Rest Stop, in progress. Photo courtesy of Cedric Bomford.

The CRAG is excited to present two new interactive sculptures, Rest Stop and Crummy Gallery this fall by Victoria-based artists Cedric, Nathan and Jim Bomford. The Bomfords, a father-and-son trio, have worked collaboratively on several artistic projects like this one in the past. 

A family business or profession being passed down through generations is not uncommon, whether by means of nature or nurture. Learning a trade by observing someone you live in close proximity to makes sense, as well as the idea of the “creative gene” being inherited by birth. Parents who are well-connected in the art world can open doors for their offspring to succeed in the same circles. What is perhaps less common is parents and children working as equal partners on a shared artistic project. 

Rembrandt Workshop, Portrait of Rembrandt, 1650, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection, 1942.9.70

While there is a persistent Western fascination with the singular artist as a reclusive genius, artists throughout history and today in fact rely on a vast network of support to produce their work. In the Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern periods in Europe, the guild system flourished. Many artists inherited the family business of a certain genre of painting or other type of art. Hans Holbein the Elder worked as a renowned portraitist in the Late Gothic style, establishing a large workshop in the city of Augsburg, while his son was a pioneer of the Northern Renaissance elsewhere in Europe. Apprentices in a master’s workshop would even complete the less-detailed sections of paintings attributed to the master or create similar drawings that are often still mis-attributed such as works from the Rembrandt school.  

Generations of talented artists appear not just in the Western canon of art history. Inuit artists from Kinngait (Cape Dorset), Nunavut, Pitseolak Ashoona, Napachie Pootoogook and Annie Pootoogook are grandmother, mother and daughter respectively. They were all talented artists respectively, working in printmaking and drawing, influenced by each other. Artist collectives sprung up the 20th century and like-minded artists routinely expand their capacity with collaborative efforts—check out this 2016 article from Canadian Art that captures a diverse cross-section of contemporary collaborations happening in Canada on small and community scales. Performance art lends itself to a multidisciplinary and collaborative approach used by mother and daughter California-based Lita and Jasmine Albuquerque and the UK family art collective of filmmakers Grace Surman and Gary Winters and their two school-aged children. 

Aside from the intangible bond of parents and siblings forged over decades of shared memories, the Bomfords’ artistic connection could stem from their overlapping interest which figures extensively in their practice—the land. Dad Jim was born in Duncan and Nathan and Cedric have both lived and worked in Victoria. 

Not all of their projects involve each other. Jim is retired from a career in civil engineering and both Cedric and Nathan have studied and exhibited their own art including photography and installations abroad. Perhaps what binds them creatively is the latitude to express their own ideas outside of the shared space. 

Each bring a unique set of skills and perspective to their practice. They have expressed their process for building large-scale works such as Rest Stop and Crummy Gallery as “thinking through building,” as they avoid extensive planning and designing before starting the construction. The structures become improvisational, allowing for more interaction and collaboration. This also avoids the uniform urban aesthetic, recalling instead structures built based on need and available materials such as a backyard shed or long-abandoned dwellings in small settler communities along the BC coast. 

Crummy Gallery, in progress. Photo courtesy of Cedric Bomford.

In the spirit of their familial approach, all three artists and their own families will be in attendance to give an artist talk for our Exhibition Opening at the Art & Earth Festival taking place at the gallery and in Spirit Square on Saturday, September 21st from 3 to 5 pm. Join us for a free and fun-filled afternoon of activities for the whole family including live music and community toy-building. Their sculptures will be on view at the CRAG until November 18th.

For further reading on this fruitful topic, see the links gathered below:

The Atlantic: A closer look at other types of creative collaboration…John Lennon and Paul McCartney, anyone?

Artsy.net: Another great list of duo collaborations, including friends, spouses and siblings.

Royal Academy of Art: A profile of several artists featured at the 2016 Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London consisting of over 15 duos.