By Haley Bassett, November 13th 2020
Tucked away in the eastern stairwell of the Dawson Creek Art Gallery, past the Alaska Highway exhibition, lies a little-known gem: the gallery’s permanent collection. The collection boasts important works by our region’s pre-eminent artists, including Jenn Bowes, Mary Parslow, Edna McPhail, Peter von Tiesenhausen and Ken HouseGo, among many others. The works on display in the stairwell gallery rotate occasionally and are carefully selected by curator kit fast. The result is always a dazzling exhibition that warrants a visit to the gallery on its own merit.
In today’s column, I will take an in-depth look into Far Shore, a mixed-media work by Grande Prairie artist Ken HouseGo. HouseGo studied fine art at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1974 and Toronto’s York University in 1980. After his studies, he moved to Grande Prairie, where he became a fine art educator at Grande Prairie Regional College. He worked there for 35 years before retiring to Nova Scotia in 2018.
I knew very little about HouseGo’s practice before encountering his works in the permanent collection, but I was happy to discover my initial instincts about his work were corroborated after further research. At first glance, elements of play and curiosity are evident on the multifaceted surfaces of Far Shore, traits that are identifiable in much of his catalogue.
Far Shore hovers between sculpture and painting, landscape and abstract, with seemingly contradictory terrestrial and nautical elements. As HouseGo aptly puts it in the exhibition catalogue for his 2015 solo show Beacon, his paintings are “built”. HouseGo clearly has a penchant for bending perspective. In the case of Far Shore, it could at once depict an aerial view of an archipelago, or a cross section of ocean beneath a scarcely treed island, neither or both simultaneously.
HouseGo’s expert harmony of saturated colours plays nicely against the subtle shifts in whites and greys between the “islands” in the piece. HouseGo, who works across mediums, has described wood as the common denominator in all his works. In Far Shore, wood is ingeniously employed in multiple ways for the support, frame, texture and as compositional elements.
In Far Shore, HouseGo successfully balances multiple perspectives, narratives and textures in a playful and engaging way that offers a rewarding viewing experience with each new encounter. Visit the Dawson Creek Art Gallery today to discover this piece for yourself, as well as the many other hidden gems in the permanent collection.
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