Tuesday, 21 May 2013

SOPA: Painting the Town...

One gorgeously sunny afternoon in New York, I found myself in a little gallery in Chelsea near the High Line.  It was one of those chance discoveries while wandering the city, fueled no doubt by the New York 'Time Out' listings. I had gone to see a little exhibition by a couple of fashion photographers I was familiar with, but what I found instead, in the main gallery, was a wonderful exhibition by an artist whose work really moved me.  

The gallery was the Andrea Rosen Gallery on West 24th Street , the  artist was Elliott Hundley, and the exhibition was entitled "Agave of the Bacchae". His expressionist assemblage canvases were full of colour, and detail that needed to be looked at closely - including the thousands of tiny golden pins and wires that jutted out from the surfaces, giving them a depth and shimmer.  From a distance they were simply breathtaking, huge organic visuals, as were his large accompanying sculptures made from found objects like bits of wooden stools, magnifying glass, and folded paper. The whole experience was somehow transcendental.

That's what I love about contemporary art.  A good piece hits you on a very subliminal level.  It makes you...  feel.  Or makes you...  think.  Or... both. To me, the colour block paintings of Mark Rothko are hypnotic, and I could easily sit for an hour staring into the dark burgundy-black depths of No. 12 (Black on Dark Sienna on Purple) for hours, literally falling into the canvas.

But... this long rambling intro about the international art scene is merely getting me to the main focus of this blogspot.  The SOPA Fine Arts on Pandosy.  Because, I am very happy to report,  Kelowna has it's very own international contemporary art hot spot.  

Established in 2005 by self-confessed (according to her Twitter account!) 'Okanagan art maven'  Deborah Boileau, SOPA  brings contemporary art to Kelowna in a way that surely has serious collectors and budding art aficionados rubbing their hands together joyfully.   

The 2600 sq ft gallery changes its exhibitions monthly, and at the moment I am thoroughly entranced by Spanish-Canadian artist Jordi Alfaro's sensuously organic, rounded ceramic sculptures, and also by ex-Montrealer (now a Salt Spring resident) Michela Sorrentino's colourfully patterned cold wax and oil panels.

SOPA represents a veritable who's who of up-and-coming and established artists from as far afield as France and Germany and as close as the Okanagan Valley. The Good (New) Life recently contacted the lovely Ms Boileau to talk galleries and geography, with the following results:-

TG(N)L:. What was your idea/inspiration/driver behind starting the gallery here in Kelowna?

DB: My husband is an artist, and so early on we began collecting art. Over time, we grew to appreciate more contemporary artwork but found there weren’t any galleries here that specialized in it. SOPA Fine Arts has been a self-serving endeavour, since the gallery only represents artists whose work I also want to collect.  Now I waver somewhere between being passionate about art and being addicted to it.

TG(N)L:. What do you look for in the artists/work you chose for the gallery?

DB: Relevance is a big thing for me. I don’t want to represent an artist who chases market trends because that sort of work can become passé just as easily as it was in style. When an artist is making a genuine contribution to the art world, finding their own voice and following their own path, the work becomes timeless.

TG(N)L:. Where do the artists come from geographically? 

DB: We get submissions from all over, but we try to limit ourselves to North America. One of our artists lives in Germany now and another is heading to France soon... the rest are from Montreal, Toronto, New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Edmonton, Michigan, Louisiana, Denver, Victoria, Seattle... well, you get the picture. We also represent some really talented local artists. The key was that I wanted to connect the gallery to the larger art world, rather than staying too regional. Small communities often suffer from that stigma.

TG(N)L:.  Do you think Kelowna is becoming more open to contemporary art?

DB: I’ve seen a greater shift towards modern interiors here, which lends itself to contemporary art. But I’ve noticed that even if someone bought a contemporary painting because it suited their modern home, they could easily hang that same piece in a traditional home if they ever move. It’s not quite as easy to hang traditional work in a modern space though. I think more people are discovering this.

TG(N)L:. What advice would you give people looking to buy contemporary art for their homes?

DB: Look at as much art as you can. I always use a wine analogy for locals, since most of us can relate. You never want to invest in the first wine you enjoy, your palette will outgrow that soon enough. Art appreciation is pretty much the same, exposure is the key.

TG(N)L:. What are the price ranges at the gallery?

DB: Our clients love the quality of art we have in the $2500 – $5500 range. But we also sell work lower and higher than that... it all depends on the artist.

TG(N)L:.  What is YOUR very favourite art gallery in the world?

DB: Only one—that’s not fair!!!

SOPA FINE ARTS is located at: 
2934 South Pandosy St.  
Kelowna, BC  
V1Y 1V9
Tel: 250.763.5088
Email: info@sopafinearts.com

Gallery Hours: Tues-Sat: 11-5, Sun: 12-4 and by appointment.