The Nickle has a magic carpet ride

By Indrani Kar

Art fans, take note! Two new exhibits have opened recently at the Nickle Arts Museum: Focus on the Collection: Kenneth Lochhead and Patterned Pleasure: Introducing the Jean and Marie Erikson Collection.

The Lochhead exhibit opened Sat., Sep. 15 and features the work of one of the prime painters who made up part of the “Regina Five,” who earned their name in abstract art in the 1960s. Lochhead’s exhibition ranges from experiments in colour and line to almost cubist and gothic sketches in the form of portraits or of city landscapes. He even ventured into the world of surreal art at times with paintings such as “Fanfare.” A force in Canadian abstract expressionism, some of that style can be seen in “Interior Etude” and “Eden.”

Indeed there is not any particularly unifying element to this collection, instead it is a smattering of his prolific body of work spanning his career. Although Lochhead was criticized by some as making work that could be “done by a five-year-old,” the beautiful thing to remember about most modern artists is that unlike an average five-year old, many of them have a diversity of expression that includes highly technical rendering skills as well. Above all, Lochhead himself describes major themes in his work as “playful ambiguity” and “experimental expressions of line and colour”.

Patterned Pleasure comprises the majority of the space in the Nickle and is a collection of Persian carpets that were purchased over a period of more than 40 years by University of Alberta emeritus professor Dr. Lloyd Erikson. The official opening for this show will take place at the Nickle Arts Museum on

Sat., Sep. 29, from 2–5 p.m. Erikson started to amass his gargantuan collection in the 1950s, in the middle of a year-long teaching stint in Beirut. Since then, he has collected countless carpets from all over Persia and Eastern Europe, purchased directly from nomadic artisans or—in the case of the antique carpets—at auctions or unlikely places all over the world.

Many of the antique pieces date from as far back as the 16th century and the carpets from the 19th century are often in mint condition. The bagfaces—bag coverings some nomadic cultures use to decorate the packs that their animals carry—and the carpets made for

domestic use are among the most charming works, displaying intricate embroidery, or arrays of real or mythical animals, as well as representations of people in the desert. The folk designs rendered in precious textiles and dyes reveal an elegant simplicity of cultures quickly evaporating into Western pop culture homogenization.

That said, also on display are carpets made with sophisticated techniques and designs originally intended for nobility, royalty and, more recently, international export. Some of these carpets have designs influenced by art in the far east, and major “medallions”—circular or diamond-shaped repeating images on carpets—are explained in the exhibit along with their inferred origins. Due to the antiquity and delicacy of the carpets,

viewers are not allowed to touch them. However, the curator has set aside a section of the Nickle for those who are more tactile,

in which replicas of the carpets and other paraphernalia are

present for interactive and informative purposes.

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