Our third solo exhibition with Gathie Falk includes new still-life inspired paintings and a new ceramic sculpture, “Checkerboard with Moths“.
Gathie Falk has spent more than five decades creating artworks that aim to “venerate the ordinary”. Her home and the objects in her daily life act as the source material for these new paintings. Falk has reconstructed intimate details from her own existence: a carefully set table with cake, coffee and tea; a portrait of her painting work shirt hung on a simple yellow wooden chair; laundry slowly drying on an outdoor washline; and a perfectly presented box of delicious cinnamon buns. Through these paintings, Falk celebrates simple pleasures, elevating the ordinary objects, and appreciating the joy and love for the things and people in her life.
Also included in our exhibition are two ceramic sculptures, “Checkerboard with Moths“(2017) and “Picnic with Green Bottles” (1976). With the new “Checkerboard with Moths”, Falk has returned to her roots as a sculptor and her first major solo exhibition called “Home Environment” in 1968. In that exhibition, she created a hand-made ceramic living room which included a sculpture “Checker Game with Shoe” (1968). By combining opposites (a game board with an apple and shoe placed on the checkers), Falk enhances our awareness of the everyday. “Checkerboard with Moths” also combines opposites, where Falk plays one variety of moth against another. Insects are recurring images for Falk, first appearing in the early 1970s with her table setting series, in 1998 with her paper-mache “Dress with Insects” and again in 2007 with an exhibit “Dreaming of Flying” where she painted a suite of moths. The sculpture “Checkerboard with Moths” emphasizes opposites: mortality and rebirth, light and shadow, and lamentation and celebration.
The rare 1976 “Picnic with Green Bottles” is from Falk’s 1976-1977 “Picnic” series. Originally from a performance piece where Falk staged picnics in strange places, each Picnic ceramic combines an everyday object on a thick slab of clay sod. Our “Picnic with Green Bottles” includes four green empty bottles on a beautiful white doily set upon the thick green grass. This sculpture was included in Falk’s 1985 retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
For Falk, over time, there is a repetition of imagery and strong connection between her installation, performance, sculpture and painting. The constant is her adoration of her subject, treating simple things as icons and lovingly insisting on celebrating the value of the personal and the small.
Gathie Falk was born in Alexander, Manitoba in 1928. Her parents were German-speaking Mennonites who immigrated to Canada in order to escape persecution in Russia. Shortly after Gathie’s birth, her father died, leaving the family impoverished and forcing them to move repeatedly to various mennonite communities across Canada. For a short time, the family moved to Winnipeg, setting in Vancouver in 1947.
In the 1950s, Falk studied education at the University of British Columbia and worked as an elementary school teacher for 12 years. During this time, Falk also began her formal training in the arts. She took summer classes at UBC and studied drawing and painting with JAS MacDonald. In 1965, Falk left her position as a teacher and decided to pursue a career as a full time artist.
Working in painting, sculpture, installation and performance, Gathie Falk has repeatedly explored motifs of the domestic and everyday, choosing running shoes, fruit, eggs and clothing, among other objects, as her subject matter.
In 2000, the retrospective exhibition “Gathie Falk” was organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and travelled to the National Gallery of Canada, the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.
Falk is well represented in collections across the country, including those of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Glenbow Museum, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
In 2013, Gathie Falk was awarded the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Visual Arts. She is also the recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize (1990), the Order of Canada (1997), Order of British Columbia (2002) and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2003).
Falk continues to live and work in Kitsilano, Vancouver.