20 December 2016



20 December 2016

Volume 1 Number 3 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, Agnieszka Matejko, Sarah Swan
Tom Tait
403-234-7097 (Calgary)
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.


Charlene Vickers, “Accumulations of Moments Spent Underwater with the Sun and Moon,” 2015-2016, watercolour, gouache and pencil crayon on paper, courtesy of the artist, photo by Trevor Mills, Vancouver Art Gallery


Vancouver’s Ambivalent Pleasures

That Vancouver is knee-deep in good art is no surprise. After all, it’s one of four cities, along with Chicago, Los Angeles and Mexico City, recognized this year by the PBS series Art21, a showcase of 21st-century art that prides itself on giving “unparalleled access to the most innovative artists of our time.” Much of Vancouver’s innovation happens in the studios of emerging and mid-career artists, many of whom are interested in materiality – even pieces that blur boundaries with craft or other “makerly” pursuits. At least, this seems to be one take-home message from Vancouver Special, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s new triennial survey of the region’s contemporary art scene. Borrowing its name from a house style popular when the baby-boom generation came of age, this project gives the wider public a chance to see work by artists often little known outside of small artist-run spaces. This first iteration, Ambivalent Pleasures, on view until April 17, features 40 artists chosen by Daina Augaitis, the gallery’s chief curator, and guest curator Jesse McKee. They visited more than 90 studios last spring, identifying the latest trends, including new approaches to surrealism, abstraction and conceptual art, as they chose a broad range of painting, animation, ceramics, installation, audio and textiles. More ►

– Beverly Cramp

David Altmejd, "The Vessel," 2011, Plexiglas, chain, plaster, wood, thread, wire, acrylic paint, epoxy resin, epoxy clay, acrylic gel, granular medium, quartz, pyrite, assorted minerals, adhesive, wire, pins and needles, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa ©David Altmejd, photo ©NGC


A Spiritual Experience


Nancy Wilson Ross, an expert on Eastern religions, once said: “Nothing can be asserted about Hinduism that cannot also be denied.” This same statement aptly summarizes David Altmejd’s intricate oeuvre. And, as in Hinduism, his head-spinning extravagance converges into deeply spiritual yet intensely modern mythmaking. Such depth and breadth of vision helped catapult this Montreal-born artist, a 1998 graduate of the Université du Québec à Montréal, to the international stage. Now based in New York, Altmejd has exhibited at the Venice, Istanbul and Whitney biennials, among others. With his work in great demand, it’s something of a coup that the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton is showing his remarkable piece, The Vessel, on loan from the National Gallery of Canada, until Jan. 29. This room-sized work, encased in Plexiglas, glows in the gallery’s dim light. Hair-thin threads amass into a flutter of effervescent wings. Swan necks emerge above, beaks and heads formed from the artist’s own plaster-cast hands. Within this translucent flurry are myriad objects – chains, shimmering crystals, coiled-wire intestines, pins and needles – all charged with an irresistible momentum. Contemporary gestures collide with references to Greek mythology (Leda or Icarus); the beautiful clashes with the gruesome; motion seems to erupt from static matter. Ultimately, it’s like entering a temple: the cacophony of the street is soothed; paradox and commotion hushed. Here, when viewers face the perfect symmetry of The Vessel, the profane becomes sublime.
– Agnieszka Matejko




Suzie Smith, "Untitled Crayons," 2016, screenprint, 22” x 15”


Suzie Smith Offers ‘Stoic Joy’


Suzie Smith’s art makes me feel awash in paradox. According to my husband, when I look at her work I get a strange, loopy grin. Smith’s show at Lisa Kehler Art + Projects in Winnipeg, on view until Dec. 24, features three series of silkscreen prints and one 20-minute animation. The work maintains a conscientious focus while still feeling wonderfully alive. Her pieces are both calm and energized. Craig Love, another Winnipeg artist, has found the perfect oxymoron for her work: “stoic joy.” For each series, Smith rearranged predetermined sets of simple shapes, objects and colours. Using this kind of system allows her to be improvisational, even playful, in manipulating composition. Each print is unique, reminding Smith of what she and other system-based artists know so well – a set of limitations offers infinite possibilities. More can be said with a pared-down vocabulary. More ►

– Sarah Swan


M.N. Hutchinson, “June 21, 1999, 09:32," 1999/2016, photograph


One Photo Every Minute


As the shortest day of the year arrives, visitors to the Glenbow Museum in Calgary can contemplate the longest via a fascinating project by M.N. Hutchinson. The Calgary photographer spent June 21, 1999, the last summer solstice of the 20th century, taking a photo every minute – starting at sunrise at 4:23 a.m. and continuing until sunset at 11:10 p.m. He planned his day almost like a military expedition, carrying two cameras, four lenses and 40 rolls of black-and-white film around his inner city neighbourhood of Bowness. Hutchinson took more than 900 shots. The 106 images chosen for The Last Longest Day, on view until Feb. 26, are often mundane – lawn ornaments, a leafy bank of shrubbery, the windowless back wall of one of the city’s many stucco bungalows – as might be expected from such a demanding project. But each shot is composed with thought and an eye to tone, form and focus – a remarkable feat of both concentration and endurance. Hutchinson, who has a Master’s degree in fine arts from the University of Calgary, only recently went into the darkroom to develop his 17-year-old images. For him, the project proves that after 25 years as a photographer, he sees the world differently. “The potential for beauty doesn’t rely on anything special occurring in front of you,” he says. “It’s something you make.” More images ►

John Kissick, "Groovefucker One," 2009, oil and acrylic on canvas, 80" x 84"


John Kissick’s Boom Bits


Ontario artist John Kissick’s exhibition, The Boom Bits, on view at the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre in Medicine Hat, Alta. until Dec. 27, features complex patterned abstracts that have garnered critical praise. In the show’s catalogue essay, Pete Smith, an artist from Bowmanville, Ont., writes that Kissick’s work “pushes back against all of the quasi-spiritual rhetoric” of the late-Modernist abstraction of the 1970s. Here’s a passage from Smith’s essay: “As much as John’s work is meant as a clear refutation of the idea of painting as personal expression, I can’t help but know that his paintings are, in fact, a deep reflection of his self. His paintings are screaming with a yearning for some kind of “authenticity,” but they are tempered by the realization that unmediated experience is no longer possible, that optimism collapses under the weight of its own naïvety, and that the word “authenticity” itself needs to be placed in rabbit-ear-quotations. John’s paintings are bursting with hope and apprehension, optimism and trepidation. In this sense, they are a totemic collection of the conflicting creeds that have coalesced in his lifetime, and of the visual detritus left in their wake. These paintings are John and his memories. They are where he grew up, and who he is now.” The work, created between 2009 and 2015, will also show at the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery in Saskatchewan from Feb. 9 to April 16. More Images ►

Dmytro Stryjek, "Self-portrait," 1980, oil, graphite and varnish on card, 12” x 9” Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, photo by Don Hall


Regina Show Marks Ukrainian Immigration


The MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina marks the 125th anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada with a show, Found in Translation, by the late Dmytro Stryjek, a Saskatchewan artist who began painting in earnest only after he retired. Born in Ukraine in 1899, Stryjek immigrated to Canada in 1923 after serving in the Ukrainian army. He then worked for the Canadian National Railway for 38 years. “His paintings are astonishingly inventive and hauntingly lyrical,” art historian Daria Zelska-Darewych writes in the Internet Encyclopedia of Ukraine. “A brilliant colorist, Stryjek achieves a freshness that seems inexhaustible, and challenges accepted ideas of untutored painting as separate from mainstream art.” Stryjek’s work cuts across two cultures. His subjects include Ukrainian poets, icons and churches, but also Western pop stars, politicians and landscapes. Stryjek was included in a 1975 group show at the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatchewan Primitives. Then, in 1988, the Thunder Bay Art Gallery organized a retrospective, Trying the Colours, which travelled to the MacKenzie. Peter Millard, an English professor at the University of Saskatchewan, championed Stryjek. In 1999, the MacKenzie acquired 378 works, by purchase and donation, from Millard’s collection, making the gallery the largest depository of Stryjek’s work. Found in Translation continues to April 23. More ►

Josef Sudek, "Workers Inside St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague. Shafts of Light Illuminate the Space," 1924-1928, gelatin silver print, sheet, 9.8" x 9.1" National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, photo ©NGC, ©Estate of Josef Sudek


Canadian Photography Institute Opens

Photographs by Josef Sudek, sometimes called the poet of Prague, are a highlight of the inaugural exhibitions at the new Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada. The renowned Czech photographer, who lived from 1896 to 1976, was known for poetic images of simple objects and everyday life. The Nazi occupation of Prague may have prompted his preoccupation with darkness, which evoked a melancholic tone in much of his work. Along with the 163 images in the Intimate World of Josef Sudek, the institute features Cutlines, an exhibition culled from the Globe and Mail’s photo archives. Both shows run to Feb. 26.
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