True to Place inaugurates largest Indigenous art exhibition

A group of 10 emerging and established Northwest Coast Indigenous artists will exhibit their works encompassing a variety of styles and techniques at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art from June 15, 2022 to March 19, 2023.

Curated by artist and muralist Xémontalót Carrielynn Victor (Stó:lō), the exhibition’s primary title is True to Place, with a subtitle stímetstexw tel xéltel, which means “keeping the pencil moving forward” in Halq’emeylemqel dialect.

“The use of the word place is referencing where the artists are from and where the artists know best. Place-based story is something that I carry in my own artistic practice and believe is an important part of oral history,” says Victor.

The Drums Are Calling by Luke Parnell, 2021. Acrylic on canvas. | Photo courtesy of Bill Reid Gallery

Born and raised in S’olh Temexw, Victor’s work revolves around the protection, preservation, and conservation of culture and the landscape.

She adds that the subtitle complements the exhibition’s main theme of moving forward from a place of history and tradition.

“We’ve included digital pencil drawings. We are featuring painters who use new colours and new tools and so we’re really celebrating that in the Northwest coast artistic realm.”

A portal of ochre hues

The curator explains that the exhibition is set up to allow guests to walk through a portal to see the artworks. Some of the works also have references to portals.

Ochre, an earthy pigment, is also used in a spectrum of values to show the Indigenous connection to place.

“There’s a lot of stories to tell within that pigment itself. As we walk through the show, you’ll see the colour again and again. Each artist might have subtle differences but there’s also a lot of similarities that are unified within the larger theme,” Victor adds.

A variety of artists and mediums

The Artists featured in the exhibition are Atheana Picha, Corey Bulpitt, Crystal Worl, Eliot White-Hill, Luke Parnell, Ocean Hyland, Robert Davidson, Shawn Hunt, Steve Smith, and Thomas Jones.

They incorporate a diverse range of mediums including canvas, wood, paper, sculptural forms, traditional basketry, as well as digital creations.

Curator and artist Xémontalót Carrielynn Victor. | Photo courtesy of Bill Reid Gallery

Eliot White-Hill (Snuneymuxw) will premiere a new work – a large figurative painting, which centres on Snuneymuxw stories. Using ancient Trickster narratives, the artwork explores the transformation and multiple dimensions within one plane of existence, in reference to a universal understanding of connection to home and place.

Two paintings of sturgeon by young artist Atheana Pica will also be on display at the exhibition. Sturgeon is a culturally significant fish that holds an important place in Indigenous stories and their oral history.

“I want to talk about healing and healing spending time with elders and honouring the elders,” Pica explains
her artworks.

Some artists at the exhibition embrace innovative processes of creation, such as digital media.

In a live spray paint work that was recorded, Haida artist Corey Bulpitt showcases his signature style that combines urban street graffiti and contemporary issues with Haida storytelling. The recorded art-making process will be displayed alongside the finished work.

A painting by Luke Parnell (Nisga’a/Haida) The Drums are Sounding, will also have a companion short animated film documenting the process as the artist explores new ideas of perspective and colour through digital sketching.

A Time for Love, by Steve Smith, 2021. | Photo courtesy of Bill Reid Gallery

Other artists challenge their techniques and viewers’ interpretations through unconventional forms. Steve Smith (Kwakwaka’wakw) wraps his formline painting around smooth wooden vessels.

A new work by one of the most established and notable Indigenous artists Robert Davidson (Haida) will also be part of the exhibition. Davidson shares a contemporary painting on a traditional spruce root hat.

“Robert was a close personal friend with Bill Reid. Robert and Bill worked alongside each other for so many years; they were both at the forefront of rethinking what formline design is and they have been such an influence on so many younger artists through the years. Having both established and emerging artists in the show is very important to us. Mentorship is a huge part of what the gallery does,” says Beth Carter, Curator at the Bill Reid gallery.

A series of side events will also be in place to support and deepen visitors’ understanding of the exhibition, such as exhibition tours, artist talks, painting workshops and a panel discussion.

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