06 June 2017



One of the pleasures of my life is talking to artists and writing about art. I especially enjoy art that engages with social and political issues, helping us consider the realities of contemporary life. In optimistic moments, I like to think art can help change the world, whether by prompting dialogue, offering space for contemplation, or reframing seemingly insoluble dilemmas, of which there is no current shortage.

The troubled state of the environment is one such problem. I recently watched a documentary film called A Plastic Ocean, at a Victoria screening organized by the Vancouver Island Surfrider Foundation, a group that works to preserve oceans and beaches. The film’s horrific images of animals that had starved to death after their stomachs became engorged with plastic waste – as well as chilling scientific research about the impact of the tiny plastic fibres that wash out of our stretchy, form-fitting garments and into lakes, rivers and oceans – has led me to see how much plastic I can remove from my life.

When I noticed a show in Manitoba by artist Kelly Jazvac, who has been making art from plastic refuse for a decade, I jumped at the chance to interview her. She offered a fascinating account of her work, but what most caught my imagination was her research into a new kind of rock, for lack of a better word, created by beach fires when melted plastic bonds with sand, rocks and coral.

You’ll find that article in this issue, along with a cover story by Katherine Ylitalo about Calgary artist Jason de Haan, whose fascinating show at the Esker Foundation includes crystals and fossils in works that both collapse and expand the perception of time. We also have a review of the latest Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art by Agnieszka Matejko, and a preview about Montreal-based artist Laurent Craste, who is showing his ceramic sculptures at Vancouver’s Back Gallery Project, his first show in Western Canada. There are also two stories from further afield by Paul Gessell, one about a show of Canadian art in Britain and the other about a new project to create art in Canada’s national parks.

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Until next time,



06 June 2017

Volume 2 Number 12 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)
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Consulting Editor Jeffrey Spalding
Reviews Editor reviews@gallerieswest.ca
Contributors Paul Gessell, Agnieszka Matejko, Katherine Ylitalo
Tom Tait
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Jason de Haan, "Hope, Love, Peace, Generosity, Purpose, Harmony," 2008, minerals, crystals, car speakers, amplifier, CD player and soundtrack, installation view, courtesy the artist and Clint Roenisch Gallery


Jason de Haan’s Time Capsule

Calgary-based artist Jason de Haan is respected across Canada and abroad, and was due for greater recognition at home when the Esker Foundation stepped up with a solo show. Oh for eyes! At night we dream of eyes! gives his multidisciplinary work the space and support it needs and deserves. Curated by Naomi Potter and Shauna Thompson, it’s playful, captivating and, at times, elegiac – a gem of an exhibition that provides an effective framework to grasp why there’s so much buzz around de Haan. The show, which runs until Aug. 27, is a synthesis of de Haan’s abiding interests. It starts by immersing viewers in a soundscape of gentle vibrations, inviting them to listen, see and feel, as they breathe in de Haan’s art-making process. Moving through the spaces, you might think you are in a science lab or a sci-fi set, a cabinet of curiosities or a gallery of minimal conceptual sculpture. Or all of the above, but with a twist. The art takes various forms – installation, sculpture, photography and collage – but is always rich with associations, fascinating materials and unconventional processes. De Haan first showed Hope, Love, Peace, Generosity, Purpose, Harmony in 2008 at Galerie Sans Nom, an artist-run centre in New Brunswick, as “a gesture of good will” with a characteristic tone of gentle humour. The materials include a teenager’s dream collection of crystals and car speakers, along with cinder blocks and an old sound system. It’s rigged up in a do-it-yourself manner so sound waves oscillate from the highest to lowest frequencies perceptible to the human ear through a circle of the upturned speakers, each piled up with crystals that reverberate at various frequencies. There’s a healthy skepticism about the presumed “healing” properties of crystals, mixed with a dash of “what if?” The work has been shown in many venues, but at the Esker, de Haan magnifies its effect, using the scale and acoustics of the gallery to full advantage by enlarging the circle with two additional speakers and allowing the hypnotic, ambient drone to infuse the entire gallery. More ►

– Katherine Ylitalo

Kelly Jazvac, "Plastiglomerate Sample," 2013, displayed as a found object sculpture (Plastiglomerate is a new type of stone made by the fusion of molten plastic with beach sediment, such as sand, wood, coral and rock. It is researched by a collaborative team including Jazvac, geologist Patricia Corcoran and oceanographer Charles Moore.) Photo by Jeff Elstone.


Kelly Jazvac Makes Art from Plastic Waste


Kelly Jazvac’s heart fell when she first saw the plastic littering Kamilo Beach on the southeast coast of Hawaii’s Big Island. “You could name a plastic object and find it on that beach,” she says. “You know, a door, a toothbrush, glue, a flip-flop, a pen that has a little sexy lady inside that slides up and down when you move the pen.” To scoop up a handful of sand on that beach was to see myriad bits of degraded plastic, scraps that birds and other wildlife often mistake for food. Eventually, those animals are so full of plastic they can no longer eat and starve to death. The garbage comes from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a vast soupy island of marine debris, mostly plastics, amassed by ocean currents from different countries around the world. At times, the beach is piled waist high, despite efforts by a couple of area residents to haul it away to a nearby dump. “It was devastating,” says Jazvac, a professor at Western University in London, Ont. Higher on the beach, she picked up what’s been dubbed plastiglomerate, a stony mix of melted plastics – things like ropes and bottle caps – bonded with natural materials such as sand, rock and coral. This is not a beach that tourists visit. But locals use it, starting bonfires and perhaps also burning the plastic waste, as is done in other parts of the world where plastiglomerate is found. Jazvac has displayed this strange new amalgam in art exhibitions across Canada and the United States. One chunk, about the size of a cantaloupe, is on view until June 30 at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon as part of Jazvac’s solo show, Sharp and Numb. It’s a survey of art she has made from plastic refuse over the last decade. Her plastiglomerate will also be part of a group show, An Absolute Movement, which looks at climate change and environmental crisis, at Vancouver’s Or Gallery from June 17 to July 22. More ►

– Portia Priegert

David Garneau, "Surface Tension," 2013, acrylic on American flag, 36" x 61"


Canada’s Flag in London


The Group of Seven fuelled Canadian nationalism a century ago with paintings of the untamed forest. The patriotism evoked by those trees was distilled in 1965 to a single red maple leaf that became our flag. Today, at the 150th anniversary of Confederation, we see artists deconstructing that flag. “This reduction of landscape to symbol continues to be investigated by Canadian artists,” Lindsey Sharman, curator of the Founders’ Gallery at the Military Museums in Calgary, says in a catalogue for an exhibition she has organized for Canada House in London. Felled Trees, which includes work by five artists, was to open June 6, but has been postponed due to the latest terrorist attack in London, which killed seven people. The exhibition, now expected to open later this month and run until Sept. 3,  grew out of another one curated by Sharman in 2015 at the Founders’ Gallery that presented silkscreen prints of landscapes by the likes of Emily Carr, David Milne and the Group of Seven. More ►

– Paul Gessell

Laurent Craste, "Révolution III," 2016, porcelain, glaze and axe, 30" x 12" x 17"


Laurent Craste Wields His Axe


Montreal-based ceramic artist Laurent Craste sinks axes, as well as knives and baseball bats – the kind of weapons wielded by thugs and sometimes protesters against class privilege – into elegant porcelain vases. You might expect an explosion of clay shards, but it’s less the moment of violence that Craste exploits than the implied attack on the art object. For instance, in Révolution III, the vase’s white porcelain seemingly warps and distends to accommodate the axe, defying the brittle properties of fired clay and suggesting instead something more fluid and malleable, albeit frozen in time. Don’t worry, Craste jokes: “No vase was hurt during this process.” In other words, he builds the sculptures in their final punctured, battered and lopsided shapes, adding the actual weapon as a finishing touch after firing. “It looks violent, but it’s not a violent process,” he says. “It’s all completely controlled.” Craste is showing 17 pieces from Abuse, an ongoing series he has worked on for more than seven years, at the Back Gallery Project in Vancouver from June 8 to July 1. It’s his first show in Western Canada. More ►

– Portia Priegert

Kristopher Karklin, "Home," 2016, vinyl, 144" x 216", courtesy of the artist


Mixed Results at the Alberta Biennial


It’s hard to overstate the value of biennials. These bastions of experimentation and fresh vision can catapult artists to new heights while offering the public snapshots of contemporary art from around the world. Biennials are to art what the Olympics are to sport. The Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, while smaller and less encompassing than the 100 or so international events, is nonetheless highly anticipated. Over the last two decades, it has featured 222 regional artists. This 10th iteration, on view until Sept. 10, is titled For the Time Being. Two curators from the Banff Centre, Peta Rake, curator of the Walter Phillips Gallery, and Kristy Trinier, director of visual, digital and media arts, visited studios across Alberta. They invited 24 artists to a retreat last summer at the Banff Centre. Internationally acclaimed curators led workshops on themes such as the status of biennials and their regional and global impact. The resulting conversations helped structure the ideas this cohort of artists subsequently developed into the work featured at two sister exhibitions. The first opened May 27 at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton; the second opens June 24 at the Walter Phillips Gallery. The results of this intriguing curatorial emphasis on collective engagement and discussions are mixed. Perhaps grounding the artists in the cultural impact and global significance of biennials prompted some amongst this relatively young cohort – at least half graduated after 2010 – to overreach. More ►

– Agnieszka Matejko

Maureen Gruben, "Stitching My Landscape," installation on a section of the ice road outside Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., on March 9, 2017. Photo by Kyra Kordoski.


Parks Project Communes With Nature


In the early 1990s, Vancouver artist Rebecca Belmore travelled the country with a giant megaphone so people could voice their protests to the land. Now, Belmore has created a large metal cone that allows participants to hear, rather than to address, the land and its waterways. Wave Sound can be found throughout the summer at three national parks – Banff in Alberta, Pukaskwa in Ontario and Gros Morne in Newfoundland – as part of the Landmarks 2017 art initiative, a signature Canada 150 project at 20 national parks and historic sites. Many of the artworks, like Belmore’s, offer opportunities to commune in new ways with this chunk of Earth we call Canada. Landmarks 2017 includes 10 projects by contemporary artists, along with initiatives by students at 16 universities. Many projects are collaborations with residents of a local community and many take an indigenous perspective. An example is Weaving Voices by artists Chris Clarke and Bo Yeung at the Klondike National Historic Sites. Living willow installations relay voices from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation offering their view of the Yukon gold rush. Most projects, even ephemeral land art, will endure in films, documents, audio recordings and displays elsewhere beyond the official exhibition dates of June 10 to June 25. More ►

– Paul Gessell

Damian Moppett, "Studio in Basement (Combine)," 2005, watercolour on paper, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, gift of the Rennie Foundation, 2017 © Damian Moppett, Courtesy Rennie Collection, Vancouver, photo by Blaine Campbell


Moppets Show at National Gallery


The National Gallery of Canada is presenting Related Works: Ron Moppett and Damian Moppett, as part of its ongoing Masterpiece in Focus series. The father and son duo are established Canadian artists whose works have been collected by the gallery for years. The Moppetts recently had a joint show at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton. This latest exhibition in Ottawa tells how key works by each artist became part of the National Gallery’s collection, whether through purchase or by donation from collectors or the artists themselves. The show considers the nature of artistic production and conceptions of the artist’s studio. It includes Ron’s multi-panel production Whatif/Twilight, a 2008 work nearly destroyed during  the 2013 Calgary flood. National Gallery conservators spent a year restoring the painting, which was donated in 2015. The show also includes a selection of more than 40 works from Damian’s Watercolour Drawing Project. Vancouver collector Bob Rennie acquired the entire suite of some 130 works, which he recently donated to the gallery. The show is on view until Sept. 10.
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