“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
Artists Michael Abelman and Victoria Scudamore share the walls at Zack Gallery in the exhibit Sea to Sky. (photo by Olga Livshin)
In the exhibit Sea to Sky at Zack Gallery, the artists’ works complement each other. Michael Abelman’s seascapes and floral compositions lean towards the pensive and are a little wistful, while Victoria Scudamore’s abstract paintings add splashes of colour and joy to the gallery walls.
“I’ve always liked crafts, since I was a child,” Scudamore said in an interview with the Independent, “but I could never draw. I was a realtor for 30 years. Then, seven years ago, I fell off my bike and broke a wrist. A month later, I decided to take an art class. I thought: I couldn’t draw anyway, I would just have fun.”
She did have fun. But, also during that class, she discovered the style of intuitive, abstract painting and fell in love with it. “It resonated with me,” she recalled. She started taking more classes. “Art became a real passion of mine,” she said. “Now I have to paint every day. I don’t feel whole if I don’t paint. This is my first show, and I’m very excited about it.”
Her elation is unmistakable as she talks about her creative process.
“I’m an abstract expressionist. I try to capture emotions in my paintings,” she explained. “I want to show movement, colours in motion, to show connections. To paint abstract, I need to be in a dreamy space. I often listen to ’70s rock music and sometimes I dance when I paint. Once, I accidentally knocked off a bottle of ink onto one of my paintings, but I didn’t throw it away. I saw something in the pattern of the ink stains and painted over it, used it.”
Scudamore feels adventurous in her approach to art, ready to respond to any stimulus, be it a forest, a seashore, a flower, a bird, an ink stain or a stray thought. “I often paint two paintings at a time,” she said. “I feel freer to explore this way. Like a scientist, I experiment with colours, shapes and textures. Sometimes, I fall in love with a certain palette and do a series based on those colours. It’s all intuitive. I never know where I’ll end up when I start a painting. The beginning is the most exciting moment for me, a mystery. I’m child-like when I paint. I’m in the realm of fun.”
Her happiness in creating art makes her brave and self-confident. “I don’t compare myself with other artists,” she said. “Sure, Michael [Abelman] has been painting for 20 years; he has much more experience than I do, but I think artists shouldn’t compare with each other. It steals joy. We are all on different paths, our own paths.”
Abelman agrees with that sentiment. “I’ve been painting for 20 years but only showing for five years,” he said. “Like Victoria, I don’t compare myself with other artists, only with myself. My art is changing, evolving.”
Sea to Sky is Abelman’s second show at the Zack. His solo show in 2014 was a rainbow explosion of flowers but, this year, his paintings demonstrate a different level of maturity. Although half of his paintings are still flowers, their colours are more pastel and the ambience more contemplative. “It feels like another stage in my art and in my life,” he said. “Maybe I’m getting older.”
Half of his exhibited paintings this year are ships: in winter and in summer, in the morning mist and in the glowing sunset. “I painted ships before but, recently, I find myself drawn to them. My ship paintings are quiet, while the flowers are always louder, exuberant with colours. I still paint flowers, but I wanted more. If you could find beauty in a tulip you could find beauty in a ship, too. I wanted to show it.”
Abelman said ships reflect a sense of exploration but also of loneliness. “A ship is always alone amid the vast ocean, and even near the shore,” he said. “You could see lots of ships in Vancouver. They arrive and depart daily. I take pictures of them when I walk along the waterline, then I take different things from different photos for my paintings.”
He constantly works on improving his skills and widening his range of expression. “Professionally,” he said, “I’m an accountant, but I never tried so hard in accounting as I do in art; never enjoyed accounting so much either. In art, I’m driven. I want to succeed, to be better. I don’t care if I sell, but I want to paint better. I’ve been taking art classes for years, and the more I learn, the more I realize how much I still need to learn.”
Like Scudamore, he paints every day but, unlike his partner in the show, his deep immersion in art doesn’t come easily. “Painting is hard for me,” he admitted. “You go into your own world for hours at a time. It’s a form of meditation. I have to focus, so no music for me when I paint. Sometimes, I listen to the news, but mostly I concentrate on my art.”
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.
Michael Abelman’s show runs at the Zack until Feb. 16. (photo by Olga Livshin)
A day before Michael Abelman’s art show opened, someone wandered into the Sidney and Gertrude Zack Gallery, looked around, and exclaimed: “How nice. Spring has arrived!” This random comment could serve as a description of the entire show. Bright optimistic flowers bloom on the gallery walls, defying the winter rain outside, encompassing all seasons. It’s hard to believe that the artist only started painting 10 years ago.
“I always loved art,” Abelman told the Independent about his start, “loved visiting museums and galleries. There are wonderful paintings in galleries along Granville Street, but I could never afford them, so I thought I would paint what I like myself.”
His vague wish to create beauty resulted in the birth of an artist, although from his background, one might never guess the exuberance of his floral canvases. By education, Abelman is an accountant; by profession, a salesperson. He grew up in South Africa and immigrated to Canada 20 years ago, together with his partner. He never painted in his native country, but Canada inspired him to start.
“In the beginning, I was really bad for a long time,” he admitted with a smile. “But I never gave up. I learned: studied with Lori Goldberg, took classes at Emily Carr, read textbooks and went to galleries.” And, of course, he painted.
“Studying art was a long, slow progression for me,” he recalled. “Each year, I would get better – maybe one percent. Then, three years ago, I had a big jump in quality. I joined Artists in Our Midst that spring and opened my house to the public.”
He sold several paintings that first year, which seemed like an acknowledgement of his skill, although sales don’t really matter to him. “I enjoy painting. That’s why I do it. If my paintings sell, all the better, but I would do it anyway. I don’t think I’ll ever stop.”
Abelman finds inspiration in the gardens around Vancouver. “I like painting what I see close to home. It’s beautiful here,” he said. “I’ve traveled to Europe, South America and Australia, but I don’t want to paint what I see there. I don’t want to paint Mexico. I want to paint local gardens. My partner, Leon, is a gardener. His garden is wonderful. I painted it one whole year. It motivated me. Leon grows some interesting tropical trees, plants from South Africa. He has a banana tree.”
Several paintings in the exhibition reflect the artist’s vision of his partner’s garden. One of them he even named after the gardener: “Leon’s Garden.”
Verdant greenery and the profusion of flowers of all varieties dominate Abelman’s pictures. Pink roses and red poppies, gorgeous dahlias and coquettish impatiens, slender blush-tinged mallows and exotic orange pokers beckon the viewers to enter the paintings, smell the fragrance, hear the leaves whisper.
All this multicolored magnificence has been painted indoors, in the artist’s basement turned studio, from photographs and picture books. “It’s often cold and rainy outside,” he lamented. “And I try to paint every day, at least one hour a day.”
He uses his own photographs and those of others as a motif, a starting point for his unique compositions, which are imbued with polychromatic light. He never copies a photo. To breathe life into his paintings, he changes the layout, applies his own impressions to the image or introduces a little mystery.
One of the paintings in the show, “Reflections Through My Window,” resonates with enigmatic undertones. Furniture and living stems, glass panes and a bouquet in a glass vase intertwine in the image, creating something new, discordant and harmonious simultaneously. It’s hard to discern what is reflection and what is reality, what is inside the glass and what is outside. “Mystery is good,” Abelman said with satisfaction when he talked about this painting.
“When I look at photos to find a new idea for a painting, color is more important to me than content,” he explained about his creative process. He constantly searches for that elusive quality that only reveals itself to true artists. “I’m always pushing the limits of beauty, but my esthetics change with years, evolve…. It’s all about that final lost layer of paint that makes all the difference.”
Sometimes, that final touch is a shadow or a few stray wavelets in a pond, or a lone petal falling into a stream. Water – be it a tiny rivulet in a garden, a pond in Giverny or the somnolent Burrard Inlet – features prominently in many of his paintings. “I love painting water,” he said.
Always on the lookout for new imagery, Abelman visited the library of Van Dusen Botanical Garden a few months ago for some flower books. When the librarian saw his paintings, she offered him a show at the library, and that show was mounted in the fall of 2013. His impressionistic flowers did very well alongside the real thing. “I was invited to speak to the Richmond Art Guild later this spring, because they saw my paintings at the Van Dusen. They have 60 members.”
He sounded amazed at his own luck, despite his rapidly improving skills and the attending commercial success, as if he can’t take himself too seriously. Even when he disclosed his secret ambition, he laughed, as if sharing a joke: “I want my paintings to be so good that it would hurt you to walk out of the galley without them.”
In Full Bloom is at the Zack Gallery until Feb. 16.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].