Drawn from Water: Karin van Dam, Ed Pien
Ed Pien, Primordial Soup, 2023, ink and coloured pencil on 3M reflective film laminated on shoji paper. Courtesy of the artist.

Drawn from Water: Karin van Dam, Ed Pien

The Reach Gallery Museum, Abbotsford, BC - To Sep 16

by Michael Turner

The journey of water from a life supporting element to an artistic muse is a well-travelled passage in human evolution. Where would we be without water? The human body is comprised of approximately 60% water, while the more ecocentric among us would point out that fish carry as much as 80% water, and some plants up to 90%. For Amsterdam-based Dutch artist Karin van Dam (b. 1959, Eindhoven) and Toronto-based Canadian artist Ed Pien (b. 1958, Taipei), water is a co-creator in their individual and collaborative practices.

Van Dam and Pien met at a Paris residency in the 1990s, so the Drawn from Water exhibition marks their fourth decade as artistic collaborators. In 2017, the two embarked on a cross-country road trip that inspired some of the exhibition’s prints, drawings and photographs, followed by separate site visits to The Reach that year and in 2022. It was during a recent Deer Lake artist residency at the Burnaby Art Gallery that the artists produced the mixed-media and site-specific Surfacing (2023), a research-based installation that engages with the natural and social histories of the Fraser Valley’s Sumas Lake.

Displayed in conjunction with Surfacing are some of each artist’s solo works, from those on paper to their immersive and interactive installations. While van Dam is partial to labourintensive activities like knitting in her quest to balance order and chaos, Pien has for years championed the non-autonomous subject. Those lacking agency and voice appear in his often poignant, sometimes funny floating underwater worlds.


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