New exhibitions showcase abstract works of female artists from the Prairies

Campbell River Art Gallery curator Julia Prudhomme spent a lot of time talking to Prairie-based artists Amalie Atkins and Kiarra Albina to prepare for their exhibitions at the gallery, which opened last week.

Prudhomme had admired both women’s work before but learned a lot more about them as they worked together over many months to come up with the best way to display their works. The result is two solo exhibitions that are very different but also complement each other well.

Prudhomme describes them as visual storytelling and both artists bring elements of the abstract to their work, inviting the viewer to interpret the work.

Atkins is a multidisciplinary artist who lives and works in Saskatoon. The Braid Harvesters, which is being shown in the main gallery, is one fragment of a larger video installation called We live on the edge of disaster and image we are in a musical.

The exhibition features an immersive fort in which the viewer is invited to enter to view a film.

Prudhomme is happy to be able to bring Atkins’ work to Campbell River.

“I’ve always been attracted to her work; my background’s in video installation as well,” she said. “It has just such an immediate aesthetic quality to it that is really dreamlike and beautiful, but I’m also really fascinated by female artists who are making sort of abstract feminist pieces.

“She only uses female characters and it’s very much rooted in this sort of DIY process where she makes all the costumes and all the props and she puts together the forts.

“She was a lovely person to work with too. It’s nice to be able to be inspired by someone and be excited to present it to the community, that’s also really exciting.”

With this exhibition, Prudhomme also wanted to bring a video installation into the community.

“We do have drawings in the other room, but I thought this was a nice way to show a video because it’s so insular; it’s really soft and intimate and you need to go in and spend time with this film,” she said. “It’s very meditative too … She shoots all of her film on 16mm; that’s why it looks kind of grainy. She does some of them where there are actual 16mm projectors installed but this was transferred onto digital and we’re using the projector for that.

“That also gives it a nostalgic quality; it’s kind of grainy and strange.”

Along with the video, the exhibition also features two photographs, moments taken from the film.

For her exhibition, Amulet, Albina, who lives in Calgary, created all new works on paper. Her work is being shown in the discovery gallery.

“She’s quite a renowned animator so there’s sort of an illustration quality to her drawing,” said Prudhomme. “She was great to work with. She’s quite an up-and-coming artist in her own right and she just had a child so she’s consumed about that. We’d often be talking and she’d be like ‘I only have time to make these at night now’ so this is where the work came from, working at night. Her work is often very magical and really plays with that darkness and sweetness, which you can kind of get.”

Prudhomme believes that Amulet is Albina’s most figurative work. Although her drawings can be abstract, there are also a lot of portraits in this exhibition.

Prudhomme says the artist was really interested in the title “amulet” because an amulet is an object that one person gives to another person and these drawings represent the intimate moments when you are spending time with friends or family.

“I was interested in her work mostly because of her method of working, I think that’s what I’m mostly drawn to, how these people are creating their artistic practice,” she said. “Both her and Amalie, they work a lot but they also sort of balance their home life and their working life and I think from that, they really do pull a lot from their personal lives and it comes through in the way that the work is made. Kiarra, her drawings are just so impeccably beautiful, but they’re also so sad, and the magical totally comes through for me.”

The Braid Harvesters and Amulet exhibitions opened April 28 and run until June 2. These exhibitions at the Campbell River Art Gallery were featured last week in Canadian Art Magazine as “Must-Sees For This Week.”

The Campbell River Art Gallery will present a mid-exhibition reception and curator talk May 19 at 6:30 p.m.

This month, the art gallery is also offering three new classes directly inspired by the exhibitions.

They include a writing workshop with Annette Yourk, an introduction to drawing class with Catherine Martha Holmes and a needle felting course with Pam Dobbs.

The classes are all open to beginners and to non-members.

For information, visit crartgallery.ca.