Ginger Sedlarova. The Viola Player
i. My Name: Ginger Sedlarova
ii. I am a: Collage artist
iii. The name of this series of work: The Viola Player
iv. Four key words you would use to describe the series: Playful, emotional, colourful, musical
v. What inspired this work?
My wonderful father-in-law, Hans-Karl Piltz, who passed away in April 2020 at age 96. He was a passionate and well-known viola player who moved to Canada in 1959 with his family to join the faculty of the UBC School of Music. He played in dozens of symphonies and quartets around the world, right up until the pandemic lockdown. He was also incredibly dedicated to teaching, as hundreds of musicians who were his students would agree, and was still working hard at transposing classical pieces for the viola. He was a major influence in my life, inspirational, giving me the confidence to chuck a well-paying newspaper gig to become a full-time artist. And his stories! He was so enthusiastic about everything, still learning at 96. I miss him every single day…
Bach (For Hans-Karl)
vi. What was it like to work on this series? A day in its life…:
How on earth Hans-Karl had the patience to cut all those tiny pieces of sheet music as he re-worked cello/violin/piano/insert-instrument-here music to be played on viola, I will never know. It took me a week just to snip the bits of sheet music used on these panels, and I needed frequent breaks as I’d become cross-eyed over my scissors. And he did this for years. It is the most painstaking, fastidious work I’ve done so far in my practice.
vii. Something that surprised you as you were working on this series:
How intensely emotional this work was to make, and how much I was still grieving his passing. I had to put these panels aside several times for several weeks, as I made a point of listening to the actual compositions while cutting up that very sheet music, and they were so beautiful. I could feel Hans watching me as I worked — that was comforting — but I cried. A lot.
Beethoven (For Hans-Karl)
viii. What’s next for you:
A multi-panel series about a side of my family that I’ve always felt close to. Their last name was Malcove, which is one of my middle names, and they came to Canada in 1905 from what is now Belarus. They narrowly escaped pogroms and left their shtetl to cross the ocean and settle in Winnipeg. We recently uncovered dozens of old photos of them, from their lives in then-Russia to Winnipeg and then on to New York City, where many of these great-aunts and uncles moved to and found success.
I find their stories fascinating, especially my great-aunts, who were exceptionally strong women in a time when women had few rights and didn’t go far with their education. For example, my great-aunt Lillian graduated from medical school in Winnipeg at the age of 19 in 1921 and became both a world-renowned psychoanalyst in NYC and an avid collector of ancient art and objects which she bequeathed to the University of Toronto Art Centre. I’ll be interspersing this work with other pieces that will explore my love of Surrealism, as I expect this family series will also be very intense for me and I’ll need occasional mental breaks.
ix. Anything to add?
Each piece in the series is named after one of Hans’ favourite composers whose music he loved to play. I once asked him who those composers were and he wrote to me, “As a performer…I can, and of course must, both practice and perform a piece of music over and over again. And if I have this repetition in mind as a criterion, I come back to the same three guys of Bach, Beethoven and Bartok whose music I never tire of playing.” So each panel has sheet music from his collection from each of these composers, photocopied, as I’d never cut up the originals! And they include his own notations for playing the music on viola.
Ich hoffe, ich habe dich stolz gemacht, Schwiegervater…