Gathie Falk

1989

GATHIE FALK born 1928 in Alexander, MB… lives in Vancouver, BC

Her art reflects an uncanny ability to seize what is significant within the ordinary and turn it into a powerful, revelatory force.

Last night I went to an opening for Gathie Falk’s recent paintings at Equinox Gallery in Vancouver. Twelve new paintings hung on the wall, produced as a series over the past year. While each is different from the other, they share a common structure—a vast blue night sky surmounting a small strip of earth. The celestial colours shift from one canvas to the next, from dark azure, to muddy chocolate blue, to lively aquamarine. Percussive brush strokes burst with colour across the sky. Like fireworks and shooting stars, they transform the world into a place of delight and wonder.

The small strip of earth that clings to the bottom of each canvas acts like an anchor, allowing us to find our bearings and avoid drifting off into the night sky. In the lower corner are a small map with two cross streets simply drawn and labeled “YOU ARE HERE,” two street names, an arrow pointing north, and, occasionally, a small X marking an exact location. Within this simple structure, Gathie Falk offers an insight into all that is meaningful in the world. As we survey each canvas, we move from the everyday to the eternal, from the material world to the ethereal, from the reassurance of “here” to the wonder of “out there.”

Each of the canvases is marked with an emphatic proclamation, “YOU ARE HERE.” It is an assertion of place and location, but also a call to consciousness and connection. In this instance, the maps mark the homes of friends scattered across the city. One can easily imagine Falk leaving that house after an evening of companionship, looking up into the night sky, feet firmly planted on the ground, and recognizing in that moment a meaningful continuity between the eternal and the everyday.

For more than forty years Gathie Falk has shared her unending admiration for the world that surrounds us. Her art reflects an uncanny ability to seize what is significant within the ordinary and turn it into a powerful, revelatory force. Using ceramics, performances, sculptures, environments, quilts, installations, paintings and drawings, she invites us to consider the significance of commonplace events and objects. Apples, oranges, watermelons, shoes, boots, flowers, gardens, stars, water, sidewalks, chairs, dresses, bones, shadows, dogs, tables, clouds, hedges and shirts—these things are as meaningful or meaningless as we allow them to be.

For Falk, they are full of meaning—whether held in a simple exchange, a common gesture, a repeated task, a shared experience, a daily encounter. Our unthinking disregard for everyday actions often leaves us without an awareness of our responsibility for the life of objects, to friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and for the subjects and meanings that we create in the world. Through her subtle and remarkable art, Falk invites us to reconsider our everyday interactions with the people and things in our lives.

Bruce Grenville

JURY MEMBERS

Allan McKay
Margaret Priest
Luke Rombout

Home Environment, 1968

Home Environment, 1968
Vancouver Art Gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery Acquisition Fund
Photo: Vancouver Art Gallery

Photo of artist: © John Watts