Three Kinds of Abstraction

Angela Fama, Brian Lye, Ed Spence, James Nizam, Joi T. Arcand, Noah Spivak and Vikky Alexander

Curated by April Thompson

30 Jul to 27 Aug 2016

Featuring the work of seven Canadian artists—Angela Fama, Brian Lye, Ed Spence, James Nizam, Joi T. Arcand, Noah Spivak and Vikky Alexander—Three Kinds of Abstraction reconsiders our material expectations of photography and the notion of a “west coast” photographic aesthetic. Abstraction is palpable in each of these artists’ works, though explored in disparate ways and on differing levels. Abstraction is also palpable in global cities like Vancouver, where one experiences such fracturing crises as the asymmetrical distribution of wealth, hyperbolic real estate markets and tensions between the lived and built environments. The exhibition lays no claim to any shared artistic spirit emanating from place. Instead, these works complicate notions of the localized ‘index’ within photography and reassert the primacy of space over the composites of place and time.


Angela Fama's work investigates themes of meaning, emotion, memory and change. A multidisciplinary artist, often working with photography. Fama is interested in exploring the tension inherent in our collective desire for both the temporal and timeless. Born in Tennessee, raised in Ontario and Zimbabwe, Fama currently works out of Vancouver, BC.

Brian Lye is a filmmaker and visual artist who lives and works in Vancouver. His award-winning films have screened internationally at film festivals in Sundance, Melbourne, Barcelona, and Vancouver, and his projects have been supported by the BC Arts Council. Lye has been engaged in leading community digital storytelling projects, hosting drawing events, and teaching filmmaking and animation. He is currently completing his first year of a Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of British Columbia.

Ed Spence is a Vancouver-based artist whose work spans many disciplines and calls upon text, photography and public installation. Spence studied fine art at University of British Columbia, Okanagan with a focus on Video and Sculpture. His practice explores the tensions of image-making within the mechanical, technological and hand-made. Spence has completed artist in residency programs in Toffia, Italy (2012) as well as the Burrard Arts Foundation, Vancouver (2015/16) which saw him expand his practice into painterly explorations of pictorial space. His work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, Montreal, Vancouver, the United Kingdom and Germany.

James Nizam is a Canadian artist based in Vancouver. His practice investigates photography within an expanded field of the sculptural and seeks to unveil the possibilities for the still image to activate space. He has exhibited in Canada and internationally, most recently at Musée Regional de Rimouski and Dazibao in Quebec, Kunst Im Tunnel in Dusseldorf, The Sharjah Art Museum in the United Arab Emirates, and the Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver. Nizam holds a BFA from the University of British Columbia and is represented by Gallery Jones in Vancouver, Birch Contemporary in Toronto, Maerz Galerie in Leipzig/Berlin, and Christophe Guye Galerie in Zurich.

Joi T. Arcand is a photo-based artist from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, Saskatchewan, currently living in Ottawa. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 2005 and since then has exhibited across Canada and internationally. Arcand was the co-founder of The Red Shift Gallery in Saskatoon and in 2012, created kimiwan ‘zine, a magazine for Indigenous artists and writers.

Noah Spivak is a recent graduate of Emily Carr University for Art & Design, who majored in photography and sculpture but retains heavy interests in installation and curatorial practices. Noah’s current processes isolate, break, and reconstitute the materials that compose photographs, producing versions of the photographic that present audiences with the distance that can exist between a physical object and a study of visual re-presentation. Spivak lives and works in Vancouver.

Vikky Alexander is a leading contemporary artist who has exhibited internationally since 1981. Working as a photographer, sculptor, collagist, and installation artist, Alexander has been recognized within Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Europe and the United States. Her practice maintains a self-reflexivity, with her work often situating viewers within idealized spaces that reflect our aspirations and utopian desires. Alexander has been a professor in the Visual Arts Department at the University of Victoria since 1992. She is represented by the Trepanier Baer Gallery in Calgary, Alberta.


With support from the Killy Foundation and the Audain Endowment for Curatorial Studies through the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory in collaboration with the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at The University of British Columbia.

Woojae Kim thanks Seren Bradley for collaboration on the audio piece that is part of Listening to the Silence. Sai Di additionally thanks the generous support offered by MYCA Farms, for her mycelium research for the exhibition. A special thanks to Andrew Booth for lending artwork from his personal collection for the exhibition.