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PHOTOS: Plight of wartime berry farmers in ‘Autumn Strawberry’ at Surrey gallery this summer

‘I want to make visible what is not visible in history,’ says artist Cindy Mochizuki
Cindy Mochizuki’s grandmother’s berry farm in Langley, 1941. (Photo courtesy of artist)

This summer, in one of several new shows and events at Surrey Art Gallery, the history of Japanese-Canadian berry farmers in this region will take root during artist Cindy Mochizuki’s residency at the facility’s TechLab.

Mochizuki, who received the Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Award in New Media and Film in 2015, will work to create an Autumn Strawberry multimedia installation.

The title refers to the name of a strawberry crop that could fruit in cold winters. It was bred by Bunjiro Sakon, an “Issei” pioneer (Japanese immigrant to Canada) who ran a farm in Mission, according to an event advisory.

For her TechLab residency, Mochizuki will collect berry farming-related agricultural histories and stories from Japanese Canadians in Surrey and the Fraser Valley. She will also create drawings, scripts and storyboards for an animated film.

Mochizuki will blend her own family history into the narrative, as her grandparents were berry farmers in Langley before the Second World War. When war broke out, the Canadian government sold their farm and sent them, along with other Japanese residents, to labour camps in the B.C. Interior.

Stated Mochizuki: “During the internment, the Japanese Canadians weren’t allowed to take photographs. Because there were no images, I’m interested in making those images. I want to make visible what is not visible in history.”

Also this summer at Surrey Art Gallery, local talent takes the spotlight in the gallery’s 35th annual summer showcase, ARTS 2019, a juried exhibit featuring more than 50 works, including paintings, drawings, glasswork, sculptures, fabrics, photographs, and more. Both emerging and established artists submitted work in the open competition.

“Outstanding entries this year include a trompe l’oeil painting of a book, a sculpture of an ambulance made of glass shards, and what may be the first interactive digital installation in the exhibit’s history,” according to an event advisory.

For ARTS 2019, a jury nominates artworks to receive first, second, third and honourable-mention awards in several categories.

ARTS has always played a vital role in helping local artists develop their careers,” Rhys Edwards, the gallery’s assistant curator, said in a release. “Seeing their work hung in a public art museum can inspire artists’ confidence, particularly for someone who has not shown their art before.”

An exhibit-opening reception will be held at the gallery on Friday (June 28) from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Admission is free.

Also showing at the gallery this summer is Sara Khan: Suraj Kinare, (“an exhibit of dreamlike watercolour paintings that explore the artist’s identity between different cultures”) and The Built World Around Us, a juried exhibit by Surrey Photography Club.

• READ MORE: New Surrey photo show highlights ‘extraordinary details’ of Fraser Valley landmarks.

Khan’s watercolour work features “a world of burning city suns, shimmering gardens, floral tapestries, mythical creatures and distant relatives,” with a focus on precise details. “The miniature painting traditions of the Indian subcontinent influence Khan’s works, but with a twist of magical realism,” according to curators at Surrey Art Gallery.

In a related event, the gallery will host a Family Summer Art Party on Saturday, July 13, from noon to 3 p.m. – a chance to “look closely at shape, colour, and language with exhibiting artists, artist educators, and volunteers.” Admission is free, and children must be accompanied by an adult.

For more details about Surrey Art Gallery and events there this summer, call 604-501-5566 or visit

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Paul Stilwell’s “Girl Woman” (oil on canvas) is featured in the ARTS 2019 exhibit at Surrey Art Gallery this summer. (submitted photo)
Artist Cindy Mochizuki. (submitted photo)
Ryan Broderick’s “Distress” (glass shards on wood) is part of the ARTS 2019 exhibit at Surrey Art Gallery this summer. (submitted photo)
Artist Sara Khan’s work is featured at Surrey Art Gallery this summer. (submitted photo: Laara Cerman)

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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