When Quadra Island artists John Schevers and Gordon James headed off to Malaysia in 2016 as part of an international gathering of artists, they didn’t think they’d end up hosting a talented painter from Indonesia at their homes on Quadra a few years later.
But that’s what’s about to happen.
Painter and printmaker Ipong Purnama Sidhi will be getting off a plane any day now to begin a month-long residency over on Quadra, hosted by the two artists and supported by the Campbell River Arts Council.
“There’s been a vision to start an artist exchange or residency here in Campbell River for quite some time,” says Ken Blackburn, executive director of the Campbell River Arts Council. “And this is a way to kind of test the waters of something like that and at least get started. You have to start somewhere, and this could be that.”
Although the arts council is supporting the initiative, it was really the brainchild of Schevers and James.
Schevers began getting into artist exchanges years ago while he was studying in Thailand and says that they’re “definitely a big thing in Asia, but not so much over here. In Asia they get big funding.”
When he was invited to the one in Malaysia and was asked to bring along a fellow artist, he immediately thought of James.
“It was completely funded,” Schevers says. “They paid for our trip, they paid for our accommodation, they put on a bunch of cultural events, and our studios were in all these outdoor temples on this secluded island with no cars. It was really something else.”
Over 100 artists from 18 countries attended that festival, and it made the pair want to host something back home. But for now, Schevers and James are content to just start with one artist from one country, just to get the idea rolling.
“That’s where we met Ipong,” Schevers says. “We got to know all the artists, but we really hit it off with him, and we started talking about how it would be really nice to start something here, just as a pilot program. It would have to start small, obviously, so that’s what we’re doing.”
It’s helpful that Sidhi is a printmaker and painter, and that James and Schevers just happen to have facilities available for that kind of work.
“We’re not quite sure what the schedule looks like, yet,” James says, “but I guess you could say we’re sharing him.”
There is an opening reception for Sidhi being held at the Museum at Campbell River beginning at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, where members of the public will get a chance to meet him and see some of his work and listen to him speak about his journey through the arts, which began with a 32-year career in commercial graphic design for the largest magazine and newspaper conglomerate in Indonesia before his life became about creating fine art inspired by the likes of Jackson Pollack, Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning.
And, of course, he will also be featured during the Quadra Island Studio Tour the weekend of June 1, where he will be doing printmaking at James’ studio on Saturday and painting at Schevers’ place on Sunday. They will also be hosting groups of kids from Quadra Elementary at different times over the course of the month.
But in terms of the goals – or measurable outcomes – for the residency, Schevers and James say they’re not putting expectations on it.
“It’s really just a chance to have some cultural exchange,” James says. “It’ll be so interesting to watch him work and interact with him while he works.”
“It’ll be a real eye-opener for people,” agrees Schevers. “To see that there are artists out there who are successful doing things in different ways with many different talents from totally different cultures and be able to learn from them is just a great opportunity. That’s what this is: A great opportunity.”
The public is welcome to participate in the opportunity, as well. Schevers and James will have open studio days for the public to stop by and meet them and Sidhi. On Wednesdays May 22 and May 29 he will be painting at Schevers’ studio (737 West Road) and on June 5 and 12 he will be printmaking at James’ studio (120 Joyce Rd). Open Studio hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.
Or you can make an appointment by phone to just pop in. Reach James at 250-285-3101 or Schevers at 250-203-4898.