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Comox Valley gallery features Courtenay artist Joe Ziner

Ziner was inspired to become an artist by the recognition that creative output is real work
Joe Ziner pioneered the Japanese art of Gyotaku (fish printing) on Vancouver Island. Photo supplied

When I used to fish… is Joe Ziner’s visual record of a lifetime of creative production, primarily focused on printmaking, with intriguing forays into sculpture and drawing.

Ziner pioneered the Japanese art of Gyotaku (fish printing) on Vancouver Island, and his extensive collection traces the history of using nature prints to record the fisherman’s catch.

The son of working artists, Ziner was inspired to become an artist, encouraged by the recognition that creative output is real work. Ziner has ranged up and down the West Coast, from Vancouver to Alaska, supporting himself as a woods worker and fisherman as he appreciated living an adventure-filled, artistic existence.

In the early 1980s, Ziner’s interest in printmaking expanded to include screen printing and letterpress, and he soon set up his own print shop in Courtenay. In 1999, Ziner spent the year producing his artist book The Dinghy, made with woodcut prints and lead type.

The story is inspired by his personal journals, written while Ziner was living in seclusion, lakeside on a coastal island. Produced in an edition of 36, copies of The Dinghy are held in the collections of the Canadiana section of the British Library, the Red Path Library at McGill University, and other public and private collections.

The story captures the cultural ethos of the West Coast during the 1970s. Ziner’s woodcut print Overview, Hemming Lake, Thurlow Island (2004) provides an epigraph to the story, with its depiction of Ziner perched on a high bluff, listening to the gear grinding, rumbling intrusion of the logging trucks below.

With more than 50 years of creative output, Ziner creates art to record the world he lives in deep relationship with; the people, the places, and most especially the fish. For Ziner, fish printing began a lifelong fascination with printing processes.

If you’ve ever left the Laughing Oyster Book Shop in Courtenay with a bookmark, you have held one of Ziner’s prints in your hand. He has designed 40 bookmarks for the Laughing Oyster over the past 23 years. A commemorative print of the full collection will be available for purchase, both at Artful : The Gallery and Laughing Oyster Book Shop.

When I used to fish… is often the initiating signal for tales of adventure, hilarity, the uncanny and the unimaginable. Come share your fish tales at Artful : The Gallery.

Opening reception with the artist in attendance is set for July 29, from 7 to 9 p.m.

The exhibition runs July 26 through Sept 2nd at Artful : The Gallery, 526C Cumberland Rd, Courtenay, BC. Gallery Hours: Wed to Sat., 12 to 5 p.m. Visit or follow us on Instagram @artfulthegallery.

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