24 October 2017



It’s a big week for the Saskatchewan arts community with the long-awaited opening of the Remai Modern, Saskatoon’s new public gallery, and its first show, Field Guide. It took me several tries to find a writer to tackle this story and as I start to write this note, I’m awaiting a report from a new-to-us writer, Sandee Moore. I met Sandee years ago when I was director of the Alternator Gallery for Contemporary Art, an artist-run centre in Kelowna, and she was in town as part of an artist residency program we had started by cobbling together a few small grants. It is good to reconnect and be reminded of those days.

One of my big discoveries back then, as a latecomer to the arts after a career in journalism, was how much of the art world seemed to defy budgetary logic. Things happened because there was a collective will to make them happen. Someone made some art. Other people pulled together to support them. And then the roles would reverse. Someone would pull out a couch for a visiting artist. Local winemakers would drop off free wine for openings. Students would show up to repaint the gallery or help install a show.

That tremendous collaborative effort happens everywhere, of course, but as we assign stories we try not only to cover major events  like the $84-million Remai Modern  but also to acknowledge the efforts of artists from smaller communities. One of Galleries West's goals is to write about shows in Western Canada that might be overlooked nationally, creating exposure and helping build a dialogue amongst arts communities too often contained in narrow regional silos.

That's one reason I was glad to write about Vancouver Island painter Sara Robichaud in this issue. She lives in Nanaimo (yup, the place with the great bars) and has an unusual creative process. Artists and their obsessions never cease to fascinate me and Sara was happy to share, even passing along an impromptu video that shows the installations she creates directly on the walls of her house, so I could understand how they inform her paintings.

This issue also includes Steven Ross Smith's story about Banff artist Allan Harding MacKay, Lissa Robinson's review of Mary Anne Barkhouse's show at Calgary's Esker Foundation, and Beverly Cramp’s story about Entangled, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s major survey of contemporary Canadian painting, a show that includes work by Galleries West consulting editor Jeffrey Spalding.

Looking ahead to November, we are working on stories about Tara Nicholson’s photographs of marijuana grow-ops; Calgary/Berlin artist Wil Murray’s newest paintings; and City on Edge, a show of news photographs that document a century of protests in Vancouver. Also in November, we’ll cover another major gallery opening: North Vancouver’s Polygon, which will be Western Canada’s largest independent photography gallery.

As always, please drop me an email if you have seen a great show that merits a closer look.

Until next time,



24 October 2017

Volume 2 Number 22 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
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Consulting Editor Jeffrey Spalding
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Contributors Beverly Cramp, Paul Gessell, Sandee Moore, Lissa Robinson, Steven Ross Smith
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Haegue Yang, "Sol LeWitt Upside Down," 2016, aluminum venetian blinds, aluminum hanging structure, powder coating, steel wire, LED tubes and cable, installation view in the main atrium (photo by Matt Ramage, Studio D)


Remai Modern Opens in Saskatoon

On the drive from Regina to Saskatoon, I saw the most stereotypical of Prairie sights: streaked with orange rays from the late afternoon sun, a grain elevator with a long string of brown box cars coiled around its base. Set the elevator’s tower on its side and stack the brown box cars neatly on top and this Prairie idyll converts into my destination: the glass, rust-coloured steel and concrete colossus that is Saskatoon’s Remai Modern. This surprising link to the region’s rural economy is not lost on the building’s lead architect, Bruce Kuwabara, of KPMB Architects, who musingly framed grain elevators as proto-Modernist buildings in remarks to the media prior to the gallery’s official opening on Saturday. The preview’s atmosphere was restrained, with CEO Gregory Burke and chief curator Sandra Guimarães speaking to the assembled – many flown in from New York to write about Canada’s newest public gallery in important international arts publications. While it didn’t seem like anyone had rained on the parade, perhaps spirits were dampened by the intermittent sprinkles of controversy that have dogged the $84-million venue, which has been touted as an international arts destination to replace Saskatoon’s more modest Mendel Art Gallery. There have been construction delays and cost over-runs, not uncommon for major projects, but also community concerns about the abandonment of the Mendel name, the cost of ongoing operations, the inclusion of Saskatchewan artists and skepticism over whether international visitors will actually trek to a remote city few have heard of before. More ►

– Sandee Moore

John Kissick, "burning the houses of cool man, yeah No.5 (hang the DJ)," 2016, oil and acrylic on canvas (courtesy of Katzman Contemporary, Toronto)


Untangling Contemporary Painting


Each generation of artists strives to carve out new meaning, to take from the past, make it more relevant and leave a distinct mark on the world. Nowhere is this reinvention more difficult than in painting. So much has been done. What new can be achieved? An ambitious show that includes 70 works by 31 artists, Entangled: Two Views on Contemporary Canadian Painting, on view at the Vancouver Art Gallery until Jan.1, tackles that question by surveying two approaches that have emerged since the 1970s. One group, corralled under the general heading of “conceptual painting” focuses on the primacy of ideas, or as noted in one of the show’s didactic panels, “art as idea as painting.” The other group, dubbed “performative painting,” is based on work that values actions and materials over ideas. The notion here is that doing and making is what largely defines a painting. More ►

– Beverly Cramp

A scene from the movie "Bucking Broadway" by John Ford, 1917.


A History of ‘Western’ Art


Growing up in Saskatchewan’s Red Pheasant First Nation, Cree artist and curator Gerald McMaster was spellbound by the Lone Ranger but had no interest in the masked cowboy’s “Indian” sidekick Tonto. “As a boy, I only knew good from bad: Cowboy good, Indian bad,” says McMaster. Such is the power of Western movie stereotypes. They’re with us still. McMaster relates the anecdote in a catalogue essay for a sprawling art exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts about Western movies. The exhibition, Once Upon a Time … The Western, traces the history and aesthetics of cowboy films, unmasking them as the myth that became “reality” and the impact they still have on “pressing concerns of today,” such as racism, misogyny and gun violence. Although Donald Trump is not mentioned by name, the exhibition encourages visitors to contemplate characters like the brawling, womanizing, politically incorrect U.S. president as a stereotype lifted straight from the Western. More ►

– Paul Gessell

Sara Robichaud, “Unapologetic – Romantic Notions of a Modern Woman,” 2017, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 72” x 72” (detail)


Sara Robichaud Makes No Apologies


Vancouver Island painter Sara Robichaud has moved from the abstract to include recognizable domestic objects in her paintings, but not without a certain anxiety. She jokes that it feels like she’s cheating on abstraction as she discusses her fascination with antique lamps, dishes and other home furnishings. “I’m addicted to outlining, tracing their shadows, appreciating their formal beauty,” she says. In one painting, milky when wet, included in her solo show at Vancouver’s Gallery Jones until Nov. 18, a vintage hand-held blow dryer is nestled into a disembodied sink. In another, pressed and curled, the cord of a curling iron winds across the metal frame of an ironing board, an image so ethereal it almost evokes an icon. But just as the tenderness of a lover’s touch remains encoded in the body, the lessons of abstraction lurk in Robichaud’s paintings, prone to surface at unexpected moments. Unapologetic: Romantic Notions of a Modern Woman, the painting from which her show draws its title, features an antique tea trolley that she and her young daughter use for parties. Much of the canvas is left raw. Into this void, Robichaud has introduced a pencil tracing of the trolley’s shadow. A pale expanse of monochromatic pink occupies the base and right side of the canvas. An undulating form atop the trolley could be an abstract element, but also evokes the pattern from an antique china bowl. A creeping pool of paint that traces the bowl’s shadow resembles sparkling pink lemonade. Robichaud describes a final element, a hard-edged fluorescent yellow triangle with no real-life referent, as a nod back to abstraction. More ►

– Portia Priegert

Mary Anne Barkhouse, "Le rêve aux loups," 2017, installation view showing "Empire" (courtesy Esker Foundation, Calgary; photo by John Dean)


Mary Anne Barkhouse Creates an Animal Empire


Mary Anne Barkhouse’s exhibition, Le rêve aux loups (The Dream of Wolves) at Calgary’s Esker Foundation until Dec. 22, examines environmental concerns and Indigenous culture through the visual iconography of boreal forest animals, including beaver, owl, wolf and coyote. The exhibition, organized by guest curator Jennifer Rudder, is the largest survey of Barkhouse’s work to date, and follows an earlier version at the Koffler Gallery in Toronto. It brings together work from major museum collections, along with three new pieces that respond to the horrific legacy of Canada’s residential school system. Prominent in all the works is the clash between the natural world and the “civilized” European elite. Barkhouse was born in 1961 in Vancouver and belongs to the Nimpkish band, Kwakiutl First Nation. Descended from a family of traditional Northwest Coast carvers that includes internationally recognized artists Ellen Neel, Mungo Martin and Charlie James, her practice incorporates exquisite sculptures of animals in wood, bronze, porcelain and glass that are juxtaposed against an elegant array of Baroque-style furniture and decor. At the entrance is Empire, where a lynx, hare, frog and weasel lounge on luxurious velvet and silk cushions nestled amongst a careful arrangement of tree branches. With treaties in dispute and continued human expansion onto the land, as Rudder notes in her exhibition essay, this work, along with Barkhouse’s other sculptural installations, are eloquent reminders of the consequences of Canada’s colonial history and the need for respectful cohabitation. More ►

– Lissa Robinson

Allan Harding MacKay, "Boreal Series #7," 2017, charcoal, chalk pastel, wax, oil pastel and ink jet on paper (courtesy of the Willock and Sax Gallery, Banff)


Allan Harding MacKay’s Boreal Forest


Allan Harding MacKay’s take on landscape is contemporary; it feels intimate, relying on proximity, as opposed to the wide view, and on odd croppings that suggest a tilted angle rather than perfect perspective. His imagistic sensibility tends slightly toward abstraction. In the seven pieces grouped as Boreal Series at the Willock and Sax Gallery until Oct. 29, MacKay renders photo-based, over-painted views of the environment he inhabits and observes – mountains, skies and trees – in and around Banff. With the computer, he compresses his photos into a square format and prints them on inkjet paper as monoprints. Then, after splattering wax over the surface, he layers colours with thin oil washes, charcoal, chalk and oil pastels. The effect draws attention to both the image and the surface. More ►

– Steven Ross Smith

Judy Anderson, "This one brings me the most pride," 2017, beads, moose hide, otter skin and goalie mask, 15″ x 12″ x 18″


Salt Spring Prize Winners and Other News

Calgary artist Judy Anderson has won the $17,000 Salt Spring Prize for a work that honours the people in her life, including her youngest son, Riel. This one brings me the most pride, a mixed-media work that combines beads, moose hide, otter skin and a goalie mask, was hailed as a piece worthy of the National Gallery of Canada by juror David Garneau, a prominent Saskatchewan artist and educator. Anderson, Cree from the Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, is an assistant professor at the University of Calgary. She was surprised at the news. “When I visited the opening exhibition in September there were so many works I admired that I had no inkling I would win,” she says. The prize includes $12,000 in cash and a residency worth $5,000 on Salt Spring Island, B.C. Meanwhile, juror’s awards went to Jan Little, of Kaleden, B.C.; Katherine MacNeill, of Oliver, B.C.; and Diana Thorneycroft, of Winnipeg. People’s choice awards went to Garry Kaye and Peter McFarlane, both of Salt Spring Island, and Dave Parsanishi, of Port Alberni, B.C. The other jurors were Denis Longchamps, artistic director and chief curator of the Art Gallery of Burlington in Ontario; and Naomi Potter, the director and curator of Calgary’s Esker Foundation.
And in other news:

  • British-born Julian Cox is the new chief curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario, filling a year-long vacancy. He comes from the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.
  • The $20-million Polygon Gallery, which replaces Presentation House Gallery, opens in North Vancouver on Nov. 18.
  • Ontario-based artist Ambera Wellmann has been awarded the $25,000 top prize at the RBC Canadian Painting Competition.
  • Open Space, an artist-run centre in Victoria, has named Kegan McFadden, a freelance curator from Winnipeg, as its next director, replacing Helen Marzolf.
  • The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art in Vancouver is planning a $1.5-million renovation to help mark its 10th anniversary in 2018.
  • KwaGulth artist Tony Hunt Jr., part of a long line of First Nations carvers on Vancouver Island, has died. He was 55.
  • Victoria artist Sandra Meigs‘ exhibition, Room for Mystics, is on view until Jan. 14 at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.
  • Canadian artists Fred Cameron, Michelle Grant, Brent Laycock, Erica Neumann, Jean Pilch, Doug Swinton, Linda Wilder and Robert E. Wood will participate A Timeless Legacy, a show that draws inspiration from Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, hit by devastating fires this year.
  • Michelle LaVallee, a former curator at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, is the new director at the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Art Centre in Gatineau, Que.
  • The Alberta Foundation for the Arts has posted a video about iinisikimma puppet-lantern performance that celebrated the reintegration of buffalo into Banff National Park.
  • Executive director Miriam Needoba is leaving the Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson, B.C.


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