HIGH ANXIETY | curated by Mina Totino
JAN WADE, MYFANWY MACLEOD, NICOLE ONDRE, STAN DOUGLAS, PHILIPPE RAPHANEL, RUSSNA KAUR
September 12 - October 9, 2021
Exhibition view | HIGH ANXIETY | images: Rachel Topham Photography
Embracing a Friend
High anxiety. Our default setting for the last 18 months. So many uncertainties around health, livelihood, and social codes. As a friend observed, she has felt it all so keenly that words fail her. The exhibition’s title is an expression of our collective state of mind. How better for artists to express themselves (and to a degree the mindset of their viewers) in this uncertain period, and in life, than through their work? Mina Totino, this exhibition’s curator has assembled six artists who have explored this state of anxiety, either recently or pre-Covid, in a way, pulling a thread in a garment of clothing until it unravels or picking at a scab until the fresh skin below becomes visible.
Totino has had a long-standing relationship with all but one of the artists here. She and Jan Wade were employees at a coffee bar together ain the 1980s. She has been friends with Myfanwy MacLeod for many decades: recently, MacLeod has used Totino’s studio to continue her ceramic work, a new direction in her practice. Totino has long shared her ceramic studio and kiln with Nicole Ondre, exhibiting with her in The Eyes Have Walls, an exhibition at the West Vancouver Art Museum in 2020. She has known Philippe Raphanel for many years, an admirer of his highly precise paintings. She knows the production of her partner, Stan Douglas, intimately, observing the development of his projects since they met in art school. In other words, her ties to each of these artists have been strengthened by age and life. Russna Kaur is the one artist with whom she has become recently acquainted, woven into this mix because of her sympathetic approach to Totino's own attitudes towards painting.
Wade creates intricate textile works, comprised of multi-coloured embroidery, which resemble an unsolvable labyrinth. Her sculpture shown here, part of her Memory Pot series, is covered in buttons, with text that relates to her painting, which reads "I got soul and I'm super bad". The hand at the top shows the peace sign, a souvenir from a local shop. These works were made as part of her exploration of the African diaspora and spirituality. Totino admires the way in which her works come together to create narratives.
This is the first time that MacLeod’s ceramic work has been exhibited. Known particularly for her large-scale public art, these small pots are a new avenue. Originally, McLeod had come to Totino’s studio with the intention to start painting, but was quickly diverted to the soothing act of hand building her pots. Her pots and their glazes belie a delicacy similarly evident in her drawings.
Ondre’s current work moves between ceramics and painting. Featured here are a recent group of thorn and shard-like ceramic slabs in dark clay and glaze which punctuate the exhibition space. In a further push to challenge the very walls of the Gallery, Ondre has stitched into them, suggesting metaphorically and literally that their structure is supported by her action. In another work, a large overhand bow rendered in purple plasticized paper, bunches and slumps lazily on an oversize nail.
The two drawings and painting by Raphanel exhibited here reveal a compulsion for precision. His painting is done in his studio, created over a long period of time. In contrast, the two pen and ink drawings were made during the lockdown, an activity that he did in the evenings, unwinding while watching television or listening to music. Their creation is much more automatic and free-flowing, starting with a shape or a stroke of the pen.
Douglas’ two works here are from his DCT series and the result of reverse engineering technology. He created the two images from lines of code, using the discrete cosine transforms, sequenced at the moment an image is digitized. These works riff on the psychedelic, (his first job at age 14 was producing light shows at clubs in Vancouver) and tug at the viewers’ anxiety.
Kaur’s large-scale paintings, typically created on smaller panels that can be interchanged by the artist at the point of assembly, are truly multimedia. It is not uncommon for her paintings to mix not only acrylic and oil paint, but also strips of canvas, sawdust, latex paint, oil stick, and spray paint. Through her work, Kaur challenges the strictures of painting.
This exhibition space is relatively small and the way in which Totino has arranged these works allows the art made by one artist to encroach on the space of another. This arrangement is akin to weaving, or to use Totino’s words, allows the different components to “embrace each other”. The works support each other in the same way these friends and colleagues do within their relationships. While each artist’s work can be viewed discreetly, their installation here is intentional and compelling. In the company of good friends our anxiety is alleviated.
Text by Hilary Letwin
Russna Kaur (b. 1991, Toronto, ON) is an artist living and working in Vancouver, Canada. She holds a MFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design (2019) and a BA (Honours) with a studio specialization from the University of Waterloo (2013).
Kaur explores how the surface of a painting can reveal a narrative that addresses complex personal and cultural histories. Her large-scale and multi-surface paintings are developed through rigorous explorations of color, text, digital sketches, and mixed media.
Selected exhibitions include “Holding a line in your hand” at Kamloops Art Gallery (2021); “Keep for Old Memoirs” at Young Space Spring 2020 Online, curated with Celine Mo of VICTORI+MO Gallery in New York, NY (2020); “Leaning Out of Windows” at Emily Carr University of Art + Design (2020); “the heart is the origin of your worldview” at Art Toronto with Cooper Cole (2019); “Veil of tears” at Trapp Projects, Vancouver (2019) and “She was there for a while…” Fort Gallery, Langley (2019). In 2021, she was commissioned to create an artwork for the second instalment of the Boren Banner Series, public art initiative at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle.
Kaur is the recipient of the Takao Tanabe Painting Prize (2020) for emerging painters in British Columbia and the IDEA Art Award (2020). She was awarded the Gathie Falk Visual Arts Scholarship (2019), the University Women's Club of Vancouver Graduate Scholarship (2017), an Audain Faculty of Art Graduate Teaching Fellowship (2018) and was shortlisted for the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarship (2018). She has been an artist-in-residence at the Burrard Arts Foundation (2020) in Vancouver which concluded in a solo exhibition, “Suddenly her lips sharpened – it was splendid”. Kaur received the Centrum Emerging Artist Residency (2020) in Port Townsend, Washington.
Her work is a part of several collections including the Audain Art Museum and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Philippe Raphanel (b. 1956, Paris) lives and works in Vancouver. For over 30 years, Philippe Raphanel’s painting practice has been marked by an awareness and sensitivity to the natural landscape. Most recently, he approaches the idea of landscape from an atmospheric perspective, using line and colour to evoke imagery related to oceanic and celestial maps.
Raphanel first came to notice in the mid-1980s, and was included in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s 1985 Young Romantics exhibition. He is associated with the renewal of figurative painting in the 1980s. Raphanel received a BFA in Sculpture and a Diploma in Fine Arts from L’Ecole Nationale Superieure d’Art Applique, Paris, in 1978. Recent solo exhibitions include “Philippe Raphanel: Poisons/Phobia“ at The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC (2020); “Philippe Raphanel: Islands” (2017) and “Philippe Raphanel: Ascending World” (2015), both at the Equinox Gallery, Vancouver. Selected group exhibitions include “Sites of Assembly” at The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC (2017); “Construction Sites: Identity and Place” at Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops, BC (2010); and “Paint” at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2008), Raphanel is the recipient of the 2017 Tanabe Prize for BC Painters.
His works are part of several collections including The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC; Vancouver Art Gallery, BC; the National Bank of the Netherlands, Ottawa, ON; Simon Fraser University, Harbour Centre, Vancouver, BC; Seymour Collection, Vancouver, BC; The Burnaby Art Gallery, BC and Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, BC among others.
Stan Douglas (b. 1960, Vancouver, BC) lives and works in Vancouver, BC. Since the late 1980s, Douglas has created films and photographs—and more recently theater productions and other multidisciplinary projects—that investigate the parameters of their medium. His ongoing inquiry into technology's role in image making, and how those mediations infiltrate and shape collective memory, has resulted in works that are at once specific in their historical and cultural references and broadly accessible.
Douglas’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent institutions worldwide since the 1980s, including the Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin (2019-2020); Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) (2016); Salzburger Kunstverein, Salzburg (2016); WIELS Centre d’Art Contemporain, Brussels (2015); and Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon (2015). In 2013, a major survey of the artist’s work, Stan Douglas: Photographs 2008–2013, was presented at Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain in Nîmes, France. It traveled as Stan Douglas: Mise en scène through 2015 to Haus der Kunst, Munich, followed by Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen, and Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin.
Other major solo presentations of the artist’s work include those held at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh (2014); Minneapolis Institute of Arts (2012); Staatsgalerie Stuttgart and Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart (2007); The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2005); Serpentine Gallery, London (2002); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (1994); and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1987).
The artist’s work was featured in the Venice Biennale in 1990, 2001, 2005, and 2019, and in documenta in 1992, 1997, and 2002. At the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, Douglas debuted his video installation Doppelgänger and also presented a selection of photographs from his 2017 series Blackout. The artist was recently selected to represent Canada at the 59th Venice Biennale in 2022.
Douglas has been the recipient of notable awards, including the Audain Prize for Visual Art (2019); the Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (2016); the third annual Scotiabank Photography Award (2013); and the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography, New York (2012).
Work by the artist is held in major museum collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate, London; Vancouver Art Gallery; and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Myfanwy MacLeod (b. 1961, London, ON) lives and works in Vancouver. She is best known for her irreverent artworks that draw upon conceptual and minimalist themes, often exploring the overlapping and intersecting of pop culture, art history and folk traditions. Articulated through themes of fantasy, humour and allusions to forbidden desires, MacLeod draws parallels between how art and mass media are created, circulated and consumed. Her works, which range from photography and painting to large-scale installations and sculpture, examine how perceptions of “high” and “low” culture are interpreted through themes of gender, privilege and value.
MacLeod was a recipient of the VIVA Award (1999), presented by the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts, Vancouver. She has had solo exhibitions at Libby Leshgold Gallery (2019); Contemporary Art Gallery (2018); Or Gallery, Vancouver (2015); Vancouver Art Gallery (2014); Museum London, Ontario (2013); Presentation House: Gallery, Vancouver (2012); and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2006). Selected group exhibitions include “Displacement” at Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC (2019); “Unexplained Parade” at Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver, BC (2019); “zero ground” at Griffin Art Projects, North Vancouver, BC (2018); “N. Vancouver” at Polygon Gallery (2017); Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2013); “Builders: Canadian Biennial 2012“ National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2012); MASS MoCA, North Adams (2012); Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto (2008); Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston (2006); Kunstverein Wolfsburg, Germany (2004); The Power Plant, Toronto (2002); Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, Gasworks, London (2002); Canadian Pavilion, Melbourne International Biennial (1999); The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver (1998).
Nicole Ondre (b. 1986) holds a BFA from Emily Carr University and an MFA from Hochschule für bildende Künste, Hamburg. Her work is based in painting, installation and collaboration. Since 2010 she has worked under the alias Feminist Land Art Retreat in collaboration with Vanessa Disler.
She has been included in solo, two person and group exhibitions at West Vancouver Museum in “The Eyes on the Walls” together with Mina Totino (2020); Diaz Contemporary, Toronto (2014); Or Gallery, Vancouver (2013); Benzulli zeigt, Düsseldorf (2012) and the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (2011). Since 2010, she has collaborated with Vanessa Disler under the alias Feminist Land Art Retreat (FLAR). Most recently, FLAR's work has been exhibited at Nottingham Contemporary; 500 Capp Street Foundation / David Ireland House, San Francisco; SFU Audain Gallery, Vancouver (all 2018); Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover; Ginerva Gambino, Cologne (both 2017); Kunsthaus Bregenz and JTT, New York (both 2016). From 2011-2013 Ondre co-operated the project space Exercise in Vancouver.
Jan Wade (b. 1952, Hamilton, ON). She was born to a Black Canadian father with familial origins in the American South and a Canadian mother of European descent. Raised in a relatively segregated but close-knit Black community within the city, her formative years were heavily influenced by her local African Methodist Episcopal Church. She was also greatly influenced by Southern US Black culture and aesthetics from the perspectives of her paternal grandmother and great-grandmother.
Wade studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design (1972–76). She moved to Vancouver in 1983 and became part of the underground art and music scene in the city, with its innovative performances, do-it-yourself art shows, anti-establishment ethos and spontaneous happenings. During this period Wade began her research into African diasporic spiritual practices and decided she wanted her art to reflect where she came from and who she is, commencing her unique artistic journey marked by self-sufficiency, empowerment, hope and radical joy. The artist produces a wide range of mixed-media works made entirely from found or readymade objects and recycled materials.
Spanning more than three decades, Wade’s corpus was the subject of a major exhibition titled “Soul Power” at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2021.