MON­U­MEN­TAL PUB­LIC ART

Shawn Hunt and Diyan Ach­jadi are just two of the artists spread­ing more than pretty colours across the front of the VAG

The Georgia Straight - - Front Page - BY ALEXAN­DER VARTY

When or­ga­niz­ers of the an­nual Façade Fes­ti­val gave them the task of cre­at­ing im­ages to be pro­jected on the Ge­or­gia Street side of the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery, Diyan Ach­jadi and Shawn Hunt shared a com­mon thought: size mat­ters.

“It’s a big can­vas,” says Hunt from his home on the Sun­shine Coast, and Ach­jadi con­curs. “When I was in­vited, I was ex­cited by the idea of do­ing some­thing a lit­tle bit out­side of my nor­mal frame of work, and some­thing that was on such a mas­sive phys­i­cal scale,” she tells the Straight, in a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion from East Van­cou­ver. “I thought that would be an in­ter­est­ing chal­lenge to take up.”

This year, Hunt and Ach­jadi will join Fiona Ack­er­man, Scott Billings, An­nie Bri­ard, James Nizam, Luke Ram­sey, Evann Siebens, Ben Skin­ner, and Paul Wong in cre­at­ing work for the Façade Fes­ti­val, or­ga­nized by the Bur­rard Arts Foun­da­tion in part­ner­ship with the VAG. The free, out­door shows are aimed at bring­ing art to peo­ple who might not nor­mally step in­side the ven­er­a­ble gallery’s doors, and at an­i­mat­ing the down­town core in a some­what more pur­pose­ful way than, say, a fire­works com­pe­ti­tion. View­ers are wel­come to come and marvel at the spec­ta­cle, but they’ll likely go home think­ing about more than just the pretty colours.

For Hunt, the Façade Fes­ti­val is a chance to con­tinue ex­plor­ing the form­line tra­di­tion of his Heilt­suk fore­bears. In his Line as Lan­guage ex­hi­bi­tion at the Bur­rard Arts Foun­da­tion gallery last year, he brought three-di­men­sional shad­ing and blue-grey, noc­tur­nal light to his can­vases of clan crests, ce­les­tial bod­ies, and sym­bolic ob­jects; now he gets to add an­i­ma­tion and sound to those im­ages for an even more vi­brant ex­pe­ri­ence.

Hunt also will ad­dress the VAG build­ing’s his­tory, in the process re­claim­ing the for­mer provin­cial court­house as a First Na­tions space. His ap­proach is more ab­stract than di­dac­tic, how­ever, although he notes that “putting Heilt­suk form­line on such a build­ing felt pretty in­y­our-face to me.

“I like the way the paint­ings in this se­ries have the feel of bones,” he con­tin­ues. “The moon­light re­veals things, as if we are see­ing a sort of in­ter­di­men­sional X-ray of the build­ing. The large paint­ing [Cer­e­mony] that flanks the wings of the build­ing is from my ex­hi­bi­tion at BAF.…THE dancers in the cen­tre of the com­po­si­tion are be­hind the col­umns of the build­ing’s neo­clas­si­cal colo­nial ar­chi­tec­ture, as if they are danc­ing be­hind bars. I feel like that says some­thing that may be ab­stract to some, or it may be ex­plicit or in-your-face to oth­ers. I think that de­pends on per­cep­tion; what is re­vealed to the viewer when the moon rises. The fi­nal el­e­ment is the knife in the ground, plung­ing into the earth—like a wound, or a staked claim. Again ab­stract or ex­plicit, that re­ally de­pends a lot on the viewer and the ef­fect of their ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Bathed in beau­ti­fully spooky light, the VAG, in ef­fect, will be­come a por­tal to an­other way of see­ing—one in which build­ings are an­i­mate, hu­mans and an­i­mals are in­ter­con­nected, and the su­per­nat­u­ral is also the ev­ery­day.

Ach­jadi like­wise sees her Façade Fes­ti­val work as a gate­way, one that has been in­spired by an­other piece of mul­ti­me­dia art that’s re­ceived wild ac­claim this sum­mer: film­maker Net­tie Wild’s im­mer­sive, salmon-cen­tric Un­in­ter­rupted, screen­ing at Coop­ers’ Park un­til Septem­ber 24. “It’s stun­ning,” she says. “I just went to see it a cou­ple of weeks ago, and it is such a, for lack of a bet­ter word, an oth­er­worldly ex­pe­ri­ence to kind of be in this fa­mil­iar ar­chi­tec­ture but be taken to an­other space.

“I al­ways like to think of pic­tures, in gen­eral, as por­tals to an­other world,” she adds. “I like mak­ing pic­tures be­cause I like the way that they share the space of fic­tion, where any­thing can hap­pen. You can make propo­si­tions that might be ab­so­lutely im­pos­si­ble, but yet kind of live as a propo­si­tion, and maybe spark a thought to­wards the pos­si­bil­ity.…that’s some­thing I al­ways con­sider in mak­ing my work.”

In cre­at­ing her piece for the Façade Fes­ti­val, Ach­jadi has also con­sid­ered its site, although not so much its his­tory as its ar­chi­tec­tural qual­i­ties. “Its neo­clas­si­cal form is deemed to be the epit­ome of colo­nial Euro­pean struc­tures that sort of demon­strate a par­tic­u­lar type of power, and so I wanted to work in a vis­ual lan­guage that was the op­po­site of that vis­ual lan­guage,” she says. Con­se­quently, she’s work­ing with fan­ci­ful im­ages of clouds and is­lands, in­flu­enced by In­done­sian tex­tile de­sign and thus evok­ing “women’s work”, as op­posed to the pa­tri­ar­chal jus­tice sys­tem.

“There’s go­ing to be a lot of over-the-top dec­o­ra­tive el­e­ments,” she ex­plains. “There’s some more geo­met­ric dec­o­ra­tion; there’s some el­e­ments taken from my print work.…it’s go­ing to be very busy.”

There will also be wa­ter, per­haps in sur­pris­ing form—but we’ve been sworn to se­crecy about that, so let’s just say that both Ach­jadi and Hunt are look­ing for­ward to hav­ing their work taken out of the art gallery and onto its façade. Ach­jadi ad­mits that wait­ing for the pub­lic to re­spond to her work “will be in­cred­i­bly nerver­ack­ing”, but notes that her art is gen­er­ally in­tended to spark a dis­cus­sion of some kind, and this is no dif­fer­ent.

Hunt is sim­i­larly gen­er­ous in his hopes. “My art is for ev­ery­one,” he says. So why not of­fer it on a re­ally large scale, and in one of Van­cou­ver’s most pub­lic spa­ces?

The Façade Fes­ti­val runs from Mon­day to Sun­day (Septem­ber 4 to 10) at the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery’s Ge­or­gia Street plaza. Shawn Hunt’s work will screen on open­ing night, and Diyan Ach­jadi’s on Tues­day (Septem­ber 5).

Among the artists whose work will be pro­jected upon the Ge­or­gia Street side of the Van­cou­ver Art Gallery as part of the Façade Fes­ti­val will be Shawn Hunt, who con­tin­ues to ex­plore Heilt­suk form­line tra­di­tions.

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