APRIL 2011 ISSUE 4 $4
291 Guts left to right: Tristram Lansdown, Hermetic Island (detail), 2010;
Niall Eccles, Characters of the Day, 2010-2011; Dennis Lin, Design for Public Displays of Affection, 2009 cover image by Jeremey Vandermeij and Agata Piskunowicz, 2009
262 S QUARE2 NOTES 263 THE GENERALIST the work of Jeremy Vandermeij by Becky Lane 269 21st CENTURY FRICTION: Explaining Letterpress in the Future Tense by Vincent Perez 279 MARIGOLD SANTOS by Marigold Santos 291 CHARACTER OF THE DAY by Niall Eccles
301 LIKE MILK & BLOOD the artwork of Amanda Nedham and Tristram Lansdowne by Trish Boon
309 PS I LOVE YOU by Kyle Topping 315 HANNA HUR by Chrissy Poitras 325 T HE HIPPY MAFIA by Bryan Bondy with Antonio Michael Downing 328 N EXT ISSUE
299 TINA NGUYEN by Chrissy Poitras 260
April 2011; Issue 4 885 County Rd. 5, Picton Ontario K0K 2T0 613.476.0337 firstname.lastname@example.org DIRECTORS / Chrissy Poitras & Kyle Topping DESIGN CONSULTANT/ Rene Dick EDITORS / Betsy Matthews Becky Lane Square2 is published quarterly by Spark Box Studio For advertising inquires contact email@example.com For subscriptions visit square2magazine.com Printed in Canada by JB Printing photograph by Paul Hubble
he fourth issue of Square2 Magazine intends to take you on a different journey from our previous issues. We’re always interested in pursuing varied perceptions of what can be considered “art”, and here we will celebrate the alternative, underground and indie arts scenes where illustration, comics and graphics meet fine art. There are many endless debates in the art world. The relationship, or lack thereof, between art and design, is one that has, according to art historian David Irwin, been ongoing since the start of the Industrial Revolution. For the most part, this debate has confined art to live and act in a separate universe from design. However, in the past few years the lines between art and design have become increasingly unclear. We began this discussion in Issue 1 with artist/illustrator Carl Wiens who wrote that “the division between the two art worlds is blurring and narrowing.” We carry on the discussion with several of the artists found here. The fourth issue of Square2 also brings with it some changes to the Masthead. Spark Box Studio will be producing Square2, with ongoing support from our good friends at Scout Design. We plan to continue to deliver a quarterly publication that will enrich your understanding of the vibrant arts community found throughout Ontario. 262
the work of Jeremy Vandermeij by Becky Lane
eremy Vandermeij was one of the first people I met when, at 18, I moved from my small town to Toronto. He was in his fourth year of Ryerson University’s interior design program and seemed to be involved in everything the school had to offer; I was entering my first and didn’t know a soul. His enthusiasm and level of engagement is what probably found him saddled with the responsibility of informally initiating our freshman class to design school with a welcome speech, during which he so vividly described the ups and downs of the experience that I had to leave and call my mother. “You will find yourself sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom. You won’t even know how you got there…” We weren’t friends, nor did we have many conversations, but Jeremy was the kind of person who left an impression. Years passed, and I occasionally wondered where his magnetic personality would take him. As chance would have it, the Canadian design world is a small one and our paths crossed again at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto when I participated in “Come Up To My Room”, an alternative design event that Jeremy has co-curated for the past three years.
When all the artists and designers participating in the event had gathered on the second floor lobby of the Gladstone for our initial install briefing, Jeremy welcomed us with an impassioned ode to the ups and downs of collaborative installation, ending with the assurance that there will be hugsâ€Ś but not on the last day because, by that point, we will be like family and affectionate goodbyes will send him running to the bathroom in tears. I noted the fact that, in the years between our first meeting and our most recent, the Jeremy I remembered remained much the sameâ€” continuing to form community wherever he was, passionately involving himself in everything he could, and repurposing the loo for teary times.
Jeremy calls himself a “creative generalist”; a term he coined while under the spell of Dune, Frank Herbert’s famous science-fiction saga. The books describe a true leader as a generalist; a person able to synthesize information by looking at the bigger picture. The fit between the term “generalist” and design/creativity was a natural one for Jeremy, for whom “Design is just critical thinking. It applies to all life, your sense of self.” He notes, however, that this generalist approach to life and life-pursuits came by discarding many of those well-meaning nuggets only the people who care about you can deliver with such poignancy: “If you just focused you could be very smart Jeremy”. However, the realization that he needed to depart from the recommended path felt so right that, judging from how he describes the moment, even years later, it seems to have retained a gut-felt visceral level of understanding. “Fuck this. I can be different.” For Jeremy, this has meant adopting a creative generalist approach to everything, from spiritual fulfillment, to knowledge gathering and career experience.
If the approach of a creative generalist is all-encompassing, career-wise it certainly isn’t predictable or upwardly mobile, but Jeremy seems to have done alright. The list of enviable jobs he has under-taken, often simultaneously, is somewhat mind-boggling: Creative Director for the Gladstone Hotel, Co-curator of Toronto’s largest alternative design event Come Up to My Room, part-time professor at George Brown College and Ryerson University, founding partner of the design organization Public Displays of Affection, freelance designer and artist, to name a few. As the brainchild of Jeremy and a group of close friends, Public Displays of Affection (PDA) is perhaps most personally indicative of his “generalist” philosophy.
Previous: Promotion Design for Allie Hughes, 2009 by Jeremy Vandermeij & Agata Piskunowicz
Left: Fly By Night - Poster for Gladstone Hotel, 2010
Far Left: Affirmation no. 90024070 – from Insight Poster Series, 2010
PDA was formed in February of 2009. The goal was to marry professional design practice with the kind of community engagement that extended to real people; the ones whose day-today lives would continue to be impacted by design decisions long after project managers and developers had moved on.
Since its inception, PDA has expanded to include over 50 volunteer designers. The initial project idea that came out of their mandate was a series of workshops that used the collective knowledge of their team to give people the skills to think creatively about their environment and budget through a series of workshops that showed people how to construct furniture from found objects. The idea was picked up by Edmund Place, an affordable housing development in Parkdale, and PDA worked with a team of volunteer designers to fully furnish two public spaces for Edmund Place’s Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre (PARC). In one of those breathily honest statements that reminded me of the disjoint between corporatized mission statements and the reasons why people really do what they do, Jeremy states, “People deserve to have things made with love.” If, by this point, you were tempted to think “creative generalist” may simply be another way of describing talent that lacks decisiveness, Jeremy is also adept at the kind of refreshingly intelligent and engaged persuasive speech that had this skeptic wanting to believe (life
direction from Frank Herbert, really?). Talking to passionate people in creative careers can be like having a religious experience described by the converted. Their creative pursuit is what gets them out of bed in the morning and ushers them through the day, nothing could be as meaningful as the highs or as devastating as the lows. Talk to Jeremy about the things he is most passionate about and you get the sense that it’s just life in general. Design happens to be something he has a talent for, an area he can make a contribution in at a pragmatic level. Our conversation left me thinking that maybe the generalist’s “big picture” isn’t generated by extending beyond the confines of a particular practice, even one as broadly labelled as “creative”. It’s first seeing that practice for what it is – humans, in community, communicating.
Left: Mistints, 2006 collboration of This Is: Art and Design Culture
Above: Edmund Place, 2009 PDA Design, photograph by Adam Harris 268
21 Century Friction: st
Explaining Letterpress in the Future Tense by Vincent Perez
espite how it looks, I’m not nostalgic. I have to insist on this point because of the scrap metal heap of evidence to the contrary: I’m a letterpress printer, and so, a de facto collector of industrial obsolescence. My prized piece is a Vandercook proofing press, an early 1960s model that might have been used to hand crank proofs of newspapers before they went to production-printing on larger machines. But the historical resonance of this doesn’t move me like you’d think. I sometimes stand at my press, crank in fist, and wonder why I’ve chosen to dedicate substantial sums of money and relative youth to a dead technology. I fantasize about trading it in for something to do with social media – Facebook, Twitter and the ascendant industry of start-ups that are, like the printing press before it, reinventing the means by which we exchange information. For a moment, I feel that my pet anachronism could amount to a modest political stance, but then I remind myself that I make greeting cards. And still, the question remains: why am I doing this?
Previous: Vandercook, photograph by Lucas Tingle 271
Above: Wood Type, photograph by Carley Colclough
Next: Quoins & Keys, photograph by Carley Colclough
For those still unacquainted with the medium despite the pastel pages of Martha Stewart’s magazines (or, more provincially, some heritage theme park whose resident old kook or young stoner hand-prints the village broadsheet), letterpress was Gutenberg’s revolution. Invented in the 1440s, its system of moveable type first delivered books to the bourgeoisie, if not the masses. Letterpress helped Western civilization transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, and from vast illiteracy to a blossoming new cognition. But with modern industrialization came improved attempts at the grail of perfect regularity in manufacturing and by the mid-20th century, letterpress was overtaken by new techniques. According to philosopher Walter Benjamin, here’s where things get utopian again. His theory of the idealist elements that exist inside technological processes goes a long way to explaining the recent craft revival in letterpress – the one I’m mixed up in. There are other less philosophical reasons for the comeback and I’ll list a few here before returning to Benjamin.
One: Digital printing represents a certain terminal point for the medium, and as such there’s nowhere to go but back. The precision and consistency of digital output is startling, especially when you think about where we began. From an interface deeply dependent on the judgment and dexterity of a human operator, we’ve reached a system a half step from absolute automation. And while, in relative terms, letterpress was never much good at those twin printerly objectives of polish and uniformity, these days they’ve fallen significantly out of fashion anyway. The glut and ease of perfect printing has resulted in a weird reversal of fortunes, or a proper backlash even, and after the dust-up, analog has come out on top. Now, any printing able to show individuality – that’s handmade and carries the recognizable mark, even the human error of its maker – feels rare and is admired and valued. In a sense then, letterpress has hit its stride because it’s essentially order permeated by individuality, each print slightly different than the next. Two: No technological development has enabled the recent boutique 272
letterpress scene more than the photopolymer plate. A letterpress practice demands an unwieldy amount of hardware. If every letterpress printer working today had to house the sheer quantity of metal type found in an old printing office or the overgrown hulk of a typesetter (imagine a typewriter the size of a small car with a spitoon of molten lead lashed to its side)… we just wouldn’t. Aside from collapsing our floors, these antique tools would fail to offer us even a fraction of the graphic possibilities available on a designer’s laptop. At this juncture, photopolymer plates seem miraculously outfitted to save our asses. They allow for the transferring of computer-set type or digital artwork to plastic relief plates that can then be tacked to a mount on the bed of the press and used in letterpress printing. The boon of these things is multi-fold: they’re cleaner to process and to handle than the lead alloys that make up metal type; they’re lightweight and flat, taking up no more room than a filing cabinet could accommodate; and perhaps most importantly, they bridge the gap between the digital and analog realms by making the infinite reserve of computergenerated fonts and graphics reproducible as letterpress prints. Three: The rise of the small press movement ushered in an ethos of holistic production and an appropriation of the means of that production. Sometime in the 20th century, writers in the small press movement decided to take hold of all aspects of the publishing process from editorial selection to design, printing and distribution. Their intention was to establish something other than the predominating hierarchical and sales driven model of commercial literary publishing. This meant, among other things, becoming acquainted with, and proprietors of, the machinery to make books. If you were to visit the back lane 273
offices of Toronto’s Coach House Press today, you would trip over relics from the youthful days of that movement and find some of the same methods of publishing and dissemination still underway. Book artists, alongside private and small press publishers, form a certain camp of letterpress printers, the opposite, perhaps, of commercial printers and stationers, if only because they’ve traditionally been less concerned with economic viability than with craftsmanship and experimentation. Speaking of money, it’s a good time to bring Walter Benjamin back to bear on the discussion. If you recall, his theory maintains that a certain kind of idealism exists at the birth of any medium. But, he continues, as that medium is commercialized, as it becomes subject to the forces of utility, commodification and professionalism, it also becomes cynical. It’s only when a technology is rendered useless, market-wise, that it regains those visionary energies and returns to the utopian sweet-spot from where it came. Nice, huh? And not a bad summary of why letterpress is so popular today: at the moment, it’s in the noblest part of its ideological cycle. While all this may answer the question “Why letterpress?” it doesn’t exactly get to the heart of “Why me?” Why, when I’m not strictly nostalgic or reactionary, not mechanically- or historically-minded, nor particularly political, do I carry on with letterpress? Let me tell you, by way of that fantasy of mine, the one about that dreamy place called Silicon Valley where, as I write this, social media products are ripening in the sun. 276
With so much invested in the tech industry, theories abound as to the impalpable qualities necessary for the invention of the next social media giant. One of the more compelling has to do with the concept of friction. In this theory, friction is an obstacle for social media and the Internet in general. It’s what keeps you from engaging with strange new sites or apps: they’re too difficult to understand, too expensive, or somehow too risky. The task is to reduce this friction, to stamp it out or even turn it on its head so that, as with Facebook, there’s friction if you don’t engage. But it goes further than this. Friction can also account for the popularity of Twitter and its 140 characters by pointing to the limitations tweeting puts on your creative options. It proposes that these services are most successful when they demand the least of you, creatively or otherwise, but offer a disproportionately greater social reward–a banal status update, for example, drawing a dozen comments and even more “likes.” Before hearing about this theory, I’d always thought of friction in physical
terms, as the resistance that one thing encounters when moving against the surface of another. It’s how basic mark making works, a pencil on paper, a brush on canvas. Certainly, it’s how printing works. It’s also, of course, how sex works. And what does all this friction amount to? Tangible stuff: muscle mass, like you build on a nautilus machine; babies, if you’re not careful. Hard-won, rich and rare printing, I’d argue. So maybe that’s why I’m a letterpress printer, as a simple case for friction in my life, a way to ensure myself of hard work and its commensurate reward even as new forms of communication are plotting their revolution without it. Vincent Perez is a designer, letterpress printer and artist living in Kingston, Ontario. He is dedicated to art as public practice, design as collaborative process and printing in the analog tradition. He is the proprietor and pressman of Everlovin’ Press (www.everlovinpress.com) and the art director of Syphon, a new arts publication from Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre.
Previous: Historic Hair Doâ€™s, photograph by Vincent Perez
Above: Self-Portrait, photograph by Katie Tower
Marigold Santos by Marigold Santos
y interest lies in transformation. Fleeting childhood memories and my family’s immigration to Canada are an autobiographical point of departure. History as experiences, fragmented in memory and re-told to become personal myth are negotiated through the act of drawing. Notions of attachment/separation, being grounded or uprooted, ultimately relate back to investigations of ‘self’ and ‘home’ and are explored through an invented temporality. Here I look forward, sideways, upside down, while simultaneously looking backward into a history never physically lived, a history manifest in conceptual hybrids and multiple distribution of selves.
In these recent works, imagery arises from the otherworldly and explores my interpretation of characters who have the ability to communicate with the otherworldly, the dead and the supernatural through a language of secret signals and gestures. This imagery is borrowed and reconfigured from childhood story-telling, folktales, memories, and invention. Marigold Santos recently had a two person exhibition at Modern Fuel in Kingston, Ontario entitled “Homelands”. She pursues an inter-disciplinary art practice involving drawn and printed works, sculpture, animation, and sound. She completed her BFA in Print at the University of Calgary in 2006, is a recipient of numerous awards, and has exhibited her work in Canada, the United States, and Japan.
Previous: Secret Signals (a triptych), 2010-2011 coloured pencil, watercolour, ink, graphite, charcoal, gold and silver leaf on paper (StArmand) 24" x 18" Right: Secret Signals (a triptych), 2010-2011 coloured pencil, watercolour, ink, graphite, charcoal, gold and silver leaf on paper (St-Armand) 24" x 18"
Left: Secret Signals (a triptych), 2010-2011 coloured pencil, watercolour, ink, graphite, charcoal, gold and silver leaf on paper (St-Armand) 24" x 18"
Dichotomy and delicacy are the essence of the encaustic works of Tanya Kirouac. The luminosity of the wax becomes rich with layering as it takes the form of a rose, cloud or field. A Montreal native, today Tanya is likeliest found working in the Distillery District Toronto studio and gallery, Studio Fuse, or looking out the kitchen window of the Cherry Valley farmhouse she shares with her partner, watching the way light falls on wild poppies and hay fields.
Case Goods Warehouse, Distillery District, Toronto
www.tanyakirouac.com www.shopfad.com 416-464-9152
The Oeno Gallery and Huff Estates Inn and Winery share a beautiful property filled with exciting exhibits by contemporary artists, exceptional wine by one of Canadaâ€™s top twenty wineries and a newly expanded outdoor sculpture garden that extends to the edge of the vineyard. 2274 County Rd. 1, Bloomfield, ON www.oenogallery.com www.huffestates.com
Queen’s University tel 613.533.2190 Kingston Ontario www.aeac.ca
The Agnes Etherington Art Centre’s mandate is to serve Queen’s University, the City of Kingston and the region as a cultural locus, through collecting, research, interpretation and exhibition of works of art, in the belief that contact with original works of art contributes to understanding our world, ourselves and others. The Art Centre features new exhibitions of contemporary and historical art year round, public programs including film screenings, public lectures and art classes, and free admission on Thursdays, as well as extended evening hours from September to April. Located at the corner of University Avenue and Bader Lane, Kingston, ON. For information on programs and current exhibitions go to WWW.AEAC.CA
Spark Box Studio will be moving to a new and exciting location this coming summer. This new space will provide larger studio spaces for visiting artists, a small store for printed material and a large bright studio for local studio members.
Come ignite your creativity. www.sparkboxstudio.com t.613.476.0337
Angéline’s Restaurant and Inn has long been known for its creative international cuisine and accommodation for the discriminating traveller. With its commitment to excellence, Angéline’s continues to evolve this season, opening an elegant master suite in the main Victorian building that is decorated tastefully with antiques and eclectic artwork. The arts have always been a feature of Angéline’s; each season local artists are celebrated with a vernissage and exhibition in the restaurant, café and rooms. Angéline’s is pleased to continue its involvement in the arts with its support of Spark Box Studio and wishes this energetic group of talented people every success it deserves.
433 Main St., Bloomfield 613.393.3301 www.angelinesrestaurantinn.com
Maia Heissler is the self-published author of works including Down-toEarth Cooking with Maia’s Salted Herbs, Look After the Little Ones, and the Wild Things series. Her long-term collaboration with JB has produced print materials that embody Heissler’s message of caring and harmony with nature. At JB Printing, our years of experience using the highest quality printing techniques have helped a variety of clients to produce their unique works. Whatever medium or technique, we work with you, the artist, to achieve results that satisfy your needs and give us the satisfaction of creative teamwork.
“A picture is worth 1,000 words – experience it for yourselves”
12 Carrying Place Rd. Trenton 613.394.3245
Published on Apr 4, 2011
Published on Apr 4, 2011
The fourth issue of Square2 Magazine intends to take you on a different journey from our previous issues. We’re always interested in pursuin...