Artists were given plenty of space for creativity and expression when Cre8ery gallery executive director Jordan Miller asked members to use "Space" as a theme for a new exhibition.
She did offer a few words of advice.
"When she suggested 'space,' she said she didn't want to see any little green men in the images that people submitted," photographer Drew Perry says. "I did have some images of light on ice sculptures that did have an alien quality to them that was tempting, but I resisted that."
Perry instead offers Lake Series, two large prints that show the vastness of Lake Winnipeg during the spring ice breakup from his cottage at Victoria Beach for Space, a new exhibition at Cre8ery's website until Feb. 8.
Joining Perry are 16 other submissions from Cre8ery members, which include acrylic representations of Canada geese in an odd urban habitat, landscapes that catch a glimpse of the Prairies or forests, or a brain-shaped labyrinth that suggests the confusion all of us face at one time or another.
Art previewClick to Expand
● Cre8ery gallery
● Exhibition can be viewed at wfp.to/D9W, until Feb. 8.
● Works by Bill Rademaker, Brian Longfield, Christopher Chuckry, Connie Wawruck Hemmett, Drew Perry, Gary Potter, Heather Craig, Heather Gillespie, Jackie Turnbull, Jeffrey Gross, Jennifer Labella, Juanita Klassen, Judd Fagrie, Norma Jones, Pamela Desmet Franklin, Richard Webb and Robert Coulter
"When she first presented the idea of space for the exhibition, of course your mind goes to the final frontier, but that seemed too cliché," says Chris Chuckry, whose painting of a nest titled Space For You also acts as the poster for the exhibition. "The more I thought about it, there's space everywhere. There's physical space, and space in our lives."
Space has taken on a whole new meaning since COVID-19 insinuated itself in everyone's lives in 2020 and continues to do so this year. Our personal space expanded to a two-metre perimeter around each other to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
And the province's code-red restrictions, enacted by the province late in 2020 in an attempt to halt the coronavirus's second wave, have led to the closure of all art galleries and museum spaces in Winnipeg. The result is Space can be only be viewed on the internet for now.
There is hope the restrictions will be lifted at some point during the exhibition's run so visitors can view the paintings and photographs in person at Cre8ery's gallery at 125 Adelaide St.
Painter Brian Longfield, who has two works in Space, is one of many artists who use their own websites, apps such as Facebook and Instagram, or Etsy, the e-commerce site focused on arts and crafts, to display and sell their works.
Viewing art digitally was commonplace before the pandemic, but he maintains nothing beats seeing pieces in person.
"Both my paintings are two feet square, but on my laptop screen they're only four inches by four inches," he says. "There's a level of detail that's harder to get at, plus when something is larger it just impresses you differently.
"You don't get the same emotional impact seeing it on a screen (as) you would seeing it in person."
Longfield once owned the gallery Tumble Contemporary Art on Sargent Avenue — he says it's become a bubble-tea shop — but these days helps with home-schooling his two children.
In the Cre8ery show, his works exaggerate how humanity has encroached upon the habitat of Canada geese. Winnipeg motorists in the city's suburbs have to stop for the geese regularly in the spring and fall, but in Grazing Couple and Home Address, the waterfowl find new homes among power poles and light standards in the city's core.
"Creating the two layers creates a hypothetical space of geese and urban infrastructure working together, he says. "They've really had to find a space for themselves to live in our urban environment and that's fascinating to me."
Trees and forests dominate the two works Winnipeg landscape painter Heather Gillespie brings to Space, but it's the spaces within the trees that are often overlooked, she says.
"In art school you learn about negative space, and that's where your subject isn't," Gillespie says of her painting, Sunlight in the Forest. "The light coming through the trees, all the little holes in the leaves... that's the space where the light is coming through."
She retired as a nurses aide at the beginning of 2019 to return to painting, a love she pursued in school but put on hold to raise a family and work in hospitals. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused isolation and loneliness for many, Gillespie found it offered her an opportunity.
"Really, there's nowhere to go, so having to stay home and paint occupied, for me, all of these days staying home," she says.
Chuckry, an instructor at Red River College who has coloured comic books published by giants such as Marvel Comics and DC Comics for 30 years, was glad to find time to paint, a passion he struggles to find time for between publishing deadlines.
"Mixing colours, oil paints, painting on canvas involves a slightly different mindset. Painting on canvas, obviously, takes a little more time and a little more reflection, he says. "Colouring comic books is more commercial and deadline-oriented, so there's not as much time for reflection, I guess."
Perry, the photographer, has been taking pictures ever since his father, who was also a photographer, gave him an old Zeiss Ikon camera more than 50 years ago.
"My father, he was a darkroom guy, and sometimes I'd wake up early in the morning and I'd find his drying prints laid out between towels on the living-room floor," he says. "That's a childhood memory that probably influenced my interest."
Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.