Spirit Wrestler Gallery (Vancouver, Canada)
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Al Cole: Shaman and Chief Rattles

Al Cole: Shaman and Chief Rattles

Northwest Coast Solo Exhibition

December 1 - December 31, 2009


For the past decade the Nuxalk artist, Al Cole, has made an exploration of the complex symbols and designs of Northwest Coast rattles. Rarely has one artist dedicated years to exploring the range of themes and concepts developed over hundreds of years by master carvers from many distinct nations.

Included in this collection is a set containing both a Raven rattle and a Coast Salish style spindle whorl. The artist has determined that the imagery from the rattle was transferred to utilitarian objects like spindle whorls to preserve the cultural information during the time of religious and cultural persecution and the confiscation of objects where shamanic rattles were particularly targeted.

The Raven rattle is one of the most mysterious and definitive objects produced on the Northwest Coast and over time it was adopted by most nations as a chief’s rattle. Raven had the ability to cross all boundaries including time and into the spirit world and therefore this rattle was a reference to the history, knowledge, and power held by the chief and village.

Another equally mysterious rattle was the Oyster Catcher, which also carried references to connections between the spirit worlds of land, sea, and sky. To some accounts, it was the shaman’s rattle given to the chief. With Oyster Catchers, the form of the bird was covered with intricately carved human, animal, and supernatural forms entwined or connected by arching tongues. Regarded as the quintessential carving, for both their complexity and time to accomplish, for artists the carving of these delicate and complex objects was the “final exam” of their carving skills and were often undertaken early in a career.

This is a rare opportunity to see an artist working in series to explore the possibilities of this extraordinary cultural object.


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Current Exhibition

20th Anniversary

20th Anniversary Exhibition

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.

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Spirit Wrestler Gallery

47 Water Street
Vancouver, BC
Canada V6B 1A1

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Phone: 604-669-8813

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3 blocks from Waterfront Station
Between Abbott St. and Carrall St.

Monday to Saturday, open 10-6
Sunday and Holidays, open 12-5