By: Kitty Cheung, Staff Writer
Hurrying through the AQ hallways between classes, you may have passed by a room with what seems like a large white block, dotted with books and pillows. The SFU Gallery’s current exhibit, Spaces for Reading, combines the work of artists Ann Beam and the late Carl Beam. By displaying the work of these artists in the same space, the exhibit is rich with insights from the different lenses through which the two artists create.
The gallery is minimalist in its style of display. Framed artworks by Ann Beam and Carl Beam are hung in a line, creating a single row that extends across several walls. Walking through the exhibit, the space overall is quiet and contemplative, and the two artists seem to be in dialogue with each other through the gallery.
There is a sense of public and private communication going on through the pieces, demonstrating the intimate relationship between the two artists. The exhibit includes images of the couple building their home together from adobe bricks and even reading materials on display that discuss their creative relationship with their daughter, Anong Migwans Beam, who is also a visual artist.
Carl’s work focuses on Indigenous issues, using an image transfer process as a medium to empower. Untitled (17 Works) (1998) is a series of nonlinear collages depicting historical events charged with political commentary.
Concurrently, Ann’s work tends to focus on the woman — as a mother, homebuilder, nurturer, and more. Her feminist artistry is especially prevalent in her “Studies for the Motherline” collection, some pieces of which can be found in the exhibit. She even goes on to explore outer space, creating watercolour paintings of planets and suns.
The centre of the room holds a large terraced white block, with reading materials selected in response to the works hung on the walls. The selected readings include work by poet Mackenzie Ground, artist Sandra Semchuk, and writer Richard Hill. These reading materials, which are spaced throughout one level of the terraced structure, include books and publications featuring Indigenous art, history, and perspectives. Pillows are also neatly arranged on a lower level, so that the space itself extends an invitation for each gallery visitor to sit down and peruse its reading materials.
On the white block centrepiece, one can also find exhibit pamphlets, which include an annotated bibliography contributed by Ground, Semchuk and Hill, as well as a conversation between Semchuk and Hill about Ann Beam and Carl Beam. I would recommend picking up one of these pamphlets for a more insightful gallery experience, as the intention and reasoning behind the way works are displayed can be just as important as the works themselves. The annotations, or comments about the reading materials chosen to be in the exhibit, offer direct explanations from Ground, Semchuk, and Hill about the decision behind each selection. Semchuk and Hill’s conversation also provides additional perspectives on the works from Ann Beam and Carl Beam.
Before you rush off to the next 145 after class, I would encourage you to take some time to explore the work of Ann Beam and Carl Beam.
Spaces for Reading will be on display in the SFU Gallery (open Tuesday–Thursday from noon to 5 p.m. in AQ 3004) until June 20.