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Must-See September Exhibitions

The art world’s New Year.

You can always feel September when it arrives. Mornings become just a bit crisper, fragrant with the scent of browning leaves. Anticipation looms—students are busy sharpening their pencils in preparation for a new school year, closets become prematurely plump with new sweaters waiting to be worn. And, after a summer sales slump, art galleries are hard at work paintings walls, scrubbing plinths, and buffing champagne glasses in preparation for another busy gallery season.

The art world has its own “September issue” of sorts with most galleries bringing out a heavy-hitting artist or artists for the month. Whether it’s sales-driven motivation, as in the case of commercial galleries, or in attempt to lure out crowds for museums and non-profits, September is a great time to hit up gallery openings and exhibitions for a glimpse of what is to come in the new season. Here, we’ve collected the most talked-about openings from across Canada to see this fall.

Canada’s art capital is, of course, where to begin. Under the whirl of the Toronto International Film Festival lies an exciting extracurricular art circuit. Long-time favourite Daniel Faria Gallery, which represents national treasure Douglas Coupland, is giving New York-based artist Allyson Vieira her Canadian debut on September 9, 2017 and running to October 28. Holding a BFA from the Cooper Union and an MFA from Bard College, Vieira’s Re: Work Over Time at Daniel Faria is concerned with the process of building and materiality. The work, created during a residency in São Paulo, is made with industrial material, suspended between a place of creation and completion—an object that has not quite met its objecthood.

At the National Gallery, work from one of Canada’s most anticipated annual art competitions, the RBC Canadian Painting Competition, is being exhibited. Each year, some of the country’s most promising emerging painters compete for first place prize of $25,000 (honourable mentions receive $15,000 and remaining finalists $2,500). This year’s 15 finalists’ paintings are being shown at the gallery from September 1 to October 22, 2017 with the winner being announced on October 17. Good bets to take home the title: graphic and surreal artist Cindy Ji Hye Kim who holds her MFA from Yale University, and second-time finalist Tristan Unrau who recently graduated from the MFA program at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Forever the cool-kid capital of art in this country, Montreal, has some stellar options this season. At the essential Gallerie Division (Montreal outpost), local textile artist Myriam Dion is showing a series of works made from newsprint, tapestry, and prayer rug-like textiles that continue her interest in the traditional crafts. Tactile and personally political, the pieces bring in the artist’s long-sewn musings on immigration, crisis zones, and the environment. Dion is a promising young artist showing from a gallery that has fostered the explosive careers of artists such as Chloe Wise (who debuts at Almine Rech Gallery in Paris this month, by the way).

A shift of perspective from the prominent Montreal painter Janet Werner is on view September 8 to October 7, 2017 across town at Parisian Laundry. Werner, who is known for her evocative female forms, is now bringing her source material, the photography, into the work exposing her process. Sticky Pictures focuses on the artist’s tenuous relationship between subject, captured image, and canvas. Simultaneously on at the gallery, London-based artist Gabriele Beveridge exhibits complementary work also concerned with corporeality of the female form—layering found images with hand-blown glass resembling bubble gum in pretty pastel shades.

Calgary’s non-profit arts organization Truck Contemporary Art presents the work of Alana Bartol. The artist’s exhibition In Blood and Bone on view September 8 to October 14, 2017 features Bartol engaging in her family’s tradition of “water witching”: the practice of finding water sources using sticks and branches as tools. In the series, Bartol uses this to locate water at abandoned oil sites throughout Alberta, hitting an important and timely political conversation concerning natural resources, ownership, and allocation.

On the West Coast, Vancouver’s annual SWARM is now 18 years strong. The event brings together all of the artist-run centres for two nights (September 7 and 8, 2017) of openings. The city’s best non-profit galleries such as Artspeak in Gastown, Or Gallery in downtown, and Western Front in Mount Pleasant all open their September shows on these nights to bring out the best and biggest crowds. Looking to gallery hop? Stick within Chinatown to see Access Gallery, 221A, and Unit/Pitt Projects all in one go.

One of Vancouver’s oldest galleries Bau-Xi (which opened in 1965) is exhibiting one of the city’s freshest new talents. Recent University of British Columbia alum Michelle Nguyen is exhibiting her first solo show, Of Tristia, Forlorn! from September 9 to 23, 2017. Drawing from a seemingly wide range of art historical references from Paul Gauguin to Hieronymus Bosch to Instagram memes, Nguyen’s young body of work is strong, funny, erotic, and personal. She is an artist to buy now: last season’s coat will just have to do.


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