Islanders assert contemporary edge

SSNAP Parallel exhibit runs at ArtSpring through Oct. 20

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The Salt Spring National Art Prize extended its gifts to art fans this week with the opening of the Parallel Show at ArtSpring.

Comprising 50 of the local artists who submitted to SSNAP, the show is an excellent opportunity to see how artists in the Gulf Islands are responding to contemporary art concerns. The show also celebrates an important constituent group among SSNAP entrants: as founding director Ron Crawford explained during Friday night’s opening reception, the national art prize relies upon people submitting works to make it financially viable (as well as to have a good show).

The works in the Parallel Show demonstrate a wide range of technique and expression, which Nicola Wheston has arranged into a dynamic yet cohesive whole. Karin Millson, who won the top viewers’ choice award at the inaugural Parallel Show in 2017, has another spectacular multimedia piece called Ledger of Thoughts. This work consists of hundreds of small objects made of thread, twisted into conjoined spider shapes with 12 legs each. The spider orbs are strung in garlands on wire; some of the central pieces in each string contain a central orb.

Millson explained that each shape represents neural connections in the brain. The white side represents activity during the 12 hours of the day, and the black side is the re-arrangement and sorting of information during dream life. The hanging structure references human calculating aids, both the abacaus and the ancient Andean quipu.

Also working with a deep conceptual base and intriguing visual expression is Melanie Thompson, who premieres a piece from her upcoming Shadow Show at the Salt Spring Gallery. A large square of black plastic deer fencing provides the base. The vertical columns are strung with fishing line, with a nearly transparent dried fish scale centred in each square. The work is projected off the wall so that subtle shadows double the imagery.

Seth Berkowitz’s photo Screamers 1 stands in stark contrast to these visions, with his apocalyptic view of nature destroyed. The sepia tone and misty background provide ironic contrast to the devastation in the clear-cut ground, a scattering of cut rounds framed in the mid-to-foreground.

Two brightly colourful works that were completed with patient exactitude and are shown side by side come from Gaye Gardiner and Cathie Grindler. Both deserve some extra time to ferret out all the miniature details. Strong works with a more limited palette and somewhat graphic sensibility come from Aja Robb and Lucas Wolf, while the sculptural/installation side gets fascinating pieces by two experienced yet constantly surprising artists, Judy Weeden and Martin Herbert, (who was the second-place viewers’ choice winner in 2017).

The Parallel Show is open daily. Viewers’ choice award-winners will be announced during the SSNAP gala awards night at Mahon Hall on Oct. 19.

For more on this story, see the Oct. 2, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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