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Curator Interview Archive

5  Gareth Bate (Part 2)

4  Gareth Bate (Part 1)

3  Stanzie Tooth

2  Evan Tyler

1  Dawne Rudman



Performance by Marianne Burlew during the opening reception. Photo: Gareth Bate


gallerywest, Queen St. West, Toronto. Photo: Gareth Bate


Curator: Evan Tyler of gallerywest, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Interview 2: Exhibition: Where were you when Amy Winehouse Died?
2012 World of Threads Festival.
gallerywest, Toronto.
To see the official photo album:
click here.


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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.




Evan Tyler is an Intermedia artist, gallery director and curator who uses all three entities to tell the story of the human condition in all of its mundane brilliance. Tyler works in video, photography, drawing, writing, text and performance. Humour and the absurd are consistent themes in Tyler's work which he uses as entry-points in acknowledging and perverting social behaviour as well as the models, tropes and templates inherent in contemporary culture.

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan, Evan Tyler grew up making home movies and rap recordings. The Fine Arts Program at the University of Regina honed his multidisciplinary practice and in 2008 he earned his Bachelors of Fine Arts (BFA), majoring in Intermedia. Tyler has exhibited his work at the Godfrey Dean Gallery, Yorkton, Sask. (2010), galleryDK, Toronto (2010), The University Club, Regina, Sask. (2009), The Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Regina Sask. (2007), gallerywest, Toronto (2011), Dupont Projects, Toronto (2011), Mercer Union, Toronto (2011), Art Metropole, Toronto (2012) and Kurt im Hirsch, Berlin (2012).

Tyler currently resides in Toronto, Ontario where he is the owner and director of all programming at gallerywest, a contemporary art gallery located at 1172 Queen Street West. gallerwest website | Evan's Art Website


Evan Tyler of gallerwest, Toronto.


Tell us about yourself.

My name is Evan Tyler. I'm a visual artist, gallery director, writer and curator. I was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. I attended the University of Regina, and completed a BFA degree with a Major in Intermedia. My work uses a variety of media including, video, photography, text, performance, sculpture and drawing. I was employed as a "Facilitator" and "Workshop Instructor" with the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina until I moved to Toronto in 2010. I currently reside in Toronto where I am the Program Director, and I am cutting my teeth on curating exhibitions at gallerywest, a contemporary art gallery located on Queen Street West. I have two cats; I enjoy jazz music and East Indian food. I'm also partial to sushi.


gallerywest, Queen St. West, Toronto. Photo: Gareth Bate

gallerywest, Queen St. West, Toronto. Photo: Gareth Bate


Artists in Where were you when Amy Winehouse Died?:


Even Tyler chatting to artist Marianne Burlew.

At the opening. Photo: Gareth Bate

At the opening. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Tell us about gallerywest.

gallerywest is a project space for contemporary art and it opened its doors in October, 2010. The gallery exhibits thoughtful and challenging art shows in a wide variety of mediums. We also connect with other community collectives to manifest provocative and creative events. The gallery has a special connection to Saskatchewan and aims to connect Toronto to the sometimes overlooked and mystified prairie art scene. gallerywest programs over twelve exhibitions per year in a wide range of mediums by local artists, and national and international artists as well. The identity of the gallery has been cultivated by the audience who are invested into the veracity and unpredictability of what happens in the space. gallerywest has exhibited fibre art in the past and has including fibre art artists Brett Gabel, Bad Dreams, 2011; Marisa Hoicka and Johnny Forever, Search, 2011.


Little Amy Winehouse by artist Asun Sánchez of Seville, Spain. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Little Amy Winehouse by artist Asun Sánchez of Seville, Spain. Photo: Gareth Bate.


How would you define curating and what is your philosophy or approach?

I think that curation is individually defined in the way that it is employed by different personalities and therefore is subjective. The job of curating art has expanded beyond the traditional understanding of "the keeper of a collection". We now live in a time within a visual culture where the curator's role is broadening beyond the standard duty of assembling and contextualizing art works. I am not sure I will give a universal definition of curation, but I can speak on my own approaches and strategies based on my own experience.

My approach in curating art shows has fostered two key components for myself and the exhibiting artists: idea and response

I have rarely sought out specific art works that function conceptually under an umbrella idea, although I have taken that approach as well in the past. Typically I begin with a fascination of an idea or person, such as "trophies", "plants and machines", "Amy Winehouse", as a jumping off point. From this point, I begin having conversations with artists whom I believe could respond to such an idea or fascination with fresh and interesting artworks. I find that there is a certain level of commitment, excitement and creative juices that begin to flow with this process, and where the artists themselves feel that they are on the frontier of a state-of-the-art creative organism. I do not consider myself a purist in this approach, however, but I have found a great deal of satisfaction and success with it.

I discovered that while engaged in the process of curating art works for the World of Threads Festival, that it was a rewarding experience. I think a good curator finds innovative and creative ways to present the subject matter, push the artists and their craft, as well as challenge the audience. I am excited to experience how curating progresses and shifts over time. I would like to continue to be part of this transition.


The White Collar Boys by artist Sharon Moodie of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Gareth Bate

The White Collar Boys by artist Sharon Moodie of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Gareth Bate

Artist Sharon Moodie with her piece The White Collar Boys. Photo: Gareth Bate.


What was the overall theme of your exhibition for the 2012 festival?

The overall theme was centered around the untimely death of Amy Winehouse, society transformation and subversion of icons. I began selecting works for an exhibition shortly after Amy Winehouse's tragic demise. Gossip, grief and opinions about Amy were consuming the media, which is the usual construct of what typically happens when an icon collapses. The exhibition I was working on was as much about the fragile line between confidence and vulnerability as it was about the humanization of Amy Winehouse.

The works I selected dealt literally and metaphorically with human endeavour and pop culture. Various fibre works were selected that included telephones used to transfer information, suit collars representing corporate status, and a doll of Amy Winehouse herself, which presented the viewer with a malleable and poetic statement about modern life and cultural embodiment. My intent was not to ask the viewer where they were when Amy died and what her death meant to them, but rather to examine a more global idea of moments that pass and how technology facilitates the present expansion of pop culture and its associated icons.

Further, as the title, World of Threads Festival suggests that fibre is the crux of all exhibited works, what better foundation to build a platform that can explore the duality of the human condition: strength and weakness. Threads by its very nature bear both of these qualities. Although fibre may appear to be stable and indestructible, they hold in their fabric a fragility and the potential for weakness.


Princess by artist Marie Bergstedt of San Francisco, California, USA. Photo: Gareth Bate

Final Phone by artist Marie Bergstedt of San Francisco, California, USA. Photo: Gareth Bate

Artist Marie Bergstedt with her piece Final Phone. Photo: Dawne Rudman


Of the pieces you selected, are there any that particularly portray the theme of the exhibit?

I would like to speak about one work that best articulated the show, perhaps even more than the doll of Amy Winehouse. The work I'm referencing was Emily Martin's Handkerchief installation. The viewer was faced with a horizontal row of evenly hung vintage embroidered handkerchiefs pinned to the wall with barely visible razor sharp pins. The collision of comfort, convenience and danger encapsulated the energy of the exhibition.


The Handkerchief Collection by artist Emily Martin of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Gareth Bate

Artist Emily Martin of of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada with her piece The Handkerchief Collection. Photo: Dawne Rudman.


How did you select the artists/work, the process you worked through and what factors went into your decisions?

The pieces that were selected dealt with the theme of co-existence of strength and weakness, power and powerlessness, as well as pop culture and fantasy. I essentially searched for objects with a certain level of visual duality, juxtaposition or had some relation to pop culture. I also began to think about the icon as "alien life form", and so fantasy characters and entities began to catch my eye as well.


Performance by Marianne Burlew during the opening reception. Photo: Gareth Bate

Performance by Marianne Burlew during the opening reception. Photo: Gareth Bate


How did you come up with the title for the exhibition?

I think I just wanted an eye catcher, something that could easily be a movie title. I also wanted something that imposed a certain level of banal guilt on the audience. I guess it depends on how you say the title. The way I said it to myself was like... "Where were YOU when Amy Winehouse Died?" which made me feel as if there was something I could have done about it, which there wasn't. Depending on what words you emphasize in the title, it could take on different tones, which I liked.


Hazel by Pat Hertzberg of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Dawne Rudman

Artist Pat Hertzberg of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada with her piece Hazel. Photo: Dawne Rudman


What advice would you give to artists for working with curators?

My advice for artists is the mentorship process – to learn from the curator and engage as enthusiastically as you can with the project without overstepping set boundaries. Express your feelings about the work, give delightful anecdotes and useful information to feed the curator's understanding of the piece, and give it over for interpretation. Keep in mind that the artwork is a puzzle piece in a wider presentation of ideas that will challenge the viewer in a new way and it may not be something you may have considered when initially producing the work. An artist's work is living in a new environment and is now part of a unique experience. This may sound like an idealistic objective and it isn't always going to work out, but when it happens, it is rewarding. Oh, yeah, and no matter what is promised to you, document your own work and keep an invite or three!


Moment by artist Kaija Rautiainen of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Gareth Bate

A guest imitating art. The piece is Moment by artist Kaija Rautiainen of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Gareth Bate


Are there common mistakes that artists make and what advice would you give to artists about the submission/selection process?

Know something about the gallery you are submitting to. For example, gallerywest is a contemporary art gallery with an edge for provocative themes, so you would want to understand the philosophy and types of programming that goes into the space.

In general, I would expect a submission that includes images of the artwork, a biography of the artist, a link to a website, an artist statement and a curriculum vitae, with a covering letter. This is standard.

In general I would not be impressed if an artist just showed up at the gallery with a portfolio and expecting someone to take the time without an appointment.



Anna's Shoes by Emily Martin of of Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Dawne Rudman


How would you suggest artists deal with rejection?

Rejection is like diarrhea, it happens. Certainly some upset bowels won't stop you from recovering and going about your business and neither should rejection. The one thing rejection has on diarrhea, is that with the right mindset rejection makes you stronger and more capable of dealing with the often cold and callous nature of the art world. When you get rejected from an art show, just say to yourself, "well at least I don't have diarrhea", and then submit again. In the past, I have gone through long bouts of rejection but sometimes you get the clearance to do something worthwhile and it makes all the past rejection melt away a little bit.


Installation Shot. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Installation Shot. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Can you talk about the status of fibre in contemporary art?

Although fibre art is not specifically gendered, it has typically been viewed as a "woman's genre". It is most probably because fibre art involves the usage, distortion/manipulation of domestic items such as yarn, thread, cloth, and tools like sewing needles, knitting needles, and so on, and a gender association based on its history is often concluded.

I have known some great male fibre artists. However, I noticed while selecting works for Where Were You When Amy Winehouse Died? the majority of works were created by and subsequently my exhibition was comprised of artworks by women. I thought it would be weird to seek out one or two male fibre artists to tilt the gender scale, and I chose the works submitted with a critical lens. In the realm of contemporary artistic practice, fibre art is relevant and has stood the test of time as a medium.


Wolverina by Molly Grundy of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Gareth Bate

Artist Molly Grundy of Toronto, Ontario, Canada with her piece Wolverina. Photo: Gareth Bate


Can you talk about the commercial viability of Fibre Art/?

Universal truth: collectors want to own unique and fascinating objects. Like any medium, fibre art is changing and from what I have observed, has many possibilities for expression and creativity.

Although I do not have a great deal of experience in the genre of commercial fibre art, I will share one observation – there is a dedicated audience for it. gallerywest has programmed two fibre artists in the past: Brett Gabel, Bad Dreams, 2011 and Marisa Hoicka and Johnny Forever, Search, 2011, and both exhibitions were well attended.

Fibre art will thrive as long as it continues to find a voice independent of genre. Like other mediums, it must progress and innovate, which I believe it is. One observation I have made is that good contemporary fibre art challenges the minimalist, cold art world of intellectualism. In the future of art I would like to see a resurgence of human emotions and less cerebral diaper-rash.


United Kingdom by artist Jennifer Hirschmann of Winter Park, Florida, USA. Photo: Gareth Bate

Artist Jennifer Hirschmann with her piece United Kingdom. Photo: Gareth Bate


What is your view on the whole Art vs. Craft debate?

My personal relationship with art is about disrupting the human condition through creative experimentation and discovery in a variety of mediums. "Art" is typically justified by how the maker speaks about it intellectually. "Craft" is recognized by a relationship to skill, technique, material and the love of creating an object. The works in said exhibition used fibre art/craft as a cog in a wheel to express an idea and therefore it merged art and craft. That is what is meant by fibre art progressing and innovating.


Pocket Knife by artist Meghan Macdonald of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Photo: Gareth Bate

Silverware II by artist Britta Fluevog of Vancouver British Columbia, Canada. Photo: Gareth Bate


What interests you about the World of Threads Festival as a whole?

I appreciate that festivals attract a level of public interest. The World of Threads Festival has a great history and is organized by a responsible and experienced group of people. It is always a good experience to work with individuals of this caliber and reputation, and I feel I am contributing to an ongoing legacy.


Touch My (Entity 1) by artist Marianne Burlew of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Artist Marianne Burlew with Touch My (Entity 1). Gareth Bate.Photo: Gareth Bate.


How do you balance the 'double-life' of artist and curator?

With really good sushi from "Sushi World" on College and Spadina!

As a curator and artist, I find the roles complementary. It might be an art project, a video, or it might be a curated group show, or maybe a street performance, but I am always working on something, and it all comes from the same driving need to manifest narratives, ideas and visuals.


At the opening Evan Tyler with artist Emily Martin. Photo: Gareth Bate

During the opening. Photo: Gareth Bate


In terms of curating, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I hope in five years, the role of curator and artist is further merged and I will have contributed to this somehow with a certain level of subversiveness.


During the opening. Photo: Gareth Bate


What's coming up for you in the future?

Many possibilities.

I would like to continue publishing books and making videos, and I see that as part of my future. I am interested in furthering my video art practice, and I enjoy public speaking and performing for the camera.

I have been offered a curatorial opportunity and an artist's exhibition with the Godfrey Dean Gallery in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. This will continue to connect me with other galleries and hone my skills.

I will continue to program and curate exhibitions at gallerywest with notable artists like Duke and Battersby, who have been a great inspiration to me.

I plan to continue in a Master's Degree at some point, and I would like to teach a class about monologues and visual art. Creating monologues is where my current research lies, so it seems an obvious goal.

I would also like to cross-country ski next season.


Evan at work. Photo: Gareth Bate


To see the official album for Where were you when Amy Winehouse Died? click here.


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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.