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Malen Framing. The Art of Dennis Cardiff.

Malen Framing

Ottawa's Finest in Custom Framing


The Art of Dennis Cardiff



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Acrylic on Masonite
40 by 30 inches
Private Collection

This is a biblical reference
to Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Acrylic on Canvas
30 by 30 inches
Private Collection

Kathy Fitzpatrick
reflected in Maniwa Creek.

Soft Realism

By Leslie Ebbs
The Ottawa Herald
November 18, 1987

Cardiff describes his meticulously detailed work as "soft realism" a re-arrangement of the elements of real life to the point of creative perfection.

"I read somewhere that realist painters often paint that way - taking what they want from their subjects and manipulating the image so they can impose some sort of order on an otherwise chaotic environmant. I suppose that, consciously or not, I do that with my work as well."

Acrylic on Canvas
14 by 22 inches
Private Collection

This is the door to a boat house
on the Gananoque River.
In the background, among other things,
is a lot of poison ivy.

Acrylic on Masonite
30 by 30 inches
Private Collection

This abandoned car in Saskatchewan
had the appearance of a cemetery monument,
perched on a small rise,
in a field of harvested wheat.

Cardiff does a lot of his work painting from combinations of photographs he has taken. He is fascinated with the manipulation of depth of field and selective focus in order to distort or blur the reality of the images he paints.

"I find that the out-of focus aspect of a photograph often becomes as much the centre of attention as any other subject in my work," he says.

Cardiff works in a variety of media - from ink and coloured pencil, to pastels, acrylics and egg tempera. The layering of several types of media results in a vatiety of effects, one of which is a softness created by acrylics over a pastel base.

"Most of the time I try to let the subject matter determine the type of media I use," he says. "Sometimes I'll start the drawing and find that I don't quite get the intensity I need, so I'll layer one medium on top of another and work it back and forth until I get the effect I want."

Jimmy Downey
Acrylic on Canvas
14 by 22 inches
Private Collection

The source photo for this portrait
was taken in the 1940's. I tried to
capture my impression
of that era in the painting.

John Cardiff Riding Horseback
Acrylic on Canvas
14 by 22 inches
Private Collection

The source photo for this portrait
was taken by my nephew, Bill Cardiff,
an accomplished painter exhibiting
in the Hamilton, Ontario, area.

This is a labour intensive process and Cardiff spends an average of 80 hours on each painting he does. Some of his more precise work can take anywhere up to 150 hours to complete.

"It's partly a discipline. For the past year I've been getting up at four o'clock in the morning and putting in three hours before I leave for work," he says. "I find the fewest distractions in the morning, and I'm freshest then. I need to keep a regular routine."

Justice Arthur Moxon
Charcoal on Paper
22 by 14 inches
Private Collection

This is one of a series of portraits
of founding partners
of a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, law firm.

Charcoal on Paper
32 by 24 inches
Private Collection


Timid eyes
from the forest
beckon; yet hold back,
want to love;
afraid to trust.

Lithe body
like a deer
ready to spring
at the first sign
of danger.

Delicate features
worthy of infinite contemplation,
ready to colour
at the slightest provocation.

I want to coax her
from the forest,
show her
there is nothing to fear,
yet; I know there is.

So, from a distance
I watch
the timid gentle creature,
all I can give her
is freedom.

Born in Saskatoon in 1946, Cardiff painted throughout his childhood, and went on to study his craft at the Ontario College of Art and the University of Saskatchewan. Since moving to Ottawa in 1977 he has been working toward obtaining his B.A. Honours in Theory and History of Art at the University of Ottawa.

Cardiff says that Ottawa affords him a variety of photo opportunities and subjects for his work. The time he puts into his painting is relaxing, almost meditative, he claims.

"Sometimes I'll be concentrating on one square inch for more than an hour. It's as much a time for thinking as anything else."

Lily Pads
Acrylic on Canvas
14 by 22 inches
Private Collection

This view
is of the Gananoque River
as seen from a canoe.

Tree Frog
Acrylic on Masonite
12 by 16 inches
Private Collection

This scene is viewed from
a hiking trail at Bon Echo provincial park
near Mazinaw Lake.

Artists Statement

Painting is a visual language. If I could fully explain a painting in words there would be no need for the painting. I paint what I can not say in words. I do not consider myself a maker of grand statements for others to live by. I don't tell people how to live their lives. My own life is enough of a mystery and a daily challenge. I am a listener and a questioner. My paintings are a visual record of my personal meanderings through life. Like journal entries during a trip, or notes scribbled on a map with routes highlighted, detours and side trips marked, comments made for future trips and information collected along the way. Like post cards they offer a glimpse of choices I made along my route; of what I considered visually important during a certain period; things that stirred my heart. Enough of the trip metaphor.

I think of my paintings as celebrations of the magic and enchantment of art and nature. A photograph records one particular moment in time. By taking information from a number of photographic sources I can record an expanse of time. I can also create my own reality from totally unrelated sources; a quieter, gentler, more colourful reality. For the most part I rely on photos that I have taken myself. When in my studio I use these images to conjure the sensations I experienced while actually taking the photographs. I recall the splash of waves, the warmth of the summer sun, the scent of lilac in bloom, damp grass and wet rocks. These sensations and images are then filtered through nostalgia, the background music of Delta Blues, and the process of translation and interpretation begins.

If the viewing of my paintings generates some of the feelings of inner peace and harmony I experienced when creating them, I will consider my efforts rewarded.

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Paintings by Dennis Cardiff


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