Seated in an urban context, Briar Craig gleans from society and as if analyzing the pottery remains of an ancient civilization.
Just as an archaeologist sifts through the sands to unearth evidence of the cultural picture of a time gone past, Craig filters his findings and then applies his technical expertise to the material so that we are convinced of its veracity.
For instance, he has worked with found notes and within the university environment where he works, there are many of these daily reminders, small voices prodding the writer to do this or that.
Craig lights on one, often finding it discarded, and then overlays or underlays it with random or complimentary elements so that the original message shifts to absorb a new perspective.
Then by using his art, he edifies the sorry original so that a new dignity is achieved. The humble note is raised in status, often enlarged in size, and becomes an object to be cherished, a piece of original art that embodies meaning.
A professor in the creative studies department at UBC Okanagan, Craig also inspires students in his field of expertise, printmaking, as will be seen when he and one of his fellow students, Steven Lee Scott, show their work in their exhibitions Urban Clever and Urban Cool at Vernon’s Headbones Gallery.
The founder of the Okanagan Print Triennial, which is currently on exhibit at the Vernon Public Art Gallery, Craig’s print work could be termed as easy going, says Julie Oakes, owner/curator at Headbones.
“This open friendliness also lends accessibility to the grander ideas embedded in his work,” she said.
Craig has a long practice of using dictionaries, taking the first word at the top of the page, or the last word at the bottom, and combining these unconnected words in a new way in his prints. The result has a jarring familiarity which brings into question the very concept of language and the usage of words, said Oakes.
“With social media and the internet taking up more of a percentage within personal profiles and experience falling behind as a result, Craig has arrived at a solution of sorts for this absence of real life within our complex contemporary society,” she said. “He takes the scraps from our culture and brings them back into the realm of appreciation. It is only in the recycling that the original object gains significance.”
Craig’s practice employs a sophisticated process, one that has advanced along with technological progress and urban privilege. He uses high-end cameras and equipment to burn photographed images onto a silk screen that is then inked by hand and pressed onto paper. This is passed through a UV dryer so that multiple colours can be printed in succession.
“It involves extreme precision, patience and perseverance to build up the tonal richness,” said Oakes, adding that alongside the solid authenticity of Craig’s works runs a continuous line of humour.
“The comic impact from the combinations of words when submitted to his re-arrangements often result in a serendipitous lightness.”
Although he also inserts sticky notes into his pictures, most of the material for Scott’s prints are drawn from the counterculture rather than mainstream.
“Steven’s etchings and lithographs have a darkness presiding that is in line with the sci-fi, biker, tattoo images that he employs,” said Oakes. “He uses names of historical figures taken from military history, Latin phrases and oblique references to a future time. The text font is classic like old fashioned typewriter letters blown up.”
Visitors can meet Craig and Scott at the opening reception for Urban Clever/Urban Cool, Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Headbones, located at 6700 Old Kamloops Road. The exhibition continues to May 9.
Oakes and her partner Richard Fogerty will also introduce Headbones new artist-in-residence Rose Sanderson at the opening.
Travelling abroad from her last home in Bristol, England, Sanderson will be investigating cartography as a means of recording her journey and experiences through Canada and the U.S., and as a way of mapping the memories through her art.
“Over the past year I have been travelling around North America, including British Columbia. By road and sea I have been exploring the many aspects of the vast and varied landscapes. My journey has opened me up to new experiences and ideas that I can’t wait to develop in my art work,” she said.
Sanderson will be at Headbones until April 30.