Perry Rath

October 24 - November 22, 2017

Opening reception: Friday October 27, 7-9pm

My art practice is diverse, and has taken a number of different directions and series, encompassing installations, objects/artifacts, paintings, printmaking, publications, collaborations and education.  These projects have consistently demonstrated an important sensitivity to materials, and explore the interplay of the idea and the materials, where process is as important as intent.  In my range of work, I seek visual and conceptual relationships of memory, renewal, presence/absence, history, time, place and communication. I am interested in the inherent meanings of objects and images as they relate to their materials, histories, new configurations, the continuum of certainty/uncertainty, and the interpretive impulse of the viewer.

Since graduating in Fine Art from the University of Guelph in 1995, Perry Rath has been pursuing artistic projects in a variety of international venues.  For over 20 years, Rath has exhibited across Canada, and internationally in Australia, India, Germany, Britain, Russia, Hungary, Taiwan and the US.  In 2004, his artwork attracted the attention and praise of Adrienne Clarkson during her tenure as the Governor-General of Canada.  Rath’s projects have been used in a variety of ways as well, including use on BC Parks signage, in international books and journals, a variety of websites, and on CD covers (most recently for Juno & Latin Grammy-winner Alex Cuba, Victoria-based ambient musician Maseev, and a Ken Wilbur spoken word CD).  He was a coordinator of 4000 Reasons, a multidisciplinary arts festival in response to the Northern Gateway Pipeline project, and he had artwork touring with the Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s Art For an Oil-Free Coast Exhibition.  In recent highlights, he has been represented at Parallax Art Fair, NYC and in What Those Who Teach Can Do, at the Art Institute of Vancouver, and in the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art, Taiwan amongst others.  He was a featured artist representing Northern BC at the 2015 Canada Winter Games.  Rath has been interviewed on a number of regional and provincial radio programs.

Born in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, in 1971, Rath settled near Smithers in 2002, living rurally with his wife, 2 young sons, and daughter, amongst chickens, llamas, and a variety of mountain wildlife.  He has been teaching art at Smithers Secondary School since 2006, where he has developed a range of innovative arts initiatives, receiving a provincial BCRTA Golden Star Award for one of his school projects.  

Perry Rath has established himself as a prominent artist, educator and advocate in his region.

"In The Skin of This Land"

Drawing on botanical and geological motifs, maps, photographs and cultural iconography, these elements are assembled in a painterly way, juxtaposing geometric divisions with organic undulations.  Within these works is a fascination by all that is held within the landscape and the maps of that territory – the stories, the routes, the changes, the tragedies, and the reverence.  

"The Book of Vole"

An ongoing project with Queen’s University prof and Rhodes scholar Jane Tolmie. This is a poetry/art collaboration surrounding the character Vole.  This collaborative project celebrates pastiche and epigram and has been on display in art fairs and galleries in New York and in several places in British Columbia, with the most recent exhibit this summer at the Vancouver Art Institute.  Vole came into being through the inspiration of Virginia Woolf, as is celebrated in the first text of the project, Meet Vole.  Literature is open to everybody, she cried.  So Vole emerged to move freely through high and low culture, unencumbered by gender, race, stature, or politic.  Pest is best.  The verse directly references historical or contemporary literature; some well-known, some obscure, some Jane’s own. 

Vole’s role serves to explore and provide commentary on many subtle and overt aspects of our fragmented and stratified history and society, since Vole generally finds itself an under-respected outcast.  So, a vole becomes creative in encountering the simple joys, discoveries and struggles of life.  It is no wonder that the arts appreciate Vole, and Vole appreciates the arts.  All too often, we amount to the same thing. 

"Discreet Outsiders"

Artworks exploring the theme of rural experiences and challenges of LGBTQ youth (whom I have worked with as teacher-sponsor of the high school GSA where I work). Main series within this grouping is etched portraits on wood. This ongoing portrait series is created to depict LGBTQ + youth and young adults from rural communities, in this case the Bulkley Valley. As a high school art teacher and coordinator of the Gender-Sexuality Alliance, I see many youth struggling with the process of coming out and deciding how truthful they can be to others about themselves. Many do not have the confidence, or the assured support, to speak up about their identity. Rural queer youth have an especially challenging time with this seeing as support can be extremely limited in these areas. 

Old barn board, fencing, and other discarded wood is meant to represent the rural-queer experience and also allude to the tragic story of Matthew Shepard, a gay youth who was beaten in a homophobic hate crime and left for dead, tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming. Furthermore, the carved portraits are very subtle in order to convey the attempt of these youth to blend in with surrounding social circles and avoid bringing attention to their sexuality.