Michiko Suzuki: Hope Chests

Above image from the Burnaby Art Gallery website

A few days ago we visited an exciting exhibition of mixed media work at the Burnaby Art Gallery, by artist and friend Michiko Suzuki. I really recommend art critic Robin Laurence’s excellent review in The Straight, much better said than I could. We enjoyed the tent-like displays which invited one to step inside to look at the “hope chests”, the framed prints of the girls, and the video. I could not resist purchasing the attractive little catalogue printed by the BAG. Below is one of the better installation shots that I was able to capture with my modest little pocket camera.


We were very sad to have been unable to attend the opening because we had rarely seen old friends from Ontario visiting just on that day! I’m sure many of our mutual artist friends were there, whom I have missed and would have loved to meet. Michiko and I were part of the long-running Art Institute, Printmaking group at Capilano University, which some readers may recall was shut down along with all art programs in 2013. I recall she was working on some of the first pieces in this series back then and told me recently the whole series took her five years. She is one of the hardest working artists I have ever known personally, and one who has exhibited widely. If interested, you may find some of my postings about them here. (Please ignore the other famous Suzuki that comes up in that search.)

Yue Minjun: A-maze-ing Laughter







Recently and finally I have seen in person one of the most popular sculptural installations in Vancouver, situated near English Bay for the Vancouver Biennale of 2009-2011. A-maze-ing Laughter, made by Yue Minjun of China, is a group of 14 giant painted bronze figures, all laughing merrily. Eventually it was purchased and gifted to the city by a prominent businessman.

My photos do not do the stunning work justice. Here is a the best I have seen of the entire group, and here is a review. After so many years of seeing and reading about it, I’m so happy to have at long last visited it and noted the happy the crowds around it. In a way, it reminds me of another more recent Biennale installation I saw and wrote about last year.

Emily Carr in London


British Columbia’s own beloved artist Emily Carr (1871-1945) is well known in Canada but not so much in England. Now a large body of her work is on exhibition there for the first time, at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.

Our Vancouver Art Gallery has a large collection of her work, some of which is in the London exhibition along with collections from other Canadian institutions. They have a website on Emily with link to a timeline and images of her work:

Emily Carr, born in Victoria, British Columbia, is one of Canada’s most renowned artists, significant as a landscape painter and a modernist. The most important BC artist of her generation, she is best known for her attention to the totemic carvings of the First Nations people of British Columbia and the rain forests of Vancouver Island.

I have been very fortunate in seeing so much of her work here and in Victoria. The Vancouver Art Gallery always has some of her work on display for the pleasure of revisits, sometimes along with a contemporary artist with the aim of provoking discussion about differences and similarities in approach or spirit. I love most her late period works of our magestic trees painted in a free expressionist fashion.

A Guardian review of the Dulwich exhibit calls Emily Carr Canada’s very own Van Gogh. Some images to be enjoyed here as well.

This 2006 review in the Vancouver Sun might also be of interest.

I am now recalling a superb exhibition in 2002 called Carr, O’Keeffe, Kahlo: Places of Their Own accompanied by a wonderful book by Sharyn Rohlfsen Udall which I recommend highly, if it is still available and you are interested.

Above image: Emily Carr: Corner of Kitwancool Village, c. 1930 – Oil on Canvas
© McMichael Canadian Art Collection, scanned from a card

Later: just found this in today’s Vancouver Sun newspaper

Robert Young’s exhibition

Last night husband, daughter Erika and I attended a wonderful opening of Robert Young’s stunning exhibition at the beautiful Gordon Smith Gallery in North Vancouver. It was the occasion of a release of his new print Bebop for the Artists for Kids, along with an exhibition with the theme of Spatial Understanding which included a number of his older prints, paintings and drawings plus a recently completed new painting.

It was a heartwarming evening! I was touched to receive a warm hug from Bob as I congratulated him on his show. We were also pleased to see many artist friends there from our former print studio, the Art Institute. How we have missed each other. (I was a bit watery eyed thinking of the evening later.) I’m sorry I was too busy to take many photos, most of which came out very yellow under the lights but for this of Robert as he spoke about his work to the gallery visitors:


The exhibition continues to January 3rd, 2015. Check here and here for more information about this unusual Gallery and its work. If you are in the area, it is well worth a visit to see this master’s impeccable work.

Some readers may recall a couple of posts I had previously written about Robert Young here and here, where some images of his work may be seen as well as at the links for more.

three art exhibitions

running right now which I dearly wish I could visit:

1. Anselm Kiefer at the Royal Academy in London. I have long loved his work and follow it online. I was so very lucky to see one of his shows in Munich in yr. 2000 – wow! Be sure to also visit the link to Kiefer’s astonishing 200-acre art studio! I always appreciate Jonathan Jones’ comprehensive reviews.

2. The late and great Canadian artist Alex Colville at the Art Gallery of Ontario. There is even a link to a wonderful website in his name that seems to show most of his long life’s work.

3. Hokusai at the Grand Palais in Paris, thanks to a post by Charles T. Downey of Ionarts. You know how I love printmaking and the Japanese masters.

Because I don’t travel far these days, the internet does compensate a bit. I’d love to see photos and reports from any readers that do visit any or all of these shows.

Added November 3rd, 2014: My good blog friend, artist Olga Norris went to see the Anselm Kiefer exhibition and found it monumentally visceral.

And the very next day, artist and friend Natalie d’Arbeloff wrote a superb review of Kiefer’s work along with some excellent links!

I am sooo envious.

Added November 26th, 2014: In a comment at a later post, Olga Norris mentioned an excellent and powerful review of the Kiefer exhibition, the best I’ve read about this artist. It’s by a blogger new to me and whose blog That’s How the Light Gets In looks rich in material so I have bookmarked it for further reading.

Abakanowicz: Walking Figures





The second installation of sculptures installed by the Vancouver Biennale in the City of North Vancouver (in addition to Wang Shugang’s sculptures) are the Walking Figures, a group of headless cast iron figures by one of my favourite artists, Magdalena Abakanowicz. These are installed individually on the sidewalk over several blocks of Lonsdale Avenue.

I still remember well Abakanowicz’ similar stunning figures called Vancouver Ancestors, set together as a powerful group on a grassy slope in Queen Elizabeth Park in 2006, also part of that year’s Vancouver Biennale.

Though I did not have the time to visit all the Walking Figures, I was excited to see several of these. Yet I did not feel these had the power of the Ancestors because they stood alone and apart next to a very busy street. I can understand the reasoning for this kind of installation – to expose art to people in their daily movements on the street, so much more prevalent in many European cities. In my short time there as I took photographs, I also observed the human traffic and it seemed not one person paused to look at them, though maybe some had already viewed them earlier if they regularly passed by them.

There are a couple of interesting links (as pdfs) at the Biennale site if you desire more information:
about the installation
about the artist

Wang Shugang’s “Meeting”





As part of the Vancouver Biennale for 2014 – 2016, some installations of sculpture are on display in North Vancouver City. Yesterday evening we happened to be in the neighbourhood of Ray Sargent Park on Lonsdale Avenue, right by the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art (seen in the background of the second image). I was excited to view the works of two internationally noted artists’ works.

The first group of figures, made of painted bronze, is by Wang Shugang of China.

It is not without irony that the red figures are placed in a circle, static and crouching with cupped hands, open to various interpretations, from one of thoughtful contemplation to one of latent energy ready to leap up. Wang Shugang’s installation for the Vancouver Biennale, Meeting, is painted a shade of red that is known as Chinese Red, the colour associated with the Chinese government and communism.

According to the artist, “… the colour red has multiple cultural meanings in China, historically representing happiness but during the Cultural Revolution it symbolized terror. Today red is the colour of the faded lettering praising Mao on the ceilings of the factories, coats of the Buddhist monks and the colour of wedding decorations”.

Besides noticing the sense of contemplation mentioned, I felt that there is some humour here as well! Children do love them. I’m only sorry that the light was not ideal for photography at this time of the evening so please visit the link for better photos and also more information about the artist.

(I will show photos of the other artist’s work in the next post.)

a modern petroglyph





Xwalacktun (Rick Harry) is a well-known and recognized and very prolific First Nations artist who studied in Emily Carr College of Art and Capilano College in Greater Vancouver. Recently I was excited to see one of his latest works, a petroglyph called GENERATIONAL Pictograph Petroglyph SITES at the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Center in Whistler. As I have long been fascinated by ancient petroglyphs, this modern one intrigued me greatly. I love it!

a box of promises

On our recent drive up to Whistler, a visit to the beautiful Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Center in town was a must for us, after last year’s inspirational visit. We spent most of the time upstairs where the temporary exhibits are displayed, and a new one had just been installed. Below is the first piece we loved. I’ll feature the other favourite in another post.


Called Box of Promises this stunning piece slowly rotates revealing the play of the patterns in varying relationships.


looking inside


looking underneath


A fascinating collaboration by two artists from two different cultures and with a very thought-provoking title.

Burtynsky at VAG

Yesterday we finally went out to see A Terrible Beauty: Edward Burtynsky which is in its last week at the Vancouver Art Gallery. It is a focused survey of photographs the artist produced between 1983 and 2013, and represents all key bodies of his work, such as early series of homestead and rail line photographs shot in British Columbia in the early 1980s, his documentation of the extraordinary growth and transformation of China in the past decade and a new, groundbreaking international project that is focused on the subject of water.

What a stunning exhibition with forty-four of this Canadian artist’s work, some of which I’ve seen in the past. The works are so very beautiful aesthetically, yet very shocking and disturbing once we realize what we are really looking at — the many examples of massive destruction of so much of this earth by industry, railroads, farming and other human activity.

Burtynsky is very particular about his images and does a great deal of research, planning and eventual manipulation on his photographs before printing in very large format. Sometimes they even look like paintings and they are all works of art, not just documentary photographs.

Most of Burtynsky’s exhibited photography (pre 2007) was taken with a large format field camera on large 4×5-inch sheet film and developed into high-resolution, large-dimension prints of various sizes and editions ranging from 18 x 22 inches to 60 x 80 inches. He often positions himself at high-vantage points over the landscape using elevated platforms, the natural topography, and more currently helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft… In 2007 he began using a high-resolution digital camera. (from wikipedia)

The timing of our visit did not work out for us to see his two films “The Manufactured Landscape” and “Watermark”.

Do visit Edward Burtynsky’s extensive website!


– watch the video above or on Vancouver Art Gallery’s site with an introduction by the artist and Bruce Grenville, Senior Curator

– another video and an excellent interview by Kevin Griffin in the Vancouver Sun, discussing the artist’s process

– a good article in Galleries West magazine, Spring 2014 issue, pages 32-26

– check out my previous posts in June 2004, May 2005, October 2006. Some links have since expired.

ADDED May 2nd: Our daughter Erika visited this exhibition with us. Please read her profound thoughts on it here.