Aimée Henny Brown | Bettina Matzkuhn | Brian Howell
Ewan McNeil | Hank Bull | Hugh Kearney
Jay Senetchko | Kari Kristensen | Lincoln Clarkes
Marcus Bowcott | Shirley Wiebe | Tiko Kerr

WHEN the health crisis hit, no one new where it was going, or what the impact would be on our lives. This exhibition had its start through a number of conversations with artists who, when we spoke and the inevitable question ‘What are you working on?’ was put to them, often spoke of a general malaise and underlying physical fatigue that was draining them of their creative energies. This effect, termed Allostatic Load, impacts both body and mind. Events like the Pandemic wrap us in a sort of blanket of stress that we are not consciously aware of, always in the background, impacting our mental and physical well-being.

Artists are used to working on their own, if not in complete isolation, with perhaps studio mates or family about. But they are also socially engaged and tend to gather at openings and local drinking holes. Of course C-19 impacted everything everywhere and gathering with groups outside your ‘bubble’ could lead to serious health problems. Vancouver currently is at the point where we are (gently, gently) trying to ease out of the isolation we and Doctor Henry have imposed on ourselves. It’s not going too badly here. Other places it still rages.

What are u working on? is a snapshot of this time and place for these artists. It is important that this exhibition has a physical and not just a digital form. As vital as apps, blogs and websites have been to the dissemination of art, the shutdown of galleries and viewing spaces has helped us understand that art is best experienced in person.

Art can reflect the times in ways that other things cannot. It occupies a privileged place in our society; artists question and probe events and situations that we might otherwise ignore or turn away from. Visual art in particular, through its containment of ideas within a visible image, impacts us in a very direct, subconscious way, with our own experiences and reflections thrown into the mix. People looking at these works decades from now will understand something fundamental about this time and what it was to be an artist, and more importantly, a human being, during these strange days.

Image: Brian Howell, Concrete Picnic Table & Plastic Fence; 2020