Spirit of the Wild | Wayne Kodje

May 15 – 26, 2019

Wild creatures and their environments are featured in this exhibition. The show is composed almost exclusively of watercolour paintings. Using energetic brush strokes, the artist portrays the spirit of life in gentle repose as well as in moments of high tension and energy. The images of beautiful creatures portray an almost ideal world, but one that is in change. This is a show about love, change and loss. The exhibition speaks of the unease in nature, and the urgency to save this world. 

The artist Wayne Kodje is an Ojibway from Nipissing First Nation, but resides with his family in Toronto.

Nipissing First Nation artist showcases one-man exhibit at Toronto gallery
By Sam Laskaris/  Anishinabek News.ca

TORONTO – The spotlight is now on Wayne Kodje at Toronto’s Propeller Art Gallery.

The 66-year-old Nipissing First Nation artist has his own exhibit titled Spirit of the Wild now on display at the gallery.

The exhibit, featuring 42 pieces of Kodje’s work, opens on Wednesday (May 15) and continues until May 26. An opening reception is scheduled for Thursday night at the gallery, located at 30 Abell St. in Toronto.

Kodje, who has lived in Toronto for almost 20 years now, has had a lifelong love of art. But it’s only been this decade, since retiring from his teaching/principal profession in 2010, that he has been able to devote more time to his artistic pursuits.

Kodje worked as a teacher for nine years in various northern Ontario communities before becoming a principal. He was a principal for 17 years, the last 10 at the First Nations School of Toronto.

“As a principal I was very busy,” Kodje said. “But when I could, I worked on my art.”

Kodje has been part of group exhibits at the Propeller Art Gallery before. But this marks the first time he has had his own one. He’s had his own exhibit, however, at other galleries.

“It’s very time consuming,” he said. “And it’s quite a nervous time for me. You never know how things will go.”

Kodje said the fact he has been able to devote more time to his craft since retiring as a principal has enabled him to build up enough bodies of work for his own exhibit.

“It means a lot of work and a lot of preparation,” Kodje said of the efforts required to do a one-man show. “And it means I call the shots. I determine everything – what is in and what is not in.”

The majority of the pieces in Spirit of the Wild are watercolour paintings, primarily of wild creatures and their environments. However, the exhibit also includes a couple of collages and an acrylic painting.

Kodje is not only aiming to display the beauty in the world, but also the urgency to save it.

“I look at the environmental changes our world is going through now with pollution, climate change and loss of habitat,” he said. “It’s not enough to just talk about the way things are. Things are changing and it’s not a beautiful world anymore.”

The theme of Spirit of the Wild is a change for Kodje as well.
“In my previous shows, I talked about Native life and even Native politics,” he said. “I thought my work should say a bit more now.”

The message Kodje is trying to get out is a call to action.

“Things are not forever,” he said. “We need to do something about it.”

The focal point of his new exhibit is a piece called Endangered.

“It shows an elk being chased by a hunter,” Kodje said. “And you see the spear. It’s the biggest piece. But other pieces are hinting at trouble. It’s a statement of the current state of affairs in the world.”

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