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

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.”

UVic’s Digital Fabrication Lab the first of its kind in North America

UVic is once again leading the pack with the creation of the Digital Fabrication Lab (DFL). A collaboration between the Department of Visual Arts and the preexisting Maker Lab in UVic’s Electronic Textual Cultures Lab, the DFL is the first of its kind to encompass the arts and humanities in North America. Additionally, no university or college in North America yet has a computer numerical control (CNC) lab in the humanities, meaning the DFL is the first humanities facility of its kind on the continent.

It's early days for the DFL in Visual Arts

It’s early days for the DFL in Visual Arts

“There are far-reaching effects for this type of technology in just about everything we do,” says Department of Visual Arts chair Paul Walde. “Photography was the first area where there was almost a complete paradigm shift towards digital, and we’re now seeing digital technology move into every aspect of visual arts production. This represents a way for us to move forward not only with new sculptural techniques and projects but also printmaking and even certain kinds of painting.”

The DFL will include CNC routers, an industrial grade 3D scanner, a laser cutter, a milling machine, and 3D printers, together with various machining tools. “Visual Arts is a leader in material practices and material culture,” says Walde, who notes they already have extensive workshops and the necessary support staff to expand into this area. “We have purpose-built facilities for the safe handling and research of these applications. It’s a perfect fit for us . . . it’s an investment in the future.”

Materials for making a small solenoid (photo: Maker Lab)

Materials for making a small solenoid (photo: Maker Lab)

The Maker Lab at UVic, housed in the Technology Enterprise Facility, is a collaborative space of new techniques and old technologies involving the invention of imaginative and often outsized revisions of objects that don’t always exist in the world. Because its research is innovative, multi-faceted and occasionally intangible, it does not easily fit a simple definition.

The lab is inspired by experimental art, design and D.I.Y. cultures. The inter-disciplinary research team from UVic English, CSPT and Visual Arts includes faculty as well as undergraduate and graduate students who use physical computing and digital fabrication for cultural research.

The lab was launched in September 2012, under the leadership of director Dr. Jentery Sayers, an assistant professor, English and CSPT, with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canada Foundation for Innovation and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund.

Sayers describes the Maker Lab as an “intersection of cultural criticism and comparative media studies with computation, prototyping, electronics and experimental methods. Its design is anchored in blending a humanities research lab with a makerspace—a design that affords its team of students and faculty opportunities to build projects through various modes of ‘knowing by doing,’ such as programming, markup, new media production, data modeling, 3D printing and circuit design.”

The lab’s research will ultimately “inform policies on the ethics, distribution, licensing and derivation of 3D objects,” says Sayers, policies which currently do not exist in Canada. The lab also trains students in physical computing and desktop fabrication in non-STEM fields. Sayers points out that fabrication and physical computing are popular in STEM fields, but are virtually unknown in the humanities.

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

The Maker Lab and DFL are two of several initiatives at UVic—including the Humanities Computing and Media Centre (HCMC); Electronic Textual Cultures Lab (ETCL); Implementing New Knowledge Environments (INKE); Modernist Versions Project (MVP); Internet Shakespeare Editions; Map of Early Modern London; and the annual Digital Humanities Summer Institute—which continue to position the university at the forefront of digital humanities.

“I’m very excited about it,” says Walde about the DFL and this new Visual Arts collaboration with Humanities. “I can’t wait to see what the possibilities are with this equipment. That’s usually what gets the imagination stirring.”

—Tara Sharpe, with contributions by John Threlfall

This story was originally published in a longer form in UVic’s Ring newspaper

Music for Mycologists

It sounds like a Zen koan: What kind of music would a mushroom make? The answer isn’t to be found in meditation, however, but at this week’s Music for Mycologists concert.

The Experimental Music Unit

The Experimental Music Unit

American composer John Cage—an avid mycologist—often quipped that music and mushrooms have nothing to do with one another . . . except for the fact that they appear next to each other in the dictionary. The Experimental Music Unit (EMU) puts the veracity of this statement to the test with Music for Mycologists, a collection of musical works by local composers Paul Walde and Tina Pearson, Czech composer Vaclav Halek—described as “the world’s most prolific composer of mushroom songs”—and the EMU trio. Music for Mycologists explores relationships between music making and mushroom hunting, exposing the sometimes fragile process of discovering sounds of rare and raw beauty that exist just beyond perception.

The Music for Mycologists CD release concert begins at 8pm Saturday, June 6, at Open Space. Tickets are $11-$16 advance or $15-$20 at the door. There will also be “mushroom-themed” refreshments (we’ll leave that to your imagination), signed CDs available for purchase and informal discussions with the artists.

EMU is the core ensemble of LaSaM Music, which has been producing adventurous music events since 2008, and three of the four members hail from UVic: Visual Arts chair Paul Walde (bass guitar), School of Music audio specialist & recording engineer Kirk McNally (live electronic processing), Computer Science professor George Tzanetakis (bass clarinet), plus composer Tina Pearson (flute, voice). Known for its themed projects informed by aural tradition and improvisation, LaSaM explores the relationships between the natural world, sound and music, acoustic ecology and the provocative ideas of music practitioners from many times and places.

m4m-coverMusic for Mycologists features Walde’s piece “Interdeterminancy (for John Cage)”, the musical realization of a set of eight large mushroom spore printed panels designed as a graphic notation, which appeared as part of the Legacy Gallery’s 2013 Visual Arts faculty exhibit Paradox. Also on the bill is Pearson’s “Hunt (3) Chanterelles”, a set of sonic textures that reflect the sensations, sounds, colours, smells and attention states inspired by her mother’s memories of lifelong mushroom hunting. Balancing the program are “Mycelium Running,” a sonic enactment of the life cycle of a single mushroom from mycelium through spore, three short Halek compositions from his collection of short melodies transcribed from sounds he heard directly from mushroom species near his home, as well as live electronic processing by audio artist McNally.

In EMU’s Music for Mycologists soundworld, intentional microscopic attention is paid to typically peripheral instrument and body sounds, such as the nuances of breath, pre-tone whispers and whistles, the tap of instrument keys, the sound of a bow slowly crunching, and the charged pause of acute listening. You can listen to an excerpt below.

Whether performing in the Royal BC Museum’s natural history exhibit or exploring the sonic life of spores, the Experimental Music Unit always lives up to its name.

EMU and LaSaM are known for their original themed projects inspired by relationships between the natural world, sound and music, and the provocative ideas of music practitioners who work outside the margins; and the act of listening itself. Previous major projects include Dark Listening (2014), Music for Natural History (2012), In a Large Open Space (2011), “And Beethoven Heard Nothing” (2010), and Removing the Demon (2009) among others.

Community sings over Troubled Water

What do you get when you combine one of the best-known songs of the past 50 years with the latest technology? A fascinating art installation by Visual Arts sessional instructor Yoko Takashima: Bridge Over Troubled Water, continuing until May 30 at UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries Downtown.

Bridge Over Troubled Water (family), 2015

Bridge Over Troubled Water (family), 2015

An interactive video and sound installation project developed using Cycling74’s MAX and JITTER with other computer software and a Microsoft Kinect for interactive data collection, Takashima produced this new form of video installation in close collaboration with Visual Arts alumna Ruby Arnold.

“In this project, no identical image or performance is seen,” says Takashima. “More significantly, this technology allows for unexpected narratives to be constructed through the constant self-generation of the video and sound.”

Takashima will be giving an artist talk about her project, beginning at 7pm Thursday, May 14, at Legacy Downtown (630 Yates).

Described as a “so-called music video” of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Takashima video-recorded 37 volunteer community singers—friends, family, choir groups, folks in the theatre community, both professional and semi- professional singers—in a variety of age groups all with the same framing: face centred and looking directly at the camera lens. The artist then used a green screen and chroma keying of the footage to provide the collage of singers with a background of moving images of ambiguous hybrid landscapes, which act as “visual metaphors of our modern reality, encompassing anxiety, horror and hope.”

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Chris), 2015, Video still

Bridge Over Troubled Water (Chris), 2015, Video still

“It is significant for me to explore the shifting role of artists in the digital era,” explains Takashima. “In a time of saturated images, information and ‘high-speed fetch’, our role is now focused on selecting and preparing guidelines and then witnessing what technology can provide and manipulate. I am interested in exploring how technology used this way can produce effects beyond the artist’s authorship and premeditated aesthetic.”

Takashima felt the lyrics of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” convey a message of friendship and support, which she describes as “fundamental, ageless human needs. In exploring new technology with this song, we celebrate the up-lifting spirit in humanity and the new ways of delivering it.”

The exhibit is organized by Legacy director Mary Jo Hughes as the second of her continuing IN SESSION exhibits showcasing the work of the many sessional instructors in the Department of Visual Arts. But far from an exhibition of static work hanging on a wall, Hughes feels it’s the viewer who really brings Takashima’s work to life.

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

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

“When the darkened exhibition space is vacant, the audio plays quietly while the video is reduced to black and white,” she explains. “When someone enters the space, the sound level and colour intensity are gradually increased—the nearer one approaches the projection, the louder the sound becomes. To retreat is to attenuate the volume. The layered faces fill the wall in magnitude larger than life.”

“We see the singing human faces as beautiful in their openness and sincerity, while verging on the ridiculous in scale, proximity and unexpected combinations of over-layered facial features. The space is filled with their presence,” Hughes continues. “While interactivity has been integral to some of her past works, the constant regeneration of this work is new to Takashima’s 20-year video-based practice. It represents her desire to push video installation art beyond simple screening pieces placed within a space to offering infinitely-varied experiences involving the whole space with the viewer.”

Takashima's "Islands Burning" (1998), installation

Takashima’s “Islands Burning” (1998), installation

Hughes notes that, over the past two decades of work, Takashima has consistently “focused on her own body over various stages of life to explore her place as an individual while concurrently delving into the universalities and depth of human existence.” Video works such as Brushism (1996), As If (1996) and Islands Burning (1998) saw Takashima presenting her body as non-narrative subject, “performing within a limited or unidentifiable context, often truncated, anonymous, and isolated in an unnervingly close proximity.”

Bridge Over Troubled Water, says Hughes, represents the artist’s “continuing interest in using technology as an artistic tool in her ongoing research into new modes of expression. In this work, Takashima involves us in an unending performance that personifies the interconnectedness of a larger more encompassing humanity . . . . The installation suggests that through family, friends, and basic human connections, we can provide for each other the support that will get us through the fear and discord that otherwise characterizes our world.”