The Winnipeg Art Gallery’s current Wanda Koop exhibit opened in September, but I finally got the opportunity to check it out a couple of days ago. I’m the first to admit, I don’t know as much about art as I would like to, but Wanda Koop is one of those names that most Winnipeggers will recognize. And even if you don’t know it, you’ll probably recognize her style as well.
Raised in Winnipeg, Koop has also remained here in Winnipeg, unlike many of her contemporaries, forging a name for herself that is famous around the world. The WAG’s current exhibit of her work dubbed Wanda Koop… On the Edge of Experience, runs until November 21, so you still have some time to check it out.
The most striking thing about Koop’s paintings are their size and their colours. She paints enormous large-scale works on plywood (apparently a necessary scrap material she used during her starving artist days) and uses bright florescent colours, often contrasted with the palest and softest of tones so light, it’s almost like there’s nothing there. (It was amusing to learn that back in the 80s, she would get in trouble for using such bold, vivid colours from her art teachers.)
My favourite painting is this one that depicts the Assiniboine River at night before they built the riverwalk. Koop says she used to take her dog for walks along the river where young Aboriginal men would light fires along the banks to sit by and the police would come with their flashlights to disperse them at regular intervals. (Good to see some things never change eh?)
One of the most interesting parts of the exhibit is Koop’s “studio” where you can actually see the process of creation from a few scratches first made on post-it notes to larger drawings and finally the finished work. It certainly put to rest my false belief that an artist just plonks herself down in front of a canvas and is immediately able to create a masterpiece.
And finally, I draw your attention to the Human Hybrid piece Koop created that integrates her paintings, video screens and modern dance. I was lucky to catch a glimpse of the dancers rehearsing when I was there, and it turned out to be a compelling combination of video, movement, light and sound. It’s the kind of thing you really have to see to understand, so I’m not even going to try to explain it. You should just go.
The live dance performances are happening on Wednesday, November 10 at 8pm; Friday, November 12 at 8pm; and Saturday, November 13 at 8 and 11pm. Admission is $20 for WAG members, $25 for adults, and $15 for students. Tickets are available at the WAG information desk. Call 786-6641 for info.