This work is by Victor Cicansky. It’s a work done in 1979-81. It’s held in the collection of the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon, and it’s entitled The Pink Pantry. For me, it’s the work that Victor Cicansky was doing that I first knew him by, and that is his mason jars of vegetables and garden produce – the accumulations of a life really centred around the garden and its creations. Looking again at Victor Cicansky’s work through the exhibition Regina Clay has given the opportunity to almost re-examine what I know about his work and the temptation for me to approach Cicansky’s work and look at it as a very independent, individual, personal connection to his own history and knowledge that had him making this work. These sealer jars preoccupied him for quite some time and I think at some level that’s one way to approach it but considering the Regina Clay exhibition and how it brings to light how identity is constructed and forces of considerations of landscape and region and the impact of those things on identity give the opportunity to approach this work in a different way and to me that’s a very personal way.
Vic Cicansky grew up in the east end of Regina, which at that time was predominantly a community of immigrants – a lot of German influence, and people of Slavic origin, and my own grandfather actually and my father. My grandfather immigrated from the Ukraine and my father grew up in the immigrant neighbourhood of Moose Jaw, and a pantry shelf like this is something that my grandfather had. He was an immaculate gardener, and canned everything that can possibly be canned, and some things that shouldn’t be canned. And I think it’s possible in looking at this extended body of Cicansky’s work to recognize that it is not just a personal narrative. It’s something that maybe comes from a personal impetus but has ramifications that extend to considerations and conversations about the construction of identity and the forces of region that have in it. This work, while it could have a very personal conversation, could be my biography as well. And the fact that my sensibilities and knowledge and experience are shaped by the same region and by the same experience, so that what starts as a personal statement, a personal impetus of the artist, becomes a shared conversation about region and about identity and
about the formation of who we are and what we recognize as a person.
For me, on a personal level, there’s the theorization and critical thinking that looks at place, space, identity, and all of those constructs has a very has and a personal reality, that it’s not just theory and I think it’s interesting when you trace the work of the artists working in ceramics in Regina. It really did start with personal initiatives and interests and an environment of freedom that allowed all these artists to follow their individual paths with excitement and enthusiasm and give a validity to that as a basis for making art and for giving a voice to their own lives and the lives that interest them. And the overlapping lives of the artists that gave support between all the artists in the exhibition to pursue that: Gilhooly giving Fafard the freedom to go back and do figurative work and portraits that sustained Fafard throughout his career. Then, looking at how the history of this movement has been viewed, I think it makes perfect sense that the work came first and then we later had to think about it and articulate what they were doing so that the writing that started evolving by the very end of the 70s and throughout the 80s gave recognition and support to the thinking and work that the artists had been doing quite naturally and because of the environment they were in to allow the work to happen.