“At Rest” by Dov Glock, mixed media. Glock is one of several Jewish artists participating in this year’s West of Main Art Walk. (from artistsinourmidst.com)
The West of Main Art Walk Preview Exhibition and Sale kicks off at the Roundhouse Community Centre May 18-19. The West of Main Art Walk itself welcomes guests into artists’ studios May 28-29. Among the artists participating are many from the Jewish community, including Michael Abelman, Olga Campbell, Dov Glock, Pnina Granirer and Lauren Morris.
The preview – which is open for visitors 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days – features a reception at the Roundhouse on May 19, 7-9 p.m. Preview visitors will be able to buy the work of some of the 80 local artists taking part. There will be paintings, ceramics, jewelry, textiles and photography, as well as free art demos.
Artwork will also be for sale on the walk, which includes studios from Point Grey to Main Street, and from Granville Island to 41st Avenue over the May 28-29 weekend. Dozens more artists are showing their works all under one roof in larger hubs like Aberthau Mansion, Art at Knox and Pacific Arts Market. There, you’ll also find art demonstrations and more. At Lord Byng Mini School for the Arts, you’ll discover young emerging artists.
Also part of the month’s events is the annual (since 2018) Art for All Fundraiser. More than 70 artworks have been donated – and all are on sale for $50 each. Proceeds will go to the art program at Coast Mental Health. Its resource centre’s art room opened in 2000, and is a place where clients discover their creative potential while developing new ways of expressing emotions, healing pain and growing their self-esteem and self-awareness. Supported by volunteers – including clients and professional artists and art instructors – who give their time, feedback and encouragement, clients are able to work in a number of media, including paint and sculpture; supplies are provided. An annual art show brings together the artists, other resource centre members and Coast clients, family and friends and the general public to celebrate their work and their journey towards recovery.
Granirer, who was a co-founder of the very first open studios walk in Vancouver in 1993, is doing something a little different from the main event. On May 18, 7 p.m., at the Roundhouse, she is launching her poetry-art memoir, Garden of Words. (For more on the book, see jewishindependent.ca/poetry-and-painting-flourish.) Some of the paintings featured in the book will be exhibited and the books will be available during the whole time of the preview and at Granirer’s studio during the walk weekend.
During the walk, Granirer is inviting people to her studio, where she will be offering her works for 50% off, with proceeds being donated to Stand up for Mental Health, which has helped people suffering from mental health issues to do away with stigma all over Canada, the United States and Australia.
Artists will be opening their studios from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 28 and 29. This is a unique opportunity to meet the artists, enjoy the art and ask questions. More information and the interactive online map can be found at artistsinourmidst.com.
– Courtesy Artists in Our Midst and Pnina Granirer
Artist Lauren Morris at the opening of her solo show, Dressed in Colour, at the Zack Gallery Jan. 25. (photo from Lauren Morris)
Dressed in Colour, Lauren Morris’s new solo exhibition at the Zack Gallery, perfectly reflects the artist’s relationship with the world. “Everything about me is colour,” she said in an interview with the Independent. “Colours bring this show together.”
This is Morris’s second solo show at the gallery, the first having been in 2015. She is known for her vivid flowers and colour-infused compositions.
“I always explore new colours, always learn, always take new photos. Living in Vancouver makes me want to paint even more colours,” she said.
Inspiration has not always come easily, though.
“About five years ago, I took a sabbatical. I didn’t paint for more than a year, didn’t know what to paint. I was stuck,” she said. “Before that period, I always used someone else’s vision as a starting point: photographs I found online, other artists’ pieces. But it stopped working for me. Then, I realized that it doesn’t matter what I paint. I began taking my own photographs. Now, I base everything I paint on my own experiences. I love nature, I enjoy flowers, and it all comes out in my art.”
Influenced by nature, Morris creates large canvases where colours, shapes and light intertwine into unique flowery abstractions, beautiful but never photographic or even realistic. Her flowers come from her imagination, with depth and texture adding meaning. “There is always something mystical in my paintings, something unknown,” she said. “A lot is going on in every picture, and the multiple layers create reflections.”
Morris paints with acrylics, but this medium, despite its growing popularity, has its quirks. “Acrylics dry fast, and they often become dull when dry,” she explained. “To brighten the images, I use varnish on top of acrylics. Varnish makes the magic come out. People even ask me if I paint in oils.”
Her flowers are larger than life. One can’t even see the overall image until one is at a distance from the work. “When I paint, I often stand back a lot,” Morris said of her creative process.
For her, a painting is never finished until it is no longer in her possession. “Yesterday, I saw something wrong in one painting in this show,” she said the day before the exhibit’s opening night. “Something bothered me, so I brought my paints and touched it up.”
Sometimes, she starts a painting with a preconceived image, but, like living things, her pieces frequently have a mind of their own. “My paintings often surprise me, and I always allow them to happen,” she said. “If I planned something else, but the image evolved somehow, I find it fascinating. If something doesn’t work, I fix it. I don’t have an anxiety. I don’t fear the canvas.”
Morris trusts her intuition, and it makes her paintings vibrant. It also makes her an excellent teacher. Lately, she has been teaching adult art workshops at the Designers Collective. “Most of my students are beginners,” she said. “They come to the workshop and they’re unsure. They think they can’t paint. I teach them not to be afraid. I bring art to people. I tell them: there are no mistakes in art. It’s not about technique. Art is a self-exploration. If you don’t like something you already painted, we’ll cover it up with something new. Maybe the old image will peek through, like a reflection of something different…. I try to make people believe in themselves. It’s almost a therapy class.”
She applies the same approach of playful exploration to her own work, fearlessly searching for beauty in her art. “I’m never bored when I paint. My art excites me. I get absorbed by my paintings,” she said happily.
Morris’s canvases seem to thrum with the strands of silent music, a quiet serenade of water lilies in a deep-green pond or a loud trumpeting from the white, extravagant bouquet exploding with elation.
“Before, I always listened to classical music when I painted, but, a few years ago, I stopped,” she said. “Now, I paint in silence. I still love music, but not when I paint. Maybe, it happened because there is so much noise around us, with the internet and the city life.” She doesn’t want the ambient noise of the urban sprawl to interfere with her paintings. “I want to create a mood,” she said. “I want to make people happy.”
Not surprisingly, people find delight in her paintings. In the past five years, she has been participating in the Eastside Culture Crawl, and sales – a challenge for any artist – have been encouraging. She has donated several of her paintings to various medical establishments around Vancouver, and her website also gets lots of traffic.
Her commissions have become almost a business, and she treats them as such. She starts practically every day with a few hours in her studio. “Each painting becomes a project to complete,” she said. “When clients come to me with a commission, my interior designer’s background kicks in. They have a vision of what they want: a size, a shape, a place on a wall in their home. I understand someone’s vision. It doesn’t make me feel constricted. If I’m able to get their vision right – the size, the colour scheme, the overall impression – I’m glad.”
Dressed in Colour is on display until Feb. 24. For more information about Morris and her work, visit lmdesignsstudio.com.
Olga Livshinis a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
Johanan Herson is coming from Israel to Art! Vancouver. (photo from Johanan Herson)
“I am very much looking forward to seeing all the new artwork coming from around the world,” Lisa Wolfin told the Independent. “We have some giant heads coming from Miami, some art made out of spider webs, metal sculptures and some really crazy stuff – can’t wait to see it all together under one roof.”
Wolfin is the founder and director of Art! Vancouver, which this year takes place May 25-28 at Vancouver Convention Centre-East. She is also an artist herself and will be bringing recent work to the fair.
“Over the past year,” she said, “I have contemplated what to make for the show that is new and unique and have come up with my new series called I Feel. It is a portrait series made from different materials: oil on canvas, mixed media on wood panel, and photography.”
Her current work is contemporary, she said. “What I have found in the many art fairs that I have attended is that artists are using recycled materials and making them into creative art forms. My newest series is made out of my kids’ things they used when they were young. Sometimes, it feels like I am back in kindergarten being free to just play with materials, not thinking what you are trying to make out of it, just doing. Who doesn’t want to be a kid again?”
As more people have become aware of the art fair – this is its third year – inquiries have come from around the world, said Wolfin. And CBC Arts’ Amanda Parris “is flying out from Toronto to host the show and speak in a panel talk on Saturday at 3 p.m. Joining Amanda on the panel is Barrie Mowatt, who presently runs the Vancouver Biennale.”
Art! Vancouver opens on May 25, 7 p.m., said Wolfin, with “The Face of Art, where the artists walk down the runway carrying their artwork, so the attendees can put a face to the art to know who the artist is. People are curious as to who are the makers of the art – at this show, the artists are mostly in attendance, where people can come to meet them.”
Among those artists are several from the Jewish community, including Wolfin. Also presenting their work will be Johanan Herson, who is coming to the fair from Israel, and local artists Michael Abelman, Lauren Morris, Taisha Teal Wayrynen and Skyla Wayrynen.
“I will be showing mostly the soft art, textile art, but will have some of the sculpture works and acrylic paintings as well,” Herson told the Independent about what he’s bringing with him. “Le Soleil Gallery [on Howe Street] is showing the full range of my work and will continue after the fair to handle my artwork.”
Herson said he’s been to Vancouver a couple of times before, when he was a student at Banff School of Fine arts. He is originally from Montreal.
“I grew up in Montreal and visited Israel on various occasions before making aliyah,” he said. “In fact, I had come to study at the Bezalel Academy just after the Six Day War and hated it. I traveled the world before coming back to Montreal and the Canadian sense of pluralism and diversity. I came back later [to Israel] to understand the meaning of my Jewishness and fell in love with an Israeli woman, of a 10-generation family, and find myself part of this dynamic society.”
In terms of his artwork, Herson said, “I know that my soft art is a product of being at the right time and the right place, where this technique evolved, and I did look into the possibility of doing it in Quebec, but … the soft art is definitely an Israel discovery and development.
“My Canadian identity is one of respect for everyone, the celebration of diversity and acceptance of the other, and I cherish my Canadian roots and heritage and am proud of my citizenship. My work in Israel and my Jewish identity has always been part of who I am wherever I am and was part of who I am as a Canadian and an Israeli. I hope that my commitment to making the world a better place for everyone would have guided me if I had never left Canada, although perhaps the intensity of living and creating in the Middle East has challenges that are unique to Israel.
“I believe in the good in humanity,” he continued, “and have always sought to defend the less-privileged and suffering … whether they are in Montreal, Tel Aviv, Ramallah or Africa, and seek global communication as a platform to making the world a healthier and safer place of love, respect and opportunity for a better life for everyone. I do so as a Canadian Jewish Israeli artist.”
He gave the example of an exhibit of his work that just closed at the University in Minnesota. The exhibit, he said, was “part of encouraging dialogue between the Jewish student and Islamic student bodies. The message is that we must pray and work for a better world, that tikkun olam is to wake up every day and say that the world has been created for me alone, and that I must make it a better place for everyone.”
Teal Wayrynen is working toward a similar goal – making the world a better place – in a different way.
“I received my associates degree in psychology from Capilano University and am graduating this year with my bachelor’s degree from Simon Fraser University,” she told the Independent. “I will then combine my art with my counseling and do a master’s program for art therapy after I travel for half a year.”
At last year’s Art! Vancouver, Teal Wayrynen featured her Pop Icon collection. This year, she said she is “experimenting with charcoal and acrylic paint and drawing female bodies.”
Right now, her favourite medium is acrylic paint mixed with spray paint, she said. “I just started to mix mediums and use molding paste, acrylic paint and charcoal on top,” she added.
Morris has also been delving into new methods and media.
“I have continued predominantly working on flowers, however, I have introduced a new colour palette, as well as more abstraction within my floral pieces,” she told the Independent. “I’ve also continued with my free, fluid style and introduced some abstract landscapes using the new colours. My inspiration comes from the beautiful flowers that seem to surround me every day. Every season brings on something new and I am inspired by their shapes and colours.”
She has been working on a new series for Art! Vancouver, Morris said, “experimenting with a couple of new techniques and colours. They will be mainly florals and will all coordinate in style so that there is consistency within my pieces. I work predominantly in acrylic.”
She added, “I am hoping that my growth as an artist is shown in my new pieces and that my work continues to evoke my viewers’ emotions through visual imagery.”
Art! Vancouver opens May 25 at the convention centre with a VIP preview at 6 p.m. and the gala at 7 p.m. The show runs May 26-27, noon to 8 p.m., and May 28, noon to 5 p.m. A one-day pass is $15 (online) or $25 (at the door); $8 for children under the age of 14. A multi-day pass is $40 and a VIP pass is $100. Tickets to the opening gala are $30. Visit artvancouver.net.
Local artist Lauren Morris loves every aspect of her art form. “I even like the smell of paints,” she said in an interview with the Independent. “When I come to my studio, the smell jolts me into work. It’s like a kick-start to my imagination.” She added, “I didn’t start painting until I immigrated to Canada. I’m a graphic designer by education.”
Upon graduating as a graphic designer in her native Cape Town, she worked in her chosen field for awhile and then decided to see the world. She backpacked through Europe. “In Israel, I met an American girl in ulpan. We became friends, and she invited me to come to America. I thought I would only travel there for a few months but I stayed for five years. I found a job there as a magazine graphic designer. I also took some part-time art classes in Washington, D.C.”
Afterwards, she returned home and worked as a graphic designer for the book and magazine industry. She also started a family. Unfortunately, the political situation in South Africa was becoming increasingly unstable. Concerned about their growing children, the family decided to emigrate. They arrived in Vancouver in 2000.
“When we came,” Morris remembered, “I couldn’t find work as a graphic designer, so I started painting at home.”
Like any artist, she wanted to display her work, wanted people to see it and perhaps even buy it, but she was new in town, didn’t know anyone and had no connections in the local art community.
“I started hanging my paintings in coffee shops,” she recalled. “Some shops in Vancouver want to display and sell art, so they advertise on Craigslist. I looked for such ads, applied and my paintings sold very well in many of them. I wasn’t a snob. I would accept any offer. Most of my paintings sold not even through a coffee shop but through a fish and chips place in Kerrisdale.”
The sales were encouraging, so she rented a studio. “I wanted to be more professional,” she said with a smile. “But a studio cost money. To pay the rent, I started teaching.”
She still offers art workshops and she teaches mostly adults. “I love showing people what they can do. Some say: ‘Oh, I don’t know how to paint.’ They are wrong. Everyone can paint. They just need someone to guide them. Afterwards, they are amazed and awed by their own works. This is the most satisfying part of teaching – when my students discover things about themselves. It makes them happy and it makes me happy.”
Making people happy seems to be a requirement in her artistic approach: in her workshops, in the classes she taught at the Louis Brier Home and Hospital, and in her own personal art. That’s why flowers play such an important role in her creative output.
“Flowers make people happy,” she said. “When a painting of flowers hangs on a wall, it changes the feel and mood of a room, brightens it.”
Her flowers are not photographic. In fact, some of her paintings bear only a remote resemblance to real-life blooms. Her images lean towards the abstract, like symphonies of colors and shapes. Light and reflections, movements and shadows weave into interlacing harmony in her pictures, while flowers provide an inspiration.
“I don’t like to be too literal in my art,” she said. “Art is my imagination. It always springs from somewhere, from a point of reference, a photo I took or found online, or an idea I see in another artist’s work. Then I take my paintbrush and start building colors. Most of my paintings are color compositions. When I paint, I let my paintbrush take over. It’s like putting together a colorful puzzle, but I’m guided by my unconsciousness.”
Not only the colors but also the shapes of flowers attract Morris because they are so versatile.
“People see different shapes in my flowers,” she said. “Sometimes they see something I didn’t even know was there.”
Because of the expressionistic ideas of her paintings, she rarely works outside. “I tried,” she explained with a chuckle. “But I paint on the floor, on my knees, with the canvasses against the wall. It’s not convenient outside.”
Often, her process resembles a gym exercise, very physically taxing, so she doesn’t work for more than a couple of hours at a time. But she loves every minute of it. “When I see a painting unfolding, going in a certain direction, when my imagination flows, it’s the best moment for me.”
She enjoys listening to classical music while she paints, and the melodies seem to transfer to her canvasses. The different paints and hues splash and chase each other, like notes of a melody. The combined arrangement is invariably richer than its component parts, and the same is true for Morris’ paintings. Since her first coffee shop exhibit in 2001, her recognition in Vancouver has grown considerably. In the last few years, she has participated in Artists in Our Midst and the Eastside Culture Crawl. She has displayed her paintings in several group shows. And now her art is featured at the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery. Her solo show, A Tapestry of Flowers, opened on March 18 and is on until April 12. For more on Morris’ work, visit lmdesignsstudio.com.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].