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.”

UVic hosts 2018 Building Reconciliation Forum

UVic is this year’s host for the fourth annual Building Reconciliation Forum, in partnership with Universities Canada, the national organization for Canadian universities. The forum (Nov. 15–16) brings together close to 250 thought leaders from universities, Indigenous governing bodies and communities, and federal and regional government officials to consider how universities are answering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

This year’s theme is Ts’its’u’ watul tseep, meaning to help one another. The teachings of Coast Salish First Nations guide us to “work together in a good way” and “to be prepared for all work to come” so that universities across Canada make a difference in the lives of Indigenous students and their communities.

Panels over two days are addressing TRC topics such as child welfare, language and culture, education, health and justice. Participants will be discussing how universities and their partner institutions can work with Indigenous communities to answer the Calls to Action, obstacles to answering these Calls, and how universities can make a positive difference for Indigenous students and communities. Forum discussions will be compiled into an open-access report. See the schedule of events.

Dean Susan Lewis

As part of the Forum, Fine Arts Dean Dr. Susan Lewis will be hosting a panel discussion on First Nations Art Practice & Reconciliation. Local artists, administrators and activists will discuss how Victoria’s arts community can advance decolonization and reconciliation. The moderator for the panel is local Cree/Metis TV producer and writer Barbara Hager, and panelists include:

  • The Belfry Theatre’s Indigenous cultural advisor Kristy Charlie, from W̱SÁNEĆ territory on the Saanich Peninsula
  • Pacific Opera’s director of community engagement, Metis singer Rebecca Hass
  • Visual Arts MFA alumna and Iroquois Mohawk artist Lindsay Delaronde is, who was recently Open Space’s Acting Aboriginal Curator and the City of Victoria’s inaugural Indigenous Artist in Residence. Delaronde has also shown work at UVic’s Legacy Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and was artist-in-residence with the Royal BC Museum
  • Belfry Theatre executive director Ivan Habel
  • Open Space board member and Visual Arts sessional instructor Charles Campbell
  • Legacy Gallery director Mary Jo Hughes
  • Art Gallery of Greater Victoria curator of engagement Nicole Stanbridge.

Susan Algukark

The panel runs from 6:30–9:30pm Thursday, Nov 15 at Pacific Opera Victoria’s Baumann Centre, 925 Balmoral Road. Note: while this event is free, it is technically already sold out. Some seats may be available at the door.

Also during the Building Reconciliation Forum, Fine Arts will be hosting noted Inuk singer-songwriter and Order of Canada recipient Susan Aglukark as she presents Nomad, a musical and visual journey through Inuit history, shedding light on some of the psychological and cultural impacts of the rapid change in Canada’s North. Seating will be extremely limited for this event running from noon-1:30pm on Wednesday, Nov 14, in the Chief Dan George Theatre in the Phoenix Theatre building.

We acknowledge with respect the Lkwungen-speaking peoples on whose traditional territory the University of Victoria stands, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day.

New artist residency strengthens connections between art & science

Victoria-based artist Colton Hash is the inaugural recipient of an Artist-in-Residence program announced today by the Faculty of Fine Arts and Ocean Networks Canada (ONC), a UVic initiative. The new ONC residency will strengthen connections between art and science, and broaden perspectives on major issues ranging from technology and the environment to biodiversity and healthy communities.

Colton Hash with his full-size sculpture of an adolescent female orca (photo: Ashton Sciacallo)

A recent graduate of UVic’s combined undergraduate program in Visual Arts and computer science, Hash was selected for the residency from a field of nearly 70 local, national and international applicants. He will hold the position from November 2018 to March 2019 and, following his residency, will provide a public exhibition of the resulting body of work.

“I see this as a great opportunity to collaborate with ocean scientists and experiment with digital media to communicate some of the dynamic processes that play a critical role in coastal waters,” says Hash.

“Whether it’s how a kelp forest responds to climate change or how the thawing of frozen methane affects sediment stability of submarine slopes, I hope I can use interactive art to inspire viewers to care more about what is happening beneath the ocean’s surface.”

Hash has built his artistic practice on the integration of environmental knowledge through visual art and computer programming in order to communicate concepts related to ecosystems and climate change. A short film of his interactive sculptural installation, “Resonant Disintegration” (with projected visualizations of climate data and underwater recordings of shipping traffic), won the two top awards at the Research Reels contest during UVic’s Ideafest in 2018, and was recently remounted at Victoria’s Flux Media Gallery in October during the Antimatter Media + Art Festival. His work was also featured in UVic’s KnowlEDGE news feature in March 2018.

Colton Hash with his “Resonant Disintegration” sculpture

“The ecological challenges we face are complex and hard to be understood through science alone,” he adds. “People are being flooded with scientific data and intellectual analysis of what is wrong with the world, without having time to process what it means to them on deeper, more personal levels. Art can create spaces for people to reflect emotionally, spiritually and intuitively on our relationships with nature.”

While in the position, Hash will interact with UVic fine arts faculty members and ONC scientists, as well as other individuals using ONC’s world-leading ocean facilities. He intends to develop an interactive digital media installation that allows the public to explore and emotionally connect with ocean systems.

“Ocean Networks Canada is looking forward to collaborating with Colton,” says ONC chief scientist Dr. Kim Juniper. “We’re excited to see what his use of ocean data will produce to convey marine conservation and global change in his art.”

Visiting actor/playwright D’bi.Young Anitafrika focuses on diversity

From addressing the United Nations and touring the world as a dubpoet to being named a Canadian Poet of Honour and being nominated for nine Dora Awards in theatre (and winning three), D’bi.Young Anitafrika has carved her own niche in the world of Canadian arts. She will be the latest author to appear at the long-running Open Word Readings & Ideas series, presented by the Department of Writing and Open Space.

A queer Black feminist artist, Anitafrika is the founding Artistic Director Emeritus of the Watah Theatre and the founding Creative Director of the Anitafrika Retreat Centre. She has curated international residencies for artists in the Caribbean, North/South America, Africa and Europe, and her own form of “Biomyth Monodrama” focuses on solo shows that use music, poetry, dance and drama to chronicle the stories of global peoples and their quests for self-actualization.

The award-winning African-Jamaican-Canadian actor, playwright and performance artist is the published author of nine plays, three collections of poetry, six dub poetry albums, a comic book and a deck of instructional cards containing her Anitafrika Method.

Following her reading at Open Space, Writing professor David Leach will conduct a live interview.

Watch her deliver this powerful performance at the HERstory in Black event at CBC Toronto during Black History Month in Feburary 2018.

D’bi.Young Anitafrika reads from 7pm Tuesday, Nov 6, at Open Space, 510 Fort Street. The public is also welcome at these other free in-class appearances on Monday, Nov 5: from 10-11:20am in UVic’s Cornett 108, and from 2:30-3:50pm in UVic’s ECS 125.

Visiting Artists program a fall highlight

Always an exciting part of each semester, the long-running Visiting Artist program in the Department of Visual Arts has announced their fall lineup. Organized by Visual Arts instructor Doug Jarvis and MFA candidate Dani Proteau, all these illustrated talks take place at 7:30pm in room A150 of the Visual Arts Building — and all are free and open to the public. Come join us in exploring the wider visual arts world!

Wolfgang Weileder
September 19

Wolfgang Weileder is an artist whose practice is primarily concerned with the examination and critical deconstruction of architecture, public spaces and the interactions we have with the urban environment. His works are investigations into the relationship between time and space, the interface between permanence and transience, and how these can be explored to question our understanding of the landscape, both built and natural. His work engages with the world through large-scale, temporary site-specific installation and sculpture; temporal recordings of spaces and environments through photography; film, performance and sound installation.


Daniel Kohn & Heather Spence
October 3

Daniel Kohn

Daniel Kohn and Heather Spence first met at the NAKFI Discovering the Deep Blue Sea conference in 2016 and began to form collaborative projects around the intersection of art and ocean science and the concept of Ocean Memory. Their previous work in interdisciplinary collaborations as well as background in fine arts (Daniel) and music, marine bioacoustics and neuroscience (Heather) have brought them to think of artmaking and research as simultaneously collective and personal pursuits.
They come to Victoria to explore collaboration with Ocean Networks Canada, to use ONCs audio archive and live data capabilities, and with a wish to connect to local efforts and projects seeking to remap the way in which we think of – and engage with – the ocean.

Cindy Baker
October 17

Cindy Baker is an interdisciplinary and performance artist whose work is informed by a fierce commitment to community engagement and critical social inquiry. Drawing from queer theory, gender culture, fat activism and art theory, Baker’s research-based practice moves fluently between the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Baker considers context her primary medium, and works with diverse materials and techniques from the low-craft (such as latch-hooking) to digital fabrication and perfor-mance, emphasizing the theoretical, conceptual and ephemeral aspects of her work. Cindy Baker completed her MFA at the University of Leth-bridge in 2014, and she lives and works between Lethbridge, AB, Canada and Edmonton, AB, Canada.

Rachelle Sawatsky
October 24

Rachelle Sawatsky is an artist and a writer based in Los Angeles and Vancouver. Her solo and collaborative work encompasses painting, writing, ceramics, drawing and movement. Recent solo exhibitions include China Art Objects, Artist Curated Projects, Harmony Murphy Gallery in Los Angeles and at the Material Art Fair in Mexico City. Her work has also been included in group exhibitions at the Tate St. Ives, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Galerie Mezzanin in Vienna as part of the Curated By Biennale. She is a Lecturer at the University of California, Riverside.

John Eisler
November 7

John Eisler completed his MFA at the University of Guelph (2018). He received his BFA from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 1997, with a concentration in painting. He has had a number of solo exhibition at Paul Kuhn Fine Arts (Calgary) and Diaz Contemporary (Toronto), including : Fountain (2013) and Observatory (2013). Recent group exhibitions include : More Than Two (Let it Make Itself) at the Power Plant (Toronto) ; 60 Painters at Humber Arts and Media Studios (Toron-to) ; softcare Hard Edge at East and Peggy Phelps Galleries in Clare-mont, CA and the Art Gallery of Calgary ; 2×2 at the Keyano Art Gallery in Fort McMurray in Alberta. His works are held in collections of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Macdonald Stewart Art Center, TD Bank Group, as well as numerous private collections.

Farheen HaQ
November 21

A still from Farheen HaQ’s “Endless Tether”

Farheen HaQ is a South Asian Muslim Canadian artist who has been living on unceded Lekwungen territory (Victoria, BC) for 20 years. She was born and raised in Haudenosanee territory (Niagara region, Ontario) amongst a tight-knit Muslim community. Her multidisciplinary practice which often employs video, installation and performance is informed by interiority, relationality, embodiment, ritual and spiritual practice. Farheen has exhibited her work in galleries and festivals throughout Canada and internationally including New York, Paris, Lahore, Medellin, Buenos Aires, and Hungary. She received her MFA from York University (2005). In 2014 she was nominated for Canada’s Sobey Art Award.

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.