Dynamic Art comes to SJIMA this spring
Reprinted from the Journal of the San Juan Islands, by Heather Spaulding, February 24th.
As spring approaches, the San Juan Islands Museum of Art is preparing to premiere three dynamic exhibits. One focuses on culture, diversity and the symbology of water, the other two pay homage to the numbers of missing native women.
The exhibits “Missing” and “Highway of Tears,” featuring Vancouver, British Columbia, artist Deon Venter, opens March 6 in the Nichols Hall and runs through May 25. “The Pulse of Water,” featuring Seattle artist June Sekiguchi, opens March 26 in the atrium and runs through May 25. Both artists are internationally known, with exhibits shown across Africa, Asia and Europe.
“Missing” and “Highway of Tears”
“In my family, it was said I was drawing before walking, so I probably had a natural affinity for expressing myself visually rather than verbally,” Venter said.
Venter’s expression has recently focused on the missing and murdered native women around the Vancouver area.
“Missing” features large, 9-by-15-foot oil paintings. Each piece represents one of the estimated 120 women who have been murdered or have disappeared within a two-block radius of Vancouver’s downtown eastside. The women have primarily been involved in the sex trade, according to Venter, and a disproportionate number of them Aboriginal.
Some of the portraits are shaped in pyramids, which Venter explained was inspired after deconstructing the image of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” in a quest to see what made it such a successful composition. Artists built pyramidal compositions, Venter noted, to evoke a powerful response in the viewer.
“Pyramidal paintings, in a way, eliminate the compositional need because the canvas itself is the pyramid,” Venter said. It allows him to present the painting in the chronological order that the women went missing, he explained.
“As tragic as the deaths of these women are, united in their circumstances, their legacy is a powerful and collective voice and this is the intended empowerment I bring to the paintings in the ‘Missing Series,’” Venter wrote in a press release about the exhibit.
“The women from the Vancouver downtown eastside were all in the sex trade. As one [woman] pointed out, nobody starts out wanting to make the sex trade her profession,” he told the Journal. “It is circumstances and exploitation which drives them into this vulnerable position. It can happen to anyone. The experiences of these women are incomprehensible and inhuman.”
Through the compositional paintings, Venter continued, he attempts to give these women a voice reaching the scale of their tragedy.
“It is an indictment to all of us — it happened under our watch with very little public outcry,” said Venter about the ongoing disappearances of First Nations women in Canada. “Although we are no Willie Pickton, as Canadians we find ourselves in the court of public opinion for our inaction.”
Pickton is a Canadian serial killer who was convicted in 2007 of the second-degree murders of six women.
“I’ve learned that despite their circumstances, how resourceful and creative these women were,” Venter said. “Camaraderie and excitement were a part of their lives.”
The “Highway of Tears” highlights the short stretch of Highway 16 between Prince Rupert and Prince George, British Columbia, where 18 girls, almost all Aboriginal, have been murdered since 1969.
“The women who vanished from Highway 16 were all teenagers hitchhiking to neighboring towns when they were preyed on,” Venter said.
The installation is comprised of individual portraits intermingled with flower paintings. Venter said he was inspired by two poems of the Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet Mary Oliver, entitled “Goldenrod” and “Peonies.”
“Whenever I travel Highway 16 I am amazed by the sight of the goldenrod [flower]. … Mary Oliver so beautifully describes the delicacy and vulnerability, but also the possibilities. As we pluck these flowers, so were these young women whose lives wereended prematurely,” Venter said, adding that he hopes people stop and think what if it was their daughter, mother, sister or wife.
When asked what individuals could do to solve the issue, Venter replied, “Firstly, men are the perpetrators and they have to look in the mirror. Secondly, the sex trade should be legalized to offer some protection for these women. Thirdly, free bus services in rural areas to prevent young women from hitchhiking.”
Venter added that society as a whole needs to encourage respect for women and minorities from a young age and curb the objectification of women.
“A historical synopsis of these two tragic events is inadequate, but, in the views of many, they speak to the systemic violence against women worldwide,” Venter said.
The Venter's explore new directions
Established artists Deon and Kathy Venter each have a signature method and sale associated with their names, but both members of the talented couple have something new on offer this season.
The Small Gems show at Venter Gallery upholds an island tradition of offering works that could potentially become Christmas gifts. For the Venter's, though, going small has opened up a while new works of possibility.
Kathy initially started out wanting to work with the realities of their Grace Point Square space, which has trouble holding her human-sized or larger figurative sculptures. Gone for now are the unapologetic depictions of real women's bodies. The new series is still based mainly on the female body but the forms are gestural, dynamic and evocative. (illustrated: 'Secret Lands', glazed terracotta)
At first, Kathy was concerned about how she would imbue the same sense of presence into smaller figures - at this point she has been working at the human-scale for 25 years.
"I decided I'm not going to try, I'm going to break away completely from that, and go more into a story, more of a language content in it." she said during a recent visit to the gallery.
"The pace that I worked at back then was still in my hands,' she continued. "Once I'd forced my eye down to the little scale, this making of maquettes as a younger woman clicked in, and the rhythm of that work the I did at the stage was in my hands, and my hands were flying."
The pieces further take in an artist's memories and feelings about the models for older drawings that she went back to for inspiration, in details such as posture or attitude. Glazing, also new to Kathy's oeuvre, came about through a partnership with Deon. He taught ceramic science, including the composition of glazes, at university in South Africa and was able to pull out this skills to create the exact shades Kathy wanted to use: a matte green like oxidized copper that evokes patina on bronze sculpture, a dusky red and a cool medium blue that allows the terra cotta clay to show through the edges.
"There's a lot of exciting things [about this series], and it just shows me the road ahead that I wasn't expecting. Circumstances have sort of moved me up that shore, but it's a delight. I'm really happy about it." Kathy said.
Deon also presents a new direction at the gallery this month, with his Blomskryf oil wash on paper series. Blomskryf is an Afrikaans word meaning 'flower writing', and the subject material combines women's faces with single flower heads. The title is taken from a poem by the famous South African poet Breyten Breytenbach.
As Deon is known for his room-sized paintings in heavily textured oils depicting serious topics such as missing and murdered women, this is a significant departure. They are smaller, more intimate works than he usually does when the context and content demand the large scale. Using the oil wash in a way that's similar to water-colour meanwhile allows for a free, loose hand and a suggestion of delicacy in the pastel shades and slightly elusive imagery.
In contrast, the women who inspired the series are paragons of strength from the ancient world. They include mythical figures such as goddesses of wisdom, Minerva and Athena, and also the poet Sappho. Other influences include the poetry of Mary Oliver and Botticelli's beloved painting 'Primavera'.
"In a time where we have 70-year-old men running roughshod over the environment and women's issues and minorities, I feel it's good to go back top maybe a female power," Deon explained.
The works also strive to integrate the human with nature, which is why in some cases there is no separation between the flower and the person depicted in each. Deon often creates a more dynamic framing than the standard portrait. In some cases the scene appears to be displayed on it's side rather than upright, which serves to encourage the viewers interrogation of the material rather than bland acceptance.
The Venter Gallery will host an exhibition and sale of 'Small Gems' with a reception
on Friday, November 22nd with the artists. Deon and Kathy will be showing new work
in a scale and price perfect for Christmas giving. Stay tuned for more info!
The Venter Gallery team had a fantastic day at their show at Government House, a fund raiser for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. This was the first time Government House has been included. Over 1200 art lovers visited to say hi and have a look at the Venters' work. Kathy exhibited her Coup d'Oeil series of six sculptures in the foyer while in the ballroom, Deon was represented with five large scale works from the Missing, Last Supper and The Order of Things series - exhibited in Victoria for the first time. A big shout out to our friends and clients who came by to say hi and offer their support. When the closing bell rang we were invited to gather in the Lieutenant Governor's lounge for a welcome glass of wine and relax before the task of packing up the work for the return trip home. We had a special treat of being shown the magnificent painted desk in the Lieutenant Governor's office, designed as a large 'bent box' made by Arthur Vickers, and shown to us by the artist himself! We are grateful for having been invited and wish to thank all the organizers and volunteers who made it happen. Thank you!
We've put together a little album of pics, click here to view them on our facebook page.
In The Gallery
'Missing #3', 2008
oil on linen, 80 x 136"
Click here to view more works by Deon now in the gallery
bronze, 32 x 25 x 32"
edition of 3
Click here to view more work by Kathy in the gallery
Stay in touch!
Use our social media and email buttons below to stay informed and in touch.
If you would like to receive our newsletter by email, visit the website
at www.ventergallery.com and use our email form to register.
The Venter Gallery team had a fantastic day at Government House for the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria's annual House Tour. It was the first time Government House had been included on the tour, and over one thousand enthusiastic art lovers visited to say hi and have a look at the Venters' work. Kathy exhibited her Coup d'Oeil series of six sculptures in the foyer while in the ballroom, Deon was represented with five large scale works from the Missing, Last Supper and The Order of Things series - exhibited in Victoria for the first time. A big shout out to our friends and clients who came by to say hi and offer their support. When the closing bell rang we were invited to gather in the Lieutenant Governor's lounge for a welcome glass of wine and relax before the task of packing up the work for the return trip home. We had a special treat of being shown the magnificent painted desk in the Lieutenant Governor's office, designed as a large 'bent box' made by Arthur Vickers, and shown to us by the artist himself! We are grateful for having been invited and wish to thank all the organizers and volunteers who made it happen. Thank you!
As we announced in last month's newsletter, the Venter's will be featured in the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria House Tour 2019 at Government House in Victoria. Kathy will be showing her life size polychrome ceramic figures from the Coup d'Oeil series in the foyer and Deon will be represented in the ballroom by several large scale paintings from his Missing and Highway of Tears series - shown for the first time in Victoria. Tickets can be purchased through the AGGV website.
The Times Colonist paper has published an article about the tour,
click here to have a look.
In The Gallery
We are installing a new exhibition in the gallery on Monday, September 23rd. Work from Deon's critically acclaimed Missing and Highway of Tears series will be shown along with a selection of Kathy's polychrome ceramic sculptures. Don't forget the gallery is open until 7pm every Friday evening. Stop in and enjoy a glass of wine with Deon and Kathy!
Illustrated is 'Missing #9 - Pyramid #2', 2008, oil/linen, 108x170"
Introducing our Venter Gallery payment plans. Do you love that painting or sculpture but don't want to drain your account or max out your credit card? Let our personalized interest free payment plans help you purchase the art you love with payments you can afford.
Click here to learn more or contact the gallery today.
Stay in Touch!
Use our social media and email buttons below to stay informed and in touch.
If you would like to receive our newsletter by email, visit the website
at www.ventergallery.com and use our email form to register.
The Venter's have three exhibitions opening next month. Deon is having a solo exhibition at the Mayberry Gallery in Toronto at their premises across from the Art Gallery of Ontario at 324 Dundas Street West. If you are in Toronto, be sure to stop in, the exhibition runs from September 7th - 28th.
There will be an exhibition at the Venter Gallery featuring selections from Deon's Missing and Highway of Tears series. The monumental 'Pyramid #9 - Missing #3' will be on exhibit along with work from 'Peonies & Goldenrods' and an exciting new photo-based multi-media work. Kathy will be showing a diverse group of work in clay and bronze. A reception date will be announced soon.
On Sunday, September 22nd for one day only from 11am-4pm, Kathy and Deon have been invited to show in the ballroom and foyer at Government House in Victoria as part of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria's House Tour, organized by the AGGV Gallery Associates. This is the first time Deon's large scale works will be exhibited in Victoria and will also feature all six of Kathy's life-size Coup d'Oeil series. Five fine homes will be open with exhibiting artists and tickets are $35, available online at aggv.ca/house-tour or contact the AGGV at 250.384.4171 for more information. All proceeds go to support AGGV programs, acquisitions and conservation.
We hope to see everyone!
Just back from exhibit at Everard Read Gallery in Chelsea, London, UK, this 5x life-size head portrait titled 'Domus' from the 2015 Mythos/Logos series is a particular favourite of Deon's. The artist
says that "The head is the seat of imagination and of creativity", and this portrait is a powerful
fusion of gutsy expressionism with sensitive portrayal of the model.
Just back from exhibit at the William Travers Gallery in Seattle, 'Rising' from 2017 is part of
Kathy's Immersion series. The series is typified by work that appears to "...float weightlessly
in stasis, their faces holding serene, inward gazes that suggest comfort and safety..."
Visit the gallery soon to have a look!
Use our social media and email buttons below to stay informed and in touch.
If you would like to receive our newsletter by mail, visit the website at www.ventergallery.com and use our email form to register.
Deon Venter - Avatar Series - Opening this Friday!
The Venter Gallery will be exhibiting new and selected paintings from Deon's Avatar series. Opening this Friday, July 26th with a reception with the artist from 5 - 7pm. Despite their smaller scale, these paintings evoke the grandeur of the trees themselves. Preview picture below.
'Avatar', 36x24" 'Tower', 24x20" 'Altar', 36x24"
Avatar references the Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew, British Columbia, a place Deon Venter often visits for inspiration. Says Venter: “In the rain forest, thousand-year-old trees carve their way through blinding glimpses of the setting or rising sun. There, I can make small sketches to capture the experience of the forest before it’s interpreted and deconstructed in large paintings in my studio. As abstractions of reality, these paintings are allegorical, and each composition is an attempt to capture a spiritual and emotional experience – one that is aligned with the rational search for those timeless truths inherent in the mystical.”
Director's Pick - 'Apple Tree', 20 x 24" - This gem just came in, let's talk...
Nuria and Margie say...
"Stop in the Venter Gallery on Friday evenings, they're open until 7pm"!
For all the latest, click on our social media and website buttons below!
The Venter Gallery is participating in the first Salt Spring Photofest. Deon will be showing 19
archival silvertone on aluminum prints. Click here to visit the gallery of photos on the website.
Be sure to join us on Friday 14th for the opening.
Deon Venter is now represented in Toronto and Winnipeg by Mayberry Fine Art. A selection
of 12 new works are now on exhibit in Toronto at 324 Dundas Street West, across from the
Art Gallery of Ontario. A solo exhibition is planned for September at the Toronto location.
New work from Kathy Venter in bronze and polychrome ceramic.
Be sure to visit Kathy's beautiful new website.
Click here or the image below to have a look.
The Venter Gallery is now on summer hours, open 10-5 daily.
Use our social media, website and contact buttons below or contact
Anthony Matthews, gallery director, today.
To celebrate the season, the Venter Gallery is having an unprecedented Client Appreciation sale with 20% off everything in the Gallery and Studios from Friday, December 21st thru Sunday, January 6th. This is your opportunity to indulge yourself with that piece you've always wanted. Stop by the gallery today!
The Venters wish to acknowledge and thank the following people, connected to Salt Spring Island:
Our children Katsky, Oscar and Cami Venter and their partners
Gary Martinson, Michelle Venter and Michael Gruendel for their
understanding, patience, support and assistance.
Margaret and Martyn Day for making our first visit to New York possible.
Robin Relph for his loyal collecting and exposing our work to international markets,
including Haunch of Venison (London), Ben Brown Gallery (London) and Bonhams (London).
The Vortex members for the fun in establishing Vortex as a Co-op Gallery.
John and Roberta Stoker for helping to take Vortex to the next level.
James Kok and Claire Maisonneuve for helping to establish our studios.
Dr. Eva Seidner and Michael Kedar for enabling us to have our first exposure at the Toronto Art Fair.
John Lefebvre for his generous support and collecting of our art.
Judy Cushman and Bob Quick for their support and assistance with public gallery exhibitions.
Garry and Carol Leach for their tireless support and exposing our work to public galleries.
The art lovers and collectors of Salt Spring Island for their support of our work and
the Arts in general on Salt Spring.
Razali May for representing our work in Ganges over the last couple of years.
All the Salt Spring Island Galleries and Arts Administrators for
helping to build a clientele and presence for Salt Spring Island artists.
Anthony Matthews for joining us as Director
and getting the Venter Gallery off the ground.
New Exhibition – Venter gallery
November 3rd, 2018 – December 3rd, 2018
Join us for the Opening on Saturday November, 17th, from 4 – 6 PM.
The Venter Gallery is excited to announce an exhibition of selected work from Deon Venter's series Last Supper / The Order of Things and Kathy Venter's series Metanarrative / Life. Don't miss viewing some of the internationally acclaimed work of the Venter's exhibited in New York, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, Zug, Toronto, Montreal Vancouver, Johannesburg and Cape Town. Please join us for a glass of wine with the Venters at the gallery in Grace Point Square, Saturday evening 17th November from 4 - 6 pm.
How do qualities like style, medium, form and content inform an art work? This is just one of the questions Kathy Venter’s works ask of the viewer. The relationship between a work of art and identity has been extensively explored, but not without its challenges. The characterisitics that define a person’s identity are extensive and stretch far beyond gender and sexuality. Using a hollow, hand-pinch method, Kathy’s life-size sculptures explore how representations of the female body are too often burdened by a grid of knowledge and interpretation which rarely escapes the clutches of hegemonic discourse, resulting in portrayals of the female subject as fetishes. As their names suggest, the life-size figures from her Coup D’Oeil series are frozen in contemplative glances that seem to draw attention away from the body. While their nakedness is there in all its unidealized beauty, the viewer is captivated by a female gaze, and compelled to ponder what has caught their attention. Conversely, a naked woman arched over, and in the process of drawing, stares down at her creation intently, evading the spectator’s gaze. By baring her artistic soul as well as her body, the figure reveals herself as a woman, but most importantly an artist. The figures in this show are painted in a polychrome glaze, inspired by Kathy’s experience with ceremonial body-painting by the Xhosa culture in South Africa where she grew up. The resulting sculptures seem to metaphorically shed their skin – or rather emerge from them – as they reveal themselves with a discursive power that transforms and reconfigures the contours of the fixed social hierarchies in which we live. Moreover, her works move beyond subject matter, and engage with aspects of artistic technique to examine how the ways in which an art object is crafted is also mediated by values and assumptions about the medium. Clay figures are as old as marble ones, but the fragility, and the added precision needed to mold and then fire pottery into the human form, makes it one of the lesser used media. By evoking the ancient use of clay in Greek Tanagra, and terracotta figures of the Etruscans in Italy, Kathy’s works transports the viewer through time.
Deon Venter’s works explore the human propensity to separate entities, particularly ones that stand in opposition to each other. Recognizing the conscious dissolution of line in the colour compositions of the Impressionists, and all those who paved the way for abstract works of art, the paintings of this series play with the effect of juxtaposing conceptually different approaches. In Scrubbed Out, the references to perspective in the walls and windows of the space are disrupted by the overlapping grid. What predominates as visual sign, in a work whose iconic meaning traditionally resides in the religious theme of Christ’s Last Supper, is a Mondrain-esque abstraction. The figures of the Last Supper are almost indiscernible, as is the perspectival space of the room, while the three-dimensionality of the work resides in a chair that seemingly floats before the matrix of lines. In paintings like Last Supper (Bone) and Last Supper (Noir), colour and texture are combined to create stand alone compositions that are atmospheric in nature. By superimposing a succession of grids on the paintings, Venter dismantles any fundamental code that precludes two opposing aesthetics. In the upper part of the canvases, an overlapping grid acts perspectivally to create a three-demensionality, drawing the eye deep into the space. However, it is an inversion of the iconic representation that would normally have the eye follow a vertical trajectory that begins at the bottom of the canvas. Instead perspective is used to draw the eye down into the upper recesses. The perspectival effect quickly vanishes, neutralized by the remaining matrix that predominates. In Deon’s Order of Things series, the pure experience of order is dismantled to allow for a different way of viewing the world. Playing with texture and colour, these works bring new and exciting meaning to the Readymade, by illustrating how something as commonplace as a barcode can have stunning aesthetic appeal when it is given a painterly quality.
by Michael Coughlin, Ph.D.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about how titles influence the way we look at paintings. I cannot help but feel that, in many instances, titles are the artist’s concession to the viewer’s need for meaning and not an expression of a particular intention. At least that is what many artists tell me. Others admit that the title is their own attempt to make sense of the process that led to the creation of that particular piece. A translation into words of what first appeared as an image, or a colour, or a tentative brush stroke on an empty canvas. Making sense of an intention they did not know they had. The need to make sense of the stirrings of our internal world is strong. Titles carry authority: they are an expression of an author’s mind, of their conscious intention, much as the artistic work is an expression of what lies outside conscious intentionality. Perhaps we can think of the title as a passage or a conduit between unconscious motivation and conscious intentionality; a portal into another world; a gateway to the imagination.
When I first saw Deon Venter’s painting, I immediately thought about the title's (“In the Avatar”) significance to the scene unfolding before my eyes. The painting is based on a real location, the Avatar Forest, near Port Renfrew, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, so I knew the title had a literal meaning. Perhaps here, I thought, in Freud's (apocryphal) words, "a cigar is just a cigar." But I knew about the origins of the word "avatar" in Hindu religion, as a manifestation of the divine in human form, a divinity embodied. The metaphoric connotations of the name are obvious. Yet, there are no human forms in this painting, no incarnated gods, only an agglomeration, a thick impasto of vertical and horizontal lines, semi-circles, oval shapes, squiggles and scratches densely layered over the surface of the canvas. Taken together, these shapes and their colours—a rich combination of browns, green and blues, sprinkled with red, pink and orange dabs—convey the sumptuousness (the thickness of the paint, the corrugated surfaces) and majesty of a forest, a living and growing forest in all its physical grandeur. There is no human grandeur here, no divinity incarnated, but the vastness of nature— Nature's spirit, embodied in the trees and given expression in the semi-circles and oval shapes punctuating the canvas: an arcane language of undecipherable symbols.
More important than the image represented (or abstracted is perhaps a better description ), for me, is the experience this painting makes available. Looking at this forest of rich colours and thick textures, I am transported into the experience of “being” in the forest—as a part of the forest’s "being" and as a "being" that is separate from it—a feeling that is both exhilarating and unsettling. To enter the avatar, then, in the way that Venter’s painting conceives of it, is to enter another body, to be re-embodied, which is also a way to have access to another, more intense way of being. What are bodies but material containers for our “being,” for the stirrings of our internal world? The forest as body, as avatar, another space where these stirrings, this awareness of being alive and fully present in the world, can be experienced in all their breathtaking and troubling intensity. Now that I am “in the avatar,” I sense the painting’s (the forest’s) heavy presence, its motionless materiality, but also its vitality and exuberance, what literary critic Gaston Bachelard calls the forest’s “intimate immensity” or the “immediate immensity of its depth,” which is also the feeling that there is “something else to be expressed besides what is offered for objective expression.” (The Poetics of Space, 186) This “something else” is the “sense of mystery” that, according to philosopher David E. Cooper, permeates our experience of being in the world, of becoming part of an emergent world we cannot comprehend, as it escapes “objective expression," but we still feel at home in.
So the emergence of a world —the presencing of anything for experience—cannot be explained or described. It is a mysterious upsurge, a coming to be, from a source that is itself mysterious. (David E. Cooper, Senses of Mystery: Engaging with Nature and the Meaning of Life, 50)
Venter’s “In the Avatar,” with its tangled mess of lines and squiggles, long and short brush strokes, thickly layered and scratched surfaces and arcane symbols captures the “mysterious upsurge,” the “coming to be” of the world that Cooper so beautifully describes in these lines. This is what an emergent world looks like and feels like. This is what "being" in the presence of the divine (the original meaning of "avatar") really means: to be enclosed, embodied, bathed in the source of things; to be gathered and then released into being, a being that is as physical and material as it is mysterious and ineffable.
In Cooper’s words (and Venter’s imagination) to be "In the Avatar,” is “To experience this gathering … [this] mystery of emergence, an epitome of that larger coming to presence that is the human world as a whole.” (Cooper, 65)
Sometimes, titles, like the paintings they name, really are portals to the imagination.
Reprinted with permission of the author. Click here to visit Nuria Belastegui's blog.