17 January 2017

MERYL MCMASTER’S DREAMSCAPE

MASTHEAD

17 January 2017

Volume 2 Number 2 Copyright 2017

ISSN 2561-3316

 

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
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Consulting Editor Jeffrey Spalding
Reviews Editor reviews@gallerieswest.ca
Contributors Paul Gessell, Rachel Rosenfield Lafo, Agnieszka Matejko, Jeffrey Spalding
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Meryl McMaster, "Time's Gravity," 2015, ink jet print, edition 1 of 3, Courtesy of the artist and Katzman Contemporary, Toronto

COVER STORY

Meryl McMaster’s Dreamscape

As an art student in Toronto, Meryl McMaster was too shy to ask friends to pose for her photography projects. So she started creating self-portraits with a decided embrace of the surreal. She quickly realized she had found her niche: “It kind of just went on from there and continued.” The often-startling images of the artist wearing face paint and elaborate shaman-like costumes explore her mixed indigenous and European ancestry, her attachment to the land and her links to ancestral peoples as well as scenes from what she calls her own “dreamscape.” The result is a stunning body of work, especially for an artist not yet 30, and a touring exhibition, Confluence, which will properly introduce the Ottawa-based McMaster to Western Canadian audiences. The show is at the Richmond Art Gallery in Greater Vancouver until March 19, after stops in Toronto and Ottawa, where the curator, Heather Anderson of the Carleton University Art Gallery, is based. Richmond is McMaster’s first solo show west of Ontario. Then, Confluence travels to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery in Alberta, and The Rooms in St. John’s, Nfld.
More ►

– Paul Gessell

Kelsey Stephenson, “divining,” 2016, mixed media installation (monoprint, silkscreen, digital and etching on Japanese paper, with audio by Alex Gray), installation view at Ewing Gallery, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Detail of photo by Bruce Cole

FIVE THINGS

Installation Evokes Alberta’s Landscape

1

Media guru Marshall McLuhan once wrote that fish know nothing about water “since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in.” Printmaker Kelsey Stephenson came to understand this truth when she left her hometown of Edmonton to complete a Master’s degree in Fine Arts at the University of Tennessee. There, far from Alberta’s vast skies and the familiar ochres of prairie fields, she realized how the landscape seeps into our blood. She decided to recreate it through a photomontage composed of aerial maps, her own photographs of the Badlands and spidery ink reticulations. She printed these patterns onto Kitakata paper, a delicate but resilient Japanese paper made from mulberry bark, and laid them like a mosaic, across her studio floor. Then, with the prints drenched in puddling water, she walked onto them in bare feet, a bottle of ink in hand, for the last stage. Originally configured as a 72-foot-long installation that runs from floor to ceiling, the work is presented in smaller sections at Edmonton’s McMullen Gallery, where it’s part of Stephenson’s show, Embodied, on view until Feb 26. More ►

Agnieszka Matjeko

Kerry Tribe, "Here & Elsewhere," 2002, two-channel video, 10:25 min. Photo by Jason Brown.

FIVE THINGS

An Equivocal Look at Childhood

2

Since the opening two years ago of the New Media Gallery in New Westminster, B.C., director-curators Sarah Joyce and Gordon Duggan have presented ambitious and provocative technology-based exhibitions. Their latest, Children, on view until Feb. 5, is a group show of videos by six international artists who demonstrate that representations of children have long since evolved from romantic depictions of childhood innocence to equivocal and multi-layered portrayals of children as complex individuals. More ►

– Rachel Rosenfield Lafo

Rhys Farrell, “Psychafeelia,” 2016, aerosol and gesso on wood panel, 24” x 36”

FIVE THINGS

Rhys Farrell’s Trippy Op Art

3

Op art, which had its big moment in the 1960s, is enjoying new popularity of late. Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s the retro trend in fashion and popular culture, or maybe, as Calgary artist Rhys Farrell suggests, it’s something about the systems mentality of the digital world in which our brains now swim. Whatever the case, Farrell is enjoying a quick launch to his art career with his trippy paintings. His show, Bemusement, on view at the Herringer Kiss Gallery in Calgary until Jan. 28, demonstrates an affinity for colour as well as a deft touch with precise geometric forms. “Some people are more concerned about the colour combinations and some people are making certain patterns or systems that are really hard on the eyes to read,” Farrell says. He thinks the main thing that makes an Op art piece stand out is its effect on viewers. “There’s some kind of visual or sensory problem that needs to be solved,” he says. Farrell’s paintings, I tell him, make me feel a little dizzy, even nauseous. He says that’s true of a lot of Op – short for optical. “Some people like those effects, and they like that they can look at an image and it can make their mood completely change or make their eyes hurt. And I know some people who don’t enjoy it all.” Farrell, who graduated last year with a Bachelor’s degree from the Alberta College of Art and Design, says spending hour upon hour painting lines or dots might irritate some artists, but he finds it clears his mind. “I know people who are more patient than I am,” he says. “But with my process, and the tedious repetition that takes place a lot of the time, I think I find that process almost soothing.” More Images ►

Portia Priegert

Erdem Taşdelen, "The Quantified Self Poems," 2016, series of 12 silkscreen prints, Courtesy the artist

FIVE THINGS

Quantifying the Emotional Self

4

Erdem Ta?delen’s fascinating conceptual project, The Quantified Self Poems, at Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery until March 19, turns a critical eye to the way we use digital gadgetry to track the state of our bodies. Devices like Fitbit can count our steps, while other technology can be used to monitor blood pressure or sleep quality. Ta?delen, a Turkish-born artist now based in Toronto, became fascinated by this notion of the “quantified self” and its brave new promise of developing “better” human beings. “It’s almost like seeing the self, the body, as a device that can be upgraded,” he says. When Ta?delen heard about apps to measure emotional states, he found it baffling that something so ephemeral could turned into data, in effect quantifying the unquantifiable. He began to use Emotion Sense, a British smartphone app developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, reporting his moods three times a day for three months. More ►

Portia Priegert

 

Audrey Dreaver, "Dark Without Black," 2006, acrylic on canvas, 60" x 60"

FIVE THINGS

Age of Anxieties

5

Indigenous artist Audrey Dreaver’s painting, Dark Without Black, based on an archival photograph from the Holy Angels residential school in Fort Chipewyan, Alta., shows native children kneeling before a wooden packing crate. Dreaver’s work is part of Anxieties, a group show that runs to Feb. 2 at the Art Gallery of Regina. She and other artists – including Kevin McKenzie, Sylvia Ziemann, Lionel Peyachew and Sarah Ferguson – look at issues of fear, considering everything from Prairie Gothic and flatlander fright to the bogeyman and colonialism. More ►

The pavilions of Canada, Ontario and the Western provinces at Expo 67. Photo by Laurent Bélanger (own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30298079)

OPINION

Jeffrey Spalding: It’s Our Party

Canada is poised to mark a momentous collective milestone on July 1: the sesquicentennial of Confederation. It’s improbable that many of us will be around to witness the bicentennial. So this is it: our opportunity to send a love letter to the nation that has nurtured, schooled and embraced us. Canada 150 will be the year’s leitmotif; every action and public event will surely be enwrapped in the flag, acknowledging our anniversary. So what’s the plan? More ►

– Jeffrey Spalding 

Philippe Raphanel, "Attempt 3," 2016, acrylic on canvas, 60" x 54" Courtesy of Equinox Gallery

NEWS ROUNDUP

Philippe Raphanel Wins New Tanabe Prize

Vancouver painter Philippe Raphanel has won the inaugural $7,500 Tanabe Prize for British Columbia painters. Established by artist Takao Tanabe, the prize is given annually to a mid-career painter with “exceptional creativity coupled with a promise of future achievements.” Raphanel’s exhibition, Islands, is on view from Jan. 19 to Feb. 25 at Vancouver’s Equinox Gallery. Raphanel was born and raised in Paris. He came to Canada after receiving a diploma in Fine Arts from the Ecole nationale supérieure des arts appliqués in Paris in 1978. His work has been exhibited across Canada and in the United States. Tanabe, whose paintings reflect his interest in abstraction, the landscape and Buddhism, has lived in British Columbia most of his life. He says the work of mid-career artists is often overlooked.
In other news:

  • Inuk artist Timootee Pitsiulak has died at the the age of 49. Pitsiulak, whose designs have been featured on the quarter, was being treated for pneumonia in Iqaluit. Based in Cape Dorset, he is best known for large drawings that depict traditional culture and modern life.
  • Several Western Canadian artists received appointments recently as Members of the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honours. They include Robin Hopper, a Victoria ceramics artist, and Liz Ingram, an Edmonton artist and educator. As well, Vancouver artist Rodney Graham was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada, a higher honour.
  • Gallery 1C03’s celebrates its 30th anniversary – and the University of Winnipeg’s 50th anniversary –with a special group exhibition, Moving Images. The show features 23 short films and videos by alumni, faculty members and current students and is co-curated by gallery director Jennifer Gibson and art historian Alison Gillmor.
  • Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera will give a free talk about public art and social practice in Calgary’s Glenbow Theatre at 6 p.m. on Jan. 19. Bruguera, who works to support the civil and political rights of immigrants, recently founded the Institute of Artivism (Art+Activism) in Havana. The talk is organized by the Illingworth Kerr Gallery and the City of Calgary Public Art Program.
  • Jeffrey Anderson is retiring as executive director of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

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