Artistic Pairings

Artistic Pairings peers into the lives and studio practices of 6 art making couples;

Renée Duval & Dennis  Ekstedt (Montreal), Barbara Milne & Bill Laing (Calgary),

Ben Skinner & Genevieve Dionne (Vancouver), Laurel Johannesson & Marty Kaufman (Calgary),

Nicole Collins & Michael Davidson (Toronto) and Katie Ohe & Harry Kiyooka (Calgary).

The exhibition will show each couples’ work, side by side, along with text from the artists on how their partner in life and art influences, inspires and supports their own art practice. Mediums include photographic lightbox, paintings,

multi-media, text-based, ceramics, glass and sculpture.


Renée Duval


Dennis  Ekstedt (Montreal)

Folie a deux


Dennis and I met in art school at Emily Carr in 1983 and we’ve been painting in a shared space pretty much non-stop since then. One of the great privileges of any long-term association with another artist is bearing witness to the singular evolution of their work. When Dennis and I look at each other’s paintings we are aware of all of the previous paintings that we’ve made, all of the discussions about art that we’ve had, all the exhibitions we’ve seen together and all of the art work that has influenced us over the years. So, although our work and even our taste in painting can be very different, we value each other’s  feedback above all others and it’s enormously helpful during the painting process. Throughout our life together, Dennis and I have both sought to maintain a focus on art making. It’s a vastly rewarding but challenging objective to sustain. Working together has helped make it not only less challenging but more rewarding as well.


Because our artistic development has been connected for so long I feel Renee has been my creative shadow, always there to give me inspiration and feedback. She is actually one of my favourite artists and I’m constantly inspired by what she does. We have supported each other over the years as we’ve navigated the world of art making, and I feel privileged to have had such profound and rewarding relationship with her all these years.

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Barbara Milne


Bill Laing


We met at an opening in 1979.  I was teaching at the University of Calgary and Barbara had just started as curator of prints and drawings at the Mira Godard Gallery. Having recently moved here from Toronto, Barbara was forging a body of work responding to her new surroundings of Western Canada.  I was engaged in a new series of etchings that described a single rose set within a night sky. Many of our dates were spent discussing the good, the bad and the ugly of our collective pieces.

Entirely different in personality and approaches, we complement each other’s' visual expressions. Over the 40 years that we have been together, our work has been subject to intense scrutiny and harsh criticism from one another.  While we each value the opinions and thoughts of the other, we are both stubborn and single-minded.  Consequently we have selective hearing in the studio, and really will do what we want in the end anyway.  But having each other there at critical moments along the way is hugely valuable and meaningful. It is humbling and healthy to keep one's feet on the ground -but we are also each other’s' biggest fans! 

Gardening has been a lifelong interest and passion for me. Revisiting the garden after our long harsh winter is exhilarating and inspires both of us.  The isolation of the past 8 months has been challenging but gratifying on many levels.  The pieces in this exhibition are a visual distillation and response to the natural world.  They speak of time spent in reflection of the micro and macro landscapes that surround us, the familiar pathways and parks of Calgary, and hiking in the national parks of our province.

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Ben Skinner


Genevieve Dionne (Vancouver)

We constantly bounce ideas around, share developments in the studio, ask for advice and honest criticism from one another; This continual flow of feedback has benefited us both in our practices. There’s a feeling of connection even when working in our separate studios. Although our aesthetic/conceptual interests diverge we share overlapping interests in materials, techniques, tools.  We’ve worked together collaboratively in retail display design for over a decade-that working relationship also serves to further strengthen our mutual respect and desire for constructive criticism. Having a partner to help you get through creative slumps is invaluable.

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Laurel Johannesson


Marty Kaufman


What are the mysterious elements at work that bring two people together into a living and loving partnership? Does the uniqueness of being in the company of that other individual set in motion the potential of a fulfilling relationship?


Our creative practice and professional careers began well before we met. This was the context upon merging our lives.


It wasn’t from shared, sometimes fraught, initial experiences of the creative and personal growth that is necessary to achieve one’s voice and career standing that can be the foundation for incorporating personal and professional lives.


Our uniqueness came from being aware of the sympathy of a shared atheistic combined with empathy for understanding the commitment involved sustaining an artistic practice essential to personal wellbeing. 


This consciousness outweighs the contributions of being a critical eye, a resource and an advocate for each other’s practice. While these actions are fundamental in supporting our daily studio lives, it’s the broader understanding that more importantly contributes to a lens through which a mutual life perspective grows enhancing the artist and the individual within our shared life.

Photo Credit:  Yiannis Tsantanis