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Richmond Art Gallery's summer exhibition reflects on the intersection of art and spirituality

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 4:50 PDT, Fri June 14, 2024

Last Updated: 10:21 PDT, Mon June 17, 2024

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Richmond Art Gallery (RAG) launches its summer season with It begins with knowing and not knowing from July 20 to Sept. 29. This compelling group exhibition focuses on material practices and showcases recent and site-specific work from seven artists: Rebecca Bair, Xinwei Che, Patrick Cruz, Zoë Kreye, Ogheneofegor Obuwoma, Michelle Sound, and Ximena Velázquez (La PosmoBaby).

“The exhibition presents artists’ explorations of spirituality, everything from alternative forms of healing to personal rituals and gestures of care,” says curator Zoë Chan. “Their engagement with these practices, in tandem with their longing to also reach beyond themselves, are at the heart of this project. The title, ‘it begins with knowing and not knowing,’ which I borrowed from Deborah Levy, resonated with me for its open-ended sentiment, embodying the exhilarating, yet terrifying, feeling of being on the precipice of venturing on new creative and personal journeys.” 

The gallery with be transfigured by a myriad of artworks spanning cyanotypes, sculptures, videos, ceramics, paintings, and performance. The artists aim to rebuild ties with community, bolster a sense of self, and regain a sense of optimism, at a time when the world is rife with injustice, pain, and uncertainty. 

Rebecca Bair’s practice explores ways to represent Black bodies while protecting their identities, often presenting parts of her own body in various stages of obscurity. In a new series of cyanotypes, titled Hair as Ritual, she traces her hair-washing rituals by pressing her hair onto fabrics treated with photosensitive chemicals. The resulting imprints create a kind of coded vernacular legible to other Black folks who share similar hair ablutions. 

Xinwei Che counters the commodification of the body and its experiences within the ever-present capitalist system. For the exhibition, she works laboriously to create clay vessels that disintegrate slowly—a metaphor for geological time. These disintegrating ceramics become a way to escape the constraints of capitalism, in which time is equated with productivity, commodity, and money. 

Patrick Cruz employs meditation, divination, and hypnosis as research methodologies to exhume hidden knowledge. The vibrant, large-scale paintings in the show are developed from pencil sketches drawn from his experimentation with past life therapy. Frustrated with the limitations of discourses around identity that bind him as a Filipino-Canadian artist, he finds the space to navigate these parameters through the use of such quasi-mystical techniques. 

This year’s Sobey Award-longlisted artist Zoë Kreye is fascinated by the idea of transformative journeys. Deeply impacted by her mother’s death and the birth of her own children, Kreye creates a site-specific immersive textile installation that evokes caves, archways, and portals as symbolic entries into other worlds. She researched the Asklepion—ancient Greek temples where people could retreat for rest and healing—to create an intimate space of embodied reflection in the Gallery. 

Ogheneofegor Obuwoma investigates questions of the body and self as it relates to the nuanced and ever-changing state of contemporary Nigerian society and culture. For In Memory of Who We Were, Obuwoma looked to their pandemic dreams of their difficult experiences at a Catholic boarding school as source material. The making of the surreal video became a healing process of revisiting and working through a painful past in order to move on, in “an act of resistance to institutional and church violence and the silence and apathy expected of those who live through it.” 

Cree and Métis artist Michelle Sound explores maternal labour, identity, cultural knowledge, and cultural inheritance by working with traditional and contemporary Indigenous materials and techniques. Her photographic series Holding It Together features ripped archival images sewn together with colourful beading, caribou tufting, embroidery, and porcupine quills—highlighting that acts of care and joy are situated in family and community, even in the face of colonial trauma. 

Since moving to Canada from Mexico, artist Ximena Velázquez (DJ La PosmoBaby) has been making the dishes that remind them of their great-grandmother, with whom she would cook as a child. These dishes are the inspiration for an ongoing series of performance-based cooking videos featuring the artist disguised in spectacular costumes. Dedicated to the making of tortillas, Tortillera critically functions as a tribute to matrilineal knowledge under patriarchy and a dazzling celebration of the artist’s queer identity. 

Public programming 

Visit the Gallery’s website and social media for the most up-to-date information on upcoming programs. Scheduled events include, among others: 

Artists and Curator Tour at Opening Reception 

Saturday, July 20
Talk & Tour: 2 to 3 p.m.
Opening Reception: 2 to 4 p.m.
Join Richmond Art Gallery curator Zoë Chan and featured artists for an informal tour of the exhibition. Opening reception immediately to follow. Everyone is welcome to attend. 

Collage Party: Textile Works with Zoë Kreye 

Saturday, July 27, 1 to 4 p.m. 

Get together with friends and get creative at our art-making social for adults! This session features artist Zoë Kreye, who will demonstrate creating collaged and layered works with textiles and sheer materials that refer to embodied experiences. Register for this free event for artists of all skill levels ages 16+, all materials provided. 

PRIDE TOGETHER 

Thursday, Aug. 1, 2 to 5 p.m.
Richmond Cultural Centre Plaza & Atrium
Grab a paintbrush and paint the Pride stairs at the Richmond Cultural Centre with the Richmond 

Youth Media Program and 2SLGBTQIA+ community groups. The afternoon will feature music by DJ La PosmoBaby (aka Ximena Velázquez) and artist-led activities. This free event is presented in partnership by Richmond Art Gallery and Community Cultural Development. 

Dreaming the Asklepion 

With Zoë Kreye, Alexa Mardon, and Lisa Prentice
Tuesday, Aug. 6 and Thursday, Aug. 8, 6 to 8 p.m.
Dreaming the Asklepion (DTA) is a collaboration by visual artist Zoë Kreye, dancer/choreographer Alexa Mardon, and visual artist/bodyworker Lisa Prentice who together have developed a series of practices for translating touch into the creation of sculpture, painting, and movement. Participants are invited to register for a 20-minute session to experience a unique healing ritual created in response to and for each participant. See RAG website for registration and fee details. 

Cyanotype Workshop with Michelle Sound 

Saturday, Aug. 10, 1 to 3 p.m. 

Join artist Michelle Sound at the Cultural Centre Rooftop Garden to learn introductory techniques in developing cyanotypes, using the light of the sun to create unique artworks on paper or fabric. Limited to 15 participants, all materials provided. See RAG website for registration and fee details. 

Exhibition Tour in Mandarin 

Saturday, Aug. 17, 2 3 p.m. 

Sign up for a tour of the current Richmond Art Gallery exhibition in Mandarin with Rebecca Wang. Learn more about the themes of the exhibition through a guided visit and informal discussion over a cup of tea. Limited spaces, RSVP to reserve a seat. 

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