An exhibit by Lower Mainland artist Rosa Quintana Lillo in Townsite’s Crucible Gallery takes objects found outdoors, such as recycled rope, and turns them into objects of art.
The exhibit is called carbon sink art. Quintana Lillo said that with her partner Mike Edwards, they are collaborating on this ongoing project.
“Our recent experiences with climate change and COVID-19 compel us to create art that is more accountable to what is happening in the world, and to create community understandings of the impacts of everyday actions,” said Quintana Lillo.
She said she brought some items with her for the show, in prepping for the residency and installation, such as salvaged beach rope. She has also salvaged some from around the qathet region that has washed up on the beach.
“Fortunately for you, but not so fortunate for me, there is very little to pick from,” said Quintana Lillo. “I did make a trip to Texada Island where I did find some debris and rope that I’m using to cut up and process in the studio in Crucible Gallery.”
She said she has also collected some delicate shells from little rock crabs that wash up on the beach, plus other organic items. She is processing them in a wood stove, turning it into charcoal and then processing them into inks.
“There’s a process of charcoaling any organic matter, which can be carbonized,” said Quintana Lillo. “I cook the items in the stove and then the next day I can take it out and grind it down into a pigment. I mix them up with gum arabic and water or other additives and turn them into viable ink so you can draw and paint with it.
“I’ve been doing some drawing and painting with the inks I’ve created. It’s an open studio for any community member who wants to come in and make their own ink, then draw and paint. People have been coming in and it’s been a beautiful experience, interacting with the local community.”
Quintana Lillo said she has been collecting everyone’s drawings and paintings and displaying them on the shelves at the gallery so everyone can see what’s been done.
“For example, someone came in and made ink out of a fir cone, they made their painting and it’s been hung up so people can see it,” said Quintana Lillo. “It’s displayed underneath the material they chose so there is a direct correlation.”
Quintana Lillo said the creation of the art is a fulfilling process and it’s satisfying to do something from start to end in a short period of time, and see the transformation of material. Once people know how easy it is and how simple the process is, if they have the right equipment, it’s a simple process to follow, she added.
Quintana Lillo said she is being funded by the BC Arts Council for this installation.
“I applied for a grant and received it to do this project at Crucible Gallery,” she added. “I live in Agassiz in the Fraser Valley just outside of Vancouver and I’ve been coming to this [qathet] area and the old Townsite specifically to visit friends. Every time I’ve come here, we always walk by the Crucible Gallery and I’ve always commented on how beautiful a space it is. I needed to figure out how I can show and be involved in this gallery.
“I proposed an idea to Crucible Gallery and they supported it. I applied for the grant and received it so that’s how I’m here for the month.”
Quintana Lillo said she and Edwards are both visual artists, and also work for other artists, doing their technical work.
“We’ve been involved in many ways of exhibiting,” said Quintana Lillo. “Installation-wise, I’ve been doing that kind of work for more than five years, showing in exhibits in the Lower Mainland.
“The real change for me on how I deal with the materials I work with came a few years ago when I did a residency on Cracroft Island and that’s when I started working with discarded rope found on the beaches. That was a real transformation for me from painting and drawing with conventional commercial materials, to using materials that are already in the environment, and sequestering them in a way to get them out of the environment.”
Quintana Lillo said given the climate emergency and COVID-19, it has changed the way she does things and the materials she uses.
“Every action, I view it within that lens of dealing with the problems we have to come to terms with,” she added.
Reaction to the show has been positive and a great experience, according to the artist.
“Everyone takes the time to look at the material I have up for showing,” said Quintana Lillo. “Then, they want to make ink. I’ve had such a diverse group of people coming in and getting their hands dirty. We had a five-year-old and 75-year-olds. It’s been a huge span of people from different backgrounds. It’s a lively community you have here.
“I’m happy to be able to communicate with people and share what I am doing. Being here has been such a happy and positive experience.”
The exhibition is showing at Crucible Gallery from Wednesdays to Sundays, noon to 5 pm, until May 29. There will be a reception at the gallery with Edwards on May 22 at 7 pm. Quintana Lillo said she is hoping for good turnout. Everyone is invited.