One artist wants you present, the other wants you to play — both want to share works of art with you
By Cory Schachtel | October 25, 2023
A look at two new exhibits at SNAP Gallery, 10572 115 St, Edmonton.
Free as a Bird
Devin Cypher first became interested in printmaking while in high school, then at the University of Alberta, where he ended up “falling in love” with the old-world visual art. But upon graduating, “I suddenly no longer had the structure of school, and I definitely felt a little bit lost and free floating, which I had quite a bit of anxiety over.”
Luckily, Cypher lives in Edmonton, which has one of the most robust printmaking scenes in the country, thanks largely to SNAP Gallery, where Cypher, like many students, had worked. Helping other artists present their shows familiarized Cypher with the process, and helped his confidence, but there was one thing that most helped his anxiety and inspired his first solo show: birds.
“I live on an acreage with my parents, so we see a lot of wildlife, but I’ve always been interested in birds. So my partner and I were like, let’s actually go out and see if we enjoy wandering around and looking at birds. So we were the two nerds at the park with our binoculars and bird-watching guidebook, and it was just a really fun and relaxing hobby. And I ended up incorporating that into my artwork.”
Cypher’s artwork for Watchings started with bird-based sketches he gave to loved ones. Entering into his Emerging Artist Residency at SNAP, he proposed creating a series of artist books about robins nesting on his parent’s acreage. But he wanted to show the detail he saw as a bird watcher to people who know birds less through sight and more through song. So he turned to collography, a form of printmaking Cypher says “is like collage, where you’re gluing different textures or different materials to boards to create the image that you’re then going to print off of.”
Now out of the controlling-but-comfortable confines of school and into the open sky of the art exhibition industry, Cypher’s spreading his wings on the first solo flight of his career. But on a personal level, his new hobby has grounded him, and he hopes it comes through in this series of printed works. “I kind of went into it like I’m not looking for a specific bird. I have a list, and I keep records of what I do see, but it’s usually just something for me to do to kind of unplug and be more focused on the present moment.”
Another artist wants you to be present for her SNAP exhibition, but she also wants you to play. Neah Kelly is from Vancouver Island, and even from there, she’d heard of Edmonton’s printmaking scene. For five years Kelly’s been building intricate prints, paintings and sculptures, culminating in her first SNAP show, Endlessly Unending.
“My practice began with these three abstract shapes. And I made a book that kind of reconfigured the shapes in different ways. From there, I took these shapes, and I made sculptures. And then from those sculptures, I made another book. So one kind of connects to the other. They’re individual pieces, and each one is its own thing, but then it connects to the next thing that came after.”
The first book consists of 300 prints featuring different iterations of the same three abstract shapes, many of which exist in the negative space or have even been cut out, allowing the audience to turn and overlay different pages to create their own shapes, as a kind of game — and yes, she wants you to turn the pages. “I think a lot of things I make look intimidating, so people don’t like to handle those as much as they’re allowed to, but they can definitely go through the books. I really want them to be handled. I want people to be engaged, to take their time — to look at things but also to look through things. They’re intended to be play devices, so I want people to investigate with their hands and their eyes, think about and enjoy them.”