Honoring the Ancient Ones - John and Luke Marston
June 27, 2009 - July 17, 2009
Reception with Artists in attendance
Drawing their inspiration from Coast Salish tradition, nature, and personal experience, John and Luke Marston are versatile and innovative, using cedar, alder, yew and juniper; inlaying abalone, operculum, jade, onyx and copper; and embellishing their creations with cedar bark, root, and even deer fur. “Pieces in this exhibition came from trees estimated at up to one thousand years old,” says John. “This is truly one of mother Nature’s greatest gifts.” The brothers have reveled in the opportunity this exhibition has afforded them to create a variety of ceremonial as well as contemporary pieces. Their work reveals the fruitful imagination and limitless ambition of young artists.
It is important not to lump the work of Luke and John too closely together. The brothers share the same cultural background and many similar influences; however, each has his own distinct approach to his art.
Every item in this exhibition is a masterpiece in its own right, but of particular significance in this show are several which we suggest the viewer pay special attention to.
Luke’s Wolf Comb panel is symbolic of the importance of these two artists in the ongoing revival of Coast Salish art. The original comb was tucked away in a museum for decades, a time during which Coast Salish art itself was overlooked by collectors and artists alike. In the course of his research Luke came across this comb, and here he has enlarged it to epic proportions.
John’s evocatively delicate Red Shafted Flicker Headdress demonstrates a level of technical prowess that many carvers strive to achieve in a lifetime. The carving technique that John refers to as “shifting formline” is evident throughout the collection, giving the pieces an uncanny sense of depth and motion. He has employed it on his Eagles and Salmon Bulging Bentwood Bowl, and by doing so has changed a two dimensional surface into a fully sculptural field.
Luke’s sculpture, First Woman, breaks almost every rule of Coast Salish sculpture, yet it happens to be one of the most magnificent highlights of the collection. While Luke says that tradition plays a big role in his art, he also refuses to be constrained by it. He cannot seem to resist making every project into a new and ambitious statement.
John, the younger brother, is a master of subtlety and detail, yet is no less ambitious with his projects. He prides himself on his flawlessly carved lines and layers, and often employs toned-down colour schemes that turn the viewer’s eye to the detail in the carved wood itself. John says that, while creating the large Water Flow Bentwood Box for this exhibition, he considered painting it, but ultimately decided that any colour could upset and distract from the carefully balanced forms he had carved upon the box.
“I define tradition as a way of life,” says Luke, “A certain way that things should be done.” Both brothers are certainly mindful of the way things should be done, and one can see the rich and beautiful influence of Coast Salish tradition on every one of these pieces. Fortunately, these talented brothers are not content to merely be craftsmen – Luke and John each have a unique artistic vision, which they have applied to the traditional forms and in so doing, are Honouring the Ancient Ones with the creation of this extraordinary collection.
Please join with us in Honouring the Ancient Ones and celebrating these brothers who have quickly risen to become two of the finest artists on the Northwest Coast.
John Marston & Luke Marston
An important young artist in the burgeoning renaissance of Coast Salish art, John Marston uses his exceptional carving talent to revitalize and advance the traditional formline technique. John employs a “shifting formline” technique, in which the intersection of lines is accentuated by the use of three-dimensional space. Subtly creative, he works within the traditional style while constantly exploring new styles and techniques.
The son of artists Jane and David Marston, John started carving at the age of eight. He refined his art as an adult while working in Thunderbird Park at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, B.C. John has had the opportunity to work with many Northwest Coast artists, including Simon Charlie, Wayne Young, Shawn Karpes, Silus Coon, Gary Peterson and his brother Luke Marston. While some of his pieces represent personal experiences and human emotion, others are the result of John’s extensive research into old Coast Salish art and traditions.
John's carvings have increasingly been shown in museums across North America. Most recently his large free standing panel, called’ehhwe’p syuth (To Share History), has been placed at the entrance to the Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. His work can also be found on display at the Vancouver International Airport and the new Vancouver Convention Center. Last year John and his brother took part in an exhibit at the Prince Takamoto Gallery at the Canadian Embassy in Japan. The show titled Bridging the Pacific was enjoyed by many. John was recently honoured as a recipient of the B.C Creative Achievement Award for Aboriginal Art. His work can be found throughout different publications and is held in many prominent private collections.
“I am inspired by the lives of my Ancestors and the lives of our people today. I am part of an ancient tradition that continues to evolve and grow, this fills my heart with joy. Carving the pieces in this collection has been a great honor for me. The title claims to Honor our Coast Salish ancestors and I believe there are many different Salish traditions that do this.
To honor our people’s heritage is to be honest and truthful with all the teachings I have learned. I gave each piece the time and careful planning it would need.
These pieces share our history and our people’s spiritual connection to our traditional lands. I continue to learn about my heritage and stay close to the great spirit. By keeping our ancient traditions alive and learning lessons that have almost been lost, I believe that this brings Honor to our Ancient Ones.”
- John Marston
(1976 - )
A talented young artist with a flare for the bold and dramatic, Luke Marston combines a deep knowledge of Coast Salish artistic tradition with a unique personal vision. Inspired early in his career by his parents, carvers Jane and David Marston, Luke worked first with Simon Charlie and later Wayne Young. Luke carved at the Thunderbird Park at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria for five years alongside Jonathan Henderson, Sean Whonnock , Sean Karpes and later Gary Peterson and his brother John Marston. Relentlessly working to broaden his horizons, he has explored stone carving, painting, jewelry and printmaking, however the majority of Luke’s work is created in wood. In 2008, Luke and his brother John Marston traveled to Japan as part of a cultural exchange and participated in a show called Bridging the Pacific held at the Canadian Embassy. Luke’s work was included in a traveling exhibition called Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 2 and in an exhibition of Coast Salish art held at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria from November 2007 to February 2008, called Transporters: Contemporary Salish Art.
Luke was chosen to carve a bentwood box for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This box will travel to seven different locations in Canada where it will be used in a healing ceremony for the survivors of the residential schools. Luke is currently carving a totem pole for the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, Steven Point, and, upon its completion, it will stand at the Government House in Victoria B.C. Luke is at the forefront of the revitalization of Coast Salish art. Luke says, “I feel very fortunate I can be a part of the continuum of this art form and I hope I can produce art with just as much emotional expression as the ancient ones did.” His carvings show a reverence for history and tradition, while expressing optimism that the Salish art form can continue to develop and evolve.
“I am inspired by the legacy of my ancestors. The title “Honouring the Ancient Ones” is a reflection of the respect I feel for the master carvers of long ago. I believe, as an artist, that we have to find a balance between traditional and contemporary art, and at the same time evolve and grow as Coast Salish people.”
- Luke Marston