Current Edition | Visual Arts

Sean Diediker’s Canvasing the World

an excerpt from the Paris episode of Canvasing the World

How does a viewer come to connect with the painting on the museum wall, with its evocation of the past, present and future, as well as the hand that made it? How does the artist discover inspiration, connecting with the beauty of an individual soul or place, and find truth there? These are some of the questions artist Sean Diediker prophetically asks, as he scours the globe and transcends art and existence to understand meaning through the liberation of travel. So far, he has been to Sydney, Australia, and Paris, France, in search of clues to some of life’s riddles and material for the episodes of his ongoing film project Canvasing the World. Each episode is an exploration of place, but also of artistic inspiration, and culminates in the artist’s own response to his experience. He is at the Red Cliff Ranch in Heber Valley on Saturday for the release of his Utah episode during a private event, and there are nine further films to be released with unscheduled premiere dates and a home website for post-release.

“This isn’t a painting show, it’s a travel show about the places and people I paint,” says Diediker in the introduction to a most colorfully conceived canapé of Paris. This inductive artistic attention to the canvas that becomes Paris, alive in Diediker’s lens, gives Diediker endless sources and subjects and inspirations for filming. There are no restaurant suggestions or hotel do’s and don’ts. Rather, there is an up-close and intimate getting-to-know a community of artist/squatters in an old bank building, their jubilant and quintessentially elevated Parisian mood giving way to a more somber trek through Cimetière du Père Lachaise and ultimately the Holocaust Memorial, casting new shadows on conventionally held symbols of good and evil. A narrative reliving of the birth of the avant-garde proves visually and intellectually stimulating, to be amplified by a visit to the mental institution of Vincent van Gogh’s final, restless years. The montage film work is spliced by enticing segments of Diediker, busy with his own work, a canvas with the curious detail of a stack of books, but with no apparent subject or model.

In the 1950s, an enigmatic American named George Whitman began the now world-famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore in Paris. Over the years, it is estimated that 30,000 people have made the floors their nest, following the volunteers-only policy of two hours worked equals a bed for the night. One of these is Cecelia, a young writer from Denmark, who in the Paris episode of Canvasing the World, becomes Diediker’s muse.

The canvas that Diediker has chosen to paint for this program is an homage to the written word, complete with a typewriter set atop the head of this muse. She is at the same time a figure of the Virgin, with an aureole of gold radiating from around the keyboard and jeweled detail on a Byzantine robe. The face has a liberal application of gestured impasto, lent a fine tonal variation. There is no illusionism here but a symbolic referencing to aspects of Cecelia that create an enlightened understanding.

“Usually I sit at the window and write, that way I can be indoors, but looking at the world outside. It seems like a voyeuristic thing to do to watch people from a window, you can see the world go by and not be a part of it at the same time,” Cecelia says in Diediker’s film. Worlds enter into her mind that either do or do not exist for her. Hers is the mind of the sensible writer/artist. This is the window to the world, like a painting in a museum becomes the window to the world of an artist, opening to infinite worlds, transcended by thought and time, that connect artist and viewer.

As Diediker paints Cecelia, through his video camera we see him gaze earnestly, mesmerized at what he sees in his own canvas. He alone sees her gifts and reciprocates with his own, wishing to set both free, to make real what he knows is real, what he himself has felt as inspiration, to apply his own artistic intensity and talent to, answering the plea for an awoken mind and heart, there, expressly on the canvas.

“Paintings hold secrets, universal truths about the human condition are embedded into great works of art… Love, sex, and death… it’s all there…” says a quote by Noah Charney that appears at the beginning of each episode of Canvasing the World. This, for Diediker, is the lifeblood of artistic energy and human expression. The nucleus for each program is not fundamentally the painting, it is not even the artist that paints it, but the centrifugal force to the magical reality of truth found in the journey of discovery that has led, in this case, to the manifestation of Shakespeare and Company, and of Cecelia.

Learn more about Sean Diediker’s Canvasing the World project at www.canvasingtheworld.tv

Ehren Clark studied art history at both the University of Utah and the University of Reading in the UK. He is now a professional writer living in Salt Lake City.

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