Alum of the Month: Denise Tierney, Gem Chang-Kue and Nan Goodship

January 3, 2019 - 9:15am

Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Visual Art program is the catalyst for a new, all-alumni, collaborative exhibit taking place at the University’s on-campus art gallery, The View Gallery. Denise Tierney (graduated in 2017), Gem Chang-Kue (graduated in 2013) and Nan Goodship (graduated in 2012), who are all now working full-time as artists, met through VIU – Gem befriending both Denise and Nan, and then getting the three of them together. They quickly discovered they share a passion for the art-making process and a respect for the value of good conversation and friendship, and began having deep, meaningful conversations that became the spark for the exhibit.

Conversari is the result of a year of coming together, of stimulating conversations and the works these conversations have inspired. Each artist has a unique aesthetic – Denise paints the human condition, looking to capture the often curious ways we relate to each other and our surroundings; Nan works in large-format watercolour to explore contemplative conversations with the natural world; and Gem combines ceramic sculpture and digital video projection to create dream-like multi-media installations. The art exhibit runs from January 11 to February 22 at The View Gallery (Building 330 on VIU’s Nanaimo Campus), with an opening reception on January 11.


What have you been up to since graduating?  

Denise: I am working full-time as a studio artist. My focus is on finding my artistic voice through painting, printmaking and mixed media work. In addition to my personal art practice, I am also facilitating a community art outreach program at St. Andrew’s United Church.

Gem: I have been developing my art practice. I moved to Salt Spring Island a year and a half ago and have been enjoying the island’s rich arts community. Last summer I had the opportunity to do an artist residency for five weeks at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

Nan: I took Visual Art courses at VIU until late 2012. I already have a BA from the University of British Columbia, so my goal was getting into the academic swing of things again in preparation for a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts at Goddard College in the United States. I graduated from Goddard in March 2016 and have been working full-time as an artist or on art-related projects since then.


Tell us about Conversari and what you hope gallery visitors will take away from the show.  

Denise: Conversari is about the many facets of conversation, whether they be between humans, nature or objects. I want to encourage viewers to consider different social interactions and their dependence on social conventions. Is there something in an expression or in body language that changes the nature of a conversation? I hope viewers give thought to the value they put on conversation and perhaps asks themselves, “What is the conversation I want to have?”

Gem: The show will reflect a diversity of media and styles, as all three of us look at the world and approach our art practice in different ways. There will be many layers of meaning and interpretation, making it accessible to a wide audience. I hope the show will encourage visitors to think about the idea of conversation in a slightly different, new way.  

Nan: We all feel there is power in thoughtful conversation, for us individually and in society. We also realized there are many kinds of conversations that can lead in various directions. We hope the show is visually evocative and encourages viewers to consider anew both conversation as a gift and different kinds of conversations – with ourselves, others and the natural world.   

How did your VIU education help prepare you for what you’re doing now?  

Denise: In addition to learning technical studio skills, I learned how to consider, interpret and write about art – particularly about my own practice and process.  

Gem: The Visual Art department at VIU is a supportive and encouraging environment. My education there challenged me to expand the boundaries of my art practice in ways that I never would have imagined on my own.   

Nan: It was part of a process that helped me make more challenging work. I was introduced to some areas I wasn’t familiar with, but more often it gave me playtime to try new things with media that I was already practiced in. I also really appreciated the directed studies.


What’s next for you?  

Denise: I plan to continue to learn and grow through my art practice.

Gem: I will continue to explore new ways of working in ceramics. I will also be working on my digital video skills, especially video projection. I hope I will have a chance to do more artist residencies and shows.

Nan: I am always working from project to project. In January, I am facilitating an artists’ retreat. In March, I am curating a show in the Cowichan Valley and I have a large public mural to make in the spring. I’m just setting my goals for the coming year. As an artist, it’s important to plan ahead as well as get lots of time in the studio.


What advice would you give the next wave of VIU Visual Art grads?  

Denise: Work hard, learn much.

Gem: Trust your instincts and dig deep to explore the things that matter most to you.  

Nan: Be creative and keep working hard. Be a self-starter. It’s not easy to make a living as an artist, but it’s a great way to have a life you want to have.

Tags: The View Gallery | Visual Art | Our Alumni

Sign up for our VIU news and experts email