“Everything is art. Everything is politics” – Ai Weiwei
Widow by Janice Wright
A few weeks ago, a good friend of mine and I decided to make use of a day during the week when neither of us had to work and go and see some art in Calgary. More specifically, we decided on the highly acclaimed Canadian art exhibition, Oh, Canada, presently on at the Esker Foundation Gallery in the heart of Inglewood. We first met at the Gravity café located at the foot of the Esker Building, named after the gallery with the same name on 9th Avenue SE. It was a great outing, as she and I were able to not only take in many fine works of Contemporary art of Canada, but also reminisce about how we met, extolling on our deep ties to China and the Chinese art scene. While my friend is an artist and used to have her own gallery down near the Calgary Farmer’s Market, not far from Inglewood, I have been a photographer most of my adult life and I was part of the Beijing art scene for about 10 years. At one time, too, I had an online art gallery which bought and sold Chinese contemporary art works. Ah, such memories. Having much in common, it was fun to share stories about our artistic times in Calgary and in China, all the while sipping tea and chilling out on that workless Wednesday.
The online website for the Esker Foundation states that, “Oh, Canada: Contemporary Art from North North America, organized by the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), is the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside Canada”. This is a somewhat interesting and key point, as it is basically an American art organization and art curator’s perspective and opinion on what THEY think are the important works of Contemporary Canadian art. We don’t really think of it being a big deal in North America, but I often saw exhibitions in China that were either curated by Chinese or curated by Americans, Canadians or Europeans. Hmm, ‘same same but different’ in what and how the art exhibition is curated, from concept to choice of who is included. On speaking with the gallery assistant behind the desk as we were leaving, she said that the exhibition consists of works by 62 artists and is spread out over four different gallery spaces - Esker Foundation, Nickle Galleries, Illingworth Kerr Gallery, and Glenbow Museum – all in Calgary. Furthermore, she told us that the curator, Denise Markonish, personally visited over 400 artists and their studios, deciding on the final 100 works based on what she saw from Vancouver Island sweeping across to St. Johns’ New Brunswick – an expansive curatorial concept in itself, to be sure. We both had a chuckle about the story of how well-known Calgary painter, Chris Cran, was able to exhibit a ‘piece’ of art in the exhibition without officially being invited to participate. More buzz was created by the fact that over 1000 guests attended the opening on Saturday January 31st, 2015. Great stories, great art - I highly recommend that if you have time, try and take in at least one of the four exhibitions, before the end of April, 2015. For more information, visit www.ohcanadayyc.com.