Sunday, 21 October 2012

New Rob Stewart Film Debuts At TIFF

The Revolution To Change The World Begins Underwater

 An edited version of this story appears in this month's Diver Magazine
 Revolution is a new big brain movie for divers who care about the planet. Underwater filmmaker Rob Stewart premiered the full-length film in early September at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Already Revolution is doing what Stewart wants it to do – change the world.
The movie captured the People’s Choice Award Documentary  (Runner-Up) in his hometown and was Documentary Winner at last month’s Atlantic Film Festival.  It will be screening at Festivals for the next few months before getting theatrical release in Canada in March 2013.
Revolution is the true-life eco-crusade that the Toronto diver found himself leading, half way through making the movie.  The film, originally meant as a shark conservation film – a follow-up to his acclaimed 2006 SHARKWATER documentary – ended back on land and morphed into something much much bigger.
It took eight years in total, a million dollars, the support of friends and fellow eco-warriors to make Revolution. This film takes viewers through 15 countries over a four year adventure as Rob Stewart discovers that it's not only sharks that are in grave danger – it's humanity itself.

Stewart and his team are filming in New Guineau
“The movie picks off from where SHARKWATER leaves off,” Stewart told Diver Magazine. “In fact Revolution opens using footage that didn’t get into SHARKWATER. We are diving in the Galapagos Islands, and we have drifted away from our boat. We have strayed too far from our boat. We are floating away and night is coming.”
Shades of the thriller Open Water.  “ We used this footage as a metaphor for the movie – it is to get audiences gasping at our plight – and the world’s plight.  We have our moment of terror floating away (with schooling hammerheads down below).  We have no idea what to do.”
Stewart got his camera into a shark finning centre
Stewart does get rescued and for awhile goes back underwater to making a documentary about saving the world’s coral reefs, halting shark fining and bringing endangered species back from the brink. But, two or three years into the project Stewart came up for air and released there were mammoth problems facing mankind. 
“It is bigger than the oceans,” he explained. “To tell the biggest story of all (the impending destruction of the planet) required us to go out of he water, you know, and show people that it is all about saving the evolution of life.”
Stewart opens his film: Toronto International Film Festival - photo by Weit
From the coral reefs in Papua, New Guinea and deforestation in Madagascar to the largest and most destructive environmental project in Alberta, the new movie documents that all of society’s actions are interconnected and that environmental degradation, species loss, ocean acidification, pollution and food and water scarcity reduces the Earth's ability to house humans.
Stewart asks “how did this happen, and what will it take to change the course that humanity has set itself on?”
The filmmaker wants millions to see Revolution.  After it comes off the film festival circuit and finishes its theatrical run, he plans to post Revolution on the Internet and use Social Media tools to direct young people to see the film.
And after that? “We are doing Sharks and Snakes, a 3-D, IMAX large format movie,” said Stewart. “ And then I’d like to take a bit of breather!”

Prop from Stewart's first movie, SHARKWATER, was recycled and used at the TIFF after-party for the movie launch - photo by Stephen Weir

Friday, 12 October 2012

Toronto sculptor's touring European exhibition now at Art Gallery of Ontario

Top: Eran Penny and Old Self, Variation #, 1960 Left: young Penny
"HOPE I DIE BEFORE GET OLD" (Oops too late)
  Maybe, says Canadian artist but that was a long time AGO
From the Huffington Post by Stephen Weir
It was the sixties. Vietnam.  Nuclear testing in the Pacific.  Sgt Pepper. And, the Who singing they hoped their generation would die before it got old.
What could be worse than aging?  Cutting your hair? Buying a suit?  Cubicles? Getting a mortgage?
The song didn't work.  Most of us lived. We all grew old.  Overnight. No one thought about what was going to happen as the aging process took hold ... except maybe Canadian sculptor, Evan Penny.
When Peter Townsend wrote My Generation (with that famous dying line) it was 1965 and the Who were pointing out that older people just "don't get it". 
Evan Penny was 12-years old and had just moved to Canada from Africa where his father had practised medicine. He was  an outsider on the edge of the Boomer Bubble. He was about to grow old, but, on his own terms. An artist.  A prop builder for Hollywood movies.  A man who literally "stretched" how Canadians think about sculpture.
In 2006, four decades past the Who's Best Due Date, the Toronto based artist decided he could use sculpture to figuratively return to the days of his youth, and at the same time flash forward towards a time of his  own perceived physical decay.
 "How I might feel at the end of my life. What will I look like?" said Evan Penny while standing beside a life-sized bust of himself  as he imagined he will look at the age of 90.  The wall-mounted artwork is a key piece in an important exhibition that recently opened at the Art Gallery of Toronto.
" This  is how might I feel at the end of my life," Penny told me at a press preview for the show. "This second piece (moving over to a sculpture of himself as a 17-year old) is how I probably felt at the beginning (of manhood) but it is really about me in the here-and-now."
The AGO is the last stop for Evan Penny: Re Figured following exhibitions at Germany's Kunsthalle Tübingen, the Museum der Moderne Salzburg in Austria, and Italy’s Museo delle Arti Cantanzaro. The exhibition is in Toronto until January 6, 2013. 
Evan Penny: Re Figured  is a solo exhibition that features over 25 of Penny’s larger-than-life sculptures, each painstakingly crafted from layers of pigmented silicone, human hair, fabric and resin. Blending abstraction and figuration, Penny’s hyper-realistic sculptures straddle the line between object and image, presenting the human form both as it is and as it can be when imagined through the distorting lens of photography and digital media.
Filling the fourth floor, this show, according to the Art Gallery "shows the artist’s evolution over the past decade, highlighting in equal measure his technical skill and fresh thinking. Accessible, often familiar and sometime vaguely monstrous, his works engage audiences, young and old alike, on various levels".
" No, I didn't make a mould of myself," said Penny, while fielding questions at a bare-bones media preview held in mid-September at the AGO.  " However, I did scan myself.  From that I made a foam sculpture  and a follow-on clay sculpture casting and onto the next step .... (a silicon casting, followed by the final addition of hair, pigment and a super realistic paint job!)."
" After all that, there is still the look of myself in there, in the sense of the present and the future."
The sculptor's ability to make his work have startlingly life-like skin colour, comes from his other life, that of a special effects expert for the movies.  You might have seen the head he created of  John Kennedy, which was used in  Oliver Stone’s film JFK, or the organic guns and computer pods in David Croneberg's eXistenZ and that thing in the rat infested cellar in Graveyard Shift.
Matthew Teitelbaum and Stretch #1
Evan Penny’s Stretch #1 from 2003 is one of the "most popular works at the Art Gallery of Ontario", said Matthew Teitelbaum, the director and CEO of the gallery. Visitors love to stare at Stretch’s huge stretched silicone face (almost 3 meters long) and peer into his big watery eyes. 
Stretch #1 hung  for almost a decade at the AGO."When it came down (to be part of the touring show), we were constantly being asked by visitors where it was!" said Teitelbaum.
In this age of Photo Shop, Penny is not surprised that young art gallery goers relate to the 3-dimensional distortion of a man's face in Stretch #1.
"We are saturated with images because of  the media. My work displays this world in 3-D, to what is often a 2-D audience," he said. " In 2-D world we accept distortion quickly. Not so in  the 3-D world. I am interested in that juxtaposition."
 He suggests that if you were to put a photograph of Stretch #1 and some of his other works from the show, into a Photo Shop programme, one could restore the image back to almost picture-perfect normalcy.
Aerial #2 by Evan Penny 2006. Silicone, pigment, hair, aluminum
And there are other works in the show, that are so lifelike, photographs of his pieces, like the bird's eye view of a standing nude male (Aerial #2),  need no computer diddling to make them look more real than a sculpture.

What is it all about?  According to the artist, that is a fair question, one that he asks himself from time-to-time.  He admits there is a fair bit of voyeurism in some of his work.  Maybe, as the Who once sang, it is a case of not trying to cause a big s-s-sensation, he's just talkin' 'bout his g-g-g-generation. 
By Stephen Weir
six pictures from the media conference

Monday, 8 October 2012


Chasing Ink With Camera!
One Day On A Little Cayman Dive Boat

The compass has a dive flag. Celtic ink with 3 waves for the dive world

Stripping down in Little Cayman's only food store
Little Cayman Island, population 200, attracts only two types of visitors.  Ornithologists. Experienced Scuba Divers.
Ornithologists because of the birds. The largest colony of Red Footed Boobies in the Caribbean is found on Little Cayman's Booby Pond. Scuba Divers go there because of the sheer wall of coral found in the island's underwater preserve, just north of the island.
My wife and I returned from Little Cayman Island on Sunday.  We weren't there for the birds.
Flamingo is the logo for dive haven Bonaire.
We spent most of our week on a couple of dive boats. One large scuba boat was operated by Reef Divers out of the Little Cayman Resort.  The other, a small Boston Whaler operated by three divers, was out on the reef hunting the invasive lionfish.
Big or small, on Little Cayman the dive boats attract mature divers.  Youngest diver on the Reef Divers boat with us was probably 40.  The Oldest? 85 and counting.
A mature crowd meant people experienced in the sport. They   also were a well-heeled group who brought the best equipment and dressed in the nicest clothes. Polite. Sophisticated. Educated.
But, what was shocking was once the shirts came off and the men and women dropped trou, you got to see how dedicated, in private, these divers are to the sport of scuba diving.
 The pictures on this blog were all taken over a 24-hour period. One morning was spent diving on Bloody Bay Wall with Reef Divers.  The afternoon was spent with three lion fish hunters.  I grabbed a lot of pictures with my loaner Olympus E-PL3 while taking a surface interval in the pool with fellow scuba fanatics at Little Cayman Resort.  I learned quickly that high-end diving  brought out the ink in people. 
No one was shy about showing their colours. Arms dripping images of sharks, jelly fish, octopi and whales. Feet etched in pictures of dolphins.  A woman with a turtle and a butterfly on her shoulder.  Another with a leatherback tattoo on her ankle.
I took pictures of every aquatic tattoo I saw before and after just one day of diving. No one turned me down. No one wondered what I was doing.
Cheers Mate! And Bottoms up with White Fin
All but one of the pictures were taken on the two boats or in the freshwater pool.  I was also lucky enough to get a picture of a manta ray that was on the back of a man shopping in the island's only store.  He had no qualms about stripping off his shirt in the middle of the canned goods aisle to let me get my picture!
Of course, not everyone wants ink and, as I found out,  there were alternatives.  I did photograph a woman's two big toes that have been decorated with red and white nail polish to look like dive flags.  And I also met up with an ink-free diver who was content to stand in the pool and honour his sport by drinking a can of  White Fin Lager inspired by Jaws and brewed by Cayman Islands Brewery.
This diver had the help of her husband to put dive flags on her toes. She did the red polish, he the white.