Anderson retraces a key journey in solo show at SPAO


Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Return to the Pacific Coast Highway

Photographs by Sarah Anderson



School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa
Vernissage: Friday, March 7, 2014, 17:00 - 21:00

Exhibition: March 7 to 21, 2014

Artist Talk: Friday, March 14, 15:00




Documenting personal journeys using photographs can leave us with poignant visual evidence of what we encounter. SPAO student Sarah Anderson’s upcoming solo exhibition begins with such evidence but ultimately runs much deeper. Stemming from a storyline full of ironic twists and turns, Return to the Pacific Coast Highway offers an atmospheric meditation on the intertwining of travel, memory, and identity.


The exhibition’s 50-plus colour prints (shot in medium format and 35 mm) and two short video installations date back to October of 2013 during Anderson’s solo drive down California’s Pacific Coast Highway. The trip was a meticulously planned to retrace of the same route driven by Anderson and her parents some 25 years earlier when the artist was a toddler too young to remember what she had witnessed.


“I wanted to see what they saw,” explained Anderson, who spent most of her childhood vacations on continent-crossing road trips. When the artist turned 27 last year she felt compelled to “regroup,” she said, by replicating the one key journey not accessible in her memory.


“It was both comforting and felt sad,” Anderson said of the two-week-long drive, noting how her intent was not to convey nostalgia in the resulting photographs but that the melancholy inevitably came through in the emotional tone of the works. Many of the images depict serene and foggy landscapes, roadside vistas, and ocean views. The exhibition will feature 20 framed-and-mounted prints plus 30 or more additional works collected in a portfolio.


Significantly, only an ironic twist of fate ensured that Return to the Pacific Coast Highway could be staged. Just two days prior to her scheduled return from Los Angeles, Anderson’s rental car was stolen and all of her recorded visuals from the journey vanished along with it. The car had been recovered on the day of her departure but Anderson was not informed. She returned to Canada thinking that the photographs were lost.

Two weeks later, police at last contacted Anderson and eventually returned most of her possessions, including the 14 rolls of film that formed the basis of the exhibition.


“The theft really changed the dynamic of the whole trip,” said Anderson. “But the fact that the work was recovered seems fitting, given the nature of the project.”


In one of the accompanying video installations, Anderson intersperses old footage shot by her parents on the original trip with new video captured on her solo revisit in October.


“I watched the existing video and talked to my parents, then went back to key spots to shoot again,” Anderson explained.


During all those childhood road trips, Anderson was afforded no shortage of visual stimulation that clearly influenced her current work as a capturer of images.


“There’s a similarity,” notes Anderson, “between looking through a car window and through the lens of a camera.”


Return to the Pacific Coast Highway offers rich evidence of photography’s unique ability to blend visual truth with highly personal subjectivity. Anderson will detail the project in an artist talk on Friday, March 14 at 15:00 at SPAO.


To toast 10 years, Guerilla partners with Gallery 101

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Timing, they say, is everything.


Guerilla magazine’s long-anticipated 10th anniversary celebrations this March (including the community-wide GuerillaCRAWL event series) gained major momentum recently when a collaborative agreement came together with Ottawa’s Gallery 101. A stalwart proponent of contemporary visual art, G101 will open its new 2,400-square-foot space at 51B Young Street in Little Italy in late March and will partner with Guerilla for two “ground level” cultural events.


First, the Saturday, March 22 opening night of Turning the Page will be part of the GuerillaCRAWL series of events. Turning the Page is a group exhibition organized by G101 in partnership with H’Art of Ottawa, the National Arts Centre, SAW Gallery, Arts Access Australia, and experimental musician Jesse Stewart.


Second, for the blockbuster 10th anniversary GuerillaLIVE event on Saturday, March 29, Guerilla will return to the new G101 space to co-host the launch of the 10th anniversary edition and celebrate Guerilla’s decade of culture at ground level.


“The stars have aligned and this partnership with Gallery 101 is perfectly timed,” said Guerilla’s founding editor Tony Martins. “And because Gallery 101’s programming is community-centric and inclusive—the philosophy is also a perfect match for Guerilla. We are thrilled to include the gallery’s new space in the GuerillaCRAWL and host our 10th anniversary event there.”


About GuerillaCRAWL


To help mark a decade of "culture at ground level" this March, Guerilla will collaborate with individuals and groups from across the Capital Region to present GuerillaCRAWL, a sequence of 10 community-centric cultural offerings held on 10 consecutive nights.


The series—a mix of performance, exhibition, and spectacle—will broadly celebrate culture in our community and conclude with the launch of Guerilla’s 10-year special print edition at GuerillaLIVE #39 on Saturday, March 29.                                                                                                                                       


CRAWL events can involve unconventional performance, visual art, installation, etc., and innovative use of space is highly encouraged.All CRAWL events will be featured in Guerilla’s special 10-year edition, online and in print.To begin conversations on an event idea:



About Gallery 101
Gallery 101 is an artist-run centre dedicated to the professional presentation and circulation of visual and media arts. The gallery programs community events, workshops, and professional development opportunities for artists, curators, writers and critics.


Gallery 101’s new space will serve as home for a consortium of arts organizations that includes ICMI, Indigenous Culture & Media Innovations; Asinabka: Film & Media Arts Festival; and Niigaan: In Conversation. See additional details about these organizations below.


Turning the Page will be an exhibition of works on paper by more 50 artists from H’Art of Ottawa and Arts Access Australia, two not-for-profit organizations that provide opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to make art. The exhibitionwill also feature a multi-media musical theatre piece performed by composer/percussionist Jesse Stewart and H’Art of Ottawa artists at the National Art Centre’s 4th Stage.

About ICMI 
ICMI is an Indigenous media arts production centre. ICMI supports Aboriginal/Inuit communities with access to professional development, projects, productions, facilities, and equipment for artists at all stages of development.

About Asinabka: Film & Media Arts Festival 
Asinabka: Film & Media Arts Festival is an annual Indigenous film and media arts festival in the Nations Capital that allows independent artists-national, international, Indigenous, non-Indigenous-to share, present, and disseminate their work.

About Niigaan: In Conversation 
Niigaan: In Conversation is a volunteer-run organization dedicated to relationship building between Indigenous peoples and settler Canadians. Through events, workshops, community actions and partnerships, Niigaan: In Conversation looks to provide the time and space to have discussions that educate and engage.




Speed dating meets art making in Art Battle Canada

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


By Tony Martins   /   Photos by Michael Wozniak




You may have noticed that humanity is accelerating. Particularly in the western world, every day, more and more, faster and faster, we aim to do things more swiftly and efficiently. Speed dating is a good (or bad) example, wherein young singles get 5 minutes or so on a succession of “dates” in a merry-go-round of matchmaking that is part social engineering and part spectacle.


Art Battle Canada is a similar kind of head-spinning performance that could be deemed, paradoxically, both unrealistic and liberating. The cross-Canada event series bills itself as “live competitive painting,” in which 12 painters have 20 minutes to complete a canvas using acrylic paints while a standing audience orbits the easels for an up-close view of the creative process. At the end of two preliminary rounds, the audience votes to decide which painters advance to a final round paint-off, in which one artist emerges victorious. The event gives new meaning to Jackson Pollock’s idea of action painting.


An Ottawa edition of Art Battle took place on Tuesday, October 1 at Arts Court and the event was packed with painters and curious observers. Another battle will be contested here on November 4. Sure, it’s a spectacle that draws from the “competitive creativity” so popular right now on reality television, but purists might bristle at the idea that painting under such circumstances can be worthwhile. Can a “good” painting can be completed in 20 minutes? Others might counter with the view that art making need not be a meticulous and painstaking process in every instance. Sometimes great works can be spontaneous, improvised, and the product of swirling chaos.


Angela Hillier



Angela Hillier, one of the painters who took part at Arts Court, holds this latter view. Hillier was eager to embrace the challenge and painted well enough to be voted into the final round, where she lost out to the overall winner,
Allan Charles André.


Currently in her fourth year of the bachelor or fine arts program (BFA) at the University of Ottawa, Hillier took part to “showcase the process of my work," she said. "I wanted to push my limits and see what I could produce in such a unique environment.”


Heading into the event, Hillier was aware of how the confines of Art Battle might contradict some aspects of her BFA studies, particularly “the emphasis put on conceptualizing before creating a work,” she explains. “In this amount of time that cannot be taken as far as usual.”


In another way, however, Art Battle presented an opportunity in keeping with the “focus on process at Ottawa U,” Hillier notes. “Allowing yourself to be expressed without hesitation is the essence of painting for me.”


Once off and running, Hillier seemed to thrive in the noisy and chaotic atmosphere: “The time constraint changed my method, but not too much,” she reported. “Thankfully, I usually paint fairly quickly—one of the reasons I applied—but this pushed it to another level, making me give into my impulses.”




Artist are often thought to be brooding and reclusive figures, but Hillier drew from the throbbing energy in the room. “I was able to tune out what was around me but I chose not to,” said the artist. “The space you paint in influences your work greatly, and I wanted it to even more so under these circumstances. I included the audience by asking them what colour I should use next.”


Although Hillier was happy with the two paintings she ended up with, she was aware of how the competitive aspect may have hindered her success in the final round. “I found I was just more centred in the first one, whereas in the second I was more focused on the competition, which was my downfall,” she explained.


And the key takeaway? “I learned that trusting your immediate responses while creating a work can be extremely rewarding and impossible to plan for. This impulse is something you can't control but it allows for beautiful moments to happen within a work if you let it.”


The next Art Battle in Ottawa takes place Monday, November 4, again in the Arts Court Theatre, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door ($10 for students.)




October 1 Art Battle winner Allan Charles André


Kristy Gordon returns from New York with more than portraiture

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Kristy Gordon 2013 is on display at Cube Gallery until October 13


Dark Night of the Souls

By Tak Pham




British Columbian artist Kristy Gordon is not an unfamiliar name in important contemporary art communities. At the age of 33, she has received numerous national and international recognitions, has exhibited in five countries, and has representation in Ottawa, New York City and Paris. Recently graduated from Master of Fine Art program at the New York Academy of Art, Gordon’s focus on variation in human emotion has helped her to develop a strong reputation in portraiture. The energy in her works defies the physical passiveness of her subjects, who often come across as introverted and self-reflective.


Gordon’s portraiture practice is closely aligned with her own adventures in self-discovery. Her mission as an artist is to balance the technical application of paint with a contemporary motif. Gordon feels that influences encountered while enrolled art academies such as Toronto’s Academy of Realist Art and the Andreeva Portrait Academy let her explore contemporary themes with a classical, realist style.

In 2012, Gordon pushed her boundaries in a significant painting titled Rise. This self portrait uniquely captured her physical motion by layering a series of movements that depict the artist standing up from a crouching position. Rise can be read to mirror a key stage in Gordon’s journey of self discovery and growth as an artist. The series of movements imitate stop-motion or multiple-exposure photography and can be said to offer a depiction of gravity. The watery treatment in the work makes the painting gentle and translucent, although the physical weight remains implacable.


In her ongoing new show at Ottawa’s Cube Gallery (1285 Wellington St. W), viewers will see evidence of Gordon’s particular artistic development during her time in New York City. Most of the works in the show are from her Masters program at New York Academy of Art and together act as a celebration of her artistic maturity. The subjects in Gordon’s paintings have evolved to become more symbolic, more engaging, and more action-oriented. They are by turns bashful, such as in the work called Nevermore (it depicts a drag queen dozing on a chair) and dynamic, as in Dark Night of the Souls, which seems like something out of Shakespeare.









Sixth annual Part-Time Studies exhibition to showcase thriving SPAO stream


   Tuesday, September 3, 2013

SPAO (School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa) is the capital’s little photography school that has made a big impact—one that includes excellence from the school’s lesser-known part-time studies stream.


The most recent fruits of this excellence will be on display beginning Friday, September 13 at SPAO (168 Dalhousie Street) with the launch of the annual A+ Exhibition of work from past and present part-time students.


The showing will feature some 20 selected images and prize-winners from two categories: digital and alternative processes. This year’s judging panel features Peter Simpson (the Ottawa Citizen), Guy Bérubé (director of La Petite Mort Gallery) and Tony Martins, the new SPAO managing director.


The panel will award three outstanding images in particular:


·         Best Digital Image (sponsored by Viztek)


·         Best Analogue Image (sponsored by LabWorks)


·         Best of Show (sponsored by Henry’s)


SPAO’s co-founder and creative director Michael Tardioli is proud of how the part-time studies stream has blossomed over the first six years.


“It really shows the community support  towards SPAO,” said Tardioli. “And the synergy that occurs between instructors and students is fantastic. I have seen world-class work and have watched some emerging artists develop through our part-time stream.” 


SPAO part-time courses and workshops cover digital and analogue photography at the beginner level all the way to the master level. Seasonal travel workshops are also included and are becoming increasingly popular.


Much of the part-time studies success is down to the quality of instructors, says Tardioli.

“We are very proud of our instructors who come from a range of photographic practices, both in the commercial fields and the fine art and academic cultures,” Tardiolio said.


Prospective students should take note that a number of SPAO’s part-time instructors will be on hand at the launch of this year’s A+ Exhibition on September 13.

Always seeking to evolve and offer fresh learning opportunities, SPAO will look to bolster the part-time stream in the coming months with French language learning, private tutoring, photo clubs, additional travel workshops, alternative printmaking, a lecture series and more.



Donated Vintage Equipment Sale


The A+ vernissage on September 13 will also include a SPAO fundraising initiative: The Donated Vintage Equipment Sale. SPAO frequently receives generous donations of vintage camera bodies, lenses, strobes, and various other gear still in excellent condition. A wide variety of these donations will be available at very affordable prices.


Thompson and friends' Masquerade event to transform Westboro's Wall Space gallery

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Stefan Thompson will produce live digital art similar to this on Friday night at Wall Space.


Post by Tony Martins

“This city is starving for stuff like this,” explains visual artist Stefan Thompson.


Arguably, Westboro may be particularly starved for the kind of urban art/dance/theatre mash-up that Thompson and friends are bringing to Wall Space gallery on Friday, July 19.


The event, called Night Light Masquerade, will push some boundaries, particularly at Wall Space, a place not known for flashing lights, pulsing beats, and spontaneous art performance.


“It is a bit different, isn't it?” said Wall Space curator Cynthia Mykytyshyn, who acknowledges the youthful “cool” factor of the event was appealing to the gallery.


“It's crucial, especially as a gallery, to keep in-tune with, and be inclusive of, diverse styles and approaches to art-making,” explains the curator. “I wouldn't say that we are moving in a decidedly new direction, but more that we are expanding our current direction. We want to remain relevant to different age groups and to see more young people in Wall Space.”


Mykytyshyn gives the lion’s share of the credit for the event to Thompson, however, who is highly regarded for his eco-friendly paintings of stylized creatures. Thompson wanted to bust out with an atmospheric event that would push him and his collaborators.


“I enjoy dance music and live art, and I’ve seen the two put together in a few venues, but nothing that was really a full experience, by that I mean totally captivating,” Thompson said.


He and DJ Caitlyn Pascal (who performs as CPI) held a smaller “night light” event at Raw Sugar last year that was encouraging, but crowded.


“Last year we had a number of musical acts including local RAAS DJ Memetic, me on the live digital painting, and Carmela Maresse doing a huge canvas, and all that we crammed into Raw Sugar, it was super fun,” Thompson says. “For masquerade we wanted to step the fun up a notch.”


For that a bigger room was required and conversations began with Wall Space.


“I’ve been getting a lot of support from the lovely folks at Wall Space over the last few years, and when I talked about the idea with them they were excited and that’s the main ingredient of this event,” said Thompson.


The artist/organizer proceeded to pull out all the stops, including the creation of his 40-foot mural in the gallery, an undertaking that challenged him in a good way. In recent years, Thompson’s work have been mostly small in size.


“I definitely do enjoy working big and having the wall to myself here for a week and a half has really let me open up and learn how to paint again,” said the artist.

A section of Thompson's mural at Wall Space.


The event is a fundraiser for Third Wall Theatre and 100 Watt Productions, an aspect that will amp up the masquerade theme. Guests are encouraged to don a mask or face paint to contribute to the theme.


“The masquerade theme actually reflects a recent production by 100 Watt called Wild Life,” says Mykytyshyn, “that revolved around animal themes and imagery and masks were a major component of the performance.” An installation of masks from the production is on display at the gallery currently and will also be incorporated into the event on Friday night.


Thompson is excited about the range of talents that will be involved.


“We are really, really, really lucky to have the members of one of—in my opinion—the world's best graffiti crews ... WZRDS GNG from Montreal,” said Thompson. “They had roots in Ottawa, so if you don’t know them, now is your chance to see some of the best street artists ever to come out of this city.”


“And if the event weren’t already fun enough, Samuel Arsenault-Brassard will do our lighting and lasers for the night, so expect sights and sounds,” said Thompson.


There’s a $5 cover charge and art at the event will be for sale.


“Stefan will have a selection of pieces available for sale, plus panels from the mural will be detachable and available as well,” said Mykytyshyn.

But for Thompson, the overall experience will be more important than commerce. “This is the kind of event you can disappear into some dark corner and be entertained or get on the floor and dance,” concludes the artist. “We’re just gonna be painting and having fun, so you can too.”