22 November 2016



22 November 2016

Volume 1 Number 1 Copyright 2016

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 Beverly Cramp, Paul Gessell, Sarah Swan, Katherine Ylitalo
Tom Tait
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Toll Free 866-697-2002
Advertising Director advertising@gallerieswest.ca
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Social Media Editor listings@gallerieswest.ca
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We acknowledge the support of the Alberta Media Fund for our publishing program.


Vernon Ah Kee, "Cantchant," 2009, three-channel digital video installation, 6:50 min., installation dimensions variable National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa Photo © NGC


Catch the Wave in Winnipeg

In the mid-90s, my brother plastered a sticker to the back window of our family station wagon that read: “Skateboarding Is Not A Crime.” His life had become a strange mixture of beauty and pain. He soared. He flew. But he also crashed to earth, breaking bone after bone. For Jaimie Issac, the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s curatorial resident of indigenous and contemporary art, the exhibitions cantchant, by Australian artist Vernon Ah Kee, and Boarder X, a group show with seven Canadian artists, grew out of profound appreciation for this kind of physical and spiritual tension. “I skateboard, snowboard and surf myself,” she says, “so I can easily recognize the importance of these sports for the artists. All eight artists use boards – literally and figuratively – to mobilize their own indigenous cultural knowledge.” More ►

– Sarah Swan


DaveandJenn, "A Natural History of Islands," 2016, installation view, showing "Pretender is the Other Bird," bronze, epoxy putty, sequins, acrylic paint, powder-coated steel, feathers, wood, fabric, found object and mixed medium, 69.3” x 29” x 18” (right) and "TAILBITER / I tried," bronze, copper wire, epoxy putty, aluminum scales, epoxy resin, plaster of Paris, polymer clay, acrylic paint, fresh water pearls and powder-coated steel, 75.3” x 34” x 30” (centre) Photo by M.N. Hutchinson, Courtesy of Nickle Galleries, Calgary


DaveandJenn’s Natural History of Islands


The young duo, DaveandJenn, work as one. As painting students at the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2004, David Foy and Jennifer Saleik teamed up as a collaborative. Once they graduated in 2006, they quickly drew attention for densely detailed narrative paintings that sandwich figures, creatures and forest landscapes within multiple, clear layers of resin. As collaborators, they have honed their thinking, sentiments and work process to a fine point. “I can’t imagine working alone,” says Foy. “We are better as one.” DaveandJenn are among the first generation of artists to grow up with the Internet. The qualities of possibility, hierarchal collapse and unendingness inherent in the web are their natural milieu. As artists, they pick their way through forking paths. Sci-fi, fantasy and ancient mythology are attractive frameworks because they can encompass big questions. Natural history, especially the life of reefs, feeds their imagination. Twelve years into their career, the stories embedded in their work are coalescing into a grand narrative, revealing a mythology that draws on shared cultural history and speaks to our time. A Natural History of Islands, curated by Christine Sowiak, at the University of Calgary’s Nickle Galleries is up until Dec. 17. It’s one of two exhibitions that are part of a long-standing program, Series, that gives mid-career Calgary artists full rein to produce new work with a regional curator. The other show is Robin Arseneault’s ONLOOKERS, another strong offering. DaveandJenn will lead an hour-long tour of the show at noon on Thursday, Nov. 24. More ►

–  Katherine Ylitalo

Tomoyo Ihaya, "Sketch for Eyes Water Fire 2," 2016, mixed media on paper, 8.5" x 11"


Tomoyo Ihaya’s Compassionate Message


Tomoyo Ihaya, who was born in Japan but is now based in Vancouver, has visited India 15 times. Through her travels, she’s been sensitized to cultural upheaval and disadvantaged peoples. Much of her art speaks to deprivation, oppression, lost homelands, escapes and exile. She has developed her own iconography to convey compassion for this misery. Frequent symbols are legs – often truncated at the knee – eyes, fires, tear drops and empty bowls. At times, she even burns small holes in her paper with incense sticks. Her latest exhibition, Eyes Water Fire, at Art Beatus in Vancouver until Nov. 25, is another paean to compassion. Delicately drawn icons, sometimes painted in gentle tones, elicit a visceral response. Blue legs, for instance, “cross the borders on snow-covered mountains or swim across the ocean,” says Ihaya. Or flames awash in red declare “resistance and dignity or lights of prayers.” Ihaya has taken her work to new heights in this show, incorporating her lyrical drawings and mixed-media pieces into complex videos and installations. The video work is particularly striking as it animates her symbolic language and enlivens it with the use of minimalist audio such as rushing water, the whoosh of wind across barren terrain and bare feet shuffling along the ground. Visitors would be forgiven for missing a small piece of paper tacked to the wall with this poem:

Thousands of Eyes
Shedding tears
Vessels floating
on rough water
Legs crossing glaciers
half frozen
In the snow mountains
Keep flames burning to live
To reach the light
Tears of light

– Beverly Cramp

More images and video link ►




Jeremy Shaw, "Variation FQ," 2013, 16mm film with original soundtrack, dimensions variable, 11:02 min., film still


Jeremy Shaw Wins Sobey Art Award


The Sobey Art Award – and Western artists – had a big moment at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa earlier this month. With Canada’s leading visual arts institution making its first foray into managing the prestigious 14-year-old award for artists under 40, the stakes were high for the five regional finalists, with not only a show in the gallery’s hallowed halls but a possible international tour that could give their careers even more high-octane buzz. Westerners were the odds-on favourites to take home the $50,000 top prize – four of the five regional nominees have strong Western ties. The winner, Jeremy Shaw, now lives in Berlin, but represents the West Coast and Yukon region. The short list included Cree artist Brenda Draney from the Prairies and the North, while both Charles Stankievech and Hajra Waheed, representing Ontario and Quebec, respectively, were born in Alberta. The odd man out? The Atlantic nominee, William Robinson. Shaw’s work, the jury noted, speaks to a fundamental longing for transcendence. “He creates and reflects extraordinary experiences and shows us how art can translate what is challenging to articulate.” Altered states is a theme that Ottawa arts writer Paul Gessell identifies in his review of the show, particularly in Shaw’s video, Quickeners, which Gessell calls “a darkly humorous sci-fi adventure in which aliens experience the ecstasy of backwoods American religious cults.”  Read Paul Gessell's review ►

Kevin Sonmor, "Constitutional Departure," 2016, oil on linen, 60” x 84”


Kevin Sonmor Walks a New Path


Kevin Sonmor is at a turning point. For years, he has been painting – and repainting – labour-intensive baroque works with energetic and layered surfaces. For instance, in The Utilitarians, a major show at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie two years ago, he took on the challenging task of combining historical landscape conventions with techniques from contemporary abstraction. Fast forward: An Evening Constitutional, which runs at the Newzones Gallery of Contemporary Art in Calgary from Dec. 1 to Jan. 14, is positively laid back in comparison. His life-sized equine paintings – like Constitutional Departure, which shows two haltered horses ambling away from viewers – have an appealing naturalistic quality with a spartan quietude that reflects the work’s pastoral content. Sonmor, who was born in Lacombe, Alta., but has been based in the Montreal area since completing a Master’s degree at Concordia University in 1991, says he simply needed a change. “You get started with something new,” he says, “and there’s a whole new level of excitement.”



Winnipeg art teacher Nereo II painted this shipping container for the Winnipeg Art Gallery as part of a Canada 150 project that will see three mobile art studios travel across the country next summer. Photo by Ruth Bonneville, Winnipeg Free Press


Artists Celebrate Canada’s 150th Birthday


Brian Jungen has transformed Nike runners into eye-popping Haida-themed masks and white plastic lawn chairs into a giant whale skeleton. So how will he help overhaul a historic trencher once used to construct the Alaska Highway? Ottawa arts writer Paul Gessell reports on this and other Canada 150 projects, including three mobile studios in 20-foot metal shipping containers that will visit every province and territory next year. Dispatched by the Winnipeg Art Gallery, courtesy of $300,000 from the Canada 150 Fund, the studios allow artists to lead collaborative art-making activities with the public. Other federally funded projects include a TV series that lets 10 lucky Canadians recreate the Atlantic crossings of their ancestors, aboriginal art for the grounds of Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery, and five sculptures to be installed in downtown Edmonton. In all, the Canada 150 Fund will disburse $210 million across the country for concerts, street parties, sports events and other celebrations. More ►

Simon Brault, head of the Canada Council for the Arts, in conversation. Photo by Scott Munn.


Canada Council Spends More on Artists and Art Projects

The Canada Council for the Arts is shifting priorities as it develops a plan to spend $550 million in extra funding over five years announced by the new Liberal government last March. The council says it will allocate almost twice as much in grants, payments and prizes to Canadian artists and arts organizations, moving from $150 million in 2015 to $310 million in 2021. “Our decision to drastically simplify our programs and lighten our administrative processes means that we will be able to inject a total of 88 per cent of the federal government’s $550 million over five years directly into the arts sector,” Simon Brault, head of the Canada Council, said in a statement. One shift will see more funding channelled to project funding rather than operational grants for arts groups. The council also intends to double funding to initiatives to boost awareness of Canadian artistic creation internationally. Brault also says the council will invest $88.5 million by 2021 in projects that “increase the quality, range and sharing of art through digital.” A new digital fund will be launched at a digital art summit the council will host in March. Read Simon Brault's announcement ►
In other news:

  • Anishinabe artist Rebecca Belmore has won the Gershon Iskowitz Prize. The award, presented annually to an artist who has made an outstanding contribution to the visual arts in Canada, includes a $50,000 cash prize and a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
  • Kristy Trinier will become the director of Visual, Digital and Media Arts at the Banff Centre as of Jan. 3. Trinier is now curator at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton.
  • Margaret Chrumka is the new executive director of the Kamloops Art Gallery. Chrumka, who replaces the late Jann Bailey, was serving as interim director.
  • Rita Letendre is the latest recipient of the Paul-Émile-Borduas Award, marking her significant contribution to Quebec’s art.
  • Some 29 tenants, including non-profit organizations and professional artists, will become the founding members of cSPACE, a new creative space in a former Calgary school.
  • Saskatoon authors Yann Martel and Alice Kuipers have donated a major sculpture by Saskatoon-area artist Clint Neufeld to the Remai Modern.


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