Carla Swope’s passion for creating unique jewellery is something she’s possessed since she was young. Inspired by our natural environment, she draws her design ideas from the mountains and valleys where she lives in Chilliwack, BC, and beyond. The jewellery she creates is constantly evolving: she loves to work with unusual colour and shape combinations,…
It’s been a successful summer for Abbotsford’s preeminent rapper. The past three months have seen him win the first ever Fraser Valley Music Award for Hip Hop, open the annual Jam in Jubilee concert series, and perform at the Envision Concert in the Park series. With the release of his first album in over two…
Born and raised in small town southern Ontario, visual artist Claire Sarfeld moved to the West Coast after graduating with a Fine Arts degree from OCAB University in Toronto. Her training focused on drawing and painting, with a minor in creative writing.
Sarfeld’s work is influenced by Abstract Expressionism, with juxtaposition between order and chaos, static versus dynamic. The artist also draws inspiration from the natural world with colours embodied in the outdoors: forest greens, ocean blues, and woody browns. Her media of choice is acrylic on canvas, however Sarfeld is unafraid to step out and incorporate other forms of storytelling like newsprint, ink, and graphite.
“Line and Form” marks the artist’s debut exhibition in this province. Her work is on display at The Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford as part of Art on Demand 2.2, the museum’s second season of showcasing rising Fraser Valley artists. The exhibit is on display until September 11. Sarfeld’s work can also be seen on exhibit in Mission’s Rock Family Gallery from August 2 to August 20.
For more information on future exhibits or to contact the artist directly, go to clairesarfeld.com
Starting in October, you can follow the progress of emerging artists and curators with our new column, as part of a partnership with the Emerge @ the Reach program.
Weed-whacking Knee-deep in the yard full of weeds, I contemplate familial obligation; even months after those weeds are dormant, roots sleeping underground, the sound of whirring, the wet green fleck of stems furring my legs resists forgetting. Beheading the dandelions requires a firm grip holding the spin and slice at arm’s length. Those tiny plastic…
Before you enter Queen Street’s Great Hall, you know you are in the visual arts centre of Toronto. Colorful murals and graffiti compete for your attention in their mastery and detail, making it difficult to distinguish which is which. Outside the Great Hall itself mill art patrons and artists, as indicated by paint-splattered jeans and hand-painted boots. They are as imaginative and youthful as the Great Hall is grand and old.
The Art Battle nationals inside are going full swing to the beats of one DJ Steintology, and in the midst of this humid melee competes Abbotsford’s own Shannon Thiesen. Thiesen, a teacher at Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts, is the winner of this year’s Vancouver regionals. Here in Toronto she battles other regional and provincial champions for the Canadian national title. After each round, the audience votes for their favourite painting; the top two artists of each group move forward as finalists.
Each of the 14 artists’ personalities is as unique as their painting style, and Thiesen is no exception. Wearing overalls that read, “Some people dream of meeting their favourite artists, I teach mine,” Thiesen easily has the most energy in the room, as one might expect from an artist who spends her days keeping up with 10-year-olds. She dances and grooves to the music as she paints, evidently having the time of her life, even under the pressure of producing a competition-worthy painting in a meagre 20 minutes. Her weapons are as unconventional as Thiesen: a window squeegee, house painter brushes, and palette knives. Thiesen likes materials that leave “interesting marks,” and she encourages her art students to think beyond the traditional brush.
With bold black strokes, Thiesen attacks the canvas and a portrait begins to appear. One neighbour works in sepia tones and the other bright rainbow colours, but Thiesen opts for more sombre blues, purples, and reds. The large crowd slowly circles around, closely watching the painters of the first round, but Thiesen and her competitors are oblivious to everything but their work.
Time is flying by, but Thiesen gradually brings a sorrowful face to life. She is known to win Art Battle competitions with her portraits, though she finds they do not as sell well due to the subjects’ unnerving expressions – “it scares them sometimes.” Her animal paintings sell much better, which she finds “people can identify with”; her exhibition painting the day before the competition was a striking blue and gold polar bear, now hanging above her in the Great Hall. Portraits, however, are Thiesen’s passion.
Brushes down, and Thiesen steps back from her canvas while the audience applauds and prepares to vote. Thiesen is pleased with her creation, though she wishes she “had five more minutes” – a sentiment undoubtedly shared by her fellow competitors. Reflecting on her portrait, Thiesen states: “It got really sad. I don’t know where that came from. I’m a pretty happy person!” Thiesen acknowledges that her piece has evolved from her initial plan, adding “It was a guy this morning, but it might be a girl now. My portraits are very androgynous.” She shrugs. “It’s whatever you want it to be.”
The tallies come in, and Thiesen finds out she won’t be competing in the final round. She doesn’t seem overly disappointed. “I’m just excited to have been part of it all. Everyone here is very talented.” She relaxes to enjoy the rest of the show, guessing correctly who will win the finals (Allan André from Ottawa). Thiesen has a message for her students back home: “Creativity takes courage. If you never take a step outside your box and make mistakes, you’ll never see what’s out there.”
Tessa Lee Dumanski resides in Langley, B.C. and is a Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate from the University of the Fraser Valley. Her hard work and creative explorations have landed her the CICan 2015 Regional Prize for B.C. from Colleges and Institutes Canada for her surface design fashion creation and the UFV Undergraduate Research Excellence…
Carolina Arai is a graphic designer and photographer whose watercolour prints stood out at the recent Spring Artists’ Café hosted by Central Heights Church. Originally from Cuernavarca, in Mexico, Arai is widely travelled, having lived the longest in Canada and Japan, and visited, among other places, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Chilliwack’s Central Community Park is an open green space with a large depressed stone plaza at its centre. Paths branch out under archways and weave alongside trees and gardens. It was the perfect setting for this year’s Art Under the Umbrella, an annual event organized by the Chilliwack Community Arts Council.
Circumventing the plaza and the surrounding green space was a row of tents under which a variety of artists and arts vendors showcased their talents and wares. Acoustic guitar floated through the air, carried along by an unexpectedly strong wind. Soon a violinist occupied the opposite corner. Patrons wandered from booth to booth, admiring an eclectic array of art, from paintings, pottery, woodworking, wire art, glass blowing, and dance to farm goods, jewellery, soaps, and honey.
Several organizations had booths, such as the Chilliwack Cultural Centre, showcasing their upcoming children’s programs; as well, the Fraser Valley Arts Guild was present, showcasing the array of talent under their wing. For some artists, it was their first time presenting their work publicly.
“Our mission is to promote arts in the community; not just provide an opportunity for our artists to sell their artwork but to help patrons appreciate the work and the creativity that goes into the art,” said Patti Lawn, the executive director of the Chilliwack Community Arts Council.
Every artist and vendor was approachable, forthcoming, and friendly. There was a great deal to talk about with each artist, and they were more than willing to share their stories.
Chilliwack’s Education Centre — under the Chilliwack School board — had a booth setup displaying the art of up and coming high-school artists. Curated by Bonny Burgess, several of the young artists waited eagerly by the tent, ready to discuss their art. Their keenness and sincerity in their work was inspiring. They had works in a variety of mediums, coming from their school’s multi-media program, including paint, pencil, pastel, and photography.
“We were very happy with the event and the turnout in spite of the windy day!” Lawn said. “We guess-timated over 100 [visitors] during the course of the day.”
Although Art Under the Umbrella was designed to take on the Fraser Valley’s stereotypical rainy setting, it was not wholly prepared for the storm brewing over the northern mountains. Even from the early hours, tents lashed down with stone and water pails were beginning to move and tip, caught like kites in an unexpected gale.
The wind was unforgiving, in some cases blowing away works of art, knocking over tables, or even lifting away entire tents, lodging them in nearby trees.
However, this did not deter most artists. Many of them, with the help of some kind patrons, would go around assisting other fallen tents. Though by early afternoon, a few had no choice but to pack up.
Despite harrowingly windy conditions, Art Under the Umbrella was a joy, filled with the energy of young artists excitedly showcasing their work to the Fraser Valley. Storm or no, their art will persevere, and so will their energy.
“We will be back next year on June 10,” said Lawn. “We are adding an event the night before. Hopefully the word will spread and Art Under The Umbrella will be even bigger. Let’s hope there won’t be any wind, just sunny skies.”
Four artists stand, palettes and brushes in hand, staring at the empty canvases before them. The air is electric with pulsing dance music and anticipation. Raw talent ready to shine. One of the artists shouts, “I have no idea what I’m doing!” But it’s too late to turn back: it’s the final round of Art Battle #398 with a trip to the regional finals in Vancouver on the line.
The crowd of roughly 85 people gathered at The Reach on May 13 had been waiting all night for this showdown between previous champions Stephen Chen, Cindy Dohms, and Shannon Thiesen and new challenger Rose Ross.
Soon, the volume from the CIVL DJ booth dipped and MC Aaron Levy began the countdown. As the crowd finished shouting out the final numbers, a flurry of activity took over the floor, paint splashing off canvases as runners were dispatched to fetch beer and wine for the painters racing against the clock to complete their pieces in under 20 minutes.
The audience started circling the painters in what Levy refers to as a “slow-moving tornado,” casting shadows across the canvases, further obscuring the artists’ already compromised light. Passers-by keenly scrutinized the emerging images, considering which painting might win their vote to crown the Art Battle #398 champion.