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Wylie: Okanagan Print Triennial opens Friday in Kelowna

Mitch Mitchell’s exhibit print Well of Giants. - Contributed
Mitch Mitchell’s exhibit print Well of Giants.
— image credit: Contributed

Fans of printmaking in the Okanagan rejoice! Seventy-eight original prints created by 20 artists living in various places in Canada are going to be installed at the Kelowna Art Gallery for your erudition and viewing pleasure starting tomorrow evening.

The second incarnation of the Okanagan Print Triennial (OPT) is poised to open, and promises to be a rich and varied experience for gallery goers.

The aim of this collaborative project is to bring original works in contemporary printmaking to the Okanagan region.

The first triennial exhibition was held at the Vernon Public Art Gallery in 2009. The winner of that show will be having a solo exhibition at the VPAG this spring. The winner of the OPT at the Kelowna Art Gallery this year—Halifax-based artist Mitch Mitchell—will be given a solo exhibition at the KAG in 2015, when the OPT reverts to the VPAG once again.

Sound confusing? Forget about all that information then, just come to the Kelowna Art Gallery this spring to look at some amazing work in printmaking.

All sorts of methods of printmaking are represented, created by a wide variety of artists. Some artists work abstractly, some with a high degree of realism. Some explore personal, enigmatic subjects, others employ their work as a means of social engagement. Some artists have only just finished their studio degrees, and others are senior Canadian artists with international reputations.

Two of the artists included, Saskia Jetten and Elizabeth D’Agostino, extend their work in printmaking into three dimensions—Jetten with fibre sacs that hold printed stuffed fabric heads in place and D’Agostino with varied subtle installations comprised of both flat and relief elements.

D’Agostino, who lives and works in Toronto, has poetically titled her three pieces Escape from the Land of the Wandering.

Senior Calgary-based artist Derek Besant is represented in the show by six of his recent Fallen series, which have a blend of images including what seem to be human figures falling from buildings.

Another artist exploring the inclusion of the human body to good expressive effect is the senior Edmonton-based artist, Liz Ingram. Ingram combines digital imagery of people coupled with drypoint work on her plates. She uses dramatic blood red along with black in her three works from last year, all titled Invasion.

Valerie Guimond is another artist who depicts the human figure in her work. For the OPT 2012 she has produced a work in black and white of an emaciated gas-mask-wearing female figure that is over 10 feet tall.

Dana Tosic, who works in Toronto, has created screenprints of fragments of the human figure produced with high-tech body-scanning equipment at the University of Calgary.

In other veins, Halifax-based Ericka Walker makes colourful lithographs that ape the style of depression-era posters, exhorting us to focus on social issues.

Eveline Kolijin, who works in Calgary, has environmental concerns at the base of her colourful works.

Two artists from British Columbia, Rodney Konopaki and Rhonda Neufeld, have worked collaboratively on etching plates to produce their co-authored renderings of walks taken together while in Newfoundland two years ago. The evidence of their two hands/minds is clear, as are the sensations of duration and the spanning of a geographic distance in their prints.

Halifax-based artist Mitch Mitchell, the winner of this year’s OPT, includes eight of his black-and-white prints that have strange atmospheric effects and enigmatic titles.

A viewer is hard-pressed to determine the scale of his pieces: Are the smaller elements tiny in size, or are we looking at them from a great height and remove and they are actually massive in scale? The richness of tone and effect of these works must be seen in the real to be appreciated.

The Kelowna Art Gallery has produced a full-colour catalogue to accompany the show, in which each work is reproduced. The gallery commissioned a critical essay on the works by emerging Victoria-based artist and writer Tegan Forbes, which is also included in the catalogue.

The Okanagan Print Triennial 2012 opens on Friday evening, March 30 and all are welcome to attend. It continues at the Kelowna Art Gallery until June 17.

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