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From Rembrandt to British pop art, Nickle Gallery exhibit showcases rich collection of prints

Being There: Mentors and Memories features work by William Laing, retired prof and prolific printmaker

William Laing, professor emeritus in the Faculty of Arts, and Michele Hardy, adjunct associate professor, are the curators of the new exhibit, Being There: Mentors and Memories, now on display at the Nickel Galleries until July 29. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

By Jennifer Allford

Along with decades of work by retired printmaking professor William Laing, the Nickle Galleries' exhibition Being There: Mentors and Memories includes work by Rembrandt, Käthe Kollwitz and Peter Blake, the artist who designed the cover for the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album.

“Peter Blake was a teacher at Royal College when I was a student there and he was very interested in pop culture,” explains Laing, co-curator of the exhibition along with Michele Hardy, a curator with Nickle Galleries. “Michele asked me to look at the Nickle’s collection and select works that I felt have been influential and important to me over 45 years.” 

Those works include prints by artists David Hockney, John Snow, Bridget Riley, Richard Hamilton and Jim Dine. “I thought I knew all about the collection,” says Laing, who was longtime member of the Nickle’s collections committee. “But once I started to look closer at the extensive collection of print works, I got really excited because there were works from artists that I really loved and have been influenced by over my career.”

Big believer in donors leaving a legacy

Laing, who has donated more than 150 of his own works to the Nickle over the years, has always been a big believer in collections and “the idea of donors leaving a legacy for people coming after them.” Laing, who taught printmaking in the University of Calgary's Department of Art for 39 years, retiring in 2015, will share some of his extensive knowledge during an artist’s talk at the Nickle on July 6 at noon.

Laing was born in Glasgow, Scotland and immigrated to Canada in 1960. He studied at the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art and Design) and Brighton Polytechnic before receiving his master's degree from the Royal College of Art in London in 1974. “The earliest pieces of mine that are in the exhibition come from 1972 when I was a graduate student at the Brighton Polytechnic located about 50 miles south of London,” says Laing.

Over the decades, he’s exhibited in more than 500 group shows and 47 solo shows across Canada and around the world. Laing is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (R.C.A.), an honorary fellow of The Royal Society of Painters and Printmakers (London, England) and Order of the University of Calgary

“It has been a privilege to work with Bill on this exhibition,” says Hardy. “He is such a skilled artist and is so knowledgeable about the history of printmaking. The exhibition is a wonderful opportunity to show off the breadth of our print collection in context with the work of an important contemporary print artist.”

Being There:  Mentors and Memories

  • Nickle Galleries until July 29, 2016
  • William Laing will give an artist’s talk on July 6 at noon
  • Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 
  • Closed weekends and holidays
  • Admission is free and all are welcome