Sounds like art

Most artists aren’t very pleased when their work receives a chilly reception. But when Visual Arts professor Paul Walde created a four-movement orchestral requiem for an audience of one—the Farnham glacier in the Kootenays—he was expecting to get the cold shoulder.

Paul Walde recording on Farnham Glacier (photo: Pat Morrow)

Paul Walde recording on Farnham Glacier (photo: Pat Morrow)

Accompanied by a 70-person choir and orchestra, Walde and a film crew trekked up the icefield in July 2013 to bring awareness to melting glaciers in general, and to the Jumbo and Farnham glaciers in particular. The glacier area is the site of a controversial resort development.

While composing music for a glacier may seem a bit odd, it’s simply part of Walde’s wider practice as an artist exploring the boundaries between sound, landscape and art.

“Is listening a natural act? Is perception a cultural act? What does it mean to overlay something completely natural with something overtly cultural?” asks Walde. “Those are the kind of questions I deal with.”

As an artist, Walde believes the combination of visual material with natural sounds allows for a different kind of listening experience. “If you can convince your brain that what you’re hearing is music, you’re going to listen to those sounds very differently,” he says.

Growing up in northern Ontario, Walde was influenced by his experiences with nature and landscape art. “On a larger scale, Canadian identity has always been wrapped up in landscape,” he says. “But I have a strong interest in science, and a lot of science is centered on the investigation of the natural world and how it works.

“Then there’s the larger socio-political dimension of climate change—if you consider the environment somehow integral to our Canadian identity, what does it mean when it’s threatened?”

Paul Walde (photo: Times Colonist)

Falling pine needles bring a piano to life (photo: Times Colonist)

As an acclaimed intermedia artist, Walde has fused his passion for nature and art by transforming mushroom spores, flitting moths, falling pine needles, beaver-gnawed trees and improvised soundscapes into numerous gallery pieces over the years—including Requiem for a Glacier.

Originally commissioned by the Langham Cultural Centre in Kaslo, Requiem received international media attention. Conducted by UVic Symphony director Ajtony Csaba, the performance was filmed as the basis for a video installation.

The soundtrack also incorporates field recordings taken on top of (and beneath) the glacier’s ice field. “The natural resonances of the glacial sounds almost elicit another melody,” he says.

The volunteer orchestra on the glacier (photo: Pat Morrow)

The volunteer orchestra on the glacier (photo: Pat Morrow)

The final 9 x 32-foot, 40-minute projected video installation—which also includes material recounting the history of the glacier, the advent of electricity and climate change, and the government’s announcement of a year-round resort community in the Jumbo Glacier area (which Walde translated into Latin and used as the choral parts in his Requiem) has already appeared in two Kootenay-region galleries.

As the proposed $1-billion Jumbo Glacier Resort continues to generate controversy, Requiem for a Glacier has created new awareness about the issues of global warming and the development of wild spaces. “I offer information and allow people to draw their own conclusions,” he explains. “The video isn’t simply a documentation of the performance. I didn’t want to make a music video, I wanted to make a unique art work which operated more like a painting.”

As always, Walde leaves it to his audience to discover the impact of the art.

Walde's "Interdeterminacy" offers art from mushroom spores

Walde’s “Interdeterminacy” offers art from mushroom spores

“I love leaving a gallery and seeing information in ways I never noticed before,” he says. “That’s one of the great experiences you can have with any art form—literature, theatre, film, visual art—the artist gives you a lens to understand the world.”

Walde is the new chair of UVic’s Visual Arts department and an old hand at engaging students in the contemporary creative process. “I try to convince them that their first idea isn’t always their best idea,” he says. “Consider that first idea an initial impulse and see where else it can go.”

He’s also excited by new opportunities in the art world. “There are great opportunities in technology,” he says. “We’re also seeing the development of an art market that’s unprecedented; it’s enormous compared to what it used to be. Really, it’s a great time to be an artist.”

Requiem for a Glacier runs September 11 to November 1 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre in Coquitlam, then at Laval University Art Gallery in Quebec City until the end of December.

This piece originally ran as part of the KnowlEDGE UVic Research series.

Four on the Floor

New faces will soon be seen in the faculty boardroom, as four departmental mainstays step into fresh administrative roles for three-year terms. Three new Chairs have been announced: Allana Lindgren in Theatre; David Leach in Writing; and Paul Walde in Visual Arts. Not to be left out, Evanthia Baboula of History in Art has been named the new Associate Dean.

Baboula

Baboula

“As we welcome the new leadership team we should also remember to thank those who have been serving in these jobs over the past few years,” says Dean Sarah Blackstone. “These individuals—Lynne Van Luven, Bill Gaston, Daniel Laskarin, and Warwick Dobson—have been working very hard on behalf of the Faculty, sometimes sacrificing their own scholarship and creative activity to be sure everyone else had the proper support to be successful in their own endeavours.”

“Good leadership is key to everything we do and all we want to accomplish as a Faculty,” Blackstone continues. “We have been very well served by the outgoing team, and I am looking forward to working with the new team.”

Lindgren

Lindgren

While appreciating the amount of work the position will entail, Lindgren is clearly looking forward to her new post. “I am grateful to my colleagues for their support and encouragement, and buoyed by our collective desire to solidify our reputation as one of the best theatre departments in Canada,” says Lindgren, a specialist in theatre history. “We’re going to continue to produce exciting theatre while preparing our students to be creative leaders.”

For his part, Leach is “thrilled and honoured” to lead the department he first joined as a student 25 years ago. “Every day, we hear good news about the creative success of our alumni,” says Leach, currently the director of both the Professional Writing and Technology and Society programs.

Leach

Leach

“I hope to increase the awareness of our program, nationally and internationally, so that any student seriously considering a career in the literary arts will put UVic on the top of their wish list . . . I also hope my hair doesn’t turn completely grey until after my second year!”

Both Leach and Lindgren highlight the importance of interdisciplinarity—in Fine Arts and across campus—as well as UVic’s core values of experiential learning, socially engaged research and community outreach. (Walde was out of town as of this writing.) Lindgren also notes the importance of the Phoenix as one of UVic’s most public faces. “In the coming years, I encourage everyone to catch a show and see our ideals in action!”

Walde (photo: Pat Morrow)

Walde (photo: Pat Morrow)

When asked for some words of advice, outgoing Theatre Chair Warwick Dobson offered this sage wisdom to the new Chairs: “Visit your Dean briefly and infrequently,” he quipped. “And know that you can usually help students—but faculty is trickier.”

Dean Blackstone also appreciates the time and effort taken by those who assisted with the appointments. “Join me in thanking the search committees who undertook this important work and congratulating the new administrative team,” she says.

Summer plans (part one)

Who doesn’t like summer? Classes are finished, the fall semester is still far enough away to not worry about and we’ve all got some time to put towards our own creative practices. What’s on deck for some of our faculty this summer? Let’s find out.

Lynne Van Luven

Lynne Van Luven

Outgoing Associate Dean Lynne Van Luven has been busy winding up her job in the Dean’s Office and trundling all her books back upstairs to her permanent home in the Department of Writing. But, before she assumes full teaching duties again, she’s taking a well-deserved administrative leave for the 2014/15 academic year.

“In the period of my leave, I hope to get a whole lot of work done on Flesh Wounds, which is the working title for my new book of essays about the hilarious and hair-raising process of ageing,” she says. “I have lots of research and writing to do, so I am most appreciative of the time off.” But having time off doesn’t come naturally to the diligent Van Luven. “I have never—since I started teaching at universities back in 1981—had a full year off to work on a project,” she admits. “I hope I just don’t blow all my time pursuing Skittles and beer . . . or, alternately, wine and roses.”

Bland with Canadian actress Neve Campbell

Bland with Canadian actress Neve Campbell

Busy Department of Theatre continuing sessional instructor Leslie Bland always has some fascinating side-projects on the go. Recently back from a trip to Paris and from attending the Banff World Media Festival in June, he’s currently completing his latest film project.

“I’m wrapping post production on our feature documentary Gone South: How Canada Invented Hollywood,” Bland reports. “There will a world premiere of it in August in Los Angeles hosted by the LA Consul General for Canada.” Word is the premier might even be held at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. (Maybe Bland can give a tour of all the famed Canadian hand-prints in the concrete there.) Gone South comes on the heels of the all-female stand-up comedy series She Kills Me that Bland recently produced and directedfor broadcast on APTN.

Lewis Hammond & Monteverdi

Lewis Hammond

School of Music director Susan Lewis Hammond is cracking the books this summer—her own book, that is. “I’ll be finishing a textbook titled Baroque Music: History, Culture, Performance—forthcoming with Routledge in 2015″, she says. On top of that, she’ll be presenting on a panel “on the value of a Bachelor of Music degree” at Congress 2015 at Brock University, and traveling to do research at the University of Toronto. Let’s hope there’s time for some relaxing in her schedule, too.

Writing professor and filmmaker Maureen Bradley recently completed editing her locally-lensed debut feature film Two 4 One—Canada’s, and possibly the world’s, first mainstream transgender romantic comedy— and is now in the process of submitting it to major film festivals, both Canadian and international.

Dániel Péter Biró

Biró

As well as preparing for his prestigious Fellowship from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University in 2014/15, School of Music professor Dániel Péter Biró will have his new composition Al Ken Kara (That Is Why It Was Called) performed on July 26 at the Teatro Fondamenta Nuove in Venice, Italy. This piece was originally composed as part of the Mediterranean Voices film project. In addition, the book The String Quartets of Béla Bartók: Tradition and Legacy in Analytical Perspective that he co-edited with fellow School of Music professor Harald Krebs, has just been released by Oxford University Press.

Youds photoVisual Arts professor Robert Youds currently has his light-based sculpture “turn on your electric* on view as part of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exhibit Out of Sight: New Aquistions, running to September 1. He’s also completing a major sculptural commission which will be opening at the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Offsite this fall. Locally, his piece “soft works for complicated needs*” is featured in the current AGGV exhibit Through the Looking Glass until September 7.  In addition to that, Youds will have the paintings “our aurora borealis and everything else” as part of the Transformation of Canadian Landscape Art: Inside and Outside of Being at the Xi’an Art Museum in China from August 10 – September 21. Better still, he’ll be travelling to Xi’an and Beijing to give talks and to meet foreign dignitaries as part of the exhibit.

Stay tuned for more summer plans!

Jackson 2Bears explores the future of tradition

Three things set Jackson 2Bears apart as the 2013/14 Audain Professor of Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest for the Department of Visual Arts. Not only is he the first UVic alumnus and first local artist to hold the position, but he is also the first person reappointed for a second year.

Jackson 2Bears

Jackson 2Bears

Following in the footsteps of such noted Indigenous artists as Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas and Nicholas Galanin, 2Bears is a Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) multimedia artist and a frequent face around campus. Having completed both his Masters and PhD here, he taught for both Visual Arts and UVic’s Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture before accepting the Audain position. But he’s kept busy off-campus this past year by participating in solo and group exhibitions such as Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art. at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Centre, the Beat Nation tour which saw him invited to perform in Montreal and a number of East Coast performances with the Noxious Sector collective, as well as participating in Open Space Gallery’s recent public art symposium Reclaim The Streets.

As with all Audain professors, 2Bears’ year was split between teaching and studio practice. “There were periods where I was really focused on working with students—which was fantastic—but because of the way the position is set up, I found a lot of time for my own work,” he says. “Much of my year was about intense research; I really wanted to use this time to experiment with my own practice. Sometimes at the mid-career level, you find yourself in ruts or overly familiar ways of working; I was conscious of trying to upset that for myself. I wanted to do the research in order to recreate my practice.”

But he was also found himself challenged by his experience teaching the 300-level Audain seminar, which included students working in a variety of mediums: from painting and sculpture to digital media, performance and music. “Working with students at the senior level, it feels less like teacher/student relationships and more like we’re a group of artists working together, helping each other out,” he says. “I found that immensely helpful—especially in an environment where you’re forced to be critical of other peoples’ work all the time in that role, you go home and do that to yourself; it enhances your own practice. You look at your own work, and the voice in your head says, ‘Am I following my own advice here? Have I really thought this through?’”

2Bears in performance

2Bears in performance

Currently working on creating entirely new digital instruments for his Audain exhibition in September 2014 (“I’m adapting an old analogue synthesizer into a video performance machine . . . I want to treat video like sound, so it can warp and move like a synthesizer and music”), 2Bears has also been writing (“I’m also working on some new texts directly related to indigenous philosophy and technologies”) and looking at enhancing community engagement with the Audain position.

“I’ve been building relationships between Visual Arts and First Peoples House, Open Space and the community, but it’s taken a lot of this year just to get that off the ground,” he says. “But it would make me very happy to see that carry on, create more of a sense of community with the Audain position—not just community here on campus but bringing in other artists as well.” Already in the works is a series of mini-residencies with fellow contemporary indigenous artists Maria Hupfield, Sonny Assu and Corey Bulpitt.

All in all, 2Bears is pleased with his first year as an Audain Professor. “Absolutely, it’s been a great year,” says an enthusiastic 2Bears. “It’s been a real challenge working with students—in this environment, it’s very rich, very interdisciplinary, and everybody’s coming at things from different angles and perspectives—but it’s been fantastic.”

Created in 2009 as part of a $2-million gift from B.C. art philanthropist Michael Audain and the Audain Foundation, the Audain professorship brings in mid-career professional artists to both work with students and further their own work.

Call for Courses

The Faculty of Fine Arts is requesting expressions of interest for the following sessional assignments:

Got a great course idea?

Got a great course idea?

Fall Term - FA 200 A0: Special Topics in Fine Arts (maximum enrollment: 150 students), September-December 2014.
A multi-disciplinary investigation into various aspects of the arts. Focus may vary from year-to-year. Class runs Monday and Wednesday, 4:30pm – 5:50pm.

Spring Term -FA 335 A01 – Popular Culture (maximum enrollment: 75 students), January – April 2015.
An interdisciplinary examination of the popular arts and their place in society. The topics for
examination will vary in different years and sections. Class runs Monday and Thursday, 8:30am – 9:50am.

Expressions of Interest are due by 4:30pm Thursday, June 19th, 2014. Positions will be assigned no later than June 27, 2014.

Insert your course here

Insert your course here

Please submit a written letter of interest indicating qualifications and experience,
potential course outline along with a current Curriculum Vitae to:
Samantha Knudson, Academic Administrative Officer
Faculty of Fine Arts (Fine Arts Building, Rm 116)
University of Victoria, PO Box 1700 Stn CSC, Victoria BC V8W 2Y2

If you are interested in proposing future courses that fit within the Fine Arts curriculum (see Undergraduate Calendar pg. 310), please contact the Dean of Fine Arts Office to schedule an appointment. Sessional Instructors are CUPE 4163 (Component 3) positions with Sessional Lecturers Certification.

The University of Victoria is an equity employer and encourages applications from women, persons with disabilities, visible minorities, aboriginal peoples, people of all sexual orientations and genders, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of the University. The University reserves the right to fill additional teaching assignments from the pool of applicants for this posting. All positions are subject to enrolment and budgetary approval.

MFA exhibit engages eyes & intellect

When it comes to advanced academic work, few would expect to spend five minutes examining a graduate student’s work in biochemistry, neuroscience or mechanical engineering and really “get it.” Yet the same rules don’t seem to apply to Visual Arts, where people are often quick to dismiss an MFA student’s work simply because they don’t immediately understand, or appreciate, it.

Art by Visual Arts MFA candidate Neil McClelland

Art by Visual Arts MFA candidate Neil McClelland

Just ask Paul Walde. A professor of painting and media practices in the Department of Visual Arts, Walde is the graduate advisor for UVic’s 11 Visual Arts MFA students. He’s also a very busy intermedia artist on the leading edge of contemporary practice, so he knows well of what he speaks. “If you walk into a play or open a book and just spend five minutes with it, you’re probably not going to have a good sense of what the total accomplishment is,” he says. “That’s the same with visual arts—you have to spend some time with the work, maybe do a little reading around it . . . sometimes the content of the art is such that a level of understanding will have to preface it in some way.”

The MFA exhibit, titled In Your Eyes,will feature work by six graduating MFA candidates: Megan Dyck, Ethan Lester, Neil McClelland, Kaitlynn McQueston, Carley Smith and Jeroen Witvliet. “It’s really like six solo exhibitions,” says Walde. “Six people are taking over the entire facility, and some take up three or four rooms. The amount of work they produce is staggering; you’ll only be seeing a fraction of what they’ve produced in the past two years.”

MFA student Kaitlynn McQueston

MFA student Kaitlynn McQueston

Kaitlynn McQueston, who did her BFA at York University, was attracted by the independent studio focus of the MFA program. “I love the idea of a program that focuses more on practice-based research,” she says. “Graduate students have a little more control over what you read and research . . . most programs are just partial studio, and you spend a lot of time writing papers. This is more independent.”

McQueston describes her own practice as being “site-specific work focusing on the outdoors and architecture . . . I like the idea of artwork that tries to blend into the urban landscape and invites you to touch it in an informal but tangible way. I like breaking down those institutional barriers and engaging the public with art, as well as the landscape.” (In addition to the work on display in the MFA exhibit, McQueston is currently negotiating with local municipalities to install some pieces in public spaces.)

An example of Jeroen Witvliet's work

An example of Jeroen Witvliet’s work

Artists like McQueston, who have fresh approaches and new ideas, are exactly who the MFA program wants to attract. “We’re looking for artists who want to engage with contemporary art dialogue in an environment that really promotes independently driven, rigorous studio investigation in the service of research creation,” says Walde. “It’s definitely a successful program given its size; I shouldn’t be shocked but it’s always surprising—or affirming—when our former students receive awards or gain the recognition they so rightly deserve.” (Case in point: Visual Arts alumnus Kim Adams, who was recently awarded the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Visual & Media Arts.)

One of Carley Smith's pieces

One of Carley Smith’s pieces

But while a perpetual sense of misunderstanding seems to be go hand-in-hand with being a contemporary artist, Walde doesn’t let it rankle him. “Most artists generally don’t want to confound audiences; they’re trying to convey messages in ways that are comprehendible in some form,” he explains. “But people expect it to work like advertising. With advertising, you’re driving by a billboard and you instantly get it, then it’s gone—whereas a good work of art will hopefully engage you and linger longer, more along the lines of a good novel or a good play.”

MFA-show[1]“With all the works in this exhibition, there are lots of opportunities for people to bring their own experiences and histories to bear upon the things that they’re seeing,” he says. “Most artists would agree that whatever you walk away with—whatever experiences you have—are valid interpretations of the art.”

In Your Eyes runs May 2-10 throughout the Visual Arts building. The opening night reception is from 6-9 p.m. on Friday, May 2, with opening remarks beginning at 7 p.m.

 

Mowry Baden wins prestigious Guggenheim fellowship

Well-known contemporary artist and sculptor Mowry Baden, a professor emeritus with the Department of Visual Arts, can now add one of North America’s most prestigious awards to his long list of honours. Baden is one of only two Canadians receiving a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship and is among a diverse group of 178 scholars, artists, and scientists selected from a field of almost 3,000 applicants.

Mowry Baden in his studio, with the start of his Guggenheim-funded sculpture "Trisector"

Mowry Baden in his studio, with the start of his Guggenheim-funded sculpture “Trisector”

Baden is only the sixth UVic scholar to be awarded a Guggenheim and our first creative artist to receive the honour. The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced this year’s recipients on April 10 in its 90th annual competition for the US and Canada.

“I’m very happy,” says Baden of his one-year fellowship worth $55,000 US. “My request was for money to help develop a sculpture that addresses the sense of touch—in art parlance, that’s called haptic. The sculpture will be pretty complex and will, of course, also have a visual component. It is a piece that will be able to be moved from place to place.” His Guggenheim-funded sculpture, titled Trisector (seen here), is already being constructed.

Baden & Meigs' "Revolving Basement" (2013)

Baden & Meigs’ “Revolving Basement” (2013)

Best known locally for his public art sculptures and complex tactile works, Baden is a prolific artist and recipient of numerous grants and awards including a 2006 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. He will also be speaking at the upcoming event Reclaim the Streets: A Symposium on Art and Public Space, running April 25 and 26 at Open Space. Baden also contributed the piece “Revolving Basement” to the recent solo exhibition The Basement Panoramas by fellow Visual Arts faculty member Sandra Meigs.

“The Department of Visual Arts is proud to congratulate Mowry Baden on being awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship,” says department chair Daniel Laskarin. “He was one of two professors who joined UVic in the 1970s and who led the development of our program into what it is today. His students are among the most successful artists across Canada and beyond, and his own artistic work is internationally celebrated.”

Baden's "Upper and Lower Case" (2009)

Baden’s “Upper and Lower Case” (2009)

Notable among Baden’s former students are the likes of Sobie Award winner Christian Giroux, Yale’s director of sculpture Jessica Stockholder, current Visual Arts professor Robert Youds and 2014 Governor General’s Award winner Kim Adams. In his GG interview, Adams mentions the influence Baden had on the development of his work. “When we learned art history, it was through somebody who knew art today—and that was Mowry Baden,” he says. “We started seeing things that were more real—the perception of the colours, the scale and the size, what happens between it and you and that space between. For me, it was the street level, I was trying to pull that into the art.”

You can read more about Baden’s life and artistic legacy in this Canadian Art magazine feature article “The Great One.”

Baden's "Tender Trepanation"

Baden’s “Tender Trepanation” (2005)

“UVic has for many, many years has had a popular and critical sculpture program,” says Baden. “A lot of these people who have done well out in the world are sculptors who have been trained by me, my friend Roland Brener, who passed away, and by Daniel Laskarin . . . it continues to be a very strong program.”

Reflecting on the development of the department under his guidance, Baden feels they created something unique. “I think it’s true that no other department was offering what we could offer—Roland with his uniquely English exposure and me with a Southern California background—that’s kind of a unique combination. I can’t think of another Canadian university or art school that had that kind of blend.”

Opening night of the recent BFA show Split hints at the diversity of the Visual Arts building

Opening night of the recent BFA show Split hints at the diversity of the Visual Arts building

Baden was also instrumental in developing not only the Visual Arts program but the building itself. “When I was the chair of the department in the early ‘90s, we were singularly fortunate in getting a new building, and I had a great deal to do with its design—not that I designed it, but I was the point man for the department,” he recalls.

“A little stroll through the building is important when you want to see how the pedagogy is reinforced by the structure of corridors and studios and shops, the way they are linked and related with one another. It’s not a thousand percent success, you can never achieve that, but I think the building does a great deal to help with practice.”

As mentioned above, Baden will also be participating in Reclaim the Streets: A Symposium on Art and Public Space at Open Space on April 25 and 26. A fascinating and wide-ranging interdisciplinary symposium on art in the public space, Reclaim the Streets will bring together artists, scholars, curators, activists, community organizations, and engaged citizens to examine and discuss the goals, perceptions, problems, and possibilities of public art in Victoria. Along with Baden, Fine Arts will be represented by the likes of Visual Arts MFA Kika Thorne and former Department of Theatre alumni and instructor Dr. Will Weigler.

Past Guggenheim fellows from UVic include climatologist Andrew Weaver (2008), astrophysicist Julio Navarro (2003), English professor Anthony Edwards (1988), ocean physicist Chris Garrett (1981) and biologist Job Kuijt (1964).

Often characterized as “midcareer” awards, the Guggenheim Fellowships are intended for men and women who have already demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts. Scores of Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and eminent scientists are past Guggenheim fellows, including Henry Kissinger, Linus Pauling and Ansel Adams.

Visual Arts students ready to Split

Undergraduates in the Department of Visual Arts are similar to students in any department at the University of Victoria: they come here to learn, to think, to research and to incubate their ideas. But what makes Visual Arts students different is that they also come here to create—and that creative difference is showcased in the annual Bachelor of Fine Arts graduating exhibit, this year titled Split.

BFA student Marina Eglis installs her piece in the graduating exhibit Split

BFA student Marina Eglis installs her piece in the graduating exhibit Split

No question, the BFA exhibit is one of the most anticipated events of the Visual Arts academic year. This year featuring the work of 36 students, Split runs from April 17-26 and will feature a tremendous amount of painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, video and media art spread throughout the Visual Arts building.

“For many of the students, the BFA exhibition is an opportunity for them to exhibit their work publicly for the first time,” says Visual Arts professor Jennifer Stillwell, who is coordinating Split with fellow professor Robert Youds. “Each graduating student has created a body of work or a major work that speaks to their individual point of view as an artist. The exhibit marks the achievement of their degree and celebrates and highlights the work they have put into it.”

BFA student Abigail Laycock with her sculptures

BFA student Abigail Laycock with her sculptures

More than just displaying their work, however, the students have also organized most aspects of the exhibition itself—from curatorial decisions and building preparation to organizing the opening night event and creating a colour catalogue that will further support the work and ideas of each artist in the show.

“Most BFA students arrive here not really knowing what contemporary art is, then they have to go through the process of figuring it out and engaging with it,” says Visual Arts professor Paul Walde. “Then they have to decide what they want to work on and move forward with that. This final year really is the tipping point where you see massive development in a student’s work. That’s why UVic is such a great incubator for artists: it gives you time and space, and it has great facilities and a great faculty—but when students graduate, it’s really important for them to get off the island and test the strength of their ideas in other contexts.”

VASA president Graham Macaulay

VASA president Graham Macaulay with one of his installations

Split not only offers a glimpse into the future of visual art but also shows the originality of vision that comes with being mentored by some of Canada’s top contemporary artists. “Taking these courses and working with these professors has given me a way of filtering what I’m taking in and providing effective strategies for creating things,” says graduating Visual Arts Student Association president Graham Macaulay. “The strength of this program is the very direct studio practice—you really get into the meat of your artistic practice. I’ve been exposed to a lot of different ideas and people with different practices.”

BFA student Heather Carter with her wall of nudes

BFA student Heather Carter with her wall of nudes

On one level, the exhibit title Split was inspired by a quote by French theorist Roland Barthes,  which appears in the exhibit catalogue: “It would seem that we are condemned for some time yet to always speak excessively about reality. This is probably because ideologism and its opposite are types of behaviours which are still magical, terrorized, blinded and fascinated by the split in the social world. And yet, this is what we must seek: a reconciliation between reality and men, between description and explanation, between object and knowledge.”

Graduating student Chris Savage matches painted plates to paintings

Graduating student Chris Savage matches his painted dishware to paintings

When asked about this, Macaulay chuckles. “It’s kind of tricky naming a grad show—it’s always a bit of the same thing: a lot of people with very disparate practices. You get some meeting places where people work together but the only real connection point is the location—we’re all here, we’re all Visual Arts students,” he says. “But in her catalogue essay, Jennifer Stillwell said, ‘It’s time to split’—which I thought was so funny, it’s been four years and it’s time to split. It’s such a simple thing, and such a contrast with what Barthes has to say.”

SplitBFAGradShow_PosterSplit also carries on the enviable Visual Arts tradition of producing some of Canada’s most notable contemporary artists—such as 2014 Governor General’s Award winner Kim Adams, as well as the likes of Jessica Stockholder, Gwen Curry, Bill Burns, Marla Hlady, Phyllis Serota, Barbara Fischer, Christian Giroux and many, many others.

If you want to brush up on the future of Canadian art, look no further than UVic’s Department of Visual Arts.

Split opens with a 7pm reception on Thursday, April 17. The exhibit runs daily to April 26 throughout UVic’s Visual Arts Building, and is free to attend. Don’t miss our upcoming MFA  graduating exhibit as well, running May 2-10.

 

Rotating and protecting UVic’s art collection

With 2,200 works of art currently on display—out of more than 20,000 pieces in the university’s overall art collection—UVic has more art on view in public, non-museum spaces than at any other university in Canada. Managing the collection responsibly through the Legacy Art Galleries’ Art on Campus program has also meant that a number of pieces previously on display in public spaces have been deemed to be at risk—and are in the process of being replaced with thematically similar works.

Mary Jo Hughes at the 2013 Legacy exhibit Paradox (photo: Don Denton)

Mary Jo Hughes at the 2013 Legacy exhibit Paradox (photo: Don Denton)

“The Department of Canadian Heritage designate some of our works to be of outstanding national significance,” explains Legacy Art Galleries director Mary Jo Hughes, “so they require we only show and store these pieces in places with ‘Category A’ museum standards—which we unfortunately don’t have in the public spaces and offices on campus.”

The risks that Legacy must be concerned about are more than just the possibility of theft. “Art can be damaged from light, temperature, humidity, airborne contaminants, pests and vandalism,” she says.

Canadian Heritage requires nearly 1,000 nationally significant artworks in UVic’s collection to be protected for the benefit and education of both present and future generations. Consider, for example, Legacy’s precious William Morris tapestries. “They are so valuable and so vulnerable to light that we only bring them out for short-term display, and for examination and research,” says Hughes. “We always have to balance preservation with the desire for long-term display; if we were to put them out, they would be so faded after a couple of years that they ‘d be worthless for future generations.”

Legacy curator Caroline Riedel, History in Art Professor Dr. Erin Campbell and History in Art student Holly Cecil (photo by Gary McKinstry)

Legacy curator Caroline Riedel, History in Art Professor Dr. Erin Campbell and History in Art student Holly Cecil (photo by Gary McKinstry)

But while this curatorial shuffle means you’ll no longer find Myfanwy Pavelic’s paintings in the McPherson Library or Robert Davidson’s prints in the Fraser Building, you will now find equally strong and relevant pieces in their place. Pavelic’s portrait of famed conductor Yehudi Menuhin that previously hung outside the library’s Music and Media department has been replaced with alumna Eva Campbell’s portrait of filmmaker Kemi Craig. “Legacy is attempting to match pieces that will continue to speak those messages,” explains Hughes. “Maintaining First Nations prints in the Law faculty, for example, speaks to their respect for and interest in indigenous approaches to law.”

Even though Legacy Art Gallery Downtown and the Legacy Maltwood in the Mearns Centre for Learning are the only “Category A” spaces available, that doesn’t mean the campus will be short on art to display. “We have the most art on public display of any university in Canada,” Hughes says. (By way of comparison, the much larger University of Toronto campus only has 800 pieces on view.) “The Art on Campus program makes a valuable contribution to the educational environment at UVic. It reinforces an interdisciplinary approach in how people work, teach and learnon campus, and recognizes art as a vital part of everybody’s life; it provides invigoration and stimulation wherever it is.”

UVic's Legacy Gallery Downtown

UVic’s Legacy Gallery Downtown

Hughes also points out what our art collection says about the university as a whole. “It reinforces key messages about UVic, about our values, about our culture,” she says. “Think about the remarkable amount of First Nations art we have campus: that speaks to our connection with the Coast Salish people, with being grateful for being on their territory, with recognizing their culture as a vital part of our world right now. That’s very important to UVic, across disciplines. We don’t want to just pigeonhole art in the Fine Arts or Visual Arts buildings.”

Though some key works have been moved out of offices where they were well-loved, protecting the art will create opportunities to share the pieces with a wider audience through the gallery—in our own era and in the decades to come.

Maxwell Bates' "Circus People" (1969) will be seen in Legacy's upcoming Epiphany exhibit

Maxwell Bates’ “Circus People” (1969) will be seen in Legacy’s upcoming Epiphany exhibit

The program is also providing new opportunities for community engagement, as seen in Legacy’s upcoming exhibit Epiphany:Highlights from the Legacy Permanent Collection opening May 1. Featuring artists of national significance like Norval Morrisseau, Lawren Harris, Frederick Varley, Robert Davidson, Emily Carr, Myfanwy Pavelic, Robert Rauschenberg, Jack Shadbolt and Jean-Paul Riopelle, among others, Epiphany will showcase art that may previously have had limited exposure. “This will enable a lot of people to see some of the cultural properties that have been taken off-campus,” she explains. “A piece may have been hanging in someone’s office or a hallway the general public couldn’t get to before. We’re trying to give access to these key pieces in exhibitions like this.”

Hughes also feels it’s important to remember that community engagement is only part of the role of UVic’s art collection—with the other part being experiential learning. “We cater to faculties whenever they want to have artwork as part of their teaching. We offer art for teaching in classes on campus or at Legacy and we provide study access to reseachers . . . what we do is very much linked to the academic mandate, and real-life experience of working with art. ”

“We’re still dedicated to providing access to all our pieces,” Hughes concludes, “through temporary exhibits, research, classroom visits, and through our database. We have to balance the protection of the artwork with access for scholarship, research and exhibition purposes.”

 

Art on the horizon

With classes ending and the semester wrapping up, it’s a good time to pause and take a breather—and what better time to check out some art? There’s a fresh batch of exhibits coming up this and next month, all of which showcase the work of both UVic artists and art historians.

Pub Crawl (2)First up is the PUB(lic) Crawl happening Saturday, April 12. Part walking tour and part film screening and discussion, the PUB(lic) Crawl offers an active, participatory tour of several interarts projects in the public sphere. Led by Art Gallery of Greater Victoria educators, Open Space and visiting artists—including Jackson 2Bears, the current Audain Professor for the Department of Visual Arts, who will be screening a new multimedia work at the end of the tour. This freewheeling appraisal of public space runs rain or shine. Meet outside the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (1040 Moss) at 3pm for the two-hour walking tour, which will reach the Garrick’s Head Pub (1140 Government) at 5pm, where the screening and discussion will continue till 7pm. Admission is by donation.

The Pub(lic) Crawl is just one of the many exciting events leading up to the April 25-26 event Reclaim the Streets: A Symposium on Art and Public Space.

From Chris Lindsay's "I like the wind"

From Chris Lindsay’s “I like the wind”

Already open is Chris Lindsay‘s latest exhibit,  I like the wind at Xchanges Gallery. A recent Visual Arts MFA alumnus and the current workshops technician for the Department of Visual Arts, Lindsay presents new work exploring the non-conventional mark-making possibilities of the rust process. The inventive attitude of the artist and the dynamic physical character of the rust process are captured, reflecting our connection to the world outside of our selves and our relationship to that which we imagine and bring physically into this world.

Curious about how rust influences the artistic process? Don’t miss Lindsay’s artist talk at 2pm Sunday, April 27. I like the wind continues to April 27 at Xchanges Gallery, 6E-2333 Government St. The gallery is open Saturdays & Sundays noon to 4pm.

SplitBFAGradShow_PosterThe Visual Arts BFA graduation exhibit is always one of the most anticipated events of the Fine Arts academic year. This year’s exhibit is titled Split and will feature the diverse work of 36 graduating BFAs—including painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, installation and extended media works. Split not only offers a glimpse into the future of visual art but also shows the originality of vision that comes with being mentored by some of Canada’s top contemporary artists. Supervised by Visual Arts professors Jennifer Stillwell and Robert Youds Split will fill the entire Visual Arts building and also offer an exhibit catalogue created by the students themselves.

Owen Mathieson's paintings can be seen in "Split"

Owen Mathieson’s paintings can be seen in “Split”

Split also carries on Visual Arts’ enviable tradition of producing some of Canada’s most notable contemporary artists—such as 2014 Governor General’s Award winner Kim Adams, as well as the likes of Jessica Stockholder, Gwen Curry, Bill Burns, Marla Hlady, Phyllis Serota, Barbara Fischer, Christian Giroux and many, many others. If you want to brush up on the future of Canadian art, look no further than the Department of Visual Arts.

Split opens with a 7pm reception on Thursday, April 17, and continues 10am to 6pm daily to April 26 in the Visual Arts Building.

Just in time for Easter weekend is Windows Into Heaven: Religious Icons from the Permanent Collection. Opening April 23 at the Legacy Downtown, this exhibition is curated by History in Art graduate student Regan Shrumm as the result of a directed studies course under the supervision of History in Art professor and exhibit co-curator Dr. Evanthia Baboula.

Windows Into HeavenThese 18th and 19th century icons—created from egg tempera, enamel and silver metalwork—are from the eastern Christian tradition and show how religious imagery maintained a central role in orthodox Christianity. Icons were venerated in churches, private homes or during a journey to provide protection to body and spirit. Images of saints, Christ and the Virgin that date back to the Byzantine tradition, the medieval empire of Constantinople, are also a concrete remnant of how the religious communities of imperial Russia built on these traditions to create a recognizable, yet distinctive and lively art. “The icons in this exhibition are similar in age and importance to others found in major galleries and museums worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum, the British Museum, and the Ashmolean,” says Baboula.

Learn more about the historical and cultural significance of these icons with the curator’s talk and tour at 7pm Thursday, April 24. The exhibit runs to August 9 at the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown, 630 Yates. Admission is free and the gallery is open 9am to 4pm Wednesday to Saturday.

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic's First Peoples House (Photo Services)

The button blanket receiving its inaugural dance at UVic’s First Peoples House (Photo Services)

It’s also worth noting that your last chance to see the Legacy exhibit Adasla: The Movement of Hands is coming up fast—the exhibit must close on Friday, April 25. Featuring the world’s biggest button blanket, Adasla is the culmination of work done by History in Art professor Carolyn Butler-Palmer, HIA sessional instructor Peter Morin and their fall 2013 class. Find out more about the project here, and be sure to see the exhibit before it closes.

Also of note on the Legacy Galleries front are two upcoming on-campus exhibits: Honoris Causa: University of Victoria First Nations Artist Honorands, which runs to the end of May at First Peoples House, and Margaret Peterson: A Search In Rhythm which runs to August 9.

Kwagiulth Chief and Frog, Henry Hunt, 1980

Kwagiulth Chief and Frog, Henry Hunt, 1980

Honoris Causa features the work of First Nations artists who have received honorary degrees from the university. Twice yearly at convocation, UVic awards honorary degrees to those who have demonstrated distinguished and extraordinary achievements—and, during its 50-year history, UVic has granted honours to seven First Nations artists who have contributed not only to the arts but also to the community at large as leaders, activists, visionaries, role models, and groundbreakers. Honoris Causa features works from UVic’s art collection and an excerpt from the citation that was read at the occasion of granting the degree. It continues to May 9 at First Peoples House.

Meanwhile, A Search In Rhythm features the artworks and personal papers of  groundbreaking mid-20th century abstract painter, Margaret Peterson. Peterson had a big vision: to search for the spiritual realm, in rhythm with the artistic aims of Indigenous peoples across the world. Peterson’s main medium was egg tempera on plywood panels—striking in size, colour, and form.

Portrait of Margaret Peterson by Curtis Lantinga, 1978

Portrait of Margaret Peterson by Curtis Lantinga, 1978

This is the first in an upcoming series of exhibitions presenting UVic’s Artist Archives and Legacy Art Galleries joint holdings which demonstrates the rich research potential of this recently acquired material. This exhibit runs April 11 to August 9 in the Legacy Maltwood at the Mearns Centre in the McPherson Library.

There will also be a lively panel discussion of the artists’ archives and this exhibit at 2pm Tuesday, May 13, in room A003 of the Mearns Centre. Titled “Working with Artists’ Archives at the University of Victoria,” it will feature UVic archivist Lara Wilson, local art writer Robert Amos,  art historian Nick Tuellie and exhibit curator Justine Drummond.

Work by MFA candidate Neil McClelland

Work by MFA candidate Neil McClelland

Finally, we have the much-anticipated MFA Graduating Exhibit in the Department of Visual Arts. Featuring the work of six graduate students in the Master of Fine Arts program, the exhibit—this year titled In Your Eyes—offers contemporary art in a wide variety of disciplines.

In Your Eyes essentially offers six separate solo exhibits in one, as each graduating student—Megan Dyck, Ethan Lester, Neil McClelland, Kaitlynn McQueston, Carley Smith and Jeroen Witvliet—has their own exhibition space in the Visual Arts building. “We look for artists who want to engage with contemporary art dialogue in an environment that really promotes independently driven, rigorous studio investigation in the service of research creation,” says Visual Arts professor and graduate advisor Paul Walde about the MFA students.

Work by MFA student Carley Smith

Work by MFA candidate Carley Smith

The key to contemporary art, says Walde, is to spend some time with the work. “If you walk into a play or open a book and just spend five minutes with it, you’re probably not going to have a good sense of what the total accomplishment is,” he says. “That’s the same with visual arts—you have to spend some time with the work, maybe do a little reading around it . . . sometimes the content of the art is such that a level of understanding will have to preface it in some way.”

The opening reception for In Your Eyes begins at 6pm, Friday May 2, with opening remarks at 7pm. The exhibit runs 10am to 5pm daily (except Sundays) to May 10 throughout UVic’s Visual Arts Building.