Tyson John Atkings has invited his audience to help themselves at his upcoming exhibition, To Whom it May Concern, taking place Feb. 25 through Mar. 1.
The BFA candidate’s graduating exhibit, on display at the Gordon Snelgrove Art Gallery, will open with over 60 pieces of Atkings’ hand-worked monotype prints covering the walls.
Waiting to be discovered underneath these prints is the actual installation, which Atkings has painted on the wall. He has asked his audience to take pieces off the wall in order to unveil the painted walls beneath.
For Atkings, the invitation to freely take his artwork is a manifestation of his frustrations with the recent events occurring in universities across the country.
“It means we can take our shit and go at any time,” Atkings said.
Though Atkings feels the art community is alive in Saskatchewan, he worries that staying in the province is not practical.
“There are many artists here who have all their cards on the table,” Atkings said, “who want nothing more than to make art for the rest of their lives. The problem is, are they going to stay here? Can they?”
Atkings will leave To Whom it May Concern attendees with more than just the secret installation and free works of art.He will issue an open letter addressed, as the title of the exhibition suggests, “To Whom it May Concern.” The letter will be attached to the reverse side of every one of the removable works and will explain the nature of Atkings’ exhibition, including his motive for giving the works away. Atkings hopes this open letter will prey on the curiosity of the viewers and will push them to take the pieces for their personal collections— though Atkings insists, “free things make people nervous.”
For Atkings, his method of presentation is a statement against the current state of the “so-called art world.” He says that by giving his works away for free, he is countering the way money has limited arts’ reach and voice.
Artists who “wish to make money by selling their work commercially, in general, must strive to have their work in large personal and corporate collections, which will only be viewed by a select few,” he said.
Atkings wants his art to be experienced by the public and to serve as the “voice of the people and a catalyst for change” that art is supposed to be.
Atkings’ message is clear: Art is to be appreciated and coveted as it is a vehicle for change.
In addition to his show at the Snelgrove, Atkings is currently showing pieces at Void Gallery on 8th Street.
Photo: T.J. Atkings