Acclaimed artist Joe Fafard continues his discovery in Swift Current exhibition
The Art Gallery of Swift Current (AGSC) is currently hosting an exhibition of works by internationally acclaimed Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard.
“Joe Fafard is one of Canada's most significant artists and Saskatchewan is really proud of what Joe has achieved,” AGSC Director and Curator Kim Houghtaling said. “So it's a real pleasure, a real honour, to be able to present this exhibition here in Swift Current.”
The collection of works in the exhibition vary from laser-cut and welded steel sculptures to woodblock and embossed prints on paper. The exhibition's title, Retailles, is a reference in French to scraps or left-over pieces, which is basically the process that Fafard used when he created the steel sculptures.
“He's a very interesting artist in that, as he discovers something, he continues to use it,” Houghtaling said. “Making the discovery is not the end in itself. It's a way to make work from that day on and he works in several different ways simultaneously. So he'll be making largescale solid forms that look more naturalistic as a large cow or a wolf or something, and at the same time he'll be working on a group of retailles pieces and making prints in his print studio. It's a way for him to always stay stimulated and creative, and to keep it fresh by moving in and out of different works.”
The origin of this exhibition can be traced back to the artist's interest in new media, which led him to experiment with laser cuts and to work with drawn or inscribed images in steel.
“What I was trying to do was discover new ways of working, new things I could do, and so the germ of the idea started in the 1990s and then it eventually evolved in doing these laser cuts,” Fafard said. “After I was doing those, I had all these pieces left over after the cutting, and that's when I started playing with those and making sculptures with those as well.”
He welded the leftover materials together to create the art pieces that are on show in this exhibition. He feels this act of recycling is following a tradition by many people to re-use different materials.
“My mother for instance, because she used to make all our own clothes and she used to make clothes for other people in the community,” he said. “She always had retailles, pieces of cloth, that were cut out of a pattern and she would save it all and in the winter time she would make hooked rugs out of it and images. So I feel like I'm joining a tradition, which I think is important that we should recycle. We should make use of all of our resources and not be wasteful in any way.”
A close examination of the steel sculptures in the exhibition reveal a variety of embedded figures within some of them. There are human figures, a church, trees, and animals such as a rooster and a cow. They do not have a specific meaning and for Fafard it was a way to involve viewers with his art.
“It's not didactic, this means that, that means that,” he said. “It's just putting out something there that could be interpreted by the viewer and a story made up by the viewer of their own experience. So I wanted the viewer to be able to participate in the sculpture by including these things in the sculpture.”
Animals have featured prominently in many of his artworks during his career, and the pieces in this exhibition are depicting different animals.
“I'm trying to emphasize the fact that we're only one species of animals on the globe and there are many species of animals on the globe, but we are a very clever species and we have been able to harness everything in our favour at the expense of many other animals,” he said. “So it seems important to emphasize the animal.”
Two pieces depict human-like figures on horseback, which is a reference to the power of humans over animals.
“It's only through our cleverness that we've accomplished this,” he said. “We've been able to figure out the psychology of other animals and take advantage of them with that particular ability that we have to reason, to look back, to look forward, to know that we are going to die, to know that we weren't always. So we have a special place in time and we're a very smart animal, but we're an animal nonetheless.”
Fafard lives on an acreage near Lumsden. He celebrated his 76th birthday in September, but he has no intention to retire.
“I never think about retiring, because I feel like I am retired already,” he said. “I've had that kind of life where I haven't held a job since 1974, I haven't had to get up 9 to 5. I haven't had to do any of these things, except follow my own pleasure and my own curiosity and work my own time, and if I retire I don't know if I wouldn't just do the same thing. So I don't think about retiring, because it doesn't feel like work. It feels like what I'm doing is just fun and interesting to do.”
This exhibition has already travelled to different venues across western Canada and Swift Current is the eighth and final stop. It will be on display at the AGSC until Oct. 28. 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.
Joe Fafard with some of the laser-cut and welded steel sculptures in his exhibition at the Art Gallery of Swift Current, Sept. 28.
The Art Gallery of Swift Current hosted a public reception for the Joe Fafard exhibition Retailles, Sept. 28.
Three local artists provided musical entertainment at the public reception for the Joe Fafard exhibition in Swift Current, Sept. 28. From left to right, Dustin Olmsted, Eliza Doyle, and Paula McGuigan.
The laser-cut and welded steel sculptures in the exhibition were made from leftover pieces of steel from other artworks.