2 January 2018

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY

  FROM THE EDITOR

 

The start to a year can feel lovely in the way a blank canvas or a new notebook beckons, filling us with hope and possibility. But we may feel a bit daunted too by memories of good intentions abandoned along the way in other years. Of course, the festive hoopla is all rather arbitrary and the reality is that life goes on, moment merging into moment, as always. Still, it’s hard to avoid the collective fascination with looking both backward and forward at this time of year.

So this issue does glance back with a story about Undaunted: Canadian Women Painters of the 19th Century, which is showing at the Art Gallery of Alberta. Another story looks at Stone and Sky: Canada’s Mountain Landscape, an exhibition at the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, B.C., that features many historical paintings. Ideas about place continue to occupy artists and as I discovered last month while preparing our first annual books issue, many art books focus on this theme as well. Perhaps that’s natural for a settler society in a year that marked 150 years of Confederation. Paintings that portray the natural world remain popular with the art-buying public, at least judging by artists like Caroline Stanley, who is profiled in these pages. Another artist in this issue who also considers place, Andreas Rutkauskas, spent three years photographing vistas along the border between Canada and the United States. It's a more conceptual project, to be sure, but one with roots in the Canadian landscape tradition.

Meanwhile, here at Galleries West, we are looking forward. We have started a broad reworking of our web presence and expect to unveil a new look in March. We're still in the early stages so it's a good time to share any observations about things we could improve. We will keep publishing popular features, including the magazine's gallery guide and exhibition listings, as well as stories about artists working and showing in Western Canada.

We appreciate your patience and encourage you to let us know if you hit any technical snags during this revamp. Our goal is to serve you – and the rest of the Western Canadian visual arts community – in a comprehensive and timely manner.

Until next time,

 

MASTHEAD

2 January 2018

Volume 3 Number 1
Copyright 2018

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
250-382-0567 (Victoria)
Toll Free 866-415-3282
Consulting Editor Jeffrey Spalding
Reviews Editor reviews@gallerieswest.ca
Contributors Beverly Cramp, John K. Grande, Paul Gessell, Mary-Beth Laviolette
Publisher
Tom Tait
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We acknowledge the support of the Alberta Media Fund for our publishing program.

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Photo of herring gulls by Ekaterina Bee / Wildlife Photographer of the Year

COVER STORY

Fascinating Wildlife Photography Contest

The first image, if you turn left as you enter the fascinating, overwhelming and resoundingly popular Wildlife Photographer of the Year show at the Royal BC Museum, shows two herring gulls in flight. It’s amusing in the way airborne gulls so often are, with their oversized feet and intense goggle-eyed countenances. There’s a sinuous arc to their wingspreads, one bird almost enfolding the other, but a winner in a contest with almost 50,000 entries from 92 countries? Then you check the caption. The photographer is a five-year-old from Italy. Ekaterina Bee used bread to entice the birds and then, entranced by the noise of their beating wings, snapped this charming image with a Nikon D90. The annual contest, organized by the Natural History Museum in London and on view until April 2 in Victoria, the sole Western Canadian venue, has been around for more than 50 years, time enough to figure out how to best organize 100 photographs to maximize their popular appeal. While perhaps not strictly art, the show has plenty of artistry, as well as a strong message about the need to protect a natural world under increasing threat from a burgeoning human population. The show’s format – it has 16 categories, including portraits, behaviour, under water, plants and fungi, and even the Earth itself – offers many opportunities to compare favourites and debate why the judges selected particular works. The caption panels are marvels of brevity, ably summarizing needed context and offering interesting tidbits about the animals, whether odd habits or mating rituals worthy of a #MeToo campaign. More ►
– Portia Priegert

Laura Muntz Lyall, "Mother and Child," circa 1895, oil on wood panel (Art Gallery of Alberta Collection, gift of the Ernest E. Poole Foundation, 1975)

FIVE THINGS

Undaunted Women Artists

1

Twenty-five years ago historian and curator Maria Tippett published By a Lady: Celebrating Three Centuries of Art by Canadian Women. At the time, there was criticism of the book’s title. The problem was with the phrase “by a lady” which some considered demeaning. Given the contents between the covers and what Tippett achieved with this broad 1992 survey, the title seemed to me a pretty minor matter. You could argue over the selection of artists featured (if you knew anything about the topic) or the book’s attention to gender and issues of identity, but not its timely arrival. Taking another stab at the topic is Undaunted: Canadian Women Painters of the 19th Century. An exhibition rather than a book, this show, on view at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton until March 25, reveals there’s still much recovery work to be done. Even with its smaller roster of artists, there were surprises. Some on display, of course, are well documented, such as Emily Carr and Francis Anne Hopkins, who painted scenes of the fur trade, as well as successful portraitist Florence Carlyle and wildflower artist (and much more) Annora Brown. But others aroused questions. How many works by the artist still survive today? And what do we really know about their practice? The Irish-born Sara Mary Blake comes to mind here with her folk art like depictions of early ranching in southern Alberta. More ►
– Mary-Beth Laviolette

 

Shuvinai Ashoona, "A For Sure World," 2009, coloured pencil and ink on paper, 19" x 25" (courtesy of Dorset Fine Arts)

FIVE THINGS

Shuvinai Ashoona’s Surreal World

2

Surreal, dream-like, spiritual and shrewdly insightful are descriptions that come to mind when viewing work by Inuit artist Shuvinai Ashoona. All these qualities are evident in A For Sure World at the Marion Scott Gallery, Ashoona’s first major solo exhibition in Vancouver in more than a decade. Although the show was to end Nov. 25, many of its 35 works on paper are being held over until at least Jan. 6. Ashoona, like her late cousin, Annie Pootoogook, makes drawings that can be amusing but pointed, even tragic, commentaries on life in the North. The piece from which the show takes its name is like something out of a comic book, with the words, a for sure world” drawn in coloured pencil. Between the large letters are hands holding cheques, as well as several globes, a signature symbol for Ashoona. Playing cards cascade down from the top – a nod, perhaps, to the capricious impact of business on Inuit art. A closer look reveals that Ashoona plays little tricks where the address of the cheque writer is normally placed. On one she writes, “check book not drawing books,” as if admonishing herself. Other blank cheques are reconfigured with teasing words and one offers an inside joke about her gallerist. More ►
– Beverly Cramp

 

Andreas Rutkauskas, "Cutline V," 2011, selenium-toned silver gelatin print, 20" x 24" (collection of the artist)

FIVE THINGS

A Long and Lonely Border

3

You don’t need a tank to breach the world’s longest undefended border, the 8,891 kilometres separating Canada and the United States. Indeed, as thousands of refugee claimants have shown over the last year in Manitoba, Quebec and elsewhere, you can simply walk across. Calgary-based photographer Andreas Rutkauskas captures that notion in a solo exhibition on view until Feb. 16 at the Canadian Photography Institute, a branch of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. His exhibition includes 44 colour images, collectively titled Borderline and projected sequentially on a wall measuring approximately 13 feet by 11 feet. Other walls offer six black-and-white photographs of cutlines, the 20-foot-wide corridors cleared through forests along the border, along with several maps to help locate images. Rutkauskas, a photography instructor at the Alberta College of Art and Design, has remained true to his eternal search for “bucolic landscapes” by crafting images during a three-year period that are devoid of people and vehicles. “I’m a landscape photographer through and through,” says Rutkauskas, who grew up in Winnipeg. This means scenes of a seemingly depopulated border, often with small, dilapidated or abandoned border stations. Flimsy rusting fences, a felled tree or other makeshift barriers prevent cross-border traffic in remote areas, from the Yukon-Alaska divide, to points along the 49th parallel and on to the forested New Brunswick-Maine border. More ►
– Paul Gessell

Jock Macdonald, "The Black Tusk, Garibaldi Park, B.C.," 1932, oil on canvas, 28" x 36" (collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, gift of Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa, VAG 2004.24.1, photo by Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art) Gallery

FIVE THINGS

Stone and Sky

4

Billed as a transcontinental journey through the country’s alpine vistas, Stone and Sky: Canada’s Mountain Landscape, invites the public to see these massive landforms through the eyes of some of our greatest artists. The exhibition at the Audain Art Museum in Whistler, B.C., also allows viewers to sense the transitions in artistic perception against the permanence of the surrounding mountains. The show, on view until Feb. 26, includes many approaches to landscape, both historical and contemporary. But what stands out more than anything is the iconic, near mythological power of the land itself. Are we shaped by the places we live, or vice versa? The mountain landscape – lakes, forests, rivers and towering peaks – it’s all here in this thoroughly Canadian show. Included are early paintings by European artists who first made contact with the misty forests and mountains, such as Charles John Collings, F.M. Bell-Smith and Robert Ford Gagen, as well as Lucius O’Brien, who was born in a village near Ontario’s Lake Simcoe. The echoes between works are fascinating. Montreal photographer William Notman’s albumen photographs of the railway construction that would open Western Canada, when contrasted with Edward Burtynsky’s 2012 chromogenic photo of Mount Edziza Provincial Park, build rapport on photography’s role in a changing landscape. Another example is Toni Onley’s serene Japanese-influenced watercolours, which complement a beatific and serene mountain image by Takao Tanabe. More ►
– John K. Grande

Caroline Stanley, "For Now," no date, oil on canvas, 24" x 36 "

FIVE THINGS

Nature Paintings with a Close-Up Focus

5

It’s obvious that Caroline Stanley’s nature paintings are based on photographs. Her imagery is realistic, of course, but it’s also her close-up focus, and how she contrasts foregrounds with sharply defined edges – often leaves or tree trunks – and more distant elements with a soft or blurry focus. Clearly, Stanley, part of Winter Salon, a large group show at Calgary’s Gibson Fine Art until Jan. 20, has a facility for capturing detail with her brush. But she’s quick to acknowledge that imaginative or conceptual art does not come easily, recalling her struggles at the Alberta College of Art and Design when instructors tried to push her out of her comfort zone. “Rainbows and animals are just who I am,” she says. Stanley graduated in 2007 and began painting portraits of dogs after posting a note at a local dog park saying she was looking for subjects and there was no obligation to buy. They proved popular and led to commissions. She says she has painted some 400 dogs and has an 18-month waiting list. She starts by asking people to fill out questionnaires about their dogs and also tries to meet her four-legged subjects so she can match her palette to their personality. She juggles those commissions with nature paintings, which are also popular. Her process starts when she heads out for a walk with her camera. She shoots hundreds of images, often without looking too closely at the composition, hoping to capture something fresh and unexpected. When she gets home, she chooses one that interests her visually. Some of her best-selling paintings look upward under different trees, showing a canopy of branches juxtaposed against the sky. More ►
– Portia Priegert

 

An architectural rendering of the Inuit Art Centre in Winnipeg shows plans for a visible art vault.

NEWS ROUNDUP

Funds for Inuit Art Centre and Other News

Winnipeg’s Inuit Art Centre, which will house the world’s largest public collection of Inuit art, is getting $10 million from the Manitoba government. The four-storey centre next to the Winnipeg Art Gallery is expected to open in 2020. This latest contribution means that $50 million of the centre’s $65 million construction tab is now committed. The centre will include exhibition spaces, a glass-enclosed visible art vault, a conservation facility, art studios, a theatre, classrooms and more. The Winnipeg Art Gallery holds in trust some 13,000 carvings, drawings, prints, textiles and new media works. Gallery director Stephen Borys says the Inuit centre will offer a path to dialogue and understanding between North and South. “It will be a platform for Inuit who use art as a voice and language to celebrate their stories with the world,” he says.

In other news:

  • Aaron Nelson has been named executive director of Medalta, a ceramic arts centre in Medicine Hat, Alta.

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