It just so happened I was in the area, otherwise I don’t think I ever would have found this interesting little gallery tucked in behind the Richmond Centre Mall. The building houses more than just the gallery and has a unique design. You walk into the Richmond Cultural Centre, and down a long hallway. There you find yourself in the centre of the lobby, where the options circle around you: the library, the museum and the Richmond Art Gallery. As you walk through the unassuming front doors of the Gallery, it’s surprising to see the space suddenly open up into a large light-filled room, just past the modern and clean entrance room displaying the current show and artists on the dividing wall. There at the front desk is a helpful gentleman whose first language I’m guessing to be Mandarin, but he answers my questions with an easy and friendly manner. The show, curated by Nan Capogna includes the artists jasna guy and Cameron Cartiere – and the chART Collective – along with interesting information and displays about bees.
The first exhibition room is large and you step down from the entryway into the space, which increases the height from floor to ceiling significantly. It’s a good thing, because the art spans the entire height of the wall. At first it is pure whimsy. The wall has been covered in white and tan colours. It appears spotted and lacy, and condenses in the middle at the 45 degree corner, tapering off as it reaches the edges on either side. It’s only as I get closer that I see what it is. These are thousands of little paper bees flooding the room, intermingled with tan coloured paper, representing, I assume, the honeycomb. Cameron Cartiere and the chART Collective has created thousands of bees out of handmade waste paper and laser cut each one. The effect is stunning.
The second room is similarly stunning but artist jasna guy seems to invite a deeper analysis with her work, and she certainly includes more references. The biggest display towers up to fill the space, which has a higher ceiling than the last. It is composed of 12×12 squares of paper, printed with thousands of images, that when you step back create a beautiful pattern and shape that is almost architectural. You could spend hours inspecting the minute details and symbolism in the piece and it becomes almost meditative. The other piece in the room is the hive. It’s smaller than the other one but has been set perfectly against the windows, giving the effect of it being in nature, rather than a gallery space. It’s only as I read about the show later that I realize the hive was originally a part of the larger installation, removed only so that the installation would fit in the space. I can only imagine the impact it would have at its full height.
The show is fuelled by the potential crisis of the drastic reduction in the bee population over the last couple of decades. The environmental impact has catastrophic ramifications as our food crops rely heavily on pollination. In Canada alone we have been losing 30% of our honey bee colonies as noted by Dr. Cameron Cartiere in the informational material available through at the exhibit. What I love about this show is that it speaks to this environmental concern through the magical language of art. In jasna guy’s installation she sneaks in images of gods and goddesses into her array of bees, heralding their honoured status in many cultures, but also includes images of skulls, perhaps symbolizing our fate if we continue to ignore the critical situation of our bee populations.
The show is well worth seeing and runs until January 3, 2016. The Richmond Art Gallery is quite easy to get to from Richmond Brighouse Skytrain station (directions can be dowloaded from their homepage). Yes, perhaps it’s a little off the beaten path for Vancouver, but this show is not to be missed. I’ve already been planning my return trip to visit the bees and I hope to see you there.