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Artful : The Gallery opens the 2022 exhibition series with a curated collection of four exceptional Vancouver Island artists. Each presents their own vision of man, through sculpture and painting. Utilizing the rich context of history, archetypes, memories and lifespan, each piece speaks volumes on how men, at least these men, are reflecting on what it means to be a man.
The word paradigm originates from the Greek ‘para' - which translates to beside and ‘deiknynai’ which means to display or show. That’s exactly what’s happening at Artful; men displayed side by side, in conversation with themselves and with their viewers.
From Leonard Butt’s noble-intentioned men, unexpectedly caught in their underwear and still managing to maintain their dignity, to Jeff Hartbower's satirical carvings and assemblages, poking at the often rediculous underbelly of man’s cultural representations, expectations and failures.
From Gary Dillon’s boldly beautiful Our Gods trilogy, the figures hinting at the recovery of, perhaps the last-ditch survival of, the ‘Big Stories’ of man seeking the fugitive Holy through the apparition of Tonantzin (Our Lady of Guadalupe) to Bill Friesen’s raw depictions of man’s mortality, wizened and darkly haunting.
In general use now, a ‘paradigm' means to provide a pattern or a model that can be copied, a theory or group of ideas about how something should be made, done or thought. Currently, paradigms of man are being usefully questioned and challenged. This collection of work speaks to many paradigms of man, including the good man. Men who are willing to wade into the muck and murk of manhood, carrying both the shadow and the grace of their naked vulnerability.
There are many themes explored in this body of work: materialism, gender-based violence, religion, sexuality, mortality, heroism, nobility and humility. These paradigms of man stand for discussion. Come join the conversation!
Man Alive! runs at Artful : The Gallery through April 2.
Leonard has been involved in the visual arts in one form or another for most of his life. As a child, growing up in the context of a mobile military family, toys and companionship often involved creating and animating plasticine figures as well as following the lives and ongoing challenges of comic book heroes. The grounding in these early experiences continue to find their voice in his artwork.
After graduating from the Alberta College of Art and Design where he majored in sculpture, Leonard went on to study ceramics, photography, art education, counselling and art therapy at U.of C., U.B.C., and U.of Vic..For many years Leonard has participated annually in both the Sooke Fine Arts as well as the Sidney Fine Arts Shows where he has been the recipient of multiple awards for his sculptures as well as his paintings.
Although Leonard has been an art instructor for over 35 years he still sees himself as a student and continues to approach the creative process with curiosity and wonder. He is committed to the ongoing process of discovering new creative possibilities as well as the pursuit of meaningful imagery.
A career in counselling and teaching has only deepened Leonard’s appreciation of our common search for meaning and connection. His allegorical artwork is most often an attempt to give expression to those existential questions that invariably arise and explore some of those themes that bind us on this common journey.
Gary Dillon may possess Master's degrees in theology and counseling psychology but as an artist he is self-taught. There was a time when his practice of art was in dance performance; and much later he settled upon woodcarving and finally painting in oil and acrylic. His boyhood artistic hero was Paul Gauguin, who like himself later came into a special relationship with the Polynesian peoples of the Pacific.
As an artist Gary wishes to express the flourishing magical desert spirituality called flor y canto (“flower and song”) which he came into contact with on his uncle’s homestead in Colorado forty decades ago. For Gary, this magic is rooted in landscape and the subtle breezes of place, where strangers and intimates alike unwind the civilizational trance under the guidance of rough desert vegetation and the call of the coyote.
By placing human figures into special relationships with the natural order of body and cosmos--through occasionally slanted perspectives and intimations of natural grandeur—he imagines the expression of a spiritual longing that is touched by real grief on one side and a rooted confrontation with holy appearances and epiphanies on the other.
Though human beings appear in his paintings, the paintings do not aspire to tell only a human-centered story. Gary’s desire is that we may once again be--as we might have been, once upon a time---the species whose intelligent appearance in the natural world is ordered to love, marvel, and beauty-make in all of the ways that we carry ourselves and that we attend to the signs and remnants of the ancient pact between these three: the human, the dignities of non-human Great Nature, and the fugitive Holy in our world.
As a young boy Bill loved to draw and remembers telling his grandmother that when he was older that he wanted to be an artist. She told him about famous artists and some of the troubles they faced, pointing out that no matter which road one chooses there will be challenges. Bill's road through life has been filled with twists and turns. Bill has a long career as an artist, curator, juror, educator and co-ordinator of group and public sculpture projects. Co-founder of the People’s Gallery (now the Oceanside Gallery) in Parksville, BC, Bill has shown extensively, locally and internationally, since his graduation from the Manitoba School of Fine Arts in Winnipeg.
Pondering the meaning and purpose of his life on this planet, Bill has found that it is through the making of art that he finds understanding to these questions. Aside from making art, Bill participates and supports social issues that he finds meaningful in order to make a difference; each day bringing a new experience.
The passing days mean fewer tomorrows. For Bill, the pandemic has raised new questions, bringing home our vulnerability as humans and as individuals. As an elder, longevity is a concern, and Bill wonders how much longer he will be able to make art. In the past, Bill's future imagining was full of promising ideas and projects. Much of Bill’s current work relates to understanding the journey of life which we are all on, when one can no longer see what lies ahead. He especially appreciates the opportunity to participate in a gallery exhibition in these trying times of the pandemic.
Bill is primarily a sculptor, but currently finds his ideas are better expressed as paintings. He has surrounded himself with those he loves and cares for, which gives him comfort in this final stretch, and he hopes it is a long one.
After graduating with a B.A. from San Francisco State University Jeff moved north to the coast of BC. Jeff logged, fished commercially, built furniture and worked in boat yards for the greater part of the next 30 years.He skippered the BC Fisheries patrol vessel ‘Gull Rock’ on Quatsino Sound in the late 1970’s and worked for the city of Vancouver as a bylaw officer in the 1980’s.
Jeff and his wife, artist and weaver Jo Swallow, salvaged and rebuilt a classic sailboat which they lived aboard in the early 1990’s. They finally settled in Courtenay after stints in Sointula and Cumberland. Jeff’s life of boatyard work, furniture building, renovations and other jobs turned into sculpture when he retired.
Jeff works in a folk art tradition, using the skill and craftsmanship he developed as a boat builder and furniture maker. Primarily a wood carver, Jeff incorporates any materials that come to hand, creating humorous, satirical and occasionally disturbing assemblages on a variety of themes including politics, gender-violence and government bureaucratic bullshit. Outspoken, Jeff has enough skills, tools, imagination and outrage to attack the things which disturb him: computer culture, consumerism, TV, cars, mindless travel, etc.
Jeff believes the end times for western civilization have apparently arrived, and he finds it odd to be here in his own ‘last adventure’ while the whole works is disintegrating and coming tumbling down. Jeff is content to work away, producing new work, while in the throes of death, hoping that like his many beloved pets, he may go gently into the good night.
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For more information about the artists:
Gary Dillon: https://www.heartcoretouch.com/art/
Leonard Butt: https://www.leonardbutt.ca/
Jeff Hartbower: Page 20: https://www.marseart.com/existential-elders/existential-elders-book.pdf