Printmaking and Other Curiosities

Printmaking: After many years in the world of music, I am surprised and delighted to also be exploring printmaking. This is an ideal artistic practice in which to experiment with rich colours and diverse textures, the presence of which I have always deeply appreciated in visual art, fabric, wool, gardens, theatre sets and lighting, etc. I really enjoy the frequently aleatoric results of preparing and pulling a print – no matter what you plan, your expectations can be fooled!

As a professional musician in the Western classical tradition I have spent most of my artistic life adhering to certain necessary collective technical and expressive conventions which are not always my own. Printmaking is a genuine source of rejuvenation and liberation for me, revealing my defaults of artistic habit and offering refreshing reminders and insight into what ‘playing’ really means.

Many thanks to Loree Ovens, Colin Savage, Kate Hawkins, Peter Finney, Joan Malcolmsen, Anna Gaby-Trotz and others, and to Open Studio and the Toronto Heliconian Club Visual Art Section. And many thanks to the friends and strangers who have come to the various shows I’ve been a part of and liked my work enough to take it home with them!

Some recent work (less-than-stellar photographs taken by yours truly):


Photo by Tara McMullen, courtesy of Toronto Masque Theatre

The Seljefløyte: Since 2000 I’ve been playing this traditional Norwegian flute, best known in English as the ‘willow flute.’ I love playing it, both for its remarkable sound and for the inner space to which it takes me. Tunes are played on this traditional instrument, which has no fingerholes, by using the two harmonic series of the open and closed pipe. My rep consists of a growing number of traditional tunes and tunes of my own devising, and it’s an inspiring medium for improvisation. I own four, in different keys – three by Ånon Egeland, and one by Magnar Storbekken.

I also have a sjøfloyte, or traditional recorder, by Bodil Diesen but my traditional repertoire on that is even smaller. So far.

kantele by R Nieminen

The Kantele: Meet Finland’s beautiful member of the dulcimer family – I’m glad I did! Thanks to all who’ve helped me along the way of playing this instrument, including Gerry Henkel, Rauno Nieminen (who made the instrument pictured here), Matti Palonen, and most of all Arja Kastinen, whose inspiring musicianship, playing skill, and passion for the kantele has made so much possible for so many people. Thanks too to the fellow travellers and friends I met at Arja’s small kantele workshop in Finland in the summer of 2016, and to the Canada Council for the Arts for the travel grant which made that trip possible.