Gage artist embraces movement and change

Gage Gallery hosts Oak Bay newcomer for September exhibit

A shift of life brings Heather Midori Yamada back to Canada’s West Coast after decades of success in the east. She showcases her work through Sept. 24 at the Gage Gallery on Oak Bay Avenue.

A shift of life anchors Heather Midori Yamada’s return west after decades of career success in eastern Canada.

The new Oak Bay resident showcases her artwork highlighting life’s moves this month at the Gage Gallery on Oak Bay Avenue.

After decades as an artist in Montreal and Toronto, an irresistible pull of the heart brings Yamada back to the coast.

“Victoria’s home now,” Yamada said in a phone interview. She moved to Oak Bay over a year ago but is wrapping up work commitments in the east.

Her partner, a McGill teacher, took lengthy trips to Victoria – including a sabbatical – for years. Then after knowing each other more than two decades, the couple started seeing each other two years ago. He told her he was retiring and bought a place in Victoria.

“He put the cards on the table and I thought well, let’s just see how this goes,” she said. “A year later we moved out there together and that was last June (2015).”

Finishing up her work in spurts back east, she comes home to relax for a bit before heading back east in October for the final mop up of contracts and obligations.

“After fall of this year, I’m permanently in Victoria in terms of work,” she said.

Yamada is a longtime visual artist and teacher who works with Japanese washi papers in paintings, collage and installations. Starting in Toronto’s Open Studio in 1980, more recently she began to work with very large pieces of washi in hanging installations such as the 2012 three banner pieces, one suspended wall piece and two banners occupying the street view window of Galerie Espace in Montreal’s Mile End.

On the Island, she’s done a little teaching in Victoria and was part of the Oak Bay studio tour last fall.

“I have to be careful I don’t fill the dance card too quickly,” she said of her return to being an artist with a little teaching on the side.

A part of the Gage Gallery Collective, she shows at that Oak Bay Avenue space through Sept. 24 and plans to hold another show in 2017.

“It’s a great thing. It’s a really good little collective. I like that they’re all professional artists and serious about what they do,” she said. “I wanted to get involved but just at a certain level until I put down roots and get my feet wet.”

Her shows are often followed by a pair of workshops or gatherings created during the show.

Her works feature layers of ink, washi paper, paint and images.

“Part of the reason I use layers of colour and different materials is to show that kind of experience,” she said. “When we look at the painting of course it’s static, it’s not a film, but using certain artistic means evokes that sense of movement, shifting and change.”

In deference to that constant movement, she works on her pieces right up to, and during, a show.

“When I show my work I, even during the show, will change the installation,” she said. “I watch how people come in, notice where they stop, what they look at and what they don’t look at, what they’re not able to see. Just because you come on Day 1, the second week it might be a different show.”

Or it may be just right with no shifts needed.

Utsuru, the ‘passage of time,’ shows Sept. 6 to 24 at the Gage Gallery, 2031 Oak Bay Ave. from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

“Part of what I would like to show is this sense of shifting from one state to another, one state of mind to another, one place to another. This idea of being in constant evolution and constant movement,” she said. “Even if we think we’re static, stuck, stable, there’s always movement. You’re in constant flux.”

An artist reception is at the gallery on Sept. 8 from 5 to 8 p.m. followed by workshops in November and December. Visit to learn more about the artist.



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