Don’t let that parka fool you, summer has arrived at the Winnipeg Art Gallery and just like a good summer’s day it’s full of saturated colour and bright perspectives.
Currently, the gallery is featuring five exhibits that run the gamut from dreamlike Greek tales to fluid shapes in stone, from inspired work by local talent to heart-wrenching stories of colonial trauma. Wandering through these five unique exhibits reaffirmed the fact that the Winnipeg Art Gallery goes toe-to-toe with some of the best galleries in the world.
Chagall: Daphnis & Chloé — May 28 to September 11
Luckily for me, I had the pleasure to wander through the latest collections with a few of the WAG’s top curators. What a treat! As they guided me through the rooms, their passion and deep knowledge about the artists’ lives and subject matter came shining through and left me art-thrilled…and utterly engrossed. I could have listened to them for hours (that would have been seriously rude, though.) After the tour, the exhibits lured me back so I could spend a little more time with them alone. Art has a way of doing that to a person, at least for me, and I hope for you too.
Karel Funk — June 11 to October 2
I know plenty of people who say, “Why go to an art gallery when you can just flip through an art book or hang a print on the wall?” But the thing is, original art needs to be seen in its original form. Period. It truly, truly does. It needs to be placed in a space that will do it justice and show off its importance so it will hopefully give you pause and encourage you to consider it just a little bit more. Art galleries are where you can see the life and energy and story of a person through a few jagged brush strokes or via the smooth curve of honed stone.
Oviloo Tunnillie: A Woman’s Story in Stone — May 21 to September 11
I might be waxing poetic on this (obviously), but as I’m writing, I hear it’s Frida Kahlo’s birthday today (July 6), and her work is the perfect example of what I’m talking about. I came across Frida’s work in a gallery long ago and it left me mesmerized. Like jaw-on-the-floor stop-the-presses mesmerized. At the time I didn’t really know much about her, I’d seen a few of her pieces in my art books and thought “hmm, interesting brow game.” But standing in front of a haunting Frida Kahlo portrait as she stared right back at me left me gasping. It was like she was looking into my soul as I was looking into hers. You cannot see that in an art book. To this day, I remember her piercing stare and how it challenged me to try and look away from her. Powerful.
Esther Warkov: Paintings, 1960s-1980s — May 28 to October 16
And powerful is how I would describe many of the pieces I came upon within the WAG’s latest collections:
Seeing an entire Greek tale — a semi-erotic one – ooh-la-la — of 42 lithographs laid out in chronological order is a feast of colour for your senses. Daphnis & Chloé is considered Chagall’s most important graphic work. The gallery made a great choice painting the walls dark indigo, it does wonders to make these already joyfully saturated pieces pop even more and almost dance right off the wall.
The power of Karel Funk’s work is in how they depict intimacy and anonymity. His paintings exude a silent contemplation along with themes of social conformity and spiritual transcendence. Funk, a Winnipeg born and based painter, is quickly becoming one of the hottest artists around. You will find his pieces in places like the Guggenheim and the National Gallery.
Observing Oviloo Tunnillie’s modernist carved forms completely transcends the traditional boundaries of Inuit art. Tunnillie, one of the very few female carvers to achieve international success, depicts the human form, especially women, in a most delicate, loving and emotional way.
Go big or go home. That was my first thought seeing the multi-paneled canvases by Esther Warkov. Her pieces are a little psychedelic, a little idiosyncratic and absolutely gigantic. Warkov, another Winnipeg born and raised artist, creates motley scenes that integrate a recurring and morphing array of images—townsfolk, historical figures, insects, and engine parts—appropriated from the old photographs, postcards, medical textbooks, and department store catalogues she scavenged from local junk shops and second-hand stores.
The most contemplative collection at the WAG doesn’t come from one artist, but a collective of works weaved together as a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s summary and calls to action. The pieces within Qua’yuk tchi’gae’win: Making Good, cover three floors of the gallery, but the personal stories depicted reach much higher than that. The work has been curated carefully so as to reflect a profound understanding of colonial trauma and ongoing injustices as well as reveal enduring strength, resiliency and courage.
Qua’yuk tchi’gae’win: Making Good — June 11 to October 23
After a long afternoon standing in front of this collection of works by artists from near and far, past and present, I was left impressed to no end and a wee bit emotional. The pieces that currently reside within our city’s top gallery will envelop you and challenge you with their power and stark beauty.
Oh, and believe me, the photos included here don’t do justice to the works. Not even close. Viewing a piece of art in a gallery is, and should be, an experience. ❤️
Of all the amazing collections the Winnipeg Art Gallery has showcased over the years, which ones have been your favourites?