23 May 2017



It’s been six months since Galleries West launched as a biweekly digital magazine. The constant deadlines are a big change from publishing three times a year, as we did with the print magazine. So too is our new interest in metrics and algorithms. But the change has made it easier to cover stories as they happen, and highlight exhibitions while people can still get out to see them.

Aside from immediacy, the digital magazine allows us to broaden our reach. No longer limited by press runs and delivery vans, we have seen more people accessing our stories – some 32,000 unique views over the last four months, some from as far away as Australia.

We’ve obliged by offering a mix of stories, reviews and news with links that take readers to our main website if they want more information. Some people are confused about the two websites. For me, the best analogy comes from the art world. Galleries West Digital is like a temporary show of new acquisitions, but the stories are also a part of the permanent collection – the website we’ve always maintained as a backup to the print issue.

We designed Galleries West Digital so it is navigated visually. You scroll across the images, but scroll down to read. If you’re on a coffee break, that may be all you have time for. But if you’re interested in a particular artist or want to see more images, you can click on the link at the end of the text.

Our focus is on finding engaging stories about artists and exhibitions across Western Canada and the North, regions that often get little attention from national arts publications. In this issue, for instance, we catch up with Tim Okamura, an artist from Edmonton who has achieved remarkable success in New York by painting portraits of people the art world often overlooks. We also look at a gutsy project by Nicole Bauberger, a Yukon artist who paints what is arguably the most common understanding of the Canadian landscape – the view from the highway. And Winnipeg writer Stacey Abramson is back with a review of Filipino-Canadian artist Patrick Cruz at the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art in Winnipeg.

I encourage you to sign up for a free email reminder. The magazine, which we post every second Tuesday, is free and we never share your personal information. As a subscriber, you support a dialogue about the arts and help artists reach a wider public.

Until next time,


23 May 2017

Volume 2 Number 11 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
250-382-0567 (Victoria)
Toll Free 866-415-3282
Consulting Editor Jeffrey Spalding
Reviews Editor reviews@gallerieswest.ca
Contributors Stacey Abramson, John Thomson
Tom Tait
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We acknowledge the support of the Alberta Media Fund for our publishing program.


Tim Okamura, "Codes and Signals,"2017, oil and acrylic on wood panel, collaged book covers, vintage telegraph keys and wire, 36" x 36"


Tim Okamura Lives His New York Dream

When Tim Okamura was a student at the Alberta College of Art and Design, he dreamed about living in New York. “I couldn’t wait to get here,” he says. Okamura was hosting a Calgary radio show about hip hop culture, which was just starting to explode, and was enthused with graffiti. He also liked Rembrandt and Caravaggio and wanted to see their work firsthand at the Met. Okamura was already painting portraits, often of friends, several of whom had already moved to New York. So when the chance came to do a Master’s degree at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, a place that boasts alumni like Joseph Kosuth and Sol LeWitt, he made the leap. That was 26 years ago. The years since have been good to Okamura. His work has been displayed in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington and he has a letter of commendation from Joe Biden, a former vice-president of the United States. He was on the short list for a commissioned portrait of Queen Elizabeth in 2006 and his work has been selected nine times for the prestigious BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Hollywood stars have bought his paintings and he was the inspiration for Uma Thurman’s love interest in the 2005 romantic comedy Prime. This month, Okamura comes full circle with an exhibition, Begin Transmission, at the the Peter Robertson Gallery in his hometown of Edmonton from May 25 to June 13. Okamura is still painting portraits, and this show features more of his longtime mainstay, gutsy images of women that juxtapose classic realism with the raw energy of urban street culture. More ►

– Portia Priegert

Brad Woodfin, "Sacre coeur," 2017, oil on panel, 16" x 20"


Brad Woodfin’s Menagerie


Montreal-based painter Brad Woodfin loves animals. A vegetarian, he grew up with pets and despises cruelty to animals. “When I see an animal being hurt, to me, it just breaks my heart,” he says. He started painting farm animals soon after finishing art school in Olympia, Washington, about 10 years ago. “It came from a social and political place, like the treatment of animals in everyday life, as far as eating them as food and things like that,” he says. Eventually, he started painting other creatures. His drive is expressive, not documentary. He scours books and the Internet for photographs that capture his imagination in the moment. “I just look at pictures and something strikes me,” he says. “I’m interested in their lives and their characteristics, but it’s always been more about expression.” It’s hard to describe his paintings as anything other than portraits, even though that’s a term usually reserved for people. And his subjects, on display at Christine Klassen Gallery in Calgary until June 17, have a surprising presence, even charisma. Take his painting Sacre coeur, which shows a roseate spoonbill, a bird Woodfin has seen in the Florida wetlands while visiting his parents. “I find them really striking,” he says. “I love the colour. I love the absurd bill and their strange legs that bend backward when they walk.” The bird does indeed seem a sacred heart with its almost coy gesture, head tucked back to preen its pink plumage, yet its eye radiating an unfathomable wisdom. More ►

– Portia Priegert

Michael Fitzsimmons, "Forest Spirits," 2017, mixed media on panel, 48” x 48”


Paintings that “Resinate”


The smell in Michael Fitzsimmon’s work space is overpowering. Not unpleasant, but pungent. And toxic. The Vancouver artist wears two hats (and a respirator), one as a furniture re-finisher and the other as an artist who turns those same resins and solvents into complex abstract paintings. His work is displayed at Vancouver’s Ian Tan Gallery until May 31. It’s been a circuitous journey. Fitzsimmons attended three art schools, eventually graduating from the Emily Carr College of Art and Design in 1980 with an honours diploma in interdisciplinary studies. But he stopped creating soon after, critical of what he saw as a shallow and vacuous art world. “I was put off by the art scene and didn’t do a sketch for 15, 20 years,” he says. “I just stopped altogether.” He took a job as a re-finisher to feed his family and only returned to making art in 2005 when business was slow and there wasn’t much to do. “So I picked up a panel that was lying around and started working on it to turn it into an artwork.” More ►

– John Thomson

Nicole Bauberger, "Get There From Here (between Edmonton and Grande Prairie)," 2009, oil on cradled panel, 12” x 12”


Painting the Highway


You could say Nicole Bauberger is a stop-and-start driver. No, it’s not frequent washroom breaks or snack attacks. It’s her art project – Get There From Here. A Yukon resident, she has been taking long drives in different parts of Canada since 2008, documenting the journey in paintings that measure one foot by one foot. She stops every 50 kilometres, pulls out her brushes and sets to work. She has basically travelled across Canada from sea to sea to sea. Now, a pop quiz to test your understanding of Canadian geography. How many paintings would that be? Bauberger says 220, and, faced with skepticism, googles her route to confirm that it’s roughly 11,000 kilometres. Divided by 50, yup, that’s about right. Her paintings show highway scenes familiar to Canadians – overpasses, directional signs, multiple lanes of traffic – the transient vistas we see while driving, but usually don’t focus on. Her project is displayed at the Art Gallery of Swift Current in Saskatchewan until June 25 and then heads to its next stop at the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre in Medicine Hat, Alta., from July 15 to Sept. 2. Bauberger’s images draw a response from viewers. “It is possible that the road, as Canadians, is our biggest common cultural artifact,” she says. More ►

– Portia Priegert

Patrick Cruz, "Titig Kayumanggi (Brown Gaze)," 2017, mixed media, installation view, photo by Karen Asher


Patrick Cruz: Brown Gaze


It’s impossible to turn away from Toronto-based artist Patrick Cruz’s show Titig Kayumanggi (Brown Gaze) on view at the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art in Winnipeg until June 4. A stark contrast to the previous exhibition of American post-minimalist giant Fred Sandback, Cruz explores his vision of “maximalism” within the context of immigration and the realities within and around cultures. Viewers are bombarded with the loud and responsive movements of Cruz’s brush and lens in every inch of the gallery space. The Tagalog title suggests this is the view of a gaze of colour – in both the literal and cultural context. Drawing heavily on his Filipino-Canadian culture, Cruz explores the torrent of visual culture – both Asian and North American – in his life. Even the gallery floor is carpeted with vivid overlapping canvases. We are pushed to feel this overwhelming palette of colours and marks. Ghosts of amorphic bodies are displayed against dripping black linguistic characters on the walls. Treated with the same colours and gestural application, they hint at the countless people who, like Cruz, have moved through different cultures. More ►

– Stacey Abramson

Simon Andrew, "Early Spring," 2017, oil on canvas, 36" x 48"


Simon Andrew Keeps Learning


Simon Andrew grew up in Britain and moved to Canada in the early 1990s. He’s based in Kingston, Ont., but his show of landscapes this month at Wallace Galleries in Calgary is less rooted in geography than in his own psyche. For him, art is about learning and keeping himself amused. “I don’t really sit down and think about my process,” he says. “After a while, a painting suggests where it’s going to go for you, so it gives you ideas as you’re actually applying the paint.” Some parts of a canvas might work, while others don’t, so he keeps making moves until he’s satisfied. “It’s a fairly intuitive process for me a lot of the time,” he notes. But Andrew also works from observation, which requires different skills. “I guess a lot of it is about getting a whole range of mental tools to solve problems,” he says. “You can’t take the same approach with all paintings. Any painting has it’s own set of problems. You’re looking for the idea, the approach you can take to make that particular type of painting go in a direction that might make it work.” More Images ►

Geoffrey Farmer, "A way out of the mirror," 2017, installation view at the Canada Pavilion for the 57th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, 2017 © Geoffrey Farmer, courtesy of the artist, photo by Francesco Barasciutti


Geoffrey Farmer at the Venice Biennale

Vancouver artist Geoffrey Farmer’s installation as Canada’s official artist at the Venice Biennale is drawing critical attention. For instance, the American magazine ArtNews noted: “It is moving, strange, and a little frightening, and it is one of the best shows being presented in the Giardini this year.” Farmer developed the project after discovering unpublished press photos from 1955 that show a collision between a train and a lumber truck driven by his grandfather. The work includes 71 brass planks, reminiscent of lumber scattered at the accident scene, as well as 3D printed sculptures cast in aluminum and bronze. The work reflects on a broad range of issues including family trauma, relations between Italy and Canada after the Second World War and the writers Kathy Acker and Allen Ginsberg. Farmer opens up and transforms the Canada Pavilion, which is undergoing restoration, into an outwardly facing fountain courtyard. “The water of A way out of the mirror translates a surfeit of emotion, and discharges it in spurts and drips as tears, ejaculate and sweat,” says curator Kitty Scott. “It is at once a monument and an anti-monument that memorializes individuals and stories in a gesture of generosity and inclusion.” The work’s title refers to the writing of beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Farmer, born in 1967, has earned international attention since his first show in 1997. His work has been in numerous solo and group exhibitions at venues that include the Louvre in Paris, the Tate Modern in London, the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton and the Vancouver Art Gallery. The Venice Biennale, which opened last week, continues until Nov. 26.
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