Category Archives: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

“Life with Clay”

As I said in the  last post, I wish The Art Caravan had been able to travel to Ottawa to see  the Alex Janvier show at the National Gallery of Canada.  I’m happy to report, however, that TAC has visited  The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s current exhibition Life with Clay:  Pottery & Sculpture by Jan and Helga Grove  a couple of times.  Life with Clay showcases the ceramic works of the German born couple, Jan and Helga Grove, who came to Canada in 1965, and operated a ceramics studio on Vancouver Island until 2009.  They exhibited and sold their work across Canada.

Life with Clay, Jan and Helga Grove

It’s the sculpture, really, that sets these two artist apart from other capable potters.  It is quirky, charming and beautifully executed.  Despite working together, and sharing a studio, Jan and Helga each has a distinctive style.  Note the smooth, bulbous shapes, as well as the more angular, animal-like sculptures.  Can you guess which pieces were made by Helga, and which were created by Jan?  (Why not take a moment to think about this before scrolling down?)

Life with Clay, Jan and Helga Grove

Vanity, Helga Grove, 1966

Mr.X, 1971 and Quadruped, Jan Grove, 1996

Mr.X, 1971 and Quadruped, Jan Grove, 1996

Mitz and Mautz, 2005, Helga Grove

Three Ballerinas, Jan Grove, 1989

Helga Grove

Helga Grove

If you are able, it’s a show worth visiting.  There are original photos, letters and documents detailing  this extraordinary couple’s  art history. In 1966, for instance, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria purchased a piece of work for $18.00!

Couple, Jan Grove, 1996

Life with Clay:  Pottery & Sculpture by Jan and Helga Grove is on until May 28, 2017. An excellent catalogue of the show is available.





Sosaku hanga….what the heck is that?!

Sosaku hanga means “creative prints.”  (Of course we at the Art Caravan think that all prints are creative prints.)

In the long history of Japanese printmaking, a creative ‘team’ worked together to make prints.  Up until the early 20th century, the artist designed the image, the carver prepared the wooden blocks for printing, the printer inked the blocks and produced the prints, and the publisher was the distributor.

Sosaku hanga prints are the artworks created individually, by Japanese artist. We don’t think of this as revolutionary, do we? But for the Japanese, it was an enormous shift.

Many influences led to the sosaku hanga art movement.  As Japan opened up to the outside world in the Meiji Period (1868-1912), the artists were exposed to Western ideas.  The ideas of ‘self’ and individualism became possibilities. They saw that successful artists could, and did, produce their artwork from start to finish.

The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria recently had a show  Sosaku Hanga: Japan’s Creative Print Movement.  Who knew that they have one of the largest collections of sosaku hanga print collections in the world?  It was a very good show, with a wide variety of work.


Toko Shinoda


Recognize this artist?

Yes!  It’s Toko Shinoda, the Japanese artist I wrote about in the previous blog entry. This is a lithograph she made in 1983, when she was seventy years old. It’s called Arrived Wind.








Emily Carr’s Wild Lilies

Wild Lilies

Whenever I visit the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria I always drop in to ‘see’ Emily Carr.  The AGGV has a small, semi-permanent exhibition of her work.  It’s a great introduction to Emily Carr, as the show describes Emily’s life through photographs and text. There are examples of art from the different stages of her life, beginning with her early student work.  I especially appreciate the inclusion of works by her contemporaries, such as Lawren Harris and Anne Savage.

One of my favourite Emily Carr paintings was not, I suspect, one of Emily’s favourites. Wild Lilies  is an early work, and very traditional….not at all like her later forest works, where she grappled with the challenges of capturing the spirituality and strength of the west coast landscape.

Wild Lillies is not only a beautiful floral still life, but has a beautiful history.  Emily donated it to the Sisters of St. Ann, in appreciation for their care of her sister, Lizzie, who died from breast cancer.  A few years ago, the Sisters  generously donated Wild Lilies to the AGGV.