June 14 to July 14, 1991
Artspeak and Or galleries in Vancouver are currently organizing a touring exhibition of the work of Roy Kiyooka. Oringally exhibited at the two centres in the spring of 1990, the show emphasizes the experimental, cross-disciplinary nature of this prolific artist’s production. It also calls attention to the social and artistic contexts that have informed Kiyooka’s art making for more than three decades.
Originally from the prairies, Kiyooka attended several Emma Lake workshops in the late fifties and early sixties including those conducted by Barnett Newman and Clement Greenberg. The Hoarfrost series of paintings represented in the exhibition were produced during this period. By the time he moved to Vancouver, Kiyooka was exploring hard-edged abstraction and gained almost immediate influence within the local art community. In Glen Lewis’ words, “Roy Kiyooka was a great influence. He brought a kind of tough, critical, intellectual awareness to painting at this point...” Not content to confine himself solely to painting, Kiyooka began to experiment with a variety of media. Collage, sculpture, film and photography gained increasing currency in his production. In 1964, he published his first poetic text, Kyoto Airs, a response to his first trip to Japan. Each aspect of his art-making is nourished by experimentation in other disciplines. For example, his photographic works echo the structure of his poetry which in turn relates to the form of his earlier drawings and paintings. Many of his texts make direct references to his visual work as in the case of StoneDGloves.
Much of Kiyooka’s work explores his relation to Japanese culture and family history. His camera has recorded scenes from Japan as well as local Japanese festivals and events. More importantly, he has depicted himself and his family as a means of documenting generational variation. In other works Kiyooka focuses on elements from his environment of home and neighborhood. He marked casual, almost mundane occurrences such as the feeling of a tree in his yard (the Pear Tree series) or the movement of sunlight through his living room (Halifax Windows).
His willingness to experiment with a variety of media, combined with his attempts to avoid categorization, have posited Roy Kiyooka as a seminal figure in cross-disciplinary art production in Canada. It was with this in mind that Artspeak and Or curators, Cate Rimmer and Nancy Shaw decided to develop the Kiyooka retrospective into a touring exhibition with a comprehensive catalogue. The publication, currently in production, will feature three discursive texts. John O’Brian , a professor of art history at the University of British Columbia wil examine Kiyook’s Hoarfrost series. O’Brian curated the exhibition, The Flat Side of the Landscape, The Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops and has written and edited numerous books. Roy Miki, an associate professor in the English department at Simon Fraser University will discuss Kiyooka’s literary production and will include an interview with the artist in his text. Much of Miki’s work has focused on issues of import to Japanese Canadians. Finally, Charlotte Townsend-Gault, a Vancouver-based writer, curator and lecturer will focus on Kiyooka’s position within a regional artistic practice.
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