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"Coast to Coast"
Carole Sabiston, "Coast to Coast," 1984, textile wall-hanging, 59" x 59".
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"The Angel of the Blue Sky is Crying Parallax Tears"
Patricia Martin Bates, "The Angel of the Blue Sky is Crying Parallax Tears," 1998, lightbox with needle-perforated chine collè print, 120cm x 81cm x 10cm.
The Moore Gallery, Victoria
November 10 — 17, 2005
By Brian Grison
Since the mid-nineteenth century there have been many artists' collectives in Canada. The Limners is a group of eighteen Victoria-area artists that formed casually in the late 1960s and was formalized as a non-profit society in 1971. The Limners' reason for being, according to Patricia E. Bovey's book, A Passion for Art(1996), has been their social life. Other than an undefined focus on the human figure and a vague concern for the human condition, the Limners' mandate was neither political nor theoretical. Unlike other collectives, such as the Group of Seven, the Automatists, Painters Eleven, and the Regina Five, they did not introduce avant-gardist ideas to the West Coast. Today, most of the still-living Limers artists are nearing eighty years of age — a handful are in their nineties — so this exhibition may well be their last as a group.
Almost all of the Limners has or had their own studio, so the group's raison d'être was, in part, a way of countering the isolation that haunts the solitary studio life of most artists. A similar need for mutual support has given rise to such groups as Workscene in Toronto, Xchanges in Victoria, and Enriched Bread Artists in Ottawa, as well as numerous artist-run galleries and organizations across the country.
The Limners' membership roster includes some art luminaries and some whose names are not well known outside of the Victoria area — painters Max Bates, Richard Ciccimarra, Nita Forrest, Colin Graham, Leroy Jensen, Myfanwy Pavelic, and Jack Wilkinson, printmaker Patricia Martin Bates, printmaker and painter Herbert Seibner, printmaker and sculptor Elza Mayhew, sculptor Bob deCastro, potters and sculptors Walter Dexter, Helga Grove, and Jan Grove, book designer and painter Alexander Lavdovsky, textile artist Carole Sabiston, poet and collagist Robin Skelton, photographer, painter, collagist and video artist Karl Spreitz, and Sylvia Skelton, calligrapher.
Most of their work in this exhibition references the human figure, though how it all relates to the human condition is more difficult to pinpoint. Other than a few academic figure studies (Forrest, Jensen, and Wilkinson), landscapes (Graham, Sabiston, and Lavdovsky), and pure abstractions (deCastro, Mayhew, and Dexter), most of the approximately forty works in the exhibition — dating from the late 1940s to 2002 — focus on human interactions (Maxwell Bates), the figure in meditation (Pavelic), trauma (Ciccimarra, Spreitz, and Max Bates) or celebration (Martin Bates and Seibner).
The exhibition resembles a floor to ceiling salon-style art society show circa 1960. As in many such exhibitions of this type, the artists are more interesting as individuals than as a group. Nevertheless, the exhibition is an opportunity to applaud a group of dedicated people who have made a lasting contribution to the cultural life of Victoria, and to reminisce about good parties, good conversations, and long friendships.