Artist’s death in B.C. being treated as homicide, leaving family, friends, art community in shock

Canada’s tight-knit art world is reeling after the death in Victoria of multimedia artist Jeremy Gordaneer, in what police are treating as a homicide.

Police said in a release that officers and paramedics were called to a residence in the 1000-block of Carberry Gardens, in the city’s Rockland neighbourhood, around 5 a.m. PT on Aug. 31, where they found a man suffering from life-threatening injuries.

The man died at the scene, police said, and the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit is now handling the investigation.

Police have not released any other information, but several neighbours reported hearing popping sounds like blown tires before police were alerted that morning. 

Investigators have not revealed the name of the man who died, but Gordaneer’s wife and a long-time friend have confirmed that it is the 49-year-old artist, a father of two who lived in Edmonton.

Thea Patterson and Jeremy Gordaneer. Patterson said her husband was an accomplished artist who had painted since childhood, mentored by his father, Toronto-born artist James Gordaneer. (Thea Patterson)

Thea Patterson told CBC News she will miss so much about her husband, who she described as a gentle, playful, poker-faced man who dressed like a “stylish hobo, with his ubiquitous cap on his head and his beard and his warm brown eyes.”

“He had an incredible ability to put people at ease. It was almost miraculous how he could do that with his kind of disarming humour,” said Patterson, a choreographer and dance dramaturge.

Her voice broke when she described the moment police officers came to their home in Edmonton last Tuesday to inform her of Gordaneer’s death. She said the shock cause her to lose all sensation in her body and she struggled to see.

She said police told her that Gordaneer’s death was suspicious, but not much else.

Accomplished artist

Gordaneer, who grew up in Victoria, was the son of visual artist James Gordaneer, an abstract painter whose home in the city was an artistic hub.

An oil-on-canvas painting by Jeremy Gordaneer entitled She Rests in Space #2. (Jeremy Gordaneer/WordPress)

Patterson said her husband was an accomplished artist who had painted since childhood, mentored by his father. 

She said his life had been cut short just as he was on the cusp of launching into a new artistic endeavour of set design.

A set designed by Jeremy Gordaneer for Shakespeare’s Richard III at the University of Alberta. Gordaneer’s wife Thea Patterson says he was preparing to move more into set design. (Jeremy Gordaneer)

Gordaneer and Patterson went to high school together in the area.

When Patterson looked back at her husband’s Oak Bay High School yearbook she realized she probably had a “bit of a crush on him” even as they graduated together as teens. The pair married in 2018 after reconnecting in Montreal.

“We ended up falling in love. It was just the perfect fit,” she said.

They moved to Edmonton, where Gordaneer had just finished his master’s degree in scenic design for theatre at the University of Alberta.

Patterson said her husband — who had two children, Sylvie Gordaneer, 22, and Clea Gordaneer, 20, from a previous marriage — had travelled to Victoria to help his mother, who recently had eye surgery.

‘Heartbroken and stunned’

Montreal musician Eric Craven described his long-time friend as a unique collaborative innovator who excelled in almost every discipline he touched — from album covers for Craven’s band Hangedup to designing sets for theatre productions.

“He was an open spirit and really curious and immensely talented. He could see the links between everything. Wherever he went, he made a big impact,” said Craven.

Jeremy Gordaneer in his Victoria studio in younger years, in a photo taken by his long-time friend Eric Craven. (Eric Craven)

Sen. Patricia Bovey said Gordaneer’s sudden death has left people “heartbroken and stunned.”

Bovey, who was director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria during the 1980s and 1990s, said Gordaneer’s father helped start the Chapman Group, a gathering of artists who met weekly and worked on everything from poetry and paintings to drawings, sculptures and stage set designs. James Gordaneer died in 2016.

“He was very proud of his son,” said Bovey.

“I saw in Jeremy a young artist with huge potential,” she added.

She said she felt sick when she heard of his death. “It still pierces my soul. Canada lost a creative individual who was very, very gentle,” she said.

No arrests have been made in the investigation, police in Victoria said.

They are asking anybody who was in the area of the 1000-block of Carberry Gardens from 6 p.m. on Aug. 30 to 6 a.m. Aug. 31 to share any video or dashcam footage they might have with police.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit information line at 250-380-6211.

An oil-on-panel painting by Jeremy Gordaneer entitled Rust City. (Jeremy Gordaneer/WordPress)

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