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“By the time I finish this story you will have decided to hug the land – the real earth – the trees in the orchard, the timbers of this house. You will have decided never to go away.”

Jane Urquhart’s 1993 novel Away is the seventh book that Open Book Art Collective has created original artworks for. Away traces the lives of four generations of women across landscapes: from the rocky coasts of 19th century Northern Ireland to the slums of Montreal, to the present-day shores of Lake Ontario — emotive, political and literal landscapes that both enchant and devastate the characters. Themes of displacement and connection to land resonate with our contemporary realities of the refugee crisis, colonial legacy, and industrial development pushing the earth to the brink of environmental collapse. These broader themes of identity and place are echoed alongside the intimate details of four women’s lives whose stories form the heartbeat of the narrative.

The artists of Open Book Art Collective have created a diverse body of work that responds to the poetic and cyclical storytelling found in the novel, intending to honour the richness of the literature. Threads of Irish mythology and spirituality weave throughout the corporeal, earthy, and material-focused imagery found in the exhibit. We invite the viewers to contemplate bodily responsiveness to one’s unseen inner forces, the symbols we cling to in order to tell our life stories, the often unknown but intimate ties to one’s matrilineal heritage, and the ever-evolving understanding of our relationship to the non-human world. Whether their subject matter is water, permeable bodies, or personal articles essential for survival, each artist has interpreted themes from the novel according to their various art practices and the way the writing impacted them personally.

Away: Join our book club this fall!

Hey folks,

We are pleased to announce our next book selection, Away by Jane Urquhart.

You are invited to read Away along with us this fall. Order or borrow your book now. We will be posting discussion questions Nov- mid Dec on both our Instagram and Facebook page. Then join us for our next art show, entitled, Away, opening this January at the Langley Centennial Museum.



Introducing Our Next Book: To Love The Coming End

OBAC is pleased to announce that we will be participating in this year’s Vancouver Writers Fest. ‘To Love The Coming End’ is written by Vancouver based multidisciplinary artist Leanne Dunic and is  the first book of poetry that we are working with.

“Dunic has created a collection of tightly mapped poetic fault lines, topographies of loss and absence spanning immense yet intimate geologies, ecologies, astrologies, and geographies. To Love the Coming End insists on an eternal unearthing of memory, a return to remembering, however fleeting.”—Sarah de Leeuw, award-winning author of Geographies of a Lover and Skeena

“A lyric novel, a symphony in poetic prose, the work resides in the interstices of poetry and fiction and from this opening, traverses the fragile physiology of bonds and their ruptures.” —Aja Couchois Duncan


Introducing Our Next Book: The Signature of All Things



Open Book Art Collective is excited to announce our next book, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert!

The book follows the life of Alma Whittaker, a privileged and reclusive botanist living in 19th century. The book explores themes of love, creation and nature, purpose, and the aging process, among others.

“In her ninth summer, completely on her own, Alma learned to tell time by the opening and closing of flowers. At five o’clock in the morning, she noticed, the goatsbeard petals always unfolded. At six o’clock, the daisies and globeflowers opened. When the clock struck seven, the dandelions would bloom. At eight o’clock, it was the scarlet pimpernel’s turn. Nine o’clock: chickweed. Ten o’clock: meadow saffron. By eleven o’clock, the process began to reverse. At noon, the goatsbeard closed. At one o’clock the chickweed closed. By three o’clock, the dandelions had folded. If Alma was not back to the house with her hands washed by five o’clock- when the globeflower closed and the evening primrose began to open- she would find herself in trouble.”
The Signature of all Things, Elizabeth Gilbert

Have you read this book? Share your thoughts on our Facebook Page or join us in reading it this summer!

We are also proud to announce that the show for this book will be taking place at The VanDusen Gardens in Vancouver in the month of October! Watch this space for more information!

Introducing Our Next Book: Duke by Sara Tilley

Open Book Art Collective is pleased to introduce our next book, Duke by Canada’s Sara Tilley.

Described as, “A dense and challenging but wonderfully rewarding—and technically impressive—novel”, Brett Josef Grubisic. Duke is proving to be fascinating, complex and chalk full of gorgeous imagery that OBAC can’t wait to sink our teeth into. More details to come about our upcoming Fall show (it’s going to be pretty exciting).

August just started, so pick up a copy and get your Summer reading on!


This review was written by Joan Sullivan and published in The Telegram on March 28, 2015. Copied below in its entirety.

“Duke” is Sara Tilley’s second novel; her debut was “Skin Room,” in 2008. Not that she has been idle as a writer, or as a theatre artist. Tilley has a theatre production company (“She Said Yes!”), and she acts, directs, publishes short stories and performs as a clown.
And, with this work, her many interests and talents have drawn together.
For example, Tilley’s writing process included crafting and wearing masks when she wrote from the perspective of her two main characters. Such immersion drenches the writing of “Duke,” which is blazingly authentic, with an embodiment measuring an in-the-round 360 degrees, and is as faithful to its time period as it is immediate to the reader.
“Skin Room” (deservedly) won two important awards, and “Duke,” is a very strong followup. From its genesis in a discovery of old family letters and postcards and other ephemera, it expands into a text that rethinks and rejigs the very format of a novel.
Even its narrative is unconventional. It’s part travelogue, a journey through outport Newfoundland and the Canadian North, but it’s a trip through time as well.
The chapters are all specifically dated, with entries from June 30, 1893 or Nov. 21, 1912, all ranging from the late 19th century towards the middle of the 20th.
The text is densely idiosyncratic, poetic and precise. Many words are capitalized (“there’s a Madness that can set in when too much Drink & Flesh abound for you to see straight”), spaces usually stand in for punctuation, and some material is crossed out (although still legible).
This is not random, but calibrated to the time of the events and the emotions of the person experiencing them. Thus it is never confusing. Tilley keeps the text geared towards clarity and this typesetting infuses a visual element.
The protagonist of “Duke” is William Marmaduke Till(e)y. Unreliable narrators are a genre of their own, of course, but this is something else. Duke is young and frank, and considers himself to be vulnerable and naïve, but he is also full of secrets. His openness is also a screen. The revelations that come out are prompted by encounters and discoveries as well as by memories that are themselves attached to the braid of time.
The book starts in June 1906, as Duke is approaching Dawson City, working as a deckhand alongside his cousin, Clare. He admires Clare, who is popular with the crew, a good man to work with, and an even better friend to party with. Clare looks out for the younger man, guiding him through the rather lawless exuberance of Dawson. But it is obvious that, in more ways than one, Duke is far from home.
Duke is from Newman’s Cove, “N.F.L.D.” His father was a merchant, but has lost his store and it has fallen to Duke to earn money and redeem the family name.
He is travelling to meet his older brother, Bob, who has been out of touch with the family for some time, but at last report was working a gold stake in the Yukon. The plan is to labour with Bob for two years, sending money home all the while, so the family can reclaim their enterprise and place in their community.
But finding someone in the Yukon bush is more of a challenge than Duke anticipated. And what he does meet when he gets there will change his character, his way of looking at the world and the direction of his life.
“I love it when I’m working,” Duke thinks, “but when alone in cabin by fire at night I am like a great sad stone, bone-tired, heavier than the heaviest of living things & weighed down with dark thoughts, squid-ink clouds of them.”
The bulk of the story is divided into five books, such as “The River” or “The Camp,” with a clutch of chapters, titled “Her Adolescence,” devoted to Duke’s oldest child, Eva. These give us another perspective on Duke, and the consequences of the decisions he has made. They are also written more traditionally, which adds contrasting texture to the layers and complexities of Duke’s thinking.
The dialogue is spot on. Tilley did deep research into slang (“I feel like I’m a real Rush Lad now”). Equally on target is the detailed evocation of several different experiences and places and times. This reflects Tilley’s thoughtful and extensive archival research, down to the whiskey in Duke’s bottle and the boots on his feet.
“Duke” is a ground-breaking achievement — text-breaking, everything-breaking. It’s breathtaking.

Joan Sullivan is a St. John’s-based journalist, author and editor of The Newfoundland Quarterly.

Introducing Our Next Book: The Idiot

Open Book Art Collective is pleased to introduce the book we will be reading, exploring and creating art around this 2015 winter/spring season.

The Idiot is a classic, written by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, between 1868 and 1869.  Contrasting with Dostoevsky’s portrayal of a guilty man in Crime and Punishment  is his portrayal of the ideal man, a man of pure innocence, Prince Myskin. The Idiot explores what happens when this Prince encounters the real world, a world that Dostoevsky paints as being obsessed with power, money and manipulation.

Have you read this book before? If so what are your thoughts on Part 1? Do you agree with the statement below?

Follow along with us as we read and digest all four parts of this intriguing novel and then join us for the art exhibit later in the year!

Happy Reading!



Dear Life

Open Book Art Collective is pleased to announce our next book selection. This winter we will be reading and exploring Alice Munroe’s latest collection of short stories, ‘Dear Life’. In case you didn’t know, this 82 year old Canadian powerhouse,  recently received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

“It has become practically de rigeur to refer to Munro as ‘our Chekhov’… But at this point in Munro’s career, how much can it add? What is certain is this: She is our Munro. And how fortunate we are to call her that.” — New York Times Book Review

We encourage you to read along with us and to stay tuned for upcoming shows this spring and summer!

Happy reading!

pick up a copy here

The Death of a Beekeeper


The first book to reside on our shelf, this past spring and summer was, Lars Gustafsson’s, ‘The Death of a Beekeeper’.

“Kind readers. Strange readers. We begin again. We never give up. It is early spring 1975, the story begins in the middle of the thaw…” pg 1
In the beginning of the winter thaw, Lars Lennart Westin has learned that he has cancer and will not live through spring. Told through the journals of this schoolteacher turned apiarist, The Death of a Beekeeper, is his gentle, courageous, and sometimes comic meditation on living with pain. Westin has refused to surrender the time left him to the impersonation of a hospital, preferring to take his fate upon himself, to continue solitary, reflective life in the Swedish countryside. “I took little walks and noticed that in the last months the pain had actually colored the landscape in a peculiar way. Here and there is a tree where it really hurt, here and there is a fence against whose post I struck my hand in passing.” His inner landscape is also re-forming: “This constant concern with an indefinite dangerous secret in one’s own body, this feeling that some dramatic change is taking place, without one’s being able to have any clarity about what really is… reminds me of prepuberty. I even recognize this gentle feeling of shame again.” The relentlessly intimate burning in his gut provides a point of psychic detachment, rendering his survival “a unique art form whose level of difficulty is so high that no one exists who can practice it.” Yet he insists, “We begin again. We never give up.” – back cover synopsis

Written by the renown, Swedish novelist, poet and scholar, Lars Gustafsson, ‘The Death of a Beekeeper’ is the fifth, and most popular, book in a series written by him in the 1970’s.  All five  books can be enjoyed alone, but are in-fact, variations on a common theme: “We begin again. We never give up.” Gustafsson himself has described ‘The Death of a Beekeeper’ as,

“A book about pain. It describes a journey into the center where pain rules—and pain can tolerate no rivals.”

Adding another layer, to this intriguing work of literature, is that this year, ‘The Death of a Beekeeper’ went out of print in Canada. However, you can still it find it here