Eri Ishii, The Ian Tan Gallery and me


Tokyo, Oil on Canvas by Eri Ishii


Under the Surface, Oil on Canvas by Eri Ishii

All art images on this post are copyright by Eri Ishii who has granted me permission to show them.

I’ve had a web site for three or four years now, and the best use for me was that I never had to carry a portfolio with me except when there was no computer around. It gave a professional sampling of my work to show in response to people’s enquiries as to the kind of work I did.

Last week, I was thrilled that a gallery owner had been surfing and found my work. As a result, I was in Vancouver on Thursday showing the real stuff. I took in a large painting and some watercolours encased in  portfolio books. It really was the worst day to be traveling with original art work. For our corner of the world on this Wet Coast, there was a rain alert on The Weather Network with bright red panels warning of potential flooding and drain back-ups.

We’re used to rain, so when there is such an alert, we expect constant downfall – and not a light downfall, at that. Knowing this, I loaded up the car the night before with my samples and covered them all in industrial-drum-sized green plastic bags. Driving into Vancouver was slow along the highway. Everyone was being careful.

I had a very successful meeting with the gallery owner. She was sympathetic to  my plight concerning the safety of the paintings so, although we took in the smaller items – the portfolios and a few matted and shrink-wrapped originals, she went to the car with me and she crawled right into the back seat of the car where the big canvas was in order to get a good look at it.

As an aside, let me tell you that this was an important meeting for me. I haven’t gone seeking a gallery for almost seven years due to my involvement with family matters and responsibilities; I only have one gallery still representing me in British Columbia and it’s a remote one. I am eager to get back to the business of marketing my work. So, wouldn’t you know, I am carefully exiting my car with my red, collapsible umbrella hoisted through the narrowest opening of my driver side door so that it can pop open and it will protect me from the deluge as I get out of the car. It opens with a bang and an uncharacteristic clack. Something has gone wrong. The umbrella will no longer stay up. The umbrella limply slides back down the center post. If I want it open, I have to hold it up at the top firmly; the spring catch has broken. There’s no question of being able to balance it on my shoulder hands-free, whilst I carry the goods into the gallery! Arghh! Murphy’s law … If something can go wrong, it will go wrong. It’s pouring with rain.

Back to my meeting – the gallery owner was very pleased with what she saw and, since she is opening on the 15th of this month, she didn’t keep anything for now but will call me with her decision in the coming week. I’m confident something will come of it.

She mentioned that although her gallery is new, she is working with an established gallery in the South Granville Street district, the Ian Tan Gallery. When I was finished with all my Vancouver chores, I hied up to the Ian Tan Gallery to see what kind of gallery Ian Tan’s was.

The Ian Tan Gallery is located on Granville Street at Sixth Avenue on the east side of the street. It has the corner spot. It’s a beautifully designed gallery space with very clean, modern lines in its architecture and the paintings are commensurate in quality, modernity and interest.

As most of the galleries in this district are on the west side of Granville Street, one might easily miss this gallery, but I’m firmly convinced now that it will be one of my favorites to visit. The gallery owner is showing important contemporary, local work and giving the art work the marketing that it deserves.

I feel very fortunate that I saw the Eri Ishii exhibition. It was the last day, and I really like this artist’s work.

The majority of the paintings in this exhibition were landscapes although I own a small sketch of Ishii’s that has children as the subject.  I hadn’t really ever seen a body of this artist’s work before – I’d just seen photos in magazines and a few very small drawings not bigger than 5 x 5 inches. It’s definitely not the same. The impact of size and tactility are overwhelmingly important in the appreciation of a painting and the photos in magazines just don’t come anywhere near capturing the subtle  beauty of Ishii’s work.

I recommend that you take a look at the gallery of her works at this web site:

In general, the work shown was of large landscapes, many presented from a high view point, a birds eye view. The work is representational but done with such liberty of brushstroke and form that a sweeping rhythm is formed that, combined with a tremendously good sense of composition, keeps the eye moving through the imagery, flowing back and forth.


Wherever you go, Oil on Canvas by Eri Ishii

“Wherever you go” is pictured above, a description of highways and interchanges. It’s a perfect example of the rhythms she sets up. Though it’s primarily grey in colour, it’s light and fresh with the sap green of the winter grasses. It has a good balance of light and dark and there is a certain frenetic energy that captures the speed and tension associated with highways.

“Highway to Surrey”, a two panelled diptych, uses more road imagery from a viewpoint of the on-ramp. It’s early spring. The tree branches are bare but infused with some joyous reds and burnt sienna colours. Adding to the promise of spring, a large bank of cherry trees in bloom form counterpoint of calm light in the foreground of an otherwise busy picture. Is it boats or construction on the left hand side? They are sufficiently defined to make one wonder, but vague enough to keep the viewer interested, finding their own answer to the mysteries of the imagery.


Wall Street Midnight, Oil on Canvas by Eri Ishii

“Wall Street” both I and II are pictures of Vancouver’s industrial rail yards along the waterfront. These two paintings glow with artificial night light – lights provided in the 24/7 container port sorting areas. She captures an interesting balance between large calm, solid colour areas and the energetic business area of lights and industrial activity.

These aforementioned images are large – four foot by six, for the diptych, five foot by eight. There was only one relatively small painting, that of “901 Main”, the famous home of Basic Inquiry (now relocated) and many artist’s studio spaces.


901 Main forever, Oil on Canvas by Eri Ishii

Over the years, I’ve done hundreds of figure drawings there. I even sublet one of the studio spaces for almost a year. It’s a seminal art hot spot, arguably an historical landmark,  slated for demolition soon as Vancouver is undergoing its mordernization and transformation for the 2010 Olympics. Growth and progress must go onward, though I recognize that the building would have been impossible to renovate to current building code and safety standards.

Ishii’s painting of this iconic building captures its historical feel and energy while contrasting the old with new – the old brick building in the foreground complete with mid century telephone and electrical wires on sturdy west coast wooden poles and in the background, beginning to encroach, the multi-storied, high-rise housing.

Ishii is one of the gallery’s regular artists, so if you’ve missed your opportunity to see this show like I almost did, surely there will be one in the upcoming year. Watch for it; or go down to the Ian Tan gallery and ask to see some of the work that is in the storage areas. The next show, already hung, is Tanja Gardner. It’s worth a look, too.

So there it is. From a rainy miserable day, I had two good experiences – a good meeting with a prospective gallery and a visit to the Eri Ishii exhibition at the Ian Tan gallery.


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7 Responses to “Eri Ishii, The Ian Tan Gallery and me”

  1. Tim Says:

    Wow! I lived in Southeast Alaska for eight years, so I fully understand rain, and my sympathies are with you! But it sounds like the trip was fruitful, and I wish you the best in showing your work again. I really like your style … I like the emotions your watercolors inspire. And thanks for showing the Ishii paintings. I have never seen them before, but I am quickly becoming a fan!

  2. suburbanlife Says:

    K – these are delicious! Thanks for this. G

  3. Anna Meenaghan, Contemporary Artist Says:

    Fantastic paintings Eri. I especially loved the “Whereever You Go” painting as it has so much symbolism in it. Look forward to see more of your art in the future. All the best, Anna

  4. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Tim, G, and Anna,
    Thanks for your comments. Anna, and Tim, I’ll make sure to send on your comments to Eri Ishii.

  5. simon andrews Says:

    geez, why can’t i get great writeups like that!!! Very nice writing indeed 😉

  6. eri ishii Says:

    Thanks everyone for your nice comment about my work! I’m having a solo show at Ian Tan Gallery in Dec 2011. Maybe I’ll see you then.


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