Category Archives: Reviews from the art scene

Sculpture supports Ideas forum

2015 Company of Ideas Forum

May 15 to 17, 2015

Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park

Hornby Island

By Annabel Howard

Five University of Victoria Fine Arts faculty members and five Fine Arts graduate students participated in Hornby Island sculptor Jeffrey Rubinoff’s 2015 Company of Ideas forum. Rubinoff is a practising sculptor who has spent the last 40 years cultivating and curating a sculpture park of more than 100 of his own pieces on the west shore of Hornby Island. A Modernist in the tradition of David Smith, Rubinoff retreated to Hornby Island in the 1970s to escape from what he saw as the strangulating force of the art market. There he began to engage instead in a dialogue with his artistic predecessors. In several of his articles, Rubinoff writes that the creative process has led him to “insights” that have “evolved with and from the sculpture work.”

In the early 2000s, Jeffrey Rubinoff’s daughter suggested that the insights would be of interest to a broader audience. After working them into transcripts with future curator Karun Koenig, Rubinoff decided to host a symposium for further discussion and development. The first Company of Ideas was held in 2008, and its success has led an annual staging of the forum, which continues to evolve with each year’s discussions. At each forum, scholars and artists from around the world are invited to present and contribute to the discussion. This year proceedings were chaired by cultural historian and former Cambridge fellow Maria Tippet. Dr. Tippett is the author of a dozen books including Emily Carr, A Biography, for which she won the Governor General’s Award in 1979, as well as books on artists Bill Reid, and F.H. Varley.

Dr. Tippett introduced Jeffrey Rubinoff and gave a biographical account of his life. She also spelled out the discussion themes for the forum with reference to his work and its relationship to the development of sculpture in Canada. The opening dialogue was delivered by Dr. Peter Clarke, now retired as professor of modern British History and master of Trinity College, Cambridge, who gave further context with an analysis of, and introduction to, Jeffrey Rubinoff’s ideas. Subsequent presentations were delivered by Linda Goddard and Alistair Rider, both art historians at the University of St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, Christopher Butterfield of UVic’s School of Music, and Photograhper Sergei Petrov, who was raised and educated in Russia but now lives on Pender Island.

Linda Goddard addressed the creative tension between artists and writers. She argued that:

“We should consider artists’ writings not as supplementary to their visual practice, nor as a subset of an existing literary genre (be it criticism, theory or fiction), but as a category with its own – not yet fully explored – pressures and conventions.”

Her proposition extended to the way in which observers understand artists’ writings. If we read them as explanations of works of art, or even as keys for understanding, we place a limit on interpretation. Instead of seeking meaning, we should instead question why many artists’ texts tend towards aphorism and even, sometimes, deliberate obfuscation. Goddard suggested that this style of writing was (and continues to be) a response to the development and institutionalization of  “the art critic,” which began at the same time as the first great proliferation of artists’ writings in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Visual artists, Goddard suggests, use words as a complementary avenue for reclaiming meaning, or at least ambiguity, for their work. Certainly this approach made it easier to understand Jeffrey Rubinoff’s aphorisms, the most often-quoted of which states: “Art is an act of will in accord with a mature conscience.”

The second dialogue, given by Alaistair Rider, situated Rubinoff’s work within the tradition of Modernist sculpture. Rider reviewed Rubinoff’s work, which is predominantly abstract and exclusively made from steel. He analysed how Rubinoff’s sculpture relates to the environment, and showed images of some of the first Modern works removed from the studio and placed in the landscape. He referred to pieces by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, and David Smith. The talk turned, through the relationship of the work and its environment, to  “counterpoint” – a musical term that refers to the relationship between independent yet harmonic voices. This brought the symposium to the third presentation, delivered by composer Christopher Butterfield on the subject of counterpoint itself, as well as the relationship that does or does not exist between music and sculpture. A suggestion was put forward that music and sculpture are more closely connected than sculpture and painting, because both possess plastic properties – spatial and physical characteristics that endure through time. Jeffrey Rubinoff suggested that although there are similarities, the visual arts are distinct from theatre, literature, and music because they are the only forms that can exist outside time.

The weekend’s final presentation,  delivered by Sergei Petrov, addressed the issues surrounding the photography of sculpture. In Petrov’s view, all sculpture photography should be perceived – especially by its creator – as a predestined failure. He takes this position because, in his view, sculptural photography should never aim to be art work in its own right, but only a summary presentation of the information held within the work of art. Because sculptural information is retained in three-dimensional space, a photograph – a two dimensional form – can never hope to present an accurate representation. It will, therefore, ultimately fail. One of the delegates protested that this view presented a somewhat Platonic notion of the sculptural photograph, one that suggests a single, valid way of looking. This comment neatly summed up a theme that had run throughout the talks – that to place boundaries around the work of art, whether it be the artist’s writing, the way sculpture relates to nature or music, or the way it should be captured in a photograph is, by definition, to limit its cultural resonance and the means by which it can be understood.

Annabel Howard is an art historian and critic. 

Forbidden City’s diplomatic nature casts shadow over art

The Forbidden City:

Inside the Court of China’s Emperors

Vancouver Art Gallery

Until Jan. 11


Reviewed by Annabel Howard

The Forbidden City was – states the Vancouver Art Gallery’s eponymous exhibition – the largest palace ever built. It covered 178 hectares, and to walk from the southern to the northern gates took one and a half hours. Not that its principal inhabitant – the Emperor – would ever have done that: he was, after all, never seen to walk in public. Instead, a bevy of eunuchs (the only other men allowed inside those hallowed walls), carried him aloft in a sedan chair. To ensure the delineation of status was clear, the chair passed over an untouched path paved with dragon-carved marble. No-one ever walked on these pavings – the dragon was the symbol of the Emperor, exclusively. The eunuchs walked to the side, on plain stone. This is but one insight into the life at the palace offered by the VAG’s Forbidden City. It serves to illustrate the fact that every movement and gesture, every material object, everything the Emperor ever touched, looked at, wore or displayed, was carefully orchestrated to demonstrate one thing: his power.

It is an extraordinary and brilliant act of diplomacy for Canada to gain access to the material of the Forbidden City, which represents one of the great strands of China’s cultural heritage, and which is carefully monitored by the Chinese government. Eighty works on display in this exhibition have never left the Forbidden City, let alone China, and many of the paper works in Vancouver were not shown in Toronto (where the exhibition was hosted at the ROM) because they were deemed too fragile.

It is, however, the highly diplomatic nature of this show that casts a strange shadow. The extent to which The Forbidden City has been subjected to political and economic ends is disarming, if not outright disturbing. In preparation for the launch, much was made of the unique cultural ties between China and Canada. At the Vancouver preview Kathleen Bartels, VAG director, took the opportunity to announce the opening of a new Institute of Asian Arts. It was perhaps no surprise that media attention focused on the presence of Christy Clarke, Mayor Gregor Robertson, various Chinese businessmen and Chinook Energy, trumpeting the “strong economic links” between the two countries, rather than focusing on the art itself.

Despite providing a tantalizing glimpse into the wealth and majesty of the Forbidden City, the quality of the exhibits was uneven, and at times felt sparse, and an attempt to organize the objects into a progression from pubic to private left many of the more interesting pieces grouped together in the final rooms.

Pure curiosity was satisfied by the opportunity to see an Imperial dog coat stitched in lilac silk, an Imperial latticed picnic basket, the Emperor’s bath, jade chop-sticks, a tea-cup made of gold and pearls and used only once a year, and a creatively styled air-conditioner that functioned with ice hewn from the mountains outside Beijing.

An insight into the life of the Emperor’s consorts is equally fascinating: hairpins made with Kingfisher feathers, platform sandals, 15 centimetre long nail guards decorated with precious stones and pearls, a robe so intricate it required the hands of 450 workers and, representing the root of it all – a mirror decorated with 100 boys at play, so the women wouldn’t ever forget why they was there.

It requires a bit more work to find the objects with intrinsic art historical value. Some of the Emperor Qianlong’s (r. 1735-1796) antique bronze collection is on display: a Song dynasty bell, commissioned by Emperor Huizong in 336 C.E. is one of only 30 that survive globally. A miniature porcelain cup, made between 1465 and 1487 is extremely rare and of exquisite quality. A fan painting of an Autumn Forest by Shen Zhou belongs to the literati movement – a highly refined, educated and expressionistic aesthetic well represented in this piece.

But throughout the exhibition notable gaps emerged, and these curatorial silences were not restricted to the material selection. There was no mention of the more than half a million original objects that are now displayed in the National Palace Museum, Taipei – the result of the Chinese Civil War. There was no mention of Tiananmen Square which lies just steps from the Forbidden City itself. There was no mention of Ai Wei Wei or the suppression of contemporary Chinese art. This seems a particularly glaring omission for a gallery that has hosted 28 shows of Asian art in 30 years, and is currently hosting Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Art.

It seems that this exhibition ultimately sacrificed cultural elevation for the chance to publicly promote economic links between China and Canada. Although the curators have created an appealing and approachable insight into 500 years of Imperial power, authority and excess, it is hard to view this as an exhibition of indubitable depth and quality.

Annabel Howard is a writer and art historian from the UK. Her art criticism has appeared in Glass Magazine, The World of Interiors, and National Geographic Travel.

A new WorkPLACE at Open Space


Curated by: Lynda Gammon

Until Oct. 25

Open Space, second floor, 510 Fort Street

Reviewed by Adam Hayman

Lynda Gammon has turned Victoria’s Open Space into a WorkPLACE. Not her own work place, but a curated exhibition examining how we have worked and continue to work in the modern world. Gammon, a Victoria artist and associate professor at the University of Victoria, is known for questioning both space and place. At Open Space, she showcases eight works from four artists.

The idea of WorkPLACE was not to accumulate a large selection of work, nor was it to question how an artist works. Instead, a small collection of quality pieces examines the word work.

I found it easy to absorb the entirety of each piece in 90 minutes, including the time it took to watch Christine Welsh’s hour-long documentary. This is why Open Space’s admission by donation policy is perfect for exhibitions such as this. The gallery on lower Fort Street is a simple stop to make if you have the extra time during a visit downtown.

The theme of  “work” is  clear throughout the majority of the pieces with the exception of the beautiful Eyeless Dragon by Dong-Kyoon Nam. Nam is a Korean-born artist who works with found or everyday objects. He received his MFA from UVic and now teaches at the University of Manitoba. In Eyeless Dragon, a halogen light stares down at the exposed innards of copper wire and electric cord, but the piece doesn’t register as easily with the theme of work as the others. It is, however, still powerful and can absorb a large amount of the viewer’s time.

Tommy Ting is a London-based artist who works in many mediums, and his pieces, ‘Machine’ and Workers Posing as Workers, brought political weight to the show by looking at workers in the past. Swiss born photographer/filmmaker Thomas Kneubühler provided a collection of photos titled Absence, which were a series of shots of people staring at what we assume must be a computer screen. This depiction of modern society provoked self-conscious thoughts—how do I look when I’m sitting in front of a screen? The photographs were also perfectly situated next to Ting’s Workers Posing as Workers, a reproduction of a photo showing faceless Asian and Native Cannery workers from the turn of the century. The proximity of these pieces poked at my social conscience, which was a great choice by Gammon.

Gammon’s decision to present two videos, and where she placed them, however, needs re-examining. Christine Welsh, Metis filmmaker and women’s studies associate professor at UVic, had her documentary about the Coast Salish women who make Cowichan sweaters displayed prominently in the exhibition. It proved a fitting choice for this collection and the film runs just under an hour. This isn’t hard to sit through, unless, of course, you’ve just watched the shorter documentary, Currents (six and a half minutes) by Thomas Kneubühler, which is situated just to the left of the stairs when you enter. Sitting through seven minutes of a film, and then more than 50 minutes of a separate film is not easy on a millennial’s attention span. So if you are like myself I would recommend starting with Welsh’s film, and then moving around the gallery to end on Kneubühler’s.

WorkPLACE runs until Oct. 25.

Adam Hayman is an amateur woodworker and fourth year writing student at UVic with a passion for visual arts. 

Bold surrealist delights eye and spirit

Mirό: The Experience of Seeing

Seattle Art Museum until May 25, 2014

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

The Seattle Art Museum presents the later work of Spanish artist Joan Mirό (1893-1983) in its current special exhibition. About 50 paintings and sculptures 1963-1981 are on display, along with two fascinating videos. The artworks are from the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, one of the world’s great art galleries.  This exhibit is the first in the US to feature Mirό’s late works.

Mirό’s colours are typically bold: red, blue, black, yellow.  He creates images from the dense and chunky to wispy lines that soar through the air. Birds, the moon, and women are common subjects, and whimsy is a hallmark. But whimsy is not the basis; perhaps Mirό’s works can be seen as a cry for freedom. After all, from 1939-1975, Spain was under the dictatorship of Franco.  Birds are certainly symbolic of flight and freedom, and women, well, Mirό’s exploration of women’s beauty through various shapes is remarkable. Mirό commented that while his work  may be perceived as humorous, he thought his inclination was “tragic rather than light-hearted.”

As a surrealist, Mirό championed breaking away from conventional styles of painting. He approved of automatic techniques and a return to child-like wonder, but he never completely abandoned representation. The pieces in this exhibit are those of a man who has spent a lifetime honing his style.  The clarity of his approach  to form, shape, line, and colour is mesmerizing. In Poème à la gloire des étincelles, for example, movement and even sound are suggested by what looks like a string of firecrackers. In three paintings with a white background, Mirό creates exceptionally simple paintings that become more complex as you look at them. He can create a sense of movement or flux with little on the canvas.

The sculpture ranges from the heavy — whether almost a flat plane or a cylinder shape — to airy, stick-like shapes or even a combination as in Oiseau sur une branche. It’s all fascinating and pushes the boundaries of the plastic.

Along with the art are two videos, one a French film made in 1974 of an interview with Mirό (he lived in France for many years). In it we see his love of his Catalan heritage: when asked in French about tradition, he replies in Catalan. He expresses his sadness about Spain.  He says he never dreams. When he sleeps, he sleeps. Given the dream-like nature of much of his work, that is astounding. The other video dates from 1969 and shows Mirό painting on the huge windows of a college—and then scraping off the paint. Unfortunately,  this film has an annoying sound track, but it’s worth watching to see the paint flung on the glass and then removed.

The Seattle Art Museum has scored again with this beautifully mounted show.  And in its own touch of whimsy, the gallery has included a room at the end where visitors can play on computers and make their own art.

Candace Fertile teaches English at Camosun College.

Comic-strip memoir on prostitution shockingly authentic

Paying For It

By Chester Brown

Published by Drawn & Quarterly

290 pages, $19.95

By Lachlan Ross

Taking the prostitution debate into “comic-strip memoir” form, Canadian cartoonist Chester Brown documents his relations with sex workers. The Toronto-based writer’s eighth book depicts a 14-year period (from 1996-2010) during which 36-year-old Brown gives up on the “romantic love ideal” after his girlfriend dumps him. Rather than mourning the failed relationship and searching for a new partner, Brown continues living with his ex, but searches sex sources online.

Paying For It illustrates Brown’s interactions with prostitutes, both sexually and personally, while also including his friendships with ex-girlfriends and close friends. His friends’ reactions to his new lifestyle choice make for numerous debates, sparking the topic of ethics in prostitution. Brown’s clear advocacy of decriminalizing prostitution is backed by endless encounters with professional sex. While Brown notes in a foreword that he didn’t include all conversations to uphold women’s anonymity, the behaviours and reactions of Brown and the escorts create an understanding of why women work and why Johns pay.

Brown’s blatant honesty comes across on the page in thought bubbles during scenes. On page 137, during paid sex, he thinks, “She’s deliberately placing her hair over her face. She’s ashamed. She doesn’t want me to be able to see her face while I’m screwing her… I feel bad for her, but not so bad that I’m giving her a tip.”

While this account may upset some readers, the inclusion of thoughts like this made me believe in Brown as a reliable narrator. His character’s thoughts often don’t match his speech during both sexual interactions and conversations; I think that is a credible human trait. While Brown is a soft-spoken gentleman in speech, he has thoughts like, “That she seems to be in pain is kind of a turn-on for me, but I also feel bad for her.  I’m gonna cut this short and come quickly.” (188) I think this conflict between his outer persona as an introvert cartoonist and his up-front thoughts make for an authentic protagonist, to whom I felt connected.

Brown accepts that not every interaction is successful, but the reader grows with Brown in his journey, discovering what he likes and doesn’t like about each woman. Brown guides with strong narrative voice, forcing me to wrestle alongside him with the ethics of prostitution.

The blatant cynicism expressed by one friend, matched with the logical voice of another, provide both emotional and reasonable concern for Brown’s involvement in the sex trade. The scenes with ex-girlfriend, Sook-Yin, with whom he is still living after their break up for the majority of the book, adds odd twists and comic relief as Brown is also forced to live with her new boyfriends.

Paying For It is an entertaining read.  Brown’s skillful cartoons and sometimes brutally straightforward dialogue make for a frank account of life as a John. His story drew me in; I felt engulfed by a life I had previously not considered. The book shows a regular, honest, man paying for a service, and presents his argument that most Johns aren’t bad people. While some readers may be off put by the content of this memoir, this is a great read for those who can withstand the surprisingly graphic comic strips. For those who pick up the book expecting something different, jaws may hit the floor; this book isn’t for churchgoers.

            Lachlan Ross is a fourth-year student and athlete.

Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon

Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon               

Seattle Art Museum, until January 5, 2014

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Audio tours free–download app from website (, download podcast from website, audio guide wands available at SAM (also has extended visual descriptions)

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

The Seattle Art Museum is the only United States museum to have this exhibit, and with over 300 works, Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon is a delight for anyone interested in the history and art of Peru. The exhibit covers more than 3000 years of human activity and includes treasures of Macchu Picchu, royal tombs and modern folk art.

The lavish use of gold and silver for ornaments and utensils reveals the wealth of the Inca and other ancient civilzations, along with their attention to detailed beauty.  Animals feature widely as does the human body. A  gold forehead ornament from the Mochica culture, about 100-800 CE, has a cat’s head and octopus tentacles. The cat’s fangs are great. Sculptures of human genitals presumably celebrate fecundity and the wonder of conception and birth. The art works are both earthy and other worldly, a splendid combination of the known and the mysterious.

One of the most intriguing pieces is a quipo, an arrangement of knotted cords in order to keep records. It dates form 1450-1532, and is elegantly arranged in a fan display, although it was likely meant to be purely functional. It has 226 strings, and no one but the maker can decipher its meaning. Some communities still possess quipo, but their system of counting is lost. For a civilization with no written records, quipo were a valuable innovation.

Artists of the past were skilled in metals, ceramics and fabrics. Once the Spanish arrived, the art became Catholic and often seems gloomy to me. Attempts were made to blend cultures, but the dividing line is death. The ancient cultures had a different attitude, and that is seen in their art and artifacts. The pre-columbian works are the most interesting , I thought, along with photographs of people.  Hans Brüning’s late 19th century photos and Eduardo Calderón’s 21st century photos are arresting.

One disturbing display is a video of Chancay tomb raiders who call themselves “Pirates of the Huacas.” Once these raiders loot a tomb, any archeological knowledge is lost forever, but, because there’s money to be made, they don’t care.  There’s something mystical about their activities as drugs are involved, but the destruction is permanent. The black market in art works thrives  presumably because of poverty and the collectors’ greed. This display is an effort at educating people about the danger of raiding and stealing art.

The Seattle Art Museum once again delivers an informative and beautiful exhibit.

Candace Fertile is a Victoria reviewer.

“Sofa dogs” big hit for artist

Sofa Sitters of Victoria Exhibition. Showed September 12-24, 2013 at the Art Centre at Cedar Hill– CACGV Main Gallery, 3220 Cedar Hill Road.

View Durrand’s work at

Reviewed By Liz Snell

Two older women stare at the framed photographs in the gallery. “Sure is different,” one comments. “What a funny idea.”

“That’s our church!” the other points out. In the photo, Sophie, a golden retriever, sits on a checked sofa in front of Victoria’s soaring Christ Church Cathedral.

Another woman stops at a photo of the Beaconsfield Inn, which is perfectly matched with the plaid armchair set in front. Lily, a grinning Labrador retriever, poses on the chair. “I worked in that building. Oh for heaven’s sake, isn’t that something. Is it still there?”

Victoria artist Diana Durrand, 62, spent two years photographing passersby’s dogs on Victoria’s discarded furniture. The ordinary scene of a dog on a sofa, transplanted to an unusual setting, creates both whimsy and pathos. Durrand’s inspiration for The Sofa Sitters of Victoria arrived after she lost her own dog and began to notice everyone else’s. On her walks around the city, she’d stop at a roadside sofa and wait for the right dog to come along. “It was always an adventure; I never knew what I’d find.”

Dog owners were usually excited to participate. “Some of them have become friends; I met some really interesting people.”

Many of the dogs in the series had been rescued by their owners. In one photo, a rescued dog, Sir James Douglas, lounges calmly on a discarded loveseat in front of an abandoned house, as if to say, “I’m the lucky one.” The description alongside each picture includes the dog’s name. This specificity was important to Durrand: “They’re not just ‘a dog.’”

Durrand studied visual art at the University of Victoria from 1968-1972 and has been painting for many years, but photography was something new. The Sofa Sitters project was a crash course on “learning to see like a photographer.” She printed the photos in black-and-white then re-coloured them with chalk pastel. This allowed her to add softness and limit her palette. She describes this process as creating an intimate connection with the subject: “It’s almost like touching.”

Durrand particularly enjoyed working collaboratively on this project, noting the dog owners, sofa-sighters and those who helped her perfect the photo/pastel technique. “I don’t really feel it’s my show.”

For a project so rooted in community, this seems right. Durrand describes the public response to Sofa Sitters as “over-the-top.” One of the comments in her guestbook calls the exhibition “the quintessential Victoria art show.”

Durrand agrees. “It’s so about them.”

She sees Victoria as the perfect setting for this project because of its high number of pedestrians (especially dog-walkers), its toleration of roadside sofas, and its friendliness. “You couldn’t do this in Detroit; there’s not the trust.”

Durrand is no stranger to the magic in roadside cast-offs; she’s found inspiration for a previous series in a discarded McDonald’s fries carton, and for another in Vancouver’s abandoned gloves. Even as a child she formed creations from her mother’s old cigarette boxes.

“The beautiful stuff’s already beautiful; I’m not interested in painting flowers. I want people to have a second look at things. There’s beauty everywhere.”

Liz Snell is a writer and recent UVic graduate.  

Four distinct visions in MFA show

MFA Thesis Exhibition
Visual Arts Building
University of Victoria Campus
Until May 11, 2013

Reviewed by  Dorothy June Fraser

Any kind of graduate show is going to be an interesting experience. Wandering from gallery to gallery requires a degree of care, as we shake off the intensity of one show in order to see the next. Overall, it becomes an interesting and transformational experience.

Yang Liu’s exhibit, All the Little Things You Left Behind, is built on small pieces, constructions of home and life and the little things that come to represent lived experience. He takes tiny objects and then rearranges these bits of life into larger forms, which he then photographs. The end result is a show that evokes both the architecture of daily life and the values that define culture. The divide between memory and object, construction and composition are present and at odds within Liu’s work.

Hilary Knutson’s Au Secours, drew me in as soon as I set foot in the room. Her approach included cross-stitch, needle-point and screen-printed fabrics, woven together with her virtual presence in the gallery via video. I loved the connection to feminist fibre and craft work that she invoked within the concrete studio setting. The inclusion of chronic pain gave voice to the  physical suffering that comes with art making and is rarely addressed in spaces which we associate with the “artist.”  By providing an alternative to the cold studio space, we see her personal workspace as productive and comforting, subverting the idea that there is one correct model of studio space.

Inside the Outside, despite an innocuous title, succeeds on several different aesthetic levels. Artist Chris Lindsay explores texture and structure as a means of conveying personal experiences. A constructed landscape forces the viewer to a supplicant’s role, stepping over the steel wires that hang on the ground. Across the hall is the sound installation of Lindsay’s that instantly spoke of individual experience within a larger network, reception of information and a larger interaction than the singular human experience.

Lindsay’s fabricated silk thread sculptures are painstakingly crafted: he strings several hundred silk threads through wooden forms to create a dazzling prismatic effect. All of Lindsay’s work vibrates, reminding viewers that frequencies differ between every individual person, every standpoint.

Paola Savasta uses sculptural forms to play with the space of the in-between where 3D objects need 2D representation and vice-versa in her show, The Heir. The sense of play necessary to cover a stool in a bathmat or faux fur provided an intriguing and surprising use of textiles that drew attention to expectations of these objects in daily experience. Soft, faux-fur lined cubicle shelf constructions of The Heir repudiate hard, Minimalist sculptural qualities. In a totally different aesthetic expression, her small end tables and 3D paintings patterned with colourful plaid build sculptures from everyday purposeful, flat surfaces. I think that Savasta’s work questions authority, experience and expectations of objects in the gallery space.

The visual arts students’ works provoke a questioning of everyday existence and suggest the possible (in)sufficiency of spatial reasoning to explain our surroundings.

Dorothy June Fraser is an MA History in Art student at UVic and the online gallery curator for Plenitude Magazine.

A few gems at WORK

WORK: Annual UVic BFA Visual Arts showcase
April 19-27, Visual Arts building, UVic
Free and open to the public

Reviewed by Blake Jacob

The annual UVic Visual Arts showcase, WORK, is taking place until April 29. The show is curated beautifully in the many spacious rooms of the Visual Arts building, and features projects of over 40 undergraduate students. These are young artists who are finding their way, so the works on display demonstrate various levels of maturity. However, interspersed among the studies of marijuana paraphernalia and photographs of pensive-looking cheerleaders are a few unique gems.

One outstanding work is a series of untitled portrait photographs by Claire Aitken. The artist’s knowledge of light and shadow led to the successful execution of captivating photos. The portraits are black and white and  displayed in oversized frames. Several groups of showcase attendees lingered at length near these portraits, discussing them animatedly. It seemed clear that this work was well-received.

Another remarkable piece is an untitled painting by Mia Watkins. The painting is beautiful and jarring at the same time. The artist is attentive to detail and chose a fantastic color palette. Unfortunately, the lighting in the area was a bit dim and didn’t give the piece the justice it deserved.

A third noteworthy work is Brittany Giniver’s portrait series “My Mother at 21.” The work is a series of photographs which are recreations of the subject’s mothers. The subjects are styled, posed, and dressed similarly to the subjects of the original photographs, composed in matching settings. Some of the subjects look very much like their mothers; when they are posed in the same setting, the photos beg a double-take. Other subjects are so dissimilar in appearance to their mothers that the juxtaposition provokes thought. It would have been powerful to see more non-white families in the series, but the work still raises questions despite its lack of diversity.

The showcase is worth a visit to see the memorable pieces that stand out from the crowd.

Blake Jacob is a Vancouver Island poet whose essential nutrients are optimism, wordsmithery, and captivating melody.


Remarkable exhibit a ferry ride away

Rembrandt, Gainsborough, Van Dyck: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London
Seattle Art Museum until May 19, 2013
$20 adult, $17 senior, $12 student and teen; free for 12 and under

Reviewed by Candace Fertile

Fabulously rich people can afford fabulous art collections, and the First Earl of Iveagh, Edward Cecil Guinness (1847-1927) (yes, that Guinness) apparently had a budget to match his exquisite taste in paintings. The current special exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM) features 48 works from the collection usually on view at Kenwood House in London. Renovations at Kenwood House have created the opportunity for the collection to be exhibited at various US museums. Art lovers going to Seattle in the near future should pay a visit to SAM to see these remarkable paintings.

Before you go, you can download an app to your phone and then listen to experts discuss various works or you can use the free audio guides at the museum. Listening while observing is a good time-saver: you don’t need to read the descriptions as you feast on the images.

The key painting, which is also featured on the PR material, is Rembrandt’s Portrait of the Artist ca. 1665. Rembrandt painted numerous self-portraits, and this one done about four years before his death in 1669 shows him holding the tools of his trade. Rembrandt’s mastery of light and shadow is evident, and in the plain background are two circles that have puzzled critics for ages. One theory is that Rembrandt was simply showing his ability to draw circles. I listened to the docent’s talk about this painting (free talks are scheduled at various times), and she commented that Rembrandt kept a stash of self-portraits in his studio, ready for sale to visitors. And in that way the collector got “two for one”: a Rembrandt painting and a portrait of the artist.

My favourite portrait in the exhibit is Frans Hals’s 1633 Portrait of Pieter van den Broecke (1585-1640). Hals’s jaunty depiction of the merchant breathes life into a man who has been dead for centuries. And that perhaps is why I love portraits: a skilled portrait painter, such as Hals and Rembrandt, shows the humanity of his or her subject. The clothing could change, and the person could be walking down the street today.

The Kenwood House collection includes more than portraits, but they are the ones that captured me the most. But other paintings are also arresting. The first that comes to mind is Albert Cuyp’s View of Dordrecht (ca. 1655), a seascape with splendid and precise detail. You can even see the time on the clock in the background, and the flat Dutch city seems to cower behind a meticulously detailed sailing ship. I fell in love with Cuyp’s landscapes many years ago as he often includes cows in them.

Many of these 17th and 18th century paintings have never been shown outside of Britain before, so having them just a ferry ride away is a treat. Plan for a couple of hours, and your ticket will also get you into the European Masters: The Treasures of Seattle exhibit and the rest of SAM.