A shifting focus: from photography to film

Like many outstanding students, the term “overachiever” is a good fit for graduating international Visual Arts major Guochen Wang.

Chen Wang (photo: Chorong Kim)

Born & raised in Taiyuan, a mid-sized city in China’s central Shanxi province, Chen went to a local international high school before looking for overseas post-secondary options. Yet his reasons for choosing UVic over an institution in the US, England or Europe may not be surprising, given his home city’s population of 4.2 million. “I visited Victoria when I was 12 and remember really liking it,” he recalls. “I liked the trees and the quiet.”

He was also attracted by the contemporary practice of UVic’s Visual Arts program, as well as its metaphorical appeal. “I was already doing high-fashion commercial photography in China, which I enjoyed, but I wanted to try something new,” he explains. “Visual Arts looks at photography as a tool to go somewhere else.”

An award-winning photographer before leaving China, Chen continued to find success during his undergrad years: not only did he mount two solo exhibits at local galleries, but he also picked up awards at both the Sidney Fine Art Show and the Victoria Arts Council’s LOOK show. “I like taking pictures of people on the street and telling a story through the lens,” he says.

Yet his future interdisciplinary path started to come into focus when he took his first video art course and then enrolled in the Writing department’s popular film production elective, where he worked on the short film Fear or Favour.

“I just fell in love with the medium,” he says. “Visual art is more about the individual—how you approach the work, creating on your own—but film is different. It’s more collaborative, where everyone is working towards the same goal. It feels different when you achieve something together.”

Chen on location (photo: Chorong Kim)

Fusing his artistic passion with tangible career goals, over the past four years Chen has founded the UVic Film Club, joined the CineVic Society of Independent Filmmakers, started his own commercial production company, joined CHEK TV’s production team (where he helped create over 20 commercials), served as the director of photography and camera operator for local company Botega Creative Ltd, worked as a sessional instructor for the Beifang International Education Group and volunteered on a number of independent films shot locally — all while finishing his undergraduate degree.

“I like the freedom to create,” he says. “Everyone in Victoria is very welcoming, and everyone in the independent film community seems to know and like each other, and the crews are very nice.”

Clearly no slacker, Chen applied for and was accepted as a screenwriting major in the Writing department’s MFA program for the 2018 fall session.

His intention is to develop a web series that uses humour to explore cross-cultural understanding. “I believe that comedy — which is itself a kind of international language that helps to connect people — is a good way to express my own feelings, inspire international students and bring together both Canadian and Chinese audiences in an understated way,” he says. “It allows cultural differences to be easily understood and it builds on shared human values by non-threatening means.”

Much like his experience with street photography, Chen finds humour in the reality of everyday observations. “I can give you an example: when I first got here, I made some Canadian friends and they would greet me by saying ‘What’s up?’ — so I would look up. It’s like [the TV series] Fresh Off the Boat, except for me it would be fresh off the plane.”

While working on his MFA, he’s now getting hired for local film shoots, both independent and union (Pupstars: Christmas), as well as writing and directing his own work, like the short film Drownings. “There’s a difference between writing something in visual language as a screenplay than watching the visual language on the screen,” he explains, “but the only way you can see that is to make it.”

Despite Vancouver’s Hollywood North reputation, Chen likes the idea of staying in Victoria. “I can shoot in other cities, but I like it here: I like the environment, and there are so many talented people who work very hard.”

Visual Arts students & alumni colouring the city

The creative practice of Department of Visual Arts students and alumni are in the spotlight in a series of street-level artistic initiatives around Victoria right now — a number of which are sponsored by the City of Victoria itself. Hop on your bike or plan a walking tour to catch some of this inspiringly creative work in action.

Integrate Arts Festival

Looking to expand your local artistic boundaries? Don’t miss the 12th annual Integrate Arts Festival, running August 24-26 at various venues around the city—all for free! Visit their site to download the venue map, and be sure to check out the timed events happening over the weekend.

Last year, the Integrate Arts Festival (formerly known as “Off the Grid Arts Festival”) saw over 2,000 people attend art spaces across the city. This year it kicks off with and Opening Reception on Aug 24, where you can catch the first glimpse of the work by their featured artists. Download the Integrate Arts Festival map, which will guide you to a variety of exhibitions and events at 24 different participating galleries, publicly accessible studios, and various sites throughout the city. You can also access the map using the Integrate brochure (found at participating locations), and participants are encouraged to walk or bike to each site.

As always, plenty of Fine Arts students and alumni are involved in the fest, including the likes of Visual Arts students Christian McGinty, Lana Nyuli, Shae Anthony and Mona Hedayati; alumni Taryn Walker, Sadie Nielson, Evan Locke, Eriq Wong and the folks at Theatre SKAM; plus instructor Peter Sandmark at the FLUX media gallery.

Also involved behind the scenes on Integrate’s board to make this all happen are a mix of Visual Arts and Art History & Visual Studies alumni Brin O’Hare, Stephanie Eisenbraun, Libby Oliver, Selina Pieczonka, Olivia Prior, Regan Shrumm, Anna Shkuratoff, and current student Amy Smith. And UVic’s own Legacy Gallery is once again a venue for this event.

See Integrate’s Facebook page for current information.

Concrete Canvas

One of the participating events this weekend is the City of Victoria’s Concrete Canvas project, which features 16 local, national and international artists painting the same number of murals on the walls of 13 sites around Victoria’s Rock Bay neighbourhood—including Visual Arts MFA grad Kerri Flannigan. Watch as a neighbourhood is transformed into an outdoor gallery for street art and creative expression; work will be continuing through August 27.

Concrete Canvas provides a platform for Victoria’s vibrant art scene to contribute to the city’s cultural legacy for years to come. The City of Victoria is collaborating with community members to build social capital, develop a sense of community pride of space, represent diversity, and empower people to make change in their city—and putting their money where their vision is: each participating artist will be paid a fee ranging from $1,250 to $4,000, with an overall budget of $150,000, funded by the City’s Public Art Reserve Fund.

Don’t miss the Concrete Canvas launch party, running 2-11:30pm Saturday, August 25. Hosted by the Victoria Beer Week Society, the free event will include a mural workshop, live music curated by Holy Smokes Music, a food and beverage area for all ages, and walking tours of completed and in-progress murals (3-6pm), an artist panel talk (5pm), and a six different bands (from 6pm), all happening in the Hoyne and Driftwood Breweries parking lot, 450 Hillside Avenue.

“The Commons” by Libby Oliver

Commute

And while you’re traveling around the city, keep your eyes open for the Commute: Bus Shelter Art Exhibition, which features work by five different emerging artists — including Visual Arts alumni Libby Oliver and Kerri Flannigan. Oliver’s work “The Commons” can be seen at Yates & Ormond streets, while Flannigan’s “Feeling Measurements – Fathom 09 (Megan)” is on Yates between Camosun & Fernwood Road.

Commercial Alley

Watch for more work by Visual Arts students and alumni coming up in future rounds of the Commute project, including current student Austin Willis—who was recently selected as the sixth artist to install work in the city’s Commercial Alley Art Gallery, found in the alley between the 500-block of Yates and Bastion Square. His four-panel pieces use bright colours, bold lines, and shapes to create fun, yet intense energy, and will be on display for a year.

As an emerging artist I have a great interest in public art and creating work that beautifies spaces,” says Willis. Stay tuned for details about an artist’s talk, coming up in September.

 

Bequest welcomes Cuarteto Chroma to a uniquely Canadian degree program

As the final notes vibrated through the concert hall, the first violinist stood to address the audience again. “Any other ideas for where we should sit?” he asked.

Cuarteto Chroma

Hands of audience members shot up, and a young student offered, “How about cello and viola at the front, violins at the back?”

The four musicians nodded, then bustled into a new formation, before playing the same piece for a third time. The audience listened carefully for the change in sound, appreciating, perhaps for the first time, the influence of such decisions.

Cuarteto Chroma’s interactive public performance at UVic’s Ideafest led the audience through several exercises that illustrated the complexities of this quartet’s journey of growth and learning. All four members of this quartet moved here from Mexico to earn their Master’s in Music Performance (with an emphasis on string quartet), under the mentorship of UVic’s artists-in-residence, the Lafayette String Quartet (LSQ).

Made up of Ilya Gotchev, Carlos Quijano, Felix Alanis and Manuel Cruz, Cuarteto Chroma are the first quartet to take part in this one-of-a-kind program in Canada, which is modelled on prestigious programs at universities in the United States. It provides a unique and hands-on learning opportunity for a quartet to earn a collaborative performance degree with guidance from members of a well-established and successful quartet — the LSQ.

LSQ violinist Ann Elliot-Goldschmid explains that this type of training is vital to the success of a quartet. “You hone your skills to be the best you can possibly be on your instrument, then bring those skills into the ensemble, matching the timing, harmony, vibrato, bow speeds and articulation of the others. It’s a magical process but it takes an enormous amount of work.”

The Watsons’ passion for music

Chroma’s interactive session at 2018’s IdeaFest

Cuarteto Chroma’s fellowships are funded by a bequest from the late Claire Watson Fisher, through the Victoria Foundation. Claire grew up in a music-loving family in Montreal. Her mother, Cecile, belonged to several musical organizations and her father, William Watson, was one of the founders of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

During World War I, Claire worked for the Canadian Red Cross in England and France, where she received several awards for her service. Her career in Fine Arts began after the war, when she worked for her father’s art gallery, then the Art Gallery of Ontario, and finally, the National Museums Department in Ottawa. After retiring, she and her husband moved to Victoria.

“Her love of music was a passion, and it inspired her to give back to the art form that had given her so much pleasure and joy”, says Louise (Watson) Slemin, Claire’s sister. “I only wish Claire had known the extent of her bequest.”

That extent of the gift is still being discovered by the university as it unlocks the potential of this new program.

“This funding brings a very high-level, prize-winning quartet to UVic, which elevates the learning and research in the whole music department” says Ann. “It’s inspiring for other students to be around this level of professionalism, in practice rooms, or alongside them in the orchestra.”

Cuarteto Chroma in action

Cuarteto Chroma brings benefits to the greater community, through playing at local schools, at benefit concerts, or at public events such as Ideafest. When they travel for concerts, festivals and competitions, they raise awareness of the calibre of UVic Music around the world. After witnessing the quartet’s significant improvement, Ann thinks they could have an even greater impact—at UVic and beyond—during their second year.

Unlocking potential

The opportunity to coach the four musicians has been a highlight in LSQ’s long residency here at UVic. “It’s a real joy. Like all teachers, our wish is to have our students eventually surpass us. We longed for UVic to develop something like this for many years and Claire Watson’s bequest gave us the opportunity. We’re hopeful we can continue to fund graduate quartets after the gift from this donor has been spent,” says Elliot-Goldschmid.

—Written by Sarah Tarnopolsky

Vanier Scholar Dennis Gupa on his Paddling Visions

What are the interconnections between climate change, sea rituals and traditional ecological knowledge and practices, and how those be explored through applied theatre practices? That’s the focus of the research currently being conducted by Theatre PhD candidate and Vanier Scholar Dennis Gupa.

Gupa is currently wrapping up a year of research on the ground—and on the seas—in his native Philippines, which is partially supported through a 2017 CAPI Student Research Fellowship.

Dennis Gupa in the Phillippines

“I have been here in the Philippines for my field work since September 2017. My site is located in Samar-Leyte Region and I am working with local elders in the island community of Guiuan, where the deadliest typhoon of 2013—Haiyan Typhoon—entered,” he writes.

“One of the most relevant activities I organized during this field research was the intentional congress festival, Paddling Visions [which saw] scholars and artists from the Philippines and Canada gather in a four-day congress festival of performances and academic dialogue and issues about climate change, human, ecological and gender violations, and indigenous knowledges.”

Held in May 2018, Gupa’s Paddling Visions sought to expand dialogue on climate justice in the Philippines. “This event is one of the activities that executes and explores my methodologies—participatory/community action research and applied theatre as research,” he writes.

Hear more about Gupa’s work in this short video:

 

“My heart overflows with gratitude for the participation extended by the communities in engaging them in grounding stories on the impact of climate change,” he says, noting the widespread participation in his research from all walks of life—including elders, women, children, fishermen, government officials, teachers, artists, scholars and others.

Gupa is working with Theatre professors Kirsten Sadeghi-Yetka and Warwick Dobson.

Gupa at the Paddling Visions conference

After receiving a scholarship from the Indonesian Ministry of Education and Culture to study contemporary theatre and traditional mask dance at Bandung’s Sekolah Tinggi Seni Indonesia, the Asian Cultural Council’s awarded Gupa a fellowship to undertake a director-in-residence program in New York City, where he participated in and observed contemporary theatre directing process with Ma-Yi Theatre Company, National Asian American Theatre Company and the Juilliard Drama School.

In addition to an MFA in Directing from UBC and a Theatre MA from the University of the Philippines, Gupa was also awarded the 2016 Performance Studies international Dwight Conquergood Award and the $10,000 Ada Slaight Drama in Education Award in 2017.

Two MFA exhibits: one downtown, one crossing borders

Following a series of on-campus solo exhibitions in the Audain Gallery this spring, this year’s graduating MFA artists have taken their work downtown for their final public exhibit.

Titled In Toto, the annual Visual Arts MFA graduation exhibition runs May 4 to May 14 at 821 Fort Street, between Quadra and Blanshard, with a special opening reception at 7pm on Friday, May 4.

Update: the MFA show will now return for one day only, 11am-2pm Sunday, May 27, as part of the City of Victoria’s Fort Street Celebrations. The MFA show will be used as the venue for a public drop-in session discussing the use of vacant store fronts as art spaces. Live music & refreshments will also be on hand to celebrate the opening of the bike lanes,

Featuring the work of David Michael Peters, Marina DiMaio, Leah McInnis, Connor Charlesworth and Evelyn Sorochan-Ruland, In Toto offers 10 different pieces, ranging from painting and sculpture to installation and media works.

Interestingly, the same storefront was home to the HeARTspace exhibit in the fall 2017, a pop-up art gallery featuring the work of people who have died from overdoses, as well as tributes to them; that exhibit was organized by UVic interdisciplinary PhD candidate Marion Selfridge.

The free exhibit is open noon to 4pm daily.  

In addition to this exhibit, MFA candidate Marina DiMaio has also organized the second in the MFA Connect exhibit series. Running May 13-19 in the Audain Gallery in the Visual Arts building, this second iteration reconsiders the long-standing tradition of Mail Art through an entirely digital correspondence. This conception of MFA Connect integrates the work of six MFA students from Newcastle University in England and six UVic MFA students in a group show that will then travel to the Ex Libris Gallery in northeast England.

MFA Connect is like a conference for visual arts,” says DiMaio in this article about the inaugural MFA Connect exhibit in November 2017. “Other departments make these kind of ‘connections’ all the time, but when we get together we share a visual language. This is about challenging each other’s research, getting our research out into the world, creating our own opportunities, establishing communities, and continuing the larger conversation of the place of the visual arts in an academic institution.”

In addition to Marina DiMaio, MFA Connect also features work by UVic’s Connor Charlesworth, Leah McInnis, David Michael Peters, and Evelyn Sorochan-Ruland, plus Xristia Trutiak. Participating artists from Newcastle U include Shaney Barton, Elizabeth Green, Peter Hanmer, Paul Jex, Hania Klepacka and Gill Shreeve.

Could this be the beginning of ongoing creative alliances between Newcastle University and UVic? Only time—and inspiration—will tell.

Call for Artist-in-Residence Ocean Program

The Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, are sponsoring an Artist in Residence program. The concept strengthens connections between Art and Science to broaden and cross-fertilize perspectives and critical discourse on today’s major issues such as the environment, technology, oceans, cultural and biodiversity and healthy communities. This program is open to local, national and international applicants.

The Artist in Residence will interact with Fine Arts faculty members and scientists at Ocean Networks Canada as well as with other individuals using the world-leading ocean facilities to ignite cross-disciplinary exchanges. Open to artists working in any visual, written, musical or performance discipline, this residency is suitable for an early- or mid-career artist.

The Artist will learn from and engage with the current research, connecting it to the Artist’s own practice, and to wider societal and cultural aspects, creating a body of work to be presented at the end of the residency. The selected Artist will actively engage with researchers on a variety of ocean science themes, that may include:

The ONC Artist in Residence program is established to:

  • explore arts or alternative cultural practices’ potential in the area of the visions, challenges, philosophical, aesthetic, and ethical aspects of the ocean and the impacts humans have on it;
  • add a complementary artistic and creative perspective to ocean science, the societal ramifications of its exploitation, and its cultural aspects; and
  • help envision the potential long-term impact of ocean changes on humanity.

The residency period can start any time between May and December 2018 and last for up to eight months. A cost-of-living stipend of up to CAD $2000/month will be paid to the selected Artist. Following the residency, a public exhibit of the resulting art will be displayed, performed and promoted by ONC and the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Please note: the application period closes on 27 April 2018.

If interested, please send your application to corinnea@uvic.ca at Ocean Networks Canada with the subject line “Artist in Residence Ocean Program.” The application should include your CV, a concise portfolio of previous relevant artistic work, and a letter of motivation outlining your project proposal for the residency. Applications will be reviewed by representatives of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada, and artists may be contacted for an interview or to supply further information.

About Ocean Networks Canada: Established in 2007 as a major initiative of the University of Victoria, Ocean Networks Canada operates world-leading ocean observatories for the advancement of science and the benefit of Canada. The observatories collect data on physical, chemical, biological, and geological aspects of the ocean over long time periods, supporting research on complex Earth processes in ways not previously possible. The observatories provide unique scientific and technical capabilities that permit researchers to operate instruments remotely and receive data at their home laboratories anywhere on the globe in real time. These facilities extend and complement other research platforms and programs, whether currently operating or planned for future deployment.

About the Faculty of Fine Arts: With experiential learning at its core, Fine Arts provides the finest training and learning environment for artists, professionals, and students. Through our departments of Art History and Visual Studies, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing and School of Music, we aspire to lead in arts-based research and creative activity and education in local, national, and global contexts. We integrate and advance creation and scholarship in the arts in a dynamic learning environment. As British Columbia’s only Faculty exclusively dedicated to the arts, Fine Arts is an extraordinary setting that supports new discoveries, interdisciplinary and diverse contributions to creativity, and the cultural experiences of the students and communities we serve.