Feeling the Reverberations

Looking for the very best in emerging contemporary art practice? Don’t miss the annual MFA exhibit at the Department of Visual Arts, this year titled Reverberations. A group show featuring the work of four graduating students in the Master of Fine Arts program, Reverberations encompasses a dramatic range of photographic and video works, sculptural installations and intermedia practices.

MFAExhibitionPoster_NicoleReverberations kicks off with a 5-7pm opening reception on Friday May 1. The exhibit then runs 10am-4pm daily to May 8 throughout UVic’s Visual Arts Building.

Reverberations is composed of four solo exhibitions: “The Longing of Stone To Be Lively Again” by Rebecca Bergshoeff; “Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston; “Between There and Now” by Emily Green; and “Pinna” by Ebony Rose. But the pieces on display are really just a fraction of the work produced during their two-year residency.

“We’re looking for artists who want to engage with contemporary art dialogue in an environment that really promotes independently driven, rigorous studio investigation in the service of research creation,” says Visual Arts chair Paul Walde.

“Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston

“Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston

With “The Longing of Stone To Be Lively Again,” Rebecca Bergshoeff playfully engages with trace and process, suspending her works in a state of flux where the instability of material and the oscillation of form between the pictorial and the sculptural, the surface and the edge, present themselves with a certain structural transparency, immediacy and generosity.

Nicole Clouston’s “Autopoiesis” explores the beauty of chemical and biological processes, as well as the value that can be found in these experiments when their ability to communicate specific information is stripped away.

“Between There and Now” by Emily Geen

“Between There and Now” by Emily Geen

In Emily Green’s photographic installation and video works “Between There and Now,” she uses the inherent materiality of glass to abstract and deconstruct recorded images, regenerating them with the peripheral and perceptual nuances of lived experience.

Finally, with Ebony Rose’s “Pinna,”contemplative spaces and subtle interventions proffer a renewed discovery into natural phenomenon and the things that surround us.

UVic’s MFA is an intensive degree predicated on immersive experiential learning combined with critical discussions and one of Canada’s leading Visiting Artist programs.

 

Enter Vodka, exit Masters student

When it comes to their theses, UVic’s graduate students are always looking for something new. Recently, Master of Education student Mike Irvine became the first person to conduct an underwater webcast defence of his thesis. Now, Department of Writing MFA candidate and playwright Leah Callen will present a staged reading of her thesis—the surreal play Enter Vodka—followed by a public defence . . . in front of a live audience.

Dept of Writing MFA Leah Callen

Dept of Writing MFA Leah Callen

“Originally, I asked to do my defence under-vodka, but that was a no-go,” quips Callen. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to have my play read by some lovely actors to an audience. A script doesn’t mean much unless it is heard out loud.”

Enter Vodka marries the personal histories of two dead Russians—Stalin’s daughter and the Romanov Princess Anastasia—both stuck at 17, and trapped inside a melting Fabrage egg. In Enter Vodka, nothing is as red or white as it seems. The 90-minute show begins at 8pm Sunday, April 26, at the Intrepid Theatre Club (1609 Blanshard, at Fisgard) with Callen’s thesis defence to follow. Admission is by donation.

The staged reading—directed by Melissa Taylor, featuring Kathleen O’Reilly & Julie Forrest, and designed by Kerri Flannigan & Colette Habel (all UVic students or alumni)—is part of Intrepid’s monthly New Play Reading Series and in support of the Equity in Theatre Initiative, which continues to celebrate the work of local women playwrights at all stages of their careers. “We are happy to be working with the UVic writing program on this project to bring new plays to life,” says Intrepid artistic director, playwright and celebrated Department of Theatre alumna Janet Munsil.

A scene from Callen's The Daughter of Turpentine

A scene from Callen’s The Daughter of Turpentine

Nervousness aside, Callen is looking forward to the opportunity of having her new play presented in public. “UVic’s Writing program is wonderful, but I felt pretty cloistered as a playwriting graduate student, typing away by myself for two years,” she says. “I’m both excited and terrified by the defence part—but if I can’t stand up to a little public scrutiny, what kind of a playwright am I? My characters have to go through the fire literally, so the least I can do is honour them figuratively with a little Q&A.”

The idea behind the public defence came from Callen’s MFA supervisor—award-winning playwright and Writing professor Kevin Kerr—who wanted her project to step off the page. “A stage play is meant to be seen in performance and, as a writer, it’s important to see the work handled by the other collaborating theatre artists who bring the work to life,” he explains. “The success of the thesis is not only on the page, but also in the way that it inspires other artists to create a living experience for an audience.”

Writing professor & playwright Kevin Kerr

Writing professor & playwright Kevin Kerr

Kerr feels this is an ideal opportunity to showcase the creative academic process. “It seemed to be an exciting way to handle this formal step in Leah’s academic journey,” he says. “It’s potentially an opportunity for an audience to get a first-hand encounter with what a Fine Arts graduate degree entails, and demonstrates the connection between the work done inside a university Fine Arts program and the professional practice the students are working towards.”

Both Kerr and Callen expect it to be more than just a standard theatrical talk-back session. “There will be a different level of stakes attached to the process, as the questions—and answers—are part of the final step for Leah to complete her MFA,” he says. “People witnessing the defence will also be able to contribute to that experience with questions of their own.”

Not that Kerr is out to add extra pressure to an already daunting experience. “Will it be nerve-wracking? Yes—but exciting as well,” he chuckles. “Leah is being supported by a team of artists who are invested in presenting the work to the best of their abilities. Their passion is already a vote of confidence in the candidate’s talent and ability, so Leah’s not alone in this experience.”

Callen—who spent the past two years studying with playwriting faculty Kerr and Joan MacLeod—had her first one-act play, The Daughter of Turpentine, produced by Phoenix Theatre’s SATCo in 2014. She has also reviewed theatre for local online magazines Coastal Spectator and CVV Magazine. A revamped version of Turpentine will reemerge as a full production at the Victoria Fringe Festival in August this year; directed by Phoenix Theatre’s Chase Hiebert, Callen promises it will “literally set the stage on fire.”

enter vodkaThe inspiration for Enter Vodka originally came from a poem she wrote about the Romanovs for Writing professor Tim Lilburn’s poetry workshop. “This story is inspired by the two real women, but it’s a metaphor for the places people visit when wounded, to escape or  revisit pain in ways that are as ritualistic as drinking tea, lighting candles or doing shots of vodka,” explains Callen, who cites the likes of Tennessee Williams, Tomson Highway, Sarah Ruhl, and Wajdi Mouawad as influences.

“Anastasia ordering Svetlana about could easily be modern-day Russia trying to drag Ukraine back home. I’m playing with the historical forces that have led to this moment in time, and in the end their holy kiss has explosive repercussions literally and figuratively. But this is not a biographical play. It is symbolic and thematic of the Russian struggle, but it’s mostly about women trying to find joy and freedom in the face of death.”

Kerr is also looking at this as something of a pilot project. “I’d be interested in continuing to find more opportunities to connect our grad students to the larger theatre community and audience as part of their time here,” he says. “I think it could be an important part of what we can offer as a program.”

In Search Of . . . new artists

Looking for new approaches to art? Come In Search Of at the annual University of Victoria Visual Arts BFA Graduation Exhibit. Kicking off with a 7pm opening reception on Friday, April 17, the exhibit will then run 10am to 6pm daily through to Saturday, April 25, in UVic’s Visual Arts building.

"This is for Youds" by Elizabeth Charters will be seen in the annual BFA exhibit

“This is for Youds” by Elizabeth Charters will be seen in the annual BFA exhibit

With a wide variety of art created by more than 30 graduating BFAs filling UVic’s entire Visual Arts building—including painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, installation and extended media works—In Search Of not only offers a glimpse into the future of visual art but also shows the originality of vision that comes with being mentored by some of Canada’s top contemporary artists.

“I’m really glad that title was picked,” says graduating BFA Kaitlyn Corlett, one of the exhibit’s student organizers. “It’s ambiguous, exploratory and kind of open-ended—which is how a lot of our work has come about over the past few years.”

Kaitlyn Corlett with one of her In Search Of pieces

Kaitlyn Corlett with one of her In Search Of pieces

Corlett notes the actual process of preparing the exhibit—from choosing a title for the show and preparing the catalogue to the selection and preparation of pieces—has been an education in itself. “For a lot of us, it’s our first time having that hands-on experience of developing a show. We’ve been doing critiques and getting work ready for assignments, but this is the first time we’ve been preparing for the public—it’s been a great process to consider an audience beyond our teachers.”

In Search Of is curated by Visual Arts faculty members Sandra Meigs and Robert Youds. “This year’s graduating students once again set an excellent high bar for their contemporary quest to wonder, doubt, and remember, through the practice of art-making,” says Youds, a Visual Arts department alumnus himself. “This exciting exhibition represents a broad and yet challenging display of diversity and passion from each and everyone of these young voices of the future.”

the business of art

Corlett, who is also doing a Business minor and participating in UVic’s Co-operative Education Program, understands the importance of putting her creative practice and critical thinking skills to work after graduation. “I’ve always been an artist but I’ve grown up with a real business side, so I’ve always had that duality between rationality and creation,” she says. “My desire to be professional is driven by my desire to be in the business world too.”

Kaitlyn Corlett installing one of her sculptural pieces

Kaitlyn Corlett installing one of her sculptural pieces

While her own ambition is to become a curator—something she’ll be working towards by traveling and studying art history after graduation—Corlett notes that some of her BFA peers have already been accepted into MFA programs or going on to study in related fields like architecture.

But she’s quick to credits the Co-op program with affording her important and relevant opportunities. “I’ve gotten a lot of work experience through UVic’s Co-op, where I’ve had really amazing experiences and great opportunities. I feel really blessed and lucky to have had that.” Her work placements included both the North Vancouver Community Arts Council and the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art. “Those were perfect experiences for me, to understand what curation actually means for non-profit organizations. I’ve been really lucky in finding those niches that have helped me understand where I want to work.”

A close community of artists

In Search Of . . . the proper angle

In Search Of . . . the proper angle

Corlett also praises the experiences she’s had pursuing her Visual Arts degree these past four years. “I love the range of teachers that I had,” she says. “They’ve really pushed my work to the limit to get it to a more professional level. Getting to work with leading artists like Paul Walde and Robert Youds and Daniel Laskarin and Sandra Meigs has just been amazing. You’re seeing them teach but also learn from you, and vice versa. And they’ve got their own careers and professional practices that are continuing to grow.”

In Search Of . . . the perfect lighting

In Search Of . . . the perfect lighting

Meigs, one of the 2015 Governor General’s Award for Visual & Media Arts, agrees with Corlett’s assessment. “We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards,” says Meigs. “We focus intensely on studio practice for the students . . . it’s hard for the general public to get that, but it’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”

UVic’s size was another advantage for Corlett. “The scale and closeness of the Visual Arts building and department is a real strength, and one of the reasons there’s such a strong network of artists here,” she says. “Having a community of artist who are all growing at the same rate has also been fantastic—I’ve now got 30 people I can talk to in a couple of years who I could ask to put on a show with me.”

“Priorfriends" by Olivia Prior can be seen at In Search Of, May 1-8

“Priorfriends” by Olivia Prior can be seen at In Search Of, May 1-8

While Corlett admits she was originally being “pushed to go to Emily Carr” by her family, she feels justified in ultimately deciding on UVic. “I wanted the opportunities to go into Business or Art History, and UVic had enough crossover points for that. I’ve always loved Victoria—it’s far enough from but close enough to home that I could have my own life here—and coming straight out of high school, it’s been a nice place to grow up a bit more. And I love the campus here—it’s such a beautiful place.”

in search of . . . an audience

In Search Of . . . the correct Jenga stack

In Search Of . . . the correct Jenga stack

Ultimately, says Corlett, In Search Of has been the perfect conclusion to her BFA degree process—even if that means taking a few creative risks. “It’s been a very humbling process for a lot of us. It’s tough to put your work forward for critiquing and to accept that kind of legitimate criticism. It’s like putting our entire education up on the wall for this show.”

But she’s pleased with how it’s all come together and is looking forward to opening night. “Our main goal was to have a show that wasn’t explicitly for the art community. We should be open to everybody, so we’re hoping to have a lot of new people from the university and the community come out and see it.”

In Search Of, the Annual Visual Arts BFA Graduation Exhibit, opens with a 7pm reception on Friday, April 17 and continues 10am-6pm daily to April 25. It’s free and open to the public.

New afternoon Artist Talks

Visual Arts is kicking off a new short series of free Afternoon Artist Talks with a pair of visiting artists this week—Risa Horowitz and Colin Miner. While the full lineup is still being formulated, the plan is to present a pair of artists twice a week, likely in the weeks of April 27 and May 11. All are welcome to attend.

Risa Horowitz with her Trees of Canada series

Risa Horowitz with her Trees of Canada series

First up is Risa Horowitz, who will speak from 3:30-4:30pm Monday, April 13, in VIS 107. Her extended practice is contextualized by conceptualism, duration, collection and an interest in how visual and information systems frame knowledge. She has lived and worked in seven Canadian provinces as an artist, educator, writer, and gallery programmer.

Most recently, 20 of her paintings in a series called “Trees of Canada” were installed as part of a permanent display at Canada House in London, England. Horowitz travelled to London in February this year to attend the unveiling in the presence of the Queen. “One of the things that I really love about the work is that they don’t look like paintings upon first glance,” she told Regina’s Leader-Post newspaper in this article. “They actually look like screen prints. When you get closer, you can see the brush strokes. So they’re a bit uncanny in that way.”

Horowitz's "Afternoon Sun, August, 3 2013"

Horowitz’s “Afternoon Sun, August, 3 2013″

Currently teaching at the University of Regina’s Department of Visual Arts, Horowitz’s recent scholarly research responds to the disciplining of art practice through its ongoing entrenchment within university structures, blurring boundaries between expert-amateur, hobby-work, and leisure-productivity. She is an active tournament Scrabble competitor, vegetable gardener and amateur astronomer—all of which inform her art practice. She has been awarded numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and several provincial funding bodies, the K.M. Hunter Award for excellence in Visual Arts in 2006, and a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship for her research in visual arts and practice-based scholarship.

She is currently represented in Toronto by MKG127 Gallery, and her work is held by the collections of Canada House, London, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Saskatchewan Arts Board.

Colin Miner

Colin Miner

The next visiting artist this week is Colin Miner, who will be speaking from 3:30-4:30pm on Wednesday, April 15, also in VIS 107. Miner recently completed his PhD in contemporary photographic practices at Western University, and holds an MFA & BFA from UBC. His work draws attention to photography’s relationship to the scientific, as well as to the materiality of photographs. Alongside his art practice, he works on writing, artist projects and the online publication Moire.

The Toronto-based Miner has also lived in Beijing, is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the Roloff Beny Award for Photography and the Barbara Spohr Memorial Award, as well as the recipient of an emerging visual artist grant from both the Toronto and Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council. He is also a participant in the artist research group Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds, which engages water as culture and resource through contemporary art.

Miner's "Afterimage 21" and "Afterimage 22"

Miner’s “Afterimage 21″ and “Afterimage 22″

Miner has attended thematic residencies with international artists Lucy & Jorge Orta and curator Celine Kopp, both at the Banff Centre. He has presented solo exhibitions in Canada, most notably at the Ministry of Casual Living (Victoria) and the McIntosh Gallery (London). Miner’s work has been included in group exhibitions within Canada at locations such as Art Metropole, The Belkin Satellite, Gallery 44, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, and Rodman Hall. Additionally, he has participated in international group exhibitions at Postdamer Platz (Germany) and The Beijing Center for the Arts (China).

Stay tuned for more details about upcoming Afternoon Artist Talks.

New Phoenix season offers mix of modern and classics

Hot on the heels of their critically acclaimed (and commercially successful) 2014-15 season, Phoenix Theatre recently announced their lineup for next year. A mix of new work, old classics and rarely seen gems, the 2015-16 season is looking like another great year.

“Theatre has a way of reminding us what it means to be human,” says Theatre department chair Allana Lindgren. “At the heart of the Phoenix Theatre’s 2015/16 season are four plays that share compelling human stories, and with master playwrights like Bertolt Brecht, Anton Chekhov and Tennessee Williams in this list, I know you’ll love the plays we’ve chosen for next season.” Here’s what’s coming up:

Loon by the WONDERHEADS (photo: Andrew Phoenix)

Loon by the WONDERHEADS (photo: Andrew Phoenix)

Opening the season with their traditional Spotlight on Alumni, Phoenix alumna Kate Braidwood returns to campus with her performance partner Andrew Phoenix and their widely acclaimed WONDERHEADS company. They’ll be presenting the wordless and whimsical Loon (October 14-24), a beautifully surprising mix of physical theatre, comedy and pathos and a love story the likes of which you’ve never seen. CBC enthusiastically described Loon as “a live cartoon for lovers and for dreamers; that is, for everyone. I’d give it more than five stars—I’d give it the moon.”

Loon centers on Francis, a lonely janitor who is plagued by isolation and tickled by whispers of childhood imagination. He has hit rock bottom and discovers that he has nowhere to go . . . but up. And up. And up! But will plucking the moon from the sky bring him the love he is searching for? The Portland-based WONDERHEADS have been hits with every show they’ve brought to town (including Fringe Fest favourites Grim & Fischer and The Middle of Everywhere) and it’ll be a pleasure to see Braidwood back at the Phoenix in the Spotlight on Alumni.

A German poster for The Threepenny Opera circa 1928

A German poster for The Threepenny Opera circa 1928

Up next is Bertolt Brecht’s classic The Threepenny Opera (November 5-21), featuring the music of Kurt Weill—possibly best known for bringing the jazz standard “Mack the Knife” into the world. Directed by Theatre professor Brian Richmond, The Threepenny Opera borrows from the 18th-century The Beggar’s Opera and offers an edgy mix of biting satire and sheer theatrical innovation as it takes aim at the traditional bourgeoisie and reveals a society where law is fickle, money corrupts and crime absolutely pays.

“This is quite possibly the most important piece of musical theatre in the 20th century,” says Richmond, who will be working with Applied Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta to bring a strong sense of realism to this production. Richmond is well-known for breathing fresh life into classic works, as evidenced by past Phoenix productions like Guys & Dolls, Dark of the Moon, The Wind in the Willows and Romeo & Juliet.

Renoir's 1881 painting "Le Déjeuner des Canotiers" catches the flavour of Wild Honey

Renoir’s 1881 painting “Le Déjeuner des Canotiers” catches the flavour of Wild Honey

Moving into 2016, we have Michael Frayn’s Wild Honey (February 11-20). Directed by Theatre professor and Phoenix alumnus Peter McGuire, and adapted from an original play by Anton Chekhov, Wild Honey offers a charming and hilarious love triangle set on a hot summer day on a provincial country estate, where friends, neighbours and family all get caught up in an elaborate game of romantic cat-and-mouse.

“Shakespeare said, ‘what fools these mortals be’ and I want to celebrate that sense of foolishness,” says McGuire, noting that Wild Honey is a lot like “a Woody Allen film—it shows us lives filled with love, sex and intrigue, all with a strong element of farce.”  McGuire also plans to take a decidedly non-traditional approach to the production, with the design mixing old and new, classic and modern—all to a jazzy, klezmeriffic music score. Curiously, Wild Honey is based on Chekhov’s first ever play, which was then sealed in a bank vault until after his death.

Summer and Smoke is evoked in Richard Emil Miller's 1910 painting "The Pool"

Summer and Smoke is evoked in Richard Emil Miller’s 1910 painting “The Pool”

Finally, Phoenix ends its season with Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, as directed by MFA candidate Alan Brodie (March 10-19). Set in Mississippi at the turn of the 20th century, Summer and Smoke sees Tennessee Williams at his most passionate as he gives us the tale of Alma—the daughter of a small-town minister and mentally unstable mother, who harbours a life-long infatuation with her restless and self-indulgent neighbour, John. Of course, Alma and John’s struggle—between body and soul, anarchy and order, love and lust—leads to profound changes in both their lives.

“As a designer, I’ve done plenty of shows but hardly any from the modern American milieu,” says director Brodie. “I’ve always been drawn to early 20th century playwrights like Williams, who emphasize story, character and psychology. This is essentially a love story, just one without a happy ending.” (Better get out your handkerchiefs for this one.)

A bittersweet exploration of love and longing, Summer and Smoke is a true American masterpiece with unforgettable characters that break our hearts even as they touch our souls.

Click here for ticket information, and subscriptions for the 2015-16 season are already on sale here.

Joan MacLeod joins Belfry’s 40th season

Department of Writing professor and beloved Canadian playwright Joan MacLeod‘s most recent play, The Valley, has just been announced as being part of The Belfry Theatre‘s 40th anniversary season.

Joan MacLeod

Joan MacLeod

Running February 2 – 28, 2016, The Valley will be directed by former Belfry artistic director and award-winning director Roy Surette. Described as “relentlessly topical—and deeply empathetic” by the Globe and Mail, The Valley focuses on how a dramatic police encounter binds four people together—a mother and her teenage son, a policeman and his wife. As the Belfry put it in their announcement, “the strength and fragility of everyday people is the cornerstone of Joan MacLeod’s work and The Valley is her latest gem.”

Canadian plays speak to us in a way that plays from other countries don’t,” says current Belfry AD Michael Shamata. “There is a common language, and Victoria’s Joan MacLeod—winner of the Siminovitch Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Drama—speaks that language better than any writer I know. Her writing is subtle; it is calm on the surface with floods of emotion running underneath. This mother’s pain and helplessness in the face of her son’s depression affected me deeply.”

Shamata also notes that Surette’s production of MacLeod’s Homechild was “the first play I ever saw at the Belfry, and I’m so happy he’s coming back!”

2151After debuting in 2013, The Valley has been mounted at a number of theatres across Canada, and the book of the script was released in 2014 by Talon Books.

Joan MacLeod’s other plays include Another Home Invasion, Homechild, The Shape Of A Girl, 2000, Little Sister, The Hope Slide, Amigo’s Blue Guitar, Toronto, Mississippi and Jewel. She also wrote the libretto for The Secret Garden and has written several scripts for CBC television. She has won several awards including the $100,000 Siminovitch Prize, the Governor General’s Award for Drama, two Chalmers’ Canadian Play Awards, the Jessie Richardson Award, Betty Mitchell Award and Dora Mavor Moore Award.

For seven seasons she was a playwright-in-residence at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto and in 2009 was the Senior Playwright-in-residence at the Playwrights’ Colony at The Banff Centre. The Shape Of A Girl has been playing each year since its premiere in 2001 and has been translated into six languages.

Visual Arts professor honoured with prestigious Governor General’s Award

Department of Visual Arts professor and nationally renowned painter Sandra Meigs has been named one of only eight winners in the annual Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts by the Canada Council for the Arts.

2015 Governor General's Award winner Sandra Meigs in her studio (photo: Michelle Alger)

2015 Governor General’s Award winner Sandra Meigs in her studio (photo: Michelle Alger)

“It’s such an honour to be recognized in this capacity for my career as an artist,” says Meigs. “You get benchmarks of recognition as you go along—a big review in the Globe and Mail, a major Canada Council grant—but this is something very ceremonial, very special. I feel totally thrilled.”

Highly regarded for her expressive, eclectic and interdisciplinary contemporary artworks, Sandra Meigs is best known for large-scale works like The Basement Panoramas and Strange Loop. Primarily working in the mediums of acrylic and oil, she has led a distinguished 35-year career with over 40 solo and 60 group exhibitions in Canada’s most culturally relevant institutions. Her work has been collected by the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Banff Centre, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Musée d’art contemporain. She is currently represented by the Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto.

“You can call it a lifetime achievement award, but in a way I see it as the beginning of a new lifetime,” says Meigs. “Some artists make brilliant work in their last 20 years, so for me it’s less lifetime achievement and more career achievement.”

Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts Simon Brault praises the 2015 recipients. “This year’s winners are profoundly shaping Canada’s cultural identity. We applaud their innovative and powerful work, which invites us to question the state of our world and our own personal destinies in ways that we never would have imagined.”

Click here to watch a short video about Sandra Meigs’ creative practice (Directed by Ryan Mah and Danny Berish for the Canada Council, it will play at film festivals across Canada throughout the year and will be seen on Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment system starting in May 2015.)

Open Space will be honouring Meigs with a reception from 5 to 8pm Wednesday, March 25, at 510 Fort Street. All are welcome.

"Red. 3011 Jackson. (Mortality)" from the 2013 series The Basement Panoramas

“Red. 3011 Jackson. (Mortality)” from the 2013 series The Basement Panoramas

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1953, Meigs has lived in Canada since 1973. She left the Rhode Island School of Art to study at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where she earned her BFA. NSCAD had just become internationally acclaimed as a place of critical stimulation and theoretical discourse, where the methodologies of contemporary art were in the process of being reinvented; the spirit of this rambunctious art school became an essential part of Meigs’ thinking, and contributed to her MA in Philosophy at Dalhousie University in 1980. A former Chair of UVic’s Department of Visual Arts (1997-2002), she continues to bring that critical eye to her classes.

Meigs (photo: Michelle Alger)

Meigs (photo: Michelle Alger)

“We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards for all our sessional instructors, who are all very good,” she explains about the dynamic learning environment upon which the Visual Arts department is built. “We focus so intensely on studio practice for the students versus doing a lot of theoretical lecturing
. . . we look at everything very carefully, and talk about it in a constructive but critical way—how it’s related to current art context and theoretical ideas of contemporary art. It’s hard for the general public to get that, because you don’t get that unless you’re here, but it’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”

Hear Meigs speak about her own creative practice in this video from the Faces of UVic Research series.

"In the Highest Room" by Sandra Meigs

“In the Highest Room” by Sandra Meigs

A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Artists who also represented Canada in the Fifth Biennale of Sydney, Meigs has been a professor with Visual Arts since 1993 and feels that working in Victoria is one of the factors that set her work apart. “There’s not a huge contemporary art community here, and I like the sense of delight or freedom that gives me in my studio,” she says. “I take what I do here and show it in Toronto and people always say, ‘Oh, that’s so fresh!’”

Meigs is only the second UVic scholar to be awarded a Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts, alongside sculptor and now-Professor Emeritus Mowry Baden in 2006. She has taught painting, sculpture and foundation courses at Halifax’s Dalhousie University, Toronto’s York University and the Ontario College of Art, and the University of Toronto, Scarborough. She has also been a mentor for generations of artists, among them UVic alumni Patrick Howlett, Althea Thauberger and Marianne Nicolson—all of whom have work in major public collections. Former student Kim Adams also won the Governor General’s Award for Sculpture in 2014.

Sandra Meigs' "Baby" (installation view, 1994)

Sandra Meigs’ “Baby” (installation view, 1994)

“This award represents ours country’s highest honour in our profession, and publicly recognizes a lifetime of achievement and contribution to this field of research,” says Paul Walde, Chair of the Department of Visual Arts. “Throughout her career at UVic, Sandra has continued to distinguish herself and the Department through her outstanding work as an artist and professor.”

With 18 catalogue essays and over 60 articles and reviews, Meigs’ artistic output has been covered in influential journals such as Artforum, Canadian Art, Border Crossings, The Globe & Mail, C Magazine, Parachute and the National Post. She has been awarded major grants, is a sought-after member of peer assessment committees, and has advised boards of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, CARFAC and the Canada Council For the Arts. In addition to her studio practice, Meigs writes, researches and occasionally curates. Her most recent major local exhibition was The Basement Panoramas at downtown’s Open Space gallery.

Viewers considering Meigs' work at Open Space (photo: Jacquelyn Bortolussi)

Viewers considering Meigs’ work at Open Space (photo: Jacquelyn Bortolussi)

“Just when you think you have a handle on how Sandra will next explore psychological or physical space, her passion and focus changes shape and direction,” notes Dr. Lynne Van Luven, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “The University of Victoria is fortunate to have an artist of such strong national and international reputation on its faculty.”

Award nominator Helen Marzolf, Executive Director of Open Space, has long admired Meigs’ work. “With each successive series she surprises, jolts, and transforms how we think about the world. I have always been in awe of her confidence and audacity,” says Marzolf. “Her brilliant philosophical paintings always breathe vernacular air—anyone, no matter what his or her background, is susceptible to them. How fitting, and how exciting, for her to win the GG in Visual and Media Arts. Aren’t we lucky to have Sandra Meigs in our community?”

Meigs' "The Newborn, The Brook" (detail, 2001)

Meigs’ “The Newborn, The Brook” (detail, 2001)

In response to her exhibit The Newborn in 2001, noted Toronto art writer John Bentley Mays expressed his ongoing astonishment at Meigs’ ability: “There is art and duty and sorrow and surprises and, always, the unceasing wonder—in everything, in fact, catalogued in this remarkable and intelligent installation. Ms. Meigs is a painter who thinks critically about everything—painting and thinking included.”

As Open Space’s Marzolf wrote in her nomination package, “Meigs’ artistic process resolutely follows the barest whiff of imaginative speculation into uncharted intimacies. Meigs wills us into spaces of profound, mischievous curiosity from which there is no escape. Her agnostic, non-transcendent politics offers a quantum expansion of the psychogeographies of Canadian identity.”

Meigs at home (photo: Nik West)

Meigs at home (photo: Nik West)

Meigs will be presented with a $25,000 cash prize and unique commemorative medallion by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on April 8 and will also participate in a special curated exhibit of 2015 winners at the National Gallery of Canada, running April 9 to August 30.

This year’s other Visual and Media Arts Award winners include Louise Déry, Robert Houle, Micah Lexier, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Paul McClure, Rober Racine and Reva Stone.

The Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts were created in 1999 by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Governor General of Canada. The awards celebrate Canada’s vibrant arts community and recognize remarkable careers in the visual and media arts.

Warming up to WordsThaw

While the rest of the country may still be dealing with the winter blahs, locally we’re well into spring—which means it’s time once again for WordsThaw. Running March 20-22 at UVic, WordsThaw has grown into a welcome spring literary event over the past three years, nicely balancing what’s always a fall-heavy literary load.

2015_header_bannerV2Since 2013, The Malahat Review has invited dozens of poets, novelists, short fiction writers, and journalists to mark the coming of spring with a symposium celebrating Canadian literature. Held each year here at UVic, WordsThaw brings together writers, students, editors, publishers, and others with an interest in creative writing for a weekend of readings, panel discussions, workshops, and socializing. There are too many writers to list, but you can see the full lineup of participants here. Tickets range from $15 to $35, depending on whether it’s a full pass or an individual event; you can get all the ticket info here.

Not surprisingly, the Department of Writing is heavily involved in this year’s WordsThaw, with a flurry of faculty and alumni participating in either the weekend events or some of the prequel events, including faculty members Lynne Van Luven, David Leach, Patrick Friesen, Kevin Kerr, Derk Wynand, John Barton and Mark Leiren-Young plus alumni Arleen Paré, Kayla Czaga, Hanna Leavitt, Garth Martens, Matt Rader, Jane Silcott, Eve Joseph and D.W. Wilson.

You can read the full schedule of events here, but at a glance, here’s where Writing will be represented:

Governor General's Award-winning poet Arleen Pare is a featured reader at WordsThaw

Governor General’s Award-winning poet Arleen Pare is a featured reader at WordsThaw

Words on Ice: An Evening of Readings (7:30pm Friday, March 20 in HSD A240, doors 7pm) featuring eight Canadian writers: Yvonne Blomer, Karen Enns, Kevin Kerr, Fiona Tinwei Lam, Peter Midgley, Arleen Paré, Matt Rader and D.W. Wilson. Hosted by John Barton.

Natural Divide or Shape-Shifting Chic: Negotiating Creative Nonfiction’s Extremes (10:30-noon, HSD A240) featuring Fiona Tinwei Lam, Mark Leiren-Young and Jane Silcott. Moderator: Lynne Van Luven.

Vanity or in the Vanguard: Self-Publishing’s Makeover (1:30-3pm in HSD A240) featuring Mary Hughes, Patrick O’Connor and Sid Tafler. Moderator: David Leach.

Has it Got Better: Minority Voices or Major Talents (3:15-4:45pm in HSD A240) featuring Hanna Leavitt, Janet Rogers and Daniel Zomparelli. Moderator: Aaron Devor.

Rock me, Amadeus!

It’s the kind of ovation Mozart himself would have loved: Amadeus, Phoenix Theatre’s final production of their 2014/15 season, has been earning raves from local reviewers—and packing the house with almost every performance.

Aidan Correia plays Mozart in Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Aidan Correia plays Mozart in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Written by acclaimed British playwright Peter (Equus) Shaffer in 1979 and directed here by Department of Theatre MFA candidate Chari Arespacochaga, the multiple Tony Award-winning play—which also inspired the much-loved Academy Award-winning movie—has been thrilling Phoenix Theatre audiences since it opened last week.

Amadeus continues daily at 8pm to March 21, with a bonus 2pm Saturday matinee on March 21, but tickets have been flying out the door.

Salieri (Jenson Kerr) and Mozart (Aidan Correia) in Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Salieri (Jenson Kerr) and Mozart (Aidan Correia) in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Often considered the greatest musical genius the world has ever known, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was also seen as vulgar, boorish, unforgivably brilliant—and thus an enemy to be eliminated—by Antonio Salieri, his 18th-century contemporary and fellow composer. Seen through the envious eyes and skewed memory of the aging Salieri, Amadeus chronicles their tumultuous rivalry and Salieri’s devious efforts to destroy Mozart’s career, even while recognizing the genius of his music.

“Director Chari Arespacochaga . . . has imbued the show with wonderful vitality,” writes Times Colonist theatre critic Adrian Chamberlain in this glowing review, praising Arespacochaga’s re-imagining of the show in an insane asylum as “an intelligent approach that works well.” Chamberlain also notes the strong work by lead performers Jenson Kerr (Salieri), Aidan Correia (Mozart) and Samantha Lynch (Constanze), all of whom ensure “the pathos is evenly leavened with humour and hijinx.”

A scene from Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

A scene from Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Chamberlain also praises the show’s design elements, noting Theatre professor Allan Stichbury’s “terrific set [that] resembles a giant dungeon—a dark, forced-perspective vault that encourages us to consider the serious themes underneath the comedy” and the “superb costumes” by undergrad student Pauline Stynes—”The costumes are sumptuous, a feast for the eye.”

CBC Radio’s On The Island theatre reviewer Monica Prendergast enjoyed the show, noting that “the production is working well on a number of levels. It has an extremely strong design, a lovely set by Allan Stichbury . . . . beautifully lit by Michael Whitfield who gives us a gorgeous design . . . . and really nice costumes by Pauline Stynes, so the whole thing gets lifted to a whole other level.” She also notes “the ensemble work was particularly strong.” You can listen to the entire review here.

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

Amadeus director Chari Arespacochaga interviewed on CTV VI

Interestingly, Arespacochaga and Stynes both have well-established professional careers long before they enrolled in the Department of Theatre—Arespacochaga has been directing major Broadway musicals in Manila for the past decade, many of which then toured across Asia or were remounted in Singapore, while Stynes has a 30 years of tailoring and costume creation behind her—a good decision, it turns out, as Stynes won the local  Critics’ Choice Spotlight Award for Best Costume Design for Phoenix’s Picnic in 2014.

You can see director Arespacochaga talk about the play in this preview from CTV Vancouver Island News (around the 4:34 mark), and you can read more about designer Stynes in this preview from the Times Colonnist. And there was this great conversation on the local CFAX1070 Eye on the Arts radio show (starts around 34 minutes) between Arespacochaga and show host (and Fine Arts alumnus) Adam Swatsky, as well as actor Jenson Kerr (Salieri). The Oak Bay News also spoke with Arespacochaga in this article, where she noted the production is “a great interactive mix of students and industry pros. New thoughts colliding with more experienced thoughts. It’s been dynamic.”

The scheming Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

The scheming Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Local arts blogger Janis LaCouvee noted in this review that “director Chari Arespacachoga does not shirk from difficult questions; her Amadeus is a bold and ambitious undertaking which brings essential reflections on the nature of talent, ambition and legacy to the forefront. Under her inspired direction the students of the University of Victoria theatre department have once again delivered superior theatre to the stage, ending the year with a production that is as complex as the men it immortalizes.”

UVic’s student newspaper Martlet also really enjoyed the production, noting in this review that, “The two male leads, Salieri and Mozart, worked brilliantly together, allowing the audience to feel sympathy for both characters.”

Constanze (Samantha Lynch) is tempted by Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre's Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

Constanze (Samantha Lynch) is tempted by Salieri (Jenson Kerr) in Phoenix Theatre’s Amadeus (photo: David Lowes)

And Monday Magazine was also impressed with the production, with reviewer Laura Lavin primarily highlighting the cast in this blog review—noting that Aidan Correia “does an admirable job of making Mozart both boorish and endearing,” Jensen Kerr plays Salieri with “spirit and confidence” and the “supporting cast was superb.” She also acknowledges that the “music, lighting and staging of this performance were again superb. The set is dark and gives focus to beautiful period costumes by designer Pauline Stynes.”

Finally, if you missed director Arespacochaga’s pre-show lecture, you can listen to it here and hear her in conversation with Theatre professor Peter McGuire discussing the differences between the play and the film, playwright Peter Shaffer and her own creative process.

Making movie music

Love films? Love music? If you’re interested in learning more about the world of music scoring for film, television or gaming, you’re in luck—three-time Emmy Award-winning film composer Larry Groupé will be hosting a three-day workshop here at UVic’s School of Music, culminating in a recording session of active participant compositions. But the best part is you don’t have to be a UVic student to enroll—it’s open to anyone in the community.

Film composer Larry Groupe

Film composer Larry Groupe

“Larry is a Hollywood professional in a unique position to offer an in-depth examination on the art and practice of writing music to picture at the highest level,” says workshop organizer and School of Music instructor Kirk McNally.

Running April 23 to 25, Film Composition Workshop with Larry Groupé will offer lectures, masterclasses and recording/mixing sessions on two different levels: active participants (10-12 students) will work closely with Groupé and engage in all events, ultimately doing hands-on mixing of one original cue featuring live musicians; passive participants (10-20 students) will also have access to all events, but won’t be doing any presentation of works or mixing—their role will primarily be limited to observation and questions.

Larry_Groupe workshopThe fee for active participants is $250, while passive participants is only $50. All classes happen at the School of Music’s room B037 of the MacLaurin building B-wing. For more details, contact Kirk McNally at kmcnally@uvic.ca.

“For anyone who’s interested in film and TV scoring, this workshop will be a stellar introduction to the field,” says McNally. “Whether you’re a beginner, a student or a budding music professional, you’ll learn an abundance of valuable information, from artistic considerations, to orchestration techniques, to the more business side of things.”

Groupé, who last visited campus in November 2013 to present the lecture, “Film Music: An in depth look and discussion on the current state of composing in Hollywood today,” is one of the most talented and versatile composers working in the entertainment industry today. With an impressive musical résumé in film, television, concerts, gaming, documentaries, popular music and cultural events, his achievements have received both critical praise and popular acclaim.

contenderHis recent movie projects include the likes of The Contender with Joan Allen, Gary Oldman and Jeff Bridges, Straw Dogs with James Marsden, Nothing but the Truth with Kate Beckinsale and Resurrecting the Champ starring Samuel L. Jackson, as well as TV shows like Commander in Chief and Line of Fire. Among his gaming credits are NFL Gameday, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball, all for SONY PlayStation.

A graduate of the Conservatory of Music at the University of the Pacific, Groupé went on to earn his Masters of Music in Composition at the University of California at San Diego. He just received his fourth Emmy nomination, this time for Best Original Score for the feature film Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story. And Canadian skater Kevin Reynolds earned his silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in February 2014 skating to Groupé’s title score for Excelsius.