Vancouver Lowbrow Trailblazers
August 6–29, 2015
Now & Then features new work from local low-brow artists that got their start before the turn of the 21st century: Jim Cummins, Ken Gerberick, Mark Pilon, Nicole Steen, Vicki M, Andrea Tucker and Holly Ruth Anderson. These artists laid the groundwork for today’s young Vancouver artists working with illustrative, humorous and populist styles. Part history lesson, part celebration, this show reminds us that contemporary pop surrealist art has deep roots in our wet city.
Mark “Atomos” Pilon is an award winning illustrator and painter. Born in 1967 in Northern Canada, he started his artistic career in 1991 after studying art and design in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His paintings and illustrations to this day have shown worldwide. “It all started the day I walked away from Emily Carr College of Art and Design. I threw my assignments in the shower and started from scratch. I’ve been painting and illustrating professionally ever since”. The technique is heavily influenced by the illustration-styles of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The style is retro-futurism, large-eyed characters are bubbly, bright, modern, and can be described as science-fiction-pop. Every aspect of his art is carefully drawn and meticulously painted in acrylic layers. This gives them a sharp, print-like synthetic quality. His paintings are a natural transition from his editorial illustrations which look into dreamy multicoloured worlds. It’s a style that can be recognized in an instant. He currently lives and works in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
Ken Gerberick, originally from St. Louis, Mo. studied Art at Forest Park College there in 1966–67, before heading to San Francisco. In 1969 he came up to Vancouver Island, where he built a cabin surrounded by his first (and still existing) site specific automotive installation. In 1978 he moved to Victoria to study with Jack Wise at Victoria College of Art for three semesters, a life changing experience. In 1984 he moved to Vancouver and opened KRAK studio where he worked on large mixed media canvases, found object assemblages, and neon installations. Sadly, this studio was lost to fire in 2004. Ken subsequently relocated to Hungry Thumbs Studio at 233 Main St. where he continues to do paintings, assemblages and constructing installations. In 1990 he created his 1st ART CAR and now has build ten of them, driving them to shows all over North America.
Nicole Steen is a painter, curator and musician. One half of the local painting duo The Poptarts, she also co-operated the Tart Gallery from 2000–2001 and continues to curate the annual LADIES FIRST international group show and tour. She has also operated the virtual Tart Gallery in Secondlife for the past 7 years and been involved in the fashion art/photography industry under the moniker ByrneDarkly. Primarily a portrait artist with a strong pop and lowbrow bent, Nicole has exhibited in numerous solo and group shows for the past 15 years all over North America, the UK and Europe. She has also appeared in the Schiffer Design book “Vicious, Delicious and Ambitious: 20th Century Women Artists” and in the BRAVO art documentary the “Lowdown on Lowbrow.”
Vicki M‘s involvement in the vibrant Vancouver art & music scene of the 80s lead to inclusion in a group show at the premier popart Smash Gallery. Art school followed which cemented community and sparked an interest in curating, with a focus on the female form and it’s portrayal in the media. Exhibiting in small local galleries, coffee shops and warehouses eventually lead to curating large group shows shows monthly in live music venues. She opened the Tart Gallery with Nicole Steen in 1997, which had a roster of over 200 local and international artists with the focus on pop, lowbrow and outsider art. She has exhibited in cities across Canada and the US.
Andrea Tucker is a self-taught visual artist based in Vancouver, BC. Formally working full-time as a tattoo artist in the 1990s, she discovered her own style in the lowbrow, pop-surrealism and tattoo culture while learning how to paint with oils in her spare time. Before long, painting had replaced tattooing as she was finding herself enjoying the solitude and freedom of subject matter it provides. Andrea Tucker is still creating and showing her strangely beautiful, unique and intriguing work.
Holly Ruth Anderson grew up in Winnipeg but came out west at the end of the eighties, after ditching her quest for a BFA for a more DIY approach to painting and illustration. Soon after arriving in Vancouver, she wandered into a ManWoman show at Smash Gallery and realized that art didn’t have to be unapproachable and overly academic to be meaningful. Working primarily in a colourful Pop Art aesthetic of cartoons and pin ups, she has been featured in shows at well-known local galleries such as A Walk Is, the Tart Gallery, the New Tiny, and the Jem Gallery as well as in exhibits in Austin, Los Angeles, Toronto, New Jersey and Chicago. She currently lives way out in the boonies of East Van and wishes she had more time to paint all the pretty things piling up in her head while she slaves away at her day job.
Jim Cummins aka I, Braineater is ground zero in the Vancouver punk underground art world since its inception in the late 1970s. Involved in performance arts, painting, photography, film and music, Cummins’ work has been featured in film, television and magazines, and has appeared in a multitude of solo and group exhibits worldwide. A “witty” ambiguous commentator on popular culture, a Vancouver artrock icon, the creator of the popular “blockhead” character that shows up on everything from t-shirts to album covers, Jim Cummins’ works have been described as “a mélange of science fiction and sword and sorcery, flavoured with punk mythology.”