29 August 2017

JOE FAFARD AT 75

FROM THE EDITOR

 

There ought to be a word for that all-too brief sliver of time after a holiday, when you are back home and feel chill – you know, before you sit down and start to catch up on all the work you didn't do while you were away. I was already making a to-do list last week on the bus home from the ferry after a blissful week on Savary Island, a seven-kilometre sandbar in the Salish Sea, perhaps the closest thing to a tropical isle in Canada. I even went on a three-hour cruise, but unlike Gilligan, made it back, and the skipper too. That would be my childhood friend, Kathy, who  generously invited me and four other women to her parents' cabin, and then tirelessly piloted us around in their boat. Internet access was spotty, so while I knew stuff was happening in the art world, I couldn't do much about it. Unplugging felt good. I recharged and was ready to put this issue to bed – once I got the sand out of my hiking boots.

Flip through these pages to catch up with Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard and his latest show at the Slate gallery in Regina. Fafard is no slouch. He's turning 75, but is still working hard and plans to keep making art "until the cows come home." Meanwhile, Edmonton arts writer Fish Griwkowsky talks to Wei Li, a finalist in this year's RBC painting contest, about her show at Harcourt House. And Calgary artist Dick Averns reviews Lorenzo Fusi's latest offering at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery, a playful re-visioning of U.S. President Donald Trump's proposed barrier along the Mexican border. There's an online component that allows anyone to submit a work. I'm already drawing up plans for my "Alt-Wall." Perhaps you'll submit your ideas, too? Rounding out this issue is a story about a new generation of Inuit artists at Urban Shaman in Winnipeg; cSPACE, a new arts centre in Calgary; and my studio visit with Victoria artist Anne Meggitt, now in her 80s, who could teach us all a thing or two about the art of aging, not just gracefully, but with passion.

Looking ahead, we have a special treat for the next issue. Toronto Star visual arts writer Murray Whyte profiles Joseph Hartman, who has made a name for himself photographing the studios of prominent Canadian artists. Hartman's show at Edmonton's Peter Robertson Gallery opens Sept. 21. I'd tell you more ... but I can't. There's a mass of emails about the fall season in my inbox and I need to read them before I plan the rest of the issue. But first I have to sweep up more sand.

Until next time,

 

MASTHEAD

29 August 2017

Volume 2 Number 18
Copyright 2017

Galleries West Digital is an online magazine published every second Tuesday to promote and advance the visual arts. Launched in 2016, it replaces the print version of Galleries West magazine, which covered art and artists in Western Canada for 15 years. Our award-winning website, gallerieswest.ca, the repository for all content, is an open archive of information about the arts in communities large and small throughout Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columba as well as Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Editor Portia Priegert
editor@gallerieswest.ca
250-382-0567 (Victoria)
Toll Free 866-415-3282
Consulting Editor Jeffrey Spalding
Reviews Editor reviews@gallerieswest.ca
Contributors Dick Averns, Paul Gessell, Fish Griwkowsky, Karen Quinn
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Tom Tait
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Joe Fafard, "TLC," 2017, patinated bronze, 11.5" x 13.5" x 8"

COVER STORY

Joe Fafard: Still Working at 75

Joe Fafard wants everyone to know that, despite turning 75 on Sept. 2, he plans to continue making art for many years to come. That’s why he has titled his latest exhibition ’Til the Cows Come Home. It opens Sept. 1 at Slate Gallery in Regina. “I want to keep going until the cows come home,” explains Saskatchewan’s most celebrated sculptor. And if any city folk don’t understand the meaning of that expression, let’s just say Fafard doesn’t expect to retire any time soon. While the Slate exhibition is deliberately timed to mark Fafard’s birthday, it’s not his only iron in the fire. A travelling exhibition of his small steel works began earlier this year in the Alberta communities of Medicine Hat and Sherwood Park and will resume next year in Whitehorse and the Saskatchewan cities of Swift Current and Prince Albert. Fafard has been hoping to have about 20 bronze animal sculptures completed in time for the Slate exhibition. Many are new additions to the Fafard menagerie, best known for cows, coyotes and bison. New beasts on the block include a muskox, a donkey, a young deer sprouting antlers, a Poitevin draft horse and a mule. These animals range in height from just a few inches to 40 inches. Fafard, in an interview earlier this summer, seemed most excited about a planned larger-than-life prairie dog. “It’s almost a humorous piece, very Buddha-like.” More ►
– Paul Gessell

 

Wei Li, "Long Way Home," 2017, acrylic and oil on canvas, 40" x 60" Image courtesy of the artist

FIVE THINGS

Wei Li’s ‘Curious Things’

1

Wei Li’s colourful and complicated paintings are impressionistic abstracts, full of motion and confident brush marks. But there’s something substantial and illustrative about them too. They look real world – just not our particular planet. With bulbous tubers, rounded corrugations and a definite, if crowded, feeling of life, you could interpret the 11 oils and acrylics in Curious Things, on view at Edmonton’s Harcourt House until Sept. 22, as landscapes, vibrant dissection trays or even figurative portraits – yearbook poses straight from another dimension. Li admits she sometimes sees faces in the paintings as she works. There’s surely at least one pair of mismatched eyes and lips in the unframed canvas, Diptych (Left), which hangs beside the show’s title. And while she uses the word landscapes to describe her newer work, she concedes the human linkage remains. “I still think I deal with people, with emotions and feelings. Because I’m concerned with how people feel, the starting point is from our bodies, from inside. And all mixed together. Different perspectives, all happening at the same time.” Li emigrated in 2010 from Chengdu in south-central China, a city some 15 times as populous as Edmonton. “That’s where pandas come from,” she says with a laugh. Throughout the show, the tension of overcrowding is palpable. Thickly painted elements seem to cry out as they’re squished together. Some paintings feel dark and toxic. Others look almost edible. More ►
– Fish Griwkowsky 

Nicole Camphaug, “The Barree," 2016, photo by Justin Wonnacott, courtesy Axe Néo-7 in Gatineau, Que.

FIVE THINGS

Unorthodox Inuit Art in Winnipeg

2

The sexy bra and panties crafted by Nunavut artist Nala Peter would have been perfect for a young Brigitte Bardot, France’s most celebrated sex kitten, except for one thing: The ironic unmentionables are made of sealskin and the movie star turned animal rights activist only gets intimate with live baby seals. Bardot also wouldn’t be caught dead in Nicole Camphaug’s stylish sealskin stilettos, potent examples of the art, craft and fashion being produced these days by a new generation of Inuit artists who are far more political, mischievous and adventuresome than their soapstone-carving forebears. The sealskin fashions and many other examples of unorthodox Inuit art are part of the travelling exhibition Floe Edge: Contemporary Art and Collaborations from Nunavut, on view at Urban Shaman in Winnipeg from Sept. 8 to Oct. 14. The show opened last year at Axe Néo-7, a gallery in Gatineau, Que., near Ottawa, then toured to Canada House in London before landing in Winnipeg. It was curated by Kathleen Nicholls from the Iqaluit-based Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association. Floe edge refers to the springtime ecosystem, when the dark, open waters of the Arctic Ocean meet chunks, or floes, of frozen sea ice along the shore. The floes move with the tide, melt with changing temperatures and serve as a metaphor for the work of the artists, who often seesaw between creative pursuits and other jobs. More ►
– Paul Gessell

Richard Wilson, "Proposed United States Border with Mexico," 2017, courtesy of the Illingworth Kerr Gallery

FIVE THINGS

Artists Offer Ideas for Alternative Walls

3

Walls: Topical in contemporary times, of course, but also historically important, whether for protection, conquest or peaceful delineation between good neighbours. Tourists flock to them (think of China’s Great Wall or Hadrian’s Wall in Britain) and artists appropriate them (think Banksy and Swoon). But the ante is upped when it comes to political barriers such as the Berlin Wall, Israel’s “apartheid wall” in the West Bank, or Trump’s proposed barrier with Mexico. It’s this latest controversy, courtesy of the U.S. president, that’s the focus of the Illingworth Kerr Gallery’s threefold exhibition – a gallery show featuring international artists as well as public art and an online project. Curated by Lorenzo Fusi, and on view in Calgary until Sept. 16, the gallery exhibition, #ideasforawall, comprises artistic proposals for alternative walls between Mexico and the United States. Invited participants include art world luminaries Richard Wilson, Tania Bruguera, Lucy and Jorge Orta, plus Canadians Mark Clintberg, Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens. The projects bridge a range of media, including drawing, sculpture, text and lens-based work. Clearly, many approaches are helpful when contemplating how to overcome cultural divisiveness. Wilson’s Proposed United States Border with Mexico features a 20-foot-high concrete wall, almost like Trump’s “beautiful” vision. But instead of rising vertically, this superstructure plunges earthward, save the top 20 inches: a witty and playful trip. More ►
– Dick Averns

Anne Meggitt, “Sombrio Rhythms,” 2014, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”

FIVE THINGS

Anne Meggitt’s West Coast Forests

4

More than anything, Anne Meggitt’s paintings, with all their leafy canopies, sun-dappled wildflowers and tangled underbrush, are about seeing. Her hand is subtle and loose: she places the right mark in the right place, the colours precise though generally within a limited tonal range that keeps the eye in motion, restless and scanning. “I only need to do each thing once,” she says. “I try immediately to have it exactly right.” Her paintings, at Victoria’s Martin Batchelor Gallery until Sept. 28, are largely forest views on Vancouver Island. They feel familiar. It’s easy to think you saw that small fir next to a favourite camping spot, or perhaps those six dead trees, their skeletal trunks gleaming through the brush, along a trail you’ve hiked. These are the humble spots passed on the way to the grand view, trees and bushes scanned quickly, like faces in a crowd, never consciously committed to memory, yet somehow there, nevertheless. Meggitt calls herself a “compulsive mixer” and her delicious greens, carefully blended from multiple colours, evoke the rich possibilities of foliage. Those with an aching hint of ochre drift to late summer, while the acid of a leaf gleaming in a beam of sunlight seems too sharp until you step back and it pops into place, resolving with the rest of the canvas. More ►
– Portia Priegert

 

An exterior view of cSPACE, a new arts centre in Calgary's former King Edward School. Photo courtesy of cSPACE.

FIVE THINGS

Former Calgary School Becomes Arts Utopia

5

cSPACE King Edward in Calgary is billed as an arts incubator. But that’s not quite right – it’s more of an arts utopia. The classically proportioned 1912 sandstone building, a former school where boys in tweed knickerbockers once studied Greek, is now a community-focused, multi-purpose arts centre. The King Edward School’s first principal was William Aberhart, later Alberta’s seventh premier, and the building has served many functions over the years, including the training of military cadets during the First World War. Closed by the school board in 2001, it languished until cSPACE bought the property for $8 million in 2012 and undertook a thoughtful restoration budgeted at almost $26 million. Funding came from municipal, provincial and federal governments as well as private donations and the sale of a portion of the land to developers. Less attractive additions were demolished, and there are now two beautiful wings. One is in the original sandstone building, and the other, in a new glass-plated addition, includes a 125-seat theatre and a conference room with spectacular mountain views. Four high-ceilinged hallways serve as spaces to display art. The first exhibition, I Am Western, on view until Oct. 1, includes work by leading Alberta and Saskatchewan artists who explore the loss of traditional connections with the land in a region that has become an urban and industrial powerhouse. Highlights of the show include John Freeman’s photograph of a family farmstead rotting in front of what might best be described as gigantic “Frankenfarms.” Paintings in drab brown by Rosanna Marmont depict animals behind wire fences and men in cowboy hats pushing shopping carts, dreary stuff indeed. Lyndal Osborne and Sherri Chaba offer a fascinating installation of feathers, tobacco tins, hand-made tools, embroidery hoops, rifle butts and animal pelts that evoke an abandoned homestead. There’s also a photo by Kris Weinmann of a simple wooden chair placed in front of a dilapidated barn that’s close to collapse. More ►
– Karen Quinn

This piano, painted by Cat L'Hirondelle, can be found in Vancouver's downtown TD Plaza as part of the Pianos on the Street program. Photo courtesy of the Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture Society.

NEWS ROUNDUP

Artists with Disabilities Decorate Pianos for the Street

When Vancouver artist Cat L’Hirondelle was invited to decorate a piano that passersby can play, she thought of crows. “The imagery represents life on the east side of Vancouver,” says L’Hirondelle. She and another Vancouver artist, Rose Williams, were asked to take on the challenge by the Kickstart Disability Arts and Culture Society, a non-profit group that supports and promotes artists living with disabilities. L’Hirondelle liked the idea of having different people communing with her art as part of the Pianos on the Streets program, which was started by the Piano Teachers Federation in 2009. “The people who play the piano become part of the art piece,” she says. Williams was also thrilled to participate. “The piano itself is symbolic of another time, before the advent of electronic music, when music-making was a larger part of domestic life, entertainment and our relationships with one another,” she says. The image on her piano portrays waterways, forests and animals. A number of other community groups are participating in the program, which places pianos throughout the Lower Mainland. For more information, check out pianosonthestreet.com.

In other news:

  • Polygon Gallery, which replaces the former Presentation House in North Vancouver, will open its doors Nov. 18.
  • The exterior walls of the Vancouver Art Gallery will be lit up after dark with projections of work by 10 artists during the Façade Festival, which runs Sept. 4 to Sept. 10.
  • Carolyn Warren, a former CBC executive who has worked at the Banff Centre, is joining the Canada Council for the Arts as director general of the arts granting programs division.
  • The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria has received Canadian painter David Milne’s Entrance to Saugerties Harbour (1927) as a donation from local philanthropist Patrick Stewart. It’s the first of several works he will donate.
  • Peter von Tiesenhausen’s sculpture, Drawn by Desire, a hanging installation with 500 aluminum plates that show small human figures, has been installed at the Londonderry Mall in Edmonton.
  • Swarm, Vancouver’s annual two-day festival of artist-run culture, will be held on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8. One exhibition to check out: Rest in Peace at the Gam Gallery, where Canadian-born South Asian artist Sandeep Johal remembers murdered women from various cultural communities.

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