Looking for the very best in emerging contemporary art practice? Don’t miss the annual MFA exhibit at the Department of Visual Arts, this year titled Reverberations. A group show featuring the work of four graduating students in the Master of Fine Arts program, Reverberations encompasses a dramatic range of photographic and video works, sculptural installations and intermedia practices.
Reverberations kicks off with a 5-7pm opening reception on Friday May 1. The exhibit then runs 10am-4pm daily to May 8 throughout UVic’s Visual Arts Building.
“Pinna” by Ebony Rose
Reverberations is composed of four solo exhibitions: “The Longing of Stone To Be Lively Again” by Rebecca Bergshoeff; “Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston; “Between There and Now” by Emily Geen; and “Pinna” by Ebony Rose. But the pieces on display are really just a fraction of the work produced during their two-year residency.
“We’re looking for artists who want to engage with contemporary art dialogue in an environment that really promotes independently driven, rigorous studio investigation in the service of research creation,” says Visual Arts chair Paul Walde.
“The Longing of Stone to be Lively Again” by Rebecca Bergshoeff
With “The Longing of Stone To Be Lively Again,” Rebecca Bergshoeff playfully engages with trace and process, suspending her works in a state of flux where the instability of material and the oscillation of form between the pictorial and the sculptural, the surface and the edge, present themselves with a certain structural transparency, immediacy and generosity.
“Autopoiesis” by Nicole Clouston
Nicole Clouston’s “Autopoiesis” explores the beauty of chemical and biological processes, as well as the value that can be found in these experiments when their ability to communicate specific information is stripped away.
In Emily Geen’s photographic installation and video works “Between There and Now,” she uses the inherent materiality of glass to abstract and deconstruct recorded images, regenerating them with the peripheral and perceptual nuances of lived experience.
“Between There and Now” by Emily Geen
Finally, with Ebony Rose’s “Pinna,”contemplative spaces and subtle interventions proffer a renewed discovery into natural phenomenon and the things that surround us.
UVic’s MFA is an intensive degree predicated on immersive experiential learning combined with critical discussions and one of Canada’s leading Visiting Artist programs.
When it comes to their theses, UVic’s graduate students are always looking for something new. Recently, Master of Education student Mike Irvine became the first person to conduct an underwater webcast defence of his thesis. Now, Department of Writing MFA candidate and playwright Leah Callen will present a staged reading of her thesis—the surreal play Enter Vodka—followed by a public defence . . . in front of a live audience.
Dept of Writing MFA Leah Callen
“Originally, I asked to do my defence under-vodka, but that was a no-go,” quips Callen. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity to have my play read by some lovely actors to an audience. A script doesn’t mean much unless it is heard out loud.”
Enter Vodka marries the personal histories of two dead Russians—Stalin’s daughter and the Romanov Princess Anastasia—both stuck at 17, and trapped inside a melting Fabrage egg. In Enter Vodka, nothing is as red or white as it seems. The 90-minute show begins at 8pm Sunday, April 26, at the Intrepid Theatre Club (1609 Blanshard, at Fisgard) with Callen’s thesis defence to follow. Admission is by donation.
The staged reading—directed by Melissa Taylor, featuring Kathleen O’Reilly & Julie Forrest, and designed by Kerri Flannigan & Colette Habel (all UVic students or alumni)—is part of Intrepid’s monthly New Play Reading Series and in support of the Equity in Theatre Initiative, which continues to celebrate the work of local women playwrights at all stages of their careers. “We are happy to be working with the UVic writing program on this project to bring new plays to life,” says Intrepid artistic director, playwright and celebrated Department of Theatre alumna Janet Munsil.
A scene from Callen’s The Daughter of Turpentine
Nervousness aside, Callen is looking forward to the opportunity of having her new play presented in public. “UVic’s Writing program is wonderful, but I felt pretty cloistered as a playwriting graduate student, typing away by myself for two years,” she says. “I’m both excited and terrified by the defence part—but if I can’t stand up to a little public scrutiny, what kind of a playwright am I? My characters have to go through the fire literally, so the least I can do is honour them figuratively with a little Q&A.”
The idea behind the public defence came from Callen’s MFA supervisor—award-winning playwright and Writing professor Kevin Kerr—who wanted her project to step off the page. “A stage play is meant to be seen in performance and, as a writer, it’s important to see the work handled by the other collaborating theatre artists who bring the work to life,” he explains. “The success of the thesis is not only on the page, but also in the way that it inspires other artists to create a living experience for an audience.”
Writing professor & playwright Kevin Kerr
Kerr feels this is an ideal opportunity to showcase the creative academic process. “It seemed to be an exciting way to handle this formal step in Leah’s academic journey,” he says. “It’s potentially an opportunity for an audience to get a first-hand encounter with what a Fine Arts graduate degree entails, and demonstrates the connection between the work done inside a university Fine Arts program and the professional practice the students are working towards.”
Both Kerr and Callen expect it to be more than just a standard theatrical talk-back session. “There will be a different level of stakes attached to the process, as the questions—and answers—are part of the final step for Leah to complete her MFA,” he says. “People witnessing the defence will also be able to contribute to that experience with questions of their own.”
Not that Kerr is out to add extra pressure to an already daunting experience. “Will it be nerve-wracking? Yes—but exciting as well,” he chuckles. “Leah is being supported by a team of artists who are invested in presenting the work to the best of their abilities. Their passion is already a vote of confidence in the candidate’s talent and ability, so Leah’s not alone in this experience.”
Callen—who spent the past two years studying with playwriting faculty Kerr and Joan MacLeod—had her first one-act play, The Daughter of Turpentine, produced by Phoenix Theatre’s SATCo in 2014. She has also reviewed theatre for local online magazines Coastal Spectator and CVV Magazine. A revamped version of Turpentine will reemerge as a full production at the Victoria Fringe Festival in August this year; directed by Phoenix Theatre’s Chase Hiebert, Callen promises it will “literally set the stage on fire.”
The inspiration for Enter Vodka originally came from a poem she wrote about the Romanovs for Writing professor Tim Lilburn’s poetry workshop. “This story is inspired by the two real women, but it’s a metaphor for the places people visit when wounded, to escape or revisit pain in ways that are as ritualistic as drinking tea, lighting candles or doing shots of vodka,” explains Callen, who cites the likes of Tennessee Williams, Tomson Highway, Sarah Ruhl, and Wajdi Mouawad as influences.
“Anastasia ordering Svetlana about could easily be modern-day Russia trying to drag Ukraine back home. I’m playing with the historical forces that have led to this moment in time, and in the end their holy kiss has explosive repercussions literally and figuratively. But this is not a biographical play. It is symbolic and thematic of the Russian struggle, but it’s mostly about women trying to find joy and freedom in the face of death.”
Kerr is also looking at this as something of a pilot project. “I’d be interested in continuing to find more opportunities to connect our grad students to the larger theatre community and audience as part of their time here,” he says. “I think it could be an important part of what we can offer as a program.”
“This is for Youds” by Elizabeth Charters will be seen in the annual BFA exhibit
Looking for new approaches to art? Come In Search Of at the annual University of Victoria Visual Arts BFA Graduation Exhibit. Kicking off with a 7pm opening reception on Friday, April 17, the exhibit will then run 10am to 6pm daily through to Saturday, April 25, in UVic’s Visual Arts building.
With a wide variety of art created by more than 30 graduating BFAs filling UVic’s entire Visual Arts building—including painting, photography, sculpture, drawing, installation and extended media works—In Search Of not only offers a glimpse into the future of visual art but also shows the originality of vision that comes with being mentored by some of Canada’s top contemporary artists.
“I’m really glad that title was picked,” says graduating BFA Kaitlyn Corlett, one of the exhibit’s student organizers. “It’s ambiguous, exploratory and kind of open-ended—which is how a lot of our work has come about over the past few years.”
Kaitlyn Corlett with one of her In Search Of pieces
Corlett notes the actual process of preparing the exhibit—from choosing a title for the show and preparing the catalogue to the selection and preparation of pieces—has been an education in itself. “For a lot of us, it’s our first time having that hands-on experience of developing a show. We’ve been doing critiques and getting work ready for assignments, but this is the first time we’ve been preparing for the public—it’s been a great process to consider an audience beyond our teachers.”
In Search Of is curated by Visual Arts faculty members Sandra Meigs and Robert Youds. “This year’s graduating students once again set an excellent high bar for their contemporary quest to wonder, doubt, and remember, through the practice of art-making,” says Youds, a Visual Arts department alumnus himself. “This exciting exhibition represents a broad and yet challenging display of diversity and passion from each and everyone of these young voices of the future.”
the business of art
Corlett, who is also doing a Business minor and participating in UVic’s Co-operative Education Program, understands the importance of putting her creative practice and critical thinking skills to work after graduation. “I’ve always been an artist but I’ve grown up with a real business side, so I’ve always had that duality between rationality and creation,” she says. “My desire to be professional is driven by my desire to be in the business world too.”
Kaitlyn Corlett installing one of her sculptural pieces
While her own ambition is to become a curator—something she’ll be working towards by traveling and studying art history after graduation—Corlett notes that some of her BFA peers have already been accepted into MFA programs or going on to study in related fields like architecture.
But she’s quick to credits the Co-op program with affording her important and relevant opportunities. “I’ve gotten a lot of work experience through UVic’s Co-op, where I’ve had really amazing experiences and great opportunities. I feel really blessed and lucky to have had that.” Her work placements included both the North Vancouver Community Arts Council and the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art. “Those were perfect experiences for me, to understand what curation actually means for non-profit organizations. I’ve been really lucky in finding those niches that have helped me understand where I want to work.”
A close community of artists
In Search Of . . . the proper angle
Corlett also praises the experiences she’s had pursuing her Visual Arts degree these past four years. “I love the range of teachers that I had,” she says. “They’ve really pushed my work to the limit to get it to a more professional level. Getting to work with leading artists like Paul Walde and Robert Youds and Daniel Laskarin and Sandra Meigs has just been amazing. You’re seeing them teach but also learn from you, and vice versa. And they’ve got their own careers and professional practices that are continuing to grow.”
Meigs, one of the 2015 Governor General’s Award for
In Search Of . . . the perfect lighting
Visual & Media Arts, agrees with Corlett’s assessment. “We have some of the top contemporary artists in the country here and we have very high standards,” says Meigs. “We focus intensely on studio practice for the students . . . it’s hard for the general public to get that, but it’s all very exciting. That’s the great strength of UVic’s Visual Arts program—walk through any of the studios and you’ll feel it.”
UVic’s size was another advantage for Corlett. “The scale and closeness of the Visual Arts building and department is a real strength, and one of the reasons there’s such a strong network of artists here,” she says. “Having a community of artist who are all growing at the same rate has also been fantastic—I’ve now got 30 people I can talk to in a couple of years who I could ask to put on a show with me.”
While Corlett admits she was originally being “pushed
“Priorfriends” by Olivia Prior can be seen at In Search Of, May 1-8
to go to Emily Carr” by her family, she feels justified in ultimately deciding on UVic. “I wanted the opportunities to go into Business or Art History, and UVic had enough crossover points for that. I’ve always loved Victoria—it’s far enough from but close enough to home that I could have my own life here—and coming straight out of high school, it’s been a nice place to grow up a bit more. And I love the campus here—it’s such a beautiful place.”
in search of . . . an audience
Ultimately, says Corlett, In Search Of has been the perfect conclusion to her BFA degree process—even if that means taking a few creative risks. “It’s been a very humbling process for a lot of us. It’s tough to put your
In Search Of . . . the correct Jenga stack
work forward for critiquing and to accept that kind of legitimate criticism. It’s like putting our entire education up on the wall for this show.”
But she’s pleased with how it’s all come together and is looking forward to opening night. “Our main goal was to have a show that wasn’t explicitly for the art community. We should be open to everybody, so we’re hoping to have a lot of new people from the university and the community come out and see it.”
In Search Of, the Annual Visual Arts BFA Graduation Exhibit, opens with a 7pm reception on Friday, April 17 and continues 10am-6pm daily to April 25. It’s free and open to the public.
Visual Arts is kicking off a new short series of free Afternoon Artist Talks with a pair of visiting artists this week—Risa Horowitz and Colin Miner. While the full lineup is still being formulated, the plan is to present a pair of artists twice a week, likely in the weeks of April 27 and May 11. All are welcome to attend.
Risa Horowitz with her Trees of Canada series
First up is Risa Horowitz, who will speak from 3:30-4:30pm Monday, April 13, in VIS 107. Her extended practice is contextualized by conceptualism, duration, collection and an interest in how visual and information systems frame knowledge. She has lived and worked in seven Canadian provinces as an artist, educator, writer, and gallery programmer.
Most recently, 20 of her paintings in a series called “Trees of Canada” were installed as part of a permanent display at Canada House in London, England. Horowitz travelled to London in February this year to attend the unveiling in the presence of the Queen. “One of the things that I really love about the work is that they don’t look like paintings upon first glance,” she told Regina’s Leader-Post newspaper in this article. “They actually look like screen prints. When you get closer, you can see the brush strokes. So they’re a bit uncanny in that way.”
Horowitz’s “Afternoon Sun, August, 3 2013”
Currently teaching at the University of Regina’s Department of Visual Arts, Horowitz’s recent scholarly research responds to the disciplining of art practice through its ongoing entrenchment within university structures, blurring boundaries between expert-amateur, hobby-work, and leisure-productivity. She is an active tournament Scrabble competitor, vegetable gardener and amateur astronomer—all of which inform her art practice. She has been awarded numerous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and several provincial funding bodies, the K.M. Hunter Award for excellence in Visual Arts in 2006, and a SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship for her research in visual arts and practice-based scholarship.
She is currently represented in Toronto by MKG127 Gallery, and her work is held by the collections of Canada House, London, the Canada Council Art Bank and the Saskatchewan Arts Board.
The next visiting artist this week is Colin Miner, who will be speaking from 3:30-4:30pm on Wednesday, April 15, also in VIS 107. Miner recently completed his PhD in contemporary photographic practices at Western University, and holds an MFA & BFA from UBC. His work draws attention to photography’s relationship to the scientific, as well as to the materiality of photographs. Alongside his art practice, he works on writing, artist projects and the online publication Moire.
The Toronto-based Miner has also lived in Beijing, is the recipient of numerous awards and grants including the Roloff Beny Award for Photography and the Barbara Spohr Memorial Award, as well as the recipient of an emerging visual artist grant from both the Toronto and Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council. He is also a participant in the artist research group Immersion Emergencies and Possible Worlds, which engages water as culture and resource through contemporary art.
Miner’s “Afterimage 21” and “Afterimage 22”
Miner has attended thematic residencies with international artists Lucy & Jorge Orta and curator Celine Kopp, both at the Banff Centre. He has presented solo exhibitions in Canada, most notably at the Ministry of Casual Living (Victoria) and the McIntosh Gallery (London). Miner’s work has been included in group exhibitions within Canada at locations such as Art Metropole, The Belkin Satellite, Gallery 44, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, and Rodman Hall. Additionally, he has participated in international group exhibitions at Postdamer Platz (Germany) and The Beijing Center for the Arts (China).
Stay tuned for more details about upcoming Afternoon Artist Talks.
Hot on the heels of their critically acclaimed (and commercially successful) 2014-15 season, Phoenix Theatre recently announced their lineup for next year. A mix of new work, old classics and rarely seen gems, the 2015-16 season is looking like another great year.
“Theatre has a way of reminding us what it means to be human,” says Theatre department chair Allana Lindgren. “At the heart of the Phoenix Theatre’s 2015/16 season are four plays that share compelling human stories, and with master playwrights like Bertolt Brecht, Anton Chekhov and Tennessee Williams in this list, I know you’ll love the plays we’ve chosen for next season.” Here’s what’s coming up:
Loon by the WONDERHEADS (photo: Andrew Phoenix)
Opening the season with their traditional Spotlight on Alumni, Phoenix alumna Kate Braidwood returns to campus with her performance partner Andrew Phoenix and their widely acclaimed WONDERHEADS company. They’ll be presenting the wordless and whimsical Loon (October 14-24), a beautifully surprising mix of physical theatre, comedy and pathos and a love story the likes of which you’ve never seen. CBC enthusiastically described Loon as “a live cartoon for lovers and for dreamers; that is, for everyone. I’d give it more than five stars—I’d give it the moon.”
Loon centers on Francis, a lonely janitor who is plagued by isolation and tickled by whispers of childhood imagination. He has hit rock bottom and discovers that he has nowhere to go . . . but up. And up. And up! But will plucking the moon from the sky bring him the love he is searching for? The Portland-based WONDERHEADS have been hits with every show they’ve brought to town (including Fringe Fest favourites Grim & Fischer and The Middle of Everywhere) and it’ll be a pleasure to see Braidwood back at the Phoenix in the Spotlight on Alumni.
A German poster for The Threepenny Opera circa 1928
Up next is Bertolt Brecht’s classic The Threepenny Opera (November 5-21), featuring the music of Kurt Weill—possibly best known for bringing the jazz standard “Mack the Knife” into the world. Directed by Theatre professor Brian Richmond, The Threepenny Opera borrows from the 18th-century The Beggar’s Opera and offers an edgy mix of biting satire and sheer theatrical innovation as it takes aim at the traditional bourgeoisie and reveals a society where law is fickle, money corrupts and crime absolutely pays.
“This is quite possibly the most important piece of musical theatre in the 20th century,” says Richmond, who will be working with Applied Theatre professor Kirsten Sadeghi-Yekta to bring a strong sense of realism to this production. Richmond is well-known for breathing fresh life into classic works, as evidenced by past Phoenix productions like Guys & Dolls, Dark of the Moon, The Wind in the Willows and Romeo & Juliet.
Renoir’s 1881 painting “Le Déjeuner des Canotiers” catches the flavour of Wild Honey
Moving into 2016, we have Michael Frayn’s Wild Honey (February 11-20). Directed by Theatre professor and Phoenix alumnus Peter McGuire, and adapted from an original play by Anton Chekhov, Wild Honey offers a charming and hilarious love triangle set on a hot summer day on a provincial country estate, where friends, neighbours and family all get caught up in an elaborate game of romantic cat-and-mouse.
“Shakespeare said, ‘what fools these mortals be’ and I want to celebrate that sense of foolishness,” says McGuire, noting that Wild Honey is a lot like “a Woody Allen film—it shows us lives filled with love, sex and intrigue, all with a strong element of farce.” McGuire also plans to take a decidedly non-traditional approach to the production, with the design mixing old and new, classic and modern—all to a jazzy, klezmeriffic music score. Curiously, Wild Honey is based on Chekhov’s first ever play, which was then sealed in a bank vault until after his death.
Summer and Smoke is evoked in Richard Emil Miller’s 1910 painting “The Pool”
Finally, Phoenix ends its season with Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke, as directed by MFA candidate Alan Brodie (March 10-19). Set in Mississippi at the turn of the 20th century, Summer and Smoke sees Tennessee Williams at his most passionate as he gives us the tale of Alma—the daughter of a small-town minister and mentally unstable mother, who harbours a life-long infatuation with her restless and self-indulgent neighbour, John. Of course, Alma and John’s struggle—between body and soul, anarchy and order, love and lust—leads to profound changes in both their lives.
“As a designer, I’ve done plenty of shows but hardly any from the modern American milieu,” says director Brodie. “I’ve always been drawn to early 20th century playwrights like Williams, who emphasize story, character and psychology. This is essentially a love story, just one without a happy ending.” (Better get out your handkerchiefs for this one.)
A bittersweet exploration of love and longing, Summer and Smoke is a true American masterpiece with unforgettable characters that break our hearts even as they touch our souls.
Click here for ticket information, and subscriptions for the 2015-16 season are already on sale here.