What: A Critic's Perspective: Kurelek, a Singular Artist Among Many with Robert Enright
When: Thursday, 7 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.)
Where: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
Robert Enright has dedicated more than four decades to the art of writing about art. But as one among relatively few doing it across Canada, he still sees it as somewhat of an elusive beast.
"It's not that it's a lost art," he said. "It's an art that's never really been established."
The Winnipeg-based cultural journalist will be at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Thursday to share his perspective on one of the Prairies' most famous painters. Presented alongside The Messenger, an exhibit of William Kurelek's work, Enright says he will talk about the way the late artist fits into today's Canadian art landscape.
Few people know the Canadian art world the way Robert Enright does, having interviewed thousands of painters, sculptors and other creators - from established international luminaries to locals fresh out of school. He has lectured on everyone from Eric Fischl to Rebecca Belmore and Ed Burtynsky.
But as the founding editor of Border Crossings magazine, Enright has also played a special role carving out a place for Winnipeg artists in the international art world. He calls it a "local international" magazine that looks at the art world from Winnipeg.
While some see opportunity in moving to centres like Toronto and New York, Enright says he and editor Meeka Walsh are unapologetic localists.
"If you think the centre is somewhere else, then you're either self-colonizing or you're wishing you were there," he said.
The seasoned interviewer, who has also contributed to the Globe and Mail, the magazines ARTnews and Contemporary, as well as CBC Radio, still talks about the process of the interview with curiosity.
"I think it's a great privilege that artists open up their studios and their heads to us," he said. "So we take it very seriously."
Enright, who was born in Nanaimo, calls the interview the most rigorous form of discourse - because so much is at stake and so much can go wrong.
It also involves juggling a quartet of responsibilities - to artist, to art, to audience and to self.
In his decades of work, he has seen some significant changes in the industry. Space for writing about art in conventional venues is shrinking to accommodate shrinking attention spans, for example.
At the same time, features feeding the cult of personality continue to grow.
"While that's not uninteresting, it doesn't help the quality of the art being made to have artists talked about, rather than what they make being talked about," he said.
Therein lies one of the most exciting roles of the interview or review - the way it can challenge the artist to reflect on their own work in new ways.
"When it works, it's a kind of fabulous encounter with the quality of a mind talking about what it is they're doing as artists," he said.
"It's a great privilege to be engaged in that process."
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