Robert Amos: Downtown stroll reminds us of gallery options

There doesn’t seem to be as many wonderful art galleries and shows as there used to. No longer can I drop in to the Gallery of the Arctic for stone carvings, the Stephen Lowe Gallery for porcelain and jade, or the Fran Willis Gallery for a huge room showing all manner of abstract paintings. But I continue to cruise the sidewalks looking for a thrill.
Alcheringa (665 Fort St., alcheringa-gallery.com, 250-383-8224) is always interesting. Last time I was in they had a gathering of prints and carvings and even some sand-blasted cedar panels by Rande Cook (until Feb. 21). This was in honour of his presence in The Skin I’m In, a film in the recent Victoria Film Festival. As well as the finest of First Nations art, they always have incredible carvings painted and embellished with cowrie shells from Papua New Guinea and New Ireland in the South Pacific.
West End Gallery (1203 Broad St., westendgalleryltd.com, 250-388-0009) always has a mixed bag of the regulars who show here and at their Edmonton location. Personally, I bend my footsteps to the confident and colourful canvases of coastal life by Greta Guzek. One of their street-side display windows is currently showing well-designed Victoria scenes by a talented artist new to me, Fraser Brinsmead.
For quality artwork it’s hard to beat the current show at The Legacy (630 Yates St., legacygallery.ca, 250-721-6562), titled Honoris Causa. This gallery is now the public face of the University Art Collections of UVic, and this exhibition honours those who have been favoured with an honorary degree from the university, showing work drawn from the UVic collection and paired with panels presenting the speech with which the university introduced the honoree. E. J. Hughes, Jack Shadbolt, Fenwick Lansdowne, Ted Harrison, Bill Reid, Duncan Regehr and many others are included (until March 9).
Nearby is the gallery called Deluge, named after the fire department which was formerly housed in the building at 636 Yates St., deluge.ws, 250-385-3327. At the moment it is home to a fascinating installation by two artists of Polish background, Anna Passakas and Radoslaw Kudlinski. Now living in Montreal, they go by the name Blue Republic. The installation, titled Crystal Palace, is an assemblage of discarded materials without intrinsic value. A flow chart or family tree is drawn on the walls and constructed on the floor with pieces of wood. Nodes on this chart make temporary homes for all manner of objects. The artists have a naturally poetic sense of the relationship of shapes and uses of these things, and “reading” the assemblage reveals their wit and insight (until March 2).
Madrona Gallery (606 View St., madronagallery.com, 250-380-4660) is showing the persistence that breeds success in this town. Very close to the heart of proprietor Michael Warren is the current show of drawings by two artists, Qavavau Manumie and Luke Ramsay. Manumie is an Inuit man from Cape Dorset, ground zero of the world of Inuit art. His adept draftsmanship is always challenging, revealing his thoughts and dreams at the crux of a culture in collision. Luke Ramsay is a Gulf Islander with a big presence online. He draws out his inexplicable dreams with penmanship both precise and obsessive. The gallery recently brought the two together for a day of drawing.The resulting four collaborative works, while mysterious and irresolute, open the way to what may be a whole new thing.
Dales Gallery (537 Fisgard St., dalesgallery.ca, 250-383-1552) has been a second home to Stephanie Harding and at the moment the walls are entirely given over to her work until mid-March. Though it is not at all unusual for an artist to do more than one thing, for Harding to show three (or more) very different bodies of work in one show risks confusing her audience. Up front are her impressionist views of Chinatown by night, always popular at this venue. In the back is a host of entirely abstract canvases, with bold graphic composition. And on the remaining wall up front is a huge canvas showing the view of the Mount Newton valley and the Woodwyn Farm in a high-realist style. The artist is very skilful, but what is she trying to tell me?

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