Traces: Fantasy worlds and tales of truth at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
By Nicole Rutherford
Down at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, nestled between the classic works of national icon and local resident, Emily Carr, and historical works from the Chinese and Japanese portrait artists is Victoria’s newest contemporary art exhibition: Traces, which opened up on January 18th and runs through until April 21st . The gallery’s newest exhibition is a collaboration of three Canadian artists: Daniel Barrow, Alison Norlen, and Ed Pien, each of whom claim to specialize in drawing— though each has managed to rip the artistic genre wide open.
“Traces is an exhibition about contemporary drawing and the possibility and potential for what that can be.” Says the gallery’s curator, Nicole Stanbridge, who further goes on to describe how each of the artists push the boundaries of this definition.
“[These pieces show] that drawing is beyond an intimate sketch in a note book; it’s much bigger and more elaborate.”
Indeed, the exhibit has utilized traditional drawing materials like pen, ink, and paper, and used them in conjunction with wire sculpture, rope-work, projectors, carved Mylar board, music, and light to create a thought-provoking and interactive environment that places “us into the story-telling of the artists. “
The pieces are all grand-scale, and each has aspects that allow you to become a part of the piece through physical interaction. In a huge work by Alison Norlen, you walk into a Maylar-bound room, and watch carefully-carved shapes move through projected light—all while being accompanied by the shadow of a womanly figure who is playing with the piece alongside you. In Ed Pien’s rope-based piece you can choose your level of intimacy with his art through your own physical spacing between his web-work, and with Daniel Barrow’s projection-based puzzle you can alter certain pieces to change the story of his charming—yet disturbing—rendition of a character he calls “the Kissing Bandit.”
“The theme that runs through the show is the idea of haunting, or traces. There’s not a totally tangible presence, but there’s always this kind of insinuation of the body.” Says Stanbridge, who continues to say that we all leave traces on the world through our actions, and that the artists’ work implies what kind of traces these might be by “investigating into human nature: from the beautiful, to the grotesque, to everything in between.”
The exhibit also offers a technologically-based piece by Scott Amos that allows you to draw onto a wall projection with your own body movements—another amazing way to let you experience art in a more physical sense.
Aside from this fun, interactive aspect of the exhibit, the abstractness of it also breeds an environment for self-reflection. Stanbridge reassures that “while people can at times feel intimidated by contemporary art because it can be challenging [they should be] excited by that challenge, and willing to come up with some ideas of how it makes them feel without worrying that they’ve got a right or wrong answer… No one’s response is wrong; whatever you feel [from this artwork] is your authentic feeling.”
These feelings once again pertain to the “traces” theme of the exhibit—something which is eerily embodied by the interconnectedness of the different artists’ work despite the fact that each was developed separately. While researching ideas for the exhibit Stanbridge sought to present contemporary drawing while showcasing what artists were doing across the Canada. As her research continued she saw the work of these artists start to “gravitate together” under an umbrella of common themes—themes of humanity, she argues, which can be seen in all art.
“They’re [all] intertwined, and you can see parallels. That’s what’s exciting about coming and seeing all of the different shows.”
The exhibition is an amazing collection of dynamic pieces presented in a uniquely entertaining manner, so why not head down to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and see for yourself what kind of Traces can be made?