SSNAP season kicks off with Exquisite Corpse

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People getting excited about the return of the Salt Spring National Art Prize biennial this fall can enjoy a taste of the upcoming exhibit season and help support SSNAP at the same time during a special fundraising event this week. 

Launching this Thursday, June 17, the Exquisite Corpse Art Show & Auction runs for one week only upstairs at Gallery 8. The mixed live and online event features a selection of historical and contemporary works and a unique collection of 12 new collaborative pieces produced by 36 local artists.

It’s the latter element that gives its name to the show. Exquisite Corpse is a game or an exercise created by the Surrealists in 1920s Paris. It involves different artists working to create a single figure in individual sections, with each artist working blind to most of what the others have created. The exercise inspires a freeing up of usual techniques and often produces delightfully bizarre compilations once unveiled in their totality.

“They’re really a lot of fun. Some artists have stepped right out of character from what you’d expect from their traditional work,” said SSNAP’s founding director Ron Crawford, who coordinated this part of the show. 

While Exquisite Corpse often involves a large sheet of paper that gets folded over to cover each completed section, this version is based on a one-by-three foot panel. Each finished piece features three different artists who worked on a 12-by-12-inch area, and were assigned to create either head, body or legs/feet. They were able to see one inch at most of the adjacent section to flow their work from.

Crawford recruited some “big name” established island figures as well as members of the Salt Spring Painters Guild and several people who were part of SSNAP’s youth exhibition in 2019. The wide range of artists participating in turn employed a wide range of materials. In addition to painting they have applied collage, glasswork, sculptural pieces, weaving and encaustic wax to the panels. And while the works are nominally divided into sections of the body, what the artists chose to place there may not correspond to human bodies, or to bodies at all as normally understood.

Some artists thought it would be fun to work together on the same project and others were put together more randomly. In all cases, buyers will have the unique opportunity to own work by three different artists by purchasing one piece.

Exquisite Corpse pieces will be revealed live and online starting this Thursday. They will be available to purchase by non-live auction that closes with the show at the end of Thursday, June 24. Bids start at $150 each. 

SSNAP supporters will additionally have the opportunity to bid on a number of fine historical works donated by collectors and to purchase outright new works on consignment from local galleries. The collection of 25 pieces assembled by Anthony Matthews features artists such as Norval Morrisseau, Diana Thorneycroft, Diana Dean, Michael Robb and Hugh Leroy and includes a dynamic pair of prints by the Inuit artists Josie Papialuk and Paulosie Kanayook. 

What binds this collection together is Matthews’ keen eye for quality work, an eye he’s honed over many years as a curator, collector and collectors’ consultant. 

“I’ve chosen the art that really appeals to me, and I encourage people to come to the gallery and talk to me personally,” Matthews said, noting he will be on site each day of the show. 

Some of the works selected are those he felt would have broad appeal. There are also pieces by known artists that haven’t been seen before — such as a pure landscape without narrative elements by Diana Dean. 

“Something like that would be really exciting to collectors,” Matthews said. 

The Exquisite Corpse show is available for in-person viewing at Gallery 8 from 1 to 5 p.m. on June 17 and then from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through June 24. COVID safety protocols will be in effect. 

Find the link for online viewing starting at 1 p.m. this Thursday at www.saltspringartprize.ca

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