A collaborative exhibition celebrating the continuing art and cultural exchange between the Pacific Northwest Coast and the Māori from New Zealand.
The Spirit Wrestler Gallery is honoured to present the remarkable exhibition Fire & Water, featuring an outstanding assembly of unique sculptures in glass and jade. This collection represents a series of collaborative and individual creations by two leading contemporary master artists, Preston Singletary and Lewis Gardiner. This is the first time these two very different media have been brought together in a cross-cultural exhibition. The resulting blend of diverse materials and designs is inspired and has surpassed all our expectations.
This exhibition is the result of numerous creative forces connecting together over a period of years.The fusion between Northwest Coast and Māori art has been a focus of the Spirit Wrestler Gallery since 1998, but a number of the artists already had a long history of friendships, attending cultural gatherings, artist workshops, and working on occasional collaborative projects. The two previous major exhibitions hosted by the gallery: Kiwa – Pacific Connection (2003) and Manawa – Pacific Heartbeat (2006), accelerated the opportunities and interest for artists to exhibit their work side by side, and opened the door to the possibility for artists to work together.
The Māori have embraced contemporary artistic directions, including hosting numerous art conferences that have exposed their artists to other international artists, new materials, techniques, and concepts. Glass has been a material of interest — and many Māori were already aware of Preston Singletary for his reputation as an artist and a leader of the aboriginal glass movement in the United States. During the Manawa exhibition, Preston’s pieces were showcased alongside the monumental jade works of Lewis Gardiner. Beyond the translucent similarity of the two materials, a connection was made between the two artists — both being contemporary innovators within their respective cultures. From their meeting, the idea for this exhibition was born.
Collaborations between great artists are historically rare, despite frequent attempts and enthusiastic interest to bring technical skills and artistic chemistry together. In the end, it often seems that personal careers, distance, and other issues make these projects too difficult to realize.What makes this particular collaboration even more remarkable is that the two artists are geographically in different hemispheres — almost at polar opposites of the world. Preston is Tlingit, with cultural roots in Alaska in the far northwest of North America, whereas Lewis is Māori, with his roots in the far south in North Island of Aotearoa — New Zealand. Both artists are linked by the Pacific Ring of Fire, a vast area of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions that encircle the basin of the Pacific Ocean, with powerful ocean currents that join north and south, connecting New Zealand to North America. The title of Fire & Water captures the essence of this region — and reflects the forging of glass with fire and the carving of jade with water.
These sculptures are one-of-a-kind, spontaneous works of art, a true synchronization of their shared ideas and sketches becoming reality. Fire & Water is a rare collaborative exhibition of two artists working side by side — Preston blowing the glass and Lewis carving the jade — both working together to merge their Northwest Coast and Māori designs into singular works of great beauty. We are amazed and pleased — as we are sure you will be, and sincerely hope that you will have the opportunity to visit the gallery to share in their achievement.
—Gary Wyatt and Nigel Reading
April 23 - May 14, 2016
The Spirit Wrestler team: Colin Choi, Derek Norton, Nigel Reading and Gary Wyatt, have been together now for over 30 years representing master-level Inuit, Northwest Coast, and Māori art - and for the last 20 years as the Spirit Wrestler Gallery. We are celebrating this amazing 20-year journey with a “birthday” exhibition, “Reflections 20Years”. The exhibition will feature many of the great artists from the three extraordinary cultures that we represent that have shared and supported us on this journey… and it is also a “thank you” for all of you who have made this journey so much fun! The Spirit Wrestler Gallery was founded in 1996 and quickly became one of the foremost galleries of first-nation art in North America. The name Spirit Wrestler originates from the title of the book by James Houston that tells the story of a young shaman learning his powers in the Canadian north. At the time, the gallery was looking for a name that allowed for the consideration of both traditional and shamanist-based arts here in Canada, as well as embracing the work by other artists from around the world. Early exhibitions included artists from Alaska, the Canadian Plains, and the Māori from New Zealand, being shown in the same room as Northwest Coast and Inuit art. The cross-cultural interactions have offered a unique fusion in the gallery and generated many group and solo exhibitions that we have hosted over the years. We were witnessing the trend of a growing interaction internationally between artists who were travelling far afield to research the art and modern cultural practices of other nations - and along the way, forging friendships that have endured across great distances. The last two decades have also been an exciting transition time for the arts being created by all three cultures. There was a pronounced movement towards the incorporation of new materials, such as glass, bronze, and polymers - which has opened new avenues for the art itself, both in terms of subject and scale. To be a part of seeing the artists exhibiting their work side-by-side has been very exciting and has made the Spirit Wrestler Gallery a unique and challenging experience for any visitor. We have had the privilege of representing many of the greatest Northwest Coast, Inuit, and Māori artists of our time - and have have had the privilege of showing a great number of the most important pieces produced over the last three decades. It has been an honour to share this long journey with so many great artists and clients. Thank you all so much for your belief and support.
Spirit Wrestler Gallery
47 Water Street
Canada V6B 1A1
Toll Free: 1-888-669-8813
3 blocks from Waterfront Station
Between Abbott St. and Carrall St.
Monday to Saturday, open 10-6
Sunday and Holidays, open 12-5
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