Congratulations to James Nizam on being named to the 2011 Sobey Art Award Long List as a potential representative for BC/Yukon.
The Sobey Award is widely recognized as the preeminent award for Canadian artists under 40. To be named as one of five artists who could potentially represent the West Coast and Yukon is a much-deserved honour.
Nizam has been exhibiting with Gallery Jones since the gallery’s inception. Over the course of his busy career, James’ work has maintained an elegant adherence to technical principals of photography, while the aesthetics have been varied. To create the Dwellings Series, which Gallery Jones exhibited in 2006, James used long exposures and manipulated light within abandoned homes. The subsequent series, Anteroom (2007), involved turning rooms into camera obscuras and capturing the resulting projection inside the room. Most recently, Memorandoms was executed inside one apartment of a social housing development slated for demolition. The objects that contributed to the functionality of living spaces (light bulbs, closet doors, shelves) were employed to build totems or memorials, which James photographed with a 4×5 camera and presented as large format prints. The consistency of his inquisition into how we perceive the spaces we occupy and how they show evidence of our lives is a subtext to the varied aesthetic merit of the work itself.
I sometimes think of James as a researcher, someone who has invented the field of structural anthropology or architectural ethnography. On the West Coast, in a city ever-looking forward, he is doing the rare thing of pausing to examine the back edge of progress. This is far from documentation of a time and place, which inevitably holds tinges of nostalgia. It is documentation of events, perpetrated by the artist in a space and with material that is of import to the structure of our lives. Why this is relevant and important is that visual art, James’ research tool, is having its scope, capacity and potential expanded.
In an artist talk given last Saturday (Feb. 12) at the West Van gallery, Pierre Coupey introduced the audience (at least it was an introduction for me) to the concept of proprioception and how it influences the way he makes his work.
Proprioception is an inherent sense apart from the exteroceptive senses (how we perceive the outside world) and interoceptive senses (how we sense what is going on inside our bodies), and concerns where parts of the body are as they relate to on another. Pierre spoke about the content of the paintings having a proprioceptive sense that allows for composition and colour to determine itself. He also provided the caveat though of “art is a game, and if I’m losing, I change the rules” (quote attributed to Michael Snow).
Pierre’s methodology perhaps came from the motivation for making many of these paintings in the first place. He recounted a story about the burial of Robin Blaser, a noted author and poet, and the passage from being someone perceived to someone remembered. This idea, combined with remembered perceptions from his travels and youth, inform Pierre’s paintings and to hear him recount the thought process (or conscious effort to remove the thought-process) was enlightening.