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Detail of Daphne Odjig's "Off to the Party"

Art exhibition: Paper/Papier at Cube Gallery

By Crystal Parsons on September 11, 2016

Tiny Spirit (2016) by Daphne Odjig

Tiny Spirit (2016) by Daphne Odjig

On at Cube Gallery this month is Paper/Papier, a “tribute” to the medium that has revolutionized our lives.

If you are looking for an exhibition that pushes the boundaries and expressive limits of paper – this show isn’t it. If you’d like to see works by artists using a range of media such as paint, drawing, printmaking, photography and mixed media – that all just happen to be on paper – then this show is for you!

Paper/Papier features work by six Canadian artists including Mary Pratt, Anita Kunz, Russell Yuristy, David Thauberger and Daphne Odjig and Rosalie Favell. It’s the work of these last two artists you want to make a special effort to see.

Daphne Odjig is one of Canada’s greatest artists, a member of the Order of Canada, winner of the Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts, and the first female Aboriginal artist to have a solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada. To list more achievements would be to run afoul of my word limit.

Off to the Party (2016) by Daphne Odjig

Off to the Party (2016) by Daphne Odjig

Over the course of her long career, Odjig has blended the traditional Indigenous styles and imagery of her own heritage with other artistic influences. Her work has explored subjects ranging from Aboriginal legends and family to historical and political issues, particularly those relating to Indigenous peoples.

Three of her drawings are framed for the show but don’t miss the drawings in a portfolio nearby. It’s stunning to realize how productive the artist is at 97 years old. Each of the small drawings (approximately 9 x 12”) are beautifully rendered drawings in coloured pencil, filled with the free-flowing curves, lines and a vitality typical of her style. Seeing the marks made by the artist’s hand makes you feel like she’s right there with you. Which in a way she is. A portrait of Odjig, taken by Rosalie Favell, hangs directly opposite.

Favell herself is a photo-based artist who draws inspiration from her family’s Métis heritage. Her work often explores the constructions of each personal and cultural identity. The works featured in Paper/Papier include several from Facing the Camera, a project by which Favell began documenting members of the Aboriginal arts community in portraits. These portraits are great but the really good stuff by this artist is at the back of the gallery.

While not officially part of the show, several of Favell’s works are on display elsewhere at Cube and you should absolutely find these. A personal favourite is, “I Awoke to Find My Spirit had Returned (1999).” Here the artist casts herself as Dorothy in the final scene from The Wizard of Oz. Still ablaze in full technicolor glory, our Dorothy finds herself back in Kansas, under a Hudson’s Bay point blanket, surrounded by a familiar – and at least one out of place – face or two. Maybe there is no place like home but finding your place in the world is not as easy as clicking your heels. Reality can be far stranger than any place we can imagine.

Paper/Papier continues at at Cube Gallery (1285 Wellington W) until October 2, 2016.