Arthur Renwick, "Silver," colour photograph, 2009, 46" X 44".
Mask: Artists and Curators, January 29 to April 4, 2010, Richmond Art Gallery
BY: Beverly Cramp
As a boy in the Haisla First Nation village of Kitamaat in northern British Columbia, Arthur Renwick grew up listening to his grandmother’s stories and began drawing pictures at the age of six. Later, he studied at Emily Carr University of Art + Design and finished an MFA at Montreal’s Concordia University. Now based in Toronto, Renwick’s first major exhibitions involved multimedia landscape photography, until a few years ago when he began a series of larger-than-life photographic portraits documenting First Nations people who had come up against cultural assumptions about their heritage throughout their careers. “I began photographing authors and actors while talking to them about the history of images and the Indian,” says Renwick. “I was interested to know if they felt compromised by the stereotypical images of the past. Then I asked them to create a facial gesture to express their thoughts of that history.” The latest in the Mask series grew out of a First Nations curatorial conference at UBC in November 2008 and will be shown at the Richmond Art Gallery through April. In his artist’s statement, Renwick describes the new portraits as “…more than humorous, a body of images that depicts a culture alive, reactive and very comfortable with challenging and mocking the norm.”