Artists’ talk to feature ‘creative play’ theme

Matt Gardner
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A pair of prominent local artists will give the public a firsthand glimpse into their creative process later this month.

The Saskatchewan Arts Board is featuring the work of Griffith Aaron Baker and Twyla Exner as part of its 65th anniversary touring exhibition, entitled Creative Play.

“The focus is to celebrate the fact that we’ve been collecting for that long (65 years) and that we have this collection of work, over 3,000 artworks that … really belong to the people of Saskatchewan,” board outreach co-ordinator Belinda Harrow said.

Both Baker and Exner will appear at the Prince Albert Arts Centre for a special artists’ talk on Tuesday, Feb. 18 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The free public reception, which kicks off a display that runs until Feb. 23, will feature refreshments as well as a chance to speak one-on-one with the artists.

Baker and Exner -- respectively, the director/curator and gallery educator at the Mann Art Gallery -- created their featured pieces through grants from the Sask. Arts Board, with each work now forming part of the board’s permanent collection.

Shedding some light into exhibition curator Jennifer McRorie’s choice of theme, Harrow noted, “She was interested in really picking works that were kind of really fresh and new in the collection.

“When she started to look at some of our new acquisitions, work that we’d got over the last sort of three or four years, she noticed that there were a number of the works that had this playfulness to them or were touching on themes of play.”

Each featured piece by the Prince Albert artists reflects that playful theme in a different way.

“I think for both of us, it’s our … innovative use of material that’s kind of taking the everyday object and transforming it into something different and something unusual,” Exner said.

“The connection of the material and the transformation of it into something completely different is inherent in play,” Baker argued.

Baker’s piece Great Smoky consists of five compact discs that have been cut and transformed into topographical maps of the Great Smoky Mountains, which the artist described as “one of the most polluted sites in the world.”

“The whole notion around using compact discs and with the rest of the materials in my practice is that they’re obsolete materials, essentially,” Baker said. “Compact discs are being replaced by of course MP3s, digital media, digital music … Just like the VHS tape, they’ve gone the way of the dodo.”

The connection of the material and the transformation of it into something completely different is inherent in play. Griffith Aaron Baker

He noted that the old DVDs he collected over years were used for various forms of play from movies to video games.

By turning the old discs into a representation of a mountain range, he aimed to parallel the hills and valleys of digital code that make up the information on a CD or DVD.

“They’re not natural in the way that we think of a topographical map, but the connection is there,” Baker said. “So I was looking at micro and macrocosms, these patterns in things that are extremely small on a microscopic level as well as patterns that are on a planetary level, a universal level.”

Meanwhile, three of Exner’s pieces will be featured in the exhibition.

One is a drawing of a sculpture she produced that incorporates both sea creatures and USB plugs to create a “weird USB sea creature.”

The other two are sculptures, entitled Thing 2 and Thing 3, crafted out of woven telephone wires.

“The telephone wires are recycled material,” Exner said. “I got them from SaskTel and I’ve used that material in my art practice for a number of years to create sculptures that are inspired by organic forms, such as body organs, microscopic organisms, cacti and various plants and sea pods.

“All these kinds of things influence the work. They’re not exactly a replica of it, but the nature of the form is inspired by those things.”

Aside from providing a chance to discuss their art with the public, Baker noted that receptions such as the artists’ talk also provide a way for fellow artists to meet and share ideas.

He anticipated that the upcoming discussion would provide added context for the featured pieces on display.

“Twyla and I will probably concentrate on our previous works, as well as … what led up to these bodies of works that are being shown in the exhibition.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Mann Art Gallery

Geographic location: Saskatchewan, Great Smoky Mountains

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