GLENBOW, Calgary AB – To Jan 12, 2020
by Michael Turner
Born in the market town of Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk County, England, in 1898, Sybil Andrews yearned to study art after graduating from secondary school. But family funds were tight, and like many aspiring artists of her generation, she entered the trades, apprenticing as a welder at an airplane factory in Bristol for most of World War I. During this time, Andrews took an art correspondence course, and at war’s end, she returned to Bury St Edmonds, where she taught art at Portland House School.
Under normal circumstances, Andrews’ first years might fulfill the criteria of an interesting life. But this was only the start of a journey that included employment at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, where she was exposed to Claude Flight’s lino-cutting classes and, not long after that, achieved success as a printmaker. With the advent of World War II, Andrews returned to weld for her country, only to leave England for Canada in 1947, eventually settling in Campbell River, BC. There, she and her husband opened a boatbuilding and repair business.
Although Andrews continued to make prints, only in the late 1970s was she rediscovered by an art world charmed by her application of Futurist, Cubist and Vorticist principles to elements of West Coast Indigenous and working life. For this remarkable exhibition, UK-based guest curator Hana Leaper has drawn on the Glenbow’s collection of over 1,000 of Andrews’ prints to present the work of an artist who, like Victoria’s Emily Carr, sought to, in Leaper’s words, “eliminate non-essentials to learn that great lesson of balance.”