Contemporary Art from North North America – Oh Canada …


‘Uncharted galvanized hut’ by Chris Millar, 2008.

Curiosity. Humour. Absurdity. 

An epic art exhibition is taking over Calgary: Comprised of more than 100 artworks by over 60 artists and collectives from across the country,  Oh, Canada: Contemporary Art from North North America, is vast in scope and size – so big that no one gallery space in Calgary is large enough to host the entire exhibition. The exhibition, organized by the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), is the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside Canada! In order to bring this ambitious survey of contemporary Canadian art to Calgary, four local art institutions have partnered to co-represent it (Esker Foundation, Glenbow, Illingworth Kerr Gallery and Nickle Galleries).

Oh, Canada is huge in both scale and scope: 61 Artists. 4 Galleries. 1 Exhibition.

“Over 800 artists from every province and territory were initially considered for ‘Oh Canada’. Following 400 studio visits, 62 artists and collectives were selected, focusing mostly on those less known outside Canada”, says Denise Markonish, the Curator of ‘Oh Canada’. “These artists hail from as fas west as the Yukon, as north as Nunavut and as east as Newfoundland and Labrador; they cross multiple generations, and wok in all media, from painting to performance.”

The overall selection is fabulous! I particularly enjoyed Chris Millar’s work, as the natural born storyteller draws us into his ‘own private universe of wondrous tiny details’, holding our attention while unfolding his outrageous tales and phantasies. Millar’s paintings are dense mixtures of images and phrases, whereas his sculptures are sprinkled with visual clues for the viewer.

Does Oh, Canada define a country as large and intricately layered as Canada? “Not really”, says Markonish, “though it provides insight – through more than 100 artworks – into some of the country’s most noteworthy art practices and ideas, including a deep and continuing interest in the land, craft and identiy politics”.

As for me, a new Canadian since December last year,  Oh, Canada  is but one snapshot among many possibilities, intended to encourage dialogue, debate and a deeper exploration into the breadth and excellence of Canadian art today.



ABOUT the museum:
Glenbow is Western Canada’s largest museum, with over one million objects in the collection including works of art, cultural artifacts from around the world, and photographs and documents relating to the history of Western Canada. The exhibitions, programs and events are designed to create memorable experiences for all Calgarians.

About Chris Millar
Born in Claresholm, Alberta, Chris Millar grew up in Sherwood Park. He completed a fine arts diploma at Grant MacEwan Community College in 1998, and a bachelor of fine arts in painting at the Alberta College of Art+ Design in 2000.


Seen today – ‘Living with all kinds’ by Trish Shwart

Art works showing interaction between human species and animal world

My dog Merlin is soaking wet. After a one-hour-hike in the pouring rain he’s ready for a nap, while I am looking forward to having an Americano and a chat with painter Trisha Shwart, who is currently showing a small body of her work ‘Living with all kinds’ in Victoria, B.C. But not yet: at first my loyal companion of 5 years needs to be dried, given water and a cookie. And while I am stroking his head before saying good-bye, I marvel about the miracle of this incredible bond between an animal and a human being.

Sign Language

Sign Language by Trish Shwart

Trish, your work shows encounters between humans and animals. How do you think fit animals into our society and culture?

Trish : That is what I have been trying to figure out. We seem to categorize animals – for instance into groups such as dogs and cats, then into the ones we eat, and those we are scared of.

A segregation into different categories?

Trish: Indeed. They are “cute” or “food” or “dangerous” – and we allocate certain characteristics to the animals in each of these categories. Cute pets, for example, are often described as being emotionally intelligent. They instinctively know what their owner likes or finds annoying. We know that an animal can be an effective therapy for people who are sick or stressed.

And there are the ones we eat …

Trish: Few of us who live in a city have ever had daily contact with these animals. Perhaps as a balm to our own discomfort, we wrongly describe the animals we eat (cows, pigs, fish, chickens) as ‘dumb’ and ‘unfeeling’.

We cage dangerous animals for our safe viewing (in zoos) and mythologize them as predatory (cougars, lions, tigers). They live on our terms in the environments we create for them.

Bird Dog, Acrylic on Paper

Bird Dog, Acrylic on Paper by Trish Shwart

And yet we admire them.

Trish: Correct – we refer to people as having “eagle eyes” or the “strength of a lion” or being “smart like a fox”.

So, what does the way in which we segregate animals tell us about our own species?

Trish: As it turns out several big thinkers, philosophers and scientists have spent a lot of time thinking about this very topic. I don’t begin to presume that I can answer the question, but I hope my paintings and drawings initiate the kinds of conversations that might help us get some answers.

You are using mixed media in most of your artwork?

Trish: Yes, I am aiming at connecting painting and photography. In a world where there are so many options I deliberately merge the two media to tell a more complex story. I let the photograph do the work.

What does art mean for you?

Trish: The freedom – which admittedly is first world luxury – to think about whatever I want to paint, whenever I want. It is an incredible opportunity that lets me follow my imagination.

Anniversary Dance, Mixed media

Anniversary Dance, Mixed media, by Trish Shwart

“I am still thinking about how we relate to animals. Some we keep as pets, some we eat and some we fear. In some cultures children are told that they have an animal spirit that becomes a totem for them. In The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman individuals have their own animal daemon. They cannot survive without their daemon and when their daemon feels pain, so do the humans. In this image I am playing with what is real and what isn’t real. Are we connected to animal spirits? Are these people with masks?”

A small body of Trish Shwart’s work dealing with how we relate to animals is showing at Bubby’s Kitchen located in the Cook St village in Victoria, BC.  until the end of this month. The work asks questions about connections with animals and our ability to know our own selves.

About the artist:

Emerging artist Graham Ereaux on photography as social commentary

Let me introduce you to Graham Ereaux.  I talked to the young artist, who is recognized as an ’emerging name’ amongst Canadian photographers for 2013 – at XChanges Gallery in Victoria on Vancouver Island, where his current show “Walls of Utopia” will be shown until Oct 27. Graham’s photographs depict the remnants of the consumerist landscape when the act of consuming and the presence of people is removed. At night and without the consumer, malls become empty neon shells, parking lots become endless voids of concrete, and streets that once led consumption from one place to the next end up as a tangle of dry asphalt veins.

Copyright Graham Ereaux

Copyright Graham Ereaux

Graham Ereaux – you have been recognized by the Magenta Foundation, one of Canada’s leading photographic publicists, as an emerging name in 2013. What does photography mean to you?

Photography for me serves two functions – to encourage my own self discovery in a variety of subjects, and secondly, to share my ideas and opinions with others. I like to develop work that critiques and/or investigates social, cultural, economic and political issue. By making such work, I am encouraged to gain a stronger understanding of each subject  I chose to photograph, and in turn, share it with others. I think it is important to think critically of the world around us, and at the end of the day, photography is an excellent tool for doing just that.

Today, you said: “It’s nice to portray beauty, but for me the main role of photography is social commentary.” Why?

I do indeed enjoy taking pictures that are beautiful, but I feel photography has the potential to go beyond being a purely aesthetic experience. I think photography becomes a lot less boring to make (and potentially to view) when it has some form of social commentary.

Photographer Graham Ereaux

Photographer Graham Ereaux

Who inspired you?

I’ve been really inspired by a couple of my professors while studying at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. They have taught me the importance of staying focused only on what you feel strongly about. You have to be passionate with what you make.

Your current exhibition aims to encourage people to think critically about consumerism and its emotional, social, and geographical potential. Where did you get the idea for the series?

The series kind of came about by accident. To get out of the studio, I would go for drives around town at night just to clear my head. Soon enough, at night, I started taking photographs of all the gas stations around the town I was living at the time. I think it was these first few shots of gas stations that really made me question consumer spaces and how they transform at night when they are taken out of their working context. From there, the work just took off. Before I knew it, I was photographing every consumer space at night I could find.

In this digital age, do you think that there is a future for film-based photography?

Most definitely…that is as long as other people think so too. Film can only exist with a community to support it. Film is so important for so many reasons. Operationally, it forces you to slow down and really consider each image you are taking. Aesthetically, film has an incredible ability to capture colours accurately. Furthermore, using large and medium format equipment enables me to make extremely large prints if necessary without loosing image quality.

Upcoming projects?

I’m currently spending quite a bit of time photographing seniors at a local nursing home. Seniors are an extremely important part of society, but I think there is a lot issues, stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the older population here in Canada. I’d really like to address some of these issues.  I’ve also spent some time down on the Jersey Shore and Atlantic City where I’m photographing the major polarization between rich and poor in that area. I am planning another trip that way in the coming months.

Could you share 2 of your favourite images?

Ya, for sure – the first image is from my current series up at Xchanges Gallery, and the second image is of a friend of mine at the seniors home in Sackville, New Brunswick. The photograph he is holding is himself when he was about my age. He’s 93 now I believe.

Graham, thank you for sharing your thoughts and photographs with my readers.

'Young at heart' by Graham Ereaux Copyright 2013

‘Young at heart’ by Graham Ereaux
Copyright 2013

Graham Ereaux is a photographer located between Sackville, New Brunswick, and Salt Spring Island, BC. He uses large and medium format photography to explore socio-physical landscapes ranging from North America consumerist utopias to local seniors among his community. He is recognized by the Magenta Foundation, one of Canada’s leading photographic publicists, as an emerging name in 2013. Graham Ereaux gratefully acknowledges the financial support of ArtsNB.
For more information visit the artist’s website: Graham Ereaux

The Exhibition ‘Walls of Utopia’ runs through Sunday, October 27th, 2013 at XChanges Gallery, Victoria.
Gallery Hours: Saturdays and Sundays, 12 to 4 pm

Sculpture Garden Kroeller-Mueller Museum – an Art Museum in tranquillity

Where do visual art, nature, architecture and garden design come together in perfect harmony?

Ever since the sculpture garden of the Kroeller-Mueller Museum in Otterlo, The Netherlands, opened in 1961, it has become one of the most renowned in the world. Situated on carefully chosen spots on 25 hectares of woodland, sculptures ranging from work by Rodin to that of contemporary sculptors can be enjoyed by visitors.

The KMM manages the legacy of Anton and Helene Kroeller-Mueller. The first quarter of the 20th century, the couple assembled a formidable collection of modern and contemporary art. Between 1909 and 1921 they purchased a continuous stretch of hunting and riding land of over 6,000 hectares in the Veluwe region. Today, the De Hoge Veluwe Nationalpark is the core of the estate.

When the museum opened in 1938, the high quality of three components was decisive for its success: visual arts, architecture and nature. The three still define, more than ever, the museum’s unique character. For many, the KMM epitomizes an art museum in tranquillity – the “tranquillity of nature, calm and space”.

“I’m still fascinated”, says Evert Van Straaten, Director of the KMM, “by the motto of Mrs Kroeller-Mueller, the founder of this museum: spiritus et materia unum, spirit and matter are one, which she found reading Spinoza. This contrast between the meaning and the material is still something that is of great importance both in the collection – my predecessor Rudi Oxenaar focused on 1960s art , minimalism and Arte Povera is very well represented here – and the sculpture park.”

The opening in 1961 of the sculpture garden, designed by J.T.P. Bijhouwer, heralded a new phase. The museum’s ‘outdoor architecture’ made it possible to give autonomous sculptures their own space and, in collaboration with artists, to have works made for locations outdoors.

Sculpture exhibitions in parks and gardens became an enormously popular phenomenon after the Second World War. The first ‘Open-Air Exhibition of Sculpture at Battersea Park’ was held in London in 1948. Its attendance figures were impressive and it included sculptures by artists from the UK, France and Yugoslavia. The idea was taken by an exhibition of “European Sculptures in the Open Air’ in 1949 in Sonsbeek Park in Arnheim.

“The garden is a kind of intellectual landscape”, says Evert van Straaten. ‘ Like a brain laid out where you walk around and encounter all kinds of cultural sceneries and elements that affect corresponding areas in your brain.”

But the KMM offers even more: When I saw its remarkable collection of late-19th-century and early-20th-century paintings of the KMM – including 91 paintings and 175 works on paper by Van Gogh (about 50 of which rotate on display at any given time), I was fascinated. The KMM – a true gem.

More information:

– NAI Publishers Rotterdam: “Sculpture Garden Kroeller-Mueller Museum”

– Website of the KMM Museum

Chris Booth, 'De Echo van de Veluwe', 2003-05

Chris Booth, ‘De Echo van de Veluwe’, 2003-05

Mixed media – no rules, but lots of fun

series of four

Mixed media is an interesting art, because …

… there are no rules.  When putting together an artwork which consists of more than one medium, you can use pieces of newspaper, magazines, stamps, cloth, sand, paint, leaves or whatever your heart desires.

Assembling your selection of pieces to a pleasing work of art not only trains the eye to form, composition, colour matches and shapes, it also functions as a stream of consciousness where you follow your intuition in the creation of beauty.

gaugeelephant  fatimashell