Winchester welcomes creatures great and small

Sculptor Joe Fafard's exhibit runs through Dec. 23 at Winchester Galleries

Sculptor Joe Fafard shows Creatures Great and Small to Dec. 23 at Winchester Galleries.

A powder coated bronze calf greets guests to Winchester Galleries on Oak Bay Avenue.

Created by well-known Canadian sculptor Joe Fafard, the calf is among his current favourites, if only because it’s one of his most recent.

“It’s one that I had in my mind for a while,” the artist says, leading a walkabout of his show Creatures Great and Small. “But they’re all my children, so it’s hard to pick a favourite.”

In the early 1970s, much of Fafard’s sculpture used clay as a medium. In 1985, he shifted to bronze as his chief sculptural medium, establishing a foundry in Pense. His insight and humour characterize his portraits of neighbours, farm animals, wildlife and famous artists he came to respect as he learned his craft.

Across the aisle at Winchester, a bull crafted originally from clay in the early 1980s claims a place. A teacher retired from a high school where Fafard used the work as a lesson in perspectives and returned the ceramic bull that Fafard cast in bronze.

Also on display, his portrait The Pugilist is among the newer works.

“It’s a tribute to the people who have enough foolishness and courage to stand up and let someone punch them,” he said. “I wanted to get the feeling of the struggle, tiredness, injuries… that it takes.”

Around the corner is the portrait of his father perched on a chair, elbows on knees.

“He was a farmer and died fairly young in 1972. I did this portrait to remember him the way he was,” Fafard said.

A menagerie awaits guests in the room at the bottom of the stairs. A caribou, horses, lamb, wolf and cows, “our fellow earthlings” in a variety of paint, patina and powder coat finishes.

“They have different intelligence than we do but they have intelligence suited to their evolution,” Fafard said.

Tucked atop a window frame, a pair of small laser-cut cows  peer from near the ceiling inside the gallery, while a large horse graces the landscape along Monterey Avenue.

They’re examples of his latest explorations – into laser and plasma cutting.

“I’m curious about what would happen if I try this or try that. That’s what creativity is, curiosity. That’s what leads you to discover and invent is that curiosity,” Fafard said, adding science and technology too fall into that category. “The largest part of creativity is curiosity. When you have nothing to be curious about you’re just treading water.”

Creatures Great and Small, Fafard’s first show at the gallery, runs through Dec. 23 at 2260 Oak Bay Ave. During closed hours say hello to the calf on the patio.

“It’s is a calf,” Fafard said, looking into its bronze face. “But I did it in such way that it’s the way it appeared when I was two years old.”

 

Did you know?

Joe Fafard was born in 1942 to French-Canadian parents in the small agricultural community of Ste. Marthe, Sask. He attended the University of Manitoba (BFA 1966) and Pennsylvania State University (MFA 1968). He was at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina from 1968-1974 and visiting lecturer at the University of California at Davis in 1980-1981.

• Fafard has received awards including: Officer of the Order of Canada, 1981; Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Award, 1987; honorary degree from the University of Regina, 1989, and from the University of Manitoba in 2007; Saskatchewan Order of Merit, 2002; National Prix Montfort, 2003; Lieutenant Governor’s Saskatchewan Centennial Medal for the Arts, 2005; CTV Citizen of the Year, 2006; Saskatchewan Arts Board Lifetime Achievement Award, 2007; and his third honorary doctorate from the University of Saskatchewan, 2012.

• Perhaps the pinnacle of Fafard’s career was the touring retrospective exhibition hosted by six different venues, from September 2007 through September 2009, jointly organized by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa and the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina. Most recently, Fafard was honoured by Canada Post in their “Art Canada” series of postage stamps, 2012. Three of his artworks are featured on the Canadian, US and international stamps.