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.

 

National symposium at UVic addresses acting methods

If you’ve ever seen actors at work—on stage, on screen, on the street or on television—you’ve seen the results of the kind of pedagogy happening daily in the Department of Theatre. But now a first-of-its-kind national symposium co-organized by theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz is questioning and examining traditional acting methods, as it addresses what’s been described as “the crisis of actor training in Canada

Conrad Alexandrowicz

Conrad Alexandrowicz

From March 6 to 8 at UVic, Acting Training in a Shifting World will welcome 34 instructors from the majority of Canadian post-secondary drama institutions, ranging from universities and colleges to conservatory programs. “Basically, we’re looking at who we’re teaching and what we’re actually training people to do,” says Alexandrowicz.

Following up on the October 2014 issue of the journal Canadian Theatre Review, which was dedicated to changes in actor training, the UVic symposium will address issues ranging from diversity in gender, sexuality, physicality and ethnicity to funding challenges, new teaching methods and philosophies, postgraduate and company-based training models, and the gap between acting institutions and the professional world.

“We want to reflect a much broader picture: who’s actually living in Canada and what kind of theatre people are making across the board, not just what goes on at festivals and mainstream stages,” he continues. “We’re training people to do a range of things and we need to include a whole different set of approaches to realize that goal.”

For his part, Alexandrowicz specializes in innovative performance techniques that address issues central to the human journey—relationships, gender, power and the nature of the performance event itself. “Realism is only one style of theatre,” he says, “yet we treat it as though it’s a given, as though it’s the sine qua non, when it’s not.” Rather than accept conventional theatrical procedures and forms, Alexandrowicz instead draws from a number of genres and disciplines, deconstructing and recombining them in startling ways—as seen in his direction of last month’s widely lauded Phoenix Theatre production of Lion in the Streets and 2014’s Mother Tongue, his SSHRC-funded interdisciplinary work based on the poetry of Lorna Crozier and Erin Moure. He is also the artistic director of Wild Excursions Performance.

Alexandrowicz working with students

Alexandrowicz working with students

Admitting that both the US and the UK are ahead of Canada in these study areas (“I hate to say it, but it’s true,” he grumbles), Alexandrowicz is keen to affect change from within. “Why are university acting programs simply reproducing all these discriminatory and oppressive patterns that operate in the larger culture?” he asks. By way of a positive counter-example, Alexandrowicz points to Diana Belshaw, head of acting at Humber College and co-editor of the 2014 CTR issue, who notably reconfigured Humber’s theatre department into a performance lab and workshop for creating new work. “We need to diversify our approach so we’re covering more bases.”

As a member of one of Canada’s leading theatrical training institutions, Alexandrowicz is also excited the symposium is coming here. “It’s good for UVic to host a discussion where we’re questioning all the things we’ve taken for granted for decades—that acting always comes out of a printed script,” says Alexandrowicz. “We’re under a lot of pressure to think of theatre training as a greater part of a liberal arts education, so we should be including people from all across campus, people who want to learn about performance but have no interest in professional acting per se.”

He points to the potential performance benefits to be gleaned by forging connections with faculties like law and business, and the increasing popularity of events like TED Talks and UVic’s own IdeaFest, where scientists and thinkers need to be able to effectively communicate their ideas and research. “I really want us to offer this kind of experience to students across campus; we need to democratize how we teach acting to make the experience of learning about performance available to a whole range of people from other disciplines.”

Alexandrowicz pauses and chuckles. “One person even asked if we should still be teaching Shakespeare, so pretty much everything is on the table right now.”

This piece originally ran in the March 2014 issue of UVic’s Ring newspaper

Undergrads in focus at JCURA

While much of the high-profile research and creative activity on campus tends to happen at both the faculty and graduate student level, let’s not discount the foundational work being done by our undergrads. As such, the Faculty of Fine Arts is once again proud to feature the work of 10 students from four separate departments in the annual Jamie Cassels Undergraduate Research Awards.

March 4_JCURAFirst instituted in 2009-10 as the Undergraduate Research Scholarship program by then Vice-President Academic and Provost—and now UVic President—Jamie Cassels, the JCURAs are designed to provide support for exceptional undergraduate students who might otherwise not be able to obtain a direct research experience as a part of what we anticipate should be a truly formative learning experience. With the award nomination process administered by the Learning and Teaching Centre, on behalf of the Provost’s Office, the annual JCURA symposium is one of the highlights of IdeaFest.

You can read full abstracts on all 110 entries here, from almost every department on campus, but we’re just going to note the Fine Arts contributions—which you can find out more about in person at the JCURA symposium running 11:30am-3pm Wednesday, March 4.

The Department of Art History & Visual Studies is in the lead with three JCURA students this year. Aimee Hawker (supervised by department chair Catherine Harding) is focusing on the Basilica of San Francesco in Assisi for her JCURA project. “An essential site of veneration and pilgrimage, it is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year,” she writes. “It also houses the most expansive narrative program that survives in Italy from the 13th and 14th centuries, with masters such as Giotto, Cimabue, Simone Martini and Giunta Pisano taking part in the Basilica’s decoration.” Her project examines the current research on the degradation of the frescos of the Upper Basilica and the restoration and conservation efforts carried out by the Istituto Centrale per il Restauro (I.C.R.).

A clip from Holly Cecil's William Morris film project

A clip from Holly Cecil’s William Morris film project

Fellow AHVS student Holly Cecil (supervised by professor Erin Campbell) presentation is “A Joy to the Maker and the User”: The Arts & Crafts Movement in Canadian Collections, which traces the origins of the British Arts and Crafts design movement to its reception in Canada, by analyzing several representative objects in our Legacy Art Galleries collections. “Uniting beauty and function, these works of art allow us to trace the movement and its appeal to Canadian collectors,” writes Cecil.  Her project will culminate in website-friendly short films, like this foundational William Morris film project she created.

When planning the summer 2015 Legacy Art Gallery exhibit on Katharine Maltwood and the Arts and Crafts movement, curator Caroline Riedel notes, “The inclusion of Holly Cecil’s work . . . also underlines the mandate of the Legacy Art Galleries to foster research and learning through art and, where possible, to showcase the work of faculty and students who work with our collection.”

At work on VISA's Peoples Apothocary

At work on VISA’s Peoples Apothocary

And AHVS’s Laurie White (supervised by professor Allan Antliff) is considering the aesthetic and ideological role community gardens play in our contemporary visual culture. “Through the aesthetic medium of the garden, these shared outdoor spaces promote social interaction and connection to nature and are in this sense works of ‘social sculpture’, a term coined by German artist Joseph Beuys,” she writes. “Whether they grow food or flowers, community gardens are an outlet for creative and political self expression and form an important part of counter-cultural struggles in the West today.” She will be looking at gardens as works of art in themselves, both on an aesthetic and socially transformative level, and will consider local community gardens with artistic connections, such as Vancouver Island School of Art‘s People’s Apothecary.

Meanwhile, Department of Writing student Cody Gies (supervised by professor Lee Henderson) proposes to write and illustrate a weekly/bi-weekly alternative webcomic that will explore and make use of various structures and techniques of the medium. “Inspired by ‘rubber hose’ animation and the highly imaginative works of Jean Giraud (Moebius) and Brandon Graham (an influential Vancouver cartoonist with Victoria connections), I hope to write a surreal fantasy focused on the journey and relationship of two protagonists,” says Gies. “I plan to research and incorporate an interactive narrative experience through use of links, gifs, games, etcetera, embedded in the sequential art.” You can check out both a digital and limited-run print version of the comic at the JCURA fair.

Watch out, Writing profs—Flexer has diagrams

Watch out, Writing profs—Flexer has diagrams

Also in Writing, Jerry Flexer (supervised by Writing chair David Leach) will be examining the very thing he spends days listening to: creative writing pedagogy, with an emphasis on creative nonfiction. “My research will consider two dominant approaches,” he writes. “The product-focused approach invites students to read published works and emulate, while the process-focused approach relies on a step-by-step process to gradually develop learners’ creative writing skills. One area of debate is whether a method based on a process of any kind can be effective. Some creative writing instructors, as well as some published writers, attribute artistic writing to talent and hard work, something instruction does not provide. I will argue for the importance of including a process focus in creative writing instruction because research suggests it better meets the expectations and needs of learners.”

Over in the Department of Visual Arts, Elizabeth Charters (supervised by professor Robert Youds) is examining sculptural practice is space. “I’m interested in how we interact with the space of the constructed environments we find ourselves in,” she says. “Inspired by everything from street lamps and neon signs to the objects displayed on a living room mantle, I am curious about the physical and psychological impacts that various artificial environments­­ have on our way of living. How we move through and interact with the space that is immediately found around us, whether it is in the private or public realm, can be reflected in our body’s relationship to the space and the objects within it.” Charters’ eventual goal is to challenge the viewer’s ideas about lived spaces, providing a platform for both a bodily and psychological understanding of the self within the space of an urban setting.

instagram-to-compete-with-snapchat-with-new-bolt-appAnother Visual Arts student, Hovey Eyres (supervised by professor Lynda Gammon), is looking at the impact of Instagram. A social media application that produces 60 million photographs per day from 200 million users around the world, Eyres notes that “love” and “me” are two of the most popular tags used to describe these photos, with “selfie” not far behind. “These photos reflect my generation’s desperate search for identity and acceptance in today’s society,” she says. “By reproducing these images with pencil and paper, I redefine their context and provoke questions about Instagram, identity, and society. The images’ content is recognizable and familiar, yet the materials make them surprising and stimulating.” Her drawings ultimately reflect issues including publicity versus privacy, appearance versus reality, and the individual versus society.

One last Visual Arts student is Olivia Prior (supervised by Jennifer Stillwell) whose work in the realm of art and technology focuses on “the cohesion of technology, space, and light, by creating interactive installations that generate results unique to each engaging participant.” Her JCURA presentation will use light to examine the control that the physical presence of each participant has in a space, by using various methods to measure values of proximity, sound, or touch. “The light and methods of physical measurement will aim to remove the notion of control, and use technology as a way to reflect the ongoing activity in the space.”

Jerzy Grotowski

Jerzy Grotowski

Finally, we have two Department of Theatre students presenting their research. Emma Leck (supervised by Theatre professors Allan Lindgren and Conrad Alexandrowicz) will be examining the theories of two international theatre artists: Polish experimental director Jerzy Grotowski and Soviet director Vsevolod Meyerhold to determine how external actions can inform emotional states. “This research promises to augment the actor’s process and illuminate issues involving the relationship between body and self,” she says.

And Chase Hiebert (supervised by professor Jan Wood) is engaged in a project that will “explore a technique of acting that engages and involves the audience in a cathartic experience. This research promises to reframe the actor/audience relationship in ways that emphasize the need for empathy.” You’ll have to visit the JCURA symposium to find out more on that.