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Directed by Karen Malcolm

Fringe Productions, 1990. VHS cassette, 18:00 min., $295.00
Distributed by International Tele-Film, 47 Densley Ave., Toronto, Ont. M6M 5A8

Grades 8 and up/Ages 13 and up
Reviewed by Frances Bergles.

Volume 19 Number 6
1991 November

Canadian artist Stephen Timmins discusses his sources of inspiration and techniques in City Figures, a video directed by Karen Malcolm. The dichotomy between his subject matter and technique creates a pleasing tension and presentation. His monumental figures and shapes are modern and timeless, inspired by the city and activities around him, while his tech­nique and technology are those of the old masters.

This is more a film of ideas than how-to: we see Timmins prepare plywood boards with gesso made of rabbit skin, glue and chalk. Gessoing is the process used since medieval times to prepare a panel for painting, gilding and other decorative processes. Timmins takes us through the exacting and lengthy process needed to obtain the desired degree of hardness. Fully absorbent, it is an ideal ground for the tempera painting and gilding processes that follow.

We watch as Timmins prepares traditional egg tempera by carefully excluding the egg white and then combining the yolk with water. Timmins mixes the egg tempera with pigment as he paints in order to control the mix he wants. Exposed to air and sunlight, egg tempera forms a tough layer, which has proven to be the most durable of paints over the centuries.

The next ancient artistic process explored is gilding. Timmins applies aluminum and brass leaf to his gesso ground using an adhesive. This pro­vides the background for the subject. He then models his figures with numer­ous layers of oil glazes to develop depth.

The video is a very interesting exploration of an ancient process as seen through the appealing work of a young Canadian artist.

Judging by the credit note of thanks to two professors in the Professional Motion Picture Program at the South Alberta Institute of Technology, I assume the production is a student production, by direct or/writer Karen Malcolm. It is entirely competent. Production values are good. The music of Handel and Loeillet by flutist Jennifer Boeca and pianist Cameron Watson (also the narrator and sound recordist), while considerably later than the medieval period, provides a fitting ambience for the video.

The only reservation I have is the limited appeal of the subject and the high cost of the video. Given these limitations it is more likely to be useful to special collections.

Frances Bergles, Saskatoon Public Library, Saskatoon, Sask.
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