Guest studio 2: Petra Halkes & Rene Price

Here we are now, in Guest studio 2 at the DCR and having a great time. My name is Petra Halkes, and I will be here with my husband Rene Price until the end of December. We live in Ottawa, but I was born in The Hague, a long time ago. I emigrated to Canada in 1967.

I am a painter, an art writer and curator. I did my BFA at Ottawa University, where I became quite engrossed in big philosophical ideas on life and art. I decided to pursue the theoretical side of art while I continued my painting. While studying at Carleton University for my Masters (in Canadian Art History), I met Mieke Bal, who was a visiting speaker there. She invited the graduates to join ASCA, the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis, to study for a Ph.D. Five Ottawans took her up on that invitation,including myself. For me, to study with ASCA was a joy. Thanks to the internet I could do most of it at home, while I enjoyed a couple of long stays in The Netherlands to attend lectures and symposiums. My supervisor was Ernst van Alphen. I can highly recommend him and the program to anyone who would like to pursue cultural analysis in a structured, serious fashion.

My doctoral thesis, “Aspiring to the Landscape, On Nature and the Subject of Painting” was published (somewhat adjusted) by the University of Toronto Press in 2006.

I write regularly for Canadian Art Magazines, especially Border Crossings, but as well for C-Magazine, CV-Photo, and Canadian Art. I also write catalogue essays and organize exhibitions. Twice I have organized an exhibition that included a Dutch artist: Lightship was a show that combined Channa Boon's little “spy” train with my paintings at SAW gallery, an artist-run centre in Ottawa and in St. Catherines, Ontario. The other artist was Chrystl Rijkeboer from Haarlem, whose work I included in an exhibition of works made of human hair, with Canadian artists Karen Jordon and Anthonia Lancaster. Antonia lent Chrystl her own funky gallery in Toronto, where she had a solo show as well.

In 2002 I also brought five Canadian contemporary artists and some work by Mary Riter Hamilton from the Canadian National Archives to the Netherlands. The living artists, Susan Feindel, Marie-Jeanne Musiol, Adrian Göllner, Isaac Applebaum and Steve Topping had all produced work that related in some way to memory and war. The exhibition Against Time, was shown, together with work by Armando, in the Armando Museum.

It isn't easy organizing international exhibitions with very little money, especially now that the Canadian government has reduced grants for shipping, and KLM, I just found out, only allows you to check one piece of luggage. But it could be fun, nonetheless, and I am spending my time here looking at art and researching possibilities for exchanges, exhibitions and residencies. I will have an exhibition of my own work at the Enriched Bread Factory, a studio complex in Ottawa, in February, and I am planning to include a presentation on my findings of this month. I also regularly organize “Salons” at my home in Ottawa, where I invite Ottawa artists to talk about residencies and exhibitions they have had outside of our city. I will definitely talk about, and recommend, DCR to Ottawa artists.

So, if anyone would like me to visit his or her studio, let me know. My email address is
and my phone nr. 06 23858488
My calendar is getting quite full, but I still have lots of evenings.

I am only here for a month, and so I had to fore-go painting. But I'd like to include a picture here, anyway, of my latest series, which is called Light Taken for Wonders. I am painting very bright lights in the city. One picture shows a painting from my brother's window, painted from a photograph I took a few years ago. It shows a long apartment building in Rijswijk, all lit up, and the reflection of my brother's living room lights. The other painting is of a greenhouse at night, in Ottawa.
I was hoping to take some photographs of lit greenhouses in the Westland, but on a tour of the area the other night I found only one greenhouse lit. I liked the site, though, so I'll include that photo as well.

I am intrigued by these artificial lights and by my own willingness to project mystery and wonder on to them.