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Maria Litwin’s winter weave

Visual artist Maria Flawia Litwin was at The Banff Centre recently for a self-directed residency.  I spoke to her about her project, which involved weaving, Banff National Park, and a six-foot loom.

Maria Flawia Litwin, To Get To Know You (2013), knitted yarn, courtesy the artist.

Maria Flawia Litwin, To Get To Know You (2013), knitted yarn, courtesy the artist.

I came to The Banff Centre with the intention of making a blanket for the National Park. I wanted to explore the idea of making something for a space that’s vast and unfeasible. You can’t leave anything behind and you can’t take anything away from the park, because it’s such a special environment, and a protected environment. So I thought of the idea of how this logically could happen, and what I came up with was an illusion, because realistically you could never really make a blanket for the park. I actually structured the loom in such a way that I could carry it outdoors. It has these portable legs, that I just bolt it into and I could take it anywhere. Schlepping that loom was not easy! It’s almost my height, and it’s icy out there, and cold, and wind catches the loom. It actually collapsed on me at a few points. But that’s where the magic happens.

To see more of Maria’s weaving project in action, click here.

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Are you an ‘Artist-Parent’?

My name is Pascale Ouellet, a.k.a. Bigoudi, and I’m an encaustic painter based in Canmore, near Banff. I’ve been a full-time artist for a decade, and in the last three years my life has taken a 180-degree turn following the birth of my two sons and the move of my studio into my house. My artistic practice is at a turning point and I have decided to use this opportunity to create some artworks on the subject of parenthood.

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Artist Pascale Ouellet with her sons Toby (left) and Theo.

I conceived the idea of doing a series of multi-media works based on the concept of parenthood through the eyes of an artist after Toby (my second child) was born and I lost all my bearings towards my art, towards my family, and towards myself.

Last December I participated in a two-week self-directed creative residency at The Banff Centre to ponder the subject of parenthood. Two weeks may seem very short for an artist… but it’s a long time in the life of a mother of a toddler and a baby.  Continue Reading →

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Souvenir of the Canadian Rockies

Artist Filip Van Dingenen with one of his hand-built snowshoes. Photo: Don Lee.

Artist Filip Van Dingenen with one of his hand-built snowshoes. Photo: Don Lee.

Filip Van Dingenen is usually looking for places in the world where science and leisure intersect. A Brussels-based artist, he created a wide-ranging and ongoing project called Flota Nfumu, based on a rare albino gorilla named Snowflake who spent most of his life in the Barcelona Zoo. The work went deep into research, public memory, and souvenirs of Snowflake’s life, and how he affected Sabater Pi, the scientist who brought him to Barcelona, and the people of that city who visited Snowflake in the zoo over 40 years. For an earlier multimedia project, called Zoonation, Van Dingenen collected memories and stories from an abandoned Belgian zoo, tracing the relocated animals around the world.

In Banff he encountered a different type of human intervention in natural habitat. “I came here to write about Sabater Pi, but when I got here I discovered new things,” Van Dingenen says. It’s not unusual for Banff Centre artists in residence to collect the evidence of tourism and landscape – that aesthetic is everywhere here. And Van Dingenen found some good stuff to display in his Glyde Hall studio: maps and books on early exploration, documents from the Paul D. Fleck Library on the Fluxus movement, an artifact from the Whyte Museum of an old c.1919 Hudson’s Bay Company snowshoe. He spent much of his March residency exploring.

Continue Reading →

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Andres Wanner and his drawing robots

Andres Wanner builds robots. These robots do art. By this I mean that he attaches Sharpie pens to small robots on wheels, places them on a canvas and let’s them run through a series of pre-programmed movements. So far, so straightforward, but it becomes interesting when the robots bash into each other or into the sides of their pen, or just break and stop working for a while. This element of chaos is at the heart of Wanner’s work. The pictures that are left behind after the robots run out of battery power resemble broken Spirograph images — mathematically complex, but frayed at the edges with randomness.

We spoke to Wanner about his process during his residency at The Banff Centre last December. This audio piece combines interview with sound, with the little whirring voices of the robots chattering away as they go about their work.

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The buoyant meanings of Matt Walker’s Drifting Island sculpture

Artist Matt Walker (left) prepares to fire his sculpture, Drifting Island, at The Banff Centre, with Mimmo Maiolo (centre) and Ed Bamiling (right) ready to help guide the piece into the retrofitted kiln.

Drifting Island, the sculpture by Banff Centre Visual Arts participant Matt Walker, was fired earlier this month in a kiln requiring some temporary reconstruction to fit the large-scale piece inside. The sculpture, a 3-foot by 5-foot ceramic form resembling a turtle shell, will float eventually near the shore of the Hamilton Harbour in Ontario as a temporary intervention on the landscape. The sculpture alludes to the notion of Turtle Island, a traditional narrative within some North American Indigenous cultures about the origin of the continent. The term took on political connotations when activists began using it to refer to North America as a way of recalling its original inhabitants, and to promote a more holistic relationship between humanity and nature.

Walker tells me that by situating the sculpture in the Harbour, a historic site of colonial immigration, he means to inscribe the landscape with a reminder of Turtle Island and its meanings. Designed to support the anchoring of boats and reposing swimmers, this shapely shell is as charming as it is evocative.

It was once more popular for critics to renounce the use of art for political aims, arguing that art is essentially about emotional expression and aesthetic play, and that pursuing the serious, intellectual concerns of politics in an artwork is to belie art’s very nature.

In response to the critics of political art, I say why can’t you have your serious sculpture and float it too?

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Banff Summer Arts Festival Report: Week Five

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