Featured Curators

Curator Interview Archive

5  Gareth Bate (Part 2)

4  Gareth Bate (Part 1)

3  Stanzie Tooth

2  Evan Tyler

1  Dawne Rudman


Installation view of Memento mori at The Gallery at Sheridan Installation, Oakville. A Common Thread International exhibition. Photo: Gareth Bate


Wendy O'Brien of Stratford, Ontario, Canada, Guardian #2, birch bark corset, 2011. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Curator: Gareth Bate, Festival Curator,
Toronto,Ontario, Canada.

Interview 4 Part 1.
Memento mori in the 2012 World of Threads Festival.
The Gallery at Sheridan Institute, Oakville, Ontario, Canada.
To see the official photo album:
click here.


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Interview published by Dawne Rudman.



Gareth Bate is an artist, art teacher and curator living in Toronto. He works primarily in painting, installation and photography. He has been Festival Curator of the World of Threads Festival since 2011. He co-produces the Weekly Fibre Artist Interview series. Gareth is planning to add podcaster to the list over the next few months as he launches a new podcast working his way through the history of modern and contemporary art. Gareth graduated with a diploma from the Art Centre at Central Technical School and a BFA from OCAD University. For the last 6 years he been teaching abstract painting and the history of the Old Masters 1300-1900, and the history of Modern/Contemporary Art: 1850-present, at the Adult Art Centre at Central Technical School, Toronto. He has exhibited in public and private galleries in Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Art Website


Gareth Bate with his Jewel Net of Indra installation. Acrylic paint on acrylic mirrored discs. Photo: Saglara Kitchikova.


Tell us about yourself.

I'm currently engaged in a long-term installation project called Jewel Net of Indra that involves creating 6,765 miniature paintings of historical figures on mirrored discs representing the interconnectedness of humanity. I've been working on this installation for two and half years. So far I've painted 1,600 people. They combine to form an interconnected web of human history.

I recently had a show called Cosmos and Anarchy which consists of small paintings depicting an imagined cosmos combined with imagery from video stills from recent riots in London, Athens, Madrid, Cairo, Belfast and Tehran. These densely worked paintings depict our current global turmoil playing out as part of cosmic drama.


In this interview Gareth addresses the following:


Installation view: Memento mori exhibition.Photo: Gareth Bate.

Installation view: Memento mori exhibition.Photo: Gareth Bate.

Installation view: Memento mori exhibition.Photo: Gareth Bate.


What is curating? What is your philosophy or approach?

For me curating is about intuitively seeing connections between different works of art and finding the big picture. A curator is placing an artwork in a context where it can be viewed in relation to other artists. Hopefully this encourages a broader art dialogue. Curating is a creative act of its own.

I'm always asking what's happening in contemporary fibre art right now? Can I spot different themes? In reality I'm curating exhibitions based on my own artistic interests. My own themes also show up in the curated shows.

I've come to realize that the life of an artwork only begins with the artist. It then takes on a life of its own (hopefully). Ultimately, we all want our work to be part of a broader dialogue. That includes the general public, colleagues, curators, critics, writers, and historians. One of the best things for your artwork is that someone actually wants to contextualize it within an exhibition.

Artists are asked to let go of some control over the interpretation of their work during the show. But when you do that, you might be surprised that someone sees something very interesting in your work that you never saw. Or that the context created with the other artwork elevates your work into something more than it was on its own. Curators add meaning to artworks.


At the opening of the Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Artists Lisa Brunetta and Robert Davidovitz with curator Gareth Bate. Photo: Dawne Rudman.

At the opening of the Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Gareth Bate.

At the opening of the Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Gareth Bate.

The Bus Tour to Oakville views the Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Gareth Bate.


How did you end up curating the World of Threads Festival?

My mother is Festival Chair Dawne Rudman. I started out doing design work for the website and print materials in 2008 just to help out. Then in 2009 I moved on to social networking resulting in the festival becoming international. The following year we launched the Weekly Fibre Artist Interviews series. For 2012 I moved up to curating the Festival as a whole, and 7 shows including two large ones. It was a ton of work!

I'm not a fibre artist, although I've worked with fibre materials. I have not trained in fibre processes or the history of fibre practices. I've ended up doing this because I find it interesting. Through the curating process and the interview series, I've learned a hell of lot about fibre arts! I think having this detachment is actually a good thing when it comes to curating. As an artist who works primarily in painting, installation and photography I'm glad not to be dealing with my own direct colleagues as that can create awkward situations when having to select and reject people for shows.


Installation view: Memento mori exhibition.Photo: Gareth Bate.

Camilla Geary-Martin of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Shroud #12, #28 and #8, 2010-2011, Bronze and stainless steel, Lost wax. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Artist Camilla Geary-Martin with her Shrouds at the opening of Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Gareth Bate.


What was the overall theme of this exhibition?

The Memento mori exhibition dealt with themes of death, mortality and grief, and the quest for immortality. The show developed out of a call for submissions called Fibre Inspired. The call was based on a trend I had observed in contemporary art towards creating work using the techniques and aesthetic of fibre, but using non-fibre materials. I was struck by how radically different these submissions were. They were dark both physically and thematically. Nothing in the show was actually made of fibre.

The central question became why are these artists choosing to use fibre construction techniques, but replacing the fragility, impermanence and tactility of fibre materials with hard, 'permanent', and difficult to manipulate materials such as stone, bronze, metal, wood, bark, ceramic, plastic, wire, solid paint and wax? The exhibition created an underworld environment. Mummification was a central theme. This process attempts to preserve and make immortal the ephemeral body. Finally, no underworld would be complete without an escape, which was symbolized by one of the artworks.

The exhibition was set up in opposition to the show De rerum natura (On the Nature of Things). That exhibition was filled with life, colour and energy. It focused on plants, animals and nature. (See interview part 2 for that show)


Nicole Collins of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Cohobate, 2012, wax, pigment, jute twine on canvas, on board, painting assemblage. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Detail: Nicole Collins of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Cohobate, 2012, wax, pigment, jute twine on canvas, on board, painting assemblage. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Artist Nicole Collins with her piece Cohobate. Photo: Dawne Rudman


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

A memento mori is a reminder of the inevitability of death. Historically it has been a popular genre in art. When you see a skull in a painting depicting abundance like fruits and worldly goods, this is a memento mori or vanitas. It functions as a reminder that in life you can have beauty, wealth and good fortune but in the end you can't take it with you!


Nancy Yule of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, Skeletal Remains 1 and 2, 2011, wire, gauze, encaustic wax, forming wire armature and applying encaustic wax. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Detail: Nancy Yule of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, Skeletal Remains 1 and 2, 2011, wire, gauze, encaustic wax, forming wire armature and applying encaustic wax. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Artist Nancy Yule with her piece Skeletal Remains 1 and 2, at the opening of the Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Gareth Bate


Artists in Memento mori



Main Installers: Gareth Bate & Jamie Owen.
Assistant Installer:
Dawne Rudman.
Gallery Liaisons
: Lynne Murray & Jamie Owen.


Megan Bostic of Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, The First Year of Grief: every day never feels like the yesterday I need it to, 2011, silk organza, powdered drink mix, tea, waxed linen thread, wax, encaustics, hand stitching. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Detail: Megan Bostic of Raleigh, North Carolina, USA, The First Year of Grief: every day never feels like the yesterday I need it to, 2011, silk organza, powdered drink mix, tea, waxed linen thread, wax, encaustics, hand stitching.Photo: Gareth Bate.

Gareth Bate installing Megan Bostic's work. Photo: Dawne Rudman.


How did you select the artists and work?

Most of the artists in the show submitted to the international call for submissions. Many were already consciously dealing with the idea of memento mori or vanitas. Others were included to draw attention to the idea of making perishable fibre materials and techniques permanent by transforming them. Some work related directly to historic symbols of death or immortality. I asked four artists to join the show.

Memento mori had a fantastic Opening Reception and one of the best I've been to. There was a great connection among the artists. I felt that it helped to pull different people together who were dealing with common themes.


Wendy O'Brien of Stratford, Ontario, Canada, Sentinel, 2009, bird cage, nest, wood, cotton, shoe lasts, fabric, clay, pencil, coffee dye, found object assemblage, dyeing, pencil on cotton. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Wendy O'Brien of Stratford, Ontario, Canada, Guardian #2, birch bark corset, 2011, On stand, birch bark, chiffon, ribbon on industrial felt, bark soaked in water and machine appliqued to industrial felt. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Artist Wendy O'Brien with her piece Guardian #2, birch bark corset, at the opening of Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Dawne Rudman.


Working your way through the exhibition, can you speak about the artist's work and how they fit within your show?

The most dominant piece in the show was clearly Cohobate by Nicole Collins. This large encaustic, jute and twine painting contained an indistinct form of a skull. It made a very strong impression. I've long sensed a grieving and sadness in Nicole's paintings that is quite moving. Nicole was invited into the show. I went to see this painting in her studio and loved it. Incredibly, I didn't even see that it contained an image of a scull! This was a total surprise that I discovered only when I had installed the painting. When I saw the painting in the studio it was in a narrow space, so I couldn't step back. I love this kind of happy accident. It was meant to be.

When you first entered the space you encountered Camilla Geary-Martin's Shrouds #12, #28 and #8. These figurative works at first appear to be made of burlap but are in fact bronze. This was the first work to establish the mummification theme.

Around the corner from this was Wendyth Anderson Breedveld's Rhus Radicans, which immediately felt like an urn to me. I was very impressed by how beautiful it was. Despite appearing heavy, it was surprisingly light and could have been easily pushed right over with your finger.


Wendyth Anderson Breedveld of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, Rhus Radicans, 2011, wicker/reed, handmade black water leaf cotton rag paper, adhesive, acrylic molding paste, acrylic paints, found metal and granite base, woven wicker/reed base, cast with embossed handmade papers, textured with acrylic molding paste and painted. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Artist Wendyth Anderson Breedveld with her piece Rhus Radicans at the opening of Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Dawne Rudman.


To the left was David Cumming's piece Quilt, which was actually made of stone. I loved this idea of transforming a fabric work into stone, like making a plaque out of it.

One of the most beautiful works in the show was Megan Bostic's The First Year of Grief: every day never feels like the yesterday I need it to. Here was a work deliberately dealing with death. I loved the lightness and the way it shimmered as people passed by. This was the most popular work from viewers. It was quite an ordeal to install I have to say. In the instructions they were supposed to be evenly hung. I spent several hours tying them together and then hoisted them up only to discover they were totally uneven and formed a wave! Oops. But I stood back and really loved how it looked. It wasn't what the artist intended, but I went with it.

I was fascinated by Mary McKenzie's Selection, Blind Spot, State of Affairs, Piece of Cake, and Once Upon a Time. These ceramic sculptures were made by dipping stuffed figures into clay and then firing them so that the fibres burned out and left only a ceramic shell.

I saw Wendy O'Brien's Sentinel and Guardian #2 as watching over the underworld. They are both beautiful pieces but they had a sinister aspect too. Like something you'd encounter on some level of Dante's Inferno.


Robert Davidovitz of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Vanitas, 2012, Acrylic paint on plywood, weaving. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Vanitas, detail by Robert Davidovitz. Photo: Gareth Bate

Artist Robert Davidovitz with his piece Vanitas at the opening of Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Dawne Rudman.


Nancy Yule's Skeletal Remains 1 and 2 were placed on the floor as an offering. These roses were made of wire, gauze and encaustic wax. Her piece Potential was like a seed breaking open. I wanted this one to be at the end of the show before you leave, but couldn't hang it there.

Susan Lukachko's Splinter felt like an attempt to piece one's life back together. It is a painting that had been cut up and reconstituted by sewing it up again. I was thinking about Frankenstein and how he's brought to life by being pieced together out of body parts.

Robert Davidovtiz's work was the main inspiration for the call for submissions Fibre Inspired because of his woven paintings. When I settled on the Memento mori theme his work didn't fit anymore so I invited him to make a new piece for the show. This resulted in the woven skull painting Vanitas, which played off well with Nicole's work.


Rochelle Rubinstein of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Egg and Tweed, 2011, Block printed, painted and carved wood panel. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Detail: Rochelle Rubinstein of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Tweed, 2011, Block printed, painted and carved wood panel. Photo: Gareth Bate.


I asked Rochelle Rubinstein for particular pieces Tweed and Egg based on my knowledge of her themes that include Memento mori. I loved the way that Tweed and Egg were both printmaking and scratching into the surface of the wood yet they had a strong sense of sewing.

Anna Hergert's Aquatic Embrace evoked drowning for me. This is probably  a total projection and has nothing to do with her intention, but that's how I saw it in this context.

Ixchel Suarez's Futuristic Birch Trees was again part of the mummification theme, this time using technology. They evoked the idea of birch trees, which are now wired with technology like the Borg. Or perhaps machine trees with no connection to nature. It took me and Sheridan's installler Jamie Owen two days to figure out how to install this work.

Carrie Chisholm's The Registry was cast as the ghost bride, wandering the room.


David Cumming of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Quilt, 2011, Green Brazilian soapstone, white soapstone, paella doweling, waxed string, synthetic burlap backing, epoxy glue, walnut oil, 3-stage buffed wax finish, sliced stone. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Trish Delaney of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 30 Anatomical Hearts, bronze & concrete, sculpted, molded and cast- lost wax. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Trish Delaney was another happy accident. When I arrived at the gallery to install, the previous show had not been taken down yet. Sitting on the floor was Anatomical Hearts. I loved them and thought they would fit perfectly into the mummification theme of the show. So I invited her right there to join in. To me they felt like hearts from Pompeii. Her work has nothing to do with fibre techniques, but I went with it.

As I mentioned before, every underworld needs an escape. I felt that having such a dark themed show needed some kind of release at the end. This was embodied by two works. The first was Lisa Brunetta's The Fisher. Turtles are traditionally a symbol of immortality because they were thought to never die. The same goes for her Peacock. In Christian symbolism the peacock represents immortality because it was thought that its flesh never decayed.

The final work in the show as you walked out was Lilly Otasevic's Spring. This work is literally made up of springs, but it also evokes blossoms. It was perfect. I was thinking of Peresphone the Goddess of Spring. After her capture by Hades, she is allowed to leave the underworld every six months to return to earth. Thus the return of spring after the winter months.


Artist Susan Lukachko with her piece Splinter, at the opening of Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Dawne Rudman.

Detail: Susan Lukachko of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Splinter, 2011, oil on canvas, thread, interfacing, sewn reconstructed painting. Photo: Gareth Bate.


In retrospect, would you change anything about this show?

Yes. It was overhung. Too much work for that space. One of the weird things about how we curate at World of Threads is that we have a call for submissions but don't see the work in real life in advance. I only saw the work when it arrived in the gallery. Since the work is coming from across Canada and internationally obviously I can't travel around to see it all. This is a big disadvantage.

You can know the rough size of work from dimensions and plan everything out in advance, but you really don't know what to expect. My whole plan went out the window as soon as the work arrived. Some things needed a lot more space to breath. I think the space needed to be twice the size to accommodate the amount of work I chose. Overall I was very happy with the show but it would have been better with fewer works for that space.


Nancy Yule of Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, Potential, 2011, Bamboo, nylon, coffee filters, wire, encaustic wax, Forming armature and adhering materials. Photo: Gareth Bate.


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

Right off the top let me say that none of the comments below are a reflection of the artists in this exhibition. They were all awesome to deal with.

Let go of control: This is a big deal for some artists. The best artists (the Pro's) are fine with curators contextualizing their work in a way that is different from how they imagined and don't freak out about it. Some artists are obsessed with presenting a very particular image of themselves.

In my first year out of OCAD University I had a solo exhibition at Glendon Gallery at York University called Penance and Devotion. The Curator was Colette Laliberté and her approach to curating provided me with some valuable lessons that I've never forgotten. I arrived at the gallery with several large and small paintings from my "Lament" series. She systematically illuminated almost all of the work and cut it down to only the best ones. The gallery was virtually empty, with large blank walls. At first I was rather concerned by this! I had done all this work and it wasn't going to be shown. But I quickly realized that by having so few works, and so much space she'd made every painting powerful and important. I could have been a Diva and freaked out, but I didn't, I went with her curatorial vision and I was much better off for it.


Mary McKenzie of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Selection, Blind Spot, State of Affairs, Piece of Cake, Once Upon a Time, 2011, Ceramic, clay, glaze, slip, metal, ink, sculpted, dipped, constructed. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Artist Mary McKenzie with a display of her sculptural pieces at the opening of the Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Make it as easy as possible and don't be a Diva: The curator may be working with lots of artists. Be professional by answering emails right away and have all the documentation ready to go in 72 dpi and 300 dpi and all writing CV, bio, artist statements, image descriptions ready. There is often an urgency because of coordinating a lot of artists, going to print or doing press packages. The majority of artists are awesome to work with. But it never ceases to amaze me how demanding and narcissistic some artists can be. They act as if they are the only ones in the show. It is very off putting. Although I know that I shouldn't, I often find myself giving in to these people. But I won't be working with them again.

Show appreciation: Recognize the work the curator is doing on your behalf. Artists should know what a curator does, and how exhibitions work. Speaking as an artist, I can say that the wrong approach is to assume that you are entitled to be in any exhibition. You are only entitled to make your work. No one is required to show it. An exhibition is a completely different thing.

No surprises: Communicate with the curator so they know exactly what they are getting. Don't change the work or decline to reveal something about it. Complete the work and ship it on time.


Anna Hergert of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, Aquatic Embrace, 2009, Plastic food film, recycled wrapping paper confetti, non-woven polyester interior decorator panel, rayon thread, Quilting. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Gareth installing Anna Hergert's work.

Ixchel Suarez of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, Futuristic Birch Tree, 2012, Wool, linen, cotton, synthetic fibre, metallic yarns, metal scrap, metal kitchen scrubs, mirrors, Tapestry and woven in metallic net. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Ixchel Suarez and Gareth Bate. Photo: Dawne Rudman


How would you suggest artists deal with rejection?

From an artist's perspective: I can say I've received tons of rejection letters and it can really start to weigh heavily after a while. Sometimes, I know that I was rejected because I submitted unresolved work, documentation that was inferior, or the written statement was not good enough. (I knew this in advance, and sent it anyway. And unsurprisingly, it got me nowhere!) More often, I have no idea why I didn't get in. Something I've decided to start doing is actually asking the reason why. The worst they can do is not tell me. I might find out some ego bruising things, but I clearly need to know so that I'm not left speculating endlessly and making up stories.

From a curator's perspective: Don't take it too personally. Exercise some detachment. Know that this is ONE person's subjective opinion. There could be many factors in why you didn't get in. For instance in the 2012 Festival we had an open call for submissions. The curators looked for common themes. There was no way in advance to know we would create certain shows. Some work just didn't fit. That's the reason we had the exhibition in the Hall Galleries at Queen Elizabeth Park Community and Cultural Centre, to accommodate the great work that didn't fit the themes. Just because you didn't get in doesn't mean you won't get into a future show with the same curator or the same gallery with different work. Some other curator might love it.


Carrie Chisholm of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, The Registry, 2011, Acrylic paint with pins on acetate and plastic drop sheeting, screen printing and assemblage.Photo: Gareth Bate.

Carrie Chisholm installing her artwork The Registry.


For the 2012 Festival we went out of our way to tell people the reason they didn't get in when it was because of the thematic choices of the curators. We didn't get into critiquing work and submissions. Our extra effort sometimes was not met with good reactions from the artists. There was backlash with some artists lashing out at us. You can't have it both ways. You either accept having no idea why you didn't get in, or you accept that you were actually told --- most likely for the first time ever. Don't get angry about it, just move on.

Sometimes you will be rejected because the work is not good enough. Sometimes it is better to spend a few years just making work instead of always trying to show. If you are continually being rejected you need to find out why. Ask someone for feedback who is not directly involved with your life. So don't ask artist friends because most won't be honest! Ask some people whose opinion you respect. But, here's the deal; you have to accept the criticism! Then just move forward. It is better to hear it and be able to improve your work than to have no idea and continue on for years submitting work that is not good enough.


Lisa Brunetta of Barrie, Ontario, Canada, The Fisher, 2009, galvanized steel wire, enameled copper wire, several varieties of recycled electrical/computer/phone wires, plastic wire sheathing, earrings, rubber fishing lure, sculpture, wire weaving. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Lisa Brunetta of Barrie, Ontario, Canada, Peacock, 2011, Galvanized and aluminum wire, enameled copper wire, lamp-worked glass "eyes" (feathered centres), wood base, sculpture, wire weaving. Photo: Gareth Bate.

Artist Lisa Brunetta with her piece The Fisher at the opening of Memento mori exhibition. Photo: Gareth Bate


What's the best advice you can give to artists?

The best advice I've ever heard for artists came from Art Dealer and Blogger Edward Winkleman:

"Make work that is impossible to ignore."


The exhibition ended with the work Lilly Otasevic of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2010, copper pipes, copper and aluminum wire, woven wire manipulation and assemblage. Photo: Dawne Rudman.

Detail: Spring, by Lilly Otasevic. Photo: Gareth Bate.


Interview Part 2:

In part two of Gareth Bate's interview he discusses the exhibition De rerum natura (On The Nature of Things). He also addresses controversial subjects like the difference between Art & Craft and the status of fibre arts in Contemporary Art. click here.


To see the official album for Memento mori click here.


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Interview published by Dawne Rudman.