14 March 2017

ART MEETS NEUROSCIENCE

MASTHEAD

14 March 2017

Volume 2 Number 6 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, Alex King, Marlene Milne
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Tom Tait
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Peter Tittenberger, "Thalamuseum," 2016, ceramic and mixed media, 24" x 18" x 18" (detail)

COVER STORY

Art Meets Neuroscience

Whether you follow the news about concussions in sports, cope with dementia, chronic pain or anxiety, or just ruminate and remember, it’s impossible to escape the central role the brain plays in our lives. It controls our every aspect – physical, mental and emotional – mediating our experiences, even our degree of empathy. As you read these sentences, the nerve cells in your eyes analyze letter shapes and synapses fire through your body. At the same time, your brain questions, perhaps in exasperation, how this text relates to art. The answer? Neurocraft, an exhibition that brings together art and neuroscience – the study of the brain and the nervous system. It’s on view at the John Buhler Research Centre at the University of Manitoba until March 31. Organized by the Manitoba Craft Council in partnership with the Manitoba Neuroscience Network, the project matched nine Winnipeg artists with nine neuroscientists, most based at the University of Manitoba. Neurocraft is aimed at increasing public awareness about recent research on the brain as well as the creative possibilities of contemporary craft. While the pairing may seem unlikely, scientists and artists do share common traits – things like curiosity, intense focus, acute sensory perception, attention to detail and a delight in discovery. The resulting show is exceptional, exciting, enlightening and empowering. More ►

– Marlene Milne

Editor’s Note: This exhibition closed two weeks early after two pieces of art were destroyed on Saturday, March 19. Winnipeg police were investigating. The show will open in Montreal in May.

 

Diana Thorneycroft, "Group of Seven Awkward Moments (Winter on the Don)," 2007, digital photograph

FIVE THINGS

Diana Thorneycroft’s ‘Alternative Facts’

1

U.S. President Donald Trump has no monopoly on “alternative facts.” Winnipeg artist Diana Thorneycroft also has “alternative facts” – hers present a bleak take on the 150 years since Confederation. And, unfortunately, they are true. Well, mainly true. Maybe Santa is not really a drunk. Thorneycroft’s examination of the last 150 years is not a celebration of achievement but an indictment of the smothering of aboriginal culture, hockey coaches that molest young players, the exploitation of the Dionne Quintuplets, the mysterious death of painter Tom Thomson, Robert Picton’s murderous pig farm and other tragic events in Canadian history. Two Alberta galleries, Banff’s Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies and Sherwood Park’s Gallery@501, are simultaneously exhibiting Thorneycroft’s large-format photographs of table-top dioramas of dolls and toys depicting both real and allegorical events from Canada’s past. Some are horrific, laced with black humour. Some are just plain creepy: Who can forget the priest doll leering at the boy doll? Both shows are called O Canada (I’m Sorry), although the Whyte exhibition is bigger, containing 30 photographs from four series, A People’s History, Group of Seven Awkward Moments, The Canadiana Martyrdom Series and Canadians and Americans: Best Friends (forever … it’s complicated). The smaller show of 13 works at Gallery@501 only has examples from the first two of those series. The Banff exhibition closes April 2 and the Sherwood Park one April 30. More ►

– Paul Gessell

Lesley Finlayson, "River Valley Series 9," 2017, oil on canvas 18" x 36"

FIVE THINGS

Edmonton’s Autumn Crescendo

2

When Vancouver artist Lesley Finlayson was offered a show at the Front Gallery in Edmonton, she decided to do a new body of work about the North Saskatchewan River. She spent a week last fall drawing in the river valley, focused less on geography and more on capturing the particularities of light and colour as she sketched weedy stands of poplar and the river’s lazy currents. Back in the studio, she used her drawings to create paintings that flicker between representation and abstraction. “I think the landscape always defines the mark-making as well as the colour that I choose to work with in a painting,” she says. Finlayson seeks what she calls the core of the experience: “The scale of the place, the sound of the wind in those trees that were getting super crisp. It really did feel like it was a finale I was in. It felt like a great crescendo happening in the landscape. I wanted to capture that sense of a year ending.” Finlayson grew up in Scotland, but came to Canada to do her Master’s degree at the University of Calgary. She then moved to Vancouver, where she raised a family and taught art at Langara College for more than two decades. She tried to instill a love of drawing in her students. “You’re drawing out the information you want,” she says. “I love the selection process of drawing. I see it as work in its own right, but it’s also a critical part of getting to the painting.” Finlayson’s show, Culmination, which runs from March 16 to April 10, is her first solo exhibition in Edmonton. She is also represented by the Elissa Cristall Gallery in Vancouver and Fault Line Projects, a new gallery on Salt Spring Island. More Images ►

– Portia Priegert

Derek Sullivan, "Booklover," 2017, installation at Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina. Photo by Don Hall.

FIVE THINGS

Derek Sullivan: Booklover

3

Booklover is a word with many lives. Its latest is the title of Toronto artist Derek Sullivan’s exhibition, on view until April 23 at the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina. Drawn from The Booklover, an ongoing project started in 2008, it’s also an epithet ascribed to the artist himself, whose long-running ventures with books suggest earnest appreciation. Booklover details this 15-year preoccupation in which Sullivan playfully unbinds books from their traditional form and usage. His strategies of delimitation cover broad ground: the objecthood of the book and its contents in real, imagined and digital worlds along with conceptual positions, value, reproducibility and distribution. Sullivan, an artist with a history of rethinking institutional conventions, and director/curator Jennifer Matotek created an atypical retrospective that addresses the challenges of gallery book display. It focuses on three areas: the book projects (in various delightful guises), a 2014 bunting piece (also titled The Booklover) and a new series of wall drawings. Sullivan’s panoply of bookworks are arranged throughout the gallery on 1920’s library tables, with his trademark suspensions of books frozen in flight. More ►

– Alex King

Lisa Johnson, "Massif," 2017, oil on canvas, 60" x 120"

FIVE THINGS

Spirit of a Place

4

It’s hard to miss the energy of Lisa Johnson’s large triptych, which portrays a striking granite cliff that rises some 300 feet from the dark waters of Mazinaw Lake in Eastern Ontario. The painting, Massif, is unmistakable as landscape, but is also something more – gestural and physical, it embodies the energy of the massive rock form that stretches almost a mile along one of Ontario’s deepest lakes. Clearly, Johnson is not interested in photo-realistic painting. “It’s less about the details of a place optically,” she says. “It’s more about feeling the spirit of a place, the energy, just trying to capture that experience.” Johnson, who is based in Woodbridge, north of Toronto, spent many of her childhood summers at her grandmother’s cottage on the lake, and still visits regularly. Massif is one of the works she is showing at Gurevich Fine Art in Winnipeg until March 25 as part of a two-person show, Land Marks. The show also features fragmented and dreamlike paintings on board by Vancouver-based artist Neil Peter Dyck, who is from Manitoba. More ►

– Portia Priegert

 

David A. Neel, "Mask of Ellen Neel," 1990, carved and painted alder and abalone shell earrings. Photo by Katie Hughes.

FIVE THINGS

Ellen Neel’s Totems

5

An exhibition about Ellen Neel at the University of Victoria’s Legacy Gallery has a provocative subtitle: The First Woman Totem Pole Carver. While it’s risky to declare something the first, the tallest or the oldest – someone may well pop out of the woodwork with an example that puts such boldness to shame – Neel was undoubtedly a notable carver of her generation, renowned among the legions of tourists who visited the Totem Art Shop she ran with her family in a former military bunker in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. Born in Alert Bay, B.C., in 1916, Neel learned to carve from her grandfather, Charlie James, at a time when such expressions of indigenous culture were outlawed by federal statute. Neel, also known by her traditional name, Ka’Kasolas, was Kwakwaka’wakw. More ►

NEWS ROUNDUP

Ross King Wins RBC Taylor Prize for Book on Monet

Saskatchewan-born art historian Ross King has won the $25,000 RBC Taylor Prize for his literary non-fiction book, Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the Painting of the Water Lilies. King’s account, published by Bond Street Books, details the challenges Monet overcame in creating  22 panels for the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris. The book looks at politics, nationalism and culture in France during the First World War, as well as Monet’s personal struggles, which included the death of his wife and the destruction of his beloved garden at Giverny. King’s previous books are The Judgment of Paris, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling, Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven and Leonardo and the Last Supper. His work has twice won the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction. King holds degrees from the University of Regina, York University in Toronto and University College in London. He  lives near Oxford.
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