Celebrating "OUT OF THE FRAME: Salish Printmaking"

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Held on the afternoon of September 24, the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown and Cowichan elder, Tousilum Ron George, welcomed eight Coast Salish artists, their families, and their fans to celebrate a uniquely collaborative exhibit, Out of the Frame: Salish Printmaking.  The vision for this project was to explore the work that Coast Salish artists are presently creating outside the conventional structure and tradition of printmaking.  In addition to the central installation piece, Out of the Frame (2016), printed and non-printed pieces were displayed to show how each artist’s relationship with printmaking has evolved over time, and how their subsequent creations can no longer be contained within a gallery’s frame.  

After acknowledging the ancestral and traditional territories upon which this event was taking place, Caroline Riedel, Curator of Collections of UVic’s Legacy Art Galleries, opened the occasion by focusing the attention of the audience on the diverse approaches taken by the artists to push the boundaries of printmaking.  Charles Elliott and Douglas LaFortune share their personal drawing practices that precede their printed or carved creations.   Angela Marston blends two media together by incorporating weaving into her prints.  Andy Everson uses his design and printmaking skills to nurture a performer’s and activist’s voice.  Maynard Johnny Jr. puts his spindle whorl print into motion.  lessLIE challenges our consumerist ways and   views through traditional Coast Salish motifs.  Chris Paul expands his printed ideas into large sculptural forms.  Dylan Thomas fuses traditional Coast Salish motifs with Escher’s mathematical symmetries and Buddhist teachings.  Even though the artists’ practices and sources of inspiration differ greatly from one another, curator Dr. Andrea Walsh and printmakers Andy MacDougall and Erin Brillon of the Wachiay Studio brought them together to unify their approaches into one dynamic installation, one that challenges the viewer’s notions of how prints are displayed and presented to an audience.

Another exciting feature of this event included a guest talk by University of New Mexico Art History scholar, India Rael Young, entitled “The Visual Vernacular of Northwest Coast Indigenous Prints and Coast Salish Aesthetics.”  In her talk, Young spoke of the centuries long history of traditional motifs present in Coast Salish cultures, and the great loss of such works of art and function during colonial spread and the potlatch ban.  She also explained how the revival of Coast Salish art forms in recent memory struggled to define a recognized visual language that was uniquely and authentically representative of its culture.  Although, northern artists and their formline styles gained popularity in the art markets, Coast Salish pieces continued to be overlooked, because they did not fit within the criteria adopted by museums and galleries of the time.  With the arrival of the silkscreen, Coast Salish artists could use this new technology as a way to disseminate their creations more readily, thus making their work more accessible to the commercial, as opposed to just the tourist, markets.

This new medium also allowed artists to experiment more with visual language parameters, including non-traditional media and colour palettes.  And as this new generation of artists appears to be immersed fully in the contemporary, we are reminded that their styles are not a break from tradition but a vibrant evolution of Coast Salish aesthetics and innovation.

With Dr. Andrea Walsh acting as moderator, the artists described their experiences of working together and with Wachiay Studio to create the installation piece.  They also described the role that printmaking has played in past practice, and how it may influence and inspire their work in the future.  Questions from the audience prompted the dialogue into the realms of identity and culture, accessibility and marketability of art, form versus function, sacred traditions, and cultural appropriation.  It certainly made for a lively and diverse discussion.

The afternoon wrapped up with words of gratitude and praise from Cowichan elder, Ray Peter, along with celebratory song, dance, and drumming shared by the Tzinquaw Dancers.

 

 

PC:  Becky Greenhow