This is why I often leave well-curated gallery shows humbled (on a good day) or discouraged (most days). Still, there's the possibility of an epiphanic moment, like the one I had last month at an opening at Trench Gallery, just east of Gastown.
The Alchemy of Practice was a collection of the mostly unseen drawings and paintings by an artist I was not familiar with: Amy Mukai (whose only google presence is in relation to this show). Friends and I moved around the gallery perimeter, peering at the intricate and subtle spatial puzzles and geometric patterns done in acrylic gouache, ink, or oil on paper until we bumped into the show’s curator, Craig Sibley, who told us he recognized the exquisiteness of the never-before-shown works when he was visiting her husband. Mukai created them between going to art school in the ‘70s, raising a family, getting a biology degree and doing pollination research at SFU. The artwork is something she did for herself, quite removed from the show-and-tell scene.
It was another example of the Malcolm Gladwell rule: it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. Mukai’s devotion to her subject matter built her a fully realized body of work that revealed a fluency in her visual language.
And here’s where the epiphany hit: It doesn’t matter if you have a list of show credits; it’s the practice that counts.
Mukai was there at her opening, but I was a little shy to say hi, and she seemed a little shy herself. Then there’s the problem of what to say after “Great show” without putting her on the spot. But I would have liked to say that this show has inspired me to brave the obscurity, to ignore the art trends, to keep practising communicating between heart and head and hand.
Mukai's very personal works have a fully realized language of their own.