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Cliff Eyland
Winnipeg
June 02, 2010

Things may be getting worse in Iceland, what with a financial collapse not so long ago and the more recent airline-crushing volcano, but Winnipeg’s Icelandic cultural festival Nuna gets better and better every year. Although most of the festival fun has just ended, there are some things you can still see, including director Caelum Vatnsdal’s documentary We're the Weakerthans, We're From Winnipeg and Sara Riel’s downtown mural.



A still from Caelum Vatnsdal’s film We're the Weakerthans, We're From Winnipeg

The Weakerthans’ front man John K. Samson is Winnipeg’s unofficial poet laureate, and this film’s honesty about his band, a group both worshipped and yet somehow still struggling, is admirable.



Sara Riel’s Nuna mural being installed in downtown Winnipeg (photo: Leif Norman)

Sara Riel is an Icelandic artist who by coincidence shares a name with Louis Riel’s sister and reputed best friend. The living Riel was invited by the Nuna committee to create a mural in downtown Winnipeg near the corner of Main and Bannatyne. The work reads as a satire of the transmigration of souls.



Cathy Busby shows Urban Shaman staff an early outdoor version of her upcoming indoor Winnipeg Art Gallery banner project

You may have heard about the truth and reconciliation commission that is investigating Canada’s Aboriginal residential schools tragedy. Hearings will be conducted in Winnipeg by Justice Murray Sinclair from June 16 to 19. Halifax artist Cathy Busby is installing a large text work inside the Winnipeg Art Gallery that cites both the new commission and her previous work about the official public apology to Australian aboriginals. Look for the installation within the next couple of weeks.



A screenshot from Glen “Hugh Briss” Johnson’s website Persiflage

I have been meaning to mention Glen Johnson’s website Persiflage (a word that means, roughly, light-hearted, unserious talk) for some time now. Johnson is a rare thing in Winnipeg: a conceptual artist and satirist. He's the kind of artist that, aside from Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, Simon Hughes and very few others, Winnipeg does not produce, so artists like him (and, for example, Craig Love and Adam Brooks) tend to be ignored (although Johnson has been shown at the National Gallery and that counts for something). I look forward to his regular Thursday missives, which he has been posting since 2001.



William Eakin, Fading Dream

William Eakin has recently won a prestigious lifetime achievement award from the Manitoba Arts Council and nobody deserves it more. He’s got a new dealer now, Stephen Bulger in Toronto, where he will soon be debuting new work based on Polaroids he’s acquired on eBay.  



David Wityk

Speaking of photographers, a great new talent has emerged recently in the form of ex-Olympic class athlete and Two Six collective member David Wityk, who recently visited abandoned industrial sites in Europe including Poland’s Gdansk shipyards (the site of Lech Walenski’s famous fence jump for democracy) in order to produce his first solo show for the Golden City Gallery. Now an abandoned husk except for the famous Gate #2, one wonders if the whole Gdansk site shouldn’t be sacred.



Left: a mailer by J.J. Kegan McFadden. Right: an installation shot of one of his shelf-mounted photographs

J.J. Kegan McFadden is a prolific young curator, both as Platform’s programmer and as a freelancer, and like many other ambitious curators, he must have asked himself: why not make art? After all, it’s easy. His new show at 803 Gallery includes photographs that tell a generational story about his family. This beautifully installed and conceptually clean show consists of a set of shelf-mounted photographs and text light boxes. Eyeglasses, belts, and shirts from three generations of McFadden’s family are the subject.



Jeff Funnell

And lastly, veteran painter, conceptual artist, and curmudgeon Jeff Funnell is showing a lot of paintings and drawings at the Semai Gallery. I’m partial to his near monochromatic paintings, which in colour and paint handling remind me of Walter Sickert and England’s Euston Road School.


Cliff Eyland has recently designed and illustrated a large “wall book” by author Birna Bjarnadóttir, with a text by George Toles and photos by Guy Maddin and Haraldur Jonsson. The work is currently showing at the Nordic House in Reykjavik, Iceland.


Winnipeg Art Gallery: http://wag.ca/
Cathy Busby’s work will be installed by June 15.

Golden City Fine Art: http://goldencityfineart.blogspot.com
David Wityk: Post-Industrial Landscapes continues until June 7.

Gallery 803: http://www.gallery-803.com/
J.J. Kegan McFadden continues until June 30.

Semai Gallery: http://takashiiwasaki.info/semaigallery/
Jeff Funnell:  Recent Work continues until June 26.

 

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