Animal Flow

9 August 2020 – That’s where it starts. Sheer visual reference.

I see Paige Bowman’s canine prowling a street corner opposite Jonathan Rogers Park.

It flips my mind back to Brian Jungen’s whale, which I saw last week at the VAG (Vancouver Art Gallery) …

and farther back than that, back to 2013, when Ai Weiwei’s snake coiled across the ceiling at the AGO.

Three works, connected by subject matter — an animal — but, above all, by flow.

Flow. The sheer pulsing energy that the artist has infused into each element of each creature.

The rib cage & attendant structures …

the head …

the vertebrae.

But the flow transcends physical form, as I realize when I look up Paige Bowman and re-acquaint myself with these specific works by Brian Jungen and Ai Weiwei.

The works, like the artists, also flow across identity, voice, appropriation and meaning.

Paige Bowman is a Vancouver illustrator who self-identifies as “human dog,” chooses the pronoun references of “they/them,” and — like the art they create, lives “on the unceded territory of the musqueam, squamish and tseil-watuth, or so called vancouver.”

Brian Jungen, born in northern BC of Swiss/ Dane-Zaa heritage, has built up a rich body of work in which he repurposes running shoes, golf bags, hockey masks, car fenders and plastic chairs into representations of indigenous masks and war bonnets, furniture, and  living creatures. Cetology, shown here, a complete whale skeleton created from patio chairs, is owned by the VAG and was on loan last year to the AGO for its 2019 retrospective of Jungen’s work, “Friendship Centre.” Jungen has cheerfully pointed out how suitable it is that he appropriate sports equipment for his sculptures, given how freely sports organizations have appropriated native terminology for team names. (A practice that now appears to be in sharp reversal, at least here in North America.)

In Snake Ceiling, Ai Weiwei uses a favourite Jungen material, backpacks, to give voice to those literally buried by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and buried again by Chinese official silence about the disaster. Some 5,000 of the est. 90,000 victims were schoolchildren, killed when their shoddy schools collapsed around them. Each segment of that snake is a child’s backpack: as an AGO volunteer at the time, I watched visiting schoolchildren listen to the story, their faces changing from polite semi-attention to focused shock and empathy. Every element of that exhibition (“Ai Weiwei: According to What?”) flowed across the boundaries of its material; told stories; pulsed its connection with a viewer willing to flow with it, and connect.

Shape-shifting works, shape-shifting concepts, in our shape-shifting times.





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  1. Thank you for posting what is too far away for me to get to. It’s such beautiful art.

    • that’s the joy of each other’s blogs, isn’t it? we may visit that which is too far away to visit… thank you for taking time to comment, and be safe and well, in your own spot in the world

  2. These artists are amazing. So talented! As Flatliner Books said, thanks for posting what I can’t get to right now.

  3. I remember seeing Ai Weiwei contemporary works…didn’t know of Paige or Brian love the connections you made here Penny…have another joyful walk thanks for sharing ~ smiles Hedy ☺️

  4. Such interesting connections you made here, Penny. I like the materials an meanings…have always appreciated Ai Weiwei’s work but didn’t know about the other artists….and am reminded of a moving work seen a small room at a library in a small town in Arizona near the border. The artist collected personal effects people left or lost in the desert as they tried to cross from Mexico to the US, a very perilous journey down there. The toothbrushes, water bottles, etc. were neatly lined up and photographed. The work has since reached bigger venues but seeing it exhibited at the Ajo, AZ library where all this takes place had an extra impact.

    • Yes, seeing a show in-situ can have huge impact — I first saw a Kahlo/Carr/O’Keefe show just outside Toronto, very powerful, but the O’Keefe element had even more impact when I saw the show again months later in Santa Fe

      • Yes, and it doesn’t happen very often. I can imagine it would be good to see O’Keefe in Santa Fe.

      • yes & I was touched that this show, of these three amazing female artists, visited all three countries: starting in Canada, then the USA & Mexico

  5. Hey! Birbirimizi ziyaret edelim. Bu arada blogunu seviyorum

  6. fascinating art! the talent is incredible! thank you for sharing these masterpieces!🤍

    Follow @everythingtips for tips and recommendations if interested! It would mean a lot to me!🥺🤍

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