Jan. 31, 2019

Nickle Galleries launches winter season with Revolutionaries and Ghosts

War, justice and memory explored through the works of Canadian artists
Wally Dion (Canadian, born 1976), Armour Set, 2008, Computer circuit boards, enamel paint, wood, fabric, steel plates, composite riot helmet, various materials, 182.9 x 889 x 50.8, Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, gift of an anonymous donor, 2017-18.

Wally Dion (Canadian, born 1976), of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, gift of an anonymous donor, 2017-18.

Don Hall, courtesy of MacKenzie Art Gallery

Revolutionaries and Ghosts: Memory, Witness and Justice in a Global Canadian Context, the exhibition at Nickle Galleries opening Jan. 31, accounts for several major world events and upheavals, wars and injustices as seen through the eyes of Canadian artists who seek to share histories, acknowledge inequities, and work toward justice and reconciliation. From the Cultural Revolution to the Holocaust, the Sept. 11 attacks to the oppression of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, art works from the collections of the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina and Nickle Galleries explore the world stage and its impact at home.

The exhibition’s title is inspired by a quote from the award-winning novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Canadian author Madeleine Thien: “They would live on, as dangerous as revolutionaries but as intangible as ghosts.”

Thien explores the power of stories to preserve memories even as changing political tides threaten to sweep them away, and how the protagonists keep alive the dream of art, beauty, and freedom amidst China’s repressive political regimes.

This exhibition builds from Thien’s novel, demonstrating the important role that Canadian authors have played in recent years by attesting to violence on the world stage while exploring its impacts at home. The 12 Canadian artists in the MacKenzie’s original iteration of this exhibition are Ed Burtynsky, Ruth Cuthand, Wally Dion, Sherry Farrell-Racette, Hoang Zhong-Yang, Marie Landon, Grant McConnell, Gerald McMaster, Ann Newdigate, Ed Pien, William Rodgers, and Jeff Wall. They embed memories that connect the present to the past, and the troubled narratives of erasure and injustice which have marked the histories that tie Canada to the wider world.

Garry Neill Kennedy, Spotted (2009 – 2012). Collection of Nickle Galleries, gift of the artist.

Garry Neill Kennedy, Spotted (2009 – 2012). Collection of Nickle Galleries, gift of the artist.

Dave Brown, Libraries and Cultural Resources

The first version of the exhibition, curated by Timothy Long, was shown at Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery in the summer of 2018. Now in Calgary, stories have been added from the collection of Nickle Galleries, through works by Bill Rodgers, William MacDonnell, Dominique Blain, John Will, Garry Neill Kennedy and Faye Heavyshield.

The exhibition is co-produced by the University of Calgary’s Nickle Galleries and MacKenzie Art Gallery, curated by Timothy Long and Christine Sowiak. The collaboration between MacKenzie and Nickle Galleries, points further to the role that galleries and institutions play in amplifying those questions.

“Typically, the ways that galleries collaborate with their collections is part of daily business, but behind the scenes,” says Christine Sowiak, chief curator at Nickle Galleries. “Revolutionaries and Ghosts brings collections to the forefront, and lets us see that both the MacKenzie and Nickle galleries hold works by artists that examine some of the most important and devastating happenings of our modern era. We get to see how incredibly rich and meaningful our collections are, and what they can give to teaching and learning across campus and in our community.”

The weekly Nickle at Noon event series will feature related talks and gallery tours. All events are free and open to the public. Learn more by subscribing to updates from Nickle Galleries.