The weakened eye of day
July 29 to October 2, 2016
B.C. Binning and Alvin Balkind Galleries
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a major new body of work by Irish artist Isabel Nolan, conceived as a single project across successive evolving presentations at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Mercer Union, Toronto and CAG.
Nolan’s work encompasses text, sculpture, drawing and textiles, and often begins with the close scrutiny of individual literary or artistic works, or evolves out of consciously erratic and diverging enquiries into the aesthetics of varied fields. Ranging from cosmology, to theories and systems of medicine detailing the makeup and workings of the human body or to illuminated manuscripts, all provide potential stimuli for investigation. The exhibition takes its title from the English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy’s The Darkling Thrush (1899), in which the sun, described as “the weakening eye of day”, is a dismal star drained of its force by a gloomy pre-centennial winter afternoon. As the sun’s gaze weakens, so flags the spirit of the poet who, until interrupted by birdsong, sees only the inevitability of death in the cold world around him. The show thereby examines how light manifests as a symbol in our thoughts, obsessions and pursuits, and oscillates around a series of ideas as a material account of the known and unknown strangeness of the world, from the formation of the planet’s crust to the death of the sun and the enduring preoccupation with light as a metaphor for truth, hope and optimism.
Writing is an important tool for Nolan, and at the beginning of the show, a single sculptural form appears perhaps as the protagonist of an improbable story. Rock founded place (2014) is a large-scale scrolled text written by Nolan that imagines the viewpoint of the oldest rock in the world, whose exposure to deep time and the precariousness of existence is profoundly different to our own. In this world, time, knowledge and forms of life are recognizable yet play utterly different histories and roles than in our own civilization.
Throughout the exhibition, individual pieces unfold to both seduce and disarm. Nolan uses this as a device to cause us reflection upon our relationship to light as a means by which the world is framed. She provides opportunities to reveal the contingency not only of our own world, but also of our myriad ways of knowing and being in it. Underpinning this is a desire to examine and capture in material form the occasions of intensity that can define our encounters with the objects around us; inexplicable and unsettling moments that leave us with a heightened awareness of what is means to be alive. For the artist this exploration happens through making things; whether these things are sculptures, textiles, photographs or texts. Monumental or intimate in scale, they are presented to us as tentative and precarious markers of the experience of our place beneath the sun.
Across all spaces at CAG, discrete works trace a progression reflective of different human attempts to understand our place in the universe. From Rock founded place we might move to consider a small-scale abstract painting such as Dreams of no thing, no time (2014), the enigmatically diagrammatic steel construction Somewhere between Andromeda and Vulpecula: Sky Atlas (2014) or Fourfold sorrows (Jesus you look so sad) (2015), an impressive woven carpet connecting wall to floor. Contemplating these and other pieces such as the collection of brightly coloured ceramic vessels, Nothing new under the sun (2014), all combine to reflect Nolan’s interest in the way colour and light are used to express religious or spiritual sensibilities. Elsewhere, the intimate drawings Based on my recent observations (1–7) (2014) and the large-scale photograph The view from nowhen (2014) are informed by modern cosmology, wherein scientific theories and technologies articulate our contemporary relationship to the universe. And as we meander through the space of the gallery, we are finally confronted by what at first appears a somewhat surreal image, this mural of two donkeys photographed in Bully’s Acre, a former public cemetery located near the Royal Hospital Kilmainham in Dublin. Referred to in myth and folklore from around the world as well as embodying different symbolic references in classical and ancient cultures and across different faiths, these donkeys provide a provocation that cannot be met: a stubborn and inscrutable view from a world that can never be fully known.
As with all of Nolan’s oeuvre, the works in The weakened eye of day reveal, through their very subjective and intimate nature, the arbitrariness and inherent absurdity of attempting to tackle the enormity of these subjects through the process of object making. Yet the objects are made and for Nolan they also find, with varying degrees of (un)certainty, their place under the sun.
Originated by the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, this new selection of work for the exhibition is presented in collaboration with Mercer Union, Toronto and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver.
The exhibition is supported by the Culture Ireland programme for 2016 celebrating Ireland’s Centenary.
We also acknowledge the generous assistance of Kerlin Gallery, Dublin.
Isabel Nolan lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. Recent solo exhibitions include Mercer Union, Toronto (2016); Launch Pad, New York; Kerlin Gallery, Dublin (2015); Sean Kelly Gallery, New York; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin (2014); The Return Gallery, Goethe Institut, Dublin; Musée d’art Moderne de Saint-Etienne (2012); The Model, Sligo (2011); Gallery Side 2, Tokyo (2010); Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; ARTSPACE, New Zealand (2008); Project Arts Centre, Dublin (2005). Nolan represented Ireland at the 2005 Venice Biennale in a group exhibition, “Ireland at Venice 2005”. Other recent group shows include Lofoten International Arts Festival (LIAF), Svolvær, Norway; Artspace, Sydney (2015); Wallspace Gallery, New York (2014); Palais de Tokyo, Paris; David Nolan Gallery, New York; Villa Datris, Fondation pour la Sculpture Contemporain, France; Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork (2013); EVA International, Limerick (2012); Stephen Friedman Gallery, London; Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (2011); Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh (2010); Accademia d’Ungheria, Rome; The Daejeon Museum of Art, South Korea; Bielefelder Kunstverein, Germany; Limerick City Gallery of Art, Ireland; AkkuH, Hengelo, The Netherlands; Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris; Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown, Northern Ireland; SMART Project Space, Amsterdam (2009); Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York; Stroom Den Haag (2007). Work is held in public collections of the Irish Museum of Modern Art; The Hugh Lane Gallery, Dublin; Allied Irish Bank; Arts Council of Ireland; Kildare Co. Council and various private collections in Europe and USA. Nolan is represented by Kerlin Gallery, Dublin.MORE
October 14, 2016 to January 1, 2017
Opening: Thursday, October 13, 2016
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition in a Canadian museum by French artist Guillaume Leblon.
Featuring a selection of new and recent works produced using processes as diverse as the latest 3D printing techniques to large-scale hand blown glass the exhibition will create a characteristically poetic universe, a world of its own, extending Leblon’s ongoing propositions with a more abstracted figurative presence.
While Leblon creates powerful, discrete objects, the presentation in Vancouver will choreograph into a fictional cityscape, a larger spatial narrative bringing together a group of works that evoke the suggestive potential of the body through the material and image of the resolved pieces themselves. The absence of the figure is also suggested; sometimes an imprint revealed by a human form with shapeless contours, where the body is sensed by the viewer, or clothing and other remnants are employed where, ironically, there may remain only traces of cigar ashes or of a scarf.
The artist’s interest in transformations manifests itself in works that hint at a kind of alchemy, sculptures that attain a relic-like quality or the aura of a classical statue. This atmosphere or narrative impulse is further created by incorporating familiar objects into his sculptures, from tables to shelves, enigmatic constructions and combinations which have a powerful, seductive, material presence. Leblon’s approach means works often conjure images of the ruin and the passage of time, the notion of the vanitas bringing the present and the past into contact.
We acknowledge the generous support of Institut Francais and the Consulate general de France Vancouver for this exhibition.MORE
Saturday, April 9, 2016, 7pm
Off-site: Pyatt Hall at VSO School of Music, Vancouver
Ticket available at: www.picatic.com/CAGglass
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a new performative sound work with Norwegian/US artist/musician Camille Norment in collaboration with Victoria’s Experimental Music Unit: Tina Pearson, George Tzanetakis, and Paul Walde.
Norment performs with a glass armonica, a legendary eighteenth century instrument that creates ethereal music from glass and water. Combined with EMU’s reputation for sonic investigations of relationships between the natural world, sound and music, and between notation, improvisation and attention states in music making, Norment and EMU will develop a work that resonates with local history.
Songs for Glass Island will use US visual artist Robert Smithson’s failed 1969 proposal for the Strait of Georgia, Glass Island (or Island of Broken Glass) as point of departure. Granted permission by the Canadian Government, Smithson planned encrusting Miami Islet west of Fraser Point in 100 tons of broken glass. However, as public pressure against the idea mounted from environmentalists and anti-Americanists, it was suspended by a governmental telegram. Aside from drawings, letters, and plans, the only physical artifacts which remain are studies which Smithson called “maps.” What would have been Smithson’s first “permanent” earthwork morphed via the idea’s failure into the famous Spiral Jetty made the following year.
Throughout March and April, Norment will be in residence at the University of Victoria where she will be writing and rehearsing with EMU members. Using glass in various forms as their primary instruments, they will prepare a set of inter-related works including newly developed instrumentation, that imagine the possible sounds, stories, textures and ecologies of Smithson’s fabled island. Reflecting the themes in structure and content, sound will weave viscerally through this glass world, the project residing in realistic and fantasy scenarios provoked by Smithson’s proposal: glass as a material; glass in acoustic and marine ecology; inevitable mounds of post-catastrophe glass shards; and metaphors associated with glass, such as glass ceilings, broken barriers, reflection, transparency and invisibility.
Through the creative process, the juxtaposition of the practices of sound and experimental music performance in glass will create a visually stunning and sonically captivating audiovisual concert-length program that will debut in progress at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and be followed by its premiere performance in Vancouver presented by CAG at Pyatt Hall. Recordings of these works and performances will be subject to a subsequent audio publication.
CAG will also partner later this year with Norment and the Montreal Biennale.
Camille Norment is a multidisciplinary American artist living in Oslo, Norway. Her work has been the subject of numerous international exhibitions and performances including the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013) and a commissioned artwork and performance for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo (2012). In 2015 she presented Rapture, a site-specific, sculptural and sonic installation in the Nordic Pavilion for the Venice Biennale. She regularly performs and records with the Camille Norment Trio in which she plays the glass armonica.
EMU is a sound ensemble of LaSaM Music from Victoria, British Columbia featuring performer/composers Tina Pearson, George Tzanetakis, Paul Walde and producer Kirk McNally. During the past four years EMU has developed a reputation for sonic investigations of relationships between the natural world, sound and music, and between notation, improvisation and attention states in music making.
Songs for Glass Island is presented in partnership with LaSaM Music, Victoria and is supported by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway through its program for International Support, The Canada Council for the Arts, The University of Victoria through its Distinguished Women Scholars Fund, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts and the Department of Visual Arts.MORE
Continuing in our window vitrines are a new set of eight sculptures by British artist Ryan Gander, part of the ongoing series A lamp made by the artist for his wife. Made from ingenious combinations of everyday objects they evince a smart way with the art of storytelling in an immensely complex yet subtly coherent body of work which in its blend of the personal with the historical, delivers an emotional pull that is not only intellectually arresting, but also affecting in its humour. We take delight in these assemblages of disparate objects, that while provoking a myriad of associations, function as a collection of innovative lighting designs.MORE
December 5, 2015 to January 17, 2016
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition in Canada of work by Korean artist Kim Beom. Comprising a survey of work spanning over twenty years and made across a range of material and form, the exhibition presents characteristically humorous and inquisitive takes on the way we come to see and know things.
Kim is a key figure of his generation in South Korea, his ideas based in the shift created when image-making moves from language to physical form. He fundamentally resists any singular definition, partly through the eclecticism of media—drawing, video, sculpture, performance—as well as taking on seemingly disparate subjects encompassing such things as the entire body of work of a modernist Korean poet or the domestication of dogs. Regularly recalling moments in popular culture and often visualizing wordplay or puns that tip language into the absurd or create comic forms, works such as the untitled series of drawings and related video from 1991-96 are as refreshingly intriguing as they are disarming in their charm and curiosity with the world that surrounds us.
Visitors to the exhibition are welcomed by a modest canvas into which has been cut a short text. Greeting (2007) may appear almost straightforward in its appeal, captivating in the openness of its invitation, and yet it suggests the impending experience of the exhibition as an open field where the viewer can apply or should determine their own impressions.
Perception and illusion are key to Kim’s practice. While much of his work is figurative in the sense that there are recognizable representational components depicted, this lack of ambiguity is called into question whereby the stability of image or language and its ability to communicate are set in motion. In speaking about his paintings, many of which are raw canvases that have been cut into, Kim talks about this blankness as acting like “a screen for the imagery in the viewer’s mind.” In Man Standing (1995), two footprints in metal rings are attached to the surface of the work displayed flat on the floor. Here we are asked to complete the image, conjuring the subject, imagining ourselves in the space of the piece itself.
This idea of fluid meaning can also be seen in other works that involve a notional transformation in some way – be it functional, a tautology between image to object, or a perceptual shift in the mind of the viewer. Such inventive changes may be considered witty or surreal, and achieved via the most economical of means. An Iron in the Form of a Radio, a Kettle in the Form of an Iron, and a Radio in the Form of a Kettle (2002) brings together the three household items which retain their familiarity of form and yet, as described in the title, change their function. As objects they retain their base characteristics but nonetheless are simultaneously something else, becoming other than, or more than, that which they appear to exclusively exemplify.
Such improbable transformation in both the imagination of the artist and by extension the audience can be seen in Untitled (Plants from the Places) series (2007- ongoing). Here Kim cuts photographic images of plants from magazines and newspapers sticking them together to form new “plants” that continue to grow by the addition of other pieces of green paper. Through this reusing the artist completes the cycle – trees are cut down, made into pulp which then becomes paper and is returned to being a plant. In other works, this cultivation of change is suggested by Kim with a mix of both humour and unease.
How meaning is made, who constructs it and for whom it is intended is seen more directly in works such as A Rock that was taught it was a Bird (2010) in which an absurdist gesture has an actor attempting to teach a rock to fly, unperturbed by its seeming lack of response. Yet by soaking up this instruction is the rock not altered in some way? Objects Being Taught They are Nothing But Tools (2010), is a large scale sculptural work that has common household objects placed on model chairs facing a blackboard in a familiar classroom-like setting. The objects are assembled in front of a pre-recorded, televised lecture in which the teacher’s head is cut off and his voice dubbed so that in a speeded up, squeaky voice, the orator emphatically and gravely iterates the utility of “students” and, therefore, the futility of attempting to become anything more. Tools do not go to the hospital to see doctors, the voice points out, as humans do. They are instead serviced and fixed, or simply replaced. So it goes for the student. Education is a process that involves some notional form of change: knowledge is imparted and one’s identity and views on the world around us are (in)formed. Conventional structures of learning are undermined and replaced by questioning the fabric of our collective and individual perceptions.
Kim Beom, born in 1963 lives and works in South Korea. Solo exhibitions include: Kim Beom: The School of Inversion, Hayward Gallery, London (2012); Kim Beom: Animalia, REDCAT Gallery, Los Angeles (2011); Objects Being Taught They Are Nothing But Tools, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, (2010); Kim Beom, Artsonje Center, Seoul (2010); Beom Kim, Sun Gallery, Seoul (2007); Flower, Trans Hudson Gallery, New York (2000); Utility Objects, Trans Hudson Gallery, New York (1997). Group exhibitions include: 2013 California Pacific Triennial, Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach (2013); Time Mutations, UB Art Galleries, University of Buffalo, Buffalo (2013);Tireless Refrain, Nam June Paik Art Center, Korea (2013); Unknown Forces, MSGSU Tophabe-I Amire Culture and Arts Center, Istanbul (2013); (Im)Possible Landscape, PLATEAU, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul (2013); Media City Seoul, Seoul Museum of Art (2012); City Within the City, Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces, Melbourne (2012); Tell me, Tell me: Australian and Korean Art 1976-2011, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2011); A Rock That Was Taught It Was A Bird, Artspace, Auckland (2010); The Malady of Writing. MACBA, Barcelona (2009); Your Bright Future: 12 Contemporary Artists from Korea, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (2009); The Demon of Comparisons, Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam (2009); The Cover of a Book is the Beginning of a Journey, Arnolfini, Bristol (2008); Always a little further, 51st Venice Biennale, Venice (2005); 8th International Istanbul Biennale, Istanbul (2003); Under Construction: New Dimensions of Asian Art, Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery, Tokyo (2002); Beyond Landscape, Artsonje Center, Seoul (1999). Work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Cleveland Museum of Art; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis in the United States; the Museum für Kommunikation, in Bern, Switzerland; and the Seoul Museum of Art, the Ho-Am Art Museum, Artsonje Center, and the Horim Museum, in Seoul, and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, in Gwachun, Korea.
Make every show like it’s your last
September 11 to November 1, 2015
The CAG presents an ambitious exhibition with UK artist Ryan Gander comprising a shifting selection of new and recent works centered on the artist’s ongoing conceptual investigations and playful cultural cross references.
Ideas of concealment, accessibility in every sense, and of a deliberate obfuscation to send our minds challenged and reeling, has been a constant ploy for Gander. Works are characterized most typically by a conceptual as well as formal rigour, often drawing together a layered range of sources and referents. For example in the video and associated off-site poster campaign, Imagineering (2013), there is a clear sense of play in the way work is constructed, and play as both an intellectual mode as well as a physical activity. The series of sculptures I is … (2013) evince a smart way with the art of storytelling in an immensely complex yet subtly coherent body of work which in its combination of the personal with the historical, delivers an emotional pull that is not only intellectually arresting, but also affecting in its humour, its delight in suggesting a dialogue between seemingly disparate objects or provoking associations tinged of sadness.
Organised by the CAG and produced in collaboration with Frac Île de France — Le Plateau, Paris; Manchester Art Gallery, UK; Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland; OK Offenes Kulturhaus / Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, Austria; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.MORE
Time, People, Money, Crickets
July 10 to August 30, 2015
B.C. Binning, Alvin Balkind Galleries and gallery façade
Live Performance: Cricket Solos for Clarinet, Piccolo, Percussion, and Violin
Friday, July 10, 8.30pm onwards
Emery Barnes Park, Vancouver
Richards and Davie Streets
The Contemporary Art Gallery presented a major solo exhibition by Los Angeles based artist Mungo Thomson.
Time, People, Money, Crickets brings together a survey of work produced during the past five years, complemented by an extensive monographic publication. Combined, exhibition and publication provide an expansive opportunity to tease out the nuance and complexity of Thomson’s practice across his many media and forms.
Central to Thomson’s artistic proposition is an embrace of context—be it situational, institutional, mass cultural or art historical—and it is through the intelligent breadth of his individual works that we are prompted to examine the perceptual mechanics of everyday life in relation to a wider historical and cosmic scale. The exhibition includes key works in film, sound, sculpture, performance and publication that approach perception and cultural mediation with economy and wit, often relying on existing forms of recognition and distribution.
The exhibition features several large-scale mirror works from Thomson’s ongoing series TIME: person-sized, silkscreened mirrors bearing the iconic logo and red border of the international weekly news magazine. The mirrors are based on individual covers of the magazine that reference a variety of cultural and cosmological notions of time and history, forming a broad cumulative network of objects. Installed together, they form infinity spaces and kinesthetic configurations in which the viewer, the viewing context and other TIME mirrors are reflected and reversed endlessly, and the viewer finds themselves pictured within that network. Such associations are further elaborated by a new iteration of Thomson’s ongoing series Negative Space, photographic murals of inverted astronomical imagery sourced from the Hubble Space Telescope, here specially designed for the glass canopy that defines the entrance and exterior of the gallery.
Thomson’s Crickets (2012-13) is an ambitious musical score for orchestra based on the chirping of crickets. Transcribed from a French compilation of field recordings from around the world—France, Cameroon, Senegal, Martinique, Borneo, Thailand and Venezuela—and produced in collaboration with Los Angeles composer Michael Webster, the score contains 25 movements, such as 12. Reunion Island, the Cirque de Cilaos at 1300 m. altitude, February 1998, nightfall in a banana plantation. Seen in an HD video, and shown alongside the sheet music, a 17-player classical ensemble simulates a chorus of crickets in flute, clarinet, violin and percussion. Crickets explores the distinctions between silence, sound, noise and music, using the aural backdrop that crickets represent—so ubiquitous that they have come to stand in for silence, and, in the context of performance, failure. Thomson and Webster have also developed Crickets for solo performers—individual musicians scattered around a park, each simulating the sound of a single cricket with a different instrument. Working with Vancouver New Music, CAG will present a live performance of Cricket Solos for Clarinet, Piccolo, Percussion, and Violin in Emery Barnes Park.
Other works in the exhibition play with the context of the gallery or museum itself. Mail (2013) is the simplest intervention into the CAG’s everyday infrastructure. For the duration of the exhibition, once delivered, the mail remains on the floor, unopened, gradually becoming an obstacle to physical passage as well as to institutional function. Untitled (Margo Leavin Gallery, 1970– ) (2009) is a Super-16mm stop-motion film animation that flips through all the contacts in the business card rolodexes of Los Angeles’ Margo Leavin Gallery, which was founded in 1970 and closed in 2012, and where Thomson showed for over a decade. Consisting of thousands of contacts, each with their own particular relationship to the operation of the gallery – artists, framers, electricians, collectors, customs agents, florists, critics, exterminators – each card gets a single film frame, the film running at 24 frames per second. It is a kinetic portrait, pairing analogue technologies, of a group of people randomly and uniquely brought into orbit together around a single cultural enterprise.
People (2011) is an ongoing series of photographs of visitors to art exhibitions with the art on view removed in Photoshop, leaving only people staring into the voids of empty white rooms. These images are taken from the web as well as privately commissioned by Thomson from professional events photographers. In 2011 Thomson produced a magazine collecting these uncanny images modeled on the American tabloid “People”. Originally distributed unannounced by mail, it is exhibited here as a free takeaway for visitors.
Void and Observer (2013-15) is a series of sculptures modeled on the phenomena of ‘error coins’—rare and collectible coins that result from a production mistake at the US mint, in which a blank coin planchet is mis-struck by the die that carries the coin image. In Thomson’s reworking of the phenomenon, made with 3D printing and jewelry casting, these coins take on a cosmological dimension, as an off-center John F. Kennedy appears to be contemplating the void of the unstruck side of a half-dollar, and as other error coins in other US denominations resemble planetary bodies in phase or eclipse. Kept in the pockets of the staff of the CAG and displayed upon request, the coins will orbit and revolve around each other throughout the day.
Mungo Thomson: Time, People, Money, Crickets is organized by the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver and SITE Santa Fe. A new 200-page monograph of Thomson’s work, Time, People, Money, Crickets, published by CAG with SITE Santa Fe is available at the gallery, special exhibition price of $25.
Mungo Thomson lives and works in Los Angeles. Solo exhibitions, performances and projects have taken place at ArtPace, San Antonio (2014); SITE Santa Fe, Santa Fe (2013); The Times Museum, Guangzhou, China (2013); The Aspen Art Museum, Aspen (2012); The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2008); The Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, France (2007); and Galeria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAMeC), Bergamo, Italy (2006), among others. Selected group exhibitions include The 2nd CAFAM Biennale, CAFA Art Museum, Beijing, China (2014); A Guest Without A Host Is A Ghost, Beirut and Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, Egypt; Imitatio Christie’s, Galleria Zero, Milan (2014); Turn off the Sun: Selections from La Colección Jumex, Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZ (2013); Public Diary, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo, Japan (2013); The Pacific Standard Time Public Art and Performance Festival, Los Angeles, USA (2012); Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), Istanbul, Turkey (2011); Exhibition Exhibition, Castello di Rivoli, Torino, Italy (2010); Compilation IV, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, Germany (2009); The 2008 Whitney Biennial (2008); and PERFORMA05 (2005). Thomson’s work is held in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and FRAC Ile-de-France, Paris, France, among others. Thomson is represented by galerie frank elbaz, Paris, France.
When Sky Was Sea
November 21, 2014 to January 11, 2015
B.C. Binning and Alvin Balkind Galleries
The Contemporary Art Gallery presented the first large-scale survey exhibition in North America of work by renowned Japanese artist Shimabuku. Demonstrating the breadth of the artist’s practice, works revealed an essential correspondence to things elsewhere in a wider world, insisting on our grasp of the continuity that exists between art and (non-art) life. As he travels the world, interacting with strangers, and conversing with nature, Shimabuku instigates moments of poetry, humour and surprise.
Including pieces dating back to the mid-1990s, when he first emerged as an artist in Japan, through to presenting a wide variety of more recent work for which he has since become internationally celebrated, the exhibition exemplifies an extraordinary curiosity and freedom of expression. Shimabuku uses installation, video, photography, drawings, sculpture and events alike to convey his intense fascination with the natural world—equally the animal and vegetable realms—and the countless manifestations of human culture within it. His artistic proposition is essentially one of storytelling and discovery. He encourages us to assume an “alien” identity whereby we break with established habits of perception and enjoy experiences as if they are happening to us for the first time.
From the beginning, incongruity has characterised much of Shimabuku’s work, seen in early performances such as Tour of Europe with One Eyebrow Shaved (1991) or Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere (1994), the gentle surrealism of the works is compelling. Shimabuku is not so interested in discovering the reasons why, instead preoccupied, through a joyful approach, with unions of myth or mystery and the everyday. This is epitomized by Something that Floats / Something that Sinks (2008), a work through which the artist draws our attention to the fact that some pieces of fruit and vegetables float in water or appear to swim, while others sink. It is wonderful and ostensibly miraculous.
The inversion of the way things are conventionally seen to be is crucial to Shimabuku’s practice. He is interested in what is normal being made strange and often picks up the theme of the journey in his work, the means by which difference occurs through translation in both time and space. The photograph Cucumber Journey (2000) commemorates a two week performance travelling slowly north on British canals while learning to pickle vegetables. He has stated, “I think cooking and art are similar. They are both about unexpected meetings of far-away ingredients, to create something delicious, something good”. In his video Then, I decided to give a tour of Tokyo to the octopus from Akashi (2000) we see him with an octopus in a fishtank taking a Shinkansen train to Tokyo. There they make touristic visits to the Tokyo Tower and the famous Tsukiji fish market before getting back on the train for a return trip so that the octopus can be submerged again, back home in the Akashi Sea. The artist refers to this work as his Apollo project, involving as it did an adventure far from the natural habitat of the octopus – the fishtank being the equivalent of a spacecraft – isolated from the surrounding atmosphere so that the octopus could survive its voyage into unfamiliarity. We easily imagine how weird our world must have seemed to the octopus whilst being reminded of how “wonderful” such a creature is from our point of view.
The involvement of others, not only in the consumption but also the production of his work, marks Shimabuku out as a major figure in the recent development of relational art practice. He has produced many events, interventions and performances that are very open to audiences, to the point that they become active participants. When the Earth Turned to Sea (2002) requires dozens of volunteers to fly Chinese fish kites, the result is a shoal of fish in the sky – or a flock of fish – and so the world is turned upside down. Passing through the rubber band (2000), similarly invites gallery visitors to step through the stretching loops, a simple act of fun and wonder via the most modest of means, as in all of his works the marvellous emerges from the mundane.
The exhibition is complementary to and produced in partnership with Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK and Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland.
Shimabuku (1969, born in Kobe, Japan) lives and works in Berlin. Selected solo exhibitions include: Sea and Flowers, Barbara Wien Wilma Lukatsch, Berlin; City in the sea, Air de Paris, Paris; Flying Me, Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland (2014); Something that Floats/Something that Sinks, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK and Noto, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan (2013); Leaves Swim, Nogueras Blanchard, Barcelona, Spain (2012); Man should try to avoid contact with alien life forms, Centre international d’art et du paysage de l’Île de Vassivière, Vassivière, France; On the water, CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux (2011); The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2009); DAAD galerie, Berlin; Wilkinson Gallery (2007); Swansea Jack Memorial Dog Swimming Competition, Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea (2003); Then, I Decided To Give a Tour of Tokyo To the Octopus From Akashi, Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris (2002); America, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan (1994).
He has participated in several group exhibitions including: The Great Acceleration, Taipei Biennial , Taipei Fine Arts Museum (2014); Aquatopia, Tate St. Ives and Nottingham Contemporary, UK; Re: emerge, Sharjah Biennial 11, UAE (2013); Mount Fuji does not exist, Frac Île de France – Le Plateau, Paris (2012); Impossible Community, Moscow Museum of Modern Art; Kaza Ana/Air Hole: Another Conceptualism from Asia, The National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan; International Triennale of Contemporary Art, Yokohama (2011); Eating the Universe: Food in Art, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Germany (2009); Between Art and Life, Centre d’Art Contemporain, Genève, Switzerland; Experimenta FOLKLORE, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Germany (2008); Beautiful New World: Contemporary Visual Culture from Japan, Long March Project, Beijing, China; How to live together, MAC: Museo de Arte, Belo Horizonte, Brazil (2007); How to live together, 27th Bienal de São Paulo; Berlin-Tokyo Tokyo-Berlin, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; International 06, Liverpool Biennial, Liverpool (2006); Expat-Art Centre, ICA, London + Musee de Art Contemporain, Lyon, France (2004); Utopia Station, 50th Venice Biennale, Venice (2003); Facts of Life, Hayward Gallery, London (2001); Elysian Fields, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2000); Space, Witte de With, Rotterdam (1999); Everyday, 11th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (1998). Shimabuku is represented by NoguerasBlanchard Gallery, Barcelona and Madrid; Air de Paris galerie de’art contemporain, Paris and Barbara Wien Wilma Lukatsch Gallery, Berlin.MORE
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition in Canada of work by the renowned British artist Mike Nelson. Comprising two significant new commissions, the exhibition includes an ambitious series of sculptures produced in partnership with The Power Plant in Toronto, and a new photographic work made in association with the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, its starting point family photographs taken between 1957 and 1972 by the distinguished Canadian
anthropologist Dr. Wilson Duff.
Nelson is best-known for his labyrinthine architectural installations that unfold as narrative structures, where the viewer moves through rooms like a reader turns pages in a novel. These immersive environments are often seemingly abandoned, devoid of figures, yet imagining the unseen occupants of these intricate spaces is central to the viewer’s experience. For I, IMPOSTOR, Nelson’s major work for the 54th Venice Biennale (2011), much of the elaborate space appeared vacated, with the exception of a small room where lines of drying black and white photographs hung from wires that crisscrossed the ceiling. These images documented a seventeenth century caravanserai, photographed within the very building that housed a previous installation by Nelson during the 2003 Istanbul Biennale. The darkrooms within the Venice piece were a reconstruction of those adapted ‘found’ spaces in the Eminönü district of Istanbul, the architecture within the British Pavilion a disjointed facsimile from memory and from the photographs of the caravanserai. Visualizing this ghostly photographer supposedly moving through the same space as the viewer, simultaneously suggested the architecture as narrative, but confused time and space; a shift of cities and decades shadowing personal and world histories. It presented a fractured and multi-layered narrative, a set of atmospheres that similarly inform Nelson’s discrete sculptural works.
While his cultural references are broad, touching on particular moments in science-fiction, literature and the Beat era, much of Nelson’s work can be linked through an archetypal figure of the lone wanderer. For the Contemporary Art Gallery, Nelson revisits ideas and forms first seen in The Amnesiacs, a serial project begun in 1996, which references a narrative involving an imaginary cast of characters — a group of ‘outsiders’ to the mainstream who uncannily resemble a disembodied late twentieth century biker gang, albeit without bikes. These quintessential outlaws of myth and literature, as depicted in the popular imagination of North America, are paralleled here with another favourite genre; that of the hunter or fur trader, exploring both groups’ economic underpinning of these romantic façades, and the resulting conflicts involved in the expansion of territory.
In this new work it is as if a beachcomber has gathered material from the ocean, imagined by Nelson as a gigantic intelligent entity, much like that of Lem’s planet ‘Solaris’, sifting the debris as a means to uncover truths about contemporary culture and our place within it. The roving characters, The Amnesiacs, have come together as interpreters, deciphering the collected material by creating assemblages akin to some form of disjointed memory or flashback, that when brought together may effect communication or reveal hidden meaning, the potential for a new and unified system of understanding. Nelson originally developed these thoughts after the unexpected death of his friend and collaborator, Erlend Williamson. In 1996 he had fallen to his death whilst climbing in the Scottish Highlands, at the time that Nelson was working on his first incarnation of what would become The Amnesiacs. Williamson, an artist and mountaineer whose family ancestry was of Orcadian descent, will contribute again; this time parts of his own narrative, and the very materials that surrounded him — those that remain present in his absence — will be woven into the fabric of the work.
Each of the new works is derived from the Canadian landscape: one is quite literally built with flotsam and jetsam collected off local shores, while the other re-imagines it. The second new piece is a sequence of projected 35mm slides produced during recent road trips across British Columbia and into Alberta, images that appear out of time. Collectively they trace another movement across the landscape as well as capture momentary pauses, underlining human interventions to the land. Nelson’s interest in the photographic depiction of the Canadian landscape came through seeing a series of slides from Dr. Wilson Duff’s family trips across the province, presented at the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. As an anthropologist Duff was dedicated to understanding North West Coast cultures, even such private holidays were spent viewing aboriginal festivals or visiting the workshops of totem pole carvers. These images resonated with Nelson as much as the objects in the museum, as a language to be unraveled. They were of a time and place, but already displaced. In relation to this, Nelson has made a work that talks about the land itself and the artistic traditions inherent within it, especially those borne out of North America in the twentieth century and their re-translation as part of a British oeuvre. Nelson unearths the possible re-reading of such activities as cultural imperialism within both strands of the movement — an accusation that could ultimately be reflected within the activities of the artist himself.
Mike Nelson is represented by 303 Gallery, New York; Galleria Franco Noero, Turin; Matt’s Gallery, London; and neugerriemschneider, Berlin.
We acknowledge the generous support of Rick Erickson and Donna Partridge, Jane Irwin and Ross Hill, and Randy and Julia Heward.
With thanks to the Erlend Williamson Art Foundation.MORE
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first exhibition of work by Polish artist Monika Sosnowka in Canada. Best known for her ambitious architectural and sculptural installations which simultaneously embrace and resist the spaces they occupy, Sosnowska’s exhibition obliquely references her hometown of Warsaw and the economic shift that has occurred since the collapse of communism in 1989 to the present day. Characteristically the artist’s sculptures recall familiar objects transformed in some way – dysfunctional stairways that join one floor to the other but to no purpose or large-scale metal cubes and girder structures twisted and wedged into existing gallery spaces.
At the Contemporary Art Gallery we present a series of new painted steel sculptures, redolent of broken market vendor stands, referencing actual forms salvaged from Jarmark Europa Stadium, originally the site of a large market that sold everything from imitation Nike training shoes to pirated CDs and DVDs. The market opened with the onset of capitalism and ended last year when the stadium was destroyed to make way for a new national stadium that was built in time to host Euro 2012. Collectively these series of objects evoke a sense of architecture, yet through absence they poignantly suggest that as with all structures we inhabit or that give form to our daily routines, social space is subject to change over time.
This exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, which will exhibit the works from September 28 – November 24, 2013.
Sosnowska is represented by Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne; Hauser and Wirth, Zurich, London and New York; Kurimanzutto, Mexico City and The Modern Institute, Glasgow.MORE
This was the first solo exhibition in Canada for Shanghai based artist Xu Zhen who has emerged as one of the most inventive and provocative artists working in China today. A co-founder in 1998 of the influential artist-run space BizArt Art Center, he has also organized seminal exhibitions including Art for Sale (1999) staged at a Shanghai shopping mall. His work is characterized by tackling authoritarian gestures and clichés of human ambition often with a wry sense of humour that counters any notion of value.
The Contemporary Art Gallery presented an installation, a cluster of small sculptural pieces, slightly-larger-than-life-size replicas of a mosquito. At first glance the gallery room appeared empty and yet closer inspection revealed the space occupied by insects which appeared to be sucking blood from the building, glowing red as they drink in the nutrition needed. This creature is an effective symbol and with context vital to meaning, Xu Zhen offers a subtle and witty take on cultural politics.MORE
American Leg was Josephine Meckseper’s first exhibition in Canada. For the site-specific work, Meckseper created eight self-contained window treatments in the Contemporary Art Gallery’s street-front vitrines. Originally intended for retail, these window spaces served as ready-made structures for Meckseper’s ongoing investigation into consumer society and archaeology of the present.
Meckseper’s work unites modernism with the formal language of commercial display, combining mass-produced objects with images and artifacts of recent historical and political events. Consumerism as an unrelenting presence in our daily lives is reflected in the artist’s highly polished sculptural installations which offer a critique of capitalist economy and lay bare some of its contradictions.
In her installation for the CAG, she refined each window into austere compositions of single sculptures centred against a black background. A repeated vertical text graphically set in a typeface referencing German Jugendstil added a further critical dimension as well as carried a personal resonance for Meckseper. The text’s aesthetic was appropriated from elements of early 20th Jugendstil architecture in Worpswede, Germany where her great great uncle, Heinrich Vogeler lead a utopian artist movement. Meckseper’s connection of contemporary consumer culture to Jugendstil is its development as a form of aesthetic and political resistance to the mainstream.MORE
This was the first solo exhibition in Canada of work by Los Angeles based artist Matthew Monahan. The survey for the first time brought together three distinct phases of his practice: early works using drywall, more recent pieces from the series utilizing large sheets of glass and industrial ratchet straps more usually seen securing heavy loads, and these combined with new works in cast bronze often standing atop columns or structures made from materials found in the foundry – bricks from smelting ovens, large sheets of metal. Running throughout was Monahan’s interest in the interplay between two and three dimensions, between drawing and materiality, infused with personal mythology and a self-reflective look at the conventions of museum display.
Selected from work made during the past eight years, Monahan’s figurative sculptures and drawings evoke artifacts from another time or era. With their battered, weathered surfaces and contorted, fragmented bodies, they could be ancient totemic figurines, tribal masks or chunks of Greco-Roman statuary. But instead of marble, wood or stone, Monahan imbues less weighty materials like Styrofoam, wax and paper with a sense of substance, meaning and artificial patina. Some figures perch on rectangular pedestals of unfinished drywall, whose raw edges and exposed fixings interrupt any impulse toward preciousness; others are contained within glass cases simultaneously acting as container, plinth and discrete element within the overall sculptural composition.
This was the first exhibition in Canada of work by British artist Robert Orchardson. Inspired by science fiction films and the work of architects and designers who engage with ways of thinking about the future, Orchardson is all too aware of the inherent paradox in visualizing the unknown, any attempt immediately foiled as it becomes instantly familiar. In setting out to imagine ‘things to come’, such endeavours unavoidably speak to us of the here and now. For Orchardson, his artistic proposition compels us to reassess utopias of the past, this revisiting however more than a mere act of longing. Instead it implies a restaging of unfulfilled possibilities as he grapples with fresh meaning and opportunity.
Approached through a triangular opening at the CAG, the wall construction pervaded the whole gallery, reinforcing the deliberate sense of entering another world. Against this, the series of coloured objects resemble the amorphous motifs that feature in paintings by surrealist artist Yves Tanguy. The result was an environment that speaks of competing implications of potential and redundancy; abstraction versus figuration; the immediate present as opposed to somewhere else.MORE
The Contemporary Art Gallery presented the exhibition Endless Renovation an evolving installation by Corin Sworn, which combined found objects and texts, light and shadows, storytelling and speculation. With this work, Sworn transformed the Alvin Balkind Gallery into a set animated by audio and images.MORE
In 2011 the Contemporary Art Gallery presented Flesh and Blood, a major touring exhibition of recent work by Canadian artist Shary Boyle. The exhibition, curated by Louise Déry, director of the Galerie de l’UQAM, was launched at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, travelled to the Galerie de l’UQAM, in Montreal and then to its final presentation in Vancouver. The installation at the Contemporary Art Gallery featured three new works by Boyle exclusive to Vancouver.
Flesh and Blood reflected the artist’s vision and versatility and included drawing, painting and porcelains, creating an installation that drew upon ancient mythology, fiction and fantasy in an exploration of psychological and emotional conditions.
A number of characteristics are key to understanding Boyle’s work: stylistic contract and ornamental excess, the mechanisms of seduction, an evocation of a weird, theatricality of subject and manifestation of social politics. Her examinations of scenes and subject matter associated with childhood and adolescence, in turn reference surrealist landscapes, fairytales, cartoons and illustrated novels that recall fantastic worlds or prophetic futures.MORE
Roy Arden is well known for his austere photographs of Vancouver’s cityscape. His solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery shed light on the other aspect of his practice which is centred on found images, collage and the archive. Entitled UNDERTHESUN, the exhibition commanded all three of the Contemporary Art Gallery’s exhibition spaces, including its two galleries and the windows vitrines and a pictorial artist’s publication was produced. The exhibition included works in multiple media including; drawing, painting, collage and digital collage, video and sculpture.
Whether in his online work, artist’s blog and digital collage or his intimate handmade collages, Arden ‘s incessant digging through the image archive always seems focused on finding the root causes for our present condition. Arden’s subject as always is history and specifically, modernity. His recent adventure with multiple media seems like a search for new diagnostic tools that can offer him insights that could not be revealed through photography alone.MORE
The Contemporary Art Gallery opened a unique group exhibition that brought together six British Colombia artists who use the journey as a way to engage with landscape traditions. In Sentimental Journey, all the artists went on expeditions, traversing the landscape to collect inspiration and gather materials to document their experiences. The works in Sentimental Journey were both real and fictive representations of often undetermined treks. Many of the works had an optimism that was tied to the landscape, the desire to be outside and the character of the artist/wanderer.
The art works in this context brought forward the tight relation between the journey and its presentation, embracing the romance of the journey while also recontextualizing and privileging the terms of storytelling in order to question sentimentality. Sentimental Journey captured sentiments of eighteenth and nineteenth century Romanticism. Most of the artists in the exhibition kept true to this tradition, using the journey as their primary source of inspiration, translating their journeys materially to create a new experience in its own right. As many of the works in the exhibition showed us, our visual fields are saturated with representations of landscapes, but here the artist’s to reinvigorate our perception of nature through their distinctive working methods.MORE
“Please Do Not Touch the Artwork,” is a familiar museum rule. Danish artist Jeppe Hein rendered it glowing red neon. Placed in one of the Contemporary Art Gallery’s street front windows, it confronted the gallery visitor before they had entered the space, and set the tone for what was to come.
For Jeppe Hein’s first exhibition in Canada, he presented three works that physically addressed the viewer’s relation to the art object. Hein’s work has been situated within an extended lineage of Minimalism. It is defined by its close examination of the formal and spatial concerns of the Minimalists as a sincere attempt to develop their concerns and reinvigorate a discourse, not for its historical relevance, but as a still vital energy for contemporary sculptural thought. His two works for the gallery space challenged the convention of the sculpture as a static object. Each offered an opportunity for viewers to experience art outside of the traditional passive role of the art viewer. Both pieces sat still and silent until they were engaged by audiences who, in viewing the artwork, triggered outbursts off sound and movement.MORE
In all of his sculptural installations, Samuel Roy-Bois sets the viewer in motion or, more accurately, makes the viewer aware of their movements. He may guide you to walk across a raised floor that in response amplifies your footsteps, or to walk in circles to look into the window of a rotating room. The artist’s simple directions ground the body of the viewer in space and in relation to material reality. For his solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Roy-Bois drew a map that should be followed with all the expectations of a traveler on a quest. He created a new work that took the viewer through a passageway into a dark place to find a treasure. To set the stage for this journey, the artist used the gallery’s street front windows to transform a common household building material into an overall colour-field.
Roy-Bois is originally from Quebec City and is currently living in Vancouver. His installations have been shown across Canada and internationally, most recently in Divertissements at Point ephémère in Paris, 2007; Improbable and ridiculous at Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2005; and Faire l’independence at Quartier éphémère in Montréal, 2005.
For over 25 years, FASTWÜRMS, a collaborative art team formed in 1979 by Kim Kozzi and Dai Skuse, have been durable generators of DIY culture in Toronto and have been able to maintain a diverse and dedicated audience, and a distinct lineage of imitators and followers. They have built a practice that collides the rigour of conceptual art with pagan rituals and popular aesthetics, creating a fresh language of their own where they are alien witches who make films, video, installations, performances and teach at the University of Guelph, Ontario. With a sobering humor and a love of their community they have produced large public commissions and participated in the 2006 Sao Paulo Biennial. FASTWÜRMS have produced solo projects in Toronto’s many Queen Street West galleries and spaces, including Paul Petro Contemporary Art, X Space, the Gladstone Hotel, the late ZsaZsa Gallery, as well as internationally, including Southern Exposure Gallery (San Francisco), Osaka 90 (Osaka, Japan), Canadian Cultural Centre (Rome), Seoul Museum of Contemporary Art (Korea), Ideal Copy Office (Kyoto, Japan), and in La IV Bienalle de Poesia Visual (Zapata Subway Station, Mexico City).MORE
Jerry Pethick (born London ON 1935, died Hornby Island BC, 2003) was an artist whose work probed the historical and conceptual cross-pollination of ideas about the nature of visual experience with scientific and technological inquiry into optics. He was a pioneer in the field of holography and much of his early work took the form of optical-sculptural bricolage. Since the early 1970s his work often took the form of quasi-sculptural “arrays” – compositions of serial photographs and Fresnel lenses that generated ethereal three-dimensional images. Such arrays were often accompanied by sculptural elements that served to extend the “virtual” aspect of the images into the “real” space of the viewer.
Pethick was a tireless researcher into the early history of photographic imaging technologies. (His notebooks and essays make mention of Edison, principally his efforts to claim the invention of the motion picture camera for himself, though he liberally adopted the work of many others.) On the basis of these writings, one might speculate that Pethick’s arrays were inspired by the ganged cameras developed by Auguste Le Prince, Eduard Muybridge and Jules-Etienne Maray. One of Pethick’s earliest arrays is featured in this installation.
Geoffrey Farmer’s installation The Blacking Factory was comprised of three interrelated works: a prop newspaper box, a sculptural installation in the form of a large truck trailer and a film work depicting a window of the Contemporary Art Gallery shattering from an explosive concussion. With these works Farmer utilized the technological expertise of the film industry to create analogies between increasingly sophisticated mechanics of display and the artifice behind the social production of meaning and value. The truck trailer was fabricated in mimicry of those used by movie production companies—an increasingly common sight on the streets of Vancouver—and alluded to the transportation of such necessities as props, lighting systems and costumes necessary to the creation of illusions. The film work rehearsed a set piece found in a wide spectrum of Hollywood films—from action-adventure to thriller—and utilized the unexpectedness of this violent genre staple within and about the gallery to prompt reflection about the context of our perception.MORE
Pae White made particular reference to the space-defining mobiles of Alexander Calder, and to the Vera designs for Marrimekko fabrics from the 1960’s, in order to exploit the history of biomorphic abstraction and its role in the transformation of “high art” concepts into “disposable” stylistic trends. Her colour and light-infused sculptures are often disposable, constructed of paper and string, while at other times her work might be realized in ephemeral forms, as magazine advertisements or shopping bags. This was the first exhibition of her work in Vancouver.MORE
In both over-sized wall-drawings and miniature sculptures, Scottish-born, New York-based artist Jill Henderson’s funky bog creatures ooze through the seams of ordinary architectural space. Her installation in the gallery’s street level windows, Highwideshallow, both described the physical dimensions of the windows and repopulated the neighborhood with her colorful homunculi.MORE
In collaboration with the Charles H. Scott Gallery, CAG presented an exhibition of Cai Guo-Qiang, one of China’s most internationally recognized artists. His works insert traditional Chinese ideas and materials into contemporary Western idioms, contrasting the values of these disparate cultural systems. His work for the CAG began with a four-day performance in Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden, an authentic full-scale classical Chinese garden. Fog machines were installed in this garden, creating a misty landscape that was painted on site by four traditional ink-brush painters. The paintings were displayed subsequently in the Binning Gallery, alongside an additional work created collaboratively by all five artists.MORE
The work of Germaine Koh marries conceptual strategies with mundane everyday motifs and actions. For her first solo exhibition in Vancouver she produced two works. Prayers , translated keyboard strokes from the CAG’s office computers into smoke signals outside the gallery. …  rained thousands of ball bearings onto the floor of the Balkind Gallery from tracks slung across its ceiling.MORE
The work in Pathology was concerned with domestic technologies as well as urban planning, and how the two relate to a desire for health, pleasure and the prolongation of life. The exhibition consisted of various works that were connected by their minimal aesthetic, architectural references, and everyday use-value. The centrepiece consisted of a cluster of more than sixty clean-mist humidifiers and negative-air ionizers. Theoretically, these machines created a “charged” atmosphere that improved the way we feel. Their clean, almost abstract, design was suggestively architectural, and Liu’s arrangement of these machines mimicked an architecture model of urban design. Humidifiers and ionizers are promoted as preventing everything from parched sinuses to furniture damage, and as most users lack an understanding of the technological principles, these “machines for improved living” have a psychological function as much as they have a physical one. Also in the exhibition were loosely-hung samples of wallpaper which Liu had imprinted with Rorschach-like patterns derived from an overhead view of Levittown, an early post-war example of ideal suburban planning. Pathology was An Te Liu’s first solo exhibition.MORE
Karol Sienkiewicz is a Polish art critic and art historian, currently based in Vancouver. He has contributed essays and reviews to numerous publications, including dwutygodnik, Spike, Camera
Austria, Art Agenda and more recently Decoy and Canadian Art. Together with Kasia Redzisz, he has just published Świadomość (Neue Bieriemiennost), the group involving artists such as Miroslaw Balka active in Warsaw during the 1980s. He is currently working on a new publication focusing on the ‘critical artists’ in Warsaw in 1990s, placing their work in the context of recent Polish transformation. Sienkiewicz’s talk considered Warsaw’s 10th-Anniversary Stadium as seen through the lens of contemporary art, the site serving as a transient symbol of historic changes, economic transformation and social relations and a specific reference for Sosnowska’s sculptures exhibited at the Contemporary Art Gallery.
On my first day as a Curatorial Intern volunteering at the CAG consisted of, amongst other things, observing and assisting in the meticulous repacking of fifteen rulers, two balls of string, a wooden broom, one big ball of blue tape and one pint-sized tennis court. I shadowed and assisted Assistant Curator Jas Lally as she carefully packed these objects as part of the de-installation of the exhibition by John Wood and Paul Harrison, I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know It.
Over the course of three days I observed and assisted as I Didn’t Know I Didn’t Know It was photographed, dusted, taken apart into its smallest components, and packed neatly away exactly as it had been received three months prior. I learned that the process includes: noting museum wax residue, dust accumulation and any small changes made to the works in the condition reports. Finally, all the pieces were placed back in their respective packaging (with careful attention in every strip of packing tape!). Using highly honed Tetris skills, delicately lifting and sliding the works, they were placed in formation in the crate. The gallery was swept clean, and the walls painted. John Wood and Paul Harrison had officially left the building.
I learned a lot on my first de-installation and seeing the removal of the works from the gallery from start to finish was an eye-opening experience. Although the end of the exhibition was bittersweet, the satisfaction of seeing the packing up the show, scrupulously recording and photographing it, and seeing the objects off to their next home proved very satisfying. As the crates were wheeled out the door, the anticipation of receiving the work of upcoming artist, Jochen Lempert, settled in. Witnessing the life cycle process of an exhibition was nothing short of a cathartic experience! Don’t worry if you missed out on the exhibition as their window work Some Words Some More Words is still on display until August 28.
– Brennagh BaileyMORE
Camille Norment and Experimental Music Unit – Songs for Glass Island, was presented on Saturday, April 9, 2016, at Pyatt Hall, VSO School of Music. It was an engaging, performative sound work with Norwegian/US artist/musician Norment collaborating with Victoria’s Experimental Music Unit: Tina Pearson, George Tzanetakis, and Paul Walde.
It is intriguing that their collaborative sonic exploration departed from Robert Smithson’s unrealized earthwork project for Southwest BC, Glass Island (or Island of Broken Glass), proposed shortly before he created the famous (or is it infamous?) Spiral Jetty. Smithson’s project to cover an islet in the Strait of Georgia with crushed glass was drowned by the noisy objections of environmentalists, yet it’s echoes live on through a completely different type of (sonic) exploration. So, how does one project live through the failure of another?
A highlight of Norment and EMU’s event was our introduction to the glass armonica, a rare and legendary instrument dating back to the eighteenth century that uses glass, water and fingertips to create otherworldly sounds. These tuned glass “singing bowls” reputedly have healing properties, leading to reactions from the listener that vary from mesmerized to fearful, and even to a one-time ban on its use … strange but true! Mozart has even penned works for this enchanting instrument, and it’s other worldly sounds have accompanied music by contemporary musicians such as Linda Ronstadt, David Gilmour and Björk.
In an interview published in e-flux about her recent exhibition at the 2015 Venice Biennale, Norment touched on her fascination with the powers of sound: “I am interested in how music has long been used to facilitate both the forging and transgressing of cultural norms. Sound permeates all borders. Throughout history, fear has been associated with the paradoxical effects music has on the body and mind, and its power as a reward-giving de-centraliser of control.”
Norment’s work has been described as visceral and poetic. From my personal perspective, much of my graduate research at SFU explores the human’s phenomenological relationship with the world, how our sensual experience with the surrounding environment plays a key role in defining who, and what, we are. Moreover, from an aural perspective, it is important to recognize that our location in the sonic environment is critical to our understanding and perception of it. I enjoyed exploring both of these concepts, and more, at Norment’s and EMU’s concert, immersing myself into the spellbinding soundscape.
– Jorma Kujala
Songs for Glass Island was presented by the CAG in partnership with LaSaM Music, Victoria and is supported by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway through its program for International Support, The Canada Council for the Arts, The University of Victoria through its Distinguished Women Scholars Fund, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts and the Department of Visual Arts.MORE
A ‘behind the scenes’ report by CAG curatorial intern April Thompson.
Regardless of your familiarity with Ryan Gander’s work, if you have visited his current exhibition Make every show like it’s your last, you will have seen how the CAG can pull-off a show that contains an eclectic assortment of mixed mediums. A quick Google search of Gander’s practice will show you just how diverse his art ‘objects’ can be – ‘fictional products’ that can range from an Adidas tracksuit worn by Gallery Attendants to a gallery exhibition that cannot be entered. Indeed, it is Gander’s intention to evade any kind of predictability in his work and this means avoiding the ‘sedentary’ fixation on a specific medium. But what does this eclecticism entail for behind-the-scenes operations and those who are involved with the psychical realization of a show on Gander’s work? Gander’s studio in London alone attests to the immense logistical and engineering aspects that go behind every piece. Having been present for the install of the current Ryan Gander exhibition, I thought I would write about some of the unusual things I learned long the way.
Often when I look at an object in a touring exhibition, I wonder about its past life. What has the object seen and what stories could it tell. These thoughts were accentuated upon un-packing Magnus Opus, Ryan Gander’s artwork of animatronic eyes which are installed within the gallery wall. There was an uncanny sensation to opening the crate and finding two cartoon-like eyes, rolled up as if the object had been sleeping during its trans-Atlantic voyage. Installing the work into the CAG involved the construction of an artificial box-like wall which Magnus Opus could be placed in and wired up. While the wiring of the object took some time and intricate manoeuvring, it was a success to see the piece taking viewers by surprise as it came to life in the gallery space during the opening night.
If the I is… sculptures elicit a sense of mystery by appropriating the shape of objects covered up, then their arrival to the CAG in three 8 x 5 feet wooden crates only added to this suspenseful play on obstructed representation. Receiving these artworks that were shipped from the United Kingdom felt a lot like Christmas – though you can’ t touch or play with them. Instead, one must scrutinize their appearance for any sign of deterioration. Once the crates were half-opened and placed within the gallery, a condition report was conducted prior the object being lowered to its place on the gallery floor. Adorned with our white gloves, Assistant Curator, Jas Lally and I carried out our inspection – lightly brushing the surface of these resin marble structures. There is something that occurs during this process of touch. It is as if the curiousness of wanting to touch – of wanting to obtain the knowledge of how something feels – is profoundly disappointing. I don’t mean disappointing in that it lessens the enjoyment of the art object. What I mean is that, once you acquire that knowledge as to how something feels there is no going back. One cannot imagine other possibilities for what it might feel like. The same occurs from reading the label which lists exactly what objects contributed to the sculptures formation. When I researched these structures they seemed like impermeable, heavy classical marble things that would be cold and solid to touch. Yet, even in my white gloves, I felt that the material was lighter than I expected, hollow and less impenetrable. Thinking about this contrast between my expectations and my actual handling of the work, I began to appreciate even more the ways in which Gander plays with suspending our knowledge. The I is … series is powerful in that it juxtaposes what began as light playful creativity in order for these structures to be conceived and built by his daughter, with the ‘serious’ classical, high art materials and appearance of the marble sculpture object.
These vignettes behind the CAG install are only a snippet of the expansive organizational systems in place in order for Gander’s work to operate the way it does. Having witnessed first-hand the communications, interchanges and logistics that go behind putting on a show of Gander’s work, I have new found appreciation for what his work achieves. Gander’s work enables us to exist within a temporary moment of suspended knowledge, and in that moment we catch a glimpse of what it was like to be a child. The fact that so much organization and planning goes behind making this occur gives his work a special quality. It is at once intricate and complex, while also sweeping us up in what is often a simple curiosity.
– April ThompsonMORE
Located near to the gallery entrance, Michelangelo’s Place is the final version in a series of marble benches Bool has recently produced. The sculpture references the benches found circling the elevated Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence, Italy built in 1869 to showcase copies of Michelangelo’s most famous works and to provide a stunning panoramic view of the city. Working in Vancouver for three weeks prior to the opening, Bool reproduced the exact graffiti that covers some of the benches.
Read on for a behind-the-scenes report by CAG Program Assistant, Jas Lally on the delicate installation of the new sculptural commission Michelangelo’s Place by Berlin-based, Comox, BC born artist Shannon Bool:
On the day of the installation of Michelangelo’s Place, Shannon and I had many phone calls back and forth with each other trying to come up with a Plan B, because it had been raining ALL DAY! We were lucky that a few hours before the install the sun came out and we were able to prep the dry ground – who knew Bianca Carrara marble was such a finicky material.
When the pieces arrived, the bench looked much bigger than I thought it was going to be. The four legs were easy to carry and place in front of the CAG, but when it came to the bench top things got a little more tricky. The top had to be balanced on a dolly that looked like a unicycle! I could see Shannon and assistant Teal holding onto the sides of the bench top for dear life as it was steered down the sidewalk with passerby’s giving us very curious looks.With the bench legs positioned in the perfect spot the top was affixed, then with the right amount of glue the job was done. I was surprised how easily and quickly all the pieces came together.
The bench has been installed for a week now and visitors have been engaging with the bench by taking a moment to sit on it and read some of the one hundred year old Italian graffiti. Even all the little furry friends in the neighbourhood have been giving the bench curious sniffs!If you haven’t already, stop by and take a moment to sit on the bench and visit also Julia Dault’s exhibition Blame It On the Rain!
– Jas LallyMORE
Brooklyn based artist and Burrard Marina Field House Studio artist-in-residence, Marie Lorenz has arrived back in Vancouver and has got to work right away on building her handmade driftwood boat.
Check out the images above of her progress so far.
The first image is the first step in the process, it is of the frame that the boat will be built on and is a marker or guide for the whole shape of the boat. Lorenz pre-made this frame and shipped it from New York in order to assemble it here. This is the same boat frame that was used to build the boat she rowed at the Frieze Art Fair in NYC in early May (see pictures here and above). The piece of driftwood, that is seen in the photos on top of the frame, will become the bow of the boat – this is first piece of the actual boat – she will be using found driftwood from beaches in the lower mainland to make the rest, stay tuned for more updates on the building process and launch.MORE
Thanks to all who attended Catherine Soussloff’s engaging discussion last Tuesday. She brought together the theoretical concepts of Walter Benjamin’s writings and thoughts in relation to Matthew Monahan’s work. It was a successful start to the many conversations the CAG will be hosting with cultural and critical producers in the coming weeks for our “Feedback Series.”
Please join us again next Tuesday May 15 at 7pm, for Anthropologist, curator and UBC professor Nicky Levell’s discussion entitled, “Art Through Anthropology.” She will be responding to Monahan’s work through the interdisciplinary folds of anthropology, theoretical museology, material culture and critical curatorial studies. Looking forward to seeing you then!
Beginning May 25 through September 2 2012, Josephine Meckseper will create eight new works for the window vitrines on the CAG’s exterior. Currently based in New York, this will be Meckseper’s first exhibition in Canada. Utilizing these spaces as a site that mimics a commercial display, her work invites a critique of the aesthetic and political connotations of the objects presented within. The juxtapositions of materials and objects in her installations compose a kind of narrative that challenge the world of advertising and consumer culture.
Below is an interview with Josephine Meckseper and Flavin Judd from Bomb Magazine speaking about her work and practice.
Karina Irvine – Curatorial InternMORE
Published on the occasion of the exhibition Kim Beom - Objects Being Taught They Are Nothing But Tools, Nov 14, 2010 to March 6, 2011 at the Cleveland Art Museum, USA. Includes an essay by Paola Morsiani.
"With an expressive vocabulary that relies on deadpan humor, absurdist enunciation, poetry and childlike imagery, the art of Kim Beom investigates our perception of the world by bringing reality and imagination closer together. Kim Beom: Objects Being Taught They Are Nothing But Tools, continues a tradition at The Cleveland Museum of Art of organizing small-scale monographic exhibitions on the art of living artists whose work has come to maturity. This book is a monograph of that exhibition."MORE
Published by Walther König, Köln
Text by Aileen Burns, Johan Lundh, Rebecca May Marston.
Produced in collaboration with Frac Île de France — Le Plateau, Paris; Manchester Art Gallery, UK; Centre for Contemporary Art, Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland; OK Offenes Kulturhaus/ Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, Austria; Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado and Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. And in collaboration with Lisson Gallery, London, Milan and New York; Esther Schipper/Johnen Galerie, Berlin; gb agency, Paris; and TARO NASU, Tokyo.
The meticulously researched projects of British artist Ryan Gander (born 1976), realized in a gamut of media, have included such conceptual gestures as an invented word, a chess set, a television script and a children's book. This substantial volume surveys his diverse oeuvre.
This expansive 288 page publication is available for the special exhibition price of $50.MORE
Edited by Rachel Hooper, Gail Kirkpatrick, Heike Munder. Text by Sylvère Lotringer.
In her photography, videos and installations, Josephine Meckseper (born 1964) sets images of political activism—photographs of demonstrations, newspaper cuttings—against twinkling consumer goods and advertising motifs. This publication concentrates on a new series of works, such as the installation Ten High (2007) in which silver mannequins bear anti-war slogans.
This publication was produced to coincide with Supernatural, an exhibition curated by Roy Arden featuring the work of Neil Campbell and Beau Dick, 12 March to 25 April 2004 at the Contemporary Art Gallery.
The work of these two artists would at first appear to be quite different. However, Supernatural proposes that we look beyond the obvious differences and examine some commonalities of intention, technique, and effect. In part, Supernatural aims to question the aesthetic apartheid that usually consigns First Nations art to the anthropological museum, providing an opportunity for serious consideration of the relationships between cultures and their traditions.MORE
This exhibition catalogue documents James Carl's 2003 exhibition at the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, and Open Space, Victoria. The publication includes an essay by Robin Peck, and Christina Ritchie's interview with the artist. The publication also includes a text contribution from Margrét H. Blöndal, a biography, and a number of exceptional full-page colour images of the artworks and installations.MORE
This brochure accompanied the exhibition 'New Sculptural Works', January 4 to 29, 1988. Includes an essay by Merike Talve.
This publication is out of print. It can be viewed at the CAG Abraham Rogatnick reference library, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment.MORE