by Grady Mitchell | Ed Spence is an analog artist for the digital age, a specialist who takes existing images and pixelates them by hand. His process starts by cutting out a section of an existing image, then slicing that into individual pixels. Next he rearranges those pixels by colour or pattern, and finally he inserts the newly-reorganized section back into the image. The new piece contains untouched stretches of the original artwork interrupted by cascading wave-like gradients, complex geometric patterns, or buzzing static clouds of colour. The pieces are jarringly beautiful: quaint, antiquated images that appear hacked.
Raised in Salmon Arm, Ed studied fine arts at UBCO, focusing on video and sculpture. His education solidified a fascination with materials, the different ways they can be combined to create art. His pixellation series is a way of breaking down an image to study its parts. “Dissecting the material of the image makes you think about the illusion of pictorial space,” Ed says. “It really is a planar, flat medium. But once you cut into it, it becomes three dimensional again. You’re reminded that it always has been a three dimensional image: there’s ink on paper, the light reflecting, the illusion that these are colours.”
Ed’s fascination with fractal patterns started young, instilled by his dad, who would spend hours typing code into the earliest home computers, then have the machine visualize it into spiralling digital patterns. Now Ed is doing essentially the same thing, minus the machinery. “I found that really intriguing, that interplay between math, science, and art.”
Once removed, he says, the pixels no long mean what they did as part of the whole. “Every little piece becomes an entity on its own, you start thinking about the component parts of the picture. How all of those small parts coalesce into a harmonic image.”
In the beginning, Ed sought out a specific style of imagery to rework. He wanted soft, warm images, the kind that fill vintage magazines and travel brochures. “The era that they were from was nostalgic,” he says. “There was something to do with that combination of the futurism infused into these antiquated images that you’d see at your grandmother’s house.”
These days he wants to create an entire image from start to finish, and work in more modern colour palettes. His new work begins with crumpled reflective sheets of paper, which he blasts with coloured lights and photographs, so the vibrant tones get grabbed and warped by the many folds and facets. He then prints those images, slices and pixelates them. The process is the same as his earlier work, but the images are much different: whereas the older images are soft and warm, these new ones feature synthetic colour bursts and unpredictable shapes.
Next Ed plans to apply his pixillation to the human form through a collaborative project with his wife, Julie Chapple, a choreographer and artist. He’s begun work on wearable sculptures (you’ll see him working on a prototype in the images below) which dancers will wear in a performance choreographed by Julie. To see more of Ed’s work, visit his site here.
Tell me about yourselves and your respective roles in your company? Kelly and I formed Falken Reynolds two years ago. We’ve been partners in life for almost nine years now and it was always part of the plan to work together. We both transitioned to being professional designers after having fairly colourful career paths. Kelly was a sailor in the Canadian Navy, a cop in the VPD, a flight attendant, and a hotel manager before making the shift almost ten years ago. I grew up spending summers on horse ranches in Texas and Arizona; studied finance and psychology; taught business at a university in Lithuania; and had an international marketing job before starting design school in Barcelona.
While one of us takes the lead on each project we rely heavily on each other for input, especially during the early conceptual phases. We share the same perspectives on design – that spaces should be relevant to both the people using them as well as the space’s context; that style is deeply personal and subjective and our role is to create a space that reflects what makes each client unique; and that design is constantly evolving and reacting to culture, which is why we travel to Milan each year for iSaloni, the most important event on the contemporary design calendar.
You work and live in Gastown. Why? We moved to Gastown eight years ago because we both craved the authenticity that comes from so many segments of society rubbing shoulders everyday. There is a freedom that comes from the diversity here. [It] stimulates creativity, collaboration, encouragement – all the ingredients that give entrepreneurs the support they need to be successful. Neighbourhoods and cities that aspire for too much homogeny can stifle creativity and draw a person’s focus more towards fitting in than finding their own way. So much of this atmosphere in Gastown stems from the architecture and urban planning of densely packed low-rise buildings with a mix of residential and commercial use. The streets are active and familiar because so many people live and work here – it feels really intimate and neighbourly because people are out and about doing their thing.
You’ve taken a role as an IDSWest ambassador. How has the experience been? Talking about design is pretty natural for us so taking on the role of ambassadors has been a great fit. After ten years, IDSwest has become the anchor event for a month of design activities in Vancouver. When we travel to Milan one of the things that is so inspiring is the critical mass of people (350,000 this year) who are talking about how design impacts our lives – and that same energy is alive in Vancouver over the month of September. Craftsmen and manufacturers are all showing their latest designs and products and from that collective showing we can see the trend line of how society will be living in the years to come. Design fairs are a bit like seeing into the future, just like fashion weeks are – eventually all the custom, high end design trickles down to price points that are more affordable and available. The most exciting thing about IDSwest is bringing so many creative minds under one roof – over the years we have met countless people who we end up working with. There has been a real shift to designers being more open and collaborative (helped by a relatively strong economy and the internet) that we are starting to see how much more we can do when we work together.
We’re designing Shed, the central bar for IDSwest, presented by Caesarstone, and we are working with some of Vancouver’s best design companies to bring it together: Benson, Inform Interiors, And Light, Object Outdoors, Synlawn and Moosehead Contracting. Our taking off point for the concept was a garden party in an abandoned west coast back yard. A lot of the materials that will be used for Shed will be repurposed in the restaurant we’re designing in Chinatown, Sai Woo. It’s true to our perspective on being “green” – build with better quality materials that last longer and can be reused and recycled.
We have a few other things going in the show this year too – we’re designing a couture chair we’ve named Dauphine, for William Switzer, which will be exhibited along with six other chairs designed by leading interior designers. We’re exploring youthful west coast luxury – if Marie Antoinette moved to Gastown this would be her chair… We’re also speaking on the Gray Conversation stage about our career transition to design, as well as sharing our story of being shortlisted for two categories for Western Living’s Designers of the Year.
Who is currently inspiring you in your neighbourhood? We’re lucky to call a lot of our Gastown neighbours and colleagues our friends – so many great people giving 110% everyday and having success in Vancouver as well as an international stage. Their vision and determination for their own businesses has collectively elevated the neighbourhood and gained international recognition as one of the best spots to live and work. We know how lucky we are to be here and experience this moment. There are too many people to name everyone but here are a few that really stand out:
Niels and Nancy Bendtsen from Inform were pioneers in Gastown and have been so supportive to us and so many emerging designers – we have watched them in action in Milan where they are just as comfortable and recognized as they are in Vancouver.
The crew from Roden Gray has been on the cutting edge of mens fashion. Rob Lo is always working on a new and exciting project – we are always inspired by how they run their business and Rob has become a great friend.
The same goes for Jonathon from Litchfield, Paul from L’Abattoir and the crew at Timbertrain – They all work so hard at being excellent at what they do and it shows in the success they have with their business.
When Michael and Charlie from Bailey Nelson approached us to work on their Canadian flagship shop we jumped at the opportunity because we could all see the potential for the rather derelict site on the corner of Cambie and Cordova. They were able to see past the decades of decay and the crumbling building and then trust us to turn it into something fresh and welcoming. We are super happy with the result and hope it inspires other entrepreneurs to set up shop in the neighbourhood.
Name three of your favourite architectural or design landmarks that your neighbourhood offers? The digital photo of the Gastown Riot by Stan Douglas [Abbott & Cordova]. The roof at Inform Interiors – it’s a private gem and one of the best examples of how to keep the heritage of a building on the street and redevelop it for contemporary use. Maple Tree Square – there is so much potential with this space. Even though there have been many failed attempts at improving it, the bones of the square are intact. When the city takes another crack at improving it we’d love to part of imagining how to make it a better public gathering place.
by Grady Mitchell | In anticipation of the Interior Design Show West coming up September 25-28 at the Vancouver Convention Center, we met with Nancy Bendtsen from Inform Interiors to discuss the importance of design in everyday life.
Nancy’s husband, Niels, launched Inform half a century ago when he was just 19. At that time the Pacific Northwest was an epicentre for progressive design. Originally the store sold the handiwork of Niel’s father, who at 12 was pulled from school to apprentice as a Danish cabinet maker. Gradually Niels added other brands and designers, and now Inform, with its twin Gastown locations, is a touchstone of home design in Vancouver.
Like Niels, Nancy is genetically predisposed to be a design lover. When Allan Fleming updated the CN logo in 1960 – a long-overdue revamp that Marshall McLuhan declared iconic – Nancy’s mother found the sleek new lettering so alluring that she packed a young Nancy and herself into the car, drove to the nearest station, and took the shortest possible round trip, just to be on a train featuring the polished logo.
Later Nancy studied architecture at L’ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and at the University of Toronto. Architecture, she says, is less about schematics and flair than it is a general education. “You think over a lot of big things. It was more overall thinking; about humanity, about how people live.”
The things Nancy deems important are often small details that others overlook. “Everything you touch,” she says. “Door handles, cutlery.” Rather than a Dwell-ready house packed with curated spaces, it’s important to slowly collect pieces you truly enjoy, on both an aesthetic and functional level. “You don’t have to have a lot of stuff,” Nancy says, “just stuff you really love.”
As far as IDS West’s imminence is concerned, Nancy is excited for London-based lighting designer Michael Anastassiades, whose work she describes as “very architectural, geometric.” Rub shoulders with Nancy, Michael, and a host of other design aficionados at the Vancouver Conference Center from September 25-28 for IDS West.
by Maya-Roisin Slater | Scout’s new Neighbourhooding series is part of our expanding HOODS project. It explores Vancouver’s myriad neighbourhoods through the eyes of the people who call them home. Jill Southern has lived in Chinatown for 5 years. She’s an art director by trade and the founder of Pender Keefer Georgia, a series of Chinatown guidebooks. We recently caught up with her on East Georgia Street, just a stone’s throw from her apartment…
What or who do you think is a defining fixture of your neighbourhood?
Chinatown streets, any given day from 9 to 6: produce bins are wheeled out to the sidewalk, trucks unload new pig carcasses and containers of fish, parking is near impossible, and the sidewalks are an obstacle course of tourists and old lady carts.
Where’s your favourite place to get breakfast?
Matchstick weekdays, Pazzo Chow Saturdays, Kam Gok Yuen on special occasions.
Tell us about your favourite hideaway…
New Mitzie’s Restaurant on Pender — a classic Chinese-Western diner with endless coffee refills, booth seating, and entertaining people-watching.
What’s the best mom and pop place in the area?
That’s the great thing about Chinatown, it’s full of mom and pop shops. Some of my favourites: Fresh Egg Mart, Golden Wheat Bakery, Chinatown Supermarket.
What sets your neighbourhood apart from other areas in Vancouver?
Chinatown looks and feels like no other neighbourhood in Vancouver. Its distinct culture and history are visible in its buildings, residents and community, while its changing identity makes it fun and fresh. This neighbourhood never bores me. I love how I can feel like a tourist in my own town.
If you could describe your neighbourhood in a haiku, how would it go?
If you were walking through your neighbourhood while courting a lady/gentleman where would you take them to set a romantic scene?
There are a couple of rooftop parkades where, if you know your way around, you can sneak a stellar view of the city.
What’s the scariest thing about your neighbourhood?
The constant fear of getting shat on by pigeons.
What’s your favourite piece of architecture in the neighbourhood?
It’s a tie: 1. Sun Yat Sen gardens (pay the admission fee to see the best of it). 2. [Bob] Rennie’s stunning re-do of the Wing Sang building.
How do you think your neighbourhood will change and develop in the next 5 years?
It will unfortunately become less unique. New businesses and condos will continue to flow into the neighbourhood while hip, modern spots replace unfashionable, old spots. There is a lot of new growth in Chinatown, which doesn’t strike me as entirely bad or good. Chinatown has a very resilient way of dealing with change.
Maya-Roisin Slater speaks English, and is doing her best to turn that into a career. Beyond Scout, her words and photos can be found in publications such as BeatRoute, Discorder, and Lotusland Mag. She also enjoys writing nauseating poetry, pretending that gluten-free-vegan slop is actually food, and bullying her customers at German sausage empire Bestie.
We recently came across Eureka Tea, a new line of locally produced tea. It’s just one of Miranda Hudson’s many creative projects. With a background in graphic design and brand management, a line of all-natural ecologically conscious candles (Feest), and a clear commitment to all things handmade and delicious, putting together a collection of hand-blended, loose leaf teas wasn’t too much of a stretch for her.
Why tea? Because of my deep and abiding love of it. I’ve been a tea drinker ever since I was a little girl. It was something my father would share with me, heavily laden with milk, of course. I’m sure that I drink about 12 cups of tea a day, and that’s enough tea-preparing time to start thinking.
What’s the concept behind your brand? In general, I think tea brands tend to appeal to a female demographic and can be a little overly feminine in their branding, or they veer quite seriously into the Health Brand concept. I wanted to see Eureka embrace a sense of humour about tea and allow people to have fun with it. It’s not stuffy, it’s not necessarily for your grandmother (unless she’s got a wicked sense of humour). I decided to include some lighthearted phrases on the packaging that are completely obvious but only make sense if you take time to decode them, essentially interacting with the package to reveal the whole story. Tea itself is a ritual that requires you to take a moment and your first interaction with the package encourages you to do that.
What was the most fun you’ve had in developing this line? The learning process that goes into it – there’s so much beautiful complexity to tea! And definitely hearing feedback from people during the development phase. People who love tea are generally passionate about it. Tea provides all kinds of connections to comfort and memory and place – in asking people to test the blends I also got to share in many stories about what tea means to other people.
Do you have a tea ritual? I drink tea non-stop throughout the day. I turn on the kettle before I shower in the morning and get a cup going right away. I’m working on a breakfast blend right now, something bold and rich but I don’t mind a good old fashioned Red Rose to speed things along. Throughout the day I sip my absolute favourite, lavender earl grey while I’m working. I love it with a medium steep, about 3 minutes, served with just plain milk. The process of scooping loose leaf into an infuser, pouring in the water, waiting – it’s such a nice pause in a busy day. I switch to rooibos in the late afternoon to stay hydrated (it’s caffeine free). I drink more tea than water, that’s for sure.
Pair a cup of Lavender Earl Grey with: pain au chocolat from Beaucoup Bakery.
Pair a cup of Vanilla Rooibos with: Yoga! Perfect post-hot yoga beverage, enjoyed in the park with a Culver City Salad.
Pair a cup of Hibiscus White Peppermint with: I love this brewed extra strong and iced, taken in a mason jar on picnics with tacos from the Tacofino food truck (and possibly a little post-dinner growler of 33 Acres California Common).
You can pick up a tin of Eureka Tea ($14) at Hunter & Hare, West Pender, Barefoot Contessa, or online at www.eurekateas.com.
by Grady Mitchell | Robbie Slade is one-half of Vancouver electronic duo Humans, alongside beat maker and Montreal transplant Peter Ricq. “Pete’s prolific,” says Robbie. “He cranks out beats like crazy.” Robbie takes those beats and adds melodies and vocals, and together they achieve their booming, turbulently danceable signature sound.
Robbie honed his musical talents in a somewhat literal trial by fire. He was a feller fighting forest fires in northern BC, moving into areas to cut down dead trees so his crew could work safely. Alone all day in a smouldering forest, he wrote songs in his head as he cut. He held the melodies in his mind until he could write them down, sometimes days later.
Pete’s always been an electronic musician, but Robbie’s early interests were in folk and reggae. You can hear the influence of those genres on the throaty rasp of his voice, especially on tracks like De Ciel, from the band’s second album, 2012′s Traps. Robbie points out, though, that the lines between genres grow blurrier every day. “If you’re going to stop at folk, you probably don’t like music that much, because I’m pretty sure James Blake could get ya.”
Since Traps came out in 2012 they’ve collected more new gear and finished recording a new, as-of-yet untitled album. Will it be dancy? “Moreso than ever,” Robbie assures. Unfortunately, it won’t be out until February. Until then, you can hear more Humans at their site, or you can catch them on August 16th at the Two Acre Shaker in Pemberton.
by Grady Mitchell | On his long walks through the city and frequent trips around the coast, photographer Andy Grellmann is gradually piecing together a visual survey of Vancouver and the region around it. His work is divided into albums dedicated to the various neighbourhoods within the city and the islands beyond it, each one like a photographic map.
Although always a visual kid, he didn’t discover photography until university, when he bought his first digital camera. Soon he experimented with film and found that medium format cameras better fit his developing style of mindful, quiet image making – the act of looking down into a viewfinder and slowly composing a picture suited his meditative approach.
It’s tough, he says, to name exactly what it is about a given scene that compels him to stop and make a picture. “It can have light, form, shape, composition, whatever.” He says. “If everything else is there but the content isn’t there, then I won’t take the picture.” Those other elements should not be the focus of the image, he says, but should instead serve that central idea. The essential “content” can take almost any form. “If what I’m feeling inside is projected back at me, then I’ll take a picture of it,” he says. Although he’s always shot this way, he’s only recently begun to contemplate the way he works.
Much of Andy’s work is still life or landscape, people seldom appear in his images. When they do, they rarely face the camera: most seem unaware that they’re being photographed at all, and those that do know are usually turned away, their eyes diverted from the viewer. Recently, however, he’s ventured into portraiture, inspired especially by August Sander, a photographer known for his highly-orchestrated portraits of pre-WWII Germans.
Back when Sander was shooting, having your portrait made was a rare event. These days, you can do it yourself in a smudged bathroom mirror in ten seconds flat. So what’s the value of a single image in a world so over-saturated with them? It’s an even more challenging question for someone like Andy, whose work doesn’t rely on flashy spectacle, but instead documents quiet, everyday moments. In a world so packed with imagery, it’s unrealistic and unfair to expect viewers to slow down and study each one. But for those that are willing to do so, the work of photographers like Andy offers rewards.
One of Andy’s most beautiful series is entitled Detache. It’s an assortment of small, enticing details: a pile of books, the luminescent glow of cracked eggshells, a drape wound around a bedpost. “Detachment” speaks to Andy’s role as someone removed from the action, a keen observer rather than direct participant. But in a greater sense it also describes the style of all his photographs in any of his series. In music, a detache is a quick, light stroke on the violin. In essence, a light touch. These little moments are, to Andy, the harvest of the small but profound act he pursues every day of “noticing poetry in your surroundings.”
by Grady Mitchell | Back in the northern Ontario town where artist Andrew Pommier grew up, whenever he wasn’t drawing, he was probably skateboarding. And when it eventually became apparent that a professional skating career wasn’t going to happen, he aspired instead to create board graphics. That dream did come true, and quickly.
Andrew has created board graphics for Toy Machine, RVCA, Girl, and even a signature shoe with Adidas. In addition, he’s penned or painted a breadth of editorial work (he was one of the earliest contributors to Skateboard Canada magazine, appearing in their first issue) as well as exhibiting numerous shows worldwide.
And it’s clear that those many early mornings had a profound effect on his work. His sketchbooks and the walls of his studio are full of lonesome, darkly funny characters in costumes and masks; smoking, drinking and cavorting across the canvas. As a kid, Andrew says, cartoons and comics provided “a way to think about different stories, different ideas.”
Piles of black sketchbooks teeter around Andrew’s Chinatown studio. Each one acts as a collecting bin for ideas, and it’s here that most of his larger works begin. He spends much of his downtime sketching in those books with no particular plan or direction. Pages are haphazardly dotted with characters: bleary-eyed bunny men puffing on cigarettes or brandishing broken bottles, personified hot dogs with cartoon arms. Later he’ll parse through them and select his favourite ideas to develop into finished pieces.
He shies from looking too deeply into his work. Despite repeating motifs like masks and costumes, he strives not to over-conceptualize, preferring to work intuitively rather than stick to a blueprint. “My hand has a better understanding of what I want to do,” he says. Recently, his work has grown more abstract. Often in his newer paintings subjects avoid the viewer; they angle away, random objects or creatures obscure their faces, or they appear only as shadowy silhouettes with staring eyes. Don’t expect Andrew to tell you what it means. Just take a look and enjoy.
To see more of Andrew Pommier’s works, visit his website.
by Grady Mitchell | Grant Lawrence gets things done. He’s a musician, author, longtime CBC Radio 3 host, and human archive of Canadian music. That’s a mouthful, so when people ask what he does he typically says, “I’m a broadcaster.” Since his interests and talents are indeed broad, the title fits well…with a little interpretation. But whatever it is he’s doing at a given moment, it probably involves music. Take, for example, his upcoming gig as host at the CBC Music Festival this Saturday at Deer Lake Park with headliners Tegan & Sara and Spoon.
Grant’s musical obsession started in high school. “The easiest route to art when we were teenagers was to form a band,” he says. His was called The Smugglers, and over the next 15 years they released eight albums and toured worldwide. Meanwhile, teenaged Grant worked as a concert promoter, booking acts like Fugazi and Nirvana (who crashed at his parents’ place). Next, he worked A&R at Mint Records before joining the crew at the CBC, where he remains today.
Just about the only things Grant’s done that don’t directly incorporate music are his two books, Adventures in Solitude, about the misunderstood culture of Desolation Sound, and The Lonely End of the Rink, a memoir about Grant’s lifelong, sometimes good but often rocky relationship with hockey. There’s an explanation for that, Grant says. “If you work at Burger King full-time, Monday to Friday, chances are Saturday night the last thing you want to do is eat a Whopper.” The books, which both hit national bestseller lists and won the BC Book Prize for Book of the Year, were a chance for Grant to tackle a topic outside music.
Despite forays into other mediums, it’s in the studio at CBC that Grant feels most comfortable, and he doesn’t plan to abandon it anytime soon. Although critics have predicted the death of radio since the invention of television, Grant remains unfazed. While terrestrial radio (the ones with knobs and buttons) will likely phase out, the medium will simply move into more digital channels, as it already has with satellite radio and podcasts (of which CBC was one of the earliest adopters). Radio works because of the curatorial aspect; it’s word of mouth, amplified. “We sift through the hundreds and thousands of songs,” Grant says, “so you can hear the dozens of really great ones.” He’s always got his eye on Vancouver talent, and these days he’s excited about bands like The Courtneys, The Ruffled Feathers, Needles//Pins, and Blanket Barricade.
To learn more about Grant, visit his site, and check him out this Saturday at the CBC Music Festival in Deer Lake Park.
by Grady Mitchell | Roll through the portfolio of photographer Alana Paterson and you’ll encounter scenes of West Coast splendour, adventures in Italy, Mexico, Thailand and long trips across the US and BC. You’ll visit serene forests, misty waterfalls, drained backyard pools, skate parks and city streets. Her rich body of work stems from a largely itinerant lifestyle, a well-tuned and ever-roving eye, and a dedication to film.
If the stories in her photos seem convincing, it’s because they really happened. The line between her commercial and personal work is seamless in a way very few photographers ever manage. When models appear they’re never posed or stiff; instead they’re real people going about doing real things. These honest, intimate moments are key, Alana says, to the success of her client work.
Rather than orchestrate situations, she lets them unfold naturally. If the concept is to shoot camping, they camp. Fishing, they get wet. Dirtbikes, dirty. The warmth and grain of film, her preferred medium, adds to that sense of realism. That simple philosophy lends an authenticity that’s impossible to emulate in a rigidly constructed, over-produced shoot. Her easy, uncontrived style has won over loyal clients like Brixton, Lifetime Collective, and Poler.
Alana began shooting as a teenager when her sister gave her a Pentax SLR (“Just keep the aperture on eight” were her instructions). At first Alana shot her friends skateboarding, and although she rarely shoots skateboarding anymore, it proved fundamental in her development as a photographer. Skateboarding is an inherently creative activity, one that attracts artists. “I think it comes from the type of mind that’s attracted to an unstructured activity,” Alana says. Much like she shoots, it requires adaptability and the flexibility to interpret open-ended situations.
Her career began with concrete, but now it’s moving in a greener direction. An avid gardener and farmhand, much of her work these days focuses on nature (She regularly shoots for Scout’s very own Victory Gardens column). Her soft, contemplative imagery suits the tranquil landscapes she so often crosses. To check out more of Alana’s work, visit her website and her blog.
by Grady Mitchell | The films of Vancouver duo Nathan Drillot and Jeff Petry, who work together under the name Salazar, are vibrant and vital. Their narrative stories often centre on youth – the immediacy and uncertainty of feeling inherent to young people provides a vehicle for the excitement and wonder the filmmakers hope to inspire. There’s an unrestrained, almost tribal quality to some of their narrative work, alongside a multitude of haunting images. One music video follows a willowy dancer as she prances in empty hallways and across black, wind-scoured beaches. Their short film Silver Creek (above), a promo to raise awareness about bullying, follows the joyful parade of a group of outcasts whose reveries are ultimately, tragically shattered by a gang of thugs.
While the trademark of their narrative films is tumbling, blood-coursing velocity, Salazar’s documentary work takes a slower pace and a more contemplative approach. Whether they’re telling the story of 20-year-old ?sunaarashi, Japan’s first Middle Eastern sumo wrestler (below), a profile of Theo Jansen, an eccentric designer who builds wind-powered sculptures (bottom), or an intimate look at worldwide stars like Tegan and Sara (for which Jeff and Nathan received a Grammy nomination), they treat subjects with dignity and respect. A sense of admiration for the people in front of their cameras underpins every story. It’s more important to celebrate them for their humanity, Jeff says, than their accomplishments alone.
Often they discover their characters from brief coverage in more traditional media: a few columns of newsprint devoted to a quirky local or a quick colour segment on the nightly news. It was a short spot on CTV that introduced them to the subject of their current project, Robert Gagno. Once the two find a story like Robert’s, one that requires more than a cursory news spot or a few paragraphs of text to grasp its nuance and depth, they get to work.
For Robert’s story, that work involves a lot of arcade games. He’s a young Autistic man from Burnaby and a pinball wizard. Now ranked among the world’s top ten players, he spends around 20 weeks a year travelling and competing internationally. His family has rallied around his passion; his dad’s garage is crammed with broken down machines that the two are repairing, and his mom has become the number one female player in Canada. Some say journalistic objectivity is impossible, and in this instance it’s true. Via Robert’s coaching, Nathan’s now gotten pretty handy at World Cup ’94.
The most challenging part of their documentary work, Jeff says, is keeping themselves out of it. Once they’ve gathered the raw footage they have to reconcile their preconceived vision with the reality of the story and its characters. “We spend all this time researching them and romanticizing what the possibilities of telling their story can be,” he says. “So we’re actually inventing them, in a sense, or these ideas of them. Then we go to film it and it’s different, because it’s real life. We get into this process of stripping ourselves out of it.” Nathan sees the people in their videos more as collaborators than characters.
Jeff and Nathan hope that with those collaborators they can tell stories that enact change. “We want to create films that make people rethink what it is to be human,” Jeff says. “How should we act, how should we treat each other?”
To see more of Salazar’s work, visit their website.
by Grady Mitchell | The East Van studio of painter Noah Bowman is stacked high with canvases of all sizes – some as small as a paperback book, a couple as large as a queen mattress. He’s arranged them into a sort of art fort, and it’s in here, surrounded by his previous work, that he creates new pieces.
Although his initial interest in art was sparked by the pencil portraits he sketched as a child, he’s since solidified his style as an abstract and conceptual artist with a vivid palette. His work floats in the space between the familiar and abstract, blending segments of reality with conceptual elements to find deeper meaning in the everyday.
Noah’s recent series Reverso explores corner spaces. While artwork is generally presented in the center of a room’s most prominent wall, Noah is creating paintings specifically for neglected corner spaces, angular two-panel pieces that either envelop protruding corners or slip into recessive ones. He strives to link or balance each half with the other, presenting a traditional pattern on one juxtaposed with an abstract image on the other.
Along with Reverso and the other series’ that Noah is working on, he also promotes the accessibility of abstract art through integrating it into everyday items such as clocks, purses and pillows. You can see more of Noah’s work on his website and on display at the Stewart Stephenson Gallery at 1300 Robson Street.
by Grady Mitchell | Lightning Dust is the brooding music made by Amber Webber and Josh Wells. Originally a side-project from their main band, Black Mountain, it has since become a full-fledged undertaking of its own. From their first release, a self-titled album in 2007, through 2009′s Infinite Light and last year’s Fantasy, they’ve moved progressively from a chiefly folk sound to a more shadowy electronic hybrid.
This combination of analog and digital is best displayed on tracks like In The City Tonight and Agatha off their most recent album, both of which feature glittering keys intertwined with rich, orchestral strings. Amber’s vocals are ethereal and delicate – a nice change from singing in Black Mountain, where, she says, “I’m wailing it the whole time.” Lightning Dust songs have a cavernous space to them, a resonance granted by their lofty, meditative sound.
That gradual transformation was intuitive, influenced by their evolving tastes. “When the songs were written,” Josh says, “it’s what was most exciting to us at the time.” As for the increasingly electronic bent of their sound, well, now is the time, Amber says. “When I’m forty-five I won’t necessarily want to be doing a synth-pop record, but I’ll certainly still be playing the guitar.”
One of the facts musicians generally accept as a downside of Vancouver – its relative isolation from record industry hubs like Toronto, New York, and LA – the two see instead as an advantage. With the industry somewhat removed, they hold Vancouver as a place uniquely suited for musicians to experiment. Alongside many bands in the city’s vibrant music scene, they’re living proof that that’s true.
by Grady Mitchell | You may not have realized it at the time, but you’ve probably seen an Ola Volo piece before. A stroll through any Vancouver neighbourhood is liable to uncover one of the dozens of walls and buildings, both large and small, that bear the local illustrator’s work. Aside from public spaces, she’s created commissions for Hootsuite, Lululemon, Save On Meats, The Fox Cabaret and numerous companies and publications in Vancouver and beyond. Take a quick look through her portfolio and it’s obvious why.
Ola combines a whimsical fascination with childhood fantasy with the distinct artistic style of her Eastern European heritage, using intricate patterns to tell folky day-dream stories. In addition to her commissions, she is forever scribbling away at personal projects. We pulled her away from the paper and pen to ask a few questions.
I know your heritage has significantly influenced your work. Can you tell me about that style of art, and how it’s affected your work? Multiculturalism has been a very inspirational concept for my work. I come from a diverse Eastern European and Asian background that was complicated by historic transitions during my childhood. My origin, my move to BC, and my subsequent immersion in its own variety of cultures, has undeniably become the main focus of my art. My illustrations merge aspects of history, people, animals and traditions through patterns. I use specific patterns to form specific narratives. Learning about patterns and the ways they are used to embellish and define a culture has been very interesting to me. Thus the mixing of the right kind of pattern is integral to my art, and the intentionality of patterns gives me a lot to play with.
A lot of your work calls back to childhood fantasy. What about that phase of life intrigues you? Great question. When I was growing up, Kazakhstan’s landscape and culture were completely different than they are now. That time of my life seems like a vague dream, as childhood seems for most adults but even more so because of the unrecognizability of the sites of my childhood now. Tapping into those childhood memories, and further exploring stories and characters that shaped my childhood world is a nostalgic act, perhaps. It may sound a bit saddening but its always a fun day at the studio!
Storytelling is another major part of your images. Why is that important to you? How do you incorporate stories into a piece? I believe that a visual narrative is a great way to connect with people especially in multi-lingual cities. I attempt to communicate through anthropomorphism. Through animal characters I’m able to mimic different types of personalities and emotions without excluding too many people, and tell stories that hopefully can be interpreted in different ways.
Any upcoming projects you want people to know about? Lot’s of interesting projects lined up for this year, you can follow me on Instagram and keep up to date with my future projects!