Salmon Arm Art Gallery curator Tracy Kutschker provides feedback to artist Marg Robertson on her contribution to the In Dialogue with the Collection exhibition, which were influenced by the works of Bern Smith whose career included painting more than 900 Harlequin Romance covers. The exhibition runs until Jan. 23. (Lachlan Labere/Salmon Arm Observer)

Shuswap artists dialogue with paintings from community collection

Art gallery exhibition features 12 artists who give new perspective on work of deceased artists

What does an item of art represent? What thoughts or emotions does it raise? Can it be represented with a new perspective.

These are just some of the questions a number of today’s artists have attempted to answer in the Salmon Arm Art Gallery‘s current exhibition, In Dialogue with the Collection: an exhibition that pairs local contemporary artists with works from the permanent collection.

“And how does artwork from the past get reflected in today’s society? What can we learn about today’s issues by looking at art work from the past,” adds gallery curator Tracey Kutschker. “We can learn a lot; there have been great changes even in the last 40 years. How we view our landscape is different, how we view social issues is different.”

Kutschker says even the way we view the sky has changed – how the recent climate catastrophes have changed the way artists perceive the sky and the landscape.

How to portray some of these changes in a gallery exhibition came to Kutschker in 2017 when she visited the Canadian Museums Association in Ottawa in March 2017.

Related:Salmon Arm Art Gallery hosts climate-focused exhibit

“I was very excited to learn that museums were being told to activate their collections by partnering with, or learning from, contemporary art galleries,” she says. “From my perspective I can do both; we are both a museum and a contemporary gallery. I decided it could be an awesome opportunity to show some of the works from our permanent collection over the year.”

Kutschker discussed the possibilities with then-gallery assistant Diana Pratt-Johnson about how artists have worked “in dialogue” with deceased artists’ works.

That led to choosing 13 works from the Shuswap District Arts Council Community Art Collection and marrying the work of now-deceased artists with working contemporary artists.

“For this exhibition, we asked contemporary Shuswap artists to re-ignite the story through dialogue,” she says. “When a working artist views works from the past, their response is influenced by their own artistic experiences. The new work is a lens through which the viewer might see an entirely different picture.”

Pairing the work with current artists was accomplished by issuing a call for interest.

Related:Salmon Arm Art Gallery displays Herald Nix’s ‘Scenery’ exhibit

In some cases Kutschker asked artists if they would be interested in a particular artwork, while other artists approached her and expressed a connection to the selected artwork.

Twelve artists plus one 20-member artist collective were paired with individual works from the arts council’s community art collection.

Artists involved in this curated exhibition took their partially completed work to the gallery for discussion on how effective the dialogue was and could it be improved to provide an even better experience for the visitor.

“At that stage, where there’s still room for work. It’s about the process by which quite a number of people have a say on how it evolves,” she says pointing out that she, Kate Fagervik, an installation artist and new new manager of visitor experience at the gallery, along with four or five artists in a small group would have a discussion, after which Fagervik and Kutschker provided direction. “We were speaking on behalf of the collection, working to say how is this dialogue playing out?”

The exhibition runs until Thursday, Feb. 23, the day on which both Coffee Break and the Artist’s Talk take place. Gallery hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and Family Saturdays take place from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.


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