Wanda Koop Near You
By Michael Davidge
Wanda Koop is one of Canada’s most celebrated, internationally-renowned artists. Given that her artworks are large-scale and in high demand, they may seem beyond your reach. But like objects in a rear view mirror, they are closer to you than you might think.
While Koop has traveled extensively for her work and has exhibited around the world, she continues to live, work and be highly involved in her hometown of Winnipeg. She began making art in the prairie city as a child when she took free art classes at the Winnipeg Art Gallery in the 1950s. Since then, she has earned international acclaim, and in March 2016 she became a laureate of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, one of Canada’s most prestigious art awards. Her art is in many private collections and public galleries in Canada and abroad, from the National Gallery of Canada to the Shanghai Museum of Modern Art.
Although you have probably seen Koop’s work in one of her numerous exhibitions, you might not know that it is also in the collection of the Canada Council Art Bank, which makes it accessible to the public through its rental and outreach activities. Many of Koop’s artworks can be – and are – rented by government and corporate clients through the Art Bank. Her works are popular with a long list of clients, and offer inspiration wherever they are encountered, whether in lobbies, boardrooms or other workspaces. The Art Bank has been investing in Canadian artists since 1972 and it now has over 17,000 works of art by more than 3,000 artists. The whole collection is available at low, tax-deductible rates. Koop’s career has developed in parallel with the Art Bank, and a wide range of her work from different periods is in the collection. Early works like Marroon Cloud, from 1979, shows that even then, Koop was working with an unorthodox colour scheme and a large scale, as it measures approximately 9 x 11 feet. In a 2010 interview with art critic Robin Laurence, Koop said that at art school in the 1970s one of her professors told her she was “taking up too much room.”
There are also smaller, more intimate works by Koop in the Art Bank collection, including sketches, and examples of her use of video as a compositional tool starting in the 1990s, as in Evening Without Angels/ Video Scroll Poem (1993). All of her work in the collection can be
browsed online at the Art Bank’s website (www.artbank.ca).The year 2016 will be a good one for Wanda Koop fans. Her work can be seen in the Her Story Today exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts until August 7, and in the Governor General’s Awards exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada until September 5. The Art Bank is also working with Canadian Heritage to present a project in Ottawa’s Byward Market that will feature a reproduction of Koop’s painting Red Dot (1996). This work is a strong representation of Koop’s mature style in that it highlights differing approaches to painting, with a landscape partially obscured by the large geometric shape described in its title. The image will be part of a showcase of work by women artists from the Art Bank collection, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Canada.
If you can’t attend any of her current exhibitions, you can always stop by Art City in Winnipeg, a not-for-profit organization that Koop founded in 1998 that has art activities for all ages all year round. You might also be inspired to go online to sort through the Art Bank’s collection and perhaps contact one of their consultants to bring a work by Wanda Koop even closer to you.
For more information about the Canada Council Art Bank, please visit http://www.artbank.ca
Michael Davidge is an artist, writer, and independent curator who lives in Ottawa, Ontario. He received an M.A. in English Literature from Concordia University in Montreal and an M.F.A. in Visual Arts from Western University in London, Ontario. His writing has appeared online and in numerous Canadian art magazines and exhibition catalogues. He is currently the coordinator of SAW Video’s Cultural Engineering project, an online video exhibition that explores the impact of urban cultural development.