16 January 2018




These notes roll around frequently, so I sometimes find myself at a loss for words. But this time, it's like hitting a wall: the days are short, Victoria's skies have been low and grey all week, and I have sat too long at my computer, as my low back reminds me with increasing urgency. Ah, the glamorous life of a magazine editor.

So I played hooky. While dropping off library books, I took snapshots of an owl that had somehow flown down a dark tunnel beneath an adjacent building and was sitting in a sculpture under the library's glass-covered courtyard. It felt rather magical.

Then, it was on to the Legacy Gallery for a talk about Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects (no, that's not a typo). The show features art and archival material from the University of Victoria's Transgender Archives, reportedly the largest in the world. Who knew? It's curated by American artist Chris Vargas, who heads the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art, an imaginary institution that has organized previous shows in Seattle and San Francisco. I'll be writing more in an upcoming issue.

Next, I went to a documentary, The Last Dalai Lama? A follow-up to a film that director Mickey Lemle made 24 years earlier, it seems a bit cobbled together with no defining moment, perhaps apt for a film about Buddhism, yet was interesting all the same. And then another magical moment, when a fellow in a red robe emerged from the theatre afterwards, looking somewhat like a younger incarnation of the Dalai Lama.

Walking home, I noticed how seeing different things can fuel one's energy and pondered how to encourage diversity in Galleries West. Sometimes we cover shows by longtime regional artists, like Calgarian Mark Dicey, the subject of this issue's cover story. But I also look for newcomers, like Mark Ollinger, idealists like Sylvia Ziemann, cutting-edge artists like Brent Wadden, and inspiring people, like Teva Harrison, who published an award-winning graphic novel after being diagnosed with terminal cancer.

All this to say that I hope you'll find something in these stories to broaden and brighten your day. And do stay tuned for the next issue. We're working on pieces about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, two Winnipeg artists that use drones in their work, and photographs from South Asia.

Until next time,



16 January 2018

Volume 3 Number 2
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
250-382-0567 (Victoria)
Toll Free 866-415-3282
Consulting Editor Jeffrey Spalding
Reviews Editor reviews@gallerieswest.ca
Contributors Sandee Moore, John Thomson, Katherine Ylitalo
Tom Tait
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Mark Dicey, "2484-VIII-17," 2017, acrylic on canvas, 68” x 79” (photo by Mark Dicey, collection of the artist)


Mark Dicey: Making His Mark

Calgary artist Mark Dicey has brought both dedication and infectious energy to a wide range of creative interests over the last 35 years, earning his stripes as an artist’s artist. In 2002, he was awarded both the Alumni Award of Excellence by the Alberta College of Art and Design and The Order of Black Belt in Thinking, the latter perhaps the more coveted honour. Presented by Chuck Stake, of Chuck Stake Enterprizes, a.k.a. Don Mabie, a mail artist, trading-card guru and longtime ringmaster in Calgary’s lively alternative scene, it speaks to Dicey’s pivotal role as both artist and community builder. Mabie recalls Dicey’s tremendous commitment to his creative practice. “When I first got to know him, he was drawing, painting, making collages, creating installations, doing performance art on his own and collaborating with other artists,” says Mabie. “He has developed into one of the finest artists I know with an excellent body of work to his credit.” Dicey’s strongest focus these days is painting. He’s preparing for the largest solo exhibition of his career, Each Painted Document, from Feb. 1 to April 7 at the Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary. A concurrent show is  running Feb. 9 to March 10 at the Jarvis Hall Gallery in Calgary. When Michele Hardy, a curator at the Nickle, invited Dicey to participate in the show’s development, he wanted to highlight the processes that fuel his practice. His daily work, the drawings and collages he makes in the sketchbooks he carries wherever he goes, will be on display, some 60 books in all. There are 11 new drawings that radiate with colour and a wall installation of approximately 200 small “papers” made during a residency last summer at the Banff Centre. Renewing his interest in collaboration, Dicey also concocted a sculpture, the cleverly titled waltermark, made with fellow Calgary artist Walter May, whose retrospective runs concurrently at the Nickle. More ►
– Katherine Ylitalo

Teva Harrison, "Pain Management," 2016, ink on paper


A Creative Response to Cancer


It’s the sort of crushing news that pushes you to your physical and emotional limits. Four years ago, Toronto-based artist Teva Harrison, then only 37, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. By the time doctors figured out why she was in pain, the disease had spread to her bones and was both terminal and incurable. At first, she didn’t want to talk to anyone. But eventually she began discussing painful childhood memories with a psychiatrist on her oncology team. Back home, feeling raw, she began to draw, making dark, primitive comics. “Then I’d feel a bit of peace,” she says. “Once the story was outside of my head, I could let go a little.” Eventually, she started drawing about life with cancer. “It’s the unspoken that is most frightening,” says Harrison. “Shining a light on my experiences takes some of the power away from the bogeyman that is my cancer.” Her drawings hit a chord with friends, and she posted them online. Within a month, The Walrus contacted her, asking to post them on the magazine’s website. Soon after that, a publisher reached out, telling Harrison she had the makings of a book. By 2016, Harrison had compiled her drawings, along with short companion texts, into a graphic novel, In-Between Days: A Memoir about Living with Cancer. It won the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Non-Fiction and was shortlisted for a Governor General’s literary award and a Joe Shuster Award, given for Canadian comics. Then, late last year, her first major solo exhibition, In-Between Days, featuring 40 drawings, opened at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. More ►
– Portia Priegert

Brent Wadden, "Score 1 (Salt Spring)," 2018, installation view at Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (photo by Michael Love)


Brent Wadden: Two Scores


From a distance, they look like hard edge paintings; five large pieces affixed to canvas and hung on the wall. Another lies on the floor. Close inspection reveals something else. They’re not paintings but weavings and the weaving is imperfect, even sloppy. Artist Brent Wadden, who has a BFA in painting from NSCAD University in Halifax and now splits his time between Vancouver and Berlin, wouldn’t have it any other way. “I’m an untrained weaver,” says the internationally exhibited artist. “Someone who is traditionally trained would do things a lot differently. At this point, I like and accept all the mistakes.” Wadden calls his work woven paintings. His latest exhibition, Two Scores, at Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery until March 25, probes the relationship between the spontaneity of painting and the mechanics of weaving. Traditional weaving produces a uniform pattern. There’s a rigidity imposed by the process of interlocking threads. Wadden fights this by taking a casual approach to the craft, making things up on the fly, often without preliminary sketches. He listens to music when he weaves. He even watches videos. When he runs out of one colour, he tags on another. Score 1 (Salt Spring), the exhibition’s centrepiece, is a breathtakingly monumental series of horizontal stripes that fills an entire wall. Some stripes are uneven, a product of both poor tension and the process of stretching the finished piece onto canvas. “Compositionally, the mistakes in the weaving are important,” Walden says. “They’re part of it.” More ►
– John Thomson

Sylvia Ziemann, "Traumdeutung," 2017, acrylic and oil on canvas, 12" x 16"


Sylvia Ziemann’s Accidental Utopia


Art, according to French philosopher Claude Lévi-Strauss, lies halfway between science and myth. Regina artist Sylvia Ziemann’s solo exhibition of paintings and ink drawings, Accidental Utopia, at the Art Gallery of Regina until Feb. 23, inhabits this interstitial space more than most. A key image is Traumdeutung, in which a vermilion bunnyman is stretched out flat on an exam table. A blue bubble filled with icons – a mushroom, a life preserver, a burning building, a string of leaping frogs – spurts from his forehead. Traumdeutung, or dream interpretation, is the book in which Sigmund Freud advances his theory of the unconscious. Painting and drawing are also a kind of interpretation that can reduce dreams and other unknowable things to representational form, making it possible to apprehend them at a glance, to holistically understand them. Lined up on one wall are intestines, lungs, a heart and a torso. Their bold black volumes dissolve on close inspection into inked lines as thin and meandering as hairs. The outlines of these body parts are stuffed with jumbled words and symbolic images that fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. One drawing contains a story titled “how I developed a wind phobia and how blue became my favourite colour,” about two balloons snatched from the narrator in childhood, while others are banded with lists of evocative words and phrases. The body is imagined as a receptacle brimming with thoughts, feelings, memories and dreams. More ►
– Sandee Moore


Mark Ollinger, "Timing," 2017, aerosols on wood panel, 36" x 36" (courtesy the artist and Kimoto Gallery, Vancouver)


Weaving a Word Illusion


Vancouver-based artist Mark Ollinger describes his work as Nordic or Celtic knots that merge with graffiti. He typically executes them in aerosol paint on a flat wood panel, although he plays with the illusion of 3D space. Ollinger bases each piece on a different word that he turns into an unbroken line and then interweaves into a larger pattern. The word influences the shape of the final piece, which he first draws by hand and then recreates digitally, distorting it to create an optical illusion. In Timing, for instance, the original word is “she.” Squint and you will see a rectilinear “s” on the left side and a lower case “e” on the right. In the middle, acting almost like a hinge, is the “h.” Why that word? “Relationship stuff,” he responds. Ollinger, who was born in 1988 and grew up in Calgary, is self-trained and has been active in the graffiti community. After high school, he freelanced in illustration and design, worked in a silkscreen shop for a year, and designed his own fashion line, Duality Clothing, which was popular with skateboarders. Now focused on making art, he is emerging into the gallery system this month with two shows. One, Unconventional Constructions, is at Kimoto Gallery in Vancouver with two other artists, Jon Saw and Andre Serin. The other is a solo show, Lines Drawn, at Herringer Kiss Gallery in Calgary. Both are on view until Jan. 27. More Images ►
– Portia Priegert

Krista Johnson, "Breathe In," 2017, oil on canvas, 60" x 60" (photo by @byron_cameraman)


A Momentary Beauty


If winter’s chill is getting you down, Vancouver artist Krista Johnson may have just the antidote. Her paintings, whether a mass of tangled flowers or a quiet pond, are potent reminders of summer’s warm abundance. She focuses on quiet moments in daily life and is interested in how paying attention to her surroundings puts her in a contemplative space and fuels her energy. “I am curious about how these fleeting moments can have such a strong impact,” she says. Johnson’s work has ties to her childhood. She grew up in a house with a yard but now lives in an apartment, so enjoys getting out to parks and gardens with her children. “I’m always trying to find nature within the city,” she says. Her show, The Places Between, at Vancouver’s Ian Tan Gallery until Jan. 31, features 12 paintings of things she has seen while out walking or riding her bike. She snaps a photo and then paints using four-by-six-inch prints as references so she can capture the setting and mood without getting distracted by every leaf or petal. Johnson worked as a designer and illustrator after graduating from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in 2000 with a degree in communication design. But in 2015, she decided to focus on painting because she was tired of feeling envious of people who were making their own art. She interviewed several artists to find out how they got started, set up a website and decided “to see how it goes.” How is it going? “It’s been great,” she says. “I’ve been really fortunate to sell whatever I paint.” More Images ►
– Portia Priegert

Yayoi Kusama, "Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity," 2009, wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, black glass and aluminum (collection of the artist; courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York ©Yayoi Kusama)


Yayoi Kusama at AGO and Other News

Tickets go on sale today at the Art Gallery of Ontario for one of the year’s most anticipated shows. Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, which opens its three-month run in Toronto on March 3, is the the biggest North American tour of Kusama’s work in nearly two decades. It includes six of her kaleidoscopic environments as well as whimsical installations, paintings and sculptures from the early 1950s to the present. Kusama was active in New York avant-garde circles during the formative years of pop art and minimalism, exhibiting her work alongside Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Allan Kaprow. She showed widely in Europe in the mid-1960s, where she became interested in mirrors, lights and kinetics. Her visibility grew in the late 1960s through her radical anti-war happenings, which put nudity and polka dots into the streets of New York. Due to ongoing struggles with her health, Kusama returned to Japan in 1973. Now 88, she remains active in her Tokyo studio. Infinity Mirrors is organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington.

In other news:

  • Lynn Price, a graduate of Emily Carr University who is now completing a Master’s degree at Montreal’s Concordia University, has won the $7,500 Tanabe Prize for emerging B.C. painters.
  • Calgary is getting a commercial art fair. Art Calgary 2018, which runs March 15 to March 17 at cSPACE King Edward, will highlight art being produced by Calgary artists.
  • Artist Wade Baker will create a cedar carving of the Squamish story Sch’ich’iyúy (The Sisters Mountain), also known as The Lions, for the new North Vancouver Museum, slated to open in 2019.
  • Artists Ken Lum, Andrew Qappik and Réal Bérard were recently named to the Order of Canada.
  • The Alberta Foundation for the Arts is funding a curatorial research project into Indigenous art that builds on earlier work by Joane Cardinal-Schubert.
  • Kelly Richardson, a professor at the University of Victoria, is shooting a film about Vancouver Island’s old-growth forests as one of five artists chosen for the upcoming XL-Outer Worlds IMAX project, which celebrates the Canadian technology’s 50th anniversary.
  • Galleries West consulting editor Jeffrey Spalding has moved West to work as an art consultant in Vancouver after several years as a curator at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton.


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