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The art of 'movement' at the Chilliwack Art Gallery

Movement stretches from photography to acrylic and into the texture of sculpture, batik and multimedia—showcasing art from 37 Chilliwack Visual Artist Association Members until July 26. - Dessa Bayrock
Movement stretches from photography to acrylic and into the texture of sculpture, batik and multimedia—showcasing art from 37 Chilliwack Visual Artist Association Members until July 26.
— image credit: Dessa Bayrock

You might be surprised at the kind of art Chilliwack artists can create.

“It’s not just fuzzy ducks, you know,” says Chilliwack Visual Artists Association (CVAA) member Mary Main, cracking a smile.

The Chilliwack Cultural Centre gallery, currently home to a CVAA member exhibit, is a study in shape and texture.

The theme of the show is “Movement,” and the gallery hosts more than 60 interpretations of the concept.

Here three long, lithe dancers stretch under a glass case; here a salmon carved from Coquihalla jade seems to writhe under a white band of colour in the stone of its back; here a triptych of photographs shows a mountain in three vibrant hues as the sun slowly sets.

Main stops at one of her paintings, divided in half by a sharp line of colour. Two dragons and two ships poke out from a swirl of blue on the bottom half, supplemented by a small card reading “Here Be Dragons.”

The idea of motion is clear in the rush of blue water and white foam surrounding the ships, but the piece also shows the movement in how we view the world around us, Main explains—the dividing line separates the known and unknown worlds, inspired by ancient maps she saw on a trip to Portugal.

“That’s years and years ago now; it just stuck with me,” she says. She says some things just do, creeping quietly into her art decades later.

Mary-Lee Merz, another CVAA member, has two pieces hanging in the gallery. Her love of art, she says, springs from finding composition within chaos.

Her piece “Earth, Sky, Tree, Rock” has three layers: lines of ink applied with a cedar brush, then colour, shading and emphasis through watercolour, and finally highlights of white acrylic.

The result is something abstract but with purpose—random, yet composed.

“I put down something that provides a structure, but it’s a chaotic structure,” Merz explains. “I’m not thinking about it. Just slap the brush down. And then look at all these marks! I could never consciously make all these little black ink marks.

That’s what excites me, so that’s what I do.

“If I knew it was going to be predictable, I wouldn’t be interested.”

But perhaps the most unexpected aspect of the show, CVAA president Judy Hurley says, was the reaction to two “naughty” pieces from the gallery walls. Both portrayed bare-chested women, and were some of the largest pieces on display.

After lively conversation at the gallery opening last Saturday, Hurley reluctantly made the decision to remove the pieces, inviting the artists to submit others in their stead.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the complaints came from within the association itself.

“I was prepared to defend it on its artistic merit if there were complaints from the public, or the city, or the cultural centre, but I could not defend it against the members,” Hurley says, referring to a piece that was removed last Monday. Drawn in purple, it portrayed a distorted woman with what looked like tree branches growing through her body.

“We all think we’re so terribly modern, but not everybody is,” she says with a small smile. “I have to respect that.”

In every other aspect, however, she sees the show as a success. Thirty-five artists contributed work to the space, for a total of 67 pieces. The range of interpretation on the theme is wide and broad, stretching between mediums and subject matter effortlessly.

“When you have an individual artist showing on a theme, it can get quite monotonous,” Hurley says. “This one never gets monotonous. People come in time and time again. You see something new every time.”

It’s no surprise, she says, to see people coming back again and again to get lost in the art.

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