This is a panoramic view of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. Obviously, some elements have been exaggerated.
When I first saw the view, I was awestruck by how many of my previous subjects fit into one scene. I have painted Harbour Center, the Lions and Crown mountains, the Pan Pacific sails, the “W”, the cranes, the Ironworkers bridge, the Dominion building, Sun Tower, and even the Balmoral Hotel—but I’ve never painted them all together.
Downtown East Side Vancouver is full of stories of loss and redemption, but more often just loss. This narrative is reflected in the architecture itself. For example, one of the focal points in this scene is the “Save On Meats” sign featuring a cartoon pig holding a coin. It’s a rotating neon sign and one side says “Save On” while the other says “Meats” as if there’s an ongoing choice between the two. “Save On” is redemptive – keep on saving! – while “Meats” is something to be consumed. I chose to display the former over the latter. I also aligned the sign vertically with the Eye of the Wind turbine on Grouse Mountain and made the wind turbine resemble Brazil’s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue.
Visually, the largest elements are clustered on the left (west) side and appear to be collapsing under their own weight. The eye-path moves left to right, west to east, along the canyon of Hastings Street. The mountains are a distant up-and-down EKG line. The foreground is shadowy darkness, the background is misty indistinct, and the sky above is fossilized and cracking. The elements on the end of this visual journey – the cranes, the Ironworkers – are longstanding motifs in my work for labour and effort.
There’s an economic component to the word “redeem” which means “to buy back.” There is always effort involved in earning anything. One doesn’t simply get delivered from suffering by desire or prayer alone. You have to work for it. That’s the story of ages: pain before pleasure and dark before light.
Meanwhile, the Army & Navy sign down the road proclaims, “You won’t believe what’s in store!” I don’t think any of us really know what’s in store, but finding redemption after darkness is one of the most powerful narratives in any work of literature, music, art, or prayer. The universal understanding of the story makes us better people, I think: less bleak, more hopeful, and ultimately far more forgiving. We all need that.
Acrylic on canvas, 72″ x 30″
Located at: Private Collection (SOLD)
You can also see the Work In Progress.