Code Switching program co-ordinator Amber Morrison and participants Sonam Maki, Harmony Gray, Jacob Burgoyne-King and Felicity Hocking-Steel (clockwise from bottom-right) work on a 20-foot-long tapestry as part of the group’s upcoming exhibition. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Art Gallery’s teen art group presents ‘Next Gen’ exhibition

Code Switching group to show photographs, sculptures and a 20-foot tapestry

For their upcoming exhibition, the members of the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s Code Switching teen art group are tearing up the past to create something new.

As the centrepiece for their upcoming exhibition, Next Gen, coming to the gallery’s ArtLab studio on June 1 and 2, the 10 young artists shredded old and unused art, notebooks and hand-me-down clothing into strips and weaved them together to create a 20-foot-long tapestry. Program co-ordinator Amber Morrison said the work’s connection to the past relates to the NAG’s ongoing inquiry, “What are generations?”

“Every piece kind of has its own little bit of a story to come together to make a whole,” she said. “So this is a much less literal interpretation of ‘What are generations?’ We’re just working with the idea of time and the passage of it and evolutions of art works.”

The piece also includes unclaimed art from previous Code Switching groups and the gallery’s summer program. Morrison said it’s like collaborating with people who are not present.

Current participant Felicity Hocking-Steel said it wasn’t hard to chop up old paintings. They said the project is a satisfying use for idle art work.

“It’s unfinished, it’s not going to get finished, it’s sitting around here taking up space. I’d rather have it be something,” they said. “Especially stuff that’s vaguely abstract and colourful and interesting and, honestly, it’s better for this than just on its own.”

Artist Harmony Gray has weaved her old math homework into the tapestry, while Jacob Burgoyne-King dug into his time capsule to include some childhood drawings. He said he’s been working with the theme of overlapping pieces of art with moments from his life.

“You don’t really have the opportunity to keep anything completely whole while you’re weaving it, so it’s a really good exercise of taking things apart, different things from different parts of your life or things that you previously worked on, and putting them together,” Burgoyne-King said.

Working with Gabriola Island artist Anne Ramsden, the participants gathered clothing belonging to their parents and grandparents and created performances around them. They then turned those garments into sculptures.

Morrison said she’s impressed by what the youths came up with. She said the exhibition is about more than just the art.

“It’s a project that’s meant to go across generations, so hearing from some of them, like, ‘I’ve talked to my grandmother a lot more,’ or, ‘I’ve asked my father for more stories about this,’ I think that it goes beyond necessarily just the art object to actually directly engage with the question,” she said. “So I think for me that’s been the most meaningful part of this whole thing.”

WHAT’S ON … Next Gen: An Exhibition by Code Switching Nanaimo Art Gallery, 150 Commercial St., on Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, noon to 5 p.m.

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