Author Archives: amy

Janina Ceglarz

Below are quotes from an interview with Michael Williams’ former business manager Janina Ceglarz and Gareth Clayton, Research Assistant with the Williams Oral Art History Project on Sunday, October 9, 2011.

“At the very beginning it was only me and Michael. He was looking for a property manager and Swan’s was not existing yet. He had a few buildings on the lower part of Johnson Street and was looking for a property manager and that’s how we met.  When we met he hired me and that is it. It was back in 1987, 7 or 6.”  -Janina Ceglarz

“Yes, he was a pioneer in redeveloping downtown Victoria.  I know a lot of people are thinking that he was nuts to do that because he was buying building that was worse than this one and making them beautiful.  He had a love for all buildings, he took an enormous amount of risk buying these buildings and hoping it’s going to work. But it did.”  -Janina Ceglarz

“We still have hotel guests coming and saying “can you take this piece of art down, I can’t sleep at night” and we still do have that, so we go and take the picture and the guest leaves, we put the picture back.  You know I still have…even here, there is one picture of the work in the pub that I get from time to time the complaint that it is not suitable for the restaurant, but you know what?  The majority of people like it, I’m never going to please everybody.  And by getting one phone call I’m not going to go and remove the picture, but it is happening.  But Michael loved that because he always felt that art is art and even if it’s controversial it’s a piece of art and people have to be okay with this.”  -Janina Ceglarz

“He did a lot of good things for Victoria, he did.  He always said he was an immigrant and he always said he makes his money in Victoria and he will leave his money in Victoria.  That speaks volume about a person.  And what he did leaving everything for the University that speaks volume about him.  But the fact that people didn’t like him…he was very…he always had a very strong opinion about absolutely everything.”  -Janina Ceglarz

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Robert Amos

Robert Amos interview with Leah Taylor, Research Assistant for the Williams Oral Art History Project on Thursday, November 25, 2010 at Robert Amos’ studio in Victoria.

Click the arrow to play the sound bite of the quote from the interview (below).

“But I did come to the West Coast, I was attracted here with my friendship of members of the Western Front Society, Eric Metcalf, Michael Morris, Glen Lewis and so on.  Also, friends of mine from Ontario were moving to the coast at that time.  I spent a little more than a year in Vancouver working at that fun and frolic of being an artist on the West Coast on the backside of the hippie movement.  But again, I hadn’t I wasn’t really getting on with what it was I felt I should do.  I came to Victoria because the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria had apparently a collection of Japanese prints. I’d seen a catalogue of them and when I came to Victoria that first afternoon in 1974–75 the Japanese art wasn’t on show at the gallery. But in short form I discovered that I thought Victoria was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.  I knew the collection was in the gallery somewhere and I really needed a job.  So I started in and began lobbying the gallery to hire me.  And in 1975 I was hired for the afternoon to sort out a collection of old magazines which Maxwell Bates had given to the gallery.  When I arrived to do the afternoons work the director took me aside and said actually he’d applied for a grant to hire me and he did receive the grant and he hired me as his assistant which was a terrific job, on the chain of events at the gallery there was the director, there were including him, 5 curators and then all the support staff under that, but on that organizational chart there was a little spur off the director and my name was written in that, I was his assistant.”  -Robert Amos

Click the arrow to play the sound bite of the quote from the interview (below).

“To help make a living in those very desperate economic times, because you know, here we are in 2010 and people are saying, ‘oh that economic depression in 2008 was so bad that was the worst we’ve had since well 1982 was the previous one’.  It was really desperate times.  So to help make a living I began writing freelance art reviews for Monday Magazine and for various other places that would have them, and in 1986 I was hired by the Times Colonist right out of the blue to write a weekly column on art for the TC.  You know I had no expectations of that line of work and honestly it doesn’t pay that well.  But it provided me with a position within the community which I had come accustom to from working at the art gallery.”  -Robert Amos

Click the arrow to play the sound bite of the quote from the interview (below).

“Because as an artist and as a writer and as a other things I do I’m very much involved in documentation.  I have a sense of the history of things.”  -Robert Amos

Click the arrow to play the sound bite of the quote from the interview (below).

“I’m going to make that my job.  I’m going to take the responsibility.  So for many years I’ve done the whole of Victoria, and over the more recent years I’ve been working on commissioned paintings of Victoria, one address at a time.  You’d be surprised at how many pictures of Victoria I have painted.”  -Robert Amos

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Angela Grossman


Untitled; Five Figures, Canadian.  Oil and Acrylic on Board, 122 x 304.5 cm, 1984.  Michael C. Williams Collection, University of Victoria, British Columbia.

Angela Grossman interview with Leah Taylor, Research Assistant with the Williams Oral Art History Project on March 11, 2011 at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Interview transcribed by Amy Cheli.

Click the arrow to play the sound bite of the quote from the interview (below).

AG: “So sometimes you don’t have, you don’t know what’s going to happen and I think that’s what’s exciting.  If you don’t know what you are going to do, you are not trying to control it, you also not trying to tweak it, if you know what I mean, you’re not trying to be gimmicky, you are just open.”

Click the arrow to play the sound bite of the quote from the interview (below).

AG: “I remember him being there because he wanted to purchase this piece and it was a shock to me.  It was the first time anybody has actually asked to buy anything of mine…”

LT: “and this is Michael Williams?”

AG: “And this is Michael Williams, yea.  I mean you don’t really think about selling the work at the time with your work developing like that you don’t think, Oh, I can sell it.  It doesn’t come up in your imagination as some kind of an income source, It’s just that you’re trying to find an income source in order to make works.”

Click the arrow to play the sound bite of the quote from the interview (below).

AG: “He came and he was nothing like you might expect or I would expect now.  He was in a very conservative looking suit and he seemed to be a very conservative man.  He said he would like to come back the next day and take me up Granville Street which was where all the galleries were, South Granville, and take me to see a few things and I said OK.  Off we went the next day and he took me to the Baux-Xi and it was very exciting, I think it was the Baux-Xi, maybe it was Ethan’s, but I think it was the Baux-Xi.  We went to a couple of them.  It was nice that they all knew him so it was like being with somebody who unlocked doors.  Everybody would flood in and say hi and he took me in the back to see a few pieces.  Which was great, some Shadbolts and that sort of thing and uh, I’ll never really forget it because I really didn’t know that much about the history of BC painters and just the whole experience opened my eyes a bit.”

LT:  “It’s really interesting that he just decided to take you around and show you this.  He obviously saw something in you, and I think that something we are trying to get to the core of with Michael Williams is that did he see something in young artists or was he just coming across things he liked and was buying them because he could?”

AG: “No. No.  From my point of view, from my experience, I would say he was very interested in passing along knowledge.  He was very interested in nurturing the idea that there was a movement that I was part of because I really never considered I was.  I thought I was an anomaly that I just happened to be here, that I was not part of any fabric. Even when I saw the pieces and I thought, these things have nothing to do with what I’m interested in and they’re nothing like me…now I wonder, now that I look back and see Shadbolts, and I’m a friend of Gordon Smith’s and I think well hold on, what we do is all connected.  It is connected.  That fact that I’m here connects me to it.  The fact that I was there connects me to them.”

Click the arrow to play the sound bite of the quote from the interview (below).

AG: This idea of authorship was clearly very defining to us; we had to be forging new territory. We felt we were forging new territory.  You know, time will tell whether we really were or does it really matter but we really felt that.   So we had this sense of incredible, unbridled enthusiasm that we were making something new.  We really did have the sense that, I think that if there was a defining element of all of us, it was that.  Hence that it was open, and we could have it.  We could do it, we could make it, maybe that’s what he sensed in us.

LT:  I know you speak of the group you consisted of when you say us, so that would have been you, Attila.., can you name a few others?

AG:  Well there were really four or five of us, myself, Attila Richard Lukas, there was Graham Gilmore, there was Derek Root and there was Doug Copeland who wasn’t actually a painter but was very much a part of that group.  Very close, we were very close, I mean we all shared a studio.  We shared a studio for about three years at the school and then we shared a studio afterwards.  Then we all went to different parts of the world but we stayed in contact.  We’ve done lots of shows together since.  We have done a few and they’ve been fairly important.  Now we all have a foundation that we all in varying degrees participate in and we are connected but I think that the connection is not necessarily anything that we want to sever.  So I think we remain in a way normative through each other, we don’t necessarily measure ourselves up against one another but we see ourselves as coming from the same place so its interesting.  We also wish each other success, and we understand what each other’s work is about.

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