Yarrow Koontz, Mia Tremblay and Tomoyo Ihaya (from left) are holding a joint exhibition at Hive Emporium from Aug. 11 to Sept. 2. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin/Tomoyo Ihaya)

Three West Coast artists hold reunion exhibition at Gabriola’s Hive Emporium

Mia Tremblay, Yarrow Koontz and Tomoyo Ihaya haven’t shown together in 23 years

Three West Coast artists are coming together to show their work under the same roof for the first time in more than two decades.

Mia Tremblay, Yarrow Koontz and Tomoyo Ihaya, who live in Nanaimo, Gabriola Island and Vancouver respectively, last held a joint exhibition when they were students at Emily Carr University of Art and Design in the 1990s. From Aug. 11 to Sept. 2 they will be united once more when they present together at Gabriola’s Hive Emporium.

The idea for the reunion show was hatched last August, when Trembley visited the Hive with friends to watch the solar eclipse. Koontz, one of the owners of the Hive, proposed Tremblay present some of her work at the venue. Tremblay invited Koontz to join her and suggested they include Ihaya as well.

The show is called YaToMi, a portmanteau of the artists’ names with an appropriate double meaning in Japanese.

“Yatomi is ‘a person capable of attaining spiritual enlightenment,’ which fit really well with all of our work. So that just continued with this sort of cosmic thing that was already started with the solar eclipse,” Koontz explained.

The show will feature Tremblay’s paintings, Koontz’s sculptural works and Ihaya’s mixed media etchings. The trio didn’t co-ordinate their contributions, but they share intuitive commonalities.

“We make art from the same place,” Ihaya said.

“We don’t make art too conceptually or too intellectually, we make art from our heart according to how we live at this moment. They didn’t ask me to submit anything but when we showed each other what we are doing, they go really well [together].”

While there have been gaps in the trio’s 23-year relationship, Koontz said the art is what brought them together and what keeps them together.

Tremblay said their connection “feels like a tribe or a family.”

“We liked each other’s art work before we even knew the person who made it, really, and so and that is what attracted us to each other. Our artwork resonated. I guess we see some of ourselves in each other’s work,” Koontz said.

Added Tremblay, “The friendship was immediate and easy and has sustained over time. Even though there have been gaps there’s always a real sense of joy and inspiration and excitement when I would see either of them.”

The artists described the show has having a sense of serendipity and spontaneity. Koontz said she feels motivated to rouse her dormant practice in the presence of the other two and Ihaya noted that Koontz and Tremblay are responsible for her coming out of her artistic shell when they were in school.

The three inspire each other and Tremblay said she hopes YaToMi, in the spirit of its Japanese definition, inspires viewers “that we’re all capable of attaining spiritual enlightenment.”

WHAT’S ON … Opening reception for YaToMi by Yarrow Koontz, Tomoyo Ihaya and Mia Tremblay at Hive Emporium on Saturday, Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. Show continues to Sept. 2.


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