Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's Actually Winnipeg

A promising new commercial gallery opens to a cross-section of notable local artists

  • Print
Wanda Koop, Interplay Safeway

Enlarge Image

Wanda Koop, Interplay Safeway

I'm pretty sure I gasped out loud when I walked into Actual Gallery for the first time last Thursday. Judging from the wide-eyed expressions of friends and colleagues already inside, I wasn't the only one caught off guard.

The quantity and calibre of the work (both impressive) came as no great shock. The roster had been announced weeks earlier, comprising 18 of Winnipeg's best-known and most well-regarded visual artists. Even the massive opening-night turnout, which gallery director Lisa Kehler estimates topped 400, was to be expected given the reputations involved.

Instead, it was the gallery itself -- which is enormous and beautiful -- and what it might mean for the city's evolving cultural landscape that had every other person I talked to that night stammering "I can't believe I'm in Winnipeg right now."

With some 3,000 square feet of renovated exhibition space at the corner of Ross Avenue and Princess Street, Actual became one of Winnipeg's largest venues dedicated to contemporary art the moment it opened its doors. With its understated design, even lighting and polished concrete floors, it looks like a major commercial gallery in a major city.

The artists, for their part, have all made names for themselves at the national or international level (or seem poised to), and many are already represented by galleries in places like Toronto and Montreal. Actual's prices reflect what they're already commanding elsewhere, a decisive show of confidence in local artists who've always had to leave town for a shot at commercial viability.

Still, nice digs wouldn't mean much without good work, and Actual Artists doesn't disappoint. Mid-sized paintings and works on paper predominate, but together the nearly 30 individual works and series reflect a remarkable diversity of styles and approaches.

In a trio of digital diptychs, painter Wanda Koop pairs her otherworldly prairie cityscapes with more down-to-earth imagery of wintertime parking lots and crumbling interiors. Emerging printmaker Jeanette Johns's meditative aerial photographs appeared in her solo show at Aceart earlier this year. Suzie Smith's eye-catching, self-reflexively cheeky prints (silkscreens of silkscreens being silkscreened, fittingly titled Silkscreen-Silkscreen) are pretty much irresistible, and Paul Robles continues to work magic with meticulously hand-cut paper. His distinctive, lacelike birds flit among charred lunar outcroppings in a series of textural collages.

The show includes especially strong works by painter Mélanie Rocan, a pair of characteristically woozy, sickly-sweet-hued landscapes strewn with gauzy lengths of tattered lace and burning drive-in movie screens. 2014 Sobey Award co-nominees Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber (nominated by fellow Actual artist Paul Butler, who concludes his run as the WAG's contemporary curator next month) both contribute paintings, as does 2014 RBC Painting Competition finalist Robert Taite.

Taite is scheduled to show his unclassifiable, painting-based constructions in Actual's smaller back gallery starting in September while an exhibition of Krisjanis Katkins-Gorsline's densely-layered abstractions occupy the main space. These will be the first of what Kehler hopes will be 10 to 12 solo shows annually -- a hugely exciting development in its own right.

Actual Artists presents a terrific opportunity to catch up or get acquainted with an extensive cross-section of the city's most innovative artists in a first-rate gallery the likes of which it's never really had before. This is actually Winnipeg, if you can believe it.

Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist, writer and educator.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 31, 2014 C15

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Key of Bart - Four Little Games

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Korea Veterans Association stained glass window at Deer Lodge Centre. Dedication with Minister of Veterans Affairs Dr. Rey Pagtakhan. March 12, 2003.
  • STDUP ‚Äì Beautiful West End  begins it's summer of bloom with boulevard s, front yards  and even back lane gardens ,  coming alive with flowers , daisies and poppies  dress up a backyard lane on Camden St near Wolseley Ave  KEN GIGLIOTTI  / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS  /  June 26 2012

View More Gallery Photos

About Steven Leyden Cochrane

Steven Leyden Cochrane is a Winnipeg-based artist, writer, and educator from Tampa, Fla.


Will you be checking out the new Olympus exhibit at the WAG?

View Results

Ads by Google