Although you might not recognize her name, you’ve probably seen her work. Elena Markelova is a Russian-born Vancouver-based artist, known for her double exposure animal watercolours and her detailed city maps. In fact, her gorgeous Map of Vancouver mural was featured at last year’s Home + Design Show, and is now on display at the Museum of Vancouver.
On Thursday, April 27, MOV is hosting a live Paint-In with Elena. Guests will have the chance to watch her paint and talk to her about her watercolour techniques. This event is free/by donation and open to all ages.
After seeing much of Elena’s artwork, I wanted to know more about her and what inspired her beautiful pieces. I had the opportunity to ask Elena those questions; read her captivating responses below.
Nicki Merz: You mention being inspired by the beauty of cities, nature, and the inhabiting creatures. Are there any particular artists that also inspire you? Or have inspired your work in the past?
Elena Markelova: Recently, I found myself crushed on two Australian creators, both based in Melbourne - Laura Blythman and Paula Mills. I guess Aussies take some coloured supplements daily, because these ladies' artworks are incredibly bright and rich in color. I love that they are not afraid to experiment and what they have achieved with their creations!
NM: When were you first encouraged to pick up the brush and start creating?
EM: I remember myself painting and drawing from the very little age - in kindergarten. I was 4 or 5 years old when I was painting my first real artworks, I think my parents still keep some of them. Then, I was never a very outgoing child; I would rather read a book or spend a few hours with my crayons or paints instead of running around with other neighbourhood kids. So one summer day during the school holidays (I was ten at that time) my mom came into my room. I was painting by myself, as usual, and she looked at me suspiciously and said: "Common, get dressed. We are going to sign you up for the art school!" This is how it all officially started.
NM: Where do you think your creativity comes from?
EM: My dad says it comes from him, because he was creative and artistic when he was young. I somehow believe it comes from both experience/skills and daily dose of inspiration from the outside – walk in the woods or just a glance over a freshly blooming flower. I professionally studied art and design for more than 13 years, and expect that my brain already started to interpret everything through some sort of artistic lens.
NM: Do you have any rituals or routines you like to complete before sitting down and starting an art project?
EM: I do lots of pre-work before starting any project. If I’m starting to work on a map, for example, first I read the history, do my research on monuments and attractions, then go sightseeing and sketching before transferring everything on a larger scale. Also I need to go through all the steps of painting beforehand, especially if I’m working with watercolours. And of course I need to find a perfect playlist for one or the other artwork. It helps me to get into the right mood.
NM: Do you have a piece you’re most proud of in your art collection?
EM: At the moment it is my largest piece of all – the map of Vancouver that hangs at the MOV. I spent so many hours on it and love every inch of this massive artwork.
NM: What is the biggest message you are trying to communicate with your art?
EM: I’m trying to deliver the beauty of the world. Hope that my creations could open the eyes of people who are stuck with everyday work routine or just stuck on one spot in life and don’t see any light, so then they would stop and look around – it’s so beautiful here! Or stop and smell the roses! There are so many colours in our world and I hope to bring those colours and cheer people up with my creations!
More information about the Elena Merkelova Live Paint-In event can be found on here.
Vancouver’s locally owned and operated fine art gallery, Chali-Rosso Art Gallery, has partnered with several leading, local artists to create a unique show that will present contemporary art works alongside historical masters for the first time.
The show titled “Reflections: Inspired by the Masters” will feature Vancouver’s top contemporary artists as well as historical masters, such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró,
Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, among many others. A select group of leading contemporary artists has been challenged to create works of art that are directly inspired by any of the masterworks in Chali-Rosso's gallery collection, including works by the above Modern Masters. The contemporary art works will be exhibited next to their inspirational works by the Masters.
This project is solely dedicated to explore the connection between artists of the past and artists of the present and aims to illustrate how relevant the art of the Modern Masters continues to be.
“It is important to ask what message art carries for us, here and now, especially about works of art created in a time and place so distant from us. We believe that fine art is not separated, not developed in a vacuum, but instead, it builds a continuum along the lines of artists.” Susanna Strem says, the owner and curator of the gallery.
Featured Masters: Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dalí, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Robert Motherwell, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Damien Hirst.
Featured Contemporary Artists: Bill Higginson, Deborah Bakos, Farah Samari, Hale Yin, Judit Haber, Karen Hollowell, Kerry Vaughn Erickson, Lan Lao, Richard Brodeur, Sarah Symes, Stewart Stephenson, Tiarra Edmundson, Tristesse Seeliger and Wendi Copeland.
The exhibition is free for the public and will run for two weeks at the gallery’s downtown location at 549 Howe Street, Vancouver.
EXHIBITION: MARCH 10 - 24, 2017
OPENING RECEPTION: MARCH 10, 7:00 pm - 10:30 pm
ALL DAY OPEN HOUSE: MARCH 11, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
The project and exhibition has been endorsed by the Museum of Vancouver.
This GivingTuesday, you are invited to partner with MOV on a highly anticipated exhibition.
GivingTuesday is a global day of giving where Canadians, charities and businesses come together to celebrate the spirit of giving.
The Museum's underexposed collection of Haida art features more than 400 rarely displayed pieces by Haida carvers, weavers, jewellery makers and painters.
We ask you to make a contribution toward this new Haida exhibition which will engage a broad audience and connect with a variety of communities.
Since April 23, more than 30,000 visitors to the Museum of Vancouver have had the exciting and astonishing experience of seeing Stefan Sagmeister: The Happy Show in person (a few people didn't actually like it).
With all those visitors, came crazy numbers of social media posts. Thousands of pictures - of gumballs, yellow walls, a giant monkey, digital spider webs, and people riding the stationary bike with a huge neon sign - have filled the people we follow's feeds.
Check out a sampling of those shots below...
Sometimes there's a fine line between being on the cutting edge and just plain being on edge. This week we bring you two lovely stories of Vancouver's willingness to push boundaries and embrace new, fresh ideas. And for good measure: one story of a divisive new bike plan that has excited some and induced anxiety in others.
Beach Biking. We start with the story that's put some Vancouverites on edge: the freshly approved Kitsilano bike route that will see a one-kilometre stretch of Point Grey Road closed to commuter traffic. Many cyclists are loving the idea of biking directly between the Burrard Bridge and Jericho Beach, while some local residents fear the impact of 10,000 motorists being diverted onto their streets. Meanwhile The Tyee asks: Why was this such a controversial topic in the first place? And Gordon Price tells us to relax.
One Little Free Art Exchange. As the Globe and Mail reports, "It is believed Metro Vancouver has between five and 10 “little free libraries.” And now, one little free art exchange." Cheryl Cheeks' brain-child, the aptly named Dude Chilling Art Exchange, located in Mount Pleasant's Guelph Park (also known as Dude Chilling Park) was unveiled this weekend. We're pretty excited to check out the first public spot in Vancouver where you can swap anything from sculpture and paintings to poetry and photos.
At the MOVeum:
August 1 - Sex Talk in the City: Special Talk and Tour
August 15 - Redacted Readings
August 15 - Curator's Talk & Tour: Foncie's Photos (Members Only)
This week in MOVments we explore some of the recent narratives, numbers, and neighborhood games top of mind in the ever-present world of Vancouver real estate. We have the on-going and multi-layered tale of gentrification in the DTES, some new research that tackles the oft-cited cause/effect relationship of of foreign-buyers driving up condo prices, a playful chronicle of one conceptual artist selling the smallest pieces of real estate in the history of Vancouver, and an online game that tests your knowledge of local city neighborhoods.
Pidgin Protesters. By now, you've probably heard about the protests happening outside of a newly opened restaurant called Pidgin in the Downtown Eastside. Anti-poverty activists are arguing that the intrusion of another high-end restaurant in the neighbourhood means that there is not only less space for low-income housing or organizations providing community services but that it is also disrespectful to the culture of the community. On the other side of the argument, people like city councillor Kerry Jang see the mixed nature of the area as a positive and restaurant co-owner Brandon Grossutti sees his efforts at hiring DTES residents as a path to a more integrated community. And while we're on the subject, check out a couple other perspectives that range from accusations of a kind of reverse NIMBYism to biased media coverage of protestors.
The Myth of the Foreign Buyer Boogeyman? Chances are that if you've lived in Vancouver for any length of time you've also heard about the people who come from overseas to buy up our real estate, drive up prices, and then leave the residences vacant. This Globe and Mail piece suggests that there may be less truth in the story than we previously believed. Although exact statistics are tricky to obtain the article states that "2012 figures from Landcor Data Corporation show that only 0.2 per cent of people who bought residential properties in Metro Vancouver last year are currently living outside of the country" In other words, hardly enough to drive the market. The article also says that many foreign investors are in fact also residing here, coming from China and other countries in order to support their children's educations.
Cube Living. Looking for some affordable real estate in the city? Then look no further than artist Alex Grunenfelder's Cube Living project at 221A Artist Run Centre. Last week, Grunenfelder was selling one cubic foot units of space to interested buyers for as little as one dollar. In this interview for The Tyee Grunenfelder explained the project: "I'm not necessarily advocating living in smaller spaces," he says of Cube Living. "It's about looking at the discussions that are happening around all of this, and maybe looking at things from a different point of view, and also trying to project, where is this going? Where is this process of urban densification going to end up?"
Know Your 'Hood. And finally, get to know your Vancouver neighbourhoods with this cute little app (helpful for the next time that you buy real estate?).
At the MOVeum:
March 3 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism March 7 - Special Curator Talk & Tour: A Clandestine History of Contraception March 10, 17, 24 - Design Sundays: Upcycled Urbanism
By Carolyn B. Heller
Among the many people the late Tobias Wong shocked and surprised with his art was his own mother, Phyllis Chan.
“He really had lots of crazy ideas,” Chan admitted during Show & Tell, an event which brought Wong’s family, friends and admirers to the Museum of Vancouver to discuss the artist and his often-controversial work, now on view in Object(ing): The Art/Design of Tobias Wong.
To make her point, Chan showed the audience a picture of her son as a young man. There he was, standing on a sidewalk in New York City, selling what he purported to be his own dreams in plastic bags.
If her son could successfully sell sacks of air as dreams for $1 each, Chan said, she knew that the then-aspiring artist “would be able to survive in his future.”
Wong’s audacity did indeed bring him to the fore of the international art and design scenes before his death in 2010 at age 35. Everything he made, every collaboration, every performance, had a story.
Tobias Wong on a Manhattan sidewalk.
From Selling Dreams to Selling Dots
Pablo Griff, Wong’s former roommate and frequent collaborator, described another art adventure that he and Wong launched – the “Dot Placement Project.”
They were working together in a New York design store, where they ordered an array of big, colourful dots.
When customers came into the store, Wong and Griff would offer themselves up as Dot Consultants, telling prospective clients, “If you pay $100, we’ll place dots in your home.”
They actually got several people to pay for their dot consulting services, including some who understood their ironic stunt and used the opportunity to talk with the two about their art.
Their little caper turned out to be a “good learning experience for Tobi,” Griff said, which helped him define and promote his artistic concepts.
For those who took the project too seriously and considered the dots some kind of status symbol, though, Griff confessed, “We looked through their drawers and everything. We basically did this just to look around rich people’s homes.”
Panelists Phyllis Chan, Pablo Griff, Tim Dubitsky and Omer Arbel. Image: Tilo Driessen.
Designer Omer Arbel told how Wong created his 2003 piece, Doorstop. Wong filled a curvaceous glass vase by Finnish designer Alvar Aalto with concrete, using the piece as a mold. To release his work, Wong had to smash the Aalto vase.
“It was an insult,” Arbel said, “a big ‘f**k you’ to Alvar Aalto.” But it was also more than that. For Wong, "the materials were secondary to the questions that a work raised in people's minds…..[he] had a symbolic way of working with materials that I find totally foreign and totally fascinating."
Another piece in the Object(ing) show, This is a Lamp (2001), also started with a famous artist’s work. Wong managed to buy a Philippe Starck Bubble Club Chair just before its North American premiere, then wired the chair to turn it into a glowing light fixture.
Displaying his lamp-chair a day before Starck unveiled his own chair earned Wong plenty of attention in the art world. As Pablo Griff told the audience, Starck was reportedly angry that he hadn’t thought of the lamp idea himself.
“It’s a nice chair,” Griff pointed out, “but it’s much more beautiful as a lamp.”
Doorstop, concrete cast in an Alvar Aalto vase.
“This Beautiful Soul”
Despite Wong’s sometimes outrageous antics, his friend Nancy Bendtsen said that Tobi “was very generous, always giving gifts. He had this beautiful soul, where things were always possible.”
Bendtsen met Wong at Inform Interiors, the Vancouver furniture store she runs with her husband Niels Bendtsen. Tobi turned up with “all these ideas. He had, maybe, 50 ideas” for projects they might do together.
Tobi’s world “was full of ideas and friends,” Bendtsen said, brushing away a tear.
Wong eventually worked with the Bendstens to design a sofa shaped like a pentagon, with all its padded seating facing inward. They built a prototype of the unusual five-sided couch, which they intended to display at a design show in Brazil. Unfortunately, Brazilian customs confiscated the crates.
It was shortly after September 11th, Bendsten recalled, speculating that the sofa – named “Pentagon” – may have been seized because of some imagined connection to the attack on the Pentagon building in Washington, DC.
They never retrieved the sofa. In one of the last conversations Bendsten had with Tobi before his death, Wong insisted that he would return to Brazil one day and track it down.
Tobias Wong/Inform Pentagon: disappeared in Brazil.
Design That (Really) Lasts
Wong loved working with other artists, his collaborator and romantic partner, Tim Dubitsky, recounted, frequently convincing them to “go out of their way to participate” in his projects.
One such venture was a pop-up tattoo parlour, in which patrons would pay “a significant amount” to have various artists’ works tattooed on their bodies.
The idea, Dubitsky said, was to test how far a fan was willing to go for a work they admired.
Wong himself was prone to this compulsion. At a gallery opening in New York, he convinced the artist Jenny Holzer to write her yuppie manifesto on his arm: “Protect me from what I want.” Wong promptly had the words tattooed in place, effectively appropriating the phrase as his own.
(Inspired by Wong’s tattoo parlour, the MOV will host its own tattoo event, “Love You Forever: A (pop-up) Tattoo Spectacle,” on December 8.)
Protect me from what I want: Nancy Bendtsen compares her temporary tattoo to the original on Wong's arm. Image: Tilo Driessen.
Coke Spoons in Heaven
After sharing their memories, Wong’s mother and friends walked the audience through the Object(ing) exhibit, where more stories – by friends, fellow artists, or others who knew or collaborated with Wong – accompany each work.
One of Wong’s most attention-getting creations was Coke Spoon (2005), in which he dipped a long, thin McDonald’s coffee stirrer in 18-karat gold. Pablo Griff said that McDonald’s, which apparently didn’t appreciate being linked even tangentially with the drug culture, got a cease-and-desist order to prevent Wong from producing more of the gold-plated spoons.
Next to Coke Spoon is a comment by artist and writer Douglas Coupland:
“The spoon hung on [my] kitchen wall above the sink for years, and then it vanished…. I hope that Tobi took it and has it with him in heaven.”
Object(ing): The Art/Design of Tobias Wong runs through February 24, 2013.
As a child, Tobias Wong created this miniature scupture for his mother. He 'appropriated' the form from a sculpture in her home.
By Todd Falkowsky, co-curator of Object(ing): The art/design of Tobias Wong
The first time I met Tobias Wong was in New York City in 2004, where we both had shows at the Felissimo House. As I was setting up my space, a small, very pleasant guy kept circling around and nodding his approval at what we were installing. As we were finishing, he finally came forward and introduced himself as a “big fan”. We chatted about the work and he shared some thoughts. It was only after he left, when I asked the curator who he was, did I find out that it was Tobias. Humble, interested, and filled with ideas. It was a genuine pleasure to meet someone with so much talent introduce himself as a fan when in fact he was a celebrated artist/designer with his star on an explosive rise. Well, the feeling was mutual.
I knew that designers appreciated Tobi’s work, but I realized his influence had run deeper when I was teaching at OCAD in Toronto. I was pleasantly surprised by how many design students wanted to do work like his. They were not looking to be designers in the traditional sense, but to become provocative and use product design as a mirror and comment on the status and purpose of our culture. They did not want to be Starck or Rashid; instead they wanted to be Tobias Wong, the artist who used design to break the rules. Tobi’s ideas and approach had impact on design practice, inviting designers to use their craft to create serious meaning and new ways of interacting with our communities.
Our paths continued to cross over the years and though we were able to work together a handful of times, we always talked about future projects to collaborate on, new shows, products, and publications. That opportunity was not meant to be — a reminder to grab the chances you have and to do the things you really want to do today, rather than tomorrow. I brought Tobias to Toronto in January 2010 for one of his last lectures, and showed his iconic “This is a Lamp” at the accompanying exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. This was the last time I talked to him.
Later that spring, upon learning of his passing, I immediately suspected that it was not real; the whole thing seemed surreal and mad, and in line with the shock that Tobi’s work sometimes embraced. I thought it was another irreverent yet more potent stunt, ratcheted up from past projects like his Core77 lecture or the elaborate installation, the Wrong Store in Manhattan. Reality settled in and as heartbreaking a loss it was for the art and design community, I felt his ideas and products would endure, and that his work should continue to be seen, discussed, and celebrated.
I had just moved to Vancouver and it struck me that Tobias’ international success deserved a long overdue homecoming, in the city where he was born and raised (and perhaps where his ideas had their beginning). For me, his work was avant-garde, blending design and art, opening both professions up to new directions; work that is still important and deserves to be promoted and shared.
The Museum of Vancouver has graciously opened their doors to me, and the idea for this show, bringing the work of this remarkable Vancouverite home. Tobi’s family, close friends, colleagues, and fans have opened their hearts to share with us their thoughts and experience to understand and contextualize the work (not to mention lending it to us in the first place). I am honoured to have played a part in bringing this exhibition together. I hope Tobias’ work lives on and continues to inspire, disrupt, and provoke.
Object(ing) opens to the public September 20, 2012. A limited number of tickets are available to attend the opening night.