Film series highlights contemporary Canadian artists
November 21, 2011

How does one artist create an artwork about another? That’s the challenge creative partners Marcia Connolly (BFA 1995) and Katherine Knight (BFA 1980) face in creating a number of films exploring the work of contemporary Canadian artists. They are now filming a new documentary on senior artists and partners Spring Hurlbut and Arnaud Maggs.

“These aren’t your typical documentaries, where you see the artist in the typical head-and-shoulders shot talking about their work,” says Marcia, a Toronto-based filmmaker who is teaching in NSCAD’s film program this term. She directed Annie Pootoogook and Ghost Noise, and was the cinematographer for Pretend Not to See Me and Koop: The Art of Wanda Koop.

“As a filmmaker you want to conceptually support the work of the other artist.”

The films are now showing in a series of weekly screenings at the Dalhousie Art Gallery, located on the lower level of the Dalhousie Arts Centre. Next up is Koop: The Art of Wanda Koop on Thursday, Nov. 24 at 8 p.m. Admission is free.

Filming Koop was an amazing experience, says Marcia. The filmmakers joined the visionary Canadian artist on a freighter boat as it journeyed along the St. Laurence River from Quebec City to Port Cartier.

“Throughout we felt we were actually living Koop’s paintings of industrial sites, harbours, vistas and the pure colour of sky and water in all light conditions,” writes Katherine Knight about the experience. “We were exhilarated, exhausted and saturated with the experience of looking, seeing and thinking creatively about the world around us.”

Already shown in the series are Pretend Not to See Me, an hour-long documentary about Colette Urban, a performance artist who graduated from NSCAD in 1979; and Annie Pootoogook, a glimpse into the life and work of the 2006 Sobey Art Award winner, and Ghost Noise, about Shuvinai Ashoona. 

In a way, the films serve the purpose of artist’s talks, since the artists profiled live and work far off the beaten path. Annie Pootoogook and Shuvinai Ashoona, for example, live in Cape Dorset in the far north, while Colette Urban moved to rural Newfoundland upon retirement to develop her Full Tilt Creative Centre, a multidisciplinary artist retreat and exhibition venue.

“The films are a real opportunity to have an intimate look at how these artists work and what informs their work,” says Marcia, who adds that students who are interested in seeing the films but missed the screenings can get in touch with her by e-mailing  gmail.com.

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 Wanda Koop aboard the Birchglen during the filming of Koop: The Art of Wanda Koop.
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 Wanda Koop, Red Bodies, 2011.