ESTEVAN - The Estevan Art Gallery and Museum introduced two new projects starting in November.
Their Gallery 1 became a platform for the 8 Rooms exhibition, while Gallery 2 was transformed into a maker space for artist in residence Emily Ellis.
Maker Space residency
Emily Ellis is joining the EAGM for two months for a Maker Space residency.
Born in southeast Saskatchewan and now based in Nova Scotia, Ellis began working as an independent filmmaker in 2018. Since then, her short films have been selected and screened in several festivals as close to home as Halifax, and as far away as Barcelona.
She graduated with honours in 2019 from Acadia University, winning the Dr. A. H. Maclean Prize for Best Honours Thesis with her project More than Meets the Eye: Nonconformist Art during the Khrushchev Thaw.
Following that, she earned a master's degree in filmmaking and media arts at the University of Glasgow, graduating with distinction, and the Edinburgh University Prize for Best Dissertation with her project Sometimes Nothing is Heaviest.
For her two months at the EAGM, Ellis, along with her production assistant Chandra Hollands, will focus on creating and shooting Histoires Naturelles – an opera animation. The project is directed by Ellis and is done together with Mairi Demings, mezzo-soprano, and pianist Zain Solinsky.
"[Mairi and Zain] contacted me back in January because they wanted to do an adaption of Maurice Ravel's Histoires Naturelles [Natural Histories], which is a 16-minute, short, operatic cycle based on five poems … from a book of the same name by Jules Renard," Ellis explained. "They're narrative, character-based poems about animals."
While poems are not moralistic, the animal characters are very humane, Ellis said.
The two musicians originally thought about doing puppetry, but ended up choosing animation instead for their project, so they reached out to Ellis to ask her to take over the production. And she is currently creating the decorations and characters mainly out of paper maché and some silicon, to then shoot a classic animation.
For the project, Ellis applied for and received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts. She later reached out to the EAGM and found out they were looking for an artist in residence for the same dates as her project, so the gallery became her maker space.
"We're using the gallery as a maker space. We're building the sets here and in about a month, we'll be starting to shoot. That will wrap by the end of January, and then a couple of months of postproduction, and the film will be premiering in the spring," Ellis shared their timeline.
Demings and Solinsky are working on music out of Toronto, while Ellis is creating and shooting the video part in Estevan. Once the musical part is completed, Ellis will be doing the animation for it.
"It's different than any project that I've done before, just because temporal boundaries already exist. Because the music, the phrases are already defined, and we're filling them with action," Ellis said. "It's a fun challenge."
Once the animation is completed, Ellis plans to premiere it in Arcola, potentially in Estevan and in Nova Scotia, and then send it on the festival circuit.
For the next two months, Ellis is working out of the EAGM and the public is welcome to stop by, watch her work, ask questions and even help her with the project. She will also be doing some workshops during her residency.
"We're going to be doing some programming, the shape of which has yet to be solidified. But we'll probably be doing some character design workshops, and probably a little bit of diorama construction, paper crafts, like what we're doing here," Ellis explained.
For the workshops' dates and times, follow the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum social media pages or check out their website at eagm.ca.
The new exhibition at the Gallery 1 is named 8 Rooms and is created by Shirley Brown, Barb Flemington, Seema Goel, Heather Komus, Anita Lebeau, Suzie Smith, Reva Stone and Diana Thorneycroft.
The exhibition opened on Nov. 18 and will be on display through Jan. 27, 2023.
The eight rooms created by the artists become part of a virtual reality of an animation played at the EAGM.
"Anita Lebeau dreams a lot about rooms," reads the project description on the EAGM Facebook page.
"Ones that are ‘new’ – that feel like undiscovered places, and yet familiar. She finds her dreams, and things within it, compelling, and it inspired her to do a project around the sensation of dreaming. For this project, she collaborated with seven other artists to create dreamscapes for her animated characters to explore. Her desire was for the characters to enter these spaces in the same way she enters her dreams: with surprise and curiosity."
Eight Rooms is comprised of a collective of artists from rural southwestern Manitoba and Winnipeg. Each diorama is a dreamscape representative of each artist's individual practice.
The only set conditions each artist was provided with were scale/size and that each room needed an entry and exit, with even the latter becoming a matter of artistic interpretation. The goal was to give each artist enough creative room to bring their expertise and research interests to the project.
Lebeau visited the studio of each artist to discuss the approach and to learn more about each artist's practice, which in turn lent to the final animation.
To see the full animation and learn more, visit the EAGM Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Also, members of the South Sask. Photo Club have a display of pictures from the different members in the front entrance of the EAGM.