Dimensions Highlights Best of Sask. Contemporary Craft

“Parlance” by Mary Lynn Podiluk  Photography by Grant Kernan, AK Photos

Thirty-five pieces representing the best of Saskatchewan contemporary craft are on view at the Saskatchewan Craft Council (SCC) gallery as part of the Dimensions 2019 exhibition.

The SCC has organized Dimensions for more than 40 years. The biennial, juried show encourages Saskatchewan artists to push themselves, and the works selected for inclusion in the exhibition showcase technical and creative excellence.

This year’s jurors, Felicia Gay and Kye-Yeon Son, chose 35 pieces for Dimensions 2019, which will remain on display at the SCC’s gallery on Broadway Avenue until July 6. In total, 291 works were submitted by 135 artists, including 40 emerging artists.

“Dimensions is really why the craft council exists,” said executive director Carmen Milenkovic. “In 1976, there was a coming together of a group of people — including the mayor of North Battleford and the premier of Saskatchewan, Allan Blakeney. Both had a strong love for fine craft and they wanted to celebrate fine craft in Saskatchewan.”

Dimensions began as a juried competition that was displayed for one day in North Battleford. The event then started to evolve and change and became an annual endeavour. In 2011, Dimensions turned into a biennial show “because we started making it much more complex,” said Milenkovic, noting the exhibition will tour other Saskatchewan communities following its current run in Saskatoon.

“It’s very unique in Canada,” she said.

Under the current Dimensions guidelines, Saskatchewan residents can enter two pieces in the competition, and “it’s very open” as to what they enter, said Milenkovic. That means the SCC receives a wide variety of work representing numerous facets of Saskatchewan craft, such as stone sculpture, knife making, hand felting, jewelry making, wood turning, furniture making and more.

“The way it’s evolved is that all of those pieces physically come to Saskatoon, so that is really, really unusual in the world of art adjudication,” said Milenkovic, noting pieces in other competitions are often judged based on high-quality photographs.

“But especially in a three-dimensional work, a photograph doesn’t tell the whole tale,” she said. “Even if you get multiple views of it, you don’t get to touch it. You don’t get to engage with it, in a way, in terms of its relationship for size and all of that kind of stuff. So us bringing it together, and bringing it in one place, is a unique and fundamental part of Dimensions.”

A piece created by Saskatoon-based art jeweller Jenny-Lyn Fife, who studied at NSCAD University in Halifax, was chosen by the jurors for inclusion in the 2019 exhibition.

“I was thrilled,” said Fife, who has been making jewelry for nearly 10 years and works primarily with sterling silver.

Fife said her piece was produced as part of a body of work that was inspired by natural organisms, such as dragonflies. She was looking at ways to fuse characteristics of nature with Gothic architectural elements.

“So it has a more structural, kind of sculptural, quality to it,” she said. 

Saskatoon-based art jeweller and goldsmith Mary Lynn Podiluk, who also studied at NSCAD University, was the only artist who had two works selected by the jurors for inclusion in the exhibition. 

“I was quite excited,” said Podiluk, who has entered the Dimensions competition since 2013.

“I think that each year I have been really blessed to have had a piece selected. This is the first time I’ve had two pieces selected, so I feel really honoured,” she said.

Podiluk primarily works with resin or silicone, which she intends to look like glass, as well as precious metals and gemstones. Her work can reside in an art gallery but can also be worn on a body, which is essentially a canvas for her work, she said. 

“My practice is very much exploratory and falls more to the art jewelry world,” said Podiluk.

Dimensions offers $12,500 in awards. The SCC will celebrate Saskatchewan contemporary craft at an awards gala scheduled for May 31 at the Broadway Theatre, with the program to begin at 7 p.m. A public reception will be held following the awards gala from 8:30 – 10 p.m. at the SCC gallery, located at 813 Broadway Ave.