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.
This exhibition proposed a look beyond obvious differences to examine commonalities of intention, technique, and effect in the distinct work of two artists. Vancouver artist Neil Campbell’s abstract, quasi-geometric paintings are scaled to the human body, and despite their apparent flatness, are performative in nature. They exact a calculated effect on viewer’s bodies and senses. Far from ‘abstract’, the experience is both physical and spiritual.
Beau Dick is a Kwakwaka’wakw chief, one of the most accomplished and talented traditional carvers and artists on the West Coast. Actively engaged in all aspects of Kwakwaka’wakw culture, he is highly regarded as a teacher and mentor. Dick has concentrated on studying and revivifying the traditions of carving, dance and storytelling, and this exhibition presented several of Dick’s masks in the admittedly compromised and alienated context of the Contemporary Art Gallery, far from their purpose integrated into rituals of dance and Potlatches. Dick mitigated these circumstances by preparing a dance for the exhibition opening.
The work of both Campbell and Dick share a basis in bold graphic design and theatrical effect. Supernatural shed light on these parallels while questioning the aesthetic apartheid which separates the conditions under which similar artworks have been (and continue to be) displayed, with the aim of producing a serious dialogue on the relationship between artistic cultures and traditions.