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