Friday, July 6, 2012

Cranmer + Gray Exhibition

Heart Sutra Mask, Phil Gray
Courtesy of Coastal Peoples

There is a dramatic divide between Northwest Coast Native art from the north of the province and from the south of the province. While each culture in British Columbia creates work with distinctive styles and figures, the formline design and colours used by the Coast Salish, Kwakwaka'wakw, and Nuu-chah-nulth are easily identifiable and entirely unique. In certain forms and genres, creative objects from these southern groups have little, if nothing, in common with art from up north. Coastal Peoples' current Cranmer + Gray show features two young artists who epitomize their respective cultures when it comes to artistic output. Kevin Cranmer's Kwakwaka'wakw pieces can barely contain all of the bright colours and salmon-trouthead elements packed into them. They are busy, extremely detailed, and animated. Phil Gray's pieces, in contrast, are subdued in colour, unconventional, and stress the bold formline design that has become a trademark of Tsimshian artwork. While I prefer Northwest Coast Native art that fuses classic design with experimental elements, one cannot help but marvel at Kevin's inlays and precise execution. Phil is only 29, and Kevin is 45...both artists have hit their stride and are arguably creating the best work of their lives right now.

I have a mask, pendant, and bentwood box by Phil. I went to this show because I love his work and know him pretty well, but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed viewing his work in contrast to Kevin's. In terms of Aboriginal Art, the Northwest Coast of North America cannot be beat! This show is on until August 2nd. If you miss it, you can always see a broad selection of Phil's work at Lattimer Gallery

Warning: Coastal Peoples releases items as they sell, which is an unconventional and irritating approach. Due to this exhibition method, not all items included in the show and on the website are in the actual gallery!

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