The Shape of Things: Renée Van Halm

Last night Al and I braved horrid rain to drive over to West Vancouver. We grabbed an early supper at Park Royal South’s Trattoria Restaurant before heading on to the West Vancouver Museum. Renée Van Halm’s solo show ‘The Shape of Things’ was opening. The walls of the two galleries were filled with her large impressive paintings and some smaller works and aha! there were three of her painted plates displayed domestic-fashion on a plain dark-grey-painted kitchen table.


The Museum is a public gallery and none of the work is for sale directly so I imagine the plates are there to show another part of Renée’s practice. The brochure which accompanies the show includes a statement from curator Darrin Morrison, which gives Renée’s biography, an explanation of her intentions in the paintings and the following quotation from her:

“Cultural history and how we represent and inhabit architecture are fundamental to my work. My ongoing interests are in how we define and negotiate our private experiences in the spaces where we live.”

Drawn to mid-Century Modern architecture and furnishings and its return to popularity now, Renée has taken magazine clippings and photocopied images from books and made collages. These may be furniture, buildings or selected objects. The combination of ‘things’ and forms are assembled on paper which she then she carefully recreates in oils on canvas. We, the Raiders, have watched, fascinated, as she meticulously transfers a chosen assemblage to one of my slab plates or platters, using the whole spectrum of coloured underglazes. So it was great to see how a somewhat curved surface, placed horizontally rather than on a wall, really made a significant contribution to this elegant show.

Many of her fellow artists including Emily Carr and Simon Fraser University professors, several now retired, were out to support her. I was happy to have the chance to chat with a number of ‘Raiders’, including Paul Mathieu and Eric Metcalfe and with West Vancouverites Tam and Rosalind Irving and Sally Michener. Tam and Sally had a two-person show at the same gallery last year. I was introduced to another West Van artist and longtime Capilano U painting instructor Pierre Coupey. He was jumping-up-and-down excited at the idea that there is a potter mad enough to make pots for others to paint on. Apparently he’s had it in mind for a while but doesn’t want to make pots himself. Sooo  we probably have another Raider.

As I like to do, I took photos of some of the show and the attendees to give you an idea of the opening event. Sadly I didn’t take the time to record each painting’s title but aimed to record the overall size and colours of Renée’s work. I think they’re absolutely striking and also meticulously painted. It is good to have seen her work at her Vancouver gallery, Equinox, and now here and to know how the process is carried out on plates. 

The show will be up until July 8th. I found Darrin Morrison’s little essay to be useful and there is a list of the 36 pieces in the show. The plates are described as ‘underglaze on earthenware’ and she has credited me with their fabrication.

l to r. Eric, Richard & Paul

Thanks Renée, it’s a great show.

Renee & her plates


Eric & Monique

Renee & me

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