Cover photo: If Not Now, Then When? By Lucie Chan

Written by Natasha Ponda

Curation and collection choice is a deliberate practice that gives form to ideas and invites new connections. With eight years in the making, I recently witnessed the result of a mass commitment to a singular mission: to broaden acquisitions that raise new voices – to expand perspectives of eclectic art from diverse backgrounds.

The backbone of New Acquisitions, the current exhibition at the Burnaby Art Gallery, is a spotlight on art produced by the hands of women, Indigenous artists, and artists of colour. 
Many of the featured artists retell their personal history by applying artistic interpretation to established traditions. In turn, producing contemporary inflections onto cultural custom.

One such example is a pixelated rug inspired by the age-old Afghan tradition.
To create the piece, Afghan-Canadian artist, Shaheer Zazai, typed 2,013 dots and spaces into a Microsoft Word document. Then assigning colour, deliberate placement and direction to each mark. The outcome creates a technological render of a woven Afghan rug.

Shaheer Zazai, MBTC N1, 2018

Zazai devotes himself to honouring tradition. Replicating the painstakingly slow process of weaving by refusing to use copy and paste functions, placing each mark by hand.
He furthers this dialogue between the digital and the traditional by transcribing the works onto graph sheets, to then be woven by expert weavers in Kabul. Zazai describes the process to the feeling you get when “writing a letter home and hearing back.”

The exhibition is a space to celebrate vastly varied approaches to realizing identity. Within the eclectic collection, the concept of being different than those around you is never a cause of isolation.
You walk through an interweaving of history, experience, and art practice furnishing both the downstairs and upstairs space.

As you explore each floor you’ll be cast into the far past as well as recent memories. Travel back to discover woodblock prints of c.1770 Japan,  or reconnect to a former you through the lockdown-era art of 2020. 

The Gallery resides within the Fairacres Mansion on the stunning grounds around Deer Lake. Once an unusually large house wrought with rich history, now provides a perfect home-like feeling – a personal setting to engage with the visual narratives housed within the open and bright interior. 

 For a quieter, intimate viewing, it’s best to go during the week.

New Acquisitions is on now Until January 23, 2022

Burnaby Art Gallery
6344 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby, BC

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