Darcy Lundgren - designer, artist and co-owner of DaDe ART & DESIGN LAB - has certainly made good use of his junk mail. He created a custom piece a few years ago out of shredded postal refuse glued and layered onto a canvas, which he then drizzled with paint. The result was a textural painting that gave rise to a whole show of works in a similar style.
The exhibit’s title, “Environment,” has a couple of meanings. The first, and most immediately apparent as you tour the 20 or so canvasses by Lundgren, is environmental awareness — turning something wasteful into a work of art.
“The epitome of what I see as a negative for the planet are things like empty water bottles and junk mail,” explains Lundgren. Referring to that first catalyzing painting, he says, “It’s all junk mail minus newsprint and recycled paper, and it just started developing with layers of paint and layers of paper all combining.”
“Environment” also refers to our surroundings. “I starting thinking about not just being environmental, but what’s going in our little bubble right now,” says Lundgren. This train of thought underpinned another artistic choice you’ll see in many canvasses — stencilled symbols, such as “&” and “#,” layered on top of the multicoloured swoops of paint. “Symbols for words are becoming so much the way we communicate back and forth on our cellphones,” explains Lundgren.
Amid the paintings, which were all executed in a similar style but with varied results, the standout piece is one that Lundgren created several years ago called “H2O.” The tall, chandelier-like sculpture is premised on the reuse of another disposable item — glass Evian water bottles. The striking piece is a good fit for both uses of the term “Environment,” not only because of the number of bottles ending up in landfills, but also because of their ubiquity in contemporary consumer culture.
Some of the inspiration for the show came from a recent trip to the Wynwood Arts District in Miami, Florida. While Lundgren had already developed his junk mail technique, he saw kindred approaches to art at the Wynwood galleries. “I found a lot of artists down there are very much in this kind of vocabulary movement as well, where they’re taking found objects, recycling objects, salvaging objects, taking old floppy disks — you name it,” he explains. “It’s fresh and unique. There are so many different things nowadays that have become irrelevant that were very relevant 10 or 20 years ago that are still floating around, like VHS tapes and things like that.”
He adds, “It’s kind of like seeing our world in a different way, seeing things that we used before so readily, completely reinterpreted in a different way. For me, there’s beauty in everything if you try to look for it.”
It’s short but sweet: DaDe Art & Design Lab is hostingFourteen, a five-day solo show of the work of local artist David Brunning (a.k.a. TheKidBelo). If you’re familiar with his work (and many of you must be, as Brunning was voted best local artist in this year’s Fast Forward Weekly’s Best of Calgary listings), then, you’ll be pleased to find more of his bold, graffiti-based style among a selection of canvases,colourful chairs and cabinets. Arrive on opening night, and you’ll witness the finishing touches on a still-wet mural.
However, you’ll also find that Brunning’s art has morphed over the years: “I expect people to not be used to what I’m painting,” he says. “The imagery is different. It’s all part of what I’ve done, how it’s laid out is a lot different. People have taken me as a graffiti artist, but this art is more representational-abstract.”
The shift comes from deep inside, as Brunning explains: “This year, things changed. I came out of a lifestyle choice, and moved into a more clear, more healthy way of living, to challenge my creative process.”
He adds, “I also have learned over the last year or so to become quite honest with who I am and where I’m at. That’s going to make a lot of people uncomfortable, but as an artist and as a person in general, if there’s no growth, no change, you get stagnant.”
There’s a lot of personal symbolism for Brunning wrapped up in this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it show. Fourteen also represents the number of years that Brunning has been painting; the five-day run corresponds closely to the day, five years ago, that Brunning left his day job to become the rare creature — a full-time artist.
“I’m one son of four boys. I’ve got one thumb, four fingers, that do all the work. And on the dark note of things, there was one man and four vices that I had.”
It’ll be up to you to interpret what those vices might have been, and the artwork invites you to contemplate deeper meanings. For example, a primarily text-based piece called “Relax” reads “We’re made for each other, we make each other.” But taking a closer look, out pops the letters W O R K.
“Without work, relationships fade,” says Brunning. Or take “Breathe,” subtitled “If I could take it back, I wouldn’t have learned a thing” — a riff on Djarum clove cigarettes. You’ll also find colourful, functional art in the cabinets and chairs, available to purchase and bursting with enough creativity to put your IKEA furniture to shame.
Particularly critical to this intensely personal show is a piece called “Rest,” made up of nine canvases depicting Brunning’s own face, screaming. Originally painted in 2009, the piece has never been shown, and has been waiting in a box for two years. With the context ofFourteen, it’s finally found its public stage.
If eyes are windows to the soul, so too are paintings.
“Every time you buy a piece of work from me, you’re buying a piece of my life at that time,” says Brunning. “The greatest thing that you can do as a person, is become honest with yourself to a point where you recognize the beauty and the flaws within yourself, and take responsibility for it all. That’s the charge behind this show.” Fourteen is a testament to flaws alchemized into beauty.
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