issues, challenges and possibilities for adaption. There may however be a much more subtle challenge offered: that is access to the privilege of original thought. I am to consider the vulnerability for empathy regarding another's perspective or witnessing for truth.We are given the option to accept the challenge or to acquiesce, as  Antonioni might suggest, " burn in the silence of our own making."  This is how I understand the poet's dilemma: that there is never a guarantee, or completed circuit confirming a witnessed event. Returning for a moment to Lea Dunning's painting "Idle in Paris", (corrected title, "34 Rue du Fer a Moulin"), while invited at the edge, I am clearly denied access to the distant space, blocked by the table, chair and the sitter. 

His transparent tracing suggests that they, [in themselves], may have, or are about to appear/disappear. Echoing the implied urgency in Red Desert, it is not whether one can clean or readjust, but why is there such a disregard for the vulnerability of voice and humanities's required utterance?

As Leo Stein has surmised in his "Appreciation: Painting, Poetry and Prose"

"Structurally man is just one of the facts in the universe, but compositionally he is its center. His feelings, his desires, his hopes cause him to arrange things so that he can get at least a moment's satisfaction from these interests. If he gets from them the satisfactions as though he had altered the world of real things beyond the periphery of his inner life, he is sentimentally, pathologically falsifying the world, and confusing the realms of poetry and prose."

The illusion of being "centered" within a postmodern reality however, offers contradiction as it nurtures the artist. Within the clear reality of the simulacra where truth is no longer obligatory, how can we believe in its rendition.


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Post # 15

Ordered Circumstance, 

The reflection of the muse with the placement of thought:

(Cursor on the image for a detailed viewing,
all drawings, Hilde Schreier,
all  images copyright Michael Schreier)

Christopher Lea Dunning's work, "Idle in Paris" has encouraged me to revisit George Steiner's  two iconic works, Real Presences and After Babel : the latter much more difficult as it has negotiated the complexity of language, semantics and the poetic of significance. In referencing "Babel's fall from grace," Steiner suggests the very basic urgency for voice, thought and continuity as Dunning's inchoate structures and discorded details resonate with appropriate empathy: consider these remarkable short works by 
Arnold Schoenberg.

                                                                                          "Idle in Paris"
                                                                           Painting by Christopher Lea Dunning

I am reminded of  Gaston Bachelard's iconic writing The Poetic's of Space,  the "room/space" as a support for the silent muse, reverie and the value for passage: incidentally all critical components for one's 
Night-Sea Journey. The window, access to the external, social world is gained only through a progressive acknowledgement of "interior" events. While staging at the edge of a theater's proscenium, Dunning asks us to consider a moment of absorbed thought. As beholder, I am made aware of an intimate space and given privileged access to its occupant absorbed in reading: interesting to note a book open on the table, while the other is being read. I am somewhat perplexed whether the book on the table is open to me or whether I am looking at its back. Now, for a moment, consider this self portrait by Austrian painter Carl Moll titled "Self Portrait in Study". In creating a character writing, he implicates the viewer in that moment of theatrical introspection, and privileged intimacy. Although while both artists offer proximity, neither recognize the presence of the beholder. In Dunning's work we are placed as previously indicated, at the edge of the proscenium. Moll offers a distanced staging, complete with curtain, props and a tiled floor describing passage. 

Carl_Moll_-_Self_Portrait_in_his_Study.jpg (1026×1080)

The irony for me is that as both artists incorporate portals for transition, Moll suggests a possible entry to a room, Dunning prefers the exact opposite, an exiting. Can it be assumed that the process of reading might involve an exiting while the process of writing implies a moment of entry? Furthermore, intrigued by numerous palimpsests, Dunning makes us aware of the internal structure of the work, perhaps a moment's vulnerability, a disturbance in reading and possible disappearance. He leaves us with the "trace" as a metaphor for vulnerability, and potential loss, the memory of a previous book to be read again. This painting is a profound reflection on passage in which the very structure offers its metaphor.

The book within the book, the event within the event, the painting within the painting, the drawing within its structure are all elements which speak to the very nature of memory, evidence and implied thought.

In "Man With a Movie Camera", Dziga Vertov, (Dziga Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera,circa 1928) defines the relationship between representation, its structure, evidence and allegory, with the quotidian. It is clear that our understanding of structure and method may provide a conviction for truth, as critically as it provides for the mystery of storytelling and abstraction.


                                                                      From the series Camera Obscura, Stations #2
                                                                                          Michael Schreier          

                                                                          From the series Camera Obscura, Stations #2
                                                                                          Michael Schreier  

                                                                                               From Series "Stations,#3"

Finally, as Plato's Cave, an allegory, perhaps instructed to resolve a searching for introspection, inside-out, it also speaks to an artist's deeper moment of clarity, "en atelier" both grounded and without gravity.  As Lea Dunning's Idle in Paris  might suggest, a moment of "idle" thought embracing all possibility, is it not in that moment of passage, suggested by metaphor and allegory, that representation,( mark-making) occupies time's embrace of change, (frankly, the antithesis of inactivity)? While a composer/film maker (as eloquently described by Sergie Eisenstein in his text Film Form/ Reflections on Sergie Eisenstein) governs the depth and duration of a beholder's experience, the visual artist on the other hand while composing without physical change, must suggest a comparable movement; as an echo becomes stylized, reflective only through evidence of its trace. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

(Cursor on the image for a detailed viewing,
all drawings, Hilde Schreier,
all  images copyright Michael Schreier)

Post 14

A State of Rupture in a Time of Alternative Facts

 ...with appreciation to Edmond Jabès...From the Desert to the Book...

" To Question means to break; it means to set up an inside and an outside. It means to be at times in the one, at times in the other. In an outside that would be, in relation to the inside, a backing away, a recession-the retreat- the prelude, the first threshold necessary for interrogation, a neuter space where neutrality is obsolete."
                                          The Labyrinth of the Question
                                   Dialogues between Edmond Jabès and Marc Cohen

Perhaps, surrounded by one's familiar circumstance, one may experience the depth of both clarity and doubt embraced by thought. I certainly do not claim authorship of such concerns, only an empathy for those in the past who have spoken so eloquently of both loss and of faith.

In this time of the Alternative Fact  a reassurance for truth is set adrift as nurturing rests in limbo; the concertmaster encourages a singular and in some way, cynical skepticism. While some, a few members of the popular circus may be embraced by a false hubris, the poet/artist may challenge the veracity of the charlatan's hollow echo.
                                                                                 A remarkable composition by Harold Budd:

                                                                                        Harold Budd The Whispers

                                      Hannah Hoch, Cut With the Kitchen Knife Through the last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch
                                      in Germany, (1919-20)

The chaos depicted in Hannah Hoch's work, echoed in writings by Eugene Ionesco decry the insanity and brutality of an epoch that in some way seems to be returning. As one curator/critic questioned Joseph Sudek's remarkably intimate renderings of a window, garden as sentimental, not resonating the tragedy of the Czech crisis during the Weimar period: seemingly, to much perhaps of an idyllic garden. Such a reflection could not be further from the truth as Sudek's work, dark in tonality spoke to loss and melancholy, a world fallen from grace, and in his silent space can be found the resonance for beauty, grace and, with an almost reluctant faith.

                                                                                     Joseph Sudek, Circa 1930's

Idealism is easily coerced by pomp and ceremony, so perhaps it is through an artist's pursuit of quietude and reflection that one begins to understand the value of thought, empathy and discovers the strength to confront the doubt generated by the daily mockery prevalent in our social community.

If one cursors on either one of the my two previous interior images, one may see a set of numbers integrated with the image, numbers sourced
as the time line during which the original exposure is made. Almost impossible to realize these numbers offer a rationale to the moment and underscore the very nature of the photograph, a rupture from continuity. One may also recognize that I have intentionally printed the numbers backwards, hoping to offer a virtual transition to the other side of the picture-plain, a way of suggesting passage from one space to another. Further, I have come to consider that my entry to photography has somehow been governed, or regulated by my severance as a young child from Vienna, including the loss of my mother tongue.

                                                    (Images from my publication Disturbances in Reading, Palimpsest)

Time and Space were only their disguises'

Time and Space were only their disguises                          
Under which their hatred chose its shapes
From swords in bushes, flowers like periscopes,
And mirrors that revealed themselves as faces.

And later, clouds flew past me as I sat;
Stations like ships swam up to meet the train
And bowed; all time was equal like the sun;

Each landscape was elaborately set.

But now this blackened city in the snow
Argues a will that cannot be my own,
And one not wished for: points to show

Time in his little cinema of the heart
Giving a première to Hate and Pain;
And Space urbanely keeping us apart.

                              before April 1941
Philip Larkin
Collected Poems

Edited with an Introduction by Anthony Thwaite
The Marvell Press 1988

Monday, 19 December 2016

...between the book and leaving the book...


(cursor on photograph for detailed view, 
note: unless otherwise indicated all photographs,

by Michael Schreier and drawings by Hilde Schreier,
reproduction, without permission, prohibited.)

...between the book and leaving the book...
                                                     The Book of Questions
                                                                                                                        Edmond Jabès

Can one grant that initially, there was the "word" given as a sound, and then, challenged, with an intent to garner meaning? I would suggest the passage, from an "understood" to further understanding provides a foundation for the image maker. It can be considered a trust between experience, knowledge and truth and although one can declare the non-existence of truth; yet, " how can that be believed.?" Perhaps, the non-existence of truth, a "post-truth", significant of our immediate moment in history, may be accurately rendered as a consequence of disillusionment.

                                                          ...a consequence of disillusionment...

Is there an association between the sublime and, "to sublimate" and further, is it not in the belief of the sublime that one progresses? Yet any suggestion  that an ascension towards a higher understanding and an acceptance that one is quite prepared to sublimate, might become suspect. The nexus between reason and passion becomes disparately clouded. 

The gallery/book, and the above selected photographs have proffered an access to passage from history to the presence. The included, time line, offers evidence, a confirmation of an event, 05..10..16, 11..36..47,  yet what is understood and critically, what is its link to history?

"The fact that the word needs to go from one to the other to be confirmed or contradicted and developed shows the necessity of the interval. The power to speak is interrupted, and this interruption plays a seemingly subordinate role, that precisely, of subordinated alternatives. A role, however, so mysterious that it can be interpreted as carrying the mystery of language itself: pause between phrases, pause from one speaker to the other, and pause of attention, of understanding, which doubles the power of expression."

Maurice Blanchot

Trans. Rosemarie Waldrop and Paul Auster

Art is born in conflict, life and death in opposition, each mirroring
the other, interchangeable. Art is born in sorrow, nostalgia and
madness. Art is born on the threshold of silence. Art is born in
the reclamation of that which is lost. Art is born in the chimera
of hope. Art is born as the tragic expression of the profound 
laughter of God's melancholy.

We are the present
Bound in this moment of life's reality
To a task;
An action borne from an unseen past.

We are the present
Compelled by life's disorder
To order;
In action borne toward an unknown future.

                           We are the image makers
                           Beguiled by our fictions,
                          Through creation cursed
                          With the mystery.

                                                         ____Dave Heath
                                                         Dave Heath's Art Show

I have returned to this credence, offered by Dave to his students as a way to assist their efforts, to underscore the very nature of art making, an embrace for philosophical, spiritual truths in which verity can be challenged for a deeper understanding. It is for me appropriate to return to these thoughts as I notice with some regret such a plethora of contemporary art making, governed seemingly by expediency and an urgency to be noticed. Dave's thoughts return me to a moment of profound consideration for that illusive gift of knowledge given and challenged through the ages, by those who have touched on a level that continues to motivate my own search.

                                                                  The Veil of Orpheus, 
                                                                           Harold Budd

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Post  # 12

From an urgency to utterance, through studio muse towards an audience:

( A Memento Mori)

(cursor on photograph for detailed view, 
note: unless otherwise indicated all photographs,

by Michael Schreier and drawings by Hilde Schreier,
reproduction, without permission, prohibited.)

Some years ago I reflected with a close friend, wondering what I would be doing now, if I had grown up in Vienna. The answer, quickly returned, "why, you would be an artist". There is certainly truth to this, while recognizing that my cultural imperative, influence, might be very different. Clearly my concerns for a sense of place, the nurturing of voice, the poetics of thought, the value placed on passage with the memory of one place, while the being in another, might be very different. And yet perhaps not.

So it begins with introspection, then to utterance including a speculation for argument and then a return to silence as truths revealed offer little but further introspection: a cycle to confirm.

It has been some time since I have either considered writing or visiting Camera Obscura. Partially the result of a personal challenge to consider more deeply one's muse, however, more urgently an attempt to understand both the embrace of loss and the requirement to let go, hoping that memory would confirm a deeper continuity. It is with great sadness, yet with a quiet acknowledgement of all gifts garnered that I dedicate this posting to Dave Heath, my mentor, and above all, my close friend. 

Dave died on his birthday, June 27, 2016.


                                                           I include the following discussion between Dave and I,
                                                              (with appreciation to SPAO, and Michael Vuckovic)
                                                                Dave Heath, Michael Schreier, In Conversation

(For your reference, The following exchange between Dave and I was initiated as a result of Post#10

The Beholder, beheld:
The Reader, read.)

On May 3, 2016, 12:23 pm Dave Heath wrote:

i'm not sure my readings are astute.it is of interest that some find the work
"obfuscating". i do not find that so. for me, it is the density of your thinking which i often find difficult to enter.
you are more of a "philosopher",word oriented. thinking that is dense like celan, like the 20th century atonal music that you like. i have sometimes wondered if the structure of your thinking is based on the density of your first language, German. i have often wondered that the books from my library that you read from are books of ideas/words, of some poetry(celan, jabès) but not others, nothing from the visual books. i have long said that photographers enter the medium through one of two doors:text (for instance nathan, (lyons)) or visual aesthetic, (Weston, Edward)

to wit, from your blog:

i am more inclined to see clifford still in "temes"

walker's photo structurally is of clarity and precision, like the grid layouts of philly and manhattan...like his subway series "many are called" wherein the quotidian populace live "lives of quiet desperation. i took his photo as the basis of "beyond the gates of eden"

though I may often find it difficult to enter your thought, I have always thought you brilliant, continue the work as you live it

regards, dave

My answer:
May 3, 2016, 12:52 pm

Thank you for your kind thoughts and insight...I do read a great deal from the visual section of your library...it certainly sources/influences my work...but I suspect at this point in my life/thinking I am deeply involved with two specific notions, that of doubt and the other, an authority for voice. When I see the profundity of your insight, in your work, and others, I question whether I have anything of real substance to offer...Temes to me underscores a confusion that I have sometimes speculated is part of the "Story of Babel" for in that myth rests not only the notion of language but the privilege  to utterance and the struggle for source...What has always struck me about the Evans photograph and his work is the depth to which he goes in recognizing the integrity of the vernacular and the anonymous. I see the window display as a tower built on the subtlety of trace and individual gesture. I also certainly absorb Nathan's text and Weston's visual aesthetics but for me there is a much deeper reflection and that is the right to existence and continuity, that in my own being I find I am challenging. Similar to my experience when one has a deep sense of loss, the very nature of validity is challenged. I have no memory other than through the story's that my parents told me, of my early years in Vienna...and when I came to Canada I could not speak as I did not yet have the language,

...that little boy in the doorway...

is of me the first day that I could actually, in English tell and share with my father,  my day's events...previously and until that day, he would not listen if I spoke in German...the link to atonal music, to the theater of the absurd, my appreciation of DAda and my understanding of Duchamp's contribution and numerous other elements stem from these early ruminations. Out of coincidence, the first and only play that I directed...The Bald Soprano by Ionesco, was his first play that he wrote to learn English...the humor and contradictions are the result of that dilemma...I am also a deep fan of Clifford Still...currently listening to Arnold Schoenberg...I find your work "Beyond the Gates of Eden" a very quiet reference to the "Tower of Babel" and the, as you suggest, quiet desperation of lives attempting to garner voice...your insights have always fueled the very nature of what I do and on many levels you are one of the few who really understands....

with tender thoughts, always, Michael

                                                                                    Pierre Henry : Le voile d'Orphee II

Friday, 29 April 2016

Post  # 11

Words yet to Come

(cursor on photograph for detailed view,
note: unless otherwise indicated all photographs,
by Michael Schreier and drawings by Hilde Schreier,
reproduction, without permission, prohibited.)

Storyteller/ Waiting for Words
Artist book: 2007-8

Michael Schreier

I have always interpreted Carl Jung's definition of a Night Sea Journey as a necessary place/attitude that an artist might embrace at a time of deep introspection. One may become occupied by doubt and uncertainty, perhaps even challenging a sense of place and possibly one's accomplishments. My regard for such a deep challenge provides me with the necessary energy and guidance for clarity: as it may also become a component in my work. The above layout from Storyteller/ Waiting for Words, An Artist's book: 2007-8 illustrates my suggestion.  

Detail from Intro: Layout
(cursor on image to detail text)

The above two details underscore the subtlety offered in the complete image. Clearly, the reversed illegible text presents its source somewhere behind the beholder. A further complication arises as one notices that the perspective tends to the right and into the distance. As an aside, notice that this perspective will marry virtually with the space suggested by a mirrored spacial movement offered by the photograph of the store window/blue rectangle space: its perspective also moving into the distance. The two might meet behind the central image of the ceramic women figure?! Further study of the surface of the glass reflecting the text reveals a rubbing, a smudge, probably a sloppy window cleaning effort. A deeper study of the lower corner of the text image may reveal a shadow form cast by and echoing the shape of the ceramic figure. I leave the reader with any implications arising from these formal traces. I would however as I have tried to emphasize in previous posts reiterate that a photograph offering detailed information may actually propose a more complex truth. Although a cloak of certainty has somehow always been presumed as the photographic process renders accuracy, it  has however, over the course of photography's short history just as quickly been questioned.

Tabula Rasa #1                                      Table 1                                    Tabula Rasa #2
                                      Michael Schreier                                 Gerhard Richter                          Michael Schreier
                                             2009                                                     1962                                         2009

                       Anecdote: Robert Rauschenberg, Erased Drawing

Notions of erasure as a creative gesture are not new as a painter may draw over, erase a previous gesture. Rauschenberg's interest to erase a de Kooning drawing happens at a very interesting moment in American history as Joseph McCarthy revs up his insidious efforts, directing his notorious witch hunts throughout the american cultural fabric. My understanding for the erased drawing comprises a profound sense of irony as certainly Rauschenberg would have to decide to what extent evidence should be retained and destroyed, almost a foreshadowing: the completed erasure in 1953 introduces with some irony the initiated McCarthy hearings of 1954.

(Please allow me to acknowledge a mistake made in the initial posting, It was not Eugene McCarthy but Joseph McCarthy that was involved with the Anti-American hearings. Much appreciation to Dave Heath for pointing out the mistake!, now corrected)

                                                                       Christopher Lea Dunning, "from an Artist's" book.          

Christopher Lea Dunning is a close friend, colleague, compatriot who has for a number of years insinuated himself into Art History publications. Cursor on his above name and you should arrive at one of his remarkable works, Insinuating Oneself into History. The work speaks for itself. These references to erasure and "collage" emphasize both an artist's need for linkage and continuity as well as challenging the very nature of truth and witnessing, the value, duration not only of utterance but the broader archive of humanity's guarantee for voice. 

As history compels itself to the surface of time, to compete with the quotidian  can one really acknowledge the value of witnessing? Artists over the years have struggled with both their conscience and ethics, finally relying on an artwork's profound implication for guidance. Implications guided not strictly by formal gesture, abstraction  and rendering but by the very desire for continuity.

As Edmond Jabès has so eloquently challenged in The Book of Dialogue, translated by Rosemarie Waldrop,

Hidden language, not that of the hand or eyes, a language beyond
gesture, beyond looks, smiles or tears that we had to learn! Ah, what
desert will revive it now?
We thought we were done with crossing the desolate stretch of
land where the word had dragged us, making us and our wanderings
bear amazed witness to its perennial nature.
And here silence leads us into its glass kingdom, vaster yet at first
sight, breaking all trace of our passage.
...primal silence which we cannot escape.