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News / July 15, 2014

Alberta Biennial 2015 List Looks to Future

A view of Edmonton's now-closed Future Station—a hiding-in-plain-sight locale that provides inspiration for the next Alberta Biennial. Photo: Kristy Trinier. A view of Edmonton's now-closed Future Station—a hiding-in-plain-sight locale that provides inspiration for the next Alberta Biennial. Photo: Kristy Trinier.

What does it mean to be an Alberta artist? How can artists critique or comment upon the province’s famed (and often controversial) oil boom? And what are the impacts of recent floods and forest fires on artistic sensibilities there?

Such questions promise to weave through the next Alberta Biennial, which recently released the list of artists for its run January 24 to May 3, 2015.

“When I was doing studio visits, I realized the artists kept talking about these themes,” says Art Gallery of Alberta curator Kristy Trinier. “The fires in Slave Lake really impacted Brenda Draney’s work…. And none of the artists are making really bling-like or expensive artworks like you would see after other economic booms in the States in the 1980s, for example. A lot of artists are doing just the opposite, using found materials and abrading surfaces, and I think that is a subtle commentary on the economics of the province.”

Forty-two artists and collectives have been announced for the biennial—and fewer than five of these, Trinier says, have been in the event before. Some, like poet Christian Bök and cinematographer Evan Prosofsky (the latter of whom has worked on music videos for Grimes, Arcade Fire and Lana Del Rey), are better known outside the art world than in.

Yet “all of the artists on the list have described Alberta as their home base”—no matter where they roam, Trinier says. “Alberta has become an integral part of their working process even after they have left the province.”

Take, for example, Wil Murray, who has recently worked in Berlin but who maintains a studio in Okotoks. Or Jude Griebel, a prairie-vernacular artist currently on a residency in Leipzig but planning to return to his Sundre studio. Trinier says even late artist Mathieu Lefevre, who was born in Edmonton in 1981 and died in a bicycle accident in Brooklyn in 2011, “identified as an Alberta-based artist even when was living in New York.”

Though the province might be best known worldwide for its spectacular Rocky Mountains, a different approach to the idea of Alberta-as-location inspired the 2015 biennial’s title, “Future Station.”

“The title actually comes from an abandoned transit centre called Future Station that is underground near the art gallery,” Trinier says. “If you take one of the transit lines, you actually go through there, but you don’t realize it. I think part of that is a metaphor for the way contemporary art is seen in the province.”

In keeping with this idea of art hiding in plain sight, Trinier hopes to disperse installations for the biennial across different venues. Though much of the work, as usual, will be at the Art Gallery of Alberta, the biennial will also encompass the University of Alberta’s Enterprise Square Galleries and other locations in the city, possibly public-art ones as well. (Formerly, Trinier was public art director at the Edmonton Arts Council.)

The 42 artists and collectives to be featured in the 2015 Alberta Biennial are:

Arbour Lake Sghool, Calgary

Ashleigh Bartlett, Calgary

Kyle Beal, Calgary

Brittney Bear Hat, Calgary

Devon Beggs, Edmonton

Nika Blasser, Edmonton

Christian Bök, Calgary

Steven Cottingham, Calgary

Hannah Doerksen, Calgary

Joseph Doherty, Edmonton

Brenda Draney, Edmonton

Gordon Ferguson, Calgary

Jason Frizzell, Red Deer

Sarah Fuller, Banff

Jude Griebel, Sundre

Aryen Hoekstra, Edmonton

Dara Humniski, Edmonton

Mary Kavanagh, Lethbridge

Kristen Keegan, Edmonton

Robin Lambert, High Prairie

Mathieu Lefèvre, Edmonton

Tyler Los-Jones, Calgary

Amy Malbeuf, Rich Lake

Travis McEwen, Edmonton

Brendan McGillicuddy, Calgary

Jay Mosher, Calgary

Yvonne Mullock, Calgary

Wil Murray, Calgary

Brad Necyk, St. Albert

Ali Nickerson, Edmonton

Erik Osberg, Edmonton

Josée Aubin Ouellette, Edmonton

Giulliano Palladino, Edmonton

Evan Prosofsky, Edmonton

Scott Rogers, Calgary

Erin Schwab, Fort McMurray

Sergio Serrano, Edmonton

Leslie Sharpe, Edmonton

Jill Stanton, Edmonton

Alma Louise Visscher, Edmonton

Adam Waldron-Blain, Edmonton

Nicole Kelly Westman, Red Deer

Leah Sandals

Leah Sandals is a writer and editor based in Toronto. Her arts journalism has appeared in the Toronto Star, National Post and Globe and Mail, among other publications, and her creative work has been published in Prism, Room and Freefall. She can be reached via