Burrard Arts—December 24, 2019
As tea steeps in Howie Tsui’s backyard studio, I sit across from an illuminated screen looping fragments of his new animated works. Tsui has spent the past ten weeks working as the resident artist at Burrard Arts Foundation, but on this rainy day, it was fair to assume that a meeting space closer to home would be better suited. This scene is familiar to Tsui’s artistic practice; in recent years, he has taken a body of illustrations on paper and collaboratively translated them into fully-realized animated video.
Burrard Arts—January 7, 2020
Ritual, folklore, and community are some of the topics Cindy Mochzuki investigates through her richly cinematic practice. Through textile work, puppetry, and interactive performance, her upcoming show at BAF Gallery, ‘The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel, and the Mirror’, will also explore these themes.
A multidisciplinary artist, Mochizuki’s work manifests in forms including video, installation, photography and textile. In having such a diverse practice, the crucial archival themes of her work are thoroughly and flexibly investigated. For Mochizuki, family and memory are ‘pliable concepts’, constantly evolving and strengthening inter-generational knowledge. After all, the methods through which humans communicate their history, and pass on cultural lore are wide-ranging and flexible.
Burrard Arts—December 16, 2019
The Garage Street-Facing Public Exhibition Window
Call for Proposals
DEADLINE EXTENDED TO 11:59PM, Tuesday, January 21, 2020
How to Apply: View full Call for Proposals
Burrard Arts—November 29, 2019
With ‘The Thinking Eye’, Kate Metten brings her deep engagement with theory and modernism to a show of exclusively paintings – a bold departure for an emerging artist known primarily for ceramics. For this interview, we asked Metten a few questions about the works, her process, and her experience in the Burrard Arts Foundation Residency Program.
Burrard Arts—December 6, 2019
In ‘Eleven Minutes Late’, Ryan Quast creates a paradox, producing replicas of consumer goods through painstaking hand labour. The show is a departure from his previous works in that this time he shows objects that are useless rather functional, although they’re still as mundane as ever. In this interview, we talk to Quast about British TV, his unique paint-sculpting process, and how he stays motivated when his pieces take years to complete.
Burrard Arts—November 19, 2019
In this interview, we learn about Mollie Burke’s spatial explorations via her installation in the BAF Garage, and the process of transitioning her practice away from a familiar 2D space of a canvas.
Burrard Arts—October 11, 2019
Trained from an early age in both pottery and painting, Vancouver-based artist Kate Metten has been widely recognized for her ceramic art practice, which uses sculptural abstraction to explore the intersections and contradictions between painting and ceramics. Metten’s Summer 2019 Artist Residency at Burrard Arts Foundation represents a critical shift in the emerging artist’s oeuvre, being her first solo exhibition that focuses primarily on painting. Mentored by well-established Canadian artists such as painter Mina Totino, and potter Gailan Ngan, Metten’s work is informed by a deep appreciation for the lineages of knowledge and convergent histories of aesthetics in craft- and object- making.
Burrard Arts—October 15, 2019
In this fast paced society, immediate gratification is at the root of most media we consume. With his new show Eleven Minutes Late BAF’s most recent Resident Artist Ryan Quast creates something that transcends this notion. By painstakingly brushing layer upon layer of paint and waiting for each to dry, Quast creates remarkable sculptures of objects that some might call unremarkable.
Burrard Arts—July 24, 2019
Chris Eugene Mills’ display in the Garage, ‘a finely-tuned interference engine thwarted by a painting of an ouroboros (in thirty-six parts)’ presents a coded performance of data, that consumes and regenerates itself, as a beautiful array of digital ‘paintings’.
We sat down with the artist to discuss his experience of working in a site-specific space, and learn more about the becomings of this particular instillation.
Burrard Arts—July 11, 2019
With ‘Flat Moon’, Scott Billings deviates from his primarily video-based installation work to produce an abstract show. In this interview, we chat with the Vancouver-based artist about the new works created during his residency and the personal curiosities that drove them.
Read on to gain deeper insight into ‘Flat Moon’, and be sure to join us for his artist talk this Saturday, July 13th at 2pm in the gallery.
Burrard Arts—June 7, 2019
Looking at and thinking through the work of Vancouver-based, multi-disciplinary artist Scott Billings, I’m reminded of the thin line between skepticism and paranoia. Through an orchestrated performance of computer programming, sculpture, video, and installation, what Billings seems to be creating above all is a sense of uncertainty: how am I seeing that? is it real? His work begs the questions, then burrows into a tantalizing tunnel of conspiracy theories that makes the viewer distrust their own perception, emptying out the distinction between real and unreal in the first place. That is to say, his works are stimulating and unsettling thought experiments, that also happen to be fascinating to watch.
Burrard Arts—July 2, 2019
In a contemporary setting, it is becoming increasingly difficult to divorce ourselves from technology. Produced in BAF’s Artist Residency program, Emily Hermant’s new show till your voice catches the thread speaks to the yearning for human intimacy that can occur as we coexist more and more intimately with our technological surroundings. In these new works, Hermant examines this notion through woven static emulations and textile-like castings.
Burrard Arts—May 16, 2019
Charlene Vickers allowed her work to grow intuitively and organically in her BAF Gallery show, ‘Chrysalis’. Coming into the Residency Program from a period of intense creative activity, Vickers chose to approach her time in the program as both a space of much-needed rest, and the chance to sow the seeds of a new body of work – one that clearly sits within the lineage of her vibrant, abstract paintings, but brings them into a looser, less structured mode of production. In this interview, BAF chats with the artist about these new works and her experience creating them.
Burrard Arts—April 12, 2019
Holly Schmidt, Burrard Arts Foundation’s most recent resident, has spent her ten-week residency immersed in the complexities of desert plants. Her temporary studio at the gallery is, when I visit, a dusty landscape of papier-mâché prickly pear, agave, and yucca plants—a desert topography she is creating for her upcoming show Quiescence, opening at BAF Gallery on April 5. Using corn starch and newsprint to create ephemeral plant sculptures, Schmidt is circling back to a subject and process she first discovered more than four years ago. She first began creating papier-mâché plants as part of an art and agriculture project involving youth at Moving Arts in Española, New Mexico, where she was struck by the form and resiliency of desert flora, as well as the complexity of interconnected communities there. “This was an opportunity to return to something and to see what would flourish in the right conditions,” she told me.
Burrard Arts—April 23, 2019
Identity, memory, and sexuality are just some of the overarching themes explored in Rafael Soldi’s current show at the Burrard Arts Foundation. The show comprises two new bodies of work: in one, ‘Cargamontón’, Soldi delved into the near-forgotten hazing rituals he experienced growing up in Peru; the other, ‘Imagined Futures’, he contemplates the paths his life could have taken had he not immigrated from that country. Below, we speak with Soldi about his practice, this show, and his future projects.
Birthe Piontek’s Burrard Arts Foundation Residency, and the resulting exhibition, represented exciting ventures for the artist in scale, material, and form. In this interview, we spoke with Piontek about her artist residency at BAF’s Vancouver studio, progressing to object-based work while remaining engaged with photography, her fascinations with cloth and the body, and more.
The Garage Public Exhibition Space
Call for Proposals
Deadline: Friday, February 22
How to Apply: View full Call for Proposals.
With the Burrard Arts Foundation’s move into new premises at 258 East 1st Avenue has come an exciting addition to our programming: The Garage. A former loading bay, The Garage has been renovated into a street-facing, glass-fronted exhibition space. The work inside will be visible through the pictured glass garage door only; gallery guests will not be able to enter the space.
In keeping with the BAF’s mission to support emerging artists, foster creativity in the public realm, and break down barriers to accessibility, we are excited to announce that we will be opening up The Garage to proposals from local artists. The Garage is an ideal opportunity for artistic experimentation, and a low-barrier way for artists to get involved in BAF’s activities. The Garage acts as the most public access point into BAF’s on-site programming, and we are seeking proposals that will spark public curiosity and engage passersby with the gallery.
We are now accepting proposals, with a deadline of Friday, February 22nd. The selected artist(s) will be notified on Friday, March 1st, with the first selected installation opening on Friday, April 5 alongside BAF Gallery’s next exhibitions from artists Holly Schmidt and Charlene Vickers.
Full submission guidelines, and directions on how to apply, can be found in the full Garage Call for Proposals. We invite you to reach out with any questions you may have around the feasibility and suitability of your idea.
Thank you so much, and we look forward to seeing your ideas!
Birthe Piontek’s photographs tell personal, sometimes unsettlingly intimate stories. Looking at her work, one imagines her subjects’ interior monologues through nothing but their poses, the objects they hold, and the settings in which they are shown. The figures seek to individuate themselves, often through the decorative trappings with which people are equally as likely to set themselves apart as associate themselves with others.
Burrard Arts—April 24, 2019
‘Building’ incorporates both installation and photographic work. To you, how do these two mediums work together in the show?
Burrard Arts—April 23, 2019
Borrowing its title from a famous line from ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, Tyler Toews’ show ‘He who marches out of step hears another drum’ shares his remarkable journey. A survivor of mental illness, Toews is no stranger to oppression, and his dramatic, expressive large-scale works convey a message that is hopeful and positive without shying away from the darkness and struggle that’s integral to the human experience. In this interview, BAF spoke to Toews about the influence of memory on his practice, his recent experiments in screenprinting, and his visions for the future of his work.
Burrard Arts—April 24, 2019
With their distinct language of bold colour, gestural shapes and loose hints of representation, Tyler Toews’ paintings speak clearly without being overly literal. Their abstracted faces and graffiti-esque brushstrokes are reminiscent of Basquiat and Picasso, but the works exude their own particular energy – despite these impressive comparisons, they stand completely on their own.
The Burrard Arts Foundation (BAF) is pleased to announce that it is relocating its operations into a new, expanded location at 258 East 1st Avenue at the centre of the False Creek Flats neighbourhood, an area increasingly recognized as the burgeoning centre for fine art in Vancouver.
With the new location will come an expansion of the BAF’s programming. BAF’s Residency program, which provides select local (largely emerging) artists with funding and studio space to create new bodies of work, is currently offered 4 times quarterly throughout the year. The residencies culminate in solo exhibitions at the BAF Gallery. Within the new facility, the program’s capacity will double – welcoming eight artists per year and allowing for increased dialogue and relationship between artists who may be working concurrently with one another.
The new facility will also provide the opportunity for a dynamic addition to the organization’s program – a exhibition space that is viewable 24/7 from the street. This highly visible, sidewalk-facing exhibition space will represent another bold opportunity for work by contemporary artists to be shared with the public.
BAF’s new location will celebrate its official opening on October 3rd with a special exhibition and art auction event entitled Artists Supporting Artists, a special collaborative event between BAF and Heffel Auction house. Regular programming will then resume on Thursday, October 18th with two exhibitions of new work from artists Michael Batty and Tyler Toews.
Burrard Arts—April 12, 2019
How did your time in the BAF Residency Program impact the creation of this show? In what directions did it lead your practice?
Burrard Arts—April 25, 2019
Tom Hsu’s photography makes concrete ephemeral and fleeting moments – memories that, undocumented, would have disappeared forever. His images focus on places and people, but not in careful or formally composed arrangements, often showing fragments of buildings or objects casually laid out in space. The people in his work are caught mid-action, engaged in interaction or the energetic high of a night out.
The photographs exist in a fascinating limbo: frozen in time, they communicate stillness, yet seem stolen from fast-paced lives. On the surface, many of the scenes he captures are commonplace, and yet seem infused with a special significance; it reminds one of looking back through the lens of memory, settings charged with special meaning by the experiences that transpired there. Hsu has worked in both portraiture and fashion photography, and these influences are visible in his practice, imbued with a warmth and human touch.
This interest in memory is central to Hsu’s practice; the lingering over of shared moments long after they have passed. “The camera is almost like a time machine,” he says. To Hsu, the holding of memory and image are part of his lineage; he describes how his grandfather grew up in Taiwan, with little in the way of material possessions, but retained a wealth of memories and images with which to craft a family history. After Hsu’s parents moved to Canada, these memories remained, a shared experience even when their family is physically apart.
During and after completing his BFA in Photography at Emily Carr University, Hsu has gone from shooting strictly black-and-white and developing in the darkroom, to working in colour and now printing in large-format inkjet. The progression has clearly trained his eye well. There’s a close attention paid to light and texture in his works, whether it’s empty wine glasses against a white tablecloth or the geometric shadows cast by doorways and entrances. He looks at the human form with that same critical eye; his portraits not only capture their subjects’ physical attributes, but suggest their physicality.
For his upcoming BAF Gallery show ‘Here, under our tongue’, Hsu creates an immersive environment inspired by his works. In combination with the actual photographs, he will display evocative artifacts and keepsakes collected over the course of this Vancouver artist residency, such as curtains from his high-school darkroom, and the shaved-ice machine used in his grandfather’s ice shop when he was growing up. Lighting and audio components will allow visitors to physically experience the unique atmosphere that’s depicted in his photos – creating a multisensory experience that remains true to his unique vision.
See the results of Tom Hsu’s time in the Burrard Arts Foundation’s Vancouver artist residency program in his BAF Gallery solo show, running from August 9th to September 22nd, 2018. Learn more about Hsu’s practice at tomhsu.com.
For this iteration of In Conversation, BAF speaks to Vancouver-based artist residency program participant Karen Zalamea. With a primarily photography-based practice, Zalamea’s intricate compositions explore the play of light and matter in space. To create her BAF Gallery show, ‘When the sun rises, we keep the fire aflame’, Zalamea worked from source material shot in a variety of locations across North America. She manipulated the photographs by printing on silk, canvas, and other unconventional materials, then experimented with cutting, folding, and collaging them. The finished show represents the development of exciting new directions in Zalamea’s practice.
Myfanwy Macleod explores history, violence and colonialism in The Butcher’s Apron, the first work in a new ten-year project of annually commissioned works by the Burrard Arts Foundation installed at The Polygon Gallery’s new North Vancouver location.
The evolution of Presentation House Gallery, The Polygon Gallery represents an exciting new space in which to continue the organization’s exhibition program, which focuses on situating contemporary Canadian art in an international and historical context with an emphasis on photography. On The Polygon’s first floor, which is open and publicly accessible, the BAF will install a new public artwork annually over the next ten years.
Macleod’s work, The Butcher’s Apron, addresses the complicated histories behind the creation of Greater Vancouver as we know it today. Lying on unceded Coast Salish territories, the region remains a contested site fraught with racial, class, and institutional tension. The sculpture is a scale model of the HMS Discovery, the naval vessel captained by George Vancouver that led to the first contact between the European crew and captain and the region’s Indigenous inhabitants.
The Butcher’s Apron depicts the ship long after its arrival in what is now Vancouver, when it had been adapted to serve another role – housing the city’s convict population. The vessel was moored and two levels were added so that it could serve as a makeshift prison. Even the name of the ship speaks to its troubled history – today, the term ‘discovered’ is insensitive in light of the suffering endured by Indigenous peoples post-contact. The name of the finished work also references the violence of colonialism: ‘The Butcher’s Apron’ is a derogatory Irish term for the Union Jack flag, describing not only its blood-streaked appearance, but the bloodshed that occurred in countries under British rule.
The Butcher’s Apron fits into Macleod’s larger practice of photography, painting, and large-scale installations. Within Vancouver, she is known for ‘The Birds’, her large public art commission in Olympic Village. Her works expose the overlapping and intersecting of pop culture, art history, and folk tradition, drawing parallels between how art and mass media are created, circulated, and consumed.
See Macleod’s work The Butcher’s Apron until Autumn 2018 at The Polygon Gallery, 101 Carrie Cates Crescent in North Vancouver.
The Burrard Arts Foundation’s newest public art installation explores global histories of nuclear power – histories that are often shrouded in mystery and danger. In partnership with Capture Photography Festival and InTransit, we are proud to unveil ‘Proving Ground, Nevada, Vancouver’, a new work by Erin Siddall. The first of a recurring BAF commission at the Broadway-City Hall Canada Line station, the photographic public art project is accompanied by a sculptural work to be displayed at BAF Gallery from March 22nd to May 12th, 2018.
The sculptural and photographic works both investigate uranium glass, which was commonly used to make dishware and other novelty items before the Second World War. Often distributed by companies as free perks to their customers in the 1930s, uranium was used to give the glass a yellow or acid-green tint. Recalling a time before radiation was associated with conflict and destruction, the items’ radioactivity is revealed only when they fluoresce green under UV light.
For the public installation, Siddall photographed uranium dishes from her personal collection at a former protest camp in Nevada, near the Mercury Nuclear Testing site. During the Cold War, anti-nuclear demonstrations and encampments occurred here. Siddall photographs the dishes both individually, propped up on rocks as if set down by the protesters who once inhabited this space, and grouped in circular arrangements evoking ritual and incantation. The images shot on location are interspersed with photographs taken in her Vancouver studio, which highlight the dishes’ otherworldly fluorescence against a dark background.
With ‘That mountain is a good listener’, Colleen Brown expands her sculpturally-focused practice in unconventional new directions, drawing inspiration from such surprising sources as weather reports and hobbyist landscape painting to comment on the inevitable gap between representational art and the material experience to which it alludes. Extending the two-dimensional components of the works with gestural and sculptural elements, she seeks to achieve a balance of gesture, image, object, and symbol.
Read on to gain deeper insight into the show directly from the artist, and be sure to join us for the opening reception on Thursday, May 31st at 7PM.
Alex Tedlie-Stursberg explores the constantly flowing streams of interactions and transactions that make up our society in a practice that combines sculpture, assemblage and collage. Interested in the “bottom end of the market”, Tedlie-Stursberg’s works tend to incorporate what might be bluntly referred to as garbage – not just waste and discarded objects, but actual earth and soil. The finished works exude an eccentric, fantastical energy, seeming to come neither from the future nor the past, but perhaps an alternate timeline or dimension. This humour and irreverence characterizes Tedlie-Stursberg’s practice; in the past, he has created video art from a Ron Perlman movie and a mock campfire from found objects.
Burrard Arts—November 21, 2019
Watercolour. Popular culture. Industrial construction. Cross stitching and embroidery. These are all components of our newest resident artist Kim Kennedy Austin’s practice, and though they are often dismissed as frivolous or commercial, she finds in them a wealth of creative fascination.
It’s well known that art forms seen as feminine or domestic, such as quilting, are cast aside as ‘women’s work’ and not considered fine art, despite the skill they require. Austin pays careful attention to these disregarded mediums, using them to comment on a wide variety of topics beyond the stereotypically female – a collapsed bridge or technical manual, for instance, depicted in translucent tones of pink.
Even more so than these statements on gender and femininity, the unifying theme of her practice is labour – something women are both well versed in, and used to seeing go unacknowledged. In her 2013 show Sunny Thoughts & Busy Fingers, for example,the artist selected phrases from sources as diverse as antiquated religious texts and current reality television. A study in jarring contrasts and unexpected commonalities, the Shaker maxim “Cleanliness, Honesty, Frugality” could be found alongside “Gym, Tan, Laundry” from Jersey Shore. The snippets were rendered as small oval watercolours in a palette of pink, peach, and orange – a complex statement on how ideas about gender and work intertwine themselves with high and low culture.
Also referenced in Austin’s work are time-consuming practices typically ignored by the realm of fine art. In her 2009 series Pimp Juice, she depicted vintage book covers, intrigued by their meticulously hand-illustrated designs. The books date from the ’70s and ’80s, the tail end of the era before all such media would be digitally produced. Austin used the gendered medium of watercolour to artistically reproduce the covers, themselves the product of painstaking hand labour.
Her most recent show, Fast Girls Get There First at Wil Aballe Art Projects in Spring 2017, perfectly synthesized these themes of gender and labour. Austin sourced editorial and advertising copy from outdated issues of Seventeen magazine, then reproduced them in the unusual mediums of fuse beads and scratch paper – both craft materials commonly used by young girls. The magazine was founded in 1944 with the intention of guiding young women towards respectable womanhood, and the finished works call up the quiet hours its readers would have spent absorbing these cultural messages with hands engaged in crafts, keeping busy but producing nothing of particular value.
Almost all of this found source material is located in the recent past – that hazy region that exists beyond memory, but has yet to achieve the status of history. Her 2012 show AJ, shown at the Malaspina Printmakers Society, focused on the famous 1930s manhunt for the ‘mad trapper’ Albert Johnson across the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The search involved the use of technologies that, at the time, were both old and new – pursuit by dogsled, live radio, and plane. Like the book cover series, these technologies are barely outdated; they still exist, but are no longer new. The times Austin shows us may have passed, but their remnants persist, undercurrents in today’s society.
Austin considers all her work to be a form of drawing, usually starting in this format and sometimes later expanding or embellishing in thread, ink, or paint. The humble, accessible medium suits perfectly the small-scale, intimate nature of many of her finished pieces, and the loaded themes she tackles in a deceptively quiet way.
In recontextualizing found source material, Austin combines style and subject to locate the play of politics and power that is inherent to all cultural material. Her BAF exhibition will be opening in early November, and we cannot wait to see what she puts together during her time with us.
Find out more about Kim Kennedy Austin’s practice on her website at kimkennedyaustin.weebly.com.
In Conversation: Andrew Maize
From skateboarding, to exploring the European art scene, to what she’s working on now – Laura Piasta spoke with us about her life as a Vancouver artist and her current residency at BAF.
We spoke with Shawn Hunt, B.C. based Heiltsuk artist, on his upcoming series of paintings, entitled Line as Language.
Vancouver artist Angus Ferguson is preparing for the launch of his latest show at BAF Gallery (108 E Broadway), Where Have All The Good Times Gone. A graduate of the Langara Fine Arts and Emily Carr, Angus’s work varies from illustration to oil painting to video. Angus grew up in a creative household, with a father who was a filmmaker with NFB in the 1960s. He was always encouraged to pursue his creative ideas, which at the time were mostly drawing. Influenced by comic books and great illustrators, Angus embraced this drawing style from his own interests but also as a form of rebellion. In his experience at art school, illustration was maligned as not being ‘high art’, so Angus decided to embrace this taboo drawing style.
Angus’s work in this particular exhibition was created while taking a break from other projects; letting his mind relax and paint freely. This gives them an instinctually playful, surreal, and unfinished quality. The title, Where Have All The Good Times Gone, is equally playful. A famous song by the Kinks and covered by Van Halen, it is a lament for youth, for simpler times. This is what Angus’s show is about: taking a break from his more formal oil paintings, to enjoy playful illustration again as he did in his youth.
Angus finds inspiration in movies, some of his favourites being the classic films, North by Northwest, The Thing, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. He also finds inspiration in watching the creativity of children. He finds that a person has the most creativity as a child, while they can still make their own rules, before they start looking for approval and acceptance from others. The attempt to recapture this child-like liberty and abandon is evident in every piece of Angus’s latest series. Perhaps this tactic, of drawing without caring what you are creating or why, is a direct path to true creativity.
Don’t miss Angus Ferguson’s show, Where Have All The Good Times Gone, opening on May 19th, artist talk at 6:15pm.
Text by Alexandra Best and Angus Ferguson
Burrard Arts—May 1, 2019
Karen Zalamea’s works both epitomize and transcend their medium. Through compositions that focus on the interaction of light and surface, the newest participant in our Vancouver artist residency program explores the fundamental nature of matter in space, essentializing materials to the way they fold, drape, crumple and reflect.
Her photographs diverge from the notion of the medium as record; a function that is ever more omnipresent in our age of constant digital documentation. In fact, it is not immediately obvious that many of the works are photographs at all. They seem to document a conceptual state of being, erasing the imperfect nature of the tactile materials that went into their creation.
Burrard Arts—November 21, 2019
Battlestar Galactica, sci-fi fandom, meteorites and skateboarding –Keith Langergraber, our newest resident artist, finds fascination in these fringe subcultures. The artist, who completed a BFA at the University of Victoria, his Masters at UBC, and currently teaches at Emily Carr, will display the results of his residency here at the BAF beginning January 12.
Langergraber is a true multimedia artist, equally comfortable working in film, sculpture, assemblage, drawing and installation. In fact, his shows are usually made up of a combination of these forms. However, as diverse as his chosen mediums are, the themes and subject matter he’s attracted to remain remarkably consistent. Langergraber sees art where many don’t – in obsessive niche communities with their own highly developed rules and hierarchies. His three-part film, Theatre of the Exploding Sun,follows a fictional character played by the artist, as he investigates a rift in the time-space continuum created by Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty. The project has been featured in three of his shows to date, and borrows the lo-fi aesthetic of DIY fan filmography. Langergraber also explored skate culture in his show Concrete Poetry, and his most recent exhibition, Betrayal at Babylon, delved into the obscure world of meteorite hunters.
Langergraber’s work finds parallels and commonalities between what’s traditionally considered “fine art” and the outsider fascinations that may nevertheless be the product of just as much labour and inspiration. Aesthetically, his work draws comparisons to art brut – ironically, of course, as Langergraber is an established mid-career artist. But still, his work retains the rawness and urgency of many of the outsider forms by which he’s inspired. His sculptures are reminiscent of the geeky, technical practice of model-building, and his drawings bring to mind obsessively detailed projects by inmates and psychiatric patients.
For The Gates of Heaven, his upcoming show at the Burrard Arts Foundation, Langergraber used Paul Scheerbart’s 1913 utopian science fiction novel Lesabéndia as a jumping-off point. Described as a ‘cosmic ecological fable’, the book’s admirers included Gropius and Walter Benjamin. Along with Scheerbart’s other masterwork Glass Architecture, the book exemplifies the utopian trope of glass as the construction material of the spotless future, depicting a mad architect building a 44-mile tall tower to save his planet. Langergraber will reference the book in both sculpture and drawing, creating waves of urban growth that mimic the replicating structure of crystals.
The work draws attention to the similarities in the way human and natural organisms propagate, and the perhaps false binary that exists between them. Integrated with man-made structures drawn from Scheerbart’s book will be depictions of organically occurring structures of the same material – the glass reefs of BC’s Haida Gwaii region. Dating back 9000 years, these natural architectures consist of glass silica skeletons that can reach up to eight stories high. In Langergraber’s work, the organic and utopian structures will appear to be growing together, replicating madly as all things in nature do.
Visible on the walls around the sculptural installation will be a suite of drawings depicting the reefs and an altered Hubble Telescope image that, under the name the Gates of Heaven, circulated virally on Facebook in January 2016. The image had been digitally altered to add a futuristic landscape to a real photograph of the Omega Nebula, but was shared by many who saw it as an actual portal, of a mystical or fantastical nature. The angular, crystalline structure of the picture’s altered component certainly recalls Scheerbart’s utopian cities.
Langergraber worked with Heather McDermid to create an audio element that synthesizes these two elements of the show. Embedded within the sculptures, speakers will play a soundscape created from sonifications of electromagnetic radiation generated by stars, planets and events sounds that originate from within and outside of our galaxy, including sounds generated by stellar winds from the actual Omega Nebula.
Much in the same way that the boundary between the man-made and natural is broken down in Langergraber’s work, so too do the lines between fact and fiction prove themselves irregular and movable. Collaging together art, science, fantasy and nature, The Gates of Heaven leaves the viewer questioning their own experience of reality.
Join us for the opening of The Gates of Heaven on January 12 from 7-10pm, along with Circle, Sphere, Horizon Line from Lyndl Hall. The show will be displayed until February 18, 2017.
We spoke with Eric Metcalfe about his upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016.
Burrard Arts—May 1, 2019
FOTOFILMIC17 marks the third consecutive year that BAF Gallery has hosted the Vancouver stop of this travelling group photographic exhibition. Based on Bowen Island, the organization has broadened their focus in that time to include multiple sub-exhibitions, their PULP Gallery location, and a printed photo-book. The exhibition will also be stopping in Paris, France; Thessaloniki, Greece; and New York City.
Burrard Arts—November 21, 2019
For this iteration of our series In Conversation, we spoke to Virginie Lamarche, curator and co-founder of the FotoFilmic travelling exhibition and photobook.
Burrard Arts—May 1, 2019
Lucien Durey is interested in things, places, and people. Throughout his prolific body of work, the common thread is an examination of how humans leave their mark on the places they inhabit, and the objects they accrue – collecting, eroding, infusing them with secret meaning.
For Durey’s most recent exhibition, the Eternal Return group show at the Richmond Art Gallery, he repurposed colourful glass fragments pulled from historical, geographic and personal contexts. Using metal and rope, he reimagined them into large, mobile-like sculptures that were presented alongside a series of vocal performances. By blending fragments of complex origin into new forms, then creating music in their honour, Durey mythologizes these diverse histories, and plays into the show’s theme as stated by curator Sunshine Frère – the “cyclical repetition of all things and situations throughout time”.
Burrard Arts—November 21, 2019
It can be tempting to think of art and science, technology and craft as entirely separate fields; foreign worlds that view each other only from the outside. In fact, some of the most transcendent work in any discipline comes when these artificial boundaries are broken down. Our newest resident artist, Matthew Talbot-Kelly, has demonstrated this throughout his diverse career, masterfully working in mediums from architecture to assemblage to film.
Despite this versatility, Talbot-Kelly’s work remains distinctive across all mediums. Seeing no dividing line between the realms of tech and art, the artist has created virtual reality experiences, narrative apps for iOS, and short films that blend physical models and computer animation, in addition to more traditional, material visual mediums such as sculpture, assemblage and installation.
Talbot-Kelly’s short films ‘Blind Man’s Eye’(2007) and ‘The Trembling Veil of Bones’(2010), for which he acted as writer, director, and production designer, blend computer animation with collaged live-action models to create a dreamlike, unsettling effect, bringing dimensionality to the usually flat medium and an imperfect, handmade appearance to a form of animation that often appears slick or even impersonal.
This focus on creating experiences and environments extends to Talbot-Kelly’s visual art, as well. ‘Blow 24 FPS’, a 2015 project installed in Gibsons, BC, is another work that demonstrated how seamlessly Talbot-Kelly is able to blend craft and technology. The installation used found materials such as plywood, doors, packing crates, and even cardboard, into which he burned a series of sequential images using a blowtorch. This labour intensive process allowed the found and altered objects to act as frames, creating an animation of a bird in flight when displayed together in quick succession. The physical installation comprised all the panels joined together in a wavelike formation, and a video on the artist’s website demonstrated the animated effect.
In his 2013 pieces ’After Motherwell and ‘Digital Motherwell’, Talbot-Kelly transformed acrylic studies on paper into digitally rendered three-dimensional brushstrokes. That piece then became ’graffiti loops’(2014), a large format wall mounted screen displaying these marks in the form of animated, interactive loops, able to be controlled by the viewer via tablet.
A true multidisciplinary artist, Talbot-Kelly also holds a Bachelor of Architecture, and his 2016 project ‘Artist Studio/Tiny House’showcases these skills. The work comprised a complete live/work space in just 290 square feet, containing a kitchenette, washroom, and working space. The house’s layout is tapered both vertically and horizontally, creating an optical illusion to make the already tiny space appear even smaller. Fulfilling the structure’s intended functionality, Talbot-Kelly has been inhabiting it on weekends for the past six months. “For me, an unrealized idea isn’t nearly compelling as one fulfilled,” says the artist. This focus on embodiment and corporeality is a common thread throughout his body of work.
Other projects include ‘articulated subtext’(2016), a virtual reality experience of swimming through a sea of text, and ‘Circling Towards a Possible Present’(2017), an interactive installation work currently in production which deploys 3-D game engine technology to drive three slow motion interactive portraits, to be presented via tablet and projector.
While Talbot-Kelly’s upcoming Burrard Arts residency project is still coming together, one can expect that like his previous work, it will blend art, craft, construction and technology to fascinating effect.
Matthew Talbot-Kelly’s exhibition will run from July 6 to July 29, 2017 at BAF Gallery, 108 E Broadway. Visit http://www.matthewtalbotkelly.com/to find out more about the artist.
Burrard Arts—June 29, 2019
Art and craft, history and modernity, form and function, East and West – the work of new resident artist Brendan Tang breathes in the balance between opposing forces. Shown and collected around the world, his work demonstrates a rare capability to be as conceptually complex as it is viscerally appealing.
Partially motivated by his own ‘ethnically ambiguous’ background, a central concern of Tang’s practice is hybridity: the strange new entities that form when cultures, eras, and art-forms clash. He has primarily worked in the medium of ceramic, historically associated more strongly with craft and decoration than the academy of fine art.
His 2016 body of work ‘Manga Ormolu’ explored hybridity alongside cultural appropriation – specifically, its role in the historically racist Western concept of ‘the Orient’. The Ormolu from which the show draws its name are historic Chinese ceramic vessels, which the French would bring back from China, then adorn with opulent gold accents. These objects would be gifted to European aristocrats as curiosities taken from the ‘Far East’ – an amalgamation of Asian countries in the Western eye. Tang takes these objects, already the result of early globalization, and brings them to a contemporary, and even absurdist place, by mashing them up with robot prostheses inspired by manga and anime.
Manga, like the gilded decorations the French added to these Eastern artifacts, also acts as an Orientalizing entry point to Japanese culture for many North Americans. However, the socio-cultural dialogue Tang is initiating is more layered than that, subverting the elitism of historical high culture by integrating it with the hypermodern ephemera of pop culture and science fiction.
Even when Tang works in other mediums, the decorative arts remain prominent. In his 2012 series ‘Swimmers’, the artist references the blue-and-white pattern that has appeared on ceramics from the Chinese Ming Dynasty to the Netherlands. Tang reimagines the pattern as designs on the surface of a pool of water from which pairs of figures emerge. By using this cultural iconography to create a visual metaphor, Tang is evoking the “fish out of water” sensation of culture shock. His choice to represent groups of figures, many of which could be viewed as parent and child, alludes to the social nature in which culture is constructed; it’s not hard-wired, but learned.
For his residency now taking place at BAF Gallery, Brendan Tang will again re-situate motifs from the decorative arts into new contexts. For the upcoming January show, Tang’s initial inspiration was the curvilinear cloud motif found in Chinese ceramics and scroll paintings, and also reminiscent of the French Nouveau style. The artist will use the BAF space to create an experimental installation that imagines these cloud forms in three dimensions, modified with technological elements, playing out the themes that characterize his work while creating an entirely new experience.
See the results of Brendan Tang’s residency in his BAF Gallery show from January 11th to March 10th, 2018.
Wandering though Emily Neufeld’s ‘Before Demolition’ conjures up the specific, almost uncomfortable feeling of finding oneself alone in a home that is not yours. Neufeld gained permission to explore houses set to be demolished, then created photographs, sculptures, and site-specific interventions using these intimate experiences as raw material. She displayed the photographs at life-size on the gallery walls, alongside interventions reminiscent of the ones she conducted in these homes, and vaguely humanlike structures created from materials gleaned from these sites. The final effect is an eerie, illusory immersive environment that explores how our bodies interact with space, and speaks to the loaded topic of the current Vancouver housing market.
For this iteration of In Conversation, BAF spoke to Neufeld about this body of work and how it fits into her greater artistic practice.
Burrard Arts—November 21, 2019
It is a basic human impulse to attempt to place oneself within the chaos of the world. For centuries, we have employed geometry, navigation and cartography to make sense of our physical environment, beginning with the simple act of drawing a line. Canadian artist Lyndl Hall works with these themes in drawing, sculpture and video for her current exhibition at the Burrard Arts Foundation, ‘Circle, Sphere, Horizon Line’.
Burrard Arts—April 24, 2019
How did your time in the BAF Residency Program impact the creation of this show? In what directions did it lead your practice?
Burrard Arts—June 29, 2019
In ‘You, Only Better’, Kim Kennedy Austin examines vintage magazine illustrations and their message of self-improvement during the capitalist boom of the post WWII-era. Pulled from 1960s copies of Western Homes and Living magazine and a 1946 workout manual titled ‘Figure Fitness in Fifteen Days: Your Rx for Slenderness’, the characters in the clippings Austin has chosen cheerily model an affluent, heteronormative, patriarchal lifestyle; one that’s presented to the reader as not only desirable, but attainable in just a few simple steps. In this interview, we asked Austin about the inspiration, thematic ideas, and artistic processes behind this show.
Burrard Arts—November 21, 2019
“If you look where other people don’t, you’ll find what others are not seeing.”
These words from Dion Kliner encapsulate the intertwined ideas ingrained in The Mislooked, his current show at the Burrard Arts Foundation. The works pivot on the central duality of symmetry and asymmetry; that is, while visually Kliner finds himself drawn to forms that are imperfect, asymmetrical, and misshapen, he sees the act of focusing on these shapes and bodies as one of ultimate symmetry, or equality. The artist describes himself as “militantly interested in fairness and justice,” and to him, the act of elevating forms typically overlooked is about restoring symmetry to the inherently elitist human search for beauty.
Kliner’s unusual process and materials also reveal his interest in making use of what most people cast away. He modifies the classic art-school material, plaster, by repurposing old, hardened shards and powder discarded from previous work and blending it into wet plaster along with paper pulp and natural fibres, shaping the mixture over a frame of tree branches and wire. The combination causes the plaster to dry much more slowly than normal, allowing it be used in either an additive manner, building it up slowly like clay, or a subtractive one, similar to carving stone.
Many of your previous works incorporate an element of chance or serendipity. For example, your installation “Falling: Catching” was a brick wall held together by only twine, sticks, and gravity. What can you tell us about this recurring theme, and to what degree is it present in your current show at BAF Gallery?
Kelly Lycan is a Canadian, Vancouver-based artist working primarily in photography and installation. Often, her work explores how we display and observe objects, place value upon them, and how they are produced and reproduced. We spoke with Kelly about her work, inspirations, and her BAF residency and upcoming show.
Perception. Chaos. Ritual. Language. These are some of the concerns explored by A Third Thing, Richard Clements’ upcoming show at BAF Gallery. The enigmatic sculptures, which the artist describes as being architectural without mimicking larger buildings, reference spiritual structures such as the altar, grave, or ziggurat.
For this instalment of In Conversation, we spoke to Clements about the complex vision behind this new body of work. Originally from London, England, Clements holds a BFA in sculpture from the Alberta College of Art and Design and an MFA from Goldsmith’s College in his home city. Clements has exhibited throughout Europe and Canada. He works primarily in sculpture and is also an accomplished writer.
For this iteration of our series In Conversation, we spoke to the three contemporary emerging artists selected by curator Gabi Dao to participate in Blood Love Trouble: Julia Dahee Hong, Katrina Niebergal, and Casey Wei.
Blood Love Trouble draws from the highest intensities of human experience, focusing on moments of cultural mixing and clashing and their representation in art. At first glance, the connection between the show’s name and inspirations may seem opaque, or even arbitrary. However, curator Gabi Dao reveals a common thread running through the ideas that she wove together to create the exhibition. “The title Blood Love Troublecame from some of my own artistic research,” she says. “I had been listening to English as a Second Language exercises, both as a part of my own family’s history and as part of an interest in acts of translation. The three words all share the same ‘uh’ sound in the International Phonetic Alphabet.” Together, the words imply conflict and drama, themes that reverberate throughout the show.
Dao was intrigued by the premise of the phonetic alphabet; universal symbols used to represent the spoken sound of any human language. She then expanded this into a broader exploration of how acts of translation play into issues of memory, violence, and territory. These ideas are encapsulated in a work that formed one of the show’s central inspirations: ‘Promenade’ by Taiso Yoshitoshi. The print is emblematic of the artistic and cultural currents running through Edo-era Japanese society, and belongs to the tradition of ukiyo-ewoodblock prints that enjoyed great popularity at the time. Meaning ‘floating world’, these prints depicted popular activities of leisure: vanity and grooming, celebration over food and drink, and visiting red-light districts to spend time with sex workers and geisha.
‘Promenade’ depicts a beautiful society wife in Western-style clothing, complete with hat and parasol. It was originally part of a series that depicted women in subservient roles such as courtesan, geisha, and housewife. To Dao, the image exemplifies the shifts in cultural attitudes that defined the era, with previously isolationist Japan opening up to the modernity of the global community.
To connect these ideas to contemporary concerns, Dao looked for artists within the Malaspina Printshop Archives whose work paid homage to the history of woodblock prints. She then reached out to the three emerging artists who created new work for the show: Julia Dahee Hong, Katrina Niebergal, and Casey Wei. Together, the artists and curator selected six prints to be included from the Malaspina Printshop Archives within the Burnaby Art Gallery collection, and one print from the Malaspina Printmakers Society Consignment Collection. Then, Dao simply let a trans-disciplinary conversation unfold, with the emerging artists using modern mediums such as video, audio, and multimedia sculpture to respond to the archival prints. “Each of the artists have strong practices in different mediums that I felt could be involved in a fruitful conversation around themes I was working with,” says Dao.
The final effect is a fascinating dialogue; the diverse works all coexist harmoniously in the gallery space. Visual, video, audio, and even scent combine to create a rich experience that both addresses Dao’s initial ideas and also creates something new. Join us at the Burrard Arts Foundation to see the show in person until April 1, 2017 and stay tuned for additional interviews with the participating artists.
Programmed by the efforts of Malaspina Printmakers Society, the Burrard Arts Foundation and the City of Burnaby Permanent Art Collection, courtesy of the Burnaby Public Art Gallery.
Burrard Arts—July 19, 2019
Scott Billings’ artistic practice is marked by a material ingenuity. An engineer and industrial designer as well as a visual artist, it’s clear that for Billings, these concerns exist symbiotically. Creating sculptures and video installations that centre around issues of animality, mobility and spectatorship, Billings often makes use of industrial techniques – in the past he’s employed rare earth magnets, laser pointers, IMAX film, and custom circuitry. For his Façade 2017 project, Billings will use 3D scanning and printing to create a scale model of the Vancouver Art Gallery, then record it being physically damaged and manipulated. Projecting this back onto the enormous structure will create an illusory material experiment on a monumental scale.
Burrard Arts—June 29, 2019
With a career spanning four decades, Paul Wong has been an instrumental proponent to contemporary art in Canada. Often with an element of narrative, much of his work is site-specific or video-based. An award-winning artist and curator, Wong has led public arts policy, organized festivals and public interventions, and been a founding member of groups including VIVO Media Arts and the Mainstreeters collective. His works have been collected internationally, by institutions including the National Gallery of Canada and Whitney Museum of American Art. He is the recipient of major awards including the 2015 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Art and the 2016 Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts. His Façade Festival 2017 project will shine a light on a piece of recent Vancouver history many would prefer to forget: the 2011 Stanley Cup Riots.
From Five Octave Range, a free public artwork designed by Paul Wong for the 2017 Vancouver Opera Festival.
Annie Briard’s work explores the fragility of the real. Although the world we experience may give the illusion of being fixed, objective, impartial, it’s more fallible than that, an image painted impressionistically by the senses. It’s in this ambiguity that Briard finds inspiration – vision, perception, and where they diverge, in the form of hallucination or illusion. She works in video, photography, and installation to create works that explore how we construct our own reality, all with the hazy aura of a fading memory.
Blending the tangible and ephemeral to haunting effect, Ben Skinner’s practice is equally informed by curiosity about the nature of language and fascination with the varied materials he works in. His text works play humorously on the subjectivity inherent in communication; pictured below is a piece from his ‘Pangram’ series, which showed absurdist phrases that use every letter of the alphabet. He has made use of materials including mirror, holographic foil, plexiglass, and water marbling, carefully choosing colours including Klein blue and dusty pastels. His projection mapped project for Façade Festival explores the complexities of linguistic nuance with a string of synonyms that gradually digress in meaning.
Beautifully chosen colour and proportion achieve a delicate balance in the works of Fiona Ackerman. Many of her works are completely abstract, but she has also brought representation into her works with series centred around artists’ studios and garden environments. Beyond the mesmerizing aesthetics of her paintings often lays a philosophical inspiration – her 2012 mirror series referenced Foucault, while her 2014 piece Dreams of Zhang Zhou alludes to the famous story of the 4th-century Chinese thinker dreaming that he is a butterfly. Her playful, yet masterfully rendered works exude a deep respect for the discipline of painting.
Luke Ramsey brings a simple, almost childlike style to all of his illustration, collaborations, and murals. His works depart from the most basic elements of visual art: line, colour, and shape. Using a bright, likeable palette to depict friendly characters, scenes from nature, or doodle-inspired lines, his works are equally suited to small-scale drawings and large public installations. He has been featured in Booooooom, the New York Times, Vice, and more, and founded the Island Folds residency on Pender Island in 2005. His Façade Festival 2017 project epitomizes and yet simplifies his practice, covering the Vancouver Art Gallery in quickly evolving squiggles that reference the politically loaded gesture of graffiti-writing.
Burrard Arts—November 20, 2019
Diyan Achjadi’s vibrant, intricately detailed works investigate the relationship between beings and the land they inhabit in an illustrative style that draws heavily on textile traditions such as toile and Javanese batik. The artist’s Indonesian heritage figures prominently in her work, and in the past she has drawn on diverse cultural practices to raise questions about complex issues related to the environment and colonialism. For Façade Festival 2017, she will explore the ocean-bound nature of her home archipelago through an animation of shifting islands and clouds.
‘Media with movement’ is how Evann Siebens describes her practice. A trained dancer, Siebens now works in photography and video art, with her first love of dance often playing a central role. In 2015, BAF Gallery exhibited her show ‘deConstruction’, which recorded the politically and socially charged process of building demolition, bringing to it surprising grace by juxtaposing the films with the delicate accompaniment of Chopin’s preludes. Her Façade Fest 2017 project, Orange Magpies, also deals with place, but includes the theme of dance much more overtly. Siebens collaborated with two dancers, James Gnam and Vanessa Goodman, and filmed their improvisational movements against a series of highly recognizable Vancouver backdrops. By projecting these images onto the Vancouver Art Gallery façade, complex conversations about history, place, and identity begin to unfold.
Shawn Hunt’s practice hinges on the traditional practice of formline, yet makes it uniquely his own. In a distinctive palette of rich blacks and blues against which grey and white seem to jump out at the viewer, providing depth, Hunt brings new subversion to this artform, exploring its narrative potential. Trained as a carver before branching out into painting, his creative background is evident in the relief-like dimensionality of his works, unusual in a style that’s typically more flat. We exhibited his work in ‘Line as Language’, a 2016 solo show, and his Façade 2017 presentation will expand on those works, enlarging and combining them to tell ancient stories at an unprecedented scale.
Burrard Arts—November 21, 2019
We spoke to artist Chris Shier about his upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016.
We spoke with Renée Van Halm about her upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016.
We spoke with artist Barry Doupé about his upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016.
The visual landscape we inhabit is one comprised of images. In this age, pictures are omnipresent and infinitely reproducible, constantly seeking our attention in the form of advertising, popular entertainment, and fine art. It is from this cacophonous dialogue that the artworks of Elizabeth Zvonar, the Burrard Arts Foundation’s newest resident artist, emerge.
Zvonar works mainly in collage and sculpture, often combining the two mediums to add a third dimension to her works. Her collages are composed in an analog manner, with source imagery cut and integrated together by hand, then scanned and printed to create a homogenous surface that retains the appearance of being layered. She examines metaphysics and metaphor through a critical, feminist lens, using images pulled from sources such as luxury marketing and art history itself to rearrange and call into question the visual environment we navigate.
For example, her 2009 series History of Art was comprised of porcelain sculptures and collages based on the iconic art history textbook by H.W. Jansen of the same name. The sculptures were staged as recreations of famous artworks such asRaft of the Medusa, but with cast index fingers standing in for all the figures. The series was included in the 2016 show at Daniel Faria Gallery, Histories of Art.
Her work also made her a perfect complement to MashUp, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s exploration of how art forms made by combining existing material, such as remixing and collage, became so ubiquitous in modern modes of expression. The Experience, her installation at the VAG Offsite, ran concurrently with the show. The collage featured an image of a pair of sunglasses from a 1970s fashion magazine superimposed on a Martian landscape to create a scene of retrofuturistic glamour. The piece’s otherworldly, sun-bleached aesthetic brought warmth to a busy Vancouver intersection during the dreariest months of the year.
Zvonar’s mandate for her upcoming residency has grown out of a previous one she undertook in Brooklyn in the spring of 2016. During that residency, Zvonar used a reading of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex as a way to frame her experience. The text, which was foundational to our current-day understanding of the discrepancies between how we are socialized according to gender, will form an ideological backdrop to the sculpture and collage that Zvonar will produce during her time at BAF. As a jumping-off point, Zvonar will be working from an altered image that encapsulates these ideas – the cover of a 1970 issue of the Saturday Review. The original image shows a woman’s hand, complete with wedding ring, flashing the peace sign; Zvonar has edited it to remove the ring to symbolize female independence and autonomy.
Recently, Zvonar was the only Canadian to be shortlisted for the 2016 Aimia AGO Photography Prize, and was the 2012-2015 City of Vancouver Artist in Residence. In Vancouver, she has exhibited at Western Front, the Contemporary Art Gallery, and Artspeak, among others.
Her upcoming show at the Burrard Arts Foundation will showcase the body of work created during her residency. It will run from April 6 to May 13, 2017. Find out more about Zvonar’s work at http://www.elizabethzvonar.com/.
We spoke to artist Rebecca Chaperon about her upcoming project for Façade Festival 2016
Burrard Arts—June 27, 2019
“I would like to take this opportunity to endorse the candidacy of Mr. Peanut for mayor of Vancouver. Mr. Peanut is running on the art platform, and art is the creation of illusion. Since the inexorable logic of reality has created nothing but insoluble problems, it is now time for illusion to take over. And there can only be one illogical candidate: Mr. Peanut.”
-William S. Burroughs
On Saturday, November 15th (fittingly, civic election day in Vancouver) BAF in partnership with Wil Aballe Art Projects presented a one-day pop-up exhibition of work by Vancouver artist Vincent Trasov, commemorating his 1974 mayoral campaign as Mr. Peanut. As part of the exhibition, BAF also created a very limited run of prints featuring the original campaign posters used for the election, remastered and printed in an edition of ten (see below.)
Forty years ago, Trasov ran for mayor of Vancouver dressed as his adopted top-hatted and cane-carrying alter-ego, Mr Peanut. His was an art-centric platform: P for Performance, E for Elegance, A for Art, N for Nonsense, U for Uniqueness, and T for Talent. He made no speeches or lofty claims to political reform but rather tap-danced his way into the hearts of voters in an absurd and clever campaign. He didn’t win the election (ultimately receiving approximately 4% of the vote; incumbent Art Phillips took office) but his twenty-day performance attracted a surplus of media and the consideration of City Hall, while bringing Vancouver art and politics to national and international attention. The performance was notably featured in Esquire and Interview magazine.
The show, celebrating the campaign’s 40 year anniversary and hosted in a currently-in-transition condo development by the Cambie Street Bridge, featured footage from the 1974 civic election, video of Trasov as Mr Peanut in New York and a collection of Trasov’s drawings of the character made over several years. The drawings (small, pen and ink compositions) illustrate the artist’s fantasies of Mr Peanut playing the doctor, painter, adventurer, traveller, posing provocatively in historical ruins et cetera. Trasov adopted his character in 1969 at a time when a generation of young artists were taking aliases to complement conceptual practices that emphasized performance, repetition, absurdity and chance. Trasov was purportedly attracted to the image of Mr. Peanut (the advertising logo and mascot of the American snack brand Planters) “because it was easy to draw.” He constructed a paper mache costume and embodied the shelled character about town as a means to explore persona, anthropomorphism, and mythology through performativity.
Trasov was a founding member of the Western Front in 1973 (along with seven other artists: Martin Bartlett, Mo van Nostrand, Kate Craig, Henry Greenhow, Glenn Lewis, Eric Metcalfe and Michael Morris) who opened the centre for the production and presentation of new art activity. They aimed to create a space for the exploration and creation of new art forms, and it quickly became a gathering place for poets, dancers, musicians and visual artists interested in exploration and interdisciplinary practices. As a focal point of experimental art practice through the 1970’s and 80’s, the Western Front played a major role in the development of electronic and networked art forms in a national and international context. In 1969, Trasov founded the Image Bank with Michael Morris, a system of postal correspondence between international artists for the exchange of information and ideas. “It was a forerunner to Facebook,” Morris said. “It was an early social network.” The intention of the Image Bank was to create a collaborative, process-based project in the hopes of engendering a shared creative consciousness. In 1991, Trasov and Morris founded the Morris/Trasov Archive, currently housed at Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery to research contemporary art and communication.
Trasov has had numerous international exhibitions and is represented in public and private collections in both Europe and North America. He presently resides and works in Berlin and Vancouver. Concurrently, Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery and the Walter C. Koerner Library at the University of British Columbia has an exhibition of artifacts from the campaign at Koerner Library, 1958 Main Mall. It will run until January 4, 2015.
The exhibition was made possible in partnership with the Burrard Arts Foundation and with generous assistance by Port Capital Group.