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YWG - The Quiet Influence

I’m currently exhibiting two works, plus one new item, at the RAW: Gallery of Architecture and Design in Winnipeg, MB from January 11 – February 16. Curated by former Winnipeger and good friend Craig Alun Smith, the show finally brings together the small sample of designers dispersed across Winnipeg.

Below are some images of the event, and the show description:

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Separation & Connection & Navel Gazing

Why Winnipeg? What is it about this place that fosters such a strong cultural community to flourish? How can a small Canadian city of only 700,000 inhabitants produce the likes of Neil Young, Marshall McLuhan, Gabrielle Roy, Lenny Breau, Guy Maddin, The Guess Who, Weakerthans, Carol Shields and Tyler Brûlé. The typical, “mytho-poetic” answer is that it has something to do with isolation and separation, a city on the vast open prairie landscape, alone at the centre of a cold continent. The myth tells of the remoteness and long harsh winters forcing the city’s inhabitants to band together for warmth and safety and somehow in this communal attachment, a great collective cultural conciseness is born. But that’s the myth, the one we tell because we don’t really know the truth. Could it be that the truth has just as much to do with broader interconnectivity? Winnipeg has always been a transportation hub, the gateway to the west. It has never truly been isolated. It is a city with a transient population; people come and go, we work and live in other cities but still call Winnipeg home, always maintaining a connection. Do these invisible connections allow the city to spread a tentacle like network out into the world connecting the city's cultural innovators to ex-pats and counterparts in major world centres? If it were simply a case of isolation creating great artists then Davis Inlet, Prince Rupert or Flin Flon would be the cultural capital of Canada.

The Quiet Influence

The Winnipeg design community has always been extremely small and usually no more than four or five designers make up the community at any one time. However, these designers tend to go on to find national and international success at a rate far greater than their counterparts from other Canadian cities. Examples include designers such as A. J Donahue whose iconic “Winnipeg chair” inspired George Nelson to create the Coconut chair. John van Koert who helped to introduce modernism to North America. Studio plastic buddha, one of the first Canadian design studios to be invited to work with European powerhouse manufacturers such as Alessi, Stelton, and Herman Miller. Motherbrand who’s first international design exhibition debuted in Tokyo, Japan as part of Designers Block, and is now credited with launching a new Canadian design vernacular. Allan Kiesler, not a designer but a design agent, one of the first in Canada Matthew Kroeker winner of both Best Western Canadian Designer as well as Best Canadian Designer. And most recently the award winning young designers Thom Fougere and Ilana Ben-Ari. Each “generation” or new wave inspires and connects to the next. The Quiet Influence exhibition is the first major retrospective to examine the wide-range of works of Winnipeg designers by bringing together key design pieces from the past twelve years. Through the exhibition and subsequent book, we seek to fully explore the role and influence of this small Winnipeg design community on the greater Canadian and international design world. The exhibition is not intended to be prescriptive; the curators did not set out with any predetermined notion or thesis. Instead, they let the works submitted through an open call and selection tell the story of Winnipeg’s role within, and influence on Canadian design. This story forms the narrative for the exhibition.

Pictures Courtesy of RAW: Gallery of Architecture and Design

Thom Fougere