Eye-Smack

5 August 2018 – I have a plan. (1) Quote “better than a smack in the eye with a wet kipper”; (2) thank Monty Python’s Fish Dance for this immortal line; and (3) segue very niftily to being smacked in the eye with colour.

Then I discover that Fish Dance doesn’t include this line, and that there are a zillion variations on the line, with attributions as wide-ranging as Aussie slang, Uncle Anatole in the Tintin series, and even Dr. Cottard in the 1908 work Du côté de chez Swann by Marcel Proust.

Good grief. Let’s forget all that, and get back to my being smacked in the eye with colour.

Which is what happens during a week of blazing, pulsing sunshine.

Green!

Blue-purple!

Yellow! (bee-flecked with black)

And — just to show nature doesn’t have all the fun — look what happens when you leave the VanDusen Botanical Garden and take the Canada Line downtown to Yaletown-Roundhouse Station.

Underbrella!

Welcome to the new public art installation bobbing among the trees in Bill Curtis Square, courtesy of the Yaletown BIA.

Perfectly sensible adults dance around under it, squinting upwards, and giggling.

 

We are in love with it — at least partially because, as someone suggested, all those brollies currently shield us from sunshine rather than pelting rain.

 

How-Not-To

7 July 2018 – Sometimes negative teaches more than positive.

For example, if you wish to convince people that your City hates art …

do not — do NOT — post your message on the edge of Robson Square, with the Vancouver Art Gallery to one side, bracketed by two major sculptures (Spring, Alan Chung Hung; Bird of Spring, Abraham Etungat), and backed by a brand new, sassy labyrinth on the pavement immediately behind.

I laugh at the message, and go enjoy the labyrinth.

Which is completely delightful.

Suddenly I know why I’ve been seeing more labyrinths about the city lately — in fact, showed one of them to you in my recent Jalan-Jalan post. We’re one half of the on-going Toronto & Vancouver City of Labyrinths project, its objective being to “create public labyrinths within walking distance of every Torontonian & Vancouverite.”

 

The City hates art? Looks like love to me.

 

Grey Power

10 June 2018 – A month of near-constant sunshine has convinced me that the sun is a trickster. All that zap-powie brilliance, explosions of colour in all directions — and meanwhile it’s hiding, I have decided, more than it reveals.

Hiding it the way any illusionist hides a whole lot of what is really going on: by distraction. We are so zap-powie focused on the colour, we tend to miss everything else.

Whereas, with a grey sky — which we had the other day — with a grey sky, you notice everything else. Line, form, texture, luminosity. Also colour, oddly enough. Grey really sets off colour.

I am walking east on West 1st Avenue, heading for Hinge Park and False Creek, umbrella under my arm, leaden sky overhead.

But it isn’t really leaden — or, not uniformly so.

And it dramatically sets off the disused warehouse beneath and that brave poplar, twirling its leaves green/silver/green in the wind.

Strong line of the roof, all those tones of rust, the twirling shrub. In bright sunshine, I wouldn’t have noticed all that. I know it.

Into Hinge Park. Transfixed by one small bird a-top the rusty pillar, silhouetted against the dark-dancing sky.

And now that sky patters down rain.

Drops form endless tiny concentric circles in the pond, a Mallard duck creates one arc of larger circles there on the left, and silver light bounces back from the rufffled surface of the water. Grey sentinel stones too, at water’s edge.

More rain.

I graduate from putting up the hood on my jacket to putting up my umbrella. And then, knowing when a tactical retreat is in order, I dive into an Olympic Village café.

(Time passes.)

End of latte, end of rain shower, but a still-dancing sky as I walk back home.

How it makes that mural pop! And how it plays up the march of the hydro poles down the alley.

Then I stop looking for examples of how the sky enhances what lies beneath, and I just … look at the sky.

Which stands up very nicely on its own.

Next day the sunshine is back, and guess what. I am still noticing grey. Suddenly I see that old trickster sun as a backdrop for grey.

Though not just any old chunk of grey concrete, I have to admit.

This is one arc of landscape architect/artist Don Vaughan‘s work, Marking High Tide, which stands at the seawall in David Lam Park on  the north shore of False Creek.

Vaughan also wrote the poem: “As the moon circles the earth the oceans respond with the rhythm of the tides.”

Love in a Temperate Rainforest

5 June 2018 – I am climbing a steep path up through the woods in Queen Elizabeth Park, and then I stop climbing. I play the game of “No! no! I just paused to admire the view!”, but really, I am catching my breath.

And then I do admire the view. Well, you have to, don’t you, when you see umbrellas popping up above the trees?

I resume the climb, motivated now to find those umbrellas.

Which, I discover, are being held by four figures — frozen in the moment, but somehow conveying an elegant, interactive pirouette.

I come closer, and discover that each figure is two figures.

Two heads, four arms, swirled into one body.

And it all makes perfect sense, once I read the plaque.

This is Love in the Rain, a 2016 work by Bruce Voyce, and the Vancouver Park Board’s first love lock sculpture. Like other cities around the world, Vancouver is attempting to protect its bridges and railings by creating a purpose-build place for people to proclaim their love by locking a padlock in place and throwing away the key.

Vancouver being Rain City, it has chosen an art installation that “speaks of love in the temperate rainforest.”

I step in even closer, to admire the locks. Some are work-a-day, but many have clearly been chosen to honour the commitment being made, whether through the beauty of the lock, or the message it carries.

There’s the elephant lock ..

and the battered, but very handsome metal heart lock …

and the art-heart that transforms an otherwise pedestrian lock …

and the pretty red lock with its beautifully engraved names.

There are messages. Sometimes attached to the padlock …

and sometimes right on the lock itself.

But whatever the lock, whatever its message, each has been attached to the sculptures for the same reason, strong in the same belief:

Which is why the installation includes this beautiful receptacle for the keys.

I watch others explore the keys and messages, I take a photo for a young Québécois couple to commemorate their visit, and then I walk on up into the gardens.

I enjoy the stunning gardens, and I revisit, as I always do, Henry Moore’s Knife Edge sculpture that fits so handsomely, so perfectly, with the fountains to the south side of the Bloedel Conservatory.

But the best part of my visit is Love in the Rain.

 

Time Well Killed

11 May 2018 – Yes! You can kill time and still hold up your head in polite society.

(Credit, by the way, to Comedy Central, whose old tag line “Time Well Wasted” I have just appropriated.)

Select your location, open your eyes, and enjoy yourself.

Exhibit No. 1

I am in George Wainborn Park, smack by the walking/cycling paths along the north shore of False Creek. I’ve never noticed this park before, and it is not my destination: it is simply a meeting point. “By the fountain,” said my friend, as we planned our outing.

I am a few moments early. I kill time.

Admiring the fountain, of course.

Admiring all that “geometry at work & play,” as I like to think of it — vertical waterfall on the left; horizontal black fencing left to right; stone triangle on the right; great arch of the Granville St. Bridge overhead.

I watch a father carefully hold his toddler high enough to peer into the triangle. The child gurgles with delight, flexes his tiny starfish fingers in-out-in-out toward the spray.

I wait ’til they’re gone, then go and do the same. (Peer, that is, but perhaps even gurgle.)

Then my friend arrives, and we leave.

Exhibit No. 2

Next day, same need (same opportunity) to pace myself between appointments, and kill some time.

A quick visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery and then, because it’s a lovely day and I am in no hurry, I plonk down on the VAG steps terracing down into Robson Square.

Many others are on the steps as well, including one permanent resident.

Meet Bird of Spring, one of at least three authorized bronze replicas of a 14 cm. original by the Inuk artist Abraham Etungat, of Cape Dorset.

Bird and I watch the action below, in the Robson Square skating rink.

In season, well … it’s a skating rink, isn’t it? And off season, well … it’s whatever people want to make of it.

At the moment, it’s a studio for choreographed routines. Foreground, two young martial arts practitioners, with batons; background, a trio of dancin’ fools.

I stroll down around the rink, zero in on the dancin’ fools.

They are just a-shimmying their little hearts out.

Bird of Spring and I now bracket the rink, on the watch from opposite ends. The baton couple are still hard at it, in that sweet-spot combination of athletic precision and sheer flowing beauty.

Overhead, an audience of pigeons.

On I walk.

Still with some time to kill, but I have another destination in mind.

Exhibit No. 3

Another destination, with another overhead audience, if we may refer to inanimate objects in such terms.

It’s a tower of the Woodward’s Development on West Hastings —  the multi-use redeveloment of the old Woodward’s department store site.

The tower rises over, is visible through, the Atrium, which is a welcoming pass-through space open to all. Last summer I sat here & listened to a series of Hard Rubber Orchestra rehearsals; today I listen to the piano.

The  bright-blue piano chained to a bicycle, always there & available to anyone who wants to play it.

This intent young man is playing Chopin. He is very good, and we applaud when he ends a selection. He doesn’t look up, but, eyes still on keyboard, he does give one quick nod of the head.

He is playing again as I leave.

Nicely in time to meet my friend at our Purebread Bakery rendezvous.

 

 

 

Knobby Knees

19 March 2018 – And hairy naked ones too, but I haven’t come to the VanDusen Botanical Garden to admire human knees.

I want these guys.

Whole great marching platoons of cypress knees!

Proof I am indeed circumnavigating (with protracted time-outs on every pond-side bench) the R. Roy Forster Cypress Pond.

The Garden as a whole is very busy, on this warm, sunny weekend day —  bursting with new blossoms, excited children, and keen photographers staggering under their telephoto lenses.

The Pond, tucked away to one side, is a quiet haven. I slide off to join it.

The approach is part of the pleasure.

First, the serene warm presence of the Confidence couple, Michael Dennis’ 2012 creation in Western red cedar …

then silver sunlight glinting off Southern Magnolia leaves (their native habitat, the south-eastern USA, proving what a benign climate I now call home).

I sink onto a first bench, its wooden planks warmed and made redolent by the springtime sun. It gives me a good view of the floating bridge that zigzags its way across the Pond.

I sit there quite a while, happy to let the day come to me, feeling my muscles expand again after their two weeks’ contraction in the Toronto chill. (For all that we are a special animal, we are animal. Our bodies tell us so.)

Then I rise, turn away from the main paved path leading to the bridge, and instead walk a bark-chip path around a far pond edge.

Cypress knees delineate shoreline, neatly encircle the mini-island opposite.

I look away from the Pond, eyes right-not-left, and admire blossoms floating in a bowl of water on the other side of the path. There are several of these bowls, each placed on an upturned log, filled with blossoms currently on offer in nearby shrubs.

What could be simpler? Or prettier?

Eyes pond-side once again, but lazily so,  my mind slightly ahead of my eyes, already anticipating the next bench.

Then a double-take. I freeze. Did I see … ? Was that … ? No, couldn’t be … !

Look again.

Silly me. Of course it’s not real.

Slightly shame-faced, I walk around the far end of the floating bridge and sink onto another bench, giving me a fine view from the far side.

Another month or two, the surface will be thick with water lilies.

Two Days Earlier …

I know. Chronology shot to pieces. And no thematic link at all. (Except that, yes, I am back in Vancouver.)

But you don’t mind, do you.

Barely back in town, greeted with sunshine and double-digit temperatures, I head for favourite places. The VanDusen, above, is one — but so is the Main Street / False Creek area, and that’s where I take myself just a day or so after returning to town.

Where I meet:

Backpack Woman, scampering for safety in the Main & E. 7th parking lot …

and Bookworm Woman, soaking up sunshine and the printed word by False Creek …

and Exercise Man, digging in that paddle as he flashes under the Cambie Street bridge.

Truth is, I’d stopped to admire the flamingoes — or whatever they are — somebody has added to the acrylic stripes on this bridge piling, one element of this art installation showing the 5-metre rise in sea levels that climate change could cause.

And then racer-guy joined the scene.

Very Vancouver.

 

Honorary Tuesday (Still)

7 March 2018 – Oh, the magic of the Present Historical Tense. Or, the Willing Suspension of Disbelief. Or whatever you want to call the fact that we are happily pretending we are still in the middle of the walk I began describing in my previous post.

So. We have lunch. Then — once again as so often before — we begin a zigzaggy sort of walk north/west-ish, heading toward our respective homes.

We hit Dundas St. East. And the intersection of Craven Road.

Yes! We must revisit Craven Road!  The question that sends our legs north: Is any art still left on the Longest Wooden Fence in Toronto?

Yes.

I blogged about Craven Rd. while living in Toronto — most recently in March 2015 — celebrating its superlatively tiny homes & its superlatively long wooden fence in the stretch between Dundas & Gerrard.

Very short & inadequate fence explanation (see that March 2015 post for more): in 1910 or so, the City hived off the back portion of a north-south road; threw up a wooden fence along one side; and hey-presto, the humble little houses that once crouched in the back yards of that other street now had a street of their very own. Craven Road.

The fence is still there. So is the line-up of homes opposite.

When we first began visiting the street in 2013, a great long stretch of the fence was covered in wonderful art work, much of it by Toronto artist Christine Kowal. The pieces were already showing signs of wear, and  grew more and more tattered with the snow and rain of each passing year.

Which made me love them more and more, for their resilience. (I know. Hopelessly anthropomorphic.)

Now, in 2018, we pounce on survivors with delight. Look! there’s that black & white cat …

and that ginger cat …

and those very silly sheep.

We’ve come to the end of the old survivors.

And that’s when we see there is new artwork on the fence. Very different style & mix, but in the same spirit. The Craven Road Art Fence lives on.

We see this perhaps explanatory plaque, tucked just below a leaping golden fish.

I’d missed that, in the hurly-burly of my own 2016 … How wonderful to catch up with it now.

The closer you get, the more detail there is to enjoy.

For example, not just a teapot next to a child’s story book. Not just a child’s story book with a drawing of a pussy-cat. Not just the drawing of a pussy-cat with a cut-out where the head should be … but …

all that, plus a stuffed mouse head, to complete the cat.

Well, of course.

And look, there’s one of those plastic humanoid knife-rests. Devoid of knives, but equipped with footwear.

Also equipped with a guiding philosophy: “Don’t let yesterday use up too much of today.”

Respectful nod at the philosophy; big laugh when we turn to look again at the homes opposite. Many are still the modest ones of early days, but some — like this one — are in full gentrified splendour.

Endearing thing is, this home (unlike some of its nouveaux neighbours) joins in the larky art-spirit of the street, with its very own blackboard.

Spring? I don’t think so, my friend.

Just a couple of degrees above freezing that day and, as I write this in real-today time, still just a couple of degrees with the promise of more snow.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver …  No. Let’s not think about that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honorary Tuesday

3 March 2018 – It isn’t Tuesday, but the original Tuesday Walking Society is out in full two-woman force, and in honour of our reunion we declare the day to be Honorary Tuesday. Makes us happy.

As so often, for all those Toronto years, we meet at an agreed time & place — this time, the Pape subway station.

I just have time to admire the frosted-glass artwork on the stairs …

when Phyllis appears. Back onto the subway, on to Main station.

Where we walk down-down-down, headed for Lake Ontario and, eventually, this year’s Winter Stations art installations along the waterfront in the city’s Beach neighbourhood.

Memories of other walks, as we walk… Once more alongside Glen Stewart Ravine as it broadens into Glen Stewart Park. This time with a fresh dusting of snow, and a snowman-in-the-making.

Mum is doing most of the work; small child pats the snowman occasionally; dog watches peacefully from one side.

The sun comes & goes; the wind comes & goes (but, mostly, comes); we reach the boardwalk and head east. The water is cloudy and choppy, wind-driven.

This is the city’s fourth annual Winter Stations — the idea being to have some wintertime fun with the lifeguard stations that otherwise just stand there, cold & bleak behind the snow fence, until it is summer again.

Here’s the wintertime fun: invite design firms internationally and universities provincially to come up with art installations that will each wrap themselves around one of the stations.

We reach the first installation.

Shazaam! Inside lurks one of those frames; outside, it’s Pussy Hut, an American tribute to the pink pussy hats worn worldwide on Women’s Day.

Beyond the hat/hut, you can see more of the installations — Revolution, with its megaphones; the ovoid Nest, with its colourful criss-cross of tapes; and then the boxy, bright-red fabric panels of Obstacle.

Nest, the work of Ryerson University students, is designed to offer “comfort and introspection within a system of complexity and disarray.” On a windy day like today, the concept becomes physical reality.

I enter, I peer up through its shell, through the lifeguard station frame, out to the clouds above.

On to Revolution (OCAD University). Much friendlier than it sounds: 36 vertical tubes, at different heights, easy to swivel — to revolve! —  that invite everyone to shout their opinions into the air.

I don’t shout. The tubes strike me more as telescopes than loudspeakers — perhaps because we are water-side? — so, instead, I peer through one of them and enjoy the change of perspective.

We can’t find an identifying sign for this next installation, but its anonymity doesn’t keep it from providing what they are all meant to provide: pleasure and comfort on a chilly winter day.

At the moment, it’s to the benefit of a tired gentleman and his dog, bright red ball still clutched firmly in its mouth. (Later, online, I learn this is Rising Up, the work of U of Guelph students.)

On to that boxy collection of bright-red fabric panels, each swivelling quite forcibly with the wind.

I put a hand to one, thinking I’ll slide inside. Oww! I’m smacked by the wooden frame that holds the fabric taut. And I discover why the UK design team called their creation, Obstacle.

“At first it appears impenetrable,” they tell you, but with closer inspection and especially through cooperation with others, you can make your way inside.

Phyllis and I have a long history of cooperation, but we don’t make our way inside — we move on to Make Some Noise!

Who can resist? It’s an “oversized noise box,” say its German designers, with black horns and red hand cranks to get ’em wailing.

So we do. And so does everybody else that passes by.

We are veterans of previous Winter Stations exhibitions; we are veterans of blustery Toronto winters; we are veterans of the impact of those winters on the city waterfront.

But we do not expect what we see next.

Three surfers! In wet suits, mind you, and surely insulated wet suits at that. But still …

They offer one more tribute to lakefront fun in winter — the perfect grand finale to Winter Stations. We admire them, but have no desire to emulate them.

We head north to Queen Street East, correctly anticipating a different kind of water, the hot kind that brings you lattes.

What we don’t anticipate is what happens after that.

Next post. You’ll see.

 

 

 

Westward Ho…

16 February 2018 – You’d think I was already as west as it gets, but no! Not in Vancouver terms. Here we are in West Van this grey-shimmer morning, following a good chunk of the West Van Seawall.

It is a delightful 5.6 km ribbon of pathway, snaked between Burrard Inlet to the south and a still-active CN railway track to the north. Community gardens and luxuriant growth screen the tracks; we are free to enjoy the long views across the water, with Lion’s Gate Bridge to one side and those Coast Mountains to the other.

We see fish as well. Though not in the water…

A whole little gathering of these mosaics, a 1994 project (if I interpret signage correctly) of grade 6 Irwin Park students called “The Meaning of Peace Goes Beyond Words.”

More artwork as we walk along, some official — such as Bill Pechet’s outsized chairs — and some definitely spur of the moment. A predictable moment, any time you have quantities of rocks to hand.

We walk out one of the wooden piers, then blink at all those feathers at our feet. Some of them bloody. Our speculation is cut short by a middle-aged man leaning against the railing.

“I can tell you what happened,” he says.

Picture it: gull minding his own business in the waves; eagle on high, looking for breakfast.

“He just snatched up that gull, plucked it clean of feathers right here on the pier. And look!” Our informant points to the top of a very tall tree back from the water’s edge. “There he is! Digesting, I guess…”

Next pier along is Ambleside Pier. Long distance, I pay more attention to the near-by gull, posing for his moment of fame (I hope he’s watching for eagles), than to the human activity out on the pier.

A handful of men out on the pier, dropping their crabbing paraphernalia into the water. Each one of them, presumably, armed with his valid Tidal Waters Sports Fishing Licence. Large signs specify exactly what they may take, and how many, how often.

Heading back toward the car, I am again gob-smacked by happy palm trees, out there in a Canadian winter. This particular time, I am also pleased by their dance with the spidery bare-branch Something, right next door.

My friends indulge me. Other pedestrians stride by without a glance. I guess they are all used to palm trees.

But my friend slow down as much as I do, to eye the ducks. We’ve been fascinated throughout the walk by convoys of these boldly marked black & white ducks. They seem to cluster much more than other ducks I’m used to — sometimes bobbing head-down beneath the water one after another like an aquatic chorus line, or all swirling in one direction, or suddenly exploding in two opposite directions.

Or, as here, stretched in one long scribble across the silvery surface.

They make me think of the Bufflehead duck that I know (sort of know) from back east, simply because they are also black & white. My friends do a better online search later than I manage to do, and identify them.

Barrow’s Goldeneye!

Aren’t you glad you know that?

More Chairs. Still Staring…

31 January 2018 – Despite my Stares & Chairs post of January 13, I do not go looking for chairs.  I do not. I’ve become a moss-on-trees junkie, a crow junkie, yes … but no, not for chairs. They just keep turning up.

Even so, the first thing I stare at, this not-raining morning, has nothing to do with chairs.

Think toe-nails.

So that’s a good laugh, a silly moment to launch a walk that takes us out to Vanier Park, on the south shore of False Creek in Kitsilano.

Past the Maritime Museum, past the Museum of Vancouver, with kids and dogs and adults and bicycles and hiking boots all enjoying the day.

And then …

Sixteen chairs. Echoes, an art installation by Michael Goulet, part of the Vancouver Biennale of 2005-2007, reinstalled by Goulet here on the beach in 2010. (Note: not my photo. It’s from the Goulet page on the Biennale website.)

I could tell you more, but the signage next to the installation says it so much better…

We lean over chairs, each with its few words, in one official language or the other. This one is a bit of a stand-alone …

while these, somehow, seem to talk to each other.

Follow the arrows …

And we walk on.

And on, and then on some more. Onto Granville Island, among the offerings of the Granville Market. And finally, down to the Aquabus dock, for a ferry ride back home.

One last message, as we cross an outdoors eating/gathering space that leads to the wharf.

The gull hopes you can’t read.

 

 

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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