Best of 2015: West Coast artists continue to sparkle

Kevin Griffin

The Vancouver Sun


December 31, 2015

Without a doubt, the conceptual design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery was the biggest news of the year in the visual arts world. Other highlights included Bau-Xi Gallery celebrating its 50th anniversary and the announcement at the Contemporary Art Gallery that Patrick Cruz was selected as the winner of the 2015 RBC Painting Competition. Below are five additional notable art moments from 2015.

The Rivers Monument by Marianne Nicolson and SEI by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas

Vancouver International Airport

These two works are part of an ongoing commitment by Vancouver International Airport to commission artists to create major works of art. The Rivers Monument takes the form of two stunning blue glass totem poles in the domestic terminal after security while SEI is an equally stunning stainless steel sculpture that recalls the arc of a jumping salmon in the nearby McArthur Glen Designer Outlet. YVR's public collection of art - which includes Bill Reid's The Spirit of Haida Gwaii: The Jade Canoe - is one of the reasons it consistently ranks among the top airports in the world.

Models of Resistance by Angela Grossmann

Poiesis Contemporary with Kardosh Projects at Marion Scott Gallery

I'm still reeling from looking at Angela Grossmann's portraits of women. Were they revealing their bodies because they're assertive and confident? Or were they damaged figures being used by others? Either way, they were all compelling and repelling. They were made from collaged pieces of black and white photos from the 1940s and 1950s as well as dolls' underwear and other clothing. You can just imagine the male photographer encouraging them to strike poses to appeal to male fantasies. As Grossmann said, they're the kind of women who took their clothes off in "grotty hotel rooms" for very little money.

A Risky Jump by Scott Billings

Wil Aballe Art Projects

A Risky Jump started with artist Scott Billings in a fetal position as if asleep. He then fell through a trap door in ultra slow motion to a crash pad 3.9 metres below. A fall that should have taken less than a second was stretched to about five minutes. I loved watching Billings's body becoming intensely expressive as he reacted to the shock of gravity.

How Do I Fit This Ghost in My Mouth?

Geoffrey Farmer Vancouver Art Gallery

When I walked into the exhibition room featuring The Surgeon and the Photographer, I had one of those "whoa" moments. What did it was the combination of so many puppet-like figures made of cloth and cut-out photos in a narrow room: it took my breath away. I felt like I was walking among a group of performers who could come alive at any moment.

The Things in My Head

Gathie Falk Equinox Gallery

Gathie Falk's apples may have been made in the 1960s and 1970s, but they look as fresh as when she made them. She stacked them in pyramidlike piles because that's how she saw real apples displayed in Vancouver corner grocery stores. But hers were much better: they were redder and shinier. The exhibition -- with more than 70 paintings and sculptures, as well as a video -- included The Problem With Wedding Veils, a papier mâché wedding veil with a train weighed down by two big boulders.