On Sunday morning, April 22, 2018, I installed and unveiled my public art sculptures, titled “Perspective/Perception” in front of the Vancity Savings Credit Union in Chinatown, Vancouver, BC, Canada at the corner of Main and Keefer Streets. After months of an NDA, I can now reveal the artworks! This is me and collaborating Musquem artist Shane Point with the sculptures, just after the unveiling. 20 minutes after this photo, Michelle and I began the Vancouver 10K Sun Run, which is why I’m dressed as I am.
“Perspective/Perception,” are a pair of companion sculptures that are metaphors for how we perceive humanity in one another. These asymmetric artworks are carved from grey granite, quarried on Hardy Island, BC.
Approaching the sculptures from any direction, one can see spheres that seemingly float on waves of water, each perched on a cube. The spheres have carved negative spaces that form curvilinear, abstract surfaces, echoing the waves. But as one nears the pair and stands at the inside front corner of each sculpture, the abstract forms reveal their true selves.
One discovers the Indigenous Circle of Life on the left and the Taoist Yin Yang symbol on the right. It is through this closer inspection one gains the full perspective of the artworks’ identity and its cultural symbols honouring the history of the Chinatown community.
The circle and the square’s cross-cultural significance is celebrated in the sculptures. The spheres are the same dimensions as the cubes upon which they rest. Their profiles are identical circles and squares. The quadrants of the Circle of Life are delineated by doubled “S” curves that define the halves of the Yin Yang. There are several surface textures used in each sculpture. Smooth honed and bush hammered areas allow for shadows to be cast, while highly polished areas reveal shiny, reflective, contrasting surfaces.
Before mounting the sculptures on their pedestals, Shane blessed each by spreading ochre and laying eagle down on the pedestal tops.
Paying homage to the neighbourhood’s history and identity, the characters of the five Chinese elements Metal, Water, Wood (top to bottom, left), Fire and Earth (right) are etched into the Circle of Life sculpture.
In its companion, five Coast Salish spirit animals of Thunderbird, Eagle, Salmon, Bear and Orca created by Shane Point are etched in the Yin Yang sculpture. Notice how Shane designed the Thunderbird (above left) to appear to be in motion and the image of standing people in each of its wing feathers. The shape of the Eagle head is echoed in the Salmon head (above centre) and the Bear head becomes the dorsal fin of the Orca (above right). Circles abound here in the eyes, feathers and salmon roe. Shane submitted line drawings to me and I augmented them to these graphics which are better suited for granite engraving.
On the front of each cube base is a low relief emulating preserved circular wooden screens motifs designed by the late Joe Wai – the architect for the original Vancity Chinatown branch.
All of these symbols are meant to be discovered as the viewer walks around the artworks. The more the viewer ‘sees’ the sculptures up close, the more truths are revealed.
How we see the sculptures is a metaphor for human relations. If we look at each other with a closer perspective, without prejudice, preconception and partiality, we perceive the other’s true self.
The Staff at this Vancity branch are thrilled to have these sculptures on their doorstep. If you are in the neighbourhood, stop by to look and of course touch. And let me know what you think of them in the comments below.