Al Neil, Player Piano, 1984, ink, watercolour, photocopies, and collage on paper, 76.9 x 58.5 cm, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Scott Watson, Photo: Teresa Healy, Vancouver Art Gallery.

Al Neil


Chosen by: Daina Augaitis, chief curator and assistant director of the Vancouver Art Gallery

“I was still a student in curatorial studies at Emily Carr College of Art and Design when I began working on my first exhibition outside the protective confines of the academy. As I headed off to meet the artist, Al Neil, I was full of trepidation and excitement. Al lived in a cabin out on the Dollarton mud flats of North Vancouver. After parking alongside the road, I trekked out into the park, through the forest and finally over the logs towards the waters of Burrard Inlet, until I finally reached an eclectically adorned, rustic cabin. I knocked nervously on the door, and Al opened it. It was evident immediately that he had doubts about this young upstart who planned to do an exhibition of his work and, with humour, he proceeded to test me with challenging questions. Only when I mentioned that Doris Shadbolt was one of my instructors did he decide that I might be okay. And so our collaboration towards his exhibition at the Western Front began. The thing I most remember about that day is the riot of creativity in his home… assemblages hanging from the wooden ceiling and collected bits and pieces of images and everyday items stacked throughout the tiny cabin, ready to be transformed into artworks. In the centre of all this ordered chaos was a large piano on which a cat languished, occasionally pressing a key to make a random tune. This visit last several hours and was a time to get acquainted with a formidable yet generous creative spirit and it remains one of the highlights of the many studio visits that I have made since.

Player Piano reminds me of meeting Al almost thirty years ago.”

 

Al Neil, Player Piano, 1984, ink, watercolour, photocopies, and collage on paper, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Scott Watson, Photo: Teresa Healy, Vancouver Art Gallery.


Works by Al Neil are currently on exhibit at the Gallery in UNREAL, an exhibition curated by Daina Augaitis.

 

 

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