Curated by Boukje Elzinga
Did you know acclaimed Indigenous artist Norval Morriseau ever visit Ymir? Not likely, but if you’ve visited the Hotel Ymir recently, you may have seen his work and wondered how it came to be there. Hans Wilking, the owner of the hotel, has been a collector of art for many years, and through this interest has developed relationships with many artists, including such well known figures as E. J. Hughes, Simon Charlie and Norval Morriseau. Of his approach to collecting, Wilking says, “I collect work of people I know about, people who are of my time.” This highly personal method has allowed him to develop a unique and wide ranging collection, one that speaks as much to his connection with the artists as it does to the work itself.
Featuring highlights of his collection, this exhibition is a rare opportunity, not only see original works of this caliber, but to have a glimpse inside the world of the collector himself. Hans Wilking, owner of the Hotel Ymir and collector of the art in this exhibition, comes from Oldenberg, Friesland in Germany. He immigrated to Canada when he was in his mid twenties and worked at various jobs first in Manitoba and subsequently in British Columbia. He purchased and operated a nursery in Duncan for forty five years until his retirement from horticulture at the age of seventy four.
Hans, who was an avid skier and hiker, settled in Ymir, an area he calls “a natural paradise”. In 2005 he bought and renovated the Hotel Ymir (built in 1896) and filled it from his extensive art collection. Some pieces in this collection Hans purchased directly from the artists, many of whom he knew well and others he obtained through estate sales. At times he even traded flowers and plants for art.
The works in this exhibition represent only a small part of the Hans Wilking Collection and their presentation reflects Hans’s aesthetic as a collector. Many of the pieces were professionally framed and others were framed by Gilles Mainville the Assistant Manager of the Hotel Ymir. Many thanks to Hans Wilking for his generosity and cooperation and to Gilles Mainville for his assistance in making this show possible.
Agnes Veronica Ketter Warren
Agnes Warren was born in North Dakota, USA, she moved to Canada in 1915. A contemporary of Emily Carr, Warren studied at the Vancouver School of Art from 1927 to 1928 and at the University of Saskatchewan from 1930 to 1934. She became a member of the Royal Society of Arts in London, England in the early 1950’s. Later studies included attending lectures at the Chicago Art Institute and travels in Europe. Warren obtained portrait commissions throughout Canada taught art, and illustrated two books in Saskatchewan where she was the regional chairperson for the Federation of Canadian Artists for many years. Her art has been collected throughout Canada.
John Holroyd Dyson
John Dyson was born in Kent, England. His work was influenced both by his father who was a noted water colourist in England at the turn of the century, and through his maternal relationship to the family of Henry Charles Newton, founder and owner of the art supply firm Windsor & Newton. Following private tutoring by his uncle, Algeron Newton, a member of the Royal Academy of London, Dyson studied at the Heatherly School of Art in London. In the early 1950’s he moved to British Columbia, probably influenced by an uncle of his who had a ranch in the Caribou. He attended the Vancouver School of Art until 1954 and subsequently lived and painted in many places throughout the province including Vancouver, Victoria and the Chilcotin region. Much of his BC work concentrated on the land, mining and logging. He retired to Valemont and later died in Williams Lake in 1993.
Dorothy Oxborough was born in Banff, Alberta where her father was an engineer and her mother ran a craft shop. She began formal art studies first at the Institute of Art and Technology in Calgary and later at the Vancouver School of Art. She married Harry Johnson who worked for the Department of Indian Affairs; this possibly influenced her decision to focus her art on portraits of First Nations People. Her work has been occasionally criticized for sentimentalizing and appropriating First Nation’s culture.
Oxborough’s very skilled pastels have won her many artistic awards and she has obtained commissions from the Government of British Columbia for Year of the Child. Oxborough now suffers from macular degeneration, which has made it impossible for her to continue working as an artist; she lives near her family on Vancouver Island, BC.
Tsimshian artist Art Vickers, stated of her work, “ It is the way that, when you look at one of her portraits, you seem to be looking with her, and communing directly with the heart of the person she portrays” (Robert Amos, Times Colonist).
Andrew M. Wooldridge
Andrew Wooldridge was born in Egypt in 1949 and grew up in Birmingham, England. In the 1960’s he trained and worked as an illustrator for the Royal Army Medical Corps. From 1978 to 1980 he traveled to Israel and Australia and later completed a four year program in art at the Southampton College of Art & Design.
Upon immigration to British Columbia in 1984, he settled in Victoria where he was commissioned to paint murals by the Victoria Downtown Association. In 1997 he joined the faculty of the Victoria College of Art & Design. During his tenure he made a trip to Papua New Guinea to paint a series on the life and myths of the people of the Sepik River region. Wooldridge maintains a studio in Victoria and where his work is exhibited at the Avenue Gallery, the Fran Willis Gallery and the Winchester Gallery.
Allan W. Edwards
Born in Victoria, Allan Edwards returned to British Columbia in the 1960’s after a long career as an interior designer and artist in Detroit, New York, California and Hawaii. He was noted for the interior design work he did for large scale hotels. He designed the furniture and décor and produced paintings for the rooms.
Edwards taught Bill Reid amongst others in the various schools which he set up in Victoria. He was responsible for the establishment of the Victoria League of Art in 1963 and the founding of Alan Edwards School of Fine Art. In 1977 he played a key roll in the resurgence of the Federation of Canadian Artists; as its president he organized and instructed its art classes for over a decade.
In 1982 he moved to Salt Spring Island where he continued to conduct workshops until his death in 1993.
Although we have little information about this artist, apart from the signature on the painting, we do know Murzy was born and trained in art in Hungary. He immigrated to Canada and settled in British Columbia where he painted landscapes and images of local logging.
Born in New Westminster, British Columbia, Joseph Plaskett graduated first in History from the University of British Columbia in 1939 and later from its Teacher’s College. He studied art at the Vancouver School of Art under Jack Shadbolt from 1940 to 1942, and at the Banff School in 1944 under B.C. Binning and A. Y. Jackson. He continued his studies in San Francisco at the California School of Fine Art, in New York with Hans Hoffman, in Paris with Fernand Leger and at the Slade School of Art in London.
Plaskett had a long career as an art teacher at private and public schools. In 1947 he was appointed principal at the Winnipeg Art School where he instructed until 1949. During the 1950’s he taught at the Vancouver School of Art, at Emma Lake, Saskatchewan and at the University of British Columbia.
In 2001 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his “excellence in the field of visual art” and in 2004 he established the Joe Plaskett Foundation, which makes “ an annual award (of $25,000) to a Canadian artist to enable them to travel to Europe to grow and study”(joeplaskett.com).
On Plaskett’s ninetieth birthday in 2008, he said, “ At a certain point the painting seems to have painted itself without my help” (CBC News 2008).
Norval Morrisseau, an Ojibwa of the Anishinaabe Peoples, was born on the Sand Point Reserve near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Following Anishinaabe tradition, he was raised by his maternal grand parents. From his grandfather, a shaman, he learned the legends and sacred traditions of his people and from his grandmother, a devout Catholic, he learned the tenets of Christianity.
At the age of six Morrisseau entered a Catholic Residential School, survived and left after fourth grade; he continued his education at a local community school. At nineteen Morrisseau became seriously ill and was treated by a medicine-woman who performed a renaming ceremony. She followed the Anishinaabe tradition of giving a powerful name to a dying person in order to save them and to provide them with new energy. His new name was “Copper Thunderbird”.
Morrisseau taught himself art and developed his own visual language to describe the ancient legends of the Anishinaabe culture. The subject of his art came to him in visions and dreams. He worked for many years as a miner and did not become a full time artist until the 1960’s. He is the acclaimed leader of the Woodland School of Art and his pictographic style has influenced many First Nations artists.
Morrisseau obtained the Order of Canada in 1978, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation and was the holder of The Eagle Feather (the highest honour awarded by the Assembly of First Nations).
Norval Morrisseau stated, “My art speaks and will continue to speak, transcending barriers of nationality, of language and of other forces that may be divisive, fortifying the greatness of spirit that has always been the foundation of the Ojibwa people” (Travels to the House of Invention, 1998). He died from complications of Parkinson’s disease in 2007.
Edward John Hughes
E.J. Hughes was born in North Vancouver, British Columbia and grew up in Nanaimo. He began drawing at an early age and graduated from the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts where he and his fellow students, B.C. Binning and Orville Fisher studied under Grace Melvin, Fredrick Varley and Jock MacDonald.
In 1934 Hughes partnered with Paul Goranson and Orville Fisher in the Western Brotherhood to make prints and paint murals in Vancouver. In 1939 he joined the Canadian Army as a gunner and from 1943 to 1946 was one of Canada’s Official War Artists. After the war he moved to Vancouver Island where he and his wife spent much of the rest of their lives, first in Shawnigan Lake and later in Duncan.
Dr. Max Stern, the owner of the Dominion Gallery in Montreal, represented him from 1951 until Stern died in 1987. With Dr. Stern’s patronage, Hughes was able to concentrate on making art, achieve a modest but steady income, and obtain the privacy he sought.
Hughes worked throughout his career from his early pencil sketches (he only began using photographs as reference material in 1987). In his process he converted his sketches first to black and white tonal studies, then into full sized watercolours and finally into oil paintings completing about six oils a year. “He developed an elaborate system of coded colour notes to enable him to accurately recreate his visual impressions” ( E.J. Hughes by Ian Thoms, 2002). With this careful process, he wished to, “ make a lasting picture, something more than illustrations” (E.J. Hughes by Ian Thoms).
Hughes admired the work of Emily Carr, Fredrick Varley, Tom Thompson, A.Y. Jackson and Fenwick Landsdowne, Henri Rousseau as well as Johannes Vermeer and the Dutch Masters.
He was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1968, awarded Honorary Degrees from the University of Victoria in 1994 and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1997. He also received The Order of Canada in 2001 and the Order of British Columbia in 2005. E.J. Hughes died in Duncan in 2007.
Simon Charlie was born on a fishing boat in Cowichan Bay, British Columbia. His mother died when he was four and his father, a longshoreman, then married Amelia Jack, the daughter of a well known medicine man in the Cowichan area. His grandparents taught Charlie traditional Coast Salish culture. Against his grandfather’s advice, he was enrolled at the residential school on Kuper Island where he became ill, probably with tuberculosis. Charlie says he remembers the priests at the school threatening him with eternal damnation and declaring that Indians were sinful because they were said to worship totem poles (Collectors Notes, Dr. Norman Todd, Simon Fraser University). He began making art during his recovery in hospital.
At nineteen he married a local Cowichan woman and over the years, they had eleven children, two of whom died as infants. Initially Charlie supported his family by working as a longshoreman, then in a mill, on a gillnetter, as a farmer and a custom framer. He became a full time artist in 1966 and soon obtained private and public commissions.
Since there were no serious carvers who worked in the old Salish style when Charlie began carving, he developed a style through observation and imagination by amalgamating the traditional images from Coast Salish stories with images from his dreams. At twenty three, he obtained a spiritual guide, Seenkhi, a giant snake which was thought to live at the top of Mount Tsohalem. The name Cowichan refers to this snake and means sunning itself in the middle.
For many years Charlie taught traditional carving methods and designs of the Cowichan Tribe of the Coast Salish First Nation to young Coast Salish artists such as, Doug La Fortune and Francis Horne. His totem pole carvings have been at the Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria and at the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. Charlie received the National Centennial Medal in 1967, the Order of Canada in 2003 for his contribution to education and preservation of Coast Salish legends and stories, the National Centennial Medal in 1967 and the Order of British Columbia in 2001.