The Seriousness of Play by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas at the Bill Reid Gallery

Yumi Ang

Hello Vancity

Arts and Culture

April 24, 2016

Photo: Yumi Ang

We were invited to view the latest exhibit and works by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas at the Bill Reid Gallery in Downtown Vancouver. I was especially curious to see how Michael created pieces that fused influences of Japanese manga and anime with Haida, Aboriginal art.

We learned many of MNY's work has not been seen in Vancouver before. There were many eye-catching pieces, and here are two pieces that stood out to us during our visit.

Manga + Aboriginal Art Merged together
Closeup of MNY's large scale contemporary art piece - RED: A Haida Manga
Photo: Yumi Ang

RED: A Haida Manga
MICHAEL NICOLL YAHGULANAAS RED: A Haida Manga, 2008 Watercolour, ink on paper Collection of Michael and Inna O'Brian
RED is the tragic story of a leader so blinded by revenge that he leads his community to the brink of war and destruction. Many years after his sister Jaada was abducted by pirates, Red (now a community leader) sets out to rescue her. This is a cautionary tale about the devastating effects of rage and retribution.

MNY's TEDx talk >

Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas - Craft (2012), Fibreglass, wood, copper, platinum
CRAFT - Do you see the rib-cage of a whale or something else?
Photo: Bruna Sousa

MICHAEL NICOLL YAHGULANAAS Craft, 2012 Fibreglass, wood, copper, platinum Collection of the Artist

This double-ended rowboat was recently built by Gwiis, Wilfred Bennett, a Tsiit Gitanee boat builder from Old Massett. This vessel is a historical throwback: these boats were originally built in the 1900s to be used as hand-powered salmon boats. The rowboat marks a transition and a break in the intimate relationship between fisher and the fish. Machine powered boats were soon introduced, leading us ultimately to today's tremendous industrial impact on the ocean ecosystem.

This work has ten oars or ten "digits," a reference to the notion of inclusivity, rather than a single set of oars, which might become the value of one - exclusivity - even hierarchy and elitism. 10 also because 1 + 0 is a lovely set of binaries.

While Meredith took us on a tour, we also learned about how copper is a material highly coveted in Aboriginal cultures, as the more pieces one has means the higher the social status one has.

The Seriousness of Play: Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas exhibit will run from April 20 - October 2, 2016. Public programs for this exhibition include: The Seriousness of Play Book Launch, Saturday, June 4, 2016 1:00pm, Intertextual Reading Group, Saturday, June 11, 2016 2:00pm and Manga Doodling in the Gallery with Cloudscape Comics, Saturday, August 20, 2016 1:00 - 4:00pm for ages 9 - 14.

Thanks again to Meredith of the Bill Reid Gallery for taking us on a very entertaining and comprehensive tour. And thank you to Paula Fairweather and Jill Kenney for coordinating this opportunity to view the exhibit with my design students.