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  • Social Media Marketing for Artists

    Location: Markham, ON

    The Markham Group of Artists presents Charie Ginete-Ilon, who will be presenting Social..
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  • KANA WAIN DIDA - Looking after each other

    Location: Winnipeg, MB

    COVID-19, Indigenous Communities, Health Sovereignty and Working Together for Change Join Kitatipithitamak Mithwayawin for..
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  • 6x6x2021- International Call For Art

    Location: Rochester, NY

    Join the International Small Art Phenomenon 6x6x2021! Entries for 6x6x2021 are due April 10,..
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  • 6th Annual Artist's Choice Art Competition

    Location: Palm Springs, CA

    Fusion Art invites submissions for the 6th Annual Artist’s Choice art competition for..
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  • 11th Annual

    Location: Palm Springs, CA

    Light Space & Time Online Art Gallery announces an art call for the..
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  • Enter Paint and Sculpture Ontario

    Location: lambton Shores, ON

    Paint Ontario 2020 was a huge success – many talented artists submitted paintings..
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  • National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society 2021 Spring Online International Exhibition

    Location: Windsor, ON

    The National Oil & Acrylic Painters’ Society (NOAPS) invites oil and acrylic painters..
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  • Lebel Mansion Gallery Call for Submissions for 2022 Gallery Season

    Location: Pincher Creek, AB

    The Allied Arts Council of Pincher Creek strives to host thought-provoking exhibitions that..
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  • Large Works

    Location: Truro, NS

    Our annual winter show of large works is now on display at the..
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  • Exhibition: RE-EMERGENCE

    Location: Calgary, AB

    WE’RE BACK!! After a long and lonely year, 2020, Carbon Point Gallery and it's..
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  • see “a village dreams” virtually

    Location: Toronto, ON

    Visit Gallery Arcturus – vicariously: “a village dreams” has installations by deborah harris -- Up..
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  • The Chelsea International Photography Competition

    Location: New York, AB

    The Chelsea International Photography Competition (CIPC) honors our gifted talents all over the..
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  • 12th Artist Spotlight Solo Art Competition

    Location: Palm Springs, CA

    Fusion Art is now accepting entries for the 12th Artist Spotlight Solo Art..
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  • 3rd Into the Wild Quarterly Art Competition

    Location: Palm Springs, CA

    Fusion Art invites submissions for the 3rd Into the Wild Online Art Competition. 2D..
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  • Call for Proposals: AGO X RBC Artist-in-Residence Program 2021

    Location: Toronto , ON

    Three paid digital residencies available in 2021. Deadline for submissions: March 10, 2021 at..
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  • Call For Visual Artists-Boynes Emerging Artist Award 4th Edition

    Location: Melbourne,

    The Boynes Emerging Artist Award is an independent artist-run International 2D art competition..
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  • A Mysterious Attraction: A new spin on gravitational art

    Location: Port Moody, BC

    Meet the artists at a Virtual Opening Reception and tour of the exhibition. Edzy..
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  • $550.00 Innovate Grants — Call for Artists + Photographers

    Location: , FL

    Innovate Grant is now accepting submissions for the Winter 2021 Cycle. Innovate Grant..
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  • Check Jooble for Art related Jobs

    Location: Ottawa, ON

    Looking for a job in the ARTS in Canada? We have thousands of..
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Rachel Berman - The Intimacy of Strangers

By Robert Amos December 29, 2002

} Rachel BermanThe Intimacy of Strangers 'Do everything. Be everything. Good, bad, indifferent: find out what you are before you die.' Djuna Barnes, Aller et Retour. Currently, just before she leaves town, Rachel Berman is presenting the largest show of her paintings Victoria has ever seen. I asked her how she begins. 'I paint with oil paints thinned with turpentine over the graphite. I like the pentimento to show through, a sign that the picture was made by hand. For brushes I used the bristly, stiff ones. It's an idea I got from [Austrian artist] Egon Schiele.' Berman is getting up her courage to buy some of the really big artist's brushes. 'I am using house painting brushes.' She has to trim and tailor these clumsy implements to get them to the shape she wants. Individual brush marks are crucial to her satisfaction. 'I am going for the longest brush strokes in the history of art,' Berman quips. She directs my attention to a pair of trousers on one of her figures. The line defining the corduroy sweeps from waistline past his knee. 'It's a combination of painterly technique and the element of risk. Wow! I like that.' The direction and dynamic of each of her strokes is visible, and each describes the shape of the object depicted. Her paintings are finished with a coat of beeswax and burnished to a glossy finish. 'I like a really slick surface to work on'. She paints on canvas which is gessoed and sanded seven times. Often, she doesn't stretch it but staples the canvas to the wall. The composition is not dictated by the form of the canvas. If the composition changes as she paints, the canvas can be trimmed to match. I asked her about the muted, sombre tones of her paintings. They appear dark and monochromatic. 'It's my Turkish Drab period,' she jokes. 'I love earth colours - I guess I'm an earth spirit. I find them safe and comfy.' In fact, upon examination one discovers that she uses a full spectrum of colours, harmonizing them so judiciously that they blend to a warm middle range. Her control of tone - rim lighting, back lighting, reflected light in shadow - is magisterial. She mixes colour intuitively. 'Something leads you...', she comments. There is a sense of beauty or rightness also always before her. It's not learned, but something intuitive. 'I didn't go to school,' Berman admits, 'so I don't know the rules.' Where do her ideas come from? 'Sketchbooks, old photos,' she tells me. Though her paintings have an searching realism, they are actually compiled from many sources. Having never owned a camera, she sometimes works from photos people have given her. One large painting of an artist - a middle-aged man - features her own feet and slippers. When she decided his legs should be crossed, she posed her own. Berman hasn't had the luxury to sit and sketch for the past ten years, due to pressures of her fragile health, poverty and feisty attitude. But now, after a respite in Victoria, she's in the clear and ready for travel and fresh subject matter. 'I won't have to recycle my life,' she bubbles, looking forward to time in Paris and London. Eventually, our interview touched on her subject matter. Berman is a painter of anecdote. The largest painting, fully two metres across, positions two characters in a huge, empty Dublin apartment. The echoing space between them is palpable. 'It's my brother and his partner. You know, I'd been searching for him for my whole life, and I finally found him. Then he died... Actually he was killed.' Rachel is matter-of-fact about this, and much else. Another bears the title 'Preface to a twenty-volume suicide note'. A third shows her father, gazing into space, a cigarette burning down in his hand. 'Actually,' she revealed, 'it's a composite of both my fathers - my real father and my adoptive father.' Slowly I become aware of the bars on the window behind him. The scene is a mental hospital. I suggested that most of her characters seemed to be gazing into the existential void. Many of the smaller studies are based on people she sees lining up outside her window - her studio is on the second floor above the welfare office. Others, tiny portraits mounted on steel plates, portray victims of Irish Republican Army violence. There is a void there. But Berman gives each of these losers her loving attention. She searches for that touch of humanity in the most intractable faces, and she finds it. The subject of these paintings is actually her search, not their gloom. 'The pictures are autobiographical,' she notes. 'They are all about me, trying to find out who I am.' Currently, she's at the start of a new chapter. 'I begin the trip now. I can leave all this gloom behind. I've been sad for years, but I've paid my dues. I've been punished and I've accepted my punishment. Now it's time to get on with it.' In even the darkest souls there is a ray of light, a touch of grace. It's there, and Berman has the means, and the intention, to find it. Each of these hopeless stories is redeemed by the touch of grace, the common humanity each of us shares while we are here on earth. Saved by that grace, and the loving attention of an artist of uncommon skill and sympathy. Rachel Berman exhibits with the John Inglis Fine Arts in Toronto and the Winchester Galleries in Victoria. ___________________________________________ Copyright © 2002 Robert Amos Robert Amos is an artist and art writer who lives in Victoria, B. C.. He can be contacted by e-mail and you can view his paintings at