MICHAEL HEPHER | IN THIS TOGETHER
Friday, June 1st – September 4th, 2022
FERNIE MUSEUM GALLERY | 591 2ND AVENUE
Using the catalyst of the Fernie based mural “All Kinds of Beauty”, Michael Hepher was honoured to receive a 2020 grant from the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance for a major project exhibition. The project was to develop a travelling exhibition entitled ‘In This Together’. The work tackled the distilling of several other communities in the Columbia Basin into an ‘iconography’ similar to the Fernie mural. The travelling exhibit launched in the Fall of 2021. The Fernie Museum is proud to be working with this extremely talented Fernie-based artist in bringing the art exhibition to its Gallery during the Summer of 2022.
The art exhibit includes 32 paintings and 11 prints inspired by the landscapes of the Kootenay Rockies.
In This Together is an attempt to create a body of work that explores a new iconography—a visual vocabulary—of what ties us together as Canadian Columbia River Basin residents. It started as an attempt to understand and foster connection with the people and places that surround me. Being a member of a semi-rural community, I experience the impacts of living in a kind of cultural isolation, not just from larger centres, but also from my neighbouring towns. My goal was to visit other communities to paint, to listen, to learn about what makes us unique, and what binds us together. The seed of this show was borne out of the Fernie Mural Project in 2019, well before Covid-19 was on our radar, and acting as a greater community has only become increasingly important since then.
On the journey of painting this show I pored over photographs and historic records, leaned on friends and strangers to tell me about their homes, and let my mind soak up what knowledge I could from all the corners of the Canadian Columbia River Basin. I camped when I could, and engaged social media when I couldn’t. What I thought I would find was a land with distinct geographical areas, diverse colour palettes, and incisive insights into each place.
What I ended up finding was a whimsical, colourful, subjective wander through a world of trees, bright bodies of water, and bunches of homes nestled among the hills. Accompanying me on my wanderings were a cast of characters: osprey, fish, squirrels and bears—the beings whose homes we actually inhabit—and a lingering understanding that above all it is nature that connects us. I feel now more fully that we are part of nature, not above or outside it, and our world includes the trees and the snakes and the herons. We cannot live here without them.
The joy of my discoveries were tempered at times by the (literal) unearthing of some of the darker parts of our human history. As a European descendent, my complicity in the colonization of the beautiful people, rivers, and stories of the Ktunaxa people, and my benefit of a system that oppressed and killed their children in the place I now live weighed heavily on me and brought out darker colours and sombre scenes—they are hard to face, but important to acknowledge because moving forward means a long, level look at myself and a willingness to listen and learn.
In the end my hope is that the viewer will find a bit of themselves somewhere in this show, as well as a bit of something new or surprising. This series of paintings and limited edition prints is purposefully accessible as it explores the universal parts of the Kootenays in an attempt to show that while there are things we disagree on, and values we don’t share, we need each other to preserve and protect this place we live. We are truly in this together, and to move forward we must find ways to act in each others’ interests. We are colourful, we are imperfect, but we have each other and we have hope.
Michael Hepher is an interdisciplinary artist working as a printmaker, oil painter, and illustrator. His 20+ year career has been characterized by works created with a unique sense of colour, oblique interpretation of the common, and a relentless pursuit of quality.
Most known locally as the founder of Clawhammer Press, a historic printmaking studio and gallery. Michael is a versatile artist with a broad knowledge of the creative process. He has to his credit a wide variety of successful exhibitions, public art projects, and private commissions.
Notable events include his solo exhibit In This Together, All Kinds of Beauty, a 16 x 96’ mural in Downtown Fernie and Backroads BC, a travelogue of oil paintings. Michael continues to work from his studio in Fernie, BC.
GALLERIES & AFFILIATIONS
Elected Member of the Society of Canadian Artists • Grant Berg Gallery, Kananaskis, AB.• Art Gallery of Golden, Golden, BC.• Little Big Gallery, Kimberley, BC.• Viewpoint Gallery, Nelson, BC.• Ace Ferguson Studio, Fernie, BC.
In This Together: redefining community: Sept. 28-Oct 24 • Centre 64, Kimberley, BC
Backroads BC: hidden treasures of BC: July 19-Aug 10, 2019 @ Smithers Art Gallery, Smithers, BC.• June 15-Sept 15, 2018 @ Fernie Museum Gallery, Fernie, BC.
Between the Blues: Original oils & block prints: Sept. 2017 @ The Art Gallery of Golden, Golden, BC.
Canadian Driftwood: Original Acrylic works of texture & time: June 2015 @ The Arts Station, Fernie, BC.