Photo by Nancy Angermeyer.

19 of Our Favourite Arts Stories From 2023

Last year we spoke to painters, novelists, photographers, singers, and other creative people about the how and the why of what they do. Here are some of our favourite stories.

After Dementia Struck Both His Parents, a Vancouver Actor Took His Activism to the Stage

Image courtesy of Shimon Photo.

“Sometimes you have to be a voice for the voiceless. We want to give people agency, but people in that state, they don’t have any agency left.” Read more.

The Year I Returned to Live Music

Photo courtesy of the Belize Tourism Board.

“I joked that I needed to delete the Ticketmaster app before the bank deleted me, but I had found the drug that served me and I was all in. Billie Eilish, Spiritualized, Thundercat, Metric, Sleaford Mods, Florence and the Machine, Kendrick Lamar, Dave, Frazey Ford, The Weeknd, Suede, Lizzo, Gorillaz (twice)…” Read more.

Canada’s Sweetheart Jill Barber Embraces the World’s Toughest Job⁠—Homemaker

Photo by Trevor Brady.

“Being a mom at home, raising kids, is so much harder than stepping out on stage and singing my songs. But one is so celebrated and literally applauded, and one is just unseen labour.” Read more.

A Canadian Dentist’s Art Collection Revels in the Richness of Black Life

Photo courtesy of Tayo Yannick Anton.

“It’s not about oppression. It’s not about the typical kind of exploitative images around the Black community that you might see in newspapers. Things like starvation and hunger and police oppression. This show is much more about the beauty of ordinary Black life.” Read more.

Remembering Vancouver Artist Rodney Graham⁠—For More Than His Photography

Photo by Carole Goldsmith.

“He was so precise, and he had such a vision of what things should look like. I came to understand art better through watching Rodney.” Read more.

How a Family History of Adventure and Espionage Inspired a Vancouver Novelist

Photo by Anick Violette.

“After witnessing decades of similar escapades, Whishaw wasn’t as shocked as some daughters might have been to learn, about a year before her mother died, that Mom had worked in intelligence for the British government in South Africa during the Second World War. Growing up in a British community in Latvia, the future spy became fluent in German, French, and Russian along with her native English—useful skills for an attractive woman trying to eavesdrop.” Read more.

In Paris, Artists Re-create the Sounds of a Saturna Island Swamp

Photo by Nancy Angermeyer.

“There is no stage, and no instruments. The audience at the Centre Culturel Canadien in Paris sits on floor cushions and padded pouffes. It’s hard at first to find the singers embedded in the audience. Under the guidance of conductor Geoffroy Jourdain, the five choralists of Les Cris de Paris begin to gurgle, trill, and hum, one by one.” Read more.

A Vancouver Exhibition Shines Light on Bill Reid’s West Coast Legacy

Photo by Kenji Nagai.

“Native art is important. We have survived residential school, the potlatch ban, the ’60s Scoop, and the Indian Act, which still exists. Our Elders weren’t allowed to bring our culture to light.” Read more.

The Uncertain Future of Vancouver’s Music Festivals

Photo by Diamonds Edge Photography, courtesy of Coastal Jazz & Blues Society.

“In Vancouver, critical community cultural infrastructure has been built over decades by excellent festivals—music, film, and performing arts—that are often underappreciated outside their partisans. All face serious challenges.” Read more.

The Fantastical Printed World of Charles van Sandwyk

Photo by Kamil Bialous.

“Four steps up into an old building in Gastown, past the cast iron planter filled with hellebores about to burst into bloom, I turn the brass knob on the hunter-green door of Charles van Sandwyk & Co. A bell rings, and a jovial voice calls out, ‘Hello there.’ I am instantly transported to a bygone age.” Read more.

The Quintessentially Vancouver Artwork of Lam Wong

Image courtesy of Lam Wong.

“Among the reasons I’ve found Wong’s work so fascinating and emotionally compelling, ever since I stumbled across it last fall in the basement of the Sun Wah Centre in Chinatown, are the many dualities juxtaposed in his work: Eastern and Western influences, intimacy and abstraction, surface and subtext, art and audience.” Read more.

Mikayla Hong’s Illustrations Pay Loving Tribute to Iconic Vancouver Businesses

Image courtesy of Artbedo/Mikayla Hong.

“Whether she’s paying tribute to quintessential local institutions like Pepino’s Spaghetti House or documenting now-shuttered businesses like Huang’s Beef Noodle, the self-taught illustrator has a knack for lovingly capturing the lesser-known but iconic places synonymous with everyday life in Vancouver—including those lost to the city’s rapidly evolving streetscape.” Read more.

The Astonishingly Detailed Artwork of Manabu Ikeda

Photo by Yasuhide Kuge.

“Manabu Ikeda perches on a tall stepladder and checks his work. The Japanese artist spends up to eight hours a day drawing, bent over his flat canvas, the ladder offering a necessary wider perspective to the intensely detailed miniature scenes-within-scenes he creates. The piece underway is massive, a series of six one-by-three-metre panels, the bottom thirds of which show a burgeoning, swirling body of water. Begun in 2019, there are, Ikeda says, at least two more years of work left. Once it is finished, the panels will be filled with details created from millions of tiny pen lines.” Read more.

In The Fraud, Zadie Smith Takes Her Beloved London Back in Time

Photo by Jooney Woodward.

“This appears to be the ‘historical novel’ Smith once vowed to herself she’d never write. Her dreaded Charles Dickens (her other vow was to resist his influence on her writing) even makes an appearance—although his death comes swiftly.” Read more.

The 50-Year Mystic Quest of Tangerine Dream

Photo by Melanie Reinisch.

“Under the cantankerous guidance of founding member Edgar Froese, Tangerine Dream plowed a singular path, heard in the spontaneous experimentation of 1970’s Electronic Meditation and the screaming psychedelia of the 1971 single ‘Ultima Thule,’ eventually finding its way into krautrock, prog rock, and the pioneering electronica of 1974’s Phaedra, before winding through cinematic digressions like the 1983 Tom Cruise blockbuster Risky Business, all while contributing genetic code to the New Age and EDM artists who devoured popular music in the ’90s.” Read more.

Sorting Through the Collection of a Riot Grrrl Zine Artist

Image courtesy of Sonja Ahlers.

“Sonja Ahlers has been in bed for two days. She’s recuperating from the emotional excavation of her life’s work.” Read more.

Keeping the Music Alive⁠—A New History of the Commodore Ballroom

Photo courtesy of Victoria Potter.

“For three long years at the end of the last century, a terrible malaise descended on Vancouver. If you walked along the east side of Granville Street between Smithe and Robson, you passed the once-mighty Commodore Ballroom, its doors now chained and assaulted with graffiti. With the Commodore’s brutal and sudden closure on July 12, 1996, its future became uncertain, its fate perhaps sealed.” Read more.

Fake Diamonds and Chinatown Grandmothers⁠—A Vancouver Artist Meditates on What We Value

Image courtesy of Evan Lee and Monte Clark Gallery.

“When Lee photographs cubic zirconia, as he did in Fugazi (2019), expanding the image to the length of a wall, or when his portraits feature objects purchased from dollar stores in a style that evokes the paintings of the Dutch masters, he subverts our perception of beauty and intrinsic value. In Lee’s art, Vancouverites (especially this writer, also of Chinese descent and born in 1975) see their own lives reflected.” Read more.

Remembering Norman Armour⁠⁠—The Man Who Connected Vancouver Performing Arts to the World

Photo by Sarah Race.

“It’s hard to imagine a loss more deeply felt in Vancouver’s arts community. PuSh is just part of the reason for that.” Read more.

Read even more stories about the arts.


Post Date:

February 1, 2024