Fall arts preview 2015 visual arts critics' picks: Beeswax to light bulbs, media mixes freely

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      Not surprisingly, more and more artists are investigating the interface between the digital realm and the material world, some fully embracing the new technology and others opposing it. Online exhibitions and residencies proliferate, shaping and informing shows in physical galleries and museums. Often, new media art is displayed alongside—or is integrated directly into—more traditional art forms and techniques. While championing interdisciplinarity and technological prowess, artists also remind us of the importance of community—of meeting people face to face in situations of social consequence.


      Brendan Lee Satish Tang and Diyan Achjadi

      (to October 11 at Malaspina Printmakers)

      This collaboration by Tang and Achjadi is visually as well as conceptually intriguing. Their use of 3-D printing technology conjures up human skin and ritual scarification as well as ancient decorative techniques in ceramics and textiles. An experiment in interactive and wearable prints, the work speaks to the politics of the body as well as to patterning, surface ornamentation, and strands of cross-cultural influence.

      The Draw: Individually, Achjadi and Tang have established stellar careers in printmaking and ceramic sculpture, respectively. Together, they challenge our understanding of the meeting place of art, craft, and computer technology.


      Cameron Cartiere and jasna guy

      (to January 3, 2016, at the Richmond Art Gallery)

      Two complementary exhibitions examine declining bee populations, locally and worldwide. Mixed-media specialist jasna guy’s three-year project of research and art directed toward bee ecology has resulted in the production of hundreds of sheets of silk tissue, each block-printed with floral and mythological motifs and then dipped in beeswax. Cameron Cartiere worked with the chART Collective and the Richmond community to create handmade paper infused with the seeds of bee-friendly plants and then cut into 10,000 bee shapes.

      The Draw: Besides the obvious reminder of the vital interdependence of bees, plants, and human beings? Well, guy’s work delivers visual beauty and olfactory stimulation. And visitors to the gallery are invited to take Cartiere’s seed-paper bees home to plant in their gardens.


      Views from the Southbank III: Information, Objects, Mappings

      (September 19 to December 13 at the Surrey Art Gallery)

      The third of a series of exhibitions marking the Surrey Art Gallery’s 40th anniversary features some 20 artists organized into three groupings. The first draws inspiration from digital sources of information and infographics, the second from mapping strategies, and the third from an identification with the physical world in resistance to the digital.

      The Draw: Surrey Art Gallery exhibition programs are characterized by their accessibility and their commitment to community—and this show amply demonstrates these qualities.


      Finding a Voice: The Art of Norman Tait

      (October 14 to December 5 at the West Vancouver Museum)

      One of the most esteemed senior artists on the Northwest Coast, Norman Tait has honoured his Nisga’a heritage through closely studying not only traditional carving forms and techniques but also oral histories, family protocols, and ceremonies. An internationally acclaimed carver of totem poles, Tait has also produced the smaller and more personal works that are on view in this exhibition. Look for masks, jewellery, freestanding wood sculptures, and silkscreen prints.

      The Draw: The last comprehensive exhibition of Tait’s art took place in 1977. This touring Nisga’a Museum retrospective is long overdue—and we are privileged to see it.


      Revitalizing Japantown? A Right To Remain Exhibition

      (October 24 to January 31, 2016, at the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre)

      This multilayered and multiform group show responds to a three-year academic research project examining the evolving relationship of Japanese Canadians to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Elements of human rights, cultural heritage, community feeling, oral history, and sense of place are woven through both the study and the art that has grown out of it. Lead artist Greg Masuda contributes a moving series of photographs, an interactive sound and video work, and a documentary film.

      The Draw: The Nikkei National Museum show builds on earlier Right to Remain projects and exhibitions, inspiring a number of DTES artists to create and contribute work, including paintings, sculptures, collage, altered found objects, political cartoons, and performance.


      Jerry Pethick: Shooting the Sun/Splitting the Pie

      (October 24 to January 17, 2016, at the Vancouver Art Gallery)

      The late Jerry Pethick’s practice was so multifaceted, and at the same time so individual, that it is still difficult to nail it down. A pioneer in holographic art in San Francisco in the 1970s, he then pursued his interest in visual perception and the science of optics from his hand-built home on Hornby Island. As this comprehensive overview of his work reveals, Pethick created sculptures and wall works out of everything from old oven doors, wine bottles, light bulbs, and silicone gel to arrays of Fresnel lenses installed over colour photographs.

      The Draw: The first comprehensive overview of Pethick’s work should introduce a wide audience to this beloved artist’s artist.


      Laura Piasta

      (November 28 to January 30, 2016, at Access Gallery)

      This young Vancouver artist has created an impressive body of work across a range of media and disciplines—from hard-edge painting to sound sculpture to video to hand-loomed acoustic panels. Her solo exhibition highlights her unexpected approach to the landscape subject while also confusing the lines between high art and craft, and between concepts and materials.

      The Draw: Piasta is one of the most interesting and accomplished artists of her time and place. This show should launch her from “emerging” status into the arena of the fully arrived.