Ekphrasis: Writing the Collection

May 10th to June 7th  2014

Join us for the opening reception featuring spoken word and poetry
Friday, May 9th , 7:00-10:00pm

wpidrumDefinition: Ekphrasis is the written translation of a visual work of art.

Nanaimo Art Gallery presents Ekphrasis: Writing the Collection, an exhibition of works from the permanent collection. For this exhibition seven local writers have been invited to compose new poetic responses to specific artworks. Paintings, prints and sculptures can speak without words, but what do they say to specific individuals, and how can viewers share their impressions? This exhibition creates the opportunity to read artworks through the perspective of other artists working in the medium of language.

The questions of how visual art (image) and poetry (words) relate to each other can lead to the term ekphrasis. Originating in ancient Greece and taught as a rhetorical device where the purpose is not only to describe an object, but to share the emotional experience and content of it as well. Using ekphrastic poetry, one can bring the experience or essence of an object to the listener or reader through highly detailed descriptive writing.

The world we live in today is saturated with images from advertising, television, magazines, and especially computers and handheld devices. There is less need for visual description when high quality reproductions surround us and many images are easily found through Google. The speed with which we take in images rarely leaves time for thoughtful consideration. Ekphrasis is a way to deepen the conversation by giving artworks careful attention. Works of visual art often have an ineffable quality that, while impossible to put into words, can also be the paradoxical spur that compels us to try. The goal of Ekphrastic poetry is to surpass mere description in order to embody qualities that are beyond the physical aspects of the work it observes.

The Exhibition features new acquisitions by prominent BC artist and former Vancouver Island University professor, Ian Garrioch; prominent artist and VIU alumnus Brendan Lee Satish Tang and internationally acclaimed artist, Sonny Assu. Poems and texts responding to these and other artworks have been created especially for the show by Naomi  Beth Wakan, Nanaimo Poet Laureate; Lisa Webster-Gibson, spoken word artist, visual artist, and musician; Valentina Cardanilli, local artist and creative instigator; as well as responses from NAG staff Jacqueline Yeo, writer and art education assistant; Chris Kuderle, administrative director; Rob Bos, downtown gallery coordinator, and Jennifer Pierce, poet and gallery assistant. These writer/poet responses are a supplement to the viewers’ own, and merely add an additional lens with which to interpret the artwork.


Ekphrasis: Writing the Collection is curated by Nanaimo Art Gallery Downtown Gallery Coordinator, Rob Bos

Image: Sonny Assu, iDrum: Personal Totems #3, acrylic on hide, 2009

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