Two new artists have arrived on Gabriola Island and they’re taking cues from the land as they set out to complete a project together.
Last month Vancouver-based artists Azul Duque and Haruko Okano set foot on the island for the first time to participate in the Gabriola Arts Council’s four-month-long Kasahara Gabriola Trust Artist Residency. Both are interdisciplinary artists, as Duque’s practice focuses on performance, sound and music, while Okano’s body of work includes visual art, sculpture, installation, performance and poetry.
At this point the artists say it is to soon to say what form their work will take.
“We’ve left it deliberately non-descriptive so that we could have the space and time to see what this land can tell us,” Okano said. “And this is not in terms of its historical profile so much as the land as it is right now.”
Duque and Okano have been collaborating for the past three and a half years but this is the first time they’re doing a residency together. They met when Okano participated in a sun dance in Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta.
“I just felt, ‘OK, Haruko is someone who’s going to be important in my life’ and then we just kept working together ever since,” Duque said.
Okano said they chose to come to Gabriola to try something new and also to escape Vancouver for a while.
“We desperately needed to decompress from being in the city,” she said. “The city is good for certain things, but also it can really distract from any sort of creative process.”
She added that the length of the Gabriola residency will allow them the time for that decompression and to settle and become familiar with their new surroundings. As someone who creates site-specific work, Okano said she is guided by how she relates to the space she’s in. Duque said “there’s something about” being close to the ocean and among the trees.
“It’s something that is so strong and potent and yet super subtle,” she said. “That’s why you have to just really bring your thoughts to a minimum so you can really tap into what comes through from the land here, from the living island.”
Duque said the emphasis for them is on the process rather than the finished product.
“For us, coming here is really about listening to what the land has to say to us in this particular time,” she said. “So neither of us came with an idea in mind or a project in mind, rather, I would say, the main practice is one of making space.”