From painting to sculpture to weaving, and from film to writing to dance, we have always celebrated the work of artists both at home and abroad. Here, in honour of our 10th anniversary, explore 10 of our most notable features. Artists, like the work they produce, are ever-evolving—and that’s what makes these profiles so interesting.
Evocative, penetrating, and striking, the work of Vancouver-based sculptor Marie Khouri has earned her a worthy reputation as one of the city’s most prominent artists. “Everything starts from my hand,” she explains. “To me, sculpting is like meditating; I need this interaction with my work, I need to physically put my energy into it.” From polystyrene, to concrete, to bronze, to fibreglass-infused resin, Khouri’s sculptural works invite conversation and beauty into public space, encouraging lively contemplation.
Richmond-born dancer Heather Ogden has climbed the ranks to principal dancer at The National Ballet of Canada, a company that changed her life—both professionally and personally. It is at work where Ogden met her now-husband, fellow principal dancer Guillaume Côté; as for her movement, she is able to breathe life into every inch of her body, commanding the stage with a graceful yet forceful presence—something she credits to her dedication to her craft. “I feel like it’s a good attribute to be a perfectionist, but I’m lightening up a bit,” she admits. “I haven’t lost that drive, but I just really want to soak it up.” Ogden has the talent to work anywhere in the world, but she has purposefully built her career in Canada—and Canada is lucky to have her.
Anyone who has been to English Bay in Vancouver has likely stopped to stare at, or even interact with, the large laughing-man statues that dot the plaza near the water. But likely only a few know Yue Minjun, the enigmatic artist behind them. In a way, that seems to be part of his practise. “My art is certainly meant to elicit a response,” he reflects. “I cannot, and do not want to, control that response. This is very important. The art must speak for itself, and each person has their own way of understanding it.” His work often depicts the same man (part self-portrait, part external commentary) in curious, and sometimes morbid, situations; the juxtaposition of a smiling face and devil horns, for example, is haunting yet inspiring. A response is required, indeed.
As a leader of iconic Canadian indie-rock collective Broken Social Scene, Kevin Drew knows a thing or two about the national music landscape. Between his work with the band and his own solo music, he effectively wears his heart on his sleeve, giving the audience every ounce of energy. “I’ve never been a person whose masturbatory hopeful anthems connect with everyone, but I really give everything that I can,” he says. “If I did something dishonest, I would be upset with getting a 5/10 review or whatever. If it’s not dishonest, I can say, ‘Well, we live different lives, my friend.’” A true legend in the Canadian rock scene, Drew is as forthcoming and deep as his music.
“I’m not that interested in movies that just make you feel comfortable about yourself and your place in the world,” Maggie Gyllenhaal asserts. “I’m much more interested in movies that challenge you to assess yourself.” The American actor and writer is known for her roles in films like The Dark Knight and Stranger Than Fiction, but even her more recent gigs (on HBO’s The Deuce and in the stirring, uncomfortable film The Kindergarten Teacher) depict complex, rich characters. Actively and passionately finding ways to get more female voices in film, Gyllenhaal (yes, sister to Jake) is a powerful leader in the post-#MeToo era. Inclusion isn’t a trend for her—it’s a very real part of life.
Janice George and Buddy Joseph
To date, North Vancouver-based Chepximiya Siyam Chief Janice George and her husband Skwetsimeltxw Willard “Buddy” Joseph have taught over 2,500 people the historic art of Coast Salish weaving. “I like the way Buddy puts it: that our ancestors went through the keyhole of residential schools and disease and everything else for us to be where we are today,” explains George. “When we teach, we honour those ancestors and let people know what our people went through for us to be here today, not just surviving but thriving.” As messengers for their predecessors, they are keeping a dying craft alive, and in doing so connecting other Indigenous people to their history and culture.
Formerly a punk and electronic musician, Andy Dixon has found a second life as a fine-art painter. Raised in Vancouver and now based in Los Angeles, Dixon has a distinct artistic personality that is coveted and even imitated; dipping into the allegorical and the self-referential, his bright, blocky paintings are sought-after around the world (and have found wall space in the homes of celebrities like Mindy Kaling). Still, he remains modest about his success and his skill. “There’s nothing ‘good’ about how I apply paint, really,” Dixon ponders. “My paintings always look kind of terrible until some detail’s added.” Somehow we find that hard to believe.
Tucked in a humidity-controlled studio in West Vancouver, Craig Tomlinson toils away at the art of instrument-making. Specializing in the harpsichords, clavichords, virginals, and fortepianos of yesteryear, Tomlinson bridges the gap between past and present—encompassing incredible craftsmanship and meticulous detail, his pieces are beloved by both professional musicians and dedicated collectors and aficionados. “I can’t really see myself doing anything in retirement other than what I’m doing right now,” he muses, adding that Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari “apparently started making his best instruments after he was 80.” Indeed, some things only get better with age.
Using found objects (often trash) from everyday life, Brazilian visual artist Vik Muniz abruptly changes the standard narrative. By giving new life to old things, his large-scale mosaics—best seen from above, which only adds to their allure—challenge conventions and spark intimate experiences. “There’s a moment when something changes: before a basketball hits the hoop, before a first kiss. I am fascinated by this moment,” he says. “This moment is transformation. That’s what art is. That’s why I do it.”
New York Times bestselling author Chevy Stevens has made a name for herself as someone who does not shy away from drama. Her most famous novel, Never Let You Go, tells the story of a domestic abuse survivor and her daughter; as such, Vancouver Island-based Stevens toes the shaky line between entertainment and insensitivity. “For some people, it could be difficult to read and I wanted to honour that,” she says. “The book is meant to make people think, to get them sucked in, to give them enjoyment, but I’m aware that this is not make-believe—this is really someone’s life.” Stevens has had her fair share of tragedy in her own life (her father abandoned the family when she was 12 and committed suicide 10 years later), and it is perhaps her ability to write from a place of experience that gives her novels such heart amongst the thrill.
Art exists at the intersection of culture, beauty, commentary, and craftsmanship. Every artist has a voice, and every voice deserves to be heard.
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