home    galleries    reviews & short biography    contact

Reviews & Short Biography

Mickey Meads at Drabinsky Gallery

Until May 7, 114 Yorkville Ave., Toronto; www.drabinskygallery.com

Mickey Meads’s new suite of photographs at Drabinsky Gallery, Assume Nothing, couldn’t have less in common with Gilligan’s work. Although both artists indulge in an unmistakable melancholy, Gilligan roars while Meads ruminates. Neither, however, trusts what is before their eyes.

Meads photographs seemingly harmless, even pleasant spaces, with a wide-eyed, John Ford-style vista view. He captures desert plains, massive but still traffic intersections, purpled lakes and cattle ranges – often allowing the centre field of the image to hold the focus of the shot as the top and bottom halves melt away, de-compose. This focused/unfocused dynamic, especially as used in his images of traffic, makes the cars and the people guiding them appear toy-like, unreal, too tidily defined to be moving objects in an otherwise busy landscape.

That effect alone is worth the visit, but it’s only when you begin to ask about the photographs, to find out where or why they were taken, that the truly spooky stuff slithers into the frame. For instance, that cattle range: The cows are grazing in an abandoned housing project, a kind of prison barracks created specifically to warehouse American aboriginals. Or, the lake: It’s eggplant purple because it’s full of run-off chemicals from a mine.

In Meads’s world, the lovely and the malevolent are intertwined, but Meads presents no determining clues, no visual “talking points” that allow the viewer to gain access to the images’ second, third, or 50th readings. Such intent opacity gives the imagery a pulling, nagging weight that you can feel, a low level of anxiety, but that you cannot identify, or, rather, verify, without the back-up information.

This blind-siding is a strategic choice on Meads’s part that some viewers may find delightfully tantalizing, and others may simply ignore, content with the knowledge that something weird is going on.

Personally, I’m all for asking questions in galleries. I worry that too many people feel they are not allowed to ask questions in art galleries, and/or are afraid they will appear uninformed.

Meads’s work, however, practically begs you to nag away at the gallerist, plays against the informed vs. the uninformed hierarchy by not giving the viewer, any viewer, solid information.

Fight the power, Mickey Meads, fight the power.


I began my art practice working with printmaking and photography.  These have evolved to the use of digital media including digital photography.  Each of these media demands careful attention to colour, to composition and to a disciplined series of processes that shape the final result.  The linear series of methodical processes enable me to concentrate on ways those very processes create a kind of aesthetic and personal distance.  This set of steps provides the time, space and distance to meticulously map the images in ways that are designed to control how those images may be perceived and interpreted.  Through imposition of colour and layering a shallow perspective is created – directing the vantage from which the viewer must view the work as a visual image, as an illusionistic abstraction, not just a reference to a ‘sight.’  The result is work that disrupts assumptions about the ‘truth’ and ‘reality’ of photography

Art for me has been an effort to explore, apprehend and control images that contain a ‘threat’, provoking sense of fear and anxiety.  Beauty contains this threat.  My practice of picture making, my own tendency to be drawn to images that provoke fear and anxiety, has resulted in a life-long exploration of a range of narratives (anthropology/archaeology, the garden, sites of human habitation, views of landscapes…) that can be captured, manipulated and staged in ways that expand, provoke and unsettle a sense of who we are and how we need and use fear to determine and control identity and territory.  This means that I need to work through a series of related themes to uncover the contradictions and tensions that are sufficient to bring the viewer ‘to’ the work.

short biography

Educational and Professional Background

As well as being a practicing visual artist, I have taught and developed art courses in drawing, painting, animation, and design at the college and university level.  I have been involved in the administration of the Alberta College of Art and Design in various capacities from department Chair to Vice-president/Academic Dean as well as serving as the Head and President of that institute.  I was the founding President of the Canadian Centre of the Arts at Owen Sound, ON.

Advanced 4 Year Diploma, Honours, Vancouver School of Art (now called the Emily Carr University of Art & Design)  1971.

B.A. History, Fine Arts, University of British Columbia, 1971.

BA Anthropology, Honours, The University of Western Ontario, 1994.

Post Graduate course work, University of Calgary.


Major Collections


Canada Council Art Bank
Alberta Art Foundation
Southern Alberta Institute of Technology



Pan Canadian
Trizec Corporation


The Flaneur as Intruder, Left of Main, Vancouver, BC,  April 2019

Travel, Buckerfields, Vancouver, BC,  April, 2018

A Philosophy of Railways in North America, Buckerfields, Vancouver, BC,  April, 2017

Meads, Roundhouse, Vancouver, October, 2016

Stage, Firehall Gallery, Vancouver, BC, February, 2014

Highgate, The Cultch, Vancouver, BC, March,  2014

Assume Nothing: a Primer for Mickey Meads, Drabinsky Gallery, Toronto, ON, April/May 2011

Mickey Meads, James Gray Gallery, Santa Monica, CA, June 2009For Instance, Group Exhibition, Isabella Egan Gallery, Vancouver, BC, March/April 2008

Mickey Meads, Nanaimo Art Gallery, Nanaimo, BC, March 2007

mansell&meads, Artworks, Gabriola, BC, July 2005

bioGraphics Botanica, Alice Mansell and Mickey Meads, Evergreen Cultural Centre, April/May 2004.

bioGraphics: Staged Practices, Alice Mansell and Mickey Meads, Kootenay Gallery, September/October 2000.

bioGraphics: Staged Practices, Alice Mansell and Mickey Meads, Richmond Art Gallery, July/August 2000.

Courbet"s "Venus and Psyche" a Painting Lost by Alice Mansell and Mickey Meads, in the Body Missing Web site by Vera Frenkel, 1995-6 (http://www.yorku.ca/BodyMissing), the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, 1996.

bioGraphics: enGendered Positions, Alice Mansell and Mickey Meads, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, May/June 1996.

A Cup for a Cup, Forest City Gallery, London, Ontario, September/October 1993.

Miniature Art Show, juried show, Gibson Galleries, London, Ontario, December 1990.

Remy Martin, juried exhibition, W.R. Mitchell Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, Oct.1984.

Alberta College of Art Staff Exhibition, Calgary, Alberta, November 1984.

Alberta College of Art Staff Exhibition, Calgary, Alberta, October 1983.

The Un-College Staff Exhibition, James Ulrich Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, February 1983.

New Image Alberta, Alberta College of Art Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, traveling exhibition, November 1982.

Arthur Meads, Mira Godard Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, July 1 to August 14, 1982.

Alberta Now, Survey of Alberta Artists, for Alberta's 75th Anniversary, Edmonton, Alberta, June 1980.

Alberta College of Art Staff Show, Calgary, Alberta, January 1980.

Fifteen, Banff Centre Gallery, Banff, Alberta, 1979.

Watercolour Painting in Canada: A Survey of Traditional and Experimental Forms, UW Arts Centre Gallery, (National Juried Show), University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, June 7 to August 30, 1979.

Alberta Society of Artists Group Show, Juried Exhibition, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Lethbridge, Alberta, April 1979; Shell Oil Centre, June 1979.

University of Calgary Faculty Show, University of Alberta Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta, March 1979.

Alberta College of Art Staff Show, Calgary, Alberta, January 1979.

A. Meads, A. Mansell, University of Calgary Art Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, September 8-22, 1978.

Little Gallery, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, March 1978.

Print and Drawing Show, University Gallery, Calgary, Alberta, November 1977.

Manisphere 1977, (National Juried Exhibit), Winnipeg, Manitoba, Fall 1977.

Faculty Exhibition, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, October 1977.

Corner Gallery, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, March 1977.

Four Photo Screen Printers, Gallery of Photography, Vancouver, British Columbia, March 1975.

One-Man Show at the Artist's Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, March 1975.

Deerlake Printmakers, Vancouver, British Columbia, 1971.


R.M. Vaughan, The Globe and Mail Gilligan and Meads: Roaring and ruminating on the matter of distrust Apr 29, 2011.
In Melanie Gilligan’s new show, Economy is a dysfunctional, perhaps disturbed person, while Mickey Meads examines open spaces which are not what they seem.

Visual Arts, Nancy Tousley, The Calgary Herald Thurs., Aug. 5, 1982  A17
Gallery previews local artist’s abstract sleight of hand.  PREVIEW II: ARTHUR MEADS, Paintings in acrylic and gouache, on view at the Mira Godard Gallery.