What can fish see?

The gap between the molecular basis of fish vision and the colour calibrations of a large-format printer may seem as wide as the space between UVic’s Biology and Visual Arts departments, but a recent collaborative project brought the two much closer together.

It started when Tom Iwanicki, a MSc candidate studying starry flounder opsin genes with Biology professor John Taylor, contacted Cliff Haman, Senior Academic Assistant in Visual Arts, with a very basic question: what is colour?

Iwanicki (left) with Haman and Taylor

Iwanicki (left) with Haman and Taylor

“As biologists, we can ask ourselves questions about things like opsin genes and colour vision in fish and then, you would think, come up with various strategies to answer those questions” said Taylor. “But we quickly realized we lacked some very basic knowledge. For example, we wanted to print a particular colour on a sheet of paper. That is, we wanted the paper to reflect a particular wavelength of light. We had no idea how to do that, or even if it was possible. What about a second sheet of paper that reflects the same amount of light, but at a different wavelength? We asked the physics department, but they offered astronomers. So Tom focused on Visual Arts.”

The eyes have it

The experiment in question dealt with checkerboards and starry flounder camouflage. Starry flounders change the pattern on their back when they settle on a traditional black-and-white checkerboard—but what about one with red and green squares? Opsin genes encode the light receptors in the eye, and while humans are trichromatic—we have three different types of light receptors distributed among the ‘cone’ cells of our retina—fish have many more. “We know that species with only two cone cell opsins, like cats and dogs, can’t discriminate among as many colours as we can,” says Taylor. “We want to know if the surprisingly large fish opsin gene repertoire enhances their colour vision.”

Starring . . . the starry flounder

Starring . . . the starry flounder

Iwanicki’s two-year experiment also hoped to discover if opsins could be influenced by raising the fish in different light environments. “We’re very passionate about going from molecular data to actual behavior,” he explains. “We discovered these flatfish are capable of active camouflage—they can change colour quite quickly and convincingly—so we honed in on using differently coloured and patterned checkerboards as a model for studying vision in general.”

After living in UVic’s Outdoor Aquatic Unit for six weeks under broad-spectrum (as a control) and green-filtered (test) lighting that mimicked ocean conditions, Iwanicki set out to discover if the opsins changed under different light environments—and if this also influenced their ability to camouflage. Unfortunately, Taylor and Iwanicki were out of their depth when it came to creating the essential test patterns; fortunately, UVic offers diverse facilities for interdisciplinary research.

The theory of colour

Using the large-format printer in the Fine Arts building’s Studios for Integrated Media, Cliff Haman was able to create consistent, reliable prints that matched the spectrophotometer-measured colour intensities. “We work with colour daily, and our labs are very well-equipped for the creation and manipulation of digital media,” says Haman. “[Biology] had specific requirements for various swatch colours and luminosity values, particularly when laid out in checkerboard patterns. Our imaging software provides superb control and accuracy with such colour data.”

The team with their colour patterns

The team with their colour patterns

Haman also assisted with photo documentation, which required calibrated, diffuse lighting and a fairly complex camera installation. “It can all boggle the mind of someone who’s not familiar with it,” admits Iwanicki. “Visual Arts wasn’t the first place that came to mind, but we luckily ended up going there. It’s just been fantastic.”

To be clear, the goal of the experiment was to see if the fish echoed the pattern, not the colour. “If we give them a red and green background, we’re not expecting the fish to turn red and green,” says Taylor. “Instead, we’re looking to see if they adapt to a smooth, mottled or disruptive pattern; the fish can do each of those things. If it recognizes a smooth pattern, it will turn a single colour, whereas mottled or disruptive patterns will result in a stippled or big-block colours.”

Final results

And the result? “They’re definitely camouflaging differently—which is quite exciting,” says Iwanicki. “As far as I know, no one has explored camouflage response as a way of figuring out what fish can and can’t see.”

Taylor is clearly pleased. “Obviously, we don’t know everything about vision, but if you think about the opsin repertoire as a toolkit, there’s way more tools in there than we expected,” he says. “The job of light sensitivity is much more diverse than we thought it was.”

For his part, Haman enjoys the opportunities offered by such interdisciplinary research. “When we collaborate in other environments, we’re actively exposed to new ways of thinking and doing—which to my mind is fertile soil for sprouting new ideas.”

Ultimately, Iwanicki is excited about how it all went. “A lot of research tends to reduce things down to their component parts, but if you can incorporate the bigger picture all in one study, that’s one of the more important avenues we need to be shifting towards,” he says. And while he may speaking about his individual experiment, his thoughts clearly apply to the unexpected pairing of Biology and Visual Arts. “And that is really cool and exciting.”

Spring 2016 Visiting Artists

Always an exciting part of each semester, the long-running Visiting Artist program in the Department of Visual Arts has announced their spring lineup. (More to come, but check back later for those.) Organized by Visual Arts professor Jennifer Stillwell, all these illustrated talks take place in room A162 of the Visual Arts Building, and all are free and open to the public. Come join us in exploring the wider visual arts world!

A scene from one of Thauberger's films

A scene from one of Thauberger’s films

First up is notable Visual Arts MFA alumna Althea Thauberger. A Vancouver-based artist and film/video-maker, her works are generated from critical and historical readings of the physical, social and institutional sites they are generated within, and they are often developed in an extended process of cooperation and dialogue with their subjects. Thauberger’s film/video, performance and image works are informed by her background in the history of photography and issues related to the power dynamics of representation.

In recent years, she has developed projects at Prádelna, Bohnice Psychiatric Hospital, Prague; the Haskell Opera House on the Québec/Vermont border; the former Rikard Benčić factory in Rijeka, Croatia; and the Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Thauberger has also been involved in teaching and organizing of public programming in impromptu spacesas well as at The Banff Centre; The Academy of Fine Art, Prague; and VIVO, Vancouver; among many others.

She’ll be appearing as an Orion Visitor in Fine Arts at 8pm, Wednesday, January 13.

A detail of Carl Boutard's "Island"

A detail of Carl Boutard’s “Island”

Next up is Berlin artist Carl Boutard. Also an Orion Visitor, Boutard currently holds the Swedish Art Council residency at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in New York. His artistic practice has been shaped longing for the outdoors; he observes and reflects on the relationship between human beings, nature and culture. His work is presented as installations that incorporate drawings, sculpture, video, text and performance. A recurring theme is that which is about to disappear, that which possesses aura and authenticity, both visually and from the point of view of content.

Boutard has completed public art commissions in Sweden and Germany, and his work has been exhibited in solo and group shows across Europe and has been
awarded numerous grants through public funding bodies in Sweden.

Also an Orion Visitor, Boutard will speak at 8pm on Wednesday, January 27.

Diana Freundl

Diana Freundl

While the first two visitors are practicing artists, the next is curator Diana Freundl. The Associate Curator of Asian Art at the Vancouver Art Gallery since
2013, Freundl has curated a series of installations for Offsite, the Gallery’s public art project, including works by Shanghai-­based collective MadeIn Company and Mumbai-based Reena Saini Kallat. In 2014, she co-­curated Unscrolled: Reframing Tradition in Chinese Contemporary Art, one of the inaugural exhibitions for the Institute of Asian Art and most recently she co-­coordinated the touring exhibition Lee Bul.

With an academic background in comparative religion and philosophy, with graduate studies in journalism, Freundl lived and worked in China for 14 years, where she was an Artistic Director at Art+ Shanghai, and the curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA). She co-­curated large-­scale exhibitions such as Night on Earth: Helsinki, Berlin, Shanghai (2007); MoCA Envisage II: Butterfly Dream (2008) and INDIA XIANZAI: Contemporary Art from India (2009). In 2012, she co-­curated Virtual Voices: Approaching Social Media and Art from China with Zheng Shengtian at the Charles H. Scott Gallery in Vancouver.

Don’t miss her talk at 8pm Wednesday, February 17.

Camille Norment (Photo: Marta Buso)

Camille Norment (Photo: Marta Buso)

Coming up on March 9, Visual Arts is proud to present Camille Norment as a Distinguished Women Scholar Lecture. A multi­media artist, Norment often uses the notion of cultural psychoacoustics as both an aesthetic and conceptual framework. She defines this term as the examination of socio-­cultural phenomena through sound and music, and the contexts in which they are produced. Norment applies this concept towards the creation of critical works that consciously interweave the formal and the contextual; her artwork utilizes forms including sound, installation, light sculptures, drawing, performance, and video, all united by a preoccupation with the way in which form, space, and the body of the viewer create aesthetic and conceptual experience.

Norment in performance

Norment in performance

Norment performs as a solo artist, with other musicians in selected projects, and with her ensemble, the Camille Norment Trio—electric guitar, Norwegian hardingfele and the rare glass armonica—to explore the instruments’ collective sensual and cultural psychoacoustics across genre boundaries. Each of these instruments were simultaneously revered and feared or even outlawed at various points in their histories; through deconstructions of “beauty” and “noise”, “harmony” and “dissonance,” the visceral atmospheres they produce resonate through a tantalizing union of the instruments’ voices and their paradoxical cultural histories.

Selected to produce a solo project for the Nordic pavilion in the 2015 Venice Biennial, was also commissioned a permanent sound installation for the Henie Onstad Art Center. Highlights of her extensive international fine arts exhibition record include New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Oslo’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Liste Young Art Fair, Greece’s Thessaloniki Biennial, Switzerland’s Kunsthalle Bern, Copenhagen’s Charlottenborg Fonden, Denmark, LA’s Santa Monica Museum of Art, New York’s Studio Museum of Harlem, Sweden’s Bildmuseet, and radio broadcast in the Venice Biennial. Norment’s work has been written about in periodicals such as ArtForum, Art in America, The New York Times, Kunst Kritikk, Aftenposten, a feature in The Wire Magazine, and numerous other international texts.

Don’t miss what promises to be a fascinating event at 8pm Wednesday, March 9.

Samuel Roy-Bois

Samuel Roy-Bois

Finally, on March 23, we have Vancouver-based installation artist Samuel Roy-Bois. Originally from Quebec City, Samuel Roy-­Bois’ ambitious and thought-­provoking installations have been shown across Canada and internationally.

His major solo installations have been exhibited at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver, Point éphémère in Paris, Parisian Laundry in Montreal, Oakville Galleries in Ontario and at the Musée d’art contemporain in Montréal, as well as being part of group shows in Vancouver, Ottawa, Québec City, Joliette, and Toronto’s Nuit Blanche, among others. He has also participated in international artist residencies in Denmark, Paris and Quebec.

"Ghetto" (2006)

“Ghetto” (2006)

“I am always aware of working within an economy of means, voluntarily blurring the border between art and life, and to develop ideas about contemporary ideals and low-­‐scale utopianism,” he says. “These different artistic strategies are ways to promote ordinary objects and spaces into a poetic dimension, with the wish of renewing one’s gaze and perception.”

My work also puts forward ideas about time, by incorporating truncated elements of narration. An exhibition space can be divided into multiple rooms, which can be discovered in a specific order, following a precise path, similar to a musical piece. The work reveals itself through an accumulation of ideas and sensations that culminate into an appreciation of a complex universe both fragmented and coherent.”

Hear Samuel Roy-Bois at 8pm on Wednesday, March 23 in room A162 of the Visual Arts Building.

 

Top 10 Fine Arts stories of 2015

It’s the end of another busy—and rewarding—year here at the Faculty of Fine Arts, where there was never any shortage of things to keep everyone busy. With five departments offering literally hundreds of annual concerts, theatrical productions, readings, exhibits, symposiums and lectures by visiting artists, academics and professionals, Fine Arts remains one of the most community-engaged faculties on campus. Here’s a quick wrap-up featuring some—but certainly not all—of the leading Fine Arts stories of the year.

A very Meigs year

Sandra Meigs with the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada (photo: Sgt Ronald Duchesne)

Sandra Meigs with the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada (photo: Sgt Ronald Duchesne)

It was quite the year for Department of Visual Arts professor Sandra Meigs. Hot on the heels of being named one of eight recipients of the Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts in March—an honour that saw her work featured in a special curated exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada this past summer—she presented her most recent solo exhibit of new work, All to All, at Toronto’s acclaimed Susan Hobbs Gallery. Plus, she was announced as the winner of the $50,000 2015 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO in October, an award that also comes with a solo show at the Art Gallery of Ontario and a further $10,000 towards a publication on her work. Read more about Meigs’ successes here and here.

A Royal event

UVic's new RSC honorands featuring Hodgins (third from left), Biro and MacLeod (far right). (UVic Photo Services)

UVic’s new RSC honorands featuring Hodgins (third from left), Biro and MacLeod (far right). (UVic Photo Services)

More than 400 of Canada’s brightest academic minds converged on Victoria in November when the Royal Society of Canada—Canada’s national academy—honoured three of our own. Celebrated playwright, Writing professor and UVic alumna Joan MacLeod was one of three UVic professors elected as new fellows, while noted composer and Music professor Dániel Péter Biró was elected as one of three new members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Finally, acclaimed author and retired Writing professor Jack Hodgins was presented with the RSC’s 2014 Pierce Medal for outstanding achievement in imaginative literature. Find out more about UVic’s Royal Society connections here.

Really made in BC

Maria Tippett speaks to a full house

Maria Tippett speaks to a full house

Back in September, Fine Arts was proud to host the launch of Made in British Columbia: Eight Ways of Making Culture—the latest book by noted cultural historian Dr. Maria Tippett. “UVic has always impressed me as being sensitive to art in British Columbia, and is a superb place to launch the book,” noted the Governor General’s Award-winning Tippett. It was a packed event with nary a seat in the house and, despite nearly having to cancel due to ill health, Tippett proved a real trouper and carried on with a fantastic event. Read more about the book here.

Singing his praises

Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)

Benjamin Butterfield (UVic Photo Services)

A tenor of international renown with a repertoire ranging from baroque to classical and contemporary, Music professor Benjamin Butterfield was announced in June as the 2015 winner of UVic’s Craigdarroch Award for Excellence in Artistic Expression. “The measure of Professor Butterfield’s impact on the musical world can truly be found in how he applies his talent and expertise to the training of a new generation of singers,” says Dr. Susan Lewis. “He makes the difference for young singers, providing both inspiration and sound teaching to prepare them for the world stage.” Discover more about Butterfield here.

(Re)Acting to a crisis

Conrad Alexandrowicz

Conrad Alexandrowicz

Back in March, a first-of-its-kind national symposium co-organized by Department of Theatre professor Conrad Alexandrowicz questioned and examined traditional acting methods, as it addressed what has been described as “the crisis of actor training in Canada.” Acting Training in a Shifting World saw 34 instructors from the majority of Canadian post-secondary drama institutions—ranging from universities and colleges to conservatory programs—converge on the Phoenix. “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.” Read the original Ring article here.

Mile-high research

Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff

Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff

Being the first to gain access to an archive is the kind of research opportunity most academics dream of—and it’s how Art History & Visual Studies professor Allan Antliff spent his summer. Antliff was recently announced as the inaugural Research Fellow in Residence at the Clyfford Still Museum Research Center in Denver, Colorado. Named for the famed American painter—whom Antliff describes as “a leading artist in the abstract expressionist movement”—the position at the CSM represented an exciting opportunity. “No scholars apart from those at the CSM have had access to his archive or library before this—I’m getting first crack at it,” said Antliff, who spent two months on site. Read more about Clyfford Still here.

Welcome to the (faculty) club

Fine Arts was pleased to announce three new hires this academic year: Music’s Joseph Salem, plus Cedric Bomford and Megan Dickie in Visual Arts. “Dr. Salem comes to us from Yale University, where he completed a doctoral degree with a dissertation on Pierre Boulez,” says Dr. Susan Lewis. “A scholar with expertise in music after 1950, he brings a strong analytical focus to his approach to music. He is a passionate teacher who will ignite the classroom and instill a love for music our students.”

Salem, Dickie & BOmford

Salem, Dickie & BOmford

Joining Visual Arts from the University of Manitoba is sculptor and photographer Cedric Bomford. “[His] career is on a upward trajectory as evidenced by an international exhibition record and his work being recently nominated for the prestigious 2014 Sobey Award,” noted Visual Arts chair Paul Walde.

And stepping up from her longtime position as a sessional instructor is local sculptor Megan Dickie. “Megan has been teaching with Visual Arts for 10 years now,” says Walde. “She is consistently one of our most highly ranked instructors and is extremely popular with our students. In the past four years, Megan’s studio research has developed in new and innovative ways, bringing her more exhibition opportunities both nationally and internationally.”

Nominating success

Director Maureen Bradley on the set of Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)

Director Maureen Bradley on the set of Two 4 One (photo: Arnold Lim)

An impressive 26 nominations in the 2015 Leo Awards for films created by Department of Writing faculty and alumni proves we’re punching above our weight when it comes to film futures—truly, a surprising number for a university that doesn’t even have a film production program. “Film is just a development of the Writing department’s already well-known streams,” says film professor Maureen Bradley, whose groundbreaking feature film Two 4 One (produced by Fine Arts Digital Media Technician Daniel Hogg) was nominated for six awards. “I don’t know anywhere else in the country where this is happening. There are good student films being made, but they’re not being driven by faculty [led-courses].” Read more about our film course here.

Finding art in conflict

Applied Theatre professor Dr. Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta became the latest Fine Arts TEDx speaker in November, when she enthralled audiences with her talk “Utopia of Unwanted Spaces: Art in Conflict.” From her experiences bringing theatre to some of the most seemingly hopeless places in our world, Sadeghi-Yekta has learned what it takes for art—and culture—to not just live on, but thrive in conflict zones. “Theatre transcends the destructive places where a horrendous physical world exists,” says Sadeghi-Yekta. Some of her most notable work has been with working with the children in the Downtown East Side in Vancouver, young people in Brazilian favelas, disabled women in areas of Cambodia, adolescents in Nicaragua and students with special needs in schools in the Netherlands. You can watch the video here:

Gone but not forgotten

Finally, this past year saw the passing of three important figures in the Faculty’s history: School of Music professor Gene Dowling, Visual Arts professor Don Harvey, and Writing professor Dave Godfrey.

An inspirational teacher and invaluable colleague, Dowling passed away in June. “He showed incredible generosity and thoughtfulness towards his students and helped make the School of Music a great place to be,” says Acting Dean of Fine Arts and former School of Music Director Susan Lewis.

Dowling, Godfrey & Harvey

Dowling, Godfrey & Harvey

Also passing in June was former Writing chair Godfrey, a Governor General’s Award winner. Retired Writing professor Lorna Crozier remembers him as being “generous, sharp and excited about ideas and young people. He was a central figure in the Canadian renaissance, in our belief that our own stories have value. We need more of his kind now.”

Professor Emeritus Harvey passed away in August. A founding member of the Visual Arts department, current professor Robert Youds recalls Harvey as having “a formidably quick wit and a razor sharp eye for anything to do with colour, mark-making, and the pictorial in art. He played an enormous role in the early development of the Visual Arts department at UVic—for which we current members owe a real debt of thanks.”

Sandra Meigs wins $50,000 prize

It’s shaping up to be quite the year for Department of Visual Arts professor Sandra Meigs. Hot on the heels of being named one of eight recipients of the Governor General’s Awards for Visual and Media Arts in March 2015—an honour that saw her work featured in a special curated exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada this past summer—she has also just closed All to All, her most recent solo exhibit of new work, at Toronto’s acclaimed Susan Hobbs Gallery. And now, Sandra Meigs has been announced as the winner of the $50,000 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO for 2015.

Meigs (photo: Michelle Alger)

Meigs (photo: Michelle Alger)

“When I got the call about the prize I was at a rest stop on the 401 on my way to London, where I was going to do grad visits at Western,” Meigs explains from Ontario. “I’m told I said ‘I can’t believe it’ four times. The news just seemed to have dropped out of the sky as some sort of magical gift and settle into my GPS as the next stop on my way.”

In addition to the cash award, the Gershon Iskowitz Prize comes with a solo show at the Art Gallery of Ontario and a further $10,000 towards a publication on Meigs’ work.

“The Gershon Iskowitz Prize recognizes artists who have made a significant contribution to the field of visual arts in Canada,” notes Dr. Susan Lewis, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Fine Arts. “The Faculty congratulates renowned painter Sandra Meigs on this latest career achievement. Her creative body of work has a tremendous impact and influence on the contemporary visual arts scene. Her art informs her teaching and mentorship of students in our Faculty. The Fine Arts student experience is distinguished by the expertise and commitment that she brings to fostering a dynamic learning environment here at UVic.”

Describing winning the award as “a career highlight,” Meigs says the timing for it is ideal. “It couldn’t come at a better time for me since All to All took me two years to complete. And I am now ready and fresh to start something anew.”

"All to All", the latest solo exhibit by Sandra Meigs

“All to All”, the latest solo exhibit by Sandra Meigs

News of Meigs’ prize win was picked up by the Globe and Mail, CBC News, Canadian Art magazine, the Times Colonist and CBC Radio’s All Points West.

Meigs—currently on a semester of study leave—joins the celebrated ranks of past Gershon Iskowitz Prize winners like Jack Shadbolt, Gathie Calk, Shary Boyle, Michael Snow and Kim Adams.

Adding to the surprise of the announcement is the fact that artists do not apply for this prize. “I was blown away,” she admits with a laugh. “There was no nomination process—the decision was made by a curator, two Iskowitz Foundation trustees, and an artist from the Canadian arts community who agreed unanimously on their choice. The prize is given in recognition of, but also to further, an artist’s career—particularly an artist who is at a crucial turning point in advancing his or her work.”

The jury consisted of curator Lesley Johnstone, art collector Jay Smith, curator/critic Sarah Milroy and former Visual Arts student and 2014 Governor General’s Award winner Kim Adams. In a statement, Johnstone described Meigs’ work as “comical and sad, materially rich and socially engaged, psychologically intense but also somehow playful, her work continues to surprise us with each new project. Hers is a unique voice and her influence within the Canadian art milieu is strongly felt.”

For her part, Meigs is relieved the solo AGO exhibit won’t be mounted until 2017, given her recent focus on All to All, which she describes as “a very intense and joyful work.”

Watch this video of Sandra Meigs' latest solo exhibit, All to All

Watch this video of Sandra Meigs’ latest solo exhibit, All to All

“I’ll have two years to develop the new work for the AGO exhibition and I’m not sure right now what I will make,” she admits. “I know I’ll be keen to start as soon as I get back home. And having the AGO as a venue will also give the work a huge boost, not only because it will afford it a large space to show in—for which I have been yearning for some time—but also because my ‘fan base’ is in Toronto so I can not only show to them, but also reach out to a huge audience of AGO gallery viewers who might otherwise not get to know my work.”

Sandra Meigs’ work has been described as expressive, eclectic and interdisciplinary; her paintings are known for their unique approach in combining complex narratives with comic elements in large scale works such as The Basement Panoramas and Strange Loop. She is dedicated to painting and refers to the possibilities of enchantment that painting presents through colour and form. For Meigs, the very authenticity of one’s experience offers proof that what is imagined when looking at a painting is as real as anything else that one experiences in the world. In addition to painting, she has also woven sculpture, film, sound, and other media in her works.

As for the prize money, Meigs says she’ll use it to fund the pieces for the AGO exhibit. “New work always ends up costing a lot to produce, whether it’s research travel, studio costs, production materials, or for services one needs at various stages of the production.”

Prize creator & Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz

Prize creator & Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz

Meigs also has high praise for the prize originator himself. “Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz had the foresight to create this prize and the AGO to oversee its mandate,” she says. “Perhaps I will someday be able to leave such a legacy. I follow in the footsteps of so many great artists who have received this prize and I am extremely grateful.”

The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation joined with the AGO in 2007 to raise awareness of the visual arts in Canada. Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz (1921-1988) recognized the importance of grants to the development of artists and acknowledged that a grant from the Canada Council in 1967 enabled him to formalize his distinctive style. The AGO is home to the artist’s archives, which include early works on paper, sketchbooks and ephemera, and holds 29 paintings by Iskowitz, spanning from 1948 to 1987, in its permanent collection.

Visual Arts student fuses bikes & art

Cycling is much more than a hobby for fourth-year UVic Visual Arts student Kyra McLeod. The former Team Canada BMX racer has been commissioned to turn a concrete wall into a cycling-themed public art piece for UVic’s Sustainability Week (running October 13 to 16). “It sounded really unique and totally appealed to me, so I was all for it,“ says McLeod.

Kyra McLeod (right) with Susan Kerr (photo: Paul Marck)

Kyra McLeod (right) with Susan Kerr (photo: Paul Marck)

The 2.5 by 20-metre wall space is part of the Campus Bike Centre in the lower level of University Centre—a reclaimed car parking lot now devoted to bike racks, storage lockers and a bike loan centre. McLeod is designing the mural to reimagine space and objects, incorporating structural elements of the wall—such as pipes and heating radiators—into her artwork.

“I want to create a series of movements and relate it to cycling and the progression of the city towards sustainability,” she says. “I take a lot of inspiration from architecture. When I saw the wall, I really wanted to create a sustainable environment that would build from what already existed there. I wanted the mural to speak back to the actual surface of the environment it relies on.”

Members of the campus community, the media and the general public have been watching McLeod create the project throughout the week in the Campus Bike Centre, where she feels right at home. Explaining that she has “pretty much always been on a bike,” McLeod says she started racing when she was eight years old and is now among more than 2,000 UVic students, faculty and staff who cycle to campus.

McLeod being interviewed by Shaw TV during Sustainability Week

McLeod being interviewed by Shaw TV during Sustainability Week

In fact, it was her love of bikes that first brought her to Victoria. “I was actually racing in the equivalent of the world cup for BMX in Victoria when I was about 14, and I knew then that I was going to live here. Even at that age, I liked the campus and just knew I would be coming here.”

But it wasn’t just the campus environment that attracted her; she also felt the Department of Visual Arts was the right fit for her own creative practice. “I’ve always drawn and painted,” says McLeod, who has studied with professor and famed Canadian painter Sandra Meigs. “Art has always been a part of my life. I wanted to go to a school that was less technically focused and more idea-based, which UVic is known for.”

While McLeod’s mural is a first of its kind for both her and the campus, it’s a great example of the kind of dynamic learning that happens here on a regular basis. “It’s my first piece of public art and I’m really excited it’s at UVic,” she says. “I love my school and I want to give something back. I really hope it paves the way for future student work on campus and serves as an example to future Visual Arts students to make a contribution to campus and show their skills.”

—with files from Paul Marck

Remembering artist & scholar Don Harvey

The Department of Visual Arts is saddened to announce the passing of Professor Emeritus Donald Harvey on August 21, 2015.

Don Harvey at work in his early UVic days (UVic Archives, HPC 042.2012)

Don Harvey at work in his early UVic days (UVic Archives, HPC 042.2012)

Don Harvey joined the Education department of UVic precursor Victoria College in 1961 and, alongside colleague John Dobereiner, was one of the founding members of the Visual Arts department when it was established in 1966. He was appointed as full professor in 1975 and not only served several terms as chair but also maintained a rigorous schedule of teaching and professional artistic practice throughout his 30-year career at UVic.

While was never directly one of his students, Visual Arts alumnus and current professor Robert Youds clearly recalls Harvey’s popularity among students. “He had a formidably quick wit and a razor sharp eye for anything to do with colour, mark-making, and the pictorial in art,” says Youds, who eventually shared an office with Harvey back when Visual Arts was housed in one of the old army huts on campus. “He played an enormous role in the early development of the Visual Arts department at UVic—for which we current members owe a real debt of thanks.”
Harvey's "Interference" (1964, acrylic on canvas), Legacy Galleries

Harvey’s “Interference” (1964, acrylic on canvas), Legacy Galleries

A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, his paintings, prints, and drawings received significant international recognition, and his work has been exhibited in the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Seattle Art Museum and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. Harvey’s work remains part of UVic’s permanent art collection.

“Don was at the forefront of abstract painting experimentation in the 1960s and ‘70s in Victoria,” notes Legacy Gallery director Mary Jo Hughes. “Coming out of the English modernist landscape tradition, Don moved into abstraction and developed his unique diamond-shaped canvas that rejected the horizontal landscape tradition while still very much being about the natural environment and its intersection with architecture. Younger artists such as Carl Beam, Rick Rivet and Eric Metcalfe proclaim he was a major influence on their careers.”

Harvey's "Black Diamond #3" (1979, oil on canvas), courtesy Legacy Galleries

Harvey’s “Black Diamond #3” (1979, oil on canvas), courtesy Legacy Galleries

Before moving to Victoria, Harvey completed a National Diploma of Painting and Design at West Sussex College of Art in 1950, and an Art Teacher’s Diploma at Brighton College of Art the following year. He was an art instructor in Wales for four years and traveled to Sicily and Spain, where he painted for a year before coming to Canada.

As Legacy Curator of Collections Caroline Riedel noted in the catalogue for the 2013 exhibit Core Samples: University of Victoria Visual Arts Faculty 1966-1986, “His early work is chiefly non-representational, while his later work draws more directly from nature, both flora and fauna, gardens and landscapes in general. He once described his vocation as an abstract painter to be a lonely one, as ‘no one really understands what you do. Everything’s an abstraction, except the real thing.’ “

Visual Arts alumna and local artist Avis Rasmussen recalls being interviewed by Harvey prior to her acceptance into the department as a mature student in 1975. “He generously gave me the opportunity to develop as an artist—if I obtained a B+ in a summer course,” she says. “My life drawing skills thrived in his classes . . . I learned so much following him around . . . he was so articulate and his consummate artist and art history knowledge was invaluable.” She notes that Harvey even wrote her a letter of recommendation, which helped Rasmussen secure a three-week residency at the International Drawing, Painting and Sculpture School in Italy. “I was certainly privileged to be a UVic Visual Art student with such amazingly creative professors all professional artists working on their own art works.”

One of Harvey's Carmannah Valley panels in UVic's ASB

One of Harvey’s Carmannah Valley panels in UVic’s ASB

Harvey’s work took an environmental angle in the late 1980s, when he joined a host of artists who painted the Stein and Carmanah Valleys and donated the proceeds of their work to the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. Harvey also painted a large-scale mural The Carmanah Valley Experience—an installation of 31 abstract expressionist painted panels that are five feet high and up to six feet wide—which was exhibited at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

“To me, his most poignant pieces are those that he did as part of the protest to save the old growth forest,” says Hughes. Now part of UVic’s permanent collection, panels from The Carmanah Valley Experience currently grace the lobby of the Administration Services Building.

The public memorial for Don Harvey begins at 2:30pm on Saturday, Nov 14 at UVic’s Interfaith Chapel, with a reception to follow at the University Club.

Visiting Artists program keeps art on the edge

One of the highlights of any Fine Arts semester is the long-running Visiting Artist program in the Department of Visual Arts. Designed to introduce both students and the general public to some of the top artistic talent at work in the visual arts field today, the Visiting Artist program regularly brings in acclaimed national and international artists working in a variety of mediums.

Visiting Artist Brendan Fernandes

Visiting Artist Brendan Fernandes

For students, it’s integral to engage with contemporary art movements and discover the personalities and work of artists from across Canada and around the world. The Visiting Artist program invites artists, curators, critics and other practicing art professionals to discuss their work and it’s relation to the world of contemporary art. We encourage our students and the greater Victoria arts community to regularly attend this prestigious  program.

While the program has been running in the department since the late 1970s, recent Visiting Artists have included the likes of Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulaanas, National Gallery curator Josée Drouin-Brisebois, interdisciplinary artist Brendan Fernandes, former Visual Arts professor and haptic sculptor Mowry Baden, collaborative art team Blue Republic, projection artist Daniel Barrow, photographer Jessica Eaton, architect Luigi Ferrara, war artist Andrew Wright, art critic Barry Schwabsky, video artist Diedre Logue, sound artist Marla Hlady, installation artist Kevin Schmidt, Seattle curator and writer Eric Fredericksen, intermedia artist Gary Hill, sculptor Liz Magor, multimedia artist Gary Spearin, painter Melanie Authier, sculptor Michel de Broin, and many, many others.

Visiting Artist Mowry Baden, with a recent sculpture in the foreground

Visiting Artist Mowry Baden, with a recent sculpture in the foreground

Visual Arts professor Jennifer Stillwell is currently organizing the series, and she’s booked another dynamic group of artists for this fall.  “We look for a range of experiences, ideas and mediums,” she explains. “The Visiting Artists are initially coordinated through open discussion in the department about who we may want to bring in. It’s important to include a diversity of contemporary approaches to creative practice, as we hope to extend the thinking of our students and provide dynamic learning opportunities on artistic research.”

Stillwell notes that the Visiting Artist series helps maintain ties with Victoria’s dynamic arts community, through collaborations and partnerships with the likes of Open Space Arts Society and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. “That allow us to bring in higher profile artists,” she says.

MFA student Carly Smith (left) gets some solo time with Marla Hlady

MFA student Carly Smith (left) gets some solo time with Marla Hlady

The best part of the series, however, is the one-on-one time that Visual Arts graduate students get with the Visiting Artists. “It’s a cornerstone of our MFA Program,” says Stillwell, “as the visiting artists, curators and critics actively participate in roundtable
discussions in our graduate seminar and they also provide individual studio visits to our graduate students.”

All Visiting Artist series begin at 8pm on Wednesday evenings in room A162 of the Visual Arts building, unless otherwise noted. And all the lectures are free, of course. Click here to add yourself to the Visiting Artist email list, which will keep you informed of upcoming events.

Mfanwy MacLeod's sculpture in Vancouver's former Olympic Village

Mfanwy MacLeod’s sculpture in Vancouver’s former Olympic Village

First up this season on September 16 is Vancouver-based sculptor Myfanwy MacLeod. In 2008, she was commissioned to create a permanent public work for Vancouver’s Olympic & Paralympics legacy public art program, and she is currently collaborating on a new public sculpture park for the grounds of the BC Children’s Hospital and BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre. A multiple award-winner, her work has been exhibited throughout Canada, the United States, Australia and Europe and is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and in numerous private Canadian collections.

Guillermo Gómez-­‐Peña

Guillermo Gómez-­‐Peña

Next up on September 30 is renowned Mexican-American performance artist Guillermo GómezPeña. A writer, activist, radical pedagogue and director of the San Francisco performance troupe La Pocha Nostra. His artwork has been presented at over 900 venues around the world and his performance work has contributed to debates on cultural and gender diversity, border culture and US/Mexico relations. While at UVic, Gómez-­Peña will be presenting a performance lecture titled “Imaginary Activism: The Role of the Artist Beyond the Art World.” His UVic appearance will also correspond with the Stories From the Edge series featuring Peña, James Luna, Saul Garcia Lopez and Amy Malbeuf, organized by downtown’s Open Space Society.

David Hoffos' "Ghosts of Isachsen" (2013)

David Hoffos’ “Ghosts of Isachsen” (2013)

October 14 sees a presentation by award-winning Lethbridge-based video and installation artist David Hoffos. Since 1992 Hoffos has maintained an active practice with over 50 group shows, hundreds of screenings, dozens of school and community collaborations, a few works for the stage and over 40 solo exhibitions, including a recent survey at the National Gallery of Canada. In 2010 his touring five-­year installation series, Scenes from the House Dream, was showcased at Halifax’s Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto. In 2014 Hoffos completed permanent public sculpture projects in Grande Prairie and Lethbridge.

Suzy Lake's "Are You Talking to Me?"

Suzy Lake’s “Are You Talking to Me?”

Then on November 4, we have Montreal conceptual artist Suzy Lake. Known for her large-­scale photography dealing with the body as both subject and device, Lake was one of a pioneering group of artists in the early ’70s to adopt performance, video and photography in order to explore the politics of gender, the body and identity. Early examples of her work form part of two touring exhibitions, WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution 1965-1980, and Identity Theft: Eleanor Antin, Lynn Hershman, Suzy Lake 1972-­1978. Lake’s work continues to use references to the body as a means to investigate notions of beauty in the context of youth and consumer culture. She has a long exhibition career in Canada, and has also shown her work in Europe, the United States, South America and Asia.

Stephen Schofield's "Effigie in progress " (2015)

Stephen Schofield’s “Effigie in progress ” (2015)

Finally, the fall season wraps up on November 25 with Montreal visual artist Stephen Schofield. The materials, procedures and subject of his sculpture, drawing and performance practices spring from the laboratories and private spaces of the home: the kitchen, the bathroom and the garden. Schofield has presented major ensembles of his work at the Power Plant in Toronto, le Musée d’art contemporain, la Biennale de Montréal, the Musée national des beaux-­‐arts du Québec, the Dalhousie Art Gallery, in France at the CAC de Vassivère, l’Aquarium, and the CREDAC. In 2012, he presented new work at the Cue Foundation, New York and recently won the Public Art competition for the Quartier des spectacles in Montréal.

There will be a fresh series of Visiting Artists beginning in January 2016. Be sure to check the Visiting Artist page for updates and new information.

Get connected with the Integrate Arts Festival

Looking for one final visual arts hurrah before the semester begins? Don’t miss the ninth annual Integrate Arts Festival, running August 28-30 in more than 20 venues around Victoria. Once again, Integrate features students, alumni & instructors of the Department of Visual Arts; among this year’s 20 featured artists are Andrea Soos, Doug Jarvis, Rose Lemonade, Pete Kohut, Yoko Takashima and Ruby Arnold.

integrateFormerly known as “Off the Grid Arts Festival,” Integrate was developed in 2007 and included an en masse art crawl to celebrate the city’s small galleries, artist-run centres and alternative arts venues. Since then, the festival has grown enormously and was re-branded in 2012 as the Integrate Arts Festival—yet it’s focused on providing a unique opportunity to circulate and experience an integrated landscape of the arts in Victoria.

Best of all, everything is free! All participating galleries, parties, events and performances are free during the festival crawl, although some public galleries will revert to admission fees or “by donation” on the festival’s second day.

Don't miss Doug Jarvis in action at Integrate

Don’t miss Doug Jarvis in action at Integrate

All you have to do is pick up or download Integrate’s interactive map, which will guide you  to a variety of exhibitions and events at participating galleries, publicly accessible studios, and various sites throughout the city. There’s even a hop on/hop off bus for Saturday evening’s art crawl so  participants can easily circulate among the venues—don’t miss Visual Arts instructor Doug Jarvis’ ongoing performance in Limbic Media’s parking lot (#2-740 Discovery) from 6-9pm Saturday night—as well as a family-friendly bike tour for participants on Sunday afternoon.

UVic’s own Legacy Art Gallery is once again among the venues, this year offering an interactive printmaking activity during the art crawl, from 6 to 9pm Saturday at 630 Yates. Based on their current exhibition, unlimited edition, which attempts to construct an art historical framework examining how prints by Aboriginal and Inuit artists represented. Featuring work from the Kamloops Art Gallery, Carleton University Art Gallery and UVic’s Legacy, unlimited edition represent a drive to preserve, portray and popularize oral histories and address social inequities in the medium of printmaking.

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Thomas), 2015, Video stillI

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Thomas), 2015, Video stillI

Also on view at Saturday night’s art crawl is Bridge Over Troubled Water, an interactive video & sound installation by Visual Arts instructor and local media artist Yoko Takashima and alumni Ruby Arnold. Check it out from 6 to 9pmat MediaNet’s Flux Media Art Gallery, #110 -2750 Quadra.

Special events this year include the Opening Reception from 7-10pm Friday, August 28 in the the Bay Centre downtown, the Art Crawl itself and the After Party, running from 9:30pm-2am at the Copper Owl (1900 Douglas), which will feature a great range of musical acts and projections, plus performance art by Integrate alum Anna Shkuratoff and Sean Rea. Get all the details here.

Last-minute electives!

Looking for a last-minute Fall elective to replace the course that sounded good in June but now has you scratching your head? (“Uh, did I really intend to register for A History of Molds and Fungi?”) You’re in luck—Fine Arts has you covered with a wide ranging of fascinating electives guaranteed to enhance any degree.

Missy Elliott's in the house for an Intro to Hip Hop

Missy Elliott’s in the house for an Intro to Hip Hop

Check the technique behind An Introduction to Hip Hop (FA 200). As well as looking at the roots of hip hop and groundbreaking originals like Kook Herc, you’ll be doing case studies on artists like Missy Elliot, Kanye West and Jay Z. You’ll also focus on the role of graffiti, turntablism and bboy/bgirl culture. Taught by Melissa Avdeef—the creator of last year’s popular Beyonce course— An Intro to Hip Hop runs 4:30-5:50 pm MW to Dec. 4.

HA200PosterThe creation of art has always been a hands-on process, but now you can look back at the historical roots of arts & crafts with How is Art Made? (HA200) Very much a hands-on course  itself, this Art History elective with Marcus Milwright examines how people actually make beautiful objects and buildings. From the painting of an icon to the casting of a bronze figure, you’ll have the chance to connect and handle a wide variety of ancient and medieval objects. How is Art Made? runs 3:30-4:20 pm MWR to Dec. 4.

Last year's Phoenix production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (photo David Lowes)

Last year’s Phoenix production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (photo David Lowes)

Thanks to the likes of the Belfry Theatre, Intrepid Theatre, Theatre SKAM, Theatre Inconnu, Langham Court, UVic’s own Phoenix Theatre and many others, there’s no question that Victoria is a theatre town. But watching—or creating—a stage play can often be daunting if you have no background to it. That’s where An Introduction to Theatre (THEA 101) comes in. Taught by local theatre artist and filmmaker Leslie Bland, you’ll be introduced to practical and theoretical approaches to play analysis, dramatic criticism, theatrical form and to the principles of stage production. Better still, attendance at live performances is required—which means you’ll get to go to plays, for credit! An Introduction to Theatre runs 3:30-4:50 MTH to Dec. 4.–

ICarraccideal for anyone interested in History, Medieval or Italian studies, as well as Art History, consider going for Baroque with the fascinating  Baroque Art in Italy 1550-1700 (HA342A). Taught by Anne Williams, this course explores the innovations in Italian art & architecture at a time marked by clashing dogmas of faith, political upheaval and scientific discovery. We will examine in depth selected works of painting, sculpture, and architecture by artists including Caravaggio, Bernini, and the Carracci. Baroque Art in Italy runs 2:30-3:20pm MWR to Dec. 4.

VA_painting labMore interested in developing your own artistic skills than studying the legacy of others? Check out Foundation Drawing and Painting
 (ART 103), which explores both drawing and painting. Normally reserved for Visual Arts students, ART 103 is now open to general enrollment. Discover how developing basic art skills can contribute to a wide variety of academic pursuits, from anthropology and engineering to law, sciences and more. Through studio exercises and exciting creative projects, you’ll get hands-on with a wide variety of methods and materials. Foundation Drawing and Painting
 runs to Dec. 4 at a variety of times.

Experimental photography by Victoria's own Hannah Maynard

Experimental photography by Victoria’s own Hannah Maynard

We live in a world ruled by Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, but how did we get to the point where everyone always has a camera with, or on, them? Find out with the History of Photography (HA369). Taught by Menno Hubregste, you’ll discover how this medium has developed since its invention in 1839, both technically and aesthetically, as well as the different types of images created by artists, journalists and scientists. From travel and documentary photography to Dada, Surrealism and conceptual art, you’ll also look at the rise of women photographers and how photography changed in the age of Postmodernism and advertising. The History of Photography runs 12:30-1:20pm TWF to Dec. 4.

Interested in learning why people practice thea394.2theatre in places of conflict and war? Want to know how theatre can be used in international development settings? Wondering what kind of techniques work in conflict zones? Back by popular demand, Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta still has space in her popular Applied Theatre elective, Theatre, Conflict & Development (THEA 394). This exploration into the practice of theatre in places of conflict and war—a topic Sadeghi-Yekta knows well—will include examples from the likes of Cambodia, Sudan, Kosovo, Nicaragua, the Congo and Brazil. Theatre, Conflict & Development runs 9-10:20am MR to Dec. 4. To register, contact the Theatre Department secretary directly at theatre@uvic.ca.

Two new professors in Visual Arts

The Department of Visual Arts is proud to announce the appointment of two new members to their acclaimed teaching faculty. Joining Visual Arts from the University of Manitoba is sculptor and photographer Cedric Bomford, and stepping up from her longtime position as a sessional instructor is sculptor Megan Dickie.

Cedric Bomford joins the Visual Arts faculty

Cedric Bomford joins the Visual Arts faculty

Cedric Bomford is leaving an Assistant Professorship at the University of Manitoba, a position that he has held since 2012, to join us at UVic to teach photography,” notes Visual Arts chair Paul Walde. “Professor Bomford’s career is on a upward trajectory as evidenced by an international exhibition record and his work being recently nominated for the prestigious 2014 Sobey Award.”

Bomford’s elaborate installation Bamberton: Contested Landscape ran locally at Open Space in January 2010. An immersive installation that reused materials from the artist’s building demolitions and previous work, the installation confronted land-use issues on the Vancouver Island site of Bamberton and Malahat Mountain through architectural references in the individual structures—which visitors were able to physically move through, over, under and around, allowing for a tactile interaction with the artists’ interventionist strategies and theme of contested space.

Bomford's "Bamberton: Contested Landscape" at Open Space in 2010

Bomford’s “Bamberton: Contested Landscape” at Open Space in 2010

“We believe Bomford’s high profile projects—most recently in Vancouver—will raise the profile of the Department and attract students to the program,” Walde continues. “Bomford’s practice is rooted in West Coast culture and he often collaborates with the brother Nathan and father Jim who live in on Vancouver Island. Additionally, Bomford is known for his curatorial projects, particularly his work with the collective aedc which produced a number of exhibitions in Berlin.”

Megan Dickie teaching the Foundation class in Visual Arts

Megan Dickie teaching the Foundation class in Visual Arts

And it’s a pleasure to see Megan Dickie move up to a faculty position, after her many years teaching with the department. “Megan has been teaching with Visual Arts for 10 years now,” says Walde. “She is consistently one of our most highly ranked instructors and is extremely popular with our students. In the past four years, Megan’s studio research has developed in new and innovative ways bringing her more exhibition opportunities both nationally and internationally.”

Known for her objects and images that are humorous, tactile and interactive, Megan investigates ideas of artifice by making sculptures out of sensuous materials that turn functional forms into exaggerated novelty gadgets. She finds novelty compelling in how it rejoices in excess and is truthful about its moral shortcomings; it’s a form that promotes curiosity over intimidation which allows the viewer to lean in and discover through touch.  Through this tactile experience the viewer ends up struggling between their desire for amusement and their desire for reason.

Megan Dickie's "The Gleamer," last seen at Legacy Gallery

Megan Dickie’s “The Gleamer,” last seen at Legacy Gallery

Megan has exhibited her work across Canada and has had recent exhibitions at Victoria’s Deluge Contemporary, Vancouver’s Grunt Gallery, the Nanaimo Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Ministry of Causal Living and Saskatoon’s Kenderdine Art Gallery. She was also the recipient of a Canada Council emerging artist creation grant in 2004 and a BC Arts Council grant in 2007 & 2009. Most recently, she contributed a piece to Legacy Gallery’s In Session: One, an exhibit focusing on UVic’s sessional instructor

“Megan has also curated exhibitions in Victoria, which have contributed to the vibrancy of the community by bringing in the work of national and international artists,” says Walde. “And, for seven years, she has been leading our Foundations Program—we are currently looking to re-design this area, as was recommended by our Academic Program Review. Megan’s experience within the Department makes her a natural fit for this position. She will continue to work and develop our Foundations Program, but also teach video which is an increasingly important part of her practice.”