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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.


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Jane Urquhart’s 1993 novel Away is the seventh book that the artists of the Open Book Art Collective have read together. Away traces the lives of four generations of women across landscapes: from the rocky coasts of mid-19th century Ireland, devastated by potato blight, to the slums of Montreal,  to present-day shores of Lake Ontario. While traversing lands and histories, Away lyrically explores the complexities of our relationship to the land.

Urquhart’s characters navigate landscapes that both enchant them and prove devastatingly harsh. Away’s themes of displacement, industry and connection to the land resonate with contemporary realities of refugee crises, indigenous rights and the unfettered development that is pushing the earth to the brink of environmental collapse. As an elderly woman tells her granddaughter at the beginning of the novel, “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.”

The broad themes of place are set alongside the intimate details of women’s lives whose stories form the heart of this narrative. These characters navigate landscapes of family, politics, race, and nation while always seeking to realize their identities as women.  “Away,” writes reviewer Tania Glyde, “is a ravishing evocation of the lives of those whose souls are irrevocably touched by nature. It is also, subtly and cunningly, about female independence.”

The Signature of All Things

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Open Book Art Collective and VanDusen Botantical Garden present: The Signature Of All Things. Inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert’s epic novel, this art show explores 19th century botany and the convergence of science and wonder. Featuring new artwork by Open Book Art Collective Members: Andrea Armstrong, Bre McDaniel, Jenny Hawkinson, Katrina Stock, Laura Auxier, Mahla Shapiro and Kristin Voth.

Come to the opening reception and experience:
-artist talks
-the beauty of the fall gardens
-activities for children (a microscope with ferns and mosses!)

We can’t wait to see you there!

“The whole sphere of air that surrounds us, Alma, is alive with invisible attractions — electric, magnetic, fiery and thoughtful. There is a universal sympathy all around us… When we cease all argument and debate — both internal and external — our true questions can be heard and answered…That is the gathering of magic.” – The Signature of All Things

*Please note: Admittance to the show is free but you will still need to purchase tickets to go into the gardens.

Only an Inkling…

Join us for an Open Book Art Collective exhibit inspired by the works of The Inklings and their literary mentors. This show is in conjunction with the Verge Conference 2016: Arts & The Inklings hosted by The School of Art, Media, and Culture at Trinity Western University.

Click here to learn more about the conference and purchase tickets.
September 21 – Oct 17
September 29 @ 6pm | Opening Reception and Artist Talk | President’s Reception Hall, adjacent to President’s Gallery
President’s Gallery, Reimer Student Centre 2nd floor
Trinity Western University
7600 Glover Road, Langley BC
Laura Auxier, Jenny Hawkinson, Andrea Armstrong, Bre McDaniel, Katrina Stock, Kristin Voth. OBAC is pleased to have guest artists Simeon Pang, Julia Soderholm, and Melanie Colenutt join us for this exhibit!

The Inklings were a group of authors that included C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams that met as an informal literary group in Oxford. They, along with early authors such as G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald, and Dorothy L. Sayers shaped contemporary literature, particularly fantasy, as we know it today.

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.

The Idiot: Pop-Up Art Exhibition

A one night pop-up art exhibition inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel of dramatic tragedy. It took place on June 23rd, 2015 at St. John of Shanghai Orthodox Church.

Idiot Entombed: Collaborative Installation

In THE IDIOT, Prince Myshkin’s extreme compassion for his friends leads to mutual despair, instead of redemptive freedom.

As the image of this stained glass window shatters over time, its beauty is deconstructed and becomes trapped, like a bird in a cage. Through this process, we ask the questions:

Is selfless compassion actually redemptive? Or is it just self-destructive idiocy?
Why is goodness so often futile?
Can beauty really save the world?

‘Idiot Entombed’
Collaborative Installation

Carall Street and Cordova Street

Mid May-June 1, 2015

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’ Opening Night and VPL Exhibit Set-UP

‘Dear Life’ is an exhibition by the Open Book Art Collective, inspired by a book of short stories by Nobel Prize Winner Alice Munro.

‘Dear Life’ Exhibited at The Moat Gallery, Central Vancouver Public Library from Sept 2nd-Sept 26th,  2014.

An opening reception was held at The Shack Gallery on August 28th, 2014.