Art arrives in all its forms at VPAG
To some artists, going from a three-dimensional art practice to a two-dimensional one, or vice versa, can be a giant leap into the unknown. Not so for Winfield’s Richard Suarez.
Over the period of several decades, the former sculpture professor at the University of British Columbia Okanagan campus has focused primarily on sculpture and drawing, but his practice has also included the research of architectural structures and forms, including industrial design.
Suarez is about to show a large body of his drawings and paintings for the first time at the Vernon Public Art Gallery. The exhibition, quantumspaces, consists of three bodies of two-dimensional works: mixed media drawings on panels, pen and ink drawings on paper, and a suite of ball point pen drawings on polystyrene.
“We are excited to have Richard’s exhibit quantumspaces at the Vernon Public Art Gallery. His background is extensive, everything from architectural design to silversmithing as well as drawing and painting,” said Dauna Kennedy Grant, VPAG executive director. “His work has a distinctive and recognizable style, something that can be enjoyed by all audiences because the level of interpretation varies and it is aesthetically pleasing at the same time.”
According to Suarez, who recently spoke to the VPAG’s curator, Lubos Culen, about his work, drawing has always been essential for the planning and execution of his sculptural and architectural ideas. His studio contains a sizable collection of numerous modestly-sized drawings on paper.
“In our conversation at his studio, he pointed out that he believes that the discipline of drawing makes one aware of spatial awareness in general,” said Culen. “He explains that drawings map out objects in space and set the dynamics of different environments which might be either believable or invented at times. His drawings exemplify his inclination towards architectural structures and spaces often populated by anthropomorphic forms.”
Suarez’s background goes back to his studies in industrial design. He received a bachelor’s degree in design, with a minor in sculpture, from Syracuse University, N.Y. After graduating in 1961, he worked as an exhibition designer at General Motors in Detroit, Mich., while also pursuing graduate studies in sculpture at the Wayne State University.
His interest in sculpture and the creative process culminated in his relocation to Montana in 1966, where he taught industrial design and sculpture at Montana State University in Bozeman. He immigrated to Vancouver in 1970 and started teaching courses in sculpture and drawing at the then newly established Capilano College in North Vancouver until 1972.
After his stay in Vancouver, Suarez moved to the Mission area of Kelowna, and established himself as a silversmith for several years. He joined the fine arts department at Okanagan University College (now UBCO) in 1977 and taught as a part-time instructor until 1990, when he became a full-time associate professor, retiring in 2003.
During his time at UBCO, Suarez taught courses in three-dimensional design, sculpture, graphic design and drawing.
Suarez’s work often addresses the issues of the human condition. His drawings show his interest in the possible futuristic modality, while making references to the present and history, said Culen.
“Just like his three dimensional miniature landscapes often resemble an urban setting of some science fiction movies like the dystopian Ridley Scott film Blade Runner (1982), Suarez’s drawings are dense in terms of their possible interpretation.
“Although as far as the subject matter is concerned, he observes the drawings as having no particular message, but they are an expression of a certain social conditioning.”
Suarez’s quantumspaces opens at the VPAG Thursday and runs to May 23. Members and the public are invited to attend the opening reception on Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., where the artist will be present and open to questions about his work.
The Vernon school district’s annual elementary school exhibition, Art from the Heart, is also opening at the VPAG this week.
The work has been created by kindergarten to Grade 7 students from within the district’s art education curriculum.
Paintings, drawings and sculpture will fill three exhibition spaces at the gallery, with contributions from more than 15 elementary schools around Greater Vernon.
Attendance during the exhibition is always strong, said Kelly MacIntosh, VPAG marketing and programming coordinator.
“Kids create without worry. They are free to interpret their world through the use of visual arts that most adults have difficulty with. Some of the art produced carries great meaning, including story telling or social messages. Others are simply fun, vibrant, and energetic,” said MacIntosh, who remembers one particular painting from last year’s exhibition, titled Crazy Chicken.
“It looked exactly as it sounds. It made people smile.”
Art from the Heart will be on view Thursday, with an opening reception on Saturday, March 23 from 1 to 3 p.m. The exhibition will be up until April 18.