For the past 15 years, I’ve painted opulent European 18th and 19th century interiors. Designed as theatrical displays of status and power by wealthy aristocrats and bourgeoisie, these formerly private sites are now museums, providing entertainment and pleasure for touristic consumption, while also opening up a space for philosophical contemplation.
Although I use photography as a structural device through which I enter the painting process, with each piece I always seem to arrive at a point of crisis where I need to break free from the tyranny of the image. Through partly destroying the image I discover fresh solutions to painterly problems I set for myself.
Throughout my childhood and into my mid-twenties, I was a ballet dancer. That intense training of spatial awareness and interpretive questioning is still deeply stamped in my DNA. A painting to me is a kind of choreography; there’s a haptic dance that takes place from my optical experience of an image, through to the way my nervous system signals to my body how to translate and record it. As painter/dancer I tease out meaning through working and reworking, coming up to speed as I gain understanding, and making the last strikes with absolute commitment.
Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre | 181 Roundhouse Mews FREE | No registration required
Join artist Val Nelson to create a spectacular 135-foot long collaborative drawing exploring contour and motion, the individual and the ensemble. Stay for a few minutes or a few hours working with gesture and contour to capture the dynamism of live dancers as they create movement. Participants of all ages and experience are welcome.
Val Nelson has a diverse interdisciplinary arts practice as a dancer and visual artist, film-maker and educator. She was a dancer with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, then majored in Media Arts with Honors at Emily Carr University in 1988. From 1988-2001, she made collaborative dance videos with Holy Body Tattoo, choreographer Anthony Morgan, and Katherine Labelle Dance, that screened worldwide. In 2003 she was shortlisted for the Royal Bank Painting Prize, and from 2003-2016, had eleven solo painting exhibitions in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. In 2012 Val began research on her project I Am A Camera which “archived” recordings of dance and opera performances through her eyes, nervous system, and hand onto paper. In 2016 she expanded on the project with seven-foot wide drawings, made in collaboration with Kokoro Dance, dumb instrument dance, and Sujit Vaidya. Her drawings were exhibited at the 2016 Vancouver International Dance Festival.
The Roundhouse is the Vancouver Park board’s only solely dedicated Arts and Culture Community Centre. The historic building is home to a 200 seat black box theatre, a 2500 foot exhibition hall and artist in residence projects in dance, music and the visual arts as well as a full roster of recreation programs
It is also the home of Engine 374, the locomotive that pulled the first passenger train across Canada from coast to coast.
I’m excited to be creating new work from my I am a camera series, for a visual art exhibition at the Vancouver International Dance Festival, alongside dance photography by Chris Randle, and woven willow sculpture by Ken Clarke, March 3-19. The artwork will be displayed in the Roundhouse Exhibition Hall in Yaletown. A number of dance companies participating in the festival have graciously welcomed me into their rehearsal studios to draw them as they prepare for their performances. Seeing them at work is a beautiful thing––the total commitment to their artform is palpable and so inspiring. I hope you will be able to take in the vast array of wonderful performances to choose from during the festival, scheduled at various venues.
There will also be free noon-hour life drawing sessions every weekday beginning Thursday, March 3 through Friday March 18 at the Roundhouse Exhibition Hall. Practice your drawing skills and let your creativity be inspired by dancers and life models posing in either costumes or plain clothes.
These public sessions, presented in partnership with the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, are open to all skill levels, are free, and require no pre-registration. Sketching paper, pencils, and other supplies are available for participants to borrow, courtesy of a generous donation by Opus Art Supplies.