21 July 2014

Dance Partners #1

"War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace."
– Thomas Mann

20" x 20", oil on canvas, 2014

The phrase "powder keg" aptly describes Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th Century, and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand* on 28 June 1914 was the spark that set it off. What followed was a series of declarations of war by nations –and if lines were drawn on a map to connect them, they'd resemble a diagram of dance steps:
  • 28 July: Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia
  • 01 August: Germany declares war on Russia
  • 03 August: Germany declares war on France 
  • 03 August: Germany invades Belgium
  • 04 August: Britain declares war on Germany
  • 05 August: Montenegro declares war on Austria-Hungary
  • 06 August: Austria-Hungary declares war on Russia
  • 06 August: Serbia declares war on Germany
  • 08 August: Montenegro declares war on Germany
  • 12 August: France declares war on Austria-Hungary
  • 12 August: Britain declares war on Austria-Hungary
Dance Partners comprise the first nine paintings of To the Sound of Trumpets and are a collection of shoes from that period –women's fancy dress and men's military footwear– representing the early stages of the war. The declarations of war continued throughout the conflict with a series of Central American countries adding themselves to the list, the last one being on 19 July 1918 with Honduras declaring war on Germany.

The stack of canvases and wood panels below are now further along than in the photo, the top nine being from the Dance Partners group, and the one on the floor in front is the title page, partially revealing the two first paintings completed for this project.

The Stack.

*He'll get his own painting, apart from the five groups mentioned in my press release.

17 July 2014

Trumpets without Titles

To the Sound of Trumpets
16" x 20", oil on wood panel, 2014, private collection

Lately when starting a big painting project I like to make one painting to serve almost as though it would be the cover of a book or the poster for a movie –but, in reality, I call them "title pages" because it sometimes feels like I'm doing a school project...a really fun and self-directed school project (read the details of it via the press release).

Rest assured, this won't be a flag waving, chest-thumping, rah-rah-rah blah-blah-blah. In the words of one British gunnery officer: "My grief, but we're fed up to the back teeth with war books and war verse –all the eyewash stuff that seems to please the idiots at home. And what's the good of war books if they fail to give civilian readers an idea of what life is like in the firing line?"

I know I have my work cut out for me.

As with last year's 33 on 33 plein air painting project, my goal is to push and shove myself out of my comfort zone in new and, hopefully, unexpected ways. Doing 100 paintings will give me a lot of room to play around in; I'm barely 13% into it and I've already made a few choices in style and technique that kind of surprised me.

And I like it.


You can't see any of this dramatic early stage in the final painting, but it helped me to loosen up and prepare to use a more "active" technique.


You also won't see much red in the some of the finished pieces (like the Dance Partners group), but all the paintings in this project will have red somewhere, even if it's just acrylic ground underneath layers of oils, but I plan on featuring it in quite a few later on.


Knowing this would be my title page, I composed it deliberately to allow for text in the upper portion against a light-coloured sky, and, despite the apparent action, I wanted the painting's palette to be rather subdued. The final result is about 98% what I had imagined, the remaining 2% being unexpected elements (overall colouring, technique) making it better than I had imagined, leaving me 100% satisfied.
This is going to be an easy project to do math about.

13 July 2014

To the Sound of Trumpets

"It is forbidden to kill, therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets."
– Voltaire

16" x 20", oil on wood panel, 2014, private collection
(here's the painting without the text)


Here is the MASTER LIST and links to all 100 paintings.

Here is a SHORT VIDEO of all 100 paintings.


Press release:

To the Sound of Trumpets

One hundred paintings commemorate start of World War One

Macaulay Heritage Park, 35 Church Street (at Union Street), Picton, Ontario

For his upcoming art exhibition, To the Sound of Trumpets, Milé Murtanovski is creating one hundred paintings to commemorate the hundred-year anniversary of the start of World War One.

Opening on Remembrance Day, Murtanovski has been developing this project for more than a year, immersing himself in research, with a particular focus on the effects of the war on the people of Prince Edward County, his home for the last five years. During the course of his research, Murtanovski was struck time and again by the contrasts between the commonly held idea of valour and the brutal reality the soldiers faced. “I was drawn to investigate what the war was really like, particularly for the men in the trenches,” he says. “I wanted to be truthful and unsentimental about the war without being disparaging. I’d like the viewer to get an idea of the true conditions experienced by these men and have them be seen not simply as names on a cenotaph, but as young boys whose lives were cut short or changed forever. Even in 100 paintings I can’t come close to conveying the magnitude of this horrific war.”

The exhibition, opening at the historic Macaulay Church on November 11, 2014, is presented in partnership with the Museums of Prince Edward County. The exhibit is grouped into five sections. Dance Partners is a series of oil paintings featuring men’s and women’s footwear of the time; all of the men’s are army boots. The second and largest part of the series, Calamity, consists of artwork (mostly oil paintings) reflecting the brutality of the war itself. The third section, The War at Home, looks at what was happening in Canada and Prince Edward County during the war years – half-empty classrooms, the Quakers as conscientious objectors, and women bearing the brunt of the workload on farms and in the factories. The Devil’s Harvest is a series of ink portraits of fallen soldiers from Prince Edward County, and the final section, Remembrance, reflects upon the true cost of the war.

Murtanovski is no stranger to painting projects of epic proportions. In 2013 he painted 101 paintings in 101 consecutive hours. Entitled County 101, this series portrayed the people, places and things that make Prince Edward County so special. In 2012 he undertook another painting marathon, Burning the Midnight Oil, wherein he painted 100 portraits in 100 consecutive hours.

For this project, Murtanovski will do mini-residencies at five Prince Edward County museums, creating one painting at each site. The public are encouraged to come out and meet the artist and watch his progress:

- Mariner’s Museum, August 6 & 7, 1-4 PM. 2065 County Rd. 13, South Bay.

 Ameliasburgh Museum, August 13 & 14. 1-4 PM. 517 County Rd. 19, Ameliasburgh.

 Macaulay Museum, August 20 & 21, 1-4 PM. 35 Church St., Picton.   Artist talk August 21 at 2 PM.

 Rose House Museum, August 27 & 28. 3333 County Rd. 8, Waupoos.

 Wellington Heritage Museum, September 3 & 4, 1-4 PM. 290 Main St., Wellington.

The twenty-four portraits of Prince Edward County soldiers who died in the war will be painted in one of Murtanovski’s signature painting marathons. Between October 18th and 19th, he will paint one portrait an hour for 24 consecutive hours; viewers can watch him paint live online via Ustream.

Milé Murtanovski has been painting for more than 25 years and works mainly in watercolours, oils, and inks. In 2010 he founded Small Pond Arts (www.smallpondarts.ca) with his wife, artist Krista Dalby. Small Pond Arts is an artist residency centre, art gallery, and host to numerous creative community events throughout the year.

Exhibit details:
November 11-30. Daily 12-4, admission is free. Reception November 11. Artist talk November 22, 2 PM. Church at Macaulay Heritage Park, 35 Church Street (at Union Street), Picton.
A portion of all sales will be donated to the Museums of Prince Edward County and the Picton Legion.