Summer Games has artistic component

An oil painting by Rui Chen (at left) of Regina and three pen and ink drawings of hands by Jemmie Ponting of Swift Current in the exhibition Cultural Olympiad.

An art exhibition in Swift Current during the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games is inspired by a former practice at the modern Olympic Games.

The Art Gallery of Swift Current has organized the exhibition Cultural Olympiad in the West Wing Gallery to complement the Summer Games.

The artworks were created by young artists from the three prairie provinces. Some are university fine arts students and others are recently graduated young professionals. Their artistic achievements and participation in the exhibition will not win them any medals at the Western Canada Summer Games, but in the past artists were able to win medals at the Olympic Games.

Art Gallery of Swift Current Associate Curator Heather Benning said the Olympics awarded medals for paintings, sculpture, architecture, literature and music from 1912 to 1952. The artistic competition took place alongside the athletic competition at the Olympics.

This exhibition therefore reflects on the similarities between the efforts of young athletes and artists.

“We wanted to talk about that,” she said. “That just as the Games are an expression of sporting achievements and development for young athletes, this exhibition will reveal the achievements and developments of young artists.”

The Art Gallery of Swift Current selected several works from 12 different artists for the exhibition.

“We have quite a nice variety,” she said. “We have paintings obviously, but we have also black-and-white photography. There is sculpture and ceramics all included in the exhibition, and then there are drawings too and some wood burnings as well.”

The gallery sent out a call for work to all the universities in the provinces that will be represented during the Western Canada Summer Games in Swift Current from Aug. 9-18.

“We did specifically ask for emerging artists, or emerging young professionals and artists who are still going to school or still in the middle of their bachelor’s degree,” she said.

Sport was a preferred theme for submissions, but it was not mandatory for artists to only present artworks about sport activities.

“There’s some work in the show that does reflect the sports theme and then other art that doesn’t at all, but is just good quality artwork,” she said.

According to Benning the response to the call for submissions was fairly good, but it could have been stronger.

“I think part of it is a lot of artists don’t work at all in sports-related themes, because they’re oftentimes not keen on sports and that’s what led them into the arts,” she said.

There are a number of artworks in the exhibition with a sport theme. Amber Agarand of Regina created a series of work that depict the connection between sport and various people in her life. Sport has been a significant part of her upbringing and it also helped to create a bond between members of her family. 

There is a direct link between a painting showing a long jumper and the sport achievements of the artist. 

“It’s two images of a woman’s body from the take-off in long jump to getting into landing position, and it’s really lovely,” Benning said. “It’s really well-painted. You can really see the movement in the project.”

This work was created by Sandra Latrace, who is attending the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Studio Arts) program at the University of Lethbridge. She is a track and field athlete, and in 2017 she established the current women’s long jump record for the Canada Summer Games.

Benning said it was quite exciting to receive a submission from an artist who has also competed with Team Canada.

“That was quite unique, because her schedule is quite heavy to be maintaining a full-time fine arts degree while also participating nationally and internationally with Team Canada,” she noted.

The Cultural Olympiad exhibition at the West Wing Gallery takes place until Sept. 2. The gallery is located at Kinetic Exhibition Park in the Airmen’s Billet building. Admission is free and gallery hours are 1-5 p.m. from Friday to Sunday.

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