Prairie ditches inspire international artist

October 2012: "Leah, I'd really like to have a solo exhibition in Saskatchewan," says artist Zachari Logan to the City of North Battleford's director of galleries. "I've been around the world, but I've never had one here."

Leah Garven is ecstatic at his suggestion. Though she's known the Saskatoon-based artist for years, he'd been exhibiting and studying in places like Paris, London, Athens, Vienna and New York. How could he find time for a show in North Battleford?

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January 2015: The Gloaming, Part I, opens at the Chapel Gallery in North Battleford and an artist's reception is held Saturday, Jan. 17. Zachari Logan attends, sporting his maternal clan kilt in celebration of a special evening. He shares with his guests his passion for the magical moments between dark and light, thus The Gloaming.

Speaking at the artist’s reception Saturday for The Gloaming: Part I, Zachari Logan said, “One of the threads that I think links most of the works in this exhibition is ditches - prairie ditches.”

While he has an international career and takes inspiration from historical art as well as his travels, Logan is Saskatchewan-raised, and he has purposefully referenced the prairies, and the inbetween-ness of its ditches, in this show.

“The reason why prairie ditches are so important to me is I’ve taken them to represent, metaphorically, this idea of queer space,” said the artist who earned a masters degree in fine arts from the University of Saskatchewan in 2008. “They are liminal spaces that line the roads from all of us getting from here to there, but we rarely take the time to look at them and see the beauty in them. They are everywhere, they are all around us, but they are kind of silent.”

The works in The Gloaming: Part I include large-scale pastel on black paper drawings, ceramics, a blue pencil series and installation pieces.

“I consider the ceramics an extension of the drawings in the sense that everything is hand-made,” he said.

Referring the piece titled Fountain I, Logan said, “Everything is hand-moulded from the base to the last flower. There’s a meticulousness in the forming of the foundation, the way I form the drawings with my hands.”

He added, “Again, it’s all about observation, but also about this sense of a magical space.”

The theme of “the gloaming” throughout his work has its beginnings in experiencing dusk on the prairies.

“The gloaming is a particular time at night when you can see information, not enough to see clearly but enough to maybe have you thinking, ‘Is my mind playing tricks on me? Is that really happening?’”

He also referred to driving on prairie roads at night.

“Our vision changes at night, obviously, and we're unable to see as clearly as we can in the daytime, so there’s that idea of your mind playing games on you, or did you actually see that coyote in the ditch.”

Included in the show is a blue pencil series inspired by the artist’s recurring migraine headaches. They usually occur around the gloaming, he said, “the evening when it's just dusk, around seven or eight.”

It ties in the loss of vision, said Logan, because his migraines start with a strange glowing tunnel vision.

“Then I start to see these bizarre squiggly lines, then I kind of go partially blind so if I was looking at your face I would only see half of it,” he explained.

Logan is physical with his art, exploring his body’s engagement with place, with ideas about sexuality, and with space. He says his earlier work is more pointed in its exploration of figures, but he continues to use his body’s involvement with his art as a catalyst.

“It's a very physically interaction with my body,” he said. 

Pointing to the large-scale Monument Series, he said, “I usually do these drawings on the wall and after a day’s worth of work I'm tired.”

The Gloaming: Part I will be at the Chapel Gallery until March 8.

To find out more about Zachari Logan, visit  www.zacharilogan.com.

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