My best friend Janine and I recently traveled to Victoria, British Columbia. Janine is very much into all things art; she collects gorgeous jewelry and art pieces on her travels throughout the world, and anywhere she goes, an art gallery or museum will not be missed. You can check out her travels on her blog here.
I knew the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria would be a must-see on our to-do list, and the Gallery did not disappoint! The Gallery is tucked away a mile or so from downtown Victoria, between the neighborhoods of North Park and Fairfield, near the Craigdarroch Castle. It sits on a quiet street, unassuming, but filled with artistic treasures inside.
The Gallery staff were incredibly friendly and helpful, and a very nice gentleman named Vincent ended up being our tour guide. The Gallery first opened in 1951 as an exhibit for the art of the historic 1889 mansion that now sits connected to the seven modern galleries. The Gallery holds almost 20,000 pieces of art and has the largest public collection in British Columbia.
The Massey Gallery displayed street art pieces by Mitchell Villa, a Victoria-based painter. I loved their edginess and bold colors and the fact that a couple of them depicted the beauty and strength of women.
I loved this piece by Mitchell Villa, Hastings Street, a depiction of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Mitchell spent two days wandering around East Hastings and took over 300 photographs. East Hastings is a neighborhood where mass poverty and the struggles of life are very apparent.
Nathan Davis, a visual artist with roots in graffiti, painstakingly creates HO scale trains, making them look custom weathered. We were told he uses toothpicks to create the graffiti, and the realistic portrayal of train cars we see on the rails today was fascinating.
The Centennial Gallery was home to the Millennia: Asian Art Through the Ages exhibit, which will be displayed until March 31, 2017. Vincent told us that what they have on display in this exhibit is only 30% of what the Gallery has. The Gallery has the largest collection of Asian Art in Canada.
This Norimono or Palanquin was used in Japan to transport someone of high social standing, such as a bride to a groom’s residence on their wedding day.
The Hawk in Snow, a hanging scroll ink on silk, was created by Japanese artist, Yamamoto Baiitsu (1783-1856). He became one of the most accomplished Nanga artists, and achieved fame with his bird and flower compositions.
The Chinese Large Buddha Head is from the Tang Dynasty (618-906) or possibly later. It is said that Sakyamuni Buddha was born with 32 magic bodily marks and eight secondary ones that distinguished his anatomy from that of ordinary mortals.
This Japanese Okimono sculpture in the form of a Human Skull with Coiled Snake was created in the Edo Period, mid-19th Century. Both Janine and I were surprised to see this, it wasn’t something we would particular picture when thinking of Japanese art.
This Pillar Figure is the oldest piece in the Gallery, from the Chalcolithic Culture (4500-3500 BCE). It is made of basalt and was found in the Golan Heights region. They are thought to have been used in the home as idols to promote fertility.
The Graham Gallery houses the museums only permanent exhibit, Emily Carr and the Young Generation. Born in 1871, Emily Carr is one of Canada’s most renowned artists, famous for her stunning landscapes and her reputation as a nomadic, solitary artist. This exhibit features pieces that showcase her work over time as she traveled throughout the world, working with other artists, all which influenced her work as the years progressed.
Emily painted this watercolor of the Brittany Coast in 1911 while she studied with Henry Phelan Gibb and Frances Hodgkins in the French countryside.
Perhaps my favorite piece in the gallery, Blue Sky is a 1936 oil on canvas piece. Following Lawren Harris’s advice to concentrate on her own subject matter rather than merely reinterpreting the creations of others, Emily turned to the British Columbia landscape. As she said in 1934, “Dear trees, we don’t stop half enough to love and admire them.”
As you can see between the Brittany Coast painting in 1911 and the Blue Sky painting in 1936, Emily’s work evolved significantly throughout the years, from realistic to a more emotional interpretation of the world.
Moving out of the Graham Gallery, memories of my childhood came rushing back to me as my eyes laid upon, The Doll’s House. This is one of the most popular exhibits at the Gallery. It was built by Lt. Colonel Lewis Egerton Broome. He created the house where it was exhibited during World War II to raise funds for the Red Cross.
This room is not under construction, it is an artistic creation by Cedric, Nathan and Jim Bomford. Jim and his two son’s create exhibits throughout Canada, using reclaimed wood. Jim is a retired civil, structural and environmental engineer. Cedric currently lives in Winnipeg, where he is an Assistant Professor in the School of Arts at the University of Manitoba. His installation and photographic work have been exhibited all over the world. Nathan is a visual artist currently resident on Vancouver Island. His solo and group exhibitions have been featured in Germany, the United Kingdom and across Canada.
Just outside of the museum in the Gallery’s Asian Garden, stands the Japanese Shinto Shrine, the only authentic and still-standing shrine in North America.
Thank you to the Gallery and Vincent for letting Janine and I tour the beautiful exhibits! I highly recommend paying a visit to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria on your next visit to British Columbia!
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
1040 Moss Street
Victoria, British Columbia
Lesley is the founder and editor of What’s Up NW. Prior to creating WhatsUpNW.com, she was the Seattle city editor for AskMissA.com. For both publications, Lesley has covered fashion shows, openings, and local charity events. She has written numerous articles shining the light on local businesses, encouraging readers to always shop local.