There are certain perks to working in an art gallery, in the last week I have had the opportunity to enjoy some of those little extras. Last Friday I had the extreme pleasure of attending Kerry James Marshall and Fiona Tan’s opening at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I first encountered Marshall’s works a few years ago through the PBC series Art:21 and was ecstatic to hear that the VAG would be featuring his paintings.
Vancouver is a multicultural city but it does not have a large black community and rarely do I encountered art about black identity in the city. Not only does Marshall’s work help fill this void it addressed it directly. From his first childhood experiences with art museums he was aware of an absence of black representation. Through his understanding of art systems Marshall constructed paintings intended to draw the eye of museums, and that they did. With the art establishments’ recognition and inclusion of his work in their collections his works sussed in both bringing to attention the lack of black representation and critiquing the institutions from within.
Now I must confess that I was so in awe of Kerry James Marshall’s works and having the chance to meet him in person that I did not give Fiona Tan’s exhibition the time or attention that it deserves. I did wander through the second floor exhibit with my colleague Lili Vieira de Carvalho where we had the serenity of having the floor to ourselves. The quiet of the empty galleries heightened the experience of Tan’s moving images, in particular the VAG commissioned piece Rise and Fall. Of the two channel video projection the VAG’s website states
The new work, Rise and Fall, was filmed in Niagara Falls, Belgium and the Netherlands, constructing a narrative of isolation, loss and dislocation by using water as an evocative metaphor for the memories of a woman’s life.
As my background lies primarily in painting I often find video and performance art more challenging. from my brief viewing of Rise and Fall I look forward to returning to give her works the time and reflection they deserve. Be it painting, video or music I always believe that one of the best marks of successful art are the lingering thoughts and images that come back to haunt ones daily routine, Rise and Fall has been haunting me. This video clip does not do the piece justice but I’m struggling to find the way to express the sensitivity, intimacy and isolation of the piece so it will have to suffice. If you have the opportunity, go see it in person.
Audain Prize & VIVA Awards
Marina Roy was one of my instructors at UBC. Although I only had one class with her, third year art theory, her class and carefully selected readings had a tremendous impact on my practice. UBC’s fine arts department is very theory heavy and I struggled with this for some time – my three-year break from UBC was partially due to this inner conflict. It was through Marina’s class that I was able to incorporate theory and stronger conceptual elements into my work in a manner that was comfortable and fitting. I was thrilled and honored to see Marina receive this recognition and congratulate her in person. It was also a treat to see Barrie Jones, my former photography instructor who spent may an afternoon talking me through various photographic challenges.
On a side note, I swapped business cards with Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson! I feel the need to point out that Gregor Robertson is radically increasing Vancouver’s coolness factor. I know that its frivolous and un-important in light of his work with green issues and homelessness in Vancouver but the man oozes charm and confidence. How many city’s can boast such a handsome Mayor whos gone from med-school hopeful to cowboy, to farmer, to Happy Planet organic juice so-founder, to politician? I’ll admit I don’t know the stats but I’m going to guess Vancouver might be the only one.