Burrard Arts—April 1, 2022
Going to a studio visit with Jack always feels just slightly redundant. After living together as roommates for almost four years, I have gained an intimate understanding of his practice as experienced through life and contextualized through art. Over the past years, I have seen many iterations of Jack’s studio. While Jack is primarily a painter, at BAF, he has created a studio specifically for stained glass. However, most notably filling the space are the stacks of multicolored crates, haphazardly piled one on top of the next, as if one accidental bump wouldn’t send the crates’ intricate interlaid glass crashing into pieces. While being the most dedicated and hard-working artist I know, Jack approaches his work in an almost cavalier manner, nothing is ever too precious.
When Sara Gulamali relocated to Vancouver from London in 2019, she experienced what many newcomers to the city initially feel – a distinct coldness and a lack of obvious opportunity. In Vancouver, it seems like new residents to the city are almost required to pass a long and grueling test before they are granted acknowledgement, let alone employment, friendship, and other necessities. (This is a story I know all too well. Even when I left the city for a year-and-a-half, returning to the west coast came with a hesitant and uncertain welcome.) Along with this social and emotional distancing, Sara experienced a culture shock – she didn’t know where to source Halal foods or which grocery stores struck the balance between being somewhat affordable and abundant. On top of that, the city’s job market also came as a shock; it seemed like even though she had already developed an impressive resume in the United Kingdom, her accomplishments didn’t resonate as well with a Vancouver audience. Eventually and almost through a chance encounter, Sara did find employment and connection, but not without struggle.
Burrard Arts—February 2, 2022
When I visited BAF resident artist Sara Khan, her studio housed a chaotic assemblage of drawings, sketches, and paintings of varying sizes and approaches—some finished, others in-progress. A scroll-like length of craft paper extended across four walls, following the irregular architecture of the room, half-filled in with illustrations in oil pastel and wax crayon. After speaking with her at length, it was evident that this new work was an extension of her broader practice which often reflects her inner landscapes, involving fantastical places, figures, and animals that waver between real and imaginary, between enchanting and unsettling.
Burrard Arts—December 15, 2021
When it comes to identity, there are many factors that affect how we view ourselves and how others interpret us. This is a central assertion in Karin Jones’ practice. Her recent sculptural works arrange hair gathered from various sources—including donations from friends, family, and salons—sparking ongoing conversations around identity, race, perception, and social norms. I met with Jones in her BAF studio to discuss the trajectory of the work she has been creating throughout her residency. Her space felt personal and cozy, with an area rug, comfortable seating, and a desk positioned towards a window facing the street. Around the room were large sheets of screening mesh, mounted to the walls, each one supporting compositions made from long strands of platinum blonde hair.
Burrard Arts—September 15, 2021
I sit at my kitchen island that my partner and I bought from Ikea, the keys of my computer clacking as I sip coffee out of a hand-thrown mug I took from my parents’ house. Beside me sits a tall stack of books I’ve meant to read this summer, toted around with me as I move from seat to seat, table to table.
Zoom sits open in the background while I type and a sliver of the window peeks out from behind this text you’re now reading, bookmarked in case my guest should enter the call while I write. I find myself analyzing the objects around me while I wait, wondering what they could convey about me to the person who will soon be offered a window into my domestic space—the stage upon which my everyday plays out.
Maria-Margaretta enters the zoom call right on the dot and the hour set aside for our talk glides by easily, leaving no stone left unturned. She is generous and charming. Hailing from Treaty 6, she is a Métis artist with a keen eye for unsung cultural symbols represented in our lives as everyday objects—keener still is her understanding of the meanings these objects can generate.
Burrard Arts—September 4, 2021
In her BAF residency studio, Parvin Peivandi offers me apples and Persian sweets. As we chat she hauls a large bag from beneath a table, unzipping to reveal bundles of raw wool, dyed with natural materials that surprise me with their electric hues. “Smell it”, she says. I take in the lanolin, grass and earth smells as she tells me about her early life in Mashhad, in Northeastern Iran, and the exploration of her family’s background in textiles, one she didn’t know too much about until recently. While already pursuing an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a focus in Fibre Studies, she discovered that her Great-Grandparents were master carpetmakers who exported their products to Europe more than 100 years ago. Her Grandmother, she learned, started weaving carpets when she was only eight years old.
Burrard Arts—April 17, 2021
Kriss Munsya’s art practice is a meditation on memories. Born in the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kinshasa, and raised in Brussels, Munsya has been a Vancouver resident since 2019. His work focuses on the role of race and gender in the construction of identity and memory. Through photography and prose writing, he not only probes but also recreates his memories of racial or gendered discrimination and, through a process of reconstruction, works to actively shift their meanings.
Burrard Arts—March 23, 2021
How do I come to recognize the space that exists between my internal self and my external self: the point where the inside of me and the outside of me coincide, the junction where parts of my being meet one another?
As an intentional and explorative image-maker, Vancouver-based artist Rydel Cerezo uses his practice to ask questions. To what degree can I visualize the junctures where my religious, racial, and sexual being align, intersect and contradict? What does it mean to unbelong? Born and raised in Baguio, Philippines, at ten Cerezo emigrated with his family to Canada. His queer, Filipino, Roman Catholic body has come of age mediated by disparate colonial histories and complex geographies. Though grounded in research-based practice, Cerezo’s time at BAF is ultimately about ideas coming into being, using his photographic practice to make sense of how religious faith, queerness, and Filipino identity intersect.
Burrard Arts—December 17, 2020
Cruelly, the very senses with which we know and relate to our lives are contingent. To look out, to touch, and to perceive are abilities so deeply informed by our bodies that it should be impossible to forget we are co-determinate, us and our senses. (Though to begin with, the proposition that a “properly” functioning sense is one that effaces itself is an ableist, capitalist fallacy.) However, the reality remains: I see differently than you see. What now?
Many of us will remember 2020 as a year punctuated by protest, as myriad forms of injustice were dragged into the light. But for years leading up to this moment, Sandeep Johal has been steadfastly engaged in a quiet protest of her own.
Sandeep had her first-ever solo shown 2017, against the backdrop of the #metoo movement and Women’s Marches around the world. Titled Rest in Power, the series of drawings explored gender-based violence and femicide.
Burrard Arts—October 21, 2020
The year 2020 has been our most virtual yet. Without warning and en masse, people have been forced to retreat into the digital realm—to work, socialize, day-dream, and panic. For months, talk of “connection” (already a term that evokes the internet) has dominated. We are apart, but, thanks to a collective experience and the blessings of technology, we are together. Or so the notion goes.
Burrard Arts—October 15, 2020
When we consider the term “technology,” we often imagine sleek yet complex computational devices or systems: the latest Apple products, surveillance cameras, virtual reality experiences, and more recently, no-contact infrared thermometers. Eli Muro suggests that the term can also be used to refer to more simplistic tools like a hammer and a nail. Muro’s assessment of “technology” as something tangible and affective can be mirrored in philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s pivotal writing from the 1960s; McLuhan states that any technologies (including menial tools) have the capacity to alter the human subject psychically, socially, and even physically. In other words, technologies are not detached from the human body nor the societies in which we reside.
Burrard Arts—August 18, 2020
Viewing the canvas as a liberatory space for self-empowerment, exploration, and communication, Russna Kaur’s work is typified by winding shapes and quasi-geometric forms that often layer over each other and exceed the width of their frames, sprawling onto gallery walls and floors. Originally a biology major, Kaur discovered her preference for painting and mixed media works while studying at the University of Waterloo, and decided to change her course and graduate with an Honours BA in Fine Arts. In contrast to the controlled, scientific, and measured world of biology, Kaur’s vibrant, fluctuating, and colourful practice is one of the many ways she rebels against racial and gendered tropes surrounding Punjabi-Canadian women.
In 2019, Kaur completed an MFA at Emily Carr University, and her work has since been featured in two solo exhibitions; Veil of Tears at TRAPP Projects in Vancouver, and She was there for a while…, at The Fort Gallery in Langley. In She Was There For a While… (2019), Kaur took over the gallery space with works such as With no where to go (2019) and A road trip (2019), where bright multicoloured lines snake across the walls beyond the bounds of two adjacent but misaligned paintings.
Burrard Arts—August 5, 2020
I can never learn enough about what it means to look.
This is what Cara Guri tells me as we are watching each other’s pixelated faces rearrange themselves into the familiar gestures of speech, laughter, and thought.
We are talking virtually over the internet of things, during a collective and personal un-mooring: a racial reckoning embedded within a global state of emergency—levels of complexity and interrelationship with shifting meaning—a continuous sequence of moments which asks for our presence, our ability to be with it all, in perpetuity, and right now.
Framed by the black rectangle of the personal computer, we are witnesses to an arranged and curated version of each other—plants appearing according to the compositional rule of thirds, clothes loosely hung from the back of a door, symbols of identity, the figure and the ground. It’s an absurd way to talk, but the parallels are uncanny.
Cara Guri’s meticulous pictures are enigmatic and direct, deeply embedded in history yet decidedly of our time. Concealed portraits in oil—figures with faces obscured by quotidienne objects or intentionally cut off in their composition—they represent a split in trust, emerging from a fascination with western traditions of portraiture estranged by time and politics. From a portrait of Guri’s mother behind a stacked pyramid of drinking glasses, to a self-portrait where the artist’s dark red braid obscures her eyes, to a figure wearing a helmet of forty-two pink post-it notes, Guri’s work asks for our presence—our ability to make our own sense of looking and being looked at, seeing and being seen.
These portraits ask much of us; they know they’re being watched. They call us to relate body to body to body, viewer to artist to sitter. This tripartite transaction can also be mapped back as a negotiation between representation: the likeness of someone, index: the painting as a physical trace of the event, and symbol: conventions and relationships which make meaning. Whether shaped by a game of peek-a-boo or the artist’s private, broken game of visual telephone, Guri’s portraits simultaneously lure us in and block our access. In so doing, they exist unmistakably on their own terms.
Guri’s practice has changed shape since her days as a student. During her time at Emily Carr University, Guri tells me her process involved making paintings of paintings: flooding light across a painted surface and then using it as a still life from which to paint another work—this act repeating itself over and over, dissolving into abstraction. These days her work is more about the material of western art history itself, how portraiture relates to the process of identity formation, and the place where the real and surreal meet.
During her ten week residency at Burrard Art Foundation, Guri has contended with the weight of canonical history, the politics which underpin all images, and the types of bodies they tend to represent. She has chosen to enter into the work of thinking, feeling and responding through the particular portal of portraiture, which first brought her into contact with art. For Guri, this is a natural place to unpack, engage in process, and address both the visible and the obscured.
Two hands, one in light and one in shadow, forefingers kissing thumbs at right angles, delicately touch—a frame through which we see an ear, then a face, then wisps of red hair. Two torsos move out of opposite ends of the picture plane: an implied leaving or spilling out. A hand reaches for a mirror offered up by a seated body, but the glass is turned the wrong way. Quiet architectural spaces fold in on themselves like time. A figure faces the wall, reaching into and behind.
What does this moment of reckoning need from us, and what do pictures want?
Cara Guri’s upcoming exhibition ‘Interstice’ will open at BAF on Saturday, August 29th. Join us between 2 and 7:30pm for our socially distanced opening day.
Burrard Arts—March 24, 2020
From quartz crystals to infrared candlelit yoga, bullet journals to green juice, self-care is increasingly prominent in our anxiety-ridden society. Though it’s easy to be seduced by the wellness ideals promised by ritualistic or commercialized self-care, visual artist and tattooer Katie So believes it doesn’t need be too complicated. Sometimes, drinking enough water is a good place to start.
Though Katie has always been making art, she explains that she still feels lucky to be able to do it now. After studying graphic design and illustration at Capilano University, she got involved in the small press comics scene, which gave her a way to share her artwork around the world. Her comics started as a way to cope with and make sense of everything going on in her head, in a way that was both darkly humorous and deeply relatable. The comics have followed a loose trajectory of her struggles with depression and journey towards acceptance, even when that path can feel far from linear. These themes continue to play through the rest of her work, outside of the print comic medium.
Burrard Arts—March 5, 2020
The remarkable thing about Jackie Dives is her ability to take any situation life throws at her and turn it into art.
For the past five years, the Vancouver-based photographer has been following her artistic instincts, gravitating towards issues that resonate with her or she has questions about. She uses her camera like a spotlight, drawing our attention towards sensitive topics like addiction, abortion, menstruation and childbirth. She uses photography to pull back the curtain on mental health, social justice and gender roles, inviting viewers to take a longer look.
Burrard Arts—January 7, 2020
Ritual, folklore, and community are some of the topics Cindy Mochzuki investigates through her richly cinematic practice. Through textile work, puppetry, and interactive performance, her upcoming show at BAF Gallery, ‘The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel, and the Mirror’, will also explore these themes.
A multidisciplinary artist, Mochizuki’s work manifests in forms including video, installation, photography and textile. In having such a diverse practice, the crucial archival themes of her work are thoroughly and flexibly investigated. For Mochizuki, family and memory are ‘pliable concepts’, constantly evolving and strengthening inter-generational knowledge. After all, the methods through which humans communicate their history, and pass on cultural lore are wide-ranging and flexible.
Burrard Arts—December 24, 2019
As tea steeps in Howie Tsui’s backyard studio, I sit across from an illuminated screen looping fragments of his new animated works. Tsui has spent the past ten weeks working as the resident artist at Burrard Arts Foundation, but on this rainy day, it was fair to assume that a meeting space closer to home would be better suited. This scene is familiar to Tsui’s artistic practice; in recent years, he has taken a body of illustrations on paper and collaboratively translated them into fully-realized animated video.
Burrard Arts—November 21, 2019
From skateboarding, to exploring the European art scene, to what she’s working on now – Laura Piasta spoke with us about her life as a Vancouver artist and her current residency at BAF.
In Conversation: Andrew Maize
We spoke with Eric Metcalfe about his upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016.
We spoke with artist Barry Doupé about his upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016.
We spoke to artist Rebecca Chaperon about her upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016
We spoke with Renée Van Halm about her upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016.
We spoke to artist Chris Shier about his upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016.
Battlestar Galactica, sci-fi fandom, meteorites and skateboarding –Keith Langergraber, our newest resident artist, finds fascination in these fringe subcultures. The artist, who completed a BFA at the University of Victoria, his Masters at UBC, and currently teaches at Emily Carr, will display the results of his residency here at the BAF beginning January 12.
Langergraber is a true multimedia artist, equally comfortable working in film, sculpture, assemblage, drawing and installation. In fact, his shows are usually made up of a combination of these forms. However, as diverse as his chosen mediums are, the themes and subject matter he’s attracted to remain remarkably consistent. Langergraber sees art where many don’t – in obsessive niche communities with their own highly developed rules and hierarchies. His three-part film, Theatre of the Exploding Sun,follows a fictional character played by the artist, as he investigates a rift in the time-space continuum created by Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. The project has been featured in three of his shows to date, and borrows the lo-fi aesthetic of DIY fan filmography. Langergraber also explored skate culture in his show Concrete Poetry, and his most recent exhibition, Betrayal at Babylon, delved into the obscure world of meteorite hunters.
Langergraber’s work finds parallels and commonalities between what’s traditionally considered “fine art” and the outsider fascinations that may nevertheless be the product of just as much labour and inspiration. Aesthetically, his work draws comparisons to art brut – ironically, of course, as Langergraber is an established mid-career artist. But still, his work retains the rawness and urgency of many of the outsider forms by which he’s inspired. His sculptures are reminiscent of the geeky, technical practice of model-building, and his drawings bring to mind obsessively detailed projects by inmates and psychiatric patients.
For The Gates of Heaven, his upcoming show at the Burrard Arts Foundation, Langergraber used Paul Scheerbart’s 1913 utopian science fiction novel Lesabéndia as a jumping-off point. Described as a ‘cosmic ecological fable’, the book’s admirers included Gropius and Walter Benjamin. Along with Scheerbart’s other masterwork Glass Architecture, the book exemplifies the utopian trope of glass as the construction material of the spotless future, depicting a mad architect building a 44-mile tall tower to save his planet. Langergraber will reference the book in both sculpture and drawing, creating waves of urban growth that mimic the replicating structure of crystals.
The work draws attention to the similarities in the way human and natural organisms propagate, and the perhaps false binary that exists between them. Integrated with man-made structures drawn from Scheerbart’s book will be depictions of organically occurring structures of the same material – the glass reefs of BC’s Haida Gwaii region. Dating back 9000 years, these natural architectures consist of glass silica skeletons that can reach up to eight stories high. In Langergraber’s work, the organic and utopian structures will appear to be growing together, replicating madly as all things in nature do.
Visible on the walls around the sculptural installation will be a suite of drawings depicting the reefs and an altered Hubble Telescope image that, under the name the Gates of Heaven, circulated virally on Facebook in January 2016. The image had been digitally altered to add a futuristic landscape to a real photograph of the Omega Nebula, but was shared by many who saw it as an actual portal, of a mystical or fantastical nature. The angular, crystalline structure of the picture’s altered component certainly recalls Scheerbart’s utopian cities.
Langergraber worked with Heather McDermid to create an audio element that synthesizes these two elements of the show. Embedded within the sculptures, speakers will play a soundscape created from sonifications of electromagnetic radiation generated by stars, planets and events sounds that originate from within and outside of our galaxy, including sounds generated by stellar winds from the actual Omega Nebula.
Much in the same way that the boundary between the man-made and natural is broken down in Langergraber’s work, so too do the lines between fact and fiction prove themselves irregular and movable. Collaging together art, science, fantasy and nature, The Gates of Heaven leaves the viewer questioning their own experience of reality.
Join us for the opening of The Gates of Heaven on January 12 from 7-10pm, along with Circle, Sphere, Horizon Line from Lyndl Hall. The show will be displayed until February 18, 2017.
Blood Love Trouble draws from the highest intensities of human experience, focusing on moments of cultural mixing and clashing and their representation in art. At first glance, the connection between the show’s name and inspirations may seem opaque, or even arbitrary. However, curator Gabi Dao reveals a common thread running through the ideas that she wove together to create the exhibition. “The title Blood Love Troublecame from some of my own artistic research,” she says. “I had been listening to English as a Second Language exercises, both as a part of my own family’s history and as part of an interest in acts of translation. The three words all share the same ‘uh’ sound in the International Phonetic Alphabet.” Together, the words imply conflict and drama, themes that reverberate throughout the show.
Dao was intrigued by the premise of the phonetic alphabet; universal symbols used to represent the spoken sound of any human language. She then expanded this into a broader exploration of how acts of translation play into issues of memory, violence, and territory. These ideas are encapsulated in a work that formed one of the show’s central inspirations: ‘Promenade’ by Taiso Yoshitoshi. The print is emblematic of the artistic and cultural currents running through Edo-era Japanese society, and belongs to the tradition of ukiyo-ewoodblock prints that enjoyed great popularity at the time. Meaning ‘floating world’, these prints depicted popular activities of leisure: vanity and grooming, celebration over food and drink, and visiting red-light districts to spend time with sex workers and geisha.
‘Promenade’ depicts a beautiful society wife in Western-style clothing, complete with hat and parasol. It was originally part of a series that depicted women in subservient roles such as courtesan, geisha, and housewife. To Dao, the image exemplifies the shifts in cultural attitudes that defined the era, with previously isolationist Japan opening up to the modernity of the global community.
To connect these ideas to contemporary concerns, Dao looked for artists within the Malaspina Printshop Archives whose work paid homage to the history of woodblock prints. She then reached out to the three emerging artists who created new work for the show: Julia Dahee Hong, Katrina Niebergal, and Casey Wei. Together, the artists and curator selected six prints to be included from the Malaspina Printshop Archives within the Burnaby Art Gallery collection, and one print from the Malaspina Printmakers Society Consignment Collection. Then, Dao simply let a trans-disciplinary conversation unfold, with the emerging artists using modern mediums such as video, audio, and multimedia sculpture to respond to the archival prints. “Each of the artists have strong practices in different mediums that I felt could be involved in a fruitful conversation around themes I was working with,” says Dao.
The final effect is a fascinating dialogue; the diverse works all coexist harmoniously in the gallery space. Visual, video, audio, and even scent combine to create a rich experience that both addresses Dao’s initial ideas and also creates something new. Join us at the Burrard Arts Foundation to see the show in person until April 1, 2017 and stay tuned for additional interviews with the participating artists.
Programmed by the efforts of Malaspina Printmakers Society, the Burrard Arts Foundation and the City of Burnaby Permanent Art Collection, courtesy of the Burnaby Public Art Gallery.
It can be tempting to think of art and science, technology and craft as entirely separate fields; foreign worlds that view each other only from the outside. In fact, some of the most transcendent work in any discipline comes when these artificial boundaries are broken down. Our newest resident artist, Matthew Talbot-Kelly, has demonstrated this throughout his diverse career, masterfully working in mediums from architecture to assemblage to film.
Despite this versatility, Talbot-Kelly’s work remains distinctive across all mediums. Seeing no dividing line between the realms of tech and art, the artist has created virtual reality experiences, narrative apps for iOS, and short films that blend physical models and computer animation, in addition to more traditional, material visual mediums such as sculpture, assemblage and installation.
Talbot-Kelly’s short films ‘Blind Man’s Eye’(2007) and ‘The Trembling Veil of Bones’(2010), for which he acted as writer, director, and production designer, blend computer animation with collaged live-action models to create a dreamlike, unsettling effect, bringing dimensionality to the usually flat medium and an imperfect, handmade appearance to a form of animation that often appears slick or even impersonal.
This focus on creating experiences and environments extends to Talbot-Kelly’s visual art, as well. ‘Blow 24 FPS’, a 2015 project installed in Gibsons, BC, is another work that demonstrated how seamlessly Talbot-Kelly is able to blend craft and technology. The installation used found materials such as plywood, doors, packing crates, and even cardboard, into which he burned a series of sequential images using a blowtorch. This labour intensive process allowed the found and altered objects to act as frames, creating an animation of a bird in flight when displayed together in quick succession. The physical installation comprised all the panels joined together in a wavelike formation, and a video on the artist’s website demonstrated the animated effect.
In his 2013 pieces ’After Motherwell and ‘Digital Motherwell’, Talbot-Kelly transformed acrylic studies on paper into digitally rendered three-dimensional brushstrokes. That piece then became ’graffiti loops’(2014), a large format wall mounted screen displaying these marks in the form of animated, interactive loops, able to be controlled by the viewer via tablet.
A true multidisciplinary artist, Talbot-Kelly also holds a Bachelor of Architecture, and his 2016 project ‘Artist Studio/Tiny House’showcases these skills. The work comprised a complete live/work space in just 290 square feet, containing a kitchenette, washroom, and working space. The house’s layout is tapered both vertically and horizontally, creating an optical illusion to make the already tiny space appear even smaller. Fulfilling the structure’s intended functionality, Talbot-Kelly has been inhabiting it on weekends for the past six months. “For me, an unrealized idea isn’t nearly compelling as one fulfilled,” says the artist. This focus on embodiment and corporeality is a common thread throughout his body of work.
Other projects include ‘articulated subtext’(2016), a virtual reality experience of swimming through a sea of text, and ‘Circling Towards a Possible Present’(2017), an interactive installation work currently in production which deploys 3-D game engine technology to drive three slow motion interactive portraits, to be presented via tablet and projector.
While Talbot-Kelly’s upcoming Burrard Arts residency project is still coming together, one can expect that like his previous work, it will blend art, craft, construction and technology to fascinating effect.
Matthew Talbot-Kelly’s exhibition will run from July 6 to July 29, 2017 at BAF Gallery, 108 E Broadway. Visit http://www.matthewtalbotkelly.com/to find out more about the artist.
“If you look where other people don’t, you’ll find what others are not seeing.”
These words from Dion Kliner encapsulate the intertwined ideas ingrained in The Mislooked, his current show at the Burrard Arts Foundation. The works pivot on the central duality of symmetry and asymmetry; that is, while visually Kliner finds himself drawn to forms that are imperfect, asymmetrical, and misshapen, he sees the act of focusing on these shapes and bodies as one of ultimate symmetry, or equality. The artist describes himself as “militantly interested in fairness and justice,” and to him, the act of elevating forms typically overlooked is about restoring symmetry to the inherently elitist human search for beauty.
Kliner’s unusual process and materials also reveal his interest in making use of what most people cast away. He modifies the classic art-school material, plaster, by repurposing old, hardened shards and powder discarded from previous work and blending it into wet plaster along with paper pulp and natural fibres, shaping the mixture over a frame of tree branches and wire. The combination causes the plaster to dry much more slowly than normal, allowing it be used in either an additive manner, building it up slowly like clay, or a subtractive one, similar to carving stone.
Watercolour. Popular culture. Industrial construction. Cross stitching and embroidery. These are all components of our newest resident artist Kim Kennedy Austin’s practice, and though they are often dismissed as frivolous or commercial, she finds in them a wealth of creative fascination.
It’s well known that art forms seen as feminine or domestic, such as quilting, are cast aside as ‘women’s work’ and not considered fine art, despite the skill they require. Austin pays careful attention to these disregarded mediums, using them to comment on a wide variety of topics beyond the stereotypically female – a collapsed bridge or technical manual, for instance, depicted in translucent tones of pink.
Even more so than these statements on gender and femininity, the unifying theme of her practice is labour – something women are both well versed in, and used to seeing go unacknowledged. In her 2013 show Sunny Thoughts & Busy Fingers, for example,the artist selected phrases from sources as diverse as antiquated religious texts and current reality television. A study in jarring contrasts and unexpected commonalities, the Shaker maxim “Cleanliness, Honesty, Frugality” could be found alongside “Gym, Tan, Laundry” from Jersey Shore. The snippets were rendered as small oval watercolours in a palette of pink, peach, and orange – a complex statement on how ideas about gender and work intertwine themselves with high and low culture.
Also referenced in Austin’s work are time-consuming practices typically ignored by the realm of fine art. In her 2009 series Pimp Juice, she depicted vintage book covers, intrigued by their meticulously hand-illustrated designs. The books date from the ’70s and ’80s, the tail end of the era before all such media would be digitally produced. Austin used the gendered medium of watercolour to artistically reproduce the covers, themselves the product of painstaking hand labour.
Her most recent show, Fast Girls Get There First at Wil Aballe Art Projects in Spring 2017, perfectly synthesized these themes of gender and labour. Austin sourced editorial and advertising copy from outdated issues of Seventeen magazine, then reproduced them in the unusual mediums of fuse beads and scratch paper – both craft materials commonly used by young girls. The magazine was founded in 1944 with the intention of guiding young women towards respectable womanhood, and the finished works call up the quiet hours its readers would have spent absorbing these cultural messages with hands engaged in crafts, keeping busy but producing nothing of particular value.
Almost all of this found source material is located in the recent past – that hazy region that exists beyond memory, but has yet to achieve the status of history. Her 2012 show AJ, shown at the Malaspina Printmakers Society, focused on the famous 1930s manhunt for the ‘mad trapper’ Albert Johnson across the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The search involved the use of technologies that, at the time, were both old and new – pursuit by dogsled, live radio, and plane. Like the book cover series, these technologies are barely outdated; they still exist, but are no longer new. The times Austin shows us may have passed, but their remnants persist, undercurrents in today’s society.
Austin considers all her work to be a form of drawing, usually starting in this format and sometimes later expanding or embellishing in thread, ink, or paint. The humble, accessible medium suits perfectly the small-scale, intimate nature of many of her finished pieces, and the loaded themes she tackles in a deceptively quiet way.
In recontextualizing found source material, Austin combines style and subject to locate the play of politics and power that is inherent to all cultural material. Her BAF exhibition will be opening in early November, and we cannot wait to see what she puts together during her time with us.
Find out more about Kim Kennedy Austin’s practice on her website at kimkennedyaustin.weebly.com.
Burrard Arts—November 20, 2019
Shawn Hunt’s practice hinges on the traditional practice of formline, yet makes it uniquely his own. In a distinctive palette of rich blacks and blues against which grey and white seem to jump out at the viewer, providing depth, Hunt brings new subversion to this artform, exploring its narrative potential. Trained as a carver before branching out into painting, his creative background is evident in the relief-like dimensionality of his works, unusual in a style that’s typically more flat. We exhibited his work in ‘Line as Language’, a 2016 solo show, and his Façade 2017 presentation will expand on those works, enlarging and combining them to tell ancient stories at an unprecedented scale.
‘Media with movement’ is how Evann Siebens describes her practice. A trained dancer, Siebens now works in photography and video art, with her first love of dance often playing a central role. In 2015, BAF Gallery exhibited her show ‘deConstruction’, which recorded the politically and socially charged process of building demolition, bringing to it surprising grace by juxtaposing the films with the delicate accompaniment of Chopin’s preludes. Her Façade Fest 2017 project, Orange Magpies, also deals with place, but includes the theme of dance much more overtly. Siebens collaborated with two dancers, James Gnam and Vanessa Goodman, and filmed their improvisational movements against a series of highly recognizable Vancouver backdrops. By projecting these images onto the Vancouver Art Gallery façade, complex conversations about history, place, and identity begin to unfold.
Diyan Achjadi’s vibrant, intricately detailed works investigate the relationship between beings and the land they inhabit in an illustrative style that draws heavily on textile traditions such as toile and Javanese batik. The artist’s Indonesian heritage figures prominently in her work, and in the past she has drawn on diverse cultural practices to raise questions about complex issues related to the environment and colonialism. For Façade Festival 2017, she will explore the ocean-bound nature of her home archipelago through an animation of shifting islands and clouds.
Burrard Arts—October 15, 2019
In this fast paced society, immediate gratification is at the root of most media we consume. With his new show Eleven Minutes Late BAF’s most recent Resident Artist Ryan Quast creates something that transcends this notion. By painstakingly brushing layer upon layer of paint and waiting for each to dry, Quast creates remarkable sculptures of objects that some might call unremarkable.
Burrard Arts—October 11, 2019
Trained from an early age in both pottery and painting, Vancouver-based artist Kate Metten has been widely recognized for her ceramic art practice, which uses sculptural abstraction to explore the intersections and contradictions between painting and ceramics. Metten’s Summer 2019 Artist Residency at Burrard Arts Foundation represents a critical shift in the emerging artist’s oeuvre, being her first solo exhibition that focuses primarily on painting. Mentored by well-established Canadian artists such as painter Mina Totino, and potter Gailan Ngan, Metten’s work is informed by a deep appreciation for the lineages of knowledge and convergent histories of aesthetics in craft- and object- making.
Burrard Arts—July 19, 2019
Scott Billings’ artistic practice is marked by a material ingenuity. An engineer and industrial designer as well as a visual artist, it’s clear that for Billings, these concerns exist symbiotically. Creating sculptures and video installations that centre around issues of animality, mobility and spectatorship, Billings often makes use of industrial techniques – in the past he’s employed rare earth magnets, laser pointers, IMAX film, and custom circuitry. For his Façade 2017 project, Billings will use 3D scanning and printing to create a scale model of the Vancouver Art Gallery, then record it being physically damaged and manipulated. Projecting this back onto the enormous structure will create an illusory material experiment on a monumental scale.
Burrard Arts—July 2, 2019
In a contemporary setting, it is becoming increasingly difficult to divorce ourselves from technology. Produced in BAF’s Artist Residency program, Emily Hermant’s new show till your voice catches the thread speaks to the yearning for human intimacy that can occur as we coexist more and more intimately with our technological surroundings. In these new works, Hermant examines this notion through woven static emulations and textile-like castings.
Burrard Arts—June 29, 2019
Luke Ramsey brings a simple, almost childlike style to all of his illustration, collaborations, and murals. His works depart from the most basic elements of visual art: line, colour, and shape. Using a bright, likeable palette to depict friendly characters, scenes from nature, or doodle-inspired lines, his works are equally suited to small-scale drawings and large public installations. He has been featured in Booooooom, the New York Times, Vice, and more, and founded the Island Folds residency on Pender Island in 2005. His Façade Festival 2017 project epitomizes and yet simplifies his practice, covering the Vancouver Art Gallery in quickly evolving squiggles that reference the politically loaded gesture of graffiti-writing.
Beautifully chosen colour and proportion achieve a delicate balance in the works of Fiona Ackerman. Many of her works are completely abstract, but she has also brought representation into her works with series centred around artists’ studios and garden environments. Beyond the mesmerizing aesthetics of her paintings often lays a philosophical inspiration – her 2012 mirror series referenced Foucault, while her 2014 piece Dreams of Zhang Zhou alludes to the famous story of the 4th-century Chinese thinker dreaming that he is a butterfly. Her playful, yet masterfully rendered works exude a deep respect for the discipline of painting.
Blending the tangible and ephemeral to haunting effect, Ben Skinner’s practice is equally informed by curiosity about the nature of language and fascination with the varied materials he works in. His text works play humorously on the subjectivity inherent in communication; pictured below is a piece from his ‘Pangram’ series, which showed absurdist phrases that use every letter of the alphabet. He has made use of materials including mirror, holographic foil, plexiglass, and water marbling, carefully choosing colours including Klein blue and dusty pastels. His projection mapped project for Façade Festival explores the complexities of linguistic nuance with a string of synonyms that gradually digress in meaning.
Annie Briard’s work explores the fragility of the real. Although the world we experience may give the illusion of being fixed, objective, impartial, it’s more fallible than that, an image painted impressionistically by the senses. It’s in this ambiguity that Briard finds inspiration – vision, perception, and where they diverge, in the form of hallucination or illusion. She works in video, photography, and installation to create works that explore how we construct our own reality, all with the hazy aura of a fading memory.
With a career spanning four decades, Paul Wong has been an instrumental proponent to contemporary art in Canada. Often with an element of narrative, much of his work is site-specific or video-based. An award-winning artist and curator, Wong has led public arts policy, organized festivals and public interventions, and been a founding member of groups including VIVO Media Arts and the Mainstreeters collective. His works have been collected internationally, by institutions including the National Gallery of Canada and Whitney Museum of American Art. He is the recipient of major awards including the 2015 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Art and the 2016 Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts. His Façade Festival 2017 project will shine a light on a piece of recent Vancouver history many would prefer to forget: the 2011 Stanley Cup Riots.
From Five Octave Range, a free public artwork designed by Paul Wong for the 2017 Vancouver Opera Festival.
Art and craft, history and modernity, form and function, East and West – the work of new resident artist Brendan Tang breathes in the balance between opposing forces. Shown and collected around the world, his work demonstrates a rare capability to be as conceptually complex as it is viscerally appealing.
Partially motivated by his own ‘ethnically ambiguous’ background, a central concern of Tang’s practice is hybridity: the strange new entities that form when cultures, eras, and art-forms clash. He has primarily worked in the medium of ceramic, historically associated more strongly with craft and decoration than the academy of fine art.
His 2016 body of work ‘Manga Ormolu’ explored hybridity alongside cultural appropriation – specifically, its role in the historically racist Western concept of ‘the Orient’. The Ormolu from which the show draws its name are historic Chinese ceramic vessels, which the French would bring back from China, then adorn with opulent gold accents. These objects would be gifted to European aristocrats as curiosities taken from the ‘Far East’ – an amalgamation of Asian countries in the Western eye. Tang takes these objects, already the result of early globalization, and brings them to a contemporary, and even absurdist place, by mashing them up with robot prostheses inspired by manga and anime.
Manga, like the gilded decorations the French added to these Eastern artifacts, also acts as an Orientalizing entry point to Japanese culture for many North Americans. However, the socio-cultural dialogue Tang is initiating is more layered than that, subverting the elitism of historical high culture by integrating it with the hypermodern ephemera of pop culture and science fiction.
Even when Tang works in other mediums, the decorative arts remain prominent. In his 2012 series ‘Swimmers’, the artist references the blue-and-white pattern that has appeared on ceramics from the Chinese Ming Dynasty to the Netherlands. Tang reimagines the pattern as designs on the surface of a pool of water from which pairs of figures emerge. By using this cultural iconography to create a visual metaphor, Tang is evoking the “fish out of water” sensation of culture shock. His choice to represent groups of figures, many of which could be viewed as parent and child, alludes to the social nature in which culture is constructed; it’s not hard-wired, but learned.
For his residency now taking place at BAF Gallery, Brendan Tang will again re-situate motifs from the decorative arts into new contexts. For the upcoming January show, Tang’s initial inspiration was the curvilinear cloud motif found in Chinese ceramics and scroll paintings, and also reminiscent of the French Nouveau style. The artist will use the BAF space to create an experimental installation that imagines these cloud forms in three dimensions, modified with technological elements, playing out the themes that characterize his work while creating an entirely new experience.
See the results of Brendan Tang’s residency in his BAF Gallery show from January 11th to March 10th, 2018.
Burrard Arts—June 7, 2019
Looking at and thinking through the work of Vancouver-based, multi-disciplinary artist Scott Billings, I’m reminded of the thin line between skepticism and paranoia. Through an orchestrated performance of computer programming, sculpture, video, and installation, what Billings seems to be creating above all is a sense of uncertainty: how am I seeing that? is it real? His work begs the questions, then burrows into a tantalizing tunnel of conspiracy theories that makes the viewer distrust their own perception, emptying out the distinction between real and unreal in the first place. That is to say, his works are stimulating and unsettling thought experiments, that also happen to be fascinating to watch.
Burrard Arts—May 1, 2019
Lucien Durey is interested in things, places, and people. Throughout his prolific body of work, the common thread is an examination of how humans leave their mark on the places they inhabit, and the objects they accrue – collecting, eroding, infusing them with secret meaning.
For Durey’s most recent exhibition, the Eternal Return group show at the Richmond Art Gallery, he repurposed colourful glass fragments pulled from historical, geographic and personal contexts. Using metal and rope, he reimagined them into large, mobile-like sculptures that were presented alongside a series of vocal performances. By blending fragments of complex origin into new forms, then creating music in their honour, Durey mythologizes these diverse histories, and plays into the show’s theme as stated by curator Sunshine Frère – the “cyclical repetition of all things and situations throughout time”.
Karen Zalamea’s works both epitomize and transcend their medium. Through compositions that focus on the interaction of light and surface, the newest participant in our Vancouver artist residency program explores the fundamental nature of matter in space, essentializing materials to the way they fold, drape, crumple and reflect.
Her photographs diverge from the notion of the medium as record; a function that is ever more omnipresent in our age of constant digital documentation. In fact, it is not immediately obvious that many of the works are photographs at all. They seem to document a conceptual state of being, erasing the imperfect nature of the tactile materials that went into their creation.
Burrard Arts—April 25, 2019
The Burrard Arts Foundation’s newest public art installation explores global histories of nuclear power – histories that are often shrouded in mystery and danger. In partnership with Capture Photography Festival and InTransit, we are proud to unveil ‘Proving Ground, Nevada, Vancouver’, a new work by Erin Siddall. The first of a recurring BAF commission at the Broadway-City Hall Canada Line station, the photographic public art project is accompanied by a sculptural work to be displayed at BAF Gallery from March 22nd to May 12th, 2018.
The sculptural and photographic works both investigate uranium glass, which was commonly used to make dishware and other novelty items before the Second World War. Often distributed by companies as free perks to their customers in the 1930s, uranium was used to give the glass a yellow or acid-green tint. Recalling a time before radiation was associated with conflict and destruction, the items’ radioactivity is revealed only when they fluoresce green under UV light.
For the public installation, Siddall photographed uranium dishes from her personal collection at a former protest camp in Nevada, near the Mercury Nuclear Testing site. During the Cold War, anti-nuclear demonstrations and encampments occurred here. Siddall photographs the dishes both individually, propped up on rocks as if set down by the protesters who once inhabited this space, and grouped in circular arrangements evoking ritual and incantation. The images shot on location are interspersed with photographs taken in her Vancouver studio, which highlight the dishes’ otherworldly fluorescence against a dark background.
Myfanwy Macleod explores history, violence and colonialism in The Butcher’s Apron, the first work in a new ten-year project of annually commissioned works by the Burrard Arts Foundation installed at The Polygon Gallery’s new North Vancouver location.
The evolution of Presentation House Gallery, The Polygon Gallery represents an exciting new space in which to continue the organization’s exhibition program, which focuses on situating contemporary Canadian art in an international and historical context with an emphasis on photography. On The Polygon’s first floor, which is open and publicly accessible, the BAF will install a new public artwork annually over the next ten years.
Macleod’s work, The Butcher’s Apron, addresses the complicated histories behind the creation of Greater Vancouver as we know it today. Lying on unceded Coast Salish territories, the region remains a contested site fraught with racial, class, and institutional tension. The sculpture is a scale model of the HMS Discovery, the naval vessel captained by George Vancouver that led to the first contact between the European crew and captain and the region’s Indigenous inhabitants.
The Butcher’s Apron depicts the ship long after its arrival in what is now Vancouver, when it had been adapted to serve another role – housing the city’s convict population. The vessel was moored and two levels were added so that it could serve as a makeshift prison. Even the name of the ship speaks to its troubled history – today, the term ‘discovered’ is insensitive in light of the suffering endured by Indigenous peoples post-contact. The name of the finished work also references the violence of colonialism: ‘The Butcher’s Apron’ is a derogatory Irish term for the Union Jack flag, describing not only its blood-streaked appearance, but the bloodshed that occurred in countries under British rule.
The Butcher’s Apron fits into Macleod’s larger practice of photography, painting, and large-scale installations. Within Vancouver, she is known for ‘The Birds’, her large public art commission in Olympic Village. Her works expose the overlapping and intersecting of pop culture, art history, and folk tradition, drawing parallels between how art and mass media are created, circulated, and consumed.
See Macleod’s work The Butcher’s Apron until Autumn 2018 at The Polygon Gallery, 101 Carrie Cates Crescent in North Vancouver.
Tom Hsu’s photography makes concrete ephemeral and fleeting moments – memories that, undocumented, would have disappeared forever. His images focus on places and people, but not in careful or formally composed arrangements, often showing fragments of buildings or objects casually laid out in space. The people in his work are caught mid-action, engaged in interaction or the energetic high of a night out.
The photographs exist in a fascinating limbo: frozen in time, they communicate stillness, yet seem stolen from fast-paced lives. On the surface, many of the scenes he captures are commonplace, and yet seem infused with a special significance; it reminds one of looking back through the lens of memory, settings charged with special meaning by the experiences that transpired there. Hsu has worked in both portraiture and fashion photography, and these influences are visible in his practice, imbued with a warmth and human touch.
This interest in memory is central to Hsu’s practice; the lingering over of shared moments long after they have passed. “The camera is almost like a time machine,” he says. To Hsu, the holding of memory and image are part of his lineage; he describes how his grandfather grew up in Taiwan, with little in the way of material possessions, but retained a wealth of memories and images with which to craft a family history. After Hsu’s parents moved to Canada, these memories remained, a shared experience even when their family is physically apart.
During and after completing his BFA in Photography at Emily Carr University, Hsu has gone from shooting strictly black-and-white and developing in the darkroom, to working in colour and now printing in large-format inkjet. The progression has clearly trained his eye well. There’s a close attention paid to light and texture in his works, whether it’s empty wine glasses against a white tablecloth or the geometric shadows cast by doorways and entrances. He looks at the human form with that same critical eye; his portraits not only capture their subjects’ physical attributes, but suggest their physicality.
For his upcoming BAF Gallery show ‘Here, under our tongue’, Hsu creates an immersive environment inspired by his works. In combination with the actual photographs, he will display evocative artifacts and keepsakes collected over the course of this Vancouver artist residency, such as curtains from his high-school darkroom, and the shaved-ice machine used in his grandfather’s ice shop when he was growing up. Lighting and audio components will allow visitors to physically experience the unique atmosphere that’s depicted in his photos – creating a multisensory experience that remains true to his unique vision.
See the results of Tom Hsu’s time in the Burrard Arts Foundation’s Vancouver artist residency program in his BAF Gallery solo show, running from August 9th to September 22nd, 2018. Learn more about Hsu’s practice at tomhsu.com.
Burrard Arts—April 24, 2019
With their distinct language of bold colour, gestural shapes and loose hints of representation, Tyler Toews’ paintings speak clearly without being overly literal. Their abstracted faces and graffiti-esque brushstrokes are reminiscent of Basquiat and Picasso, but the works exude their own particular energy – despite these impressive comparisons, they stand completely on their own.
Burrard Arts—April 23, 2019
Birthe Piontek’s photographs tell personal, sometimes unsettlingly intimate stories. Looking at her work, one imagines her subjects’ interior monologues through nothing but their poses, the objects they hold, and the settings in which they are shown. The figures seek to individuate themselves, often through the decorative trappings with which people are equally as likely to set themselves apart as associate themselves with others.
Burrard Arts—April 12, 2019
Holly Schmidt, Burrard Arts Foundation’s most recent resident, has spent her ten-week residency immersed in the complexities of desert plants. Her temporary studio at the gallery is, when I visit, a dusty landscape of papier-mâché prickly pear, agave, and yucca plants—a desert topography she is creating for her upcoming show Quiescence, opening at BAF Gallery on April 5. Using corn starch and newsprint to create ephemeral plant sculptures, Schmidt is circling back to a subject and process she first discovered more than four years ago. She first began creating papier-mâché plants as part of an art and agriculture project involving youth at Moving Arts in Española, New Mexico, where she was struck by the form and resiliency of desert flora, as well as the complexity of interconnected communities there. “This was an opportunity to return to something and to see what would flourish in the right conditions,” she told me.