Since 1944, when a small group of community members banded together to support Portia White’s burgeoning opera career, the Nova Scotia Talent Trust has been a consistent source of financial support for early career artists, long before local and national arts councils were established. To commemorate 75 years and over 2 million dollars in scholarships, the organization is presenting an exhibition titled First You Dream: Celebrating 75 Years of the Nova Scotia Talent Trust. Curated by Ingrid Jenker, David Diviney and Greg Davies, the exhibition brings together 10 artists who have benefitted from NS Talent Trust Scholarships from 1979 to 2016, including Jordan Broadworth, Sandra Brownlee, Lux Habrich, Sara Hartland-Rowe, Dan O’Neil, Lucy Pullen, Pamela Ritchie, Despos Sophocleous, Emily Vey Duke, and Charley Young.
The exhibition features work in a range of disciplines, including drawing, ceramics, jewellery, mixed-media, painting, sculpture, and video, by artists at all stages of their careers. Established artists like Governor General’s Award winners Sandra Brownlee and Pamela Ritchie exhibit alongside young, early career artists like Charley Young and Lux Habrich. Despite the broad collection of artistic practices, the curation of the exhibition is smooth and coherent, with the works are linked through shared emphasis on narrative, analytical methodologies, and themes of identity and belonging.
New York based artist Lucy Pullen exhibits a series of spiral sculptures, with one directly on the floor and another three displayed on brightly coloured floating pedestals of varying heights. Immediately to their left, Brownlee’s Morning Meditation Wall mixed media painting and sculpture piece explores intuitive mark-making and mindfulness. Sitting in the middle of the gallery and on an opposing wall are Charley Young’s drawings Swell (Alaska) and Swell (Svalbard), and a sculptural piece, Trace Erase: Iceberg Casts, that explore ice formations in the arctic landscapes. Together, these pieces query the relationships between spontaneity and order, and analytical and intuitive approaches to knowledge.
Emily Vey Duke, working with Cooper Battersby, presents two new videos that playfully craft multi-layered narratives about the human’s relationships with each other and with the planet. Sara Hartland-Rowe’s wall mural depicting women and children in moments of play and stillness picks up on similar themes. Though the use of stenciling techniques, mini-narratives are softly etched into the women’s bodies, recalling ideas of migration, displacement, community, and family.
Emerging artist Lux Harbich further investigates family and identity in a striking triptych of portraits, titled My Roots Are All Sick (Broken Heirlooms) shown alongside Borrowed Time, an intricate ceramic and knitted wool sculpture.
Next to Habrich’s work, Jordan Broadworth’s painting Meshed Redirect is an abstract study of pixilation that merges traditional painting techniques with digital aesthetics. Dan O’Neil’s lithograph triptych echoes notes of Broadworth’s pixilation, while evoking adolescent wistfulness.
Despos Sophocleous exhibits a set of five wooden necklace that are made up of moveable elements reminiscent of children’s toys or analogue machinery. Pamela Ritchie offers several more jewellery works that explore the cyclicality of history, including Chain of Office, a necklace that replaces gemstone with postage stamps
In a province where arts funding remains scarce, and where opportunities for growth may seem limited, a scholarship from NS Talent Trust is a gift of “artistic faith”, as Habrich puts it. It is as much a gesture of encouragement and a vote of confidence as it is a means of financial assistance. The artists featured in First You Dream demonstrate what can happen when a dream is seen and supported, and when emerging talent is given the space, resources, and trust to thrive.
First You Dream: Celebrating 75 Years of the Nova Scotia Talent Trust
MSVU Art Gallery. Halifax, Nova Scotia
May 18 – July 28, 2019