Something strange has appeared on West Broadway. Sandwiched between the hole-in-the-wall eateries and outdoor apparel shops is a storefront filled with, not Gore-tex or vietnamese subs, but alluring and ambiguous forms. The space is called FIELD Contemporary; the art is by Vanessa Brown and Deirdre McAdams.
Though West Broadway is an unusual locale for a contemporary art gallery, director Daniel Jefferies assures me that the choice was intentional, not just made out of necessity. (The fact that the space is beautiful — compact but roomy and full of light, as a gallery ought to be — is a bonus.) "I've wanted to be a little more independent from what was happening here already, hence the location. This is not your typical standalone gallery that you would find in Vancouver, but everyone has been super supportive."
"My feeling is that it's not about saying, 'we're going to make something new that Vancouver doesn't have,' it's more about contributing to the diversity of the venues that people can show in," adds Brown. We are sitting on the floor and drinking kalimoxto, gathered around my recording device like we're at a campfire. Between everyone involved, there is an obvious closeness: this is perhaps the clearest indicator that FIELD is already accomplishing what it has set out to do.
Together with associate directors Avalon Mott and Brandon Cotter, Jefferies opened FIELD with a vision of fostering more experimentation, more support, and more openness in Vancouver's artistic community — most especially for recent graduates and emerging artists. The exhibition of work by Brown and McAdams is their first, and in many ways, it's a perfect choice. Though Brown and McAdams have both graduated from ECUAD within the past few years, their work is clarified and mature. There is a powerful dialogue between McAdams' minimal paintings and Brown's intertwining sculptural forms: both work intuitively, building distinct aesthetic vocabularies through experimenting with material.
"One thing that I thought was really great was when they approached me, there was a crazy amount of support," Brown explains. "Daniel was happy to support the work I'm currently making, but he was also really interested in potentially more experimental work, or me just trying something out, which was amazing. It was so refreshing to meet with someone who says to you, 'I like what you do, I know a bit of your history, and I want to support you. If you have any ideas about what could happen here, you should present them.'"
"I'm really happy with how our work came together," McAdams adds.
Jefferies discovered both through chance; he had seen McAdams' work at a group exhibition at WAAP, and found Brown when he was seeking out a studio space for himself upon first arriving in Vancouver. It's the sort of serendipity that one finds shocking — there is so much that the two artists have in common that it is hard to believe that they hadn't met before Jefferies brought them together for Outside A Marble Palace.
The exhibition itself is thoughtful and well-balanced. One can sense the intense deliberation with which each painting was hung or sculpture set into place. Both Brown and McAdams are articulate and speak easily about their process; however, their work succeeds most in how it slips in and out of language. Too often, we are compelled to resist what we don't immediately understand — but Outside A Marble Palace has delighted viewers so far, regardless of their artistic training.
"This series became all about signs and symbols and stand-ins for language," explains McAdams. "That is basically all painting can do, in a way: poetically hint at meaning. It's a really indirect way of communicating."
"I understand that people sometimes really look for easily articulable qualities in work," Brown adds. "I realize that I'm much more interested in the evocative potential of artwork — something that can resonate, even in a non-verbal way, within you."
She tells me of one individual who discussed her work by pointing out shapes seen in it. "It's a guitar," or "it's a woman," she would say.
"I hadn't thought of it that way," Brown said. "But I'm really interested in what people can see in it. Sometimes that connection is really tangible, but it's not so simple to talk about."
Pick the brains of Vanessa Brown and Deirdre McAdams this evening at FIELD Contemporary's Chat & Snack, which will be exactly what it sounds like: drinks, snacks, and good conversation. (starts at 7pm, 17 West Broadway.)
Learn more about FIELD Contemporary.