Fall Arts Preview 2019 visual arts critics' picks: Striking shows to see across the region

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      There’s a wealth of new-media, photographic, and video art on view this season as the Surrey Art Gallery celebrates the 20th anniversary of its groundbreaking TechLab. It and other galleries continue to embrace all that is digital while examining what remains of the natural. Again, art poses questions about who we are and where we come from. Visiting artists from New Zealand and Australia take up residencies here as local artist-run centres move to less costly digs. Look for the Or Gallery—founded in 1983 by artist Laiwan and based for the past decade in the iconic space at 555 Hamilton Street—to reopen this month in a smaller venue on East Pender Street. Although the Or will be joining an energetic visual-arts community in Chinatown, the move isn’t all celebration and delight: rising rents in this outrageously overpriced city are putting the squeeze on artists and gallerists alike. But still, here’s to new and renewed commitments to keeping on keeping on.


      Garden in the Machine

      At the Surrey Art Gallery from September 21 to December 15

      Leading digital artists from across Canada contemplate ways in which the natural world intersects with, parallels, or is mediated by the digital realm. Or is it the other way around? From computer-composited photographs that draw comparisons between organic waste and digital garbage to a monumentally scaled, interactive video that evokes the ornate geometry of a Persian garden, the show shakes up our relationship with nature. Other artworks include a stereoscopic 3-D video of West Coast rainforest, a computer program that translates garden imagery into coloured light sequences, and an ominous virtual-reality game that brings us face to simulated face with the disastrous impact of humanity upon our fragile environment.

      The Draw: This exhibition consolidates the gallery’s continued leadership role in the development and exhibition of digital art. And then there’s the lineup: Faisal Anwar, Helma Sawatzky, Leila Sujir, Robert Youds, and culture hero Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun collaborating with Paisley Smith.


      Cindy Mochizuki: Cave to Dream/Jon Sasaki: We First Need a Boat for the Rising Tide to Lift Us

      At the Richmond Art Gallery from September 29 to November 17

      Two distinctive, performance-based installations enliven the Richmond Art Gallery this fall. Vancouver artist Cindy Mochizuki evokes folkloric and ritual traditions of Japan’s Akita prefecture with hand-drawn animation, sound, and live-action video. Her focus is on the metaphor of the cave and rituals that signify the passage of time, the cycle of life and death, and the possibility of new beginnings within apparent endings. Toronto artist Jon Sasaki uses his videotaped performance—vainly attempting to build a traditional Japanese fishing boat while standing waist-deep in the Fraser River near Steveston—to mark the losses of freedom, property, and livelihoods suffered by Japanese Canadians interned during the Second World War.

      The Draw: Both artists create moving narratives as a way of evoking past lives and traditional cultures that continue to resonate today.


      Ingrid Koenig: Navigating the Uncertainty Principle

      At the Contemporary Art Gallery façade and off-site at Yaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line Station from October 11 to March 22

      As artist in residence at TRIUMF, the particle-accelerator centre at UBC, Ingrid Koenig has been exploring what she calls diverse “ways of knowing”—that is, approaches to understanding the world that are quite different from those familiar to most visual artists. To most Vancouverites, for that matter. Through her large-scale graphite drawings, she braids scientific diagrams that attempt to articulate complex physical phenomena together with depictions of daily domestic tasks, such as cooking and washing the dishes.

      The Draw: If you haven’t contemplated black holes while putting leftovers into the refrigerator, here is the occasion to do so. More poetically, let’s say that Koenig asks us to visit the place where the quotidian meets the wondrous workings of the universe.


      Wael Shawky: Al Araba Al Madfuna

      At the Polygon Gallery from October 18 to January 12

      Employing a video installation together with related drawings and sculptures, Egyptian artist Wael Shawky turns conventional narrative and filmic techniques on their heads, challenging cultural memory, historical documents, and prevailing mythologies. Curator Helga Pakasaar says that Shawky “brings into dialogue real and imagined histories of the Arab world”. Shot in and near the ancient city of Abydos in Upper Egypt, today known as the village of Al Araba Al Madfuna, his work, Pakasaar continues, “evokes Egypt’s struggle with its immense history, as a modern-day country trying to excavate and give meaning to its storied past”.

      The Draw: Although Shawky is internationally acclaimed and collected, this is the first exhibition of his art in Western Canada.


      Untitled #588 by Cindy Sherman.

      Cindy Sherman

      At the Vancouver Art Gallery from October 26 to March 8

      One of the world’s most admired and acclaimed visual artists, Cindy Sherman has established a long, intriguing, and chameleonlike career by altering her appearance for the camera. Employing an ever-changing assortment of wigs, clothing, makeup, and accessories, she has assumed hundreds of different roles through a range of time periods, geographical settings, and social situations. As the VAG media release tells us, “her fictional portraits both highlight and confront notions of beauty, aging, sexuality, and the gaze.” In addition to her major photographic series, this comprehensive retrospective, organized by the National Portrait Gallery, London, in collaboration with the VAG, includes rarely seen early works, images of her New York studio, and a digital version of A Cindy Book.

      The Draw: It’s Cindy Sherman!