Community Papers

North Van waterfront exhibit a first for new curator

PORT TALK -  Golya Mirderikvand, curator for Café for Contemporary Art, is coordinating her first exhibit, On the Waterfront.  - Todd Coyne
PORT TALK - Golya Mirderikvand, curator for Café for Contemporary Art, is coordinating her first exhibit, On the Waterfront.
— image credit: Todd Coyne

On the Waterfront is the first exhibition from Café for Contemporary Art coordinator Golya Mirderikvand, and for it the new curator has pulled in some local art world heavies.

Names like Marcus Bowcott and Grace Gordon-Collins should be familiar to most, as two of the brightest beacons of the North Shore arts scene.

And while the work of both has been the subject of considerable acclaim outside the Lower Mainland, the two credit North Van’s working waterfront with providing a whole industry of inspiration.

Gordon-Collins’s studio overlooks the waterfront from East Esplanade and it was while watching container ships come into port that she was inspired to embark on a series of photos.

“My training is architecture so I tend to see things in terms of form,” she told The Outlook at the opening of On the Waterfront.

And so she began to explore shipping containers as the building blocks of the port, at one point even getting into a boat to tail large container ships with her camera. And in that building-block exploration she chased a thread of destruction too.

“You remember there was this neurotic notion of ‘the nuke,’ when it came in, would be smuggled in a container through a port,” Gordon-Collins said, referring to the onset of post-Sept. 11th War on Terror-era thinking. “So I wanted to look at the whole notion of ports as being not just a benign thing but the source of potential terror, too.”

Bowcott’s waterfront work similarly explores the darker side of “the things we make,” drawing a line between shipbuilding, the military industry and we as willing spectators to our possible destruction.

“There’s a terrible beauty to them in a way,” he said, referring to two of his paintings on exhibit; one, a hauntingly looming ship’s hull, the other a fighter jet.

“I started out doing water surfaces,” Bowcott told The Outlook, explaining how his love for Monet and the reflective beauty of water slowly morphed into a fascination with the floating industrial detritus — “the boats and the docks and scaffolds and things.”

From there Bowcott said his interest took off further, eventually taking as its muse the subject of military technology — its efficient and frightening beauty.

“These jets are beautiful because they have been pared down to their essential items,” he said. “It’s that old dictum that form follows function and they are very functional. But it starts to beg moral questions.”

Titled Sleep Country, the aircraft work is a study for something Bowcott and café staff hope will one day grace the wall of a shipping container as a permanent waterfront installation.

Until then, On the Waterfront exhibits free at the Cafe for Contemporary Art until Jan. 4.

“We’ve had a number of artists exhibiting here who have documented the older structures and the newer structures and all those changes on the waterfront,” exhibit curator Mirderikvand said.

“So I really wanted to sort of bring that all together at the end of the year as a nice way for the community to reflect on what’s been happening down here.”

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