Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lesli Ellis, Irma Soltonovich, John Vander Schilden and Godfrey Stephens at Random House Gallery. April 12th. & 13th. 2014 by Philip Willey.


Lesli Ellis has a passion for odd bits of metal, moldings, keys, machine parts etc.. She collects ‘bits and bobs’ and assembles them in ways that suggest narrative possibilities. The results are humorous and aesthetically pleasing. In one piece doll parts emerge, or disappear, into a wooden box. It’s very striking, slightly macabre and open to various interpretations. Ellis gets a lot of joy from the process and causes us to question the multitude of parts and pieces that we produce from the earth to satisfy our complex needs.

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Irma Soltonovich creates solid, confident abstracts. The colours are lush…..the paint is thickly applied. In a statement she says she ‘uses simple lines and shapes and subtle shifts of colour to evoke emotions, feelings and memories.’ There’s an obvious pleasure in the application of paint. Her paintings often feature a discreet hint of a horizon line that suggests interior landscapes.


John Vander Schilden only has one piece in the show so it’s hard to say how representative it is of his interests. Perhaps his work can best be described as functional sculpture. He’s been working with wood for many years and enjoys salvaging and recycling found wood. He’s clearly a craftsman and it will be interesting to see how he evolves. This is his first show. He’s in good company.

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Godfrey Stephens is a Northwest Coast artist who has travelled extensively, often in boats he built himself. His work is in many collections and public places around the world, something he has achieved largely outside the ‘gallery system’. Most of his paintings are based on First Nations iconography combined with hints of Futurism, Picasso and classical Greek motifs. All these influences are fused with the spirit of the West Coast.

His wood sculptures are simultaneously rough-hewn and finely finished, abstract and organic. They embody a very real sense of place. You can smell the cedar and hear the waves crashing. There’s a freedom in Stephens’ work that evokes memories of Long Beach before it became a popular tourist destination or Tofino in the days before macchiato.

One of his best known pieces is the ‘Weeping Cedar Woman’ which he made in 1984 to protest logging on Meares Island. He’s currently refurbishing the ‘Weeping Cedar Woman’ in his Victoria studio. Hopefully she will soon be returning to the West Coast.


There are no obvious connections between these 4 artists and no specific theme but one comes away with an impression of cohesion. It’s a curious little pop-up show well worth a visit. But be warned, Random House, 353 Windemere Place is only open for public viewing on April 12th and 13th…..so you need to be quick.

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