Surrey Art Gallery’s “On Air” exhibit features Michael de Courcy’s “TBA-TV Calendar/Sulphur Pile,” a double-sided silkscreen print created in 1979. The exhibit opens Jan. 22. (Photo: SITE Photography/Surrey Art Gallery)

Surrey Art Gallery’s “On Air” exhibit features Michael de Courcy’s “TBA-TV Calendar/Sulphur Pile,” a double-sided silkscreen print created in 1979. The exhibit opens Jan. 22. (Photo: SITE Photography/Surrey Art Gallery)


‘On Air’: Rise of mass-media culture explored at Surrey Art Gallery with an interactive installation

Also opening Jan. 22 is a touring showcase of Panchal Mansaram’s art

Art that revels in repetition and addresses the rise of mass-media culture is featured in Surrey Art Gallery’s winter exhibits.

Opening Saturday, Jan. 22 is the exhibit “P.Mansaram: The Medium is the Medium is the Medium,” focused on five decades of the late artist’s work, and also “On Air,” a showcase of works from the gallery’s permanent collection that illustrate “the ways that media works to shape our worldviews – for better or worse.” Gallery admission is free.

Curated by Rhys Edwards, “On Air” centres around an interactive installation by the late media artist Nancy Paterson, who died in 2018. Entitled “Garden in the Machine,” the artwork invites visitors to pull a lever on a slot-machine styled device that manipulates images on display on a series of nearby monitors.

“Each monitor cycles through a series of television clips pulled from news programs, cartoons, gameshows, religious programs, advertisements, and more,” according to an event advisory. “Every time the lever is pulled, the resulting display is random, producing a possible 729 different combinations of images.”

Though developed in 1993, Paterson’s installation is “timeless in its distillation of popular television culture. In presenting visitors with random combinations of footage that vary in tone between light-hearted comedy and serious-minded news reports, Paterson anticipated the rise of the internet and the now endless stream of content available to consumers. In places such as Twitter feeds, Instagram’s ‘Explore’ tab, or TikTok’s ‘For You’ page, browsers can access an endless stream of messages that both terrify and titillate.”

Also exhibited are “key selections” from SAG’s permanent collection, “most of which, like Paterson’s artwork, have never been exhibited before.” Works include an unusual two-sided print by 1970s video and media artist Michael de Courcy, photographs of the West Edmonton Mall by Vikky Alexander, and a colourful silkscreen print by Robert Davidson.

Meantime, Mansaram’s work is featured in a touring exhibit curated by Indu Vashist and Toleen Touq, both with Ontario’s South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC). The art show was originally presented at the Justina Barnicke Gallery at the University of Toronto Art Museum in 2019 and then the Art Gallery of Burlington in 2020.

For the Indian-born Panchal Mansaram, who died in 2020 in Burlington, Ont., at age 86, “repetition was art practice, repetition was meditation, repetition was spirituality, repetition was falling in love, and as he said, repetition was a way to finding god,” an event advisory explains.

“Yet, for all this interest in repetition, Mansaram’s work is never repetitive. Figures and symbols appear and reappear in different spaces and configurations. Text and image play off each other. (The exhibit) shows how the artist used recurrence and reproduction through a variety of mediums. Visitors will see drawings, paintings, collage, texts, sculptures, xerox, silkscreen prints, and films spanning more than five decades of the artist’s prolific career.”

An exhibit-opening event on Jan. 22 has been cancelled. Stay tuned for details about a virtual gathering.

For viewing of winter exhibits, the gallery is open for drop-in visits from Jan. 22 to March 20, Tuesday to Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• RELATED: Darkroom Group’s ‘striking’ photos done old-school in Surrey Art Gallery’s new exhibit.

Also on view at Surrey Art Gallery is “Joy of the Photographic Print,” until Feb. 13. The exhibit focuses on alternative and traditional photography techniques from The Darkroom Group, members of which celebrate the slower, more labour-intensive methods used to traditionally produce photographic art.

SAG also currently features a two-channel video installation called “Naufragios,” by Manuel Piña. On view until March 20, the installation (Spanish for “shipwreck”) captures the artist’s concerns about utopia, migration and space.

New to the gallery’s front entrance is the window mural “Echoes,” by Richmond-based artist Atheana Picha. The work “celebrates the cultural importance of Coast Salish mountain goat horn bracelets and the significance the animal has to the people from this territory.”

The bracelets “have an elegant design that never fails to inspire me and other Salish artists,” Picha notes. “The bracelets show me that my ancestors took time for designing the utilitarian items in their lives, but also created work for the sake of making something beautiful for themselves or for a loved one. These pieces inspire me to take time to create work that can function as something that can speak to my ancestry, but also to my ancestors’ and mentors’ dedication to visual design language.”

Located at 13750 88 Ave. (Bear Creek Park), SAG is online at, or call 604-501-5566.

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