Art Exhibit Transforms VIU Gallery into Immersive Forest Reading Room – Nanaimo News Bulletin

Artist Jim Holyoak has lived all over the world, but grew up in the Fraser Valley and said the forests of British Columbia have always lived in his imagination.

“Even when I was living abroad, if someone asked me where I was from, I closed my eyes and immediately saw fir trees in the fog,” he said. “I feel like I took that part of my BC home with me everywhere I went.”

From February 17 to April 9, the Holyoak Forest-themed exhibition Arborescence will be on view at Vancouver Island University’s View Gallery. A virtual opening will take place on Thursday, February 17, and an in-person artist talk will take place the following day.

The exhibit, Holyoak’s first in Nanaimo, features two large ink paintings of maze-like forests that will wrap 114 feet around the gallery’s 11-foot walls, along with a collection of 100 smaller designs and an atmospheric soundscape. There will also be spaces where visitors can sit and read books about trees.

“I think the sensations you would get upon entering the gallery is this sense of immersive tangle of tree branches, roots and vines all around the gallery,” Holyoak said.

The two major works, Thicket and Energy, were created in Iceland, Quebec and British Columbia. He said the forest landscapes are drawn from his imagination and experience hiking the West Coast Trail in Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park. Small observational drawings made during these hikes will also be presented in the exhibition.

Holyoak is a student of Indian ink painting, so most of the work is done using Chinese brushes, but he has also turned to brooms to create “edgy and rough” lines. He said he painted the works while his canvases were right side up, upside down, diagonally, and on the ground to allow the ink to flow in different directions. He said these techniques are used to depict hanging moss and vines creeping up and down.

“I can flood areas on the floor where you would use a brush to collect ink and water and then let it dry, or use gravity to create that feeling of sinking and melting or rushing,” said he explained.

Holyoak said the soundscape would flood the gallery with forest sounds like raindrops and bird calls. He described a forest as both an indoor and an outdoor place, and when one enters it, “there is this strong sense of being in a tangled, hidden, dark place that is full of life and secret things and hidden everywhere you look.”

“I hope my drawings will also evoke this feeling, that when you move with your feet through the gallery, you also travel with your eyes,” he said. “It’s the maze-like, maze-like feel. A sense of movement and metamorphosis and change and transformation everywhere you look.

WHAT’S THIS… Arborescence by Jim Holyoak is on display at the View Gallery, VIU Bldg. 330, from February 17 to April 9. Virtual opening via Zoom on February 17 at 7 p.m. Artist talk on February 18 at VIU Bldg. 200, room 203. For more details on Zoom, click here.
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