Welcome to Alcheringa Gallery. Leaders in Northwest Coast Contemporary Indigenous Fine Art.


  • Navigating New Directions

    Navigating New Directions

    Elaine M. Monds

    Director, Alcheringa Gallery

    Thirty-two years have passed since I first experienced waking at first light in a village on the Sepik River. I never imagined all those years ago that I would have the joy of returning over and over again to visit friends who have since become family. On those early visits before I had made personal connections, I was often invited to stay in the Spirit House. I still recall the intense pleasure of waking in Suapmeri to see through my net a shaft of sunlight illuminating the Orators Stool, as it stood according to tradition in the centre of the house. Architecturally, these superb buildings are ideally suited to the environment. It is rare to feel a breeze on the Sepik but the Spirit Houses are ventilated to capture the little there is, and the torrential tropical rain could pour in a solid curtain inches from my mattress leaving me deliciously dry beneath the sago roof. They have open ends and sides and on occasion flying foxes with such easy access cannot resist a flying exercise straight through the house. Secure under my net, I could just hear the swoosh of their wings overhead in the complete darkness of a Sepik night. Very occasionally the sound of a motorized canoe pierced the complete silence, but it was rare.

    Since then much has changed and the sound of a motor is a frequent interruption, but much of the gentle rhythm of village life continues in places such as Korogo and Palembei, where the culture is still celebrated and carving skills have remained strong. Changes brought by technology crept in slowly at first but in 2008 when the first cellular phone arrived, the outside world came with it.   I am told that this access has created both negative and positive change.   I personally have observed that possession of a means to communicate has assisted our artists to promote their work. It has also made them aware of opportunities as they arise for cultural exchange, and has enabled them to be part of a growing network of indigenous artists in the Pacific.

    The value of the cell phone once again asserted itself when I was contracted in August 2015 by the University of British Columbia to assist Dr. Carol Mayer by organizing a field trip to the Sepik. The purpose of this trip was to interview the artists whose work is part of their contemporary collection, and this simply would not have been viable without the ability to text directly to the artists at home in the villages.

    Since 2006, a number of artist exchanges to Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, have served to deepen the artists’ knowledge of their own culture. These visits provided opportunities to view, and even offer insights into, early Sepik works from the collections of the de Young Museum and the British Museum. At the same time, Teddy Balangu and Claytus Yambon were able to witness another contemporary aboriginal carving culture on the west coast of Canada. This sharing in turn led to experimentation with much softer woods such as yellow cedar, and new finishing materials such as bees wax. While working still within their Sepik tradition, the hand of the creators of most of the works in this exhibition can be recognized by their personal style.

    Joseph Kandimbu visited Stanford University in 1994 and, while there, contributed to the creation of the Papua New Guinea Sculpture Garden. While in residence there, he saw the Rodin Sculpture Garden in Cantor Arts Centre. As a result Joseph was credited with the creation of a Sepik version of ‘The Thinker’.   No one could doubt the profound effect this experience had upon him. Ever since, he has created figurative works undeniably Sepik, but mostly inspired by a memory of someone who has crossed his path, notably The Man from Tari (MOA collection), and The Wedding Guest (Museum der Weltkulturen collection), both inspired by people he had seen in his travels.

    For this exhibition, Joseph has been exploring the colonial past and as a result he has created two works. The first is a meticulously detailed carving of a Roman Centurion. As he explained, “I am a Catholic. I saw this in a book and I wanted to carve it”.   The second, entitled ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angel’, was inspired by the famous photograph of an injured Australian soldier, Private George Whittington, being led along the Kokoda Trail by Rapahel Oimbari in 1942. The ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ was the name given by Australian troops to a group of Papua New Guineans who, during World War II, courageously assisted and escorted injured Australian troops down the Kokoda trail.

    Kaua Gita's work was represented in the travelling collaborative show ‘Hailans to Ailans’ in 2009. Inspired by the late Trobriand painter Martin Morububuna's sensitive portrayal of a mother holding her baby as she returns home from the garden. Kaua saw the painting in the exhibition catalogue and was moved to carve a Sepik counterpart which he entitled, ‘Back from the Lake'. Edward Dumoi is known for drawing inspiration from the real world, be it village cats, storybook foxes or former Prime Minister, Michael Somare!

    2016 promises to be a year to celebrate the contemporary artists of the Sepik River. As the year unfolds we will be welcoming representative artists who will be travelling to Canada to participate in cultural events assisted by MOA, Pacific Peoples Partnership and Alcheringa. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Christensen Fund that has made this possible.

    Drawing on story telling, colonial history and every day life, these Modern Masters of the Sepik River are indeed Navigating New Directions.

    Click here to view online catalogue!

  • Exhibition Opening: lessLIE - smALL

    A festive time was had by all at the opening of smALL on Saturday October 4.

    Be sure to come on October 18 at 1pm when lessLIE will be at Alcheringa again to further reveal his thoughts behind these tiny conceptually rich works.

    A new serigraph print Salmon Water Ripples (edition 100) was released on the day of this celebratory event.

    smALL exhibition 2 600

    New Serigraph released at Exhibition Opening Reception 'Salmon Water Ripples' New Serigraph released at Exhibition Opening Reception 'Salmon Water Ripples'
    smALL exhibition 1 lessLIE - smALL Opening Reception

    smALL exhibition 3 600

  • Exhibition, "Perpetual Salish" showing at Legacy Gallery, curated by lessLIE

    An important new exhibition has opened at the University of Victoria’s Legacy Gallery. Showcasing part of George and Christiane Smyth’s spectacular collection titled “Salish Weave”

    We at Alcheringa first met George and Christiane in 1999 when they visited the gallery during an exhibition that honoured the work of several women artists including Susan Point. That introduction to the art of the Northwest Coast, and in particular the contemporary face of Salish Art, resulted in the beginning of their single minded dedication to the future of Coast Salish art and artists.

    This exhibition at Legacy Gallery showcases the work of several Coast Salish artists including Maynard Johnny Jr., lessLIE, John Marston, Susan Point and Dylan Thomas.

    Exhibition details are as follows:

    Perpetual Salish: Contemporary Coast Salish Art from the Salish Weave Collection

    August 15, 2014 to January 10, 2015

    Curated by lessLIE

    Legacy Art Gallery Downtown

    630 Yates Street

    In this exhibition the theme of perpetuation unifies the work of five contemporary Coast Salish artists who live and work in this region. The word perpetuation is meant to suggest a continuum of ideas and processes, which come from distinctive traditions that have existed over millennia. Perpetuation also infers some of the challenges that contemporary Coast Salish artists continue to face in the contexts of colonialism and assimilation as well as the dominance of other Indigenous traditions, which were often favoured by the art world, in both commercial and educational contexts. It is only in the last three decades that Coast Salish art has become more readily recognized by a wider audience as distinct from other Northwest Coast traditions.

    This exhibition presents a wide range of art forms and ideas, and visitors will gain a better understanding of the cultural and stylistic elements that unify and inspire these contemporary artists in their own artistic practices. Artists featured are Maynard Johnny Jr., lessLIE, John Marston, Susan Point and Dylan Thomas.

    Curator's Talk | Perpetual Salish

    With curator lessLIE

    Saturday September 27, 2014 | 2:00 pm

    Celebrate Culture Days at the Legacy Art Gallery Downtown | 630 Yates Street

    lessLIE - wHOLE w(((h)))orl(((d))) Serigraph lessLIE - wHOLE w(((h)))orl(((d))) Serigraph
  • University of Victoria’s Legacy Gallery features works by Coast Salish Artists Chris Paul and Maynard Johnny Jr.

    Salish Wind by Chris Paul Salish Wind by Chris Paul

    Chris Paul, whose work is featured in our latest exhibition, 'Where I Come From' will be part of this important showing at Legacy Gallery until January 10.  Stop by Legacy Gallery to learn more.

    Exhibition details as follows:

     August 15, 2014 to January 10, 2015

    Curated in collaboration by Caroline Riedel, Justine Auben Drummond & Dr. Andrea Walsh

    Legacy Art Gallery Downtown

    630 Yates Street | Small Gallery

    This exhibition honours Coast Salish artists Chris Paul, Maynard Johnny Jr., and knitters May Sam and the Olsen family (Adam, Joni, and their mother Sylvia) who were part of the University of Victoria's Artist in Residence Program through the Department of Anthropology between 2011 and 2013. During their 3 month residency they taught students about their own artistic practices as well as aspects of Coast Salish history and contemporary culture. The exhibit illustrates the teaching methodology and experience of students and artists in collaboration along with examples of the artists' work.

    The Artist in Residence Program is facilitated by Dr. Andrea Walsh, who teaches the Anthropology of Art, and the program is supported by donors George and Christiane Smyth.

  • Ravenous Exhibition Article by Kate Cino

    A special thank you to Kate Cino for writing this article for our upcoming exhibition, Ravenous. Please click here to read the article!

  • Urban Thunderbirds/Ravens in a Material World

    Urban Thunderbirds and Ravens ExhibitionSEPT 20 - JAN 12
    Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

    Co-curated by lessLIE, Rande Cook and Nicole Stanbridge | Ker and Centennial Galleries

    This exhibition highlights new and recent works from Coast Salish artists lessLIE and Dylan Thomas, and Kwakwaka’wakw artists Rande Cook and Francis Dick. The work encompasses personal stories, community histories and exploration of current events offering a unique view of First Nations art production in this region.

    Varied in their approaches, the work selected for this exhibition references cross-cultural forms, re-appropriation of North American visual culture, and an honouring of individuals and ideas from the cultural history of the Coast Salish and Kwakwaka’wakw communities. The themes explored by the artists range from intimate personal narratives, and extend to broader mainstream issues functioning as social commentary. The works reflect urban First Nations identity from the unique perspective of these four artists.

    Rande Cook | New York Series, 2013 | Photo by Luke Marston

  • Our Blankets, Our Stories

    Two prominent contemporary Northwest Coast First Nations artists explore ancient themes in new ways through wood, glass, metal and serigraphy.

    Coast Salish artist Chris Paul and Tlingit artist Mark Preston celebrate both the culture and an enduring bond of friendship in the creation of this exhibition of masterworks.

    Preview this exhibition on Friday, August 16, 2013

    Exhibition Opens: Saturday, August 17, 2013 2:00 - 5:00

    Artists will be in attendance

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