A touring exhibition of handcrafted items that showcases the skill and creativity of Saskatchewan craftspeople is currently on display at the Art Gallery of Swift Current.
The Dimensions exhibition is a biennial, juried show by the Saskatchewan Craft Council (SCC) that promotes excellence in handcrafted work.
The items in this show were originally selected for the Dimensions 2017 exhibition in Saskatoon. Swift Current is one of several stops during the exhibition’s 18-month tour to different communities.
The Dimensions exhibition has been taking place for over 30 years and it is a key component of the activities of the SCC.
“I have to say that this show is vitally important,” SCC Communications and Publications Coordinator Vivian Orr told the Prairie Post. “It's one of the cornerstones of the Saskatchewan Craft Council and it is also really, really important to craftspeople in the province, because this particular exhibition is open to any Saskatchewan craftsperson. They do not have to actually be a member of the Saskatchewan Craft Council and we are always thrilled when we discover new talent through our exhibition.”
Craftspeople can submit up to two handcrafted items for consideration by the jurors. The Dimensions 2017 jurors were Regina artist Belinda Harrow and ceramic artist Jenna Stanton from Medicine Hat.
They selected 36 works by 35 craftspeople for the exhibition. There were 183 entries by 109 craftspeople, including 22 emerging artists.
“What makes this show really unique is that unlike the vast majority of exhibitions, the jurors actually get to see the pieces, pick them up, walk around them, touch them, open them, tap their nail on it, whatever, because they actually see the physical object,” Orr said. “The other thing that's really unique about our exhibition is that we look at it as an opportunity to educate the public and also an opportunity for artists to get feedback.”
The SCC’s contract with the jurors specifies that they must select the best works among the eligible entries and they should not take on a curatorial role. The intention of the exhibition is to display works that represent a unique, individual expression and that transcend technique.
“After the jurying the two jurors will then hold a public talk and they're there with all the pieces,” she said. “The artists and the public are invited to come in, and the jurors will talk about why they selected stuff, why things appealed to them, what they were looking for, how the jurying process works, how they have to make these really tough decisions.… Then after that they have that talk, artists and the public can ask questions and that's an opportunity for the artists to get feedback on their work.”
According to Orr it is important for the SCC to have Dimensions available as a touring exhibition to different galleries.
“We're really proud of the work that gets chosen and we're really proud of the artists who have put so much time, effort and personal vision into the work that's been selected,” she said. “So we really, really want the public to see the work, to realize the talent that we have in the province, and to perhaps start recognizing some of the names.”
The SCC will send an information package about the exhibition to galleries in Saskatchewan and outside the province.
“It's up to the galleries to decide whether or not they want to have the exhibition there,” she said. “Most galleries are working one, two, three years in advance in terms of scheduling. So it's really a case of do they have a slot, is it something they want to show, stuff like that.”
It has been a while since a Dimensions exhibition made its way to Swift Current. Art Gallery of Swift Current Director and Curator Kim Houghtaling said the previous one came to the city about six year ago.
“As a visual art gallery, we present fine art work and media work, and craft is one of the areas,” he noted. “It’s not always very practical or available to have an exhibition of really fine craft and so this is a very practical show for us. It’s just a really good opportunity for us to have an exhibition that really has a lot of great examples of work from around the province and it also gives our audiences in the area the opportunity to look at fine craft. We have a lot of very good craftspeople in this area and some of them make submissions to that exhibition and others that the Craft Council produces.”
For craftspeople in southwest Saskatchewan the presence of the exhibition in Swift Current is an opportunity to have a look at the works that were selected as the finest examples of a certain craft.
“They can certainly compare themselves to that and have a sense of the next level of craftsmanship and design,” he said. “It is also very confirming for them, because they’re kind of working in isolation and they’re all putzing away in their shop and making something that’s quite wonderful and they don’t know if they’re part of a larger world. So when they have access to an exhibition like that it inspires. It makes them keep working and wanting to, because they recognize that it is important in the art world.”
The Dimensions 2017 exhibition will be on display at the Art Gallery of Swift Current until Sept. 1.
The gallery is open Monday to Thursday from 1-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m., and Friday to Sunday from 1-5 p.m. It is closed on statutory holidays and on Sundays in July and August.
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