Turning photographs into new memories


Exhibition “My Mother’s House” by Clare Thomas

When artists give free rein to experimentation, photography often helps expanding boundaries. Ever since the 1980s we have seen a rising tide of photo-based art, when artists started using photography as a medium.

Two exhibitions by B.C. artists showing the noticeable influence of photography on other forms of art – particularly some genres of painting – recently caught my attention: “My Mother’s house” by Clare Thomas and “The Vegas Project” by Mary Babineau.

“My Mother’s House”

Houses and identities are often intertwined. A house is refuge from the world while it reflects the soundness of our self. But what if the house is in disarray and nothing makes sense anymore? In response to her mothers’ memory loss, British contemporary artist Clare Thomas uses figurative drawings and paintings to create the imaginary house that holds her mother’s memories. A house in which, in the apparent disarray and confusion, new connections and stories are made.


20180301_194909“My Mother’s House” is the title of Clare Thomas’ exhibition, “because my Mother has Alzheimer’s.”

The intensely autobiographical work tells the story of imperfectly remembered events: memories “stored” in family photographs yet still subject to disorganisation and even disintegration, explains Clare Thomas who lives and works in Victoria, B.C. She was inspired to begin this series when, shortly after her Mother’s diagnosis, she found a box of old family photographs.

“These photos held memories in them exactly as my mother was losing hers”, Clare says. Using photocopied family photographs as her source, all the drawings and paintings contain figures from the original photographs. “I basically started turning them into new memories”.

20180303_174052In therapy or analysis a house represents our psyche. “I wanted to create a house for my mother’s psyche and fill it with memories. All these images represent memories that I transformed from the original photographs.”

“Normally, when you make a piece of art, you spend a lot of time on your own”, said Clare Thomas at her opening night, “but the work is not really finished until other people see it. So by coming out tonight you finished my work.”

For those who missed the show, you may finish Clare’s work by watching her video about “My Mother’s house”.

“The Vegas Project”

Mary Babineau‘s “The Vegas Project” draws from personal photographs and sense memory in these oil paintings about visceral response and the flux between pleasure and dystopia in the public spaces of Las Vegas. Glitzy kitsch, monumental architecture, and dazzling interiors contrast with the glare of economic disparity and desperation in this major tourist destination, a large American city in the desert.

“I work from sense memory and personal photos to explore experience of urban environments in drawing and painting”, says the B.C. artist. The gestural re-imaginings of public spaces create landscapes of uncertainty through which Babineau reflects her experience of place and space.


“Biz” and “Gone Cold” by Mary Babineau


In search of lost time – what real and woven trees can teach us


“Without a trace” – woven willow by Ken Clarke, 2016, at the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island.

How long does it take to weave a tree? Canadian artist Ken Clarke would know – a long time. Ken has woven thousands of fine willow branches into the shape of a magnificent tree, which dazzles the eye and mind of the observer.

A piece of art like this only comes to life through a vision, complete dedication and focus. It’s not an endeavour for the impatient.

Everybody seems to be busy these days – even busier than 150 years ago when Alexis de Tocqueville already observed that North Americans are “always in a hurry.”

We have too many choices and tasks. We are leading a scattered life dominated by an urgency to make every moment count. Trying to do everything at once, multi-tasking is what usually makes me feel pressed for time. So how do we manage to focus on the essential? As I have noticed that I feel better when I give undivided attention to one thing, my answer to my question is – focus.

But what to focus on when so many things need doing?  While I am looking at the intricate patterns of this woven willow, I am starting to wonder about my own busy life and how I try to manage my precious time on earth.

Life is not about making a choice. It’s about making the right choice. As I am walking around the woven willow tree in the Duthie Gallery Sculpture Park on Salt Spring Island, I remember the following passage by Hermann Hesse from his essay “Trees: Reflections and poems.”

“So the tree rustles in the evening,
when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts:
Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful,
just as they have longer lives than ours.

They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them.
But when we have learned how to listen to trees,
then the brevity and the quickness
and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts
achieve an incomparable joy.
Whoever has learned how to listen to trees
no longer wants to be a tree.
He wants to be nothing except what he is.
That is home. That is happiness.”




Further information:

Ken Clarke:
Ken Clarke is a sculptor and artist in Vancouver British Columbia specialising in architectural and water features, and figurative and organic fine art sculpture.

Also watch Ken Clarke’s video on Youtube.

Duthie Gallery Sculpture Park

The Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island, Canada, represents art for the landscape such as Michael Dennis’ monumental figures, Brent Comber’s site specific installations, Peter Pierobon’s Illuminati and sculptures and Ron Crawford’s singular stonework.

More represented artists:  http://www.duthiegallery.com/artists/

Photo credit: Dean Baltesson and Daniela Herold, Copyright 2018

The art of musical story-telling: Canadian songwriter Dean Baltesson is “Covering Ground”

eMail Cover Photo

“Maybe you wonder why nobody seems to try. And they never give anything, but they want everything”. All morning I have been singing this line from Dean Baltesson’s new song “Lonely Ghost”.  The Canadian musician uses his music and lyrics to tell a story, I use my paintings. 

For thousands of years, people have told stories to share their experiences and we do – in many different ways – to this day.  In the old days stories were passed on by word of mouth, often in the form of verse ballads, or songs.  And wherever pilgrims, merchants and wandering people travelled, they took their stories with them.

Songs are our fears, hopes, dreams, losses, celebrations, memories and experiences. And they are each a story. Good musical story-telling is an art, as proven by the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, who composed the symphonic poem “The Moldau” to musically represent the course of the great river Vitava as it flows through his homeland past a forest hunt, a peasant wedding or the city of Prague. Dean Baltesson’s CD “Covering Ground” is the story of his journey from the Canadian Prairies to the West Coast, and I had the chance to talk to the songwriter in detail about the art of musical story-telling shortly after the release of his new album “Covering Ground’.

Dean Baltesson, your musical journey began on the Canadian Central Plains, a land of gently rolling hills, burning summers and hard winters. ‘Covering Ground’ is the title of your new cd. What ground have you covered before you began writing the lyrics, composing the music, playing all the instruments and singing your songs three years ago?

Dean: My music is a reflection of the country that shaped my life as I made my way slowly west – from the Prairies to the Rockies and eventually to the Pacific Coast. This geography has an influence on us all in some manner, and that is something I find worth writing about.

5 - Empty Road - FraserIs “Covering Ground” the musical story of your life?

Dean: I suppose that my journey “Covering Ground” is in a way an autobiography, but not in the sense that it is a story of my life and what I accomplished, which – if I may add – I don’t consider remarkable.

Growing up, I was a solitary person and retreated into music, specifically the singer-songwriter album oriented music of the seventies. The other things that impressed me were landscape, weather, and the beauty of the land. I loved all kinds of landscapes, even unnatural ones. I remember one frozen winter morning when I arrived at work in downtown Edmonton, seeing the sun rise over the refineries to the east of the city. Ironically, I was even drawn to this kind of industrial beauty.

It seems like music and nature have been the 2 staples in your life that particularly speak to you?

Dean: Absolutely. They have made life appealing for me, and I guess the obvious result of such a combination is a collection of songs about the land. That is really why “Covering Ground” exists.

Pocket Beach

When you think back to those lonely highways and endless distances during long winter nights, what music comes to your mind?

Dean: There were so many different kinds of music I listened to growing up that it’s difficult to identify a particular song or artist that characterizes my original home. In 1979, however, I started listening to the music of Pat Metheny. I love the album “New Chautauqua”, which is sparse, brooding and beautiful. Its songs, and also Pat Metheny´s “Cross The Heartland” still take me back to the prairie.

To this day those songs awaken your feelings and memories. Dean Baltesson, you mentioned that just as powerful as music were the photographs of Canadian photographer Courtney Milne to you. Why is that?

Dean: Courtney Milne published a book in 1985 called “Prairie Light”. I was infatuated with his images because I felt they captured my emotions and sensations about the land I lived on.

As is happens, “Homeless hills” is one of my favourite songs on your album “Covering Ground”. Were you inspired by a certain image or memory?

Dean: One of the photos by Courtney Milne entitled “Almost Home” is in fact the inspiration for the song “Homeless Hills”. It is a picture of a single light shining on a dark blue winter night. The mood conveyed by that photo is something I know very well. I would have loved to meet Courtney, but unfortunately he passed away in 2010. The book was filled with many similar images that were very compelling to me. I tried to acquire the use of some of these photos for my CD, but it was not possible.

Dean, you sing about hills that were peaceful and safe. Have you ever wondered if you once believed in truth because of your innocence?

Dean: I believe that truth exists, even though some people may argue that the truth is relative or arbitrary. I do admit though that defining the truth can be complicated, particularly when it gets entangled with our beliefs and desires.

On “Covering Ground”, I am suggesting that truth seems less complicated during childhood, the setting for “Homeless Hills”. For example, if you are lucky enough to have loving parents, you can trust them and therefore believe what they tell you. As a child, you believe in truth. But after you grow up and move out on your own, it starts to become more complicated.

Where did you find peace when you were young?

Dean: I often experienced a strong feeling of contentment, but it didn’t always have to be peaceful – it could be passionate and emotional, and always came from nature, music and books. I was a dreamer. I wandered in the fields and the forests surrounding my home, where my imagination would really run away with itself. I loved the idea of living outdoors primitively, really being a part of the earth, the rivers and the sky. I liked the urgency of dramatic weather and wind blowing in the trees. Those things soothed my mind and energized me.

Did music consume you in the same way?

Dean: I could become lost in an album looking at pictures and following along with the lyrics. I imagined playing each instrument as I listened to songs. Of course reading books also activated the imagination, so I would say that dreaming and creative imagination were the activities that occupied my youth and gave me peace of mind.

Dean Baltesson, as a boy, which instrument did you choose to play first and how did you learn it?

Dean: I was always drawn to the drums because I liked the precision and the texture of the sounds. My favourite drummers showed me that it wasn’t just about keeping time. Drumming is musical and creative. I was fascinated with their ability to play time, but also to fill a space at just the right moment.

Did you find rock the easiest music to learn to play drums to?

Dean: Yes, because you can get up and running pretty quickly. Learn a few things and you can find yourself playing along with almost anything on the popular radio stations. I taught myself by listening to Elton John and mimicking the drums on those big hits of the seventies. I treated it like learning a musical score and memorized the drums of entire albums. It was an obsession. Before I owned my first set of drums, I would look at pictures of drum sets and play songs on them in my head.

Would you say that musicians choose different instruments to express different emotions? Like a painter may choose between bright and dark colours?

Dean: That is an interesting question. I love trying to play any musical instrument. When you are teenage boy, it can be very difficult and risky to express emotions, but if you play a musical instrument, it’s like an accepted, even a cool way, to be emotional. Playing the drums could do that for you, but it is probably the guitar that best illustrates what I am talking about. It offers great freedom. You can cry out with a guitar. No wonder so many kids play them.

3 - Lonely Ghost - TorontoYour song ‘Lonely Ghost’ is about people trying to cry out in their own misunderstood way, unable to identify the true source of their pain. How, do you think, is this kind of suffering a result of our modern world?

Dean: I think that the modern world amplifies suffering, which is a problem as old as time itself, or perhaps we should think of it as a mystery rather than a problem. The mystery is that we just don’t know where we are, why we are here, and where we are going. As progress occurs, life becomes apparently too easy, and I say apparently because there really is no easy way to be alive …

… although we never seem to stop looking for one!

Dean (chuckling): One of the things that I’ve noticed about my own life is that it has usually been possible to coast. There have been – and still are – issues and challenges I could better serve myself by dealing with immediately, but it’s so easy to push them aside and distract myself with an easy form of gratification.

When problems are too much to deal with, I sometimes wonder, “Can I just stop pedalling and coast without any real detriment to my lifestyle?” I’m not going to fall off the bike. It is just luck that I can do this – luck and the fact that many, many people have taken the trouble and sacrifice to create a society that makes this possible.

The modern world strives to make our lives one long downhill coast, but one wonders whether this doesn’t lead to stagnancy and disaffection in many ways.

9 - Sorrow And Sky - Ross Bay

One of your songs is about a wide, deep river that is calm on the surface, holding a strong current in its heart. You say of yourself that you have become used to searching constantly. Is this your quest, like the river’s current could not be halted?

Dean: The river in “Treading Water” is a reference to a little story at the beginning of Richard Bach’s book “Illusions”. In the story, there are creatures that live by clinging to rocks and twigs, and the big challenge for them is to let go and let the river take them. The song tries to convey the difficulty of letting oneself go in the current, and also the idea that it will lead to the sea, which is where my album is headed as it travels from the Prairie across a widely varied geography to the ocean.

The ocean is also symbolic of life in the song as we are treading water in a directionless place and have to keep moving until we are drawn back into it.

I heard you recall calm moments in the mornings, carefully making a fire,
waiting quietly for sun to break above the high peaks, touching the flames. You were just a teenager when you learned to appreciate mountain weather. Did the patience you discovered then become a valuable skill while letting go of all expectations as you got older?

Dean: Unfortunately, most of the time I discover patience in hindsight, which as you know has 20/20 vision. But when I look back, I remember quite well the moments when I just stopped struggling and trying to force things.

I remember my first time in Vancouver. I was hell bent on walking everywhere and seeing everything, but as it was raining continuously, I finally had to stop. So I sat down outside at a little cafe out of the rain and relaxed. I find that these “what’s the rush”-moments feel incredibly satisfying. It is only when you are in that state that you can observe things and are open to experience.

A particularly enjoyable moment for me is the one you mention – a cold morning in a campsite when you get the fire going to keep you warm until the sun gets over those high peaks. And then it’s a great feeling. You’re suddenly ok again and the sun is going to keep you alive. I’m happy to say that as I get older, I am able to be patient more often. Patience is always available to us.

Dean, it seems like you are very driven to find answers. Will you keep covering ground with new music?

Dean: It took me three years to write and record “Covering Ground”, and I’ve really been looking forward to stopping the obsessive momentum now that it’s finished. I thought I would just sit back and enjoy the destination and do nothing, but this attitude, I think, is really no different than resisting change and trying to stay in the same happy place all the time.

I have plenty of notes and ideas for new music. “Covering Ground” has been a great journey me for literally and artistically. It has helped me shed some of my seriousness, at least for the time being. I’d like to write some happy songs for a change. Life and love have to move onward in whatever way possible.

Dean Baltesson, thank you for this interview and all the very best for “Covering Ground” and your future musical journey.

More information:

Dean Baltesson: deanbaltesson.com

Courtney Milne: coolscapes.sk.ca/index.php

Photo credits: Mark Petrick, Derek Ford, Daniela Herold and Dean Baltesson






“I’M-POSSIBLE” by Daniela Herold – Art portraying the healthy stretch from ‘NO’ to ‘YES’



“No, this is impossible”, I heard myself firmly say for the second time. “I cannot do it.”

This could have been the end of the story, but something was bugging me as I kept repeating the same “no” month after month, year after year. I did not want to remain in this frozen state, but had no idea what to do about it. I always thought of myself as a courageous person, travelling the world, living in different countries, trying out new things. But I would not budge in this matter because my fear stalled me.

I was afraid of dogs all my life. I would walk many kilometres of detours just at the sight of a dog a hundred metres away, always with my fingers in my ears as even the faintest sound of barking made me sweat profusely and my legs shake.

I had learned how not to deal with the fear, because I was afraid to deal with it.

Then one day, my partner said to me: “You have got this one life, do you really want to live it in fear? Don’t you ever dream of a life without it? How nice it could be to have your own dog as a companion?”

Obviously I had not, but I realized that I had remained frozen because I never allowed myself to even have a glimpse of a vision.“Very well then, imagine”, I said to myself … and that is when everything changed.

To get out of a frozen state – from firmly believing that something is impossible – to having a dream or a vision for oneself, something needs to change. We need some kind of action, willingness, vision, hope or courage to transport us from the impossibility to the possibility.

Ten years have passed since then, and it should come to no surprise that a wonderful husky border collie mix named Merlin has become the staple in my life. He epitomizes my biggest achievement, the proof that hopes and dreams can catapult you out of stagnation and fear.

Marcus AureliusMy current solo art exhibition at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre (December 2017 – January 2018) showing oil, acrylic and mixed media paintings called “I’M-POSSIBLE” focuses on the juxtaposition of the two elements: the ‘no’ and the ‘YES’. Once we manage this switch in our brain and heart, once we make this stretch beyond ourselves, action, involvement, participation, commitment & creativity start to happen. Where there was a void, a vision can unfold, slowly turning into our mission – and how empowering this development can make us feel!

Of course, we need energy to make positive changes in our lives, but when you connect with your deepest hopes, energy gets released that will help you see possibilities and opportunities around you with more clarity. A friend of mine, the former conductor of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Peter McCoppin, once asked, “What is worse than blindness?” The answer was “sight without vision”.

The day before my friends Rosemary, Charlton, David and I drove up Vancouver Island to set up my show in Duncan, I took Merlin for a walk just after 10 pm.

It was a very dark night, not a star in sight. Merlin pulled me towards a pole, just another thing to mark, I thought, when I realized that he was stopping by a small wooden cabinet with book donations for the community, to drop and swap. With curiosity, I took out a little flashlight, looking for anything interesting, when the light beam touched the cover of Vaclav Havel’s autobiography “The Art of the Impossible”.

I burst into laughter, thinking, “this is impossible”, but here it was – a hardcover of the volume consisting of thirty-five essays by the former president of Czechoslovakia, written between the years 1990 and 1996, all profoundly personal and profoundly political.

Within in the next few days after setting up my show, I found it compelling to read how Havel redefined his notion of politics as “the art of the impossible, that is, the art of improving ourselves and the world.”

What a fine find, and how fitting that very evening. “You have to try the impossible to achieve the possible”, my favourite German author Hermann Hesse wrote. So let’s try, because – as Francis of Assisi once said, “Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

Wishing you all a peaceful 2018.





“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

Shel Silverstein, American poet and song-writer


“If something is difficult for you to accomplish, do not then think it impossible for any human being; rather, if it is humanly possible and corresponds to human nature, know that it is attainable by you as well.”

Marcus Aurelius


“Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation– the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.
One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise. This philosophy fitted on to my early adult life, when I saw the improbable, the implausible, often the “impossible,” come true.”

Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-UP

“Nothing is more imminent than the impossible . . . what we must always foresee is the unforeseen.”

Victor Hugo, Les Miserables



“When Henry Ford decided to produce his famous V-8 motor, he chose to build an engine with the entire eight cylinders cast in one block, and instructed his engineers to produce a design for the engine. The design was placed on paper, but the engineers agreed, to a man, that it was simply impossible to cast an eight-cylinder engine-block in one piece.
Ford replied,”Produce it anyway.”

Henry Ford


“There are many things that seem impossible only so long as one does not attempt them.”

Andre Gide, Autumn Leaves


“They did not know it was impossible so they did it”

Mark Twain

“All things are possible until they are proved impossible and even the impossible may only be so, as of now.”

Pearl S. Buck



book Merlin


Nothing is impossible to a willing mind.

Unknown (or was it Merlin?)





Further information: 

Paintings and photos by Daniela Herold / Copyright 2017



“A colony of things” – B.C. artist James Mulchinock on driftwood and baseball marks

photo 4James Mulchinock, you gather, arrange and transform easily accessible objects—or their residue—such as driftwood, coat hangers, baseball marks. Have you turned your childhood passion for collecting into an integral part of your art practice?

James: I think most artists become collectors through necessity. Depending on your approach and medium, you need collectible stuff as the raw material for both ideas and even as material for the work.

Have you entered the hoarding zone yet?

James: No, but give me time and space. Having a childhood passion for collecting helps, especially when faced with the choice between keeping or ignoring interesting stuff one encounters in day-to-day travels. I’m inclined to keep. It may take years before I use it, but that day always seems to arrive.

You told me that you always have a clear concept of what you want to achieve before starting a piece of art. What is the story behind the two large driftwood pieces in “A colony of things”?

James: The two large pieces in Colony of Things using drift sticks started as both concept and process. Years ago, I did a quick study sculpture using drift sticks. At the same time, I was painting more and more on raised wood cradle canvasses, so I thought a lot about painting above the actual traditional painting canvas. Is it possible for me to paint on a non-canvas (surface of beach stick ends) surface a couple inches out from a wall? That’s the idea. But it sat, like a lot of ideas, for a few years. Finally, the itch to create from that one concept was too much to ignore any longer.

James Mulchinock, for the last month these 2 large wall stick sculptures caught my eye every time I was passing by them in our gallery XChanges. First as close-up, unique items with their own beauty and second as part of a group or colony of hundreds of individuals. The sticks’ individuality is disguised when incorporated into the larger mass. In fact, the viewer is hard pressed to identify this mysterious mass as originating from the beach.

James: The large wall stick sculptures are part of a series about the transformation of hundreds of natural wood beach drift sticks into a state of duality. The original organic character of these beach sticks is transformed from an item of utilitarian function into a relief surface of uncertain scale, texture and colour.

photo 1Does that mean your exhibition A Colony of Things is about the dual behaviour of individual marks and objects?

James: Indeed. This larger mass hides the individuality of its members by the sheer volume (300-2000) of collected items or marks.

Your exhibition also contains several paintings (for lack of better word) with a reference to baseball. I am not a baseball fan at all, but these pieces of art keep fascinating me. Tell us more about the concept behind them and why your back hurt so much working on them, you could not get out of bed for a day or two?

James: The baseball drawings, Painting the Corners, came about after several seasons traveling with my son’s elite baseball team to the various baseball parks across British Columbia. When you have hours to kill waiting for the team to complete pre-game warm-up, you notice things: weathered structures around the ball field, marks of baseballs left on dugout walls, cleat spike marks on dirt, grass, and wood. Baseball is not kind to baseball diamonds. However, for an artist, the marks left behind tell a story of the game itself: dreams, emotions, repetitive skill development, it’s all there in what’s left behind.

Making the drawings was a simple trial and error process of what works to capture that erosive quality about the game. I settled on coating baseballs with compressed charcoal and dropping them on pristine drawing paper. Months later, I attempted to do two drawings in one day. With over 500 marks involving repetitive major body motions, I pulled muscles in my lower back. I had to go on the 15-day disabled list.

Your paintings capture the story of specific games in a very special way. How?

James: They represent the violent, yet delicate population of marks made by a baseball on a surface. It explores the controlled randomness of repetitive mark-making and is part of a larger project of documenting chance marks. While each mark leaves a delicate trace of individuality, as a mass they transform into something with its own form and distinctive character.

The marks left by baseballs, bats, and cleats on the worn and impacted surfaces of baseball diamonds strike me as a metaphor of youth, the role of sports in growing up, and even the drama and decay of dreams and ambition in life.

baseball painting by James

What do the Toronto Blue Jays have to do with your paintings?

James: The series is based on six games played by the Toronto Blue Jays professional baseball team during three months of their exciting and successful 2015 season. My process is to drop a charcoal-coated baseball onto the drawing paper, which has a penciled 1:1 scale rectangular strike zone representing where the real life pitch crossed home plate.

I have always been interested in collecting: childhood collections of similar cultural and non-cultural items such as postage stamps, leaves, and hockey cards. When organized and mounted for display, the individual items yield to the collective appearance of the group. Even prosaic and utilitarian collections of firewood, nails, and lawn trimmings have perhaps unintentional meanings when brought together. This work explores and transcends the formalistic qualities of known natural materials and ready-mades. Both series takes the familiar and transposes it into the mysterious.

photo 3Being an artist can sometimes be frustrating. What are the obstacles you have run into preparing “A colony of things”?

James: Installing Colony of Things involved the same technical challenges and frustrations experienced by any installation artist. In this case, it was hanging a very heavy wall sculpture on a stud-and-drywall gallery. We were once taught how to draw, paint, and make art. But most of us aren’t carpenters or welders. Yet, we forge on into those trades unprepared to meet the requirements. So, figuring out how to do something in a trade you’ve had no training or experience in can be very frustrating and potentially dangerous. If you’re smart, you cultivate friendships with carpenters and welders.

James Mulchinock, thank you very much for this interview.





‘Forge body and mind’ by Karima GALVÁN

IMG_5536For over a week, she was cutting, glueing, crushing, crumbling and unfolding shiny aluminium. “How is it going?”, I would ask her every morning, admiring reflections in the murals on the wall of the gallery, and she would say with a contagious smile, “getting there!”


The artist Karima Heredia (left) 

And did she ever! With her mixed media installation “Forge Mind and Body” Karima Heredia Galván connects the dots in life, bringing together three relational series: suppressed emotion, body dysmorphia and internal healing.

Karima Heredia Galván, you contribute the vibrancy of Mexico to the Victoria art community. With a scholarship-funding 2017 Diploma of Fine Arts from the Vancouver Island School of Art, you have continued to explore the many facets of the human body. What is your current exhibition “Forge Mind and Body” about?

karima reflection

Mural reflections 

Karima Heredia Galván: “”Using mixed media, I examine the physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual components of our body. I like to connect the dots in life, how things interact and are connected. We each reflect one another. Forge Mind and Body examines this reflection and its impact on healing.”

You mention healing – was your project inspired by a particular recent event?

Karima Heredia Galván: “A few months ago, I was starting loosing the sight in one eye. The experience with brain surgery has inspired this exhibition. My project is based on three different approaches to heal body and mind. Firstly, my interest in working with the unconscious became a quest to liberate my primitiveness, my repressed emotions and darkest stories. Secondly, I was interested in community work, and how we are all animals that belong to tribes. Finalising with mandalas helped with meditations for my physical and internal recovery.

You say: ‘I like connecting the dots’ – what do you mean by that?

Karima: For me connecting the dots means the connection between body and mind; the link between rational and irrational;  the connection of my healing process with my creativity; the link between nature and humans; and the connection of past events with the present.

You have recently been dealing with serious health issues. As some of your oil paintings show monsters, do they symbolise your greatest fears?

Karima: Yes! As I mentioned, I am interested in the unconscious, and using art to access and express the primitiveness of my persona, so my paintings were purposely done with emotional charged sessions, where I would cry, laugh, get angry sad and scared while applying pigment to the paper.

How do you deal with worries?

Karima: With therapy: by expressing and accepting the emotion of the moment; with art: searching for creative ways to channel emotions; with meditation: by emptying my mind and focusing on the transcendental space that exists within us; and doing exercise: sweating out the excess of stress and energy.

IMG_5541What does art mean to you?

Karima: Art is the way each individual portrays their version of life in that particular time and space. In my case, art is a way to channel emotions, research ideas and concepts, art means actions that connect me with other people, a profession that generates an income; a way to learn from my ancestors; a documentation of my life, and art explores life’s meaning.

You work with different creative techniques. What made you choose shiny aluminium?

Karima: I wanted to paint differently. Aluminum process’ is new and exciting to me. Using this material is very tactile, is like collaging with one color tone, that may vary when creating different textures. When cutting, gluing, crushing, crumbling and unfolding aluminum, the chances of breaking it are good. However, the metallic- sharp-burning- wind sounds it produces when manipulating makes the effort worth it. I enjoy aluminum a lot. The more I use it, I found its possibilities endless.

You have produced wonderful mandalas that complement each other in a playful and joyful way. What is the story behind them?

Karima: Painting mandalas became the daily activity that would bring me joy when I left the hospital. As I would gain strength, I would spend as much time doing them in nature. I started to feel stronger and found that dedicating them to other people was very satisfying and felt good. So each one of the mandalas is done in a state of peace and compassion with the intention of sending love to others.

Who introduced you to the Jungian concept of Shadow and what does it mean to you?

Karima: Dr. Carlos de Leon, my Body & Mind Therapy Diploma teacher. And to me, the Shadow is a part of ourselves we repressed as we grow up and society told us certain actions and behaviours were unacceptable. So we block them in our ‘shadow’ which is held in our bodies and the reptilian brain. There is great potential in the Shadow, not all is necessary negative, for example in an insecure person the Shadow contains their security and self-esteem power.


You have arranged several metallic surfaces in a way that reminds the viewer of star alignments. Are you referring to a specific one?

Karima: I create my own internal constellations. Organic Light installation was invented for the walls of XChanges Gallery in Victoria, B.C.

Where are you the happiest?

Karima: When I am in nature.

What is your greatest achievement?

Karima: Moving on my own to Canada.

I had the pleasure of meeting you mother Claudia during the set-up of your art show, and meeting your Dad who remained in Mexico City, but was able to follow your artist reception via Skype. What have your parents taught you most?

Karima: That there is nothing permanent, we are always changing.

What do you need right now the most?

Karima: An effective treatment to treat my acromegaly.

Karim, thank you very much for this interview.

More information about the artist:

Photographs by Daniela Herold (Copyright 2017)



Artists as willing participants in a force of nature



My artistic highlight last weekend was the discovery of ‘Forestrial Brain’, a collaborative installation-painting by Canadian artists Matt Shane of Pender Island and Jim Holyoak of Montreal at the Open Space Gallery in Victoria B.C. The artists wrapped a room 40 metres long and almost four metres high with rolls of Italian drawing paper, laying in the graphic elements with ink lines followed by tonal washes to create a stunning tapestry of images and memories of their hike along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.

In a world of many choices, offerings and oeuvres one does not often stand in awe in front of a piece of art. When compelling art finds you, it not only captures your attention, it touches your soul. And I can truly say that ‘Forestrial Brain’ has done that to me.

This time, I will let my pictures talk, while encouraging you to read the whole story HERE (Times Colonist, Aug 13, 2017)