“Aqua,” by Violette Zohar Fiszbaum, who is one of the more than 50 artists participating in the Parker Art Salon exhibit at Pendulum Gallery. (photo from Violette Zohar Fiszbaum)
Pendulum Gallery in downtown Vancouver opened a new show on May 15 – What Moves You – by the Parker Art Salon. More than 50 artists, all having their studios at 1000 Parker St., presented one piece each for their annual exhibition. The art, including paintings, sculpture and photomontage, is inspiring and uplifting, brightening up the space around it.
While the exhibit is already open to visitors, the opening reception, and the launch of an online auction hosted by Waddington’s Auctions, will be held at the gallery on June 8, 6-8 p.m. Fifty percent of the auction proceeds will go to Beedie Luminaries, a scholarship program for students with potential who are facing financial adversity. To further promote the artists, there will be a Parker studios tour on June 10.
The Independent spoke with one of the Jewish artists participating in the show, Violette Zohar Fiszbaum, at Niche Art Gallery on Granville Island. She is one of Niche’s co-founders.
Fiszbaum grew up in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “I studied art as a teenager, but my parents thought you couldn’t make a living at art – they were right, it is tough. They wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. After I graduated from high school, I studied chemical engineering. I also wanted to study astronomy and quantum physics, but, again, it is not easy to make a living. But it never stopped me. I always did some art and I keep up my interest in quantum physics, too. I read on it even now, when I can’t sleep.”
After she finished university, she went traveling: Europe, Asia, North America. “I studied Tibetan art restoration in Paris and I visited Tibet in the 1990s. Tibetan culture is exotic, yes, but very spiritual. It brought me closer to my Judaism, my spiritual roots. I think all spiritual cultures are connected,” she said.
Fiszbaum studied kabbalah. “I grew up secular,” she said. “My parents survived the Holocaust as children, got married in Israel, and then moved to Brazil. But Judaism came from the inside of me, from my studies and my travels. Zohar is my Hebrew name, and that’s how I sign my paintings.”
She visited Israel many times during her wandering days. One of her travels brought her to Vancouver, and she liked it here so much she decided to stay. “I worked in the movie industry for a time,” she said. “I wanted to act in movies, and I did.”
She also worked a lot at her art, and she continued studying art, as well. “In the last 10 years, I have been teaching art,” she said. “I teach mixed media. In the beginning, I was an assistant at Emily Carr [University of Art + Design]. Lately, I have had my own class at Olympic Village. It is a beautiful room. It faces the water. My students are all adults, and we are having fun together.”
Fiszbaum’s artistic interests are diverse. She plays piano. She dances. She enjoys photography. But, mostly, she paints. “I often paint with some music on. I turn on the music, dance and paint,” she said.
One of her preferred techniques is mixed media. “I like my paintings to have layers, to have a mystery, an intrigue. Using mixed media is like adding an archeological layer to the image, a depth,” she explained. “For example, I saw this old poster in Israel and I incorporated parts of it in one of my abstract paintings.”
Mixed media is also the technique that allows her to be successful at Niche, although commercial art has never been her focus. “I don’t paint just to sell,” she said. “I want to leave something beautiful behind. In the last two years, I sold and donated 100 pieces.”
She sells and markets herself through several venues. “My website, of course, Parker Art Salon, the East Side Culture Crawl – that is huge in Vancouver, the biggest annual art show in town. I use Instagram. Anywhere I go, really. I play tennis and I belong to a tennis club – I sold some of my paintings there. I like swimming, and I sold many of my Swimmers series paintings through my connections with other swimmers. My painting in the Parker Art Salon exhibition is one of my swimmers. I used to be a dancer, and the human body, its movements, always have fascinated me, both in the water and on land.”
But Niche Art Gallery is one of her favourite places. “It started as a pop-up store just before the COVID pandemic,” she explained. “Pop-up is a short-term lease, and it has been popular lately.”
After her pop-up term had expired, she teamed up with a few other artists and opened the gallery. “Many galleries on Granville Island closed during the pandemic, but Niche flourished,” she said.
Besides her paintings, Fiszbaum sells some unusual pieces at Niche, including funky denim caps. Each one is decorated with an assortment of mixed media: snatches of lace, old buttons and zippers, feathers, disassembled toy fragments, even an old phone keyboard. “It is fun to work on them,” she said. “I use only salvaged materials there. Now I want to make denim jackets.”
Fiszbaum likes working on commissions. “I enjoy the challenge,” she said. “I have created paintings to customers’ demands, both in size and in the colour palette. Sometimes, they wanted my paintings to match their couches and curtains; other times, their carpets and pillows; even a vase once. And I did it.”
Among the work for sale at Niche Art Gallery are Fiszbaum’s portraits. She returns to female portraits again and again. “My mother was beautiful, like Cleopatra,” she said. “I keep painting women’s portraits in order to capture her beauty, to share it with everyone.”
The show at Pendulum Gallery runs until June 16. For more information on the artists (who include many Jewish community members) and the auction, and to book your Parker studios tour, visit parkerartsalon.com.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].