Three new exhibitions at The Reach explore creativity and conflict

Categories Uncategorized


The Reach is set to launch an important, challenging new season of exhibitions on Thursday, September 27, 2018 at 7pm at 32388 Veterans Way. The opening reception is free to the public and guests are invited to meet the artists, connect with our arts community, and enjoy refreshments.


Fadi Al-Hamwi, Gloating, 2016, oil on canvas, 62 x 62.5 in. Image courtesy of Paul Crawford.

Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art is an exhibition organized and circulated by the Penticton Art Gallery, in partnership with Cyrrus Gallery, Damascus. Featuring close to one hundred paintings, photos, videos, and sculptures created by twenty contemporary Syrian artists, this exhibition provides a unique window into the lives and minds of those affected by the devastating civil war through their art. Individually and collectively their powerful work stands as a testament to their existence and affirms the incredible capacity of the human spirit to not only survive the most unimaginable circumstances, but to thrive. In the midst of a conflict that has gripped the entire world, this exhibition is meant to build a greater understanding of the Syrian People, their art, rich culture, history, and the turmoil their country is undergoing.

Reduced versions of Behind the Lines: Contemporary Syrian Art have been shown in small venues across British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon for over a year. This presentation at The Reach not only represents an opportunity for the exhibition to be shown again in its entirety, it will also include several new works not previously exhibited. As Abbotsford welcomed several hundred Syrian refugees in 2016, this exhibition represents an important opportunity for these newcomers to see their culture featured prominently and celebrated in their new community. Several Arabic-language tours will be offered while the exhibition is on display, and an Arabic translation of the exhibition catalogue is being organized.


Dick Averns, Retired Observation Posts (MFO North Camp, Sinai), 2009, archival digital print on aircraft grade aluminum, 40 x 56.5 in. Image courtesy of the artist.

As a complement to the feature exhibition Behind the Lines, The Reach is also presenting a solo exhibition of the work of Calgary-based artist Dick Averns, titled Ambivalence Blvd. In 2009 Averns was embedded with Canadian troops in the

Middle East as a part of the Canadian Forces Art Program, gaining access to first-hand art-making in areas of conflict. This exhibition will include examples of the resulting large-scale photographic works as well as a survey of Averns’ evolving series of performances and videos also titled Ambivalence Blvd. (1999–ongoing). A cogent investigation into the use and control of public space, Ambivalence Blvd. has continually been updated to reference contemporary events and sites of power, including the 2016 US primaries and public rallies of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

Rounding out this season of exhibitions is British Columbia’s War, 1914–1918, a touring exhibition on loan from the Royal BC Museum. The RBCM dug deep into its collections to unearth powerful material about the Great War that aims to educate British Columbians about the contributions of their forebears in the


Soldiers of the 48th Battalion (Canadian Expeditionary Force), marching down Government Street in front of the Empress Hotel, Victoria, 1915. Image courtesy of Royal BC Museum.

First World War. Using archival photographs, fascinating stories, and artifacts, the exhibition examines how the province coalesced around this traumatic global event. With touching examples of trench art, the exhibition resonates with both Behind the Lines and Ambivalence Blvd., demonstrating how acts of creative expression have long played a role in surviving and parsing the trauma of violent conflict. Materials drawn from The Reach’s own historical collections will relate the global narrative to local stories and will elaborate on the local experience.


“I think this season of exhibitions will resonate strongly with people in our community and beyond,” says Laura Schneider, Executive Director of The Reach. “The projects all address the human capacity to negotiate and survive conflict and trauma through the visual arts and personal acts of expression. Whether we’re looking at historical events like the First World War, or conflicts that are rocking the world today, art has a role to play in how these events are experienced, recorded, and remembered.”

This Fall/Winter season of exhibitions opens on September 27 at The Reach will be on view until January 6, 2019. General admission to The Reach is always free. For more details on the exhibitions and public tours and programs connecting to these exhibitions, visit the or drop by The Reach at 32388 Veterans Way.

Media contact for exhibitions:
Adrienne Fast, Curator of Art & Visual Culture,
The Reach Gallery Museum Abbotsford
T: 604-864-8087 x113

Credit for British Columbia’s War, 1914 – 1918: