Arts & Culture

Atlantic Art

written by Dalhousie Gazette Staff
September 17, 2010 1:00 pm

Erica Eades, Assistant Arts Editor

“It’s the kind of practice that relies on one’s own intuition and experience” – David Diviney


For nearly a decade, the Sobey Art Award has commemorated Canadian artists at the forefront of contemporary art production. This year, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS), long-time organizer of the annual event, has chosen to showcase those artists coming from the East coast. The Sobey Art Award 2010 Atlantic Long List installation is the result of this project.

The Sobey Art Award was created in 2002 by the Sobey Art Foundation. In a message published by foundation chair, Donald Sobey, he says the award aims “to stimulate interest, discussion and debate regarding contemporary Canadian art.”

Artists are nominated from five major regions across Canada: West Coast and Yukon, Prairies and the North, Ontario, Quebec, and the Atlantic. Nominees must be under the age of 40, and must have shown their work in a public gallery within 18 months of being nominated.

This year, six artists from Atlantic Canada made the long list of nominees: Graeme Patterson, Mario Doucette,Vanessa Paschakarnis, Lucie Chan and a duo, Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby. Each of these nominees currently have an exhibition in place at the AGNS.

Graeme Patterson, who was short listed in last year’s competition, has created an exhibit entitled “Taming the Wild”. The installation is a collection of puppets and photographs that tell a story of man’s relationship with nature. “It’s really playful stuff,” says David Diviney, Curator of Exhibitions at the AGNS. “A lot of his work responds to personal reflections and experiences.”

Mario Doucette is also very familiar to the gallery and to the people of the Atlantic region. He was short listed two years ago for his Acadien-influenced, hybrid style of painting and drawing. This year, he returns with a new piece of work called “Bagarres”. In this exhibit, Doucette uses aspects of symbolism and folk art to explore how different elements shape our perception of history. “There’s a faux-naive sort of quality at play in his work,” says Diviney.

In “Shadows for Humans”, Vanessa Paschakarnis deals with traditional sculpting processes and materials. However, she uses shifts in scale to take her work to a new place. “She’s constantly looking to history and making it new,” says Diviney. In her second installation, “Shadows of Domestication”, Paschakarnis finds herself moving away from traditional practices and branching into newer compounds. By working with a modern cement-like modeling clay called Winterstone, she creates molds that allude to seed forms, skulls, and other things found in nature. “It’s the kind of practice that relies on one’s own intuition and experience to gain meaning and closure,” says Diviney. “They’re familiar, and yet they’re foreign.”

Lucie Chan is presenting a piece of work called “LoFoSto”, which is short for Longing for Stories. The installation includes 106 watercolours and a series of three animations that bring her drawing to life. Though Chan is not originally from Atlantic Canada, she spent 10 years in Halifax before moving on to Vancouver. “It’s a really malleable thing,” says Diviney. “But when I look at her work in terms of her growth and her practice itself, it’s really rooted in a paradigm indicative of this place.”

Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby will be showing their installation “Reanimating the Universe With Basic Breathing Exercises.” The duo made the shortlist in this year’s competition and will go on to represent the East coast in the finals for the Sobey Art Award in November. The event takes place at Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal, with artists competing for the grand prize of $50,000.

Their work combines a five channel video installation with sculpture and ambient sounds. The exhibit involves a collection of costumed taxidermy, with both wild and domestic specimens. There is an ongoing cycle of inhaling and exhaling playing over the speaker system.

Diviney says the work creates a non-linear narrative. “It’s concerned with our impulse to control and to understand nature,” he says “and in virtue of that, to understand our own nature through anthropomorphism and fetish.”

The Sobey Art Award: 2010 Atlantic Long List will be running through to November 21, 2010 at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.