The Spirit Wrestler Gallery is pleased to present this extraordinary exhibition to you. Broad in scope, Fusion brings together artists from the Inuit, the Northwest Coast, the Plains of Canada, and the Māori culture of New Zealand. This exciting work celebrates both the depth and diversity of style and the commonality of experience of First Nations artists working today.
These cultures are now producing new work coming from a position of strength — and when they have the chance to interact, which is happening increasingly, they are mutually charged by their insight, depth of perception and commitment, further inspiring their own work and belief in what they are doing.
Many of the works in this exhibition show the parallels from such divergent groups. The historical similarities between nations of the Pacific Northwest and the Māori go beyond simple definition of clan structure and etiquette to the very core of their beliefs. Today, dialogue between First Nations groups internationally has given a new vibrancy to the art, reaffirming the energy of each culture with an opportunity to integrate new strengths gleaned from the observation of others. Some of the works here have cross-cultural interplay while others provide a window for us to view something quite intimate that may not have been seen before.
This exhibition also celebrates the movement of First Nations artists to embrace the transitions occurring around them. This crucible of change is reflected directly in the use of new materials, ideas, and symbols providing the iconography to help represent the forces and pressures impacting on their societies. A number of the artists whose work is shown here have had formal training and have returned to their art fortified with new perspectives that offer exciting possibilities.
Cultural artifacts were rarely made without purpose, and the objects or imagery produced had a direct relationship to the tenets of the culture that produced them — and their relevance or importance could change with the pressures on the society at that moment. In each of the cultures shown here, importance and significance were ascribed to those with a gift for creating the images that have come to visually define the culture — and this is no different today.
Without denying the power of the legacy of the past, many of the artists have voiced a strong desire to move forward. From Spirit Wrestler’s inception, we have been supportive of this idea — many of the artists in this exhibition have been featured before in our exhibitions, “New Visions,” “Amulets to Art,” and “Premonitions.”
In Fusion, artists are dealing with the central issues of their culture in the last days of this century, with the promise and expectation of their role in the next. By its very nature, Fusion is a survey exhibition and there were many more artists whom we would like to have included. However, we hope that the premise of this exhibition — that of challenge and the freedom to move forward, to explore, and to have fun — can for the artist be a part of the sharing of their vibrant culture, both in traditional and contemporary terms.
On behalf of Nigel, Gary, and Colin, and all of the artists who worked so hard to meet the challenge of this exhibition, I welcome you to Fusion: Tradition and Discovery
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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