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Victoria's art community shattered by slaying

The killing of Jeremy ­Gordaneer in Rockland on Tuesday has shattered Victoria’s tight-knit art community, says a former director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
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Thea Patterson and Jeremy Gordaneer. VIA FACEBOOK

The killing of Jeremy ­Gordaneer in Rockland on Tuesday has shattered Victoria’s tight-knit art community, says a former director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

“Everybody is feeling a very real sense of loss, a sense of disbelief and a sense of it being incomprehensible,” said Pat Bovey, who is now a senator, Thursday from Ottawa.

Artist Pat Martin Bates, who taught Gordaneer at the University of Victoria in the 1980s, called his death a great loss to the arts community in Victoria.

Bates said she found him to be a sensitive, yet strong artist. “His art was evocative of deep meaning. He had his own vision. He was unique.”

She recalled a sensitive young man who wanted to do a perfect job with his wood cuts.

“And I would find them in the garbage, rolled up and thrown out. Beautiful work. Beautiful, beautiful work. I’d take it out and iron out the creases because I thought he was absolutely unusual,” said Bates.

Since news spread of Gordaneer’s death, Bates said she has received emails from many artists, “even some young ones.”

“People his age would be more overwhelmed because he’s highly thought of and his work is highly thought of.”

Victoria police were called to the Gordaneer home on Carberry Gardens in Rockland about 5 a.m. Tuesday and found him injured.

Despite attempts by police officers and paramedics to save his life, he died.

No one has been arrested. Neighbours reported hearing popping sounds, but police have provided few details. They do not believe the public is at risk, Const. Cam MacIntyre said Thursday.

Gordaneer and his wife, Thea Patterson, had been living and studying in Edmonton. Gordaneer had just completed a master’s degree in scenic design and had returned to Victoria on the weekend to visit family.

Gordaneer was the son of the late Victoria painter James Gordaneer. He grew up in Victoria, surrounded by art, and began painting at an early age. He studied fine art and theatre, supporting himself through scenic art and design for theatre and dance, while also painting, sculpting and drawing.

In 2016, after travelling through Europe, Africa and America studying art, he became the artist in residence at Camosun College.

Bovey said she knew both Gordaneer and his father, Jim, very well.

“I knew Jeremy as a young emerging artist and I’ve been very proud to follow his artistic career. He did drawings. He painted. He did sculpture. In both his two- and three-dimensional works, line, form, movement and fluidity was paramount.”

Bovey was director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria when it staged a solo show of James Gordaneer’s work in the mid-1980s. She recalled that around that time, Jeremy Gordaneer was a member of the Chapman Group, a loose collective of artists and writers organized by his father when they lived on Chapman Street.

“They discussed issues of art and poetry and literature and philosophy. I did a number of studio visits and saw what Jeremy and his young artist colleagues were doing at the time. I felt that Jeremy as a young artist was very inventive. He was really trying to stretch some very interesting boundaries. I find the intellectual pursuit he was giving to his work really interesting,” she said.

Newfoundland artist Lois Brown, a work colleague of both Gordaneer and his wife, is devastated by his death.

“I’m so sad for Thea,” she said. “She just really loved him and he was besotted with her.”

Brown said she was talking on the phone to Thea last Friday with Gordaneer in the background, talking at the same time.

“The last thing he said to me was ‘Come and visit,’ ” said Brown, who called Gordaneer an open and warm person, full of humour and humanity.

“He was a genius teacher and artist. He was really able to show me how to see things from another perspective. I think he even improved my iPhone photographs. He showed me how to tip the camera to take a much more interesting and lively shot. He was an incredibly talented artist and would try to find the simplest way to show you something extraordinary.”

ldickson@timescolonist.com