Burrard Arts Foundation presents A HOWL! by Manuel Axel Strain. The exhibition features new installation and painted works resulting from the artist’s spring residency at BAF. Strain’s works incorporate a breadth of imagery, from petroglyphs, pictographs and art historical references to family photographs and personal ephemera. Presented without elaborate caption, the elements in A HOWL! share knowledge that resists precise definition. The exhibition amounts to an intuitive offering, giving audiences a glimpse beyond the settler colonial perspective.

A freestanding wall structure bisects the gallery space, its layers peeled back to show its wooden supports. Strain’s paintings hang on brightly coloured drywall panels on the structure’s opposing sides. On blue, fish leather hangs from a portrait of a youth in a yellow shirt, their face masked, their eyes appearing as though clipped and dragged aside, stacked one atop of the other along the portrait’s right edge. On the wall’s reverse, over a vibrant, salmon-coloured panel, a silvery painting layers xʷməθkʷəyəm imagery over a classical nude in a hazy landscape. To the right of the painting, a fist-sized hole perforates the drywall, spilling gypsum crumbs at the structure’s base. On the gallery’s south wall, a rectangular field provides a canary yellow backdrop for Strain’s largest painting, a towering depiction of a nude figure draped in white cloth, their face concealed by a pictograph on stone. Floating above a darkened pond, the figure’s fire-engine-red-complexion is reflected pale in the surface of the water. The painting is flanked on either side by pictographs, painted directly onto the wall. A fourth painting hangs on the east wall, fish leather hanging from its base, a figure with a raised knee, likewise nude and their face concealed by a stone painted with a pictograph. These works are surrounded by a further assortment of sculptural elements and works in mixed media, including contributions by Strain’s family—a painting by Segwses Strain (Strain’s niece, age 9), a work on paper by Cam Strain (Strain’s brother)—each elusory details of the greater whole for the viewer to perceive and ponder.

Manuel Axel Strain is a 2-Spirit artist from the lands and waters of the xʷməθkʷəyəm (Musqueam), Simpcw and Syilx peoples, based in the sacred region of their q̓ic̓əy̓(Katzie) and qʼʷa:n̓ƛʼən̓ (Kwantlen) relatives. Strain’s mother is Tracey Strain and father is Eric Strain, Tracey’s parents are Harold Eustache (from Chuchua) and Marie Louis (from nk̓maplqs), Eric’s Parents are Helen Point (from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm) and John Strain (from Ireland). Although they attended Emily Carr University of Art + Design they prioritize Indigenous epistemologies through the embodied knowledge of their mother, father, siblings, cousins, aunties, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents and ancestors.


The Burrard Arts Foundation Residency Program is made possible by the generous support of the Chan Family Foundation, the RBC Emerging Artists Program, the City of Vancouver Cultural Grants Program, and TD Bank Group through the #TDReadyCommitment. Photo documentation by Dennis Ha.


Manuel Axel Strain


BAF Gallery
2-258 East 1st Ave
Vancouver, BC


Jun 29, 6-9PM

Exhibit Dates

Jun 29 to Aug 12, 2023