Nep Sidhu brings his vision to the West Coast

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We recently received an email from the Surrey Art Gallery, inviting us to check out Toronto based artist, Nep Sidhu’s first solo exhibit, Shadows in the Major Seventh.

It was our first visit to the gallery and we were warmly greeted by Jordan Strom, the curator of exhibitions at the gallery. He introduced us to Nep, who was setting up, and getting the final preparations ready for Saturday’s opening reception. Nep’s exhibit features mixed large scale work in mixed media, sculpture and textile design.

Nep describes himself as an artist linking the ancient with the here and now. When viewing his work, the ancient part stands out immediately – for example: Confirmation, a 3-piece work, created with ink on paper, brass and sheet veneer marble, features Kufic script. Kufic, the oldest calligraphic form of Arabic scripts, was developed around the end of the 8th century in Kufa, Iraq. As Nep gave us a narrated tour of his work, he explained how the ancient Kufic script also serves as the here and now. In Confirmation, the translated script is actually the lyrics of frequent collaborator Ishmael Butler, of hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces. Nep sees timelessness as an important quality of art, so it’s not surprising that his work, overall, doesn’t have too many obvious pop culture references present.

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Confirmation

His work is chock-full of global influences. Nep draws from his own Northern Indian heritage, as well as invoking elements of several African and Middle Eastern cultures. It’s a worldly take on the various social justice issues he covers in his work. One work in particular, a series of elaborate textile designs titled Pigs in Paradise, is a collaborative effort with Alaskan artist Nicholas Galanin. The garments advocate for the protection of aboriginal women, who’ve been largely marginalized in society. Thematically, Nep’s art is largely tied to social justice issues, and the divine feminine.

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Pigs in Paradise

When we were first exploring Nep’s work, we were interested in the concept of Paradise Sportif, a non-commercial clothing line. We noticed Nep doesn’t seem to references collections or seasons when explaining Paradise Sportif, but rather describes his work in chapters. Because Paradise Sportif isn’t a commercial clothing line, it doesn’t operate within seasons or collections. This unique approach to a clothing line is intriguing, in the sense that it’s not inundated with the demands of the fashion industry. Paradise Sportif is made up of materials and processes like embroidered silk, embossed leather, and wool chenille, and are worn by members of Black Constellation and other friends. The modern elements in his clothing – the leather sleeves, silk bombers and vibrant red jerseys would fit in well at major luxury retailers, so it’s surprising that he’s chosen to avoid commercialization. When broaching Nep about this, he explained, “It’s one thing to create pieces in the numbers I do, it’s another thing to be answerable for a large quantity that needs then constant touching base with purveyors of the work. There’s a lot that becomes involved in which, I sort of fall back from, I’m not too interested in.”

For now, it seems that Nep is focusing on his artistry, and communicating his thoughts on issues that are affecting both his community and human consciousness overall. With social media, and the communities that exist online, it’s easy to forget about the physical communities around us, but for Nep, it’s a strong point of reference and inspiration, stemming from his Sikh upbringing.

After looking at his pieces, we sat down with him for a quick chat, about process, timelessness, and his non-commercial clothing line, Paradise Sportif.

Check out the full interview below, after the pictures.

Nep’s first solo show is taking place at the Surrey Art Gallery from April 9th to June 12th

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FUSE: Disruption

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FUSE night is a quarterly art event put on by the Vancouver Art Gallery. This summer’s event was titled Disruption, and was a collaborative effort with the ISEA 2015 festival and the New Forms Society. It was an extravaganza which utilized indoor and outdoor stations, creating a sort of adult playground for art lovers in the city.

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Interview with Haery Potter

 

Artist Haery Potter wearing a Haerwave hoodie

(Haery Potter)

Being an artist in the “internet age” has its own set of triumphs and tribulations. There’s a lot to consider when trying to create something meaningful in a culture which moves at a rampant pace. Social media is a marketplace of adulation, with a vast demographic to test out new pieces; at the same time, it is a place completely saturated with artists and musicians, vying for internet fame.

It takes some searching to find authenticity on platforms like Instagram and Tumblr. You must wade through the accounts full of celebrity drawings and calligraphy, and veer far, far from those who cannot distinguish between art and ‘arts and crafts’. When you find someone with a streamlined aesthetic, producing quality pieces, it’s a refreshing reminder of the power of social media, to connect and inspire each other.

Artist and internet wizard, Haery Potter is that person. His persona and art has kept us enthralled for years. He’s a digital and mixed media artist, and entrepreneur. He founded Haerwave media, which encompasses his artwork, as well as his designs, music, and everything else he’s creating. Under Haerwave Music, he mixes together eclectic artists from all different genres. and as the founder of Haerbrainschemes, he shares his cartoon-like sketches which adorn everything from snapbacks to hoodies, which can all be purchased through his online store. How this internet wizard manages all of this, we’ll never know.

 

Haery Potter artwork

(Haery Potter)

 

Ultimately, he is a tastemaker, refusing to be pigeonholed into a singular occupation, constantly creating and curating material for his followers. His work is based around personal nostalgia and it’s evident when you look at his creations that he’s fond of the ‘90s and its influential figures. Looking at the sheer volume of work that he puts out across many platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Soundcloud, to name a few) it’s baffling and inspiring at the same time. It must take a surmountable level of discipline to be able to consistently put out quality art, music and designs, but his attitude is always carefree. Sharing his work at a rapid pace, he seems to be free of the preciousness that sometimes plagues artists and their work.

We spoke with Haery Potter on Episode 23 of Screen Girls on Air and asked him about his beginnings in art and the moment that his art journeyed from hobby into profession. What resonated with us long after our conversation was when Christina asked him how both his mixes and art are so well produced and he told us that us that it’s all symbiotic – if he didn’t have an ear for music, he wouldn’t have an eye for art.

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(Haery Potter)

We spoke with Haery on Episode 23 of Screen Girls on Air:

FUSE: The Noise of Silence

Once a season, the Vancouver Art Gallery hosts FUSE night combining art, music and lots of mingling. Every event is unique in its curation and performances, and captures the tone of the gallery’s various exhibitions. For spring ’15, the theme was The Noise of Silence, a night curated by David Pay, the artistic director of Music on Main and produced by Media Lab. It was a night that was inspired by the idea of listening. It was an exploration of sound, with performances having themes of isolation and reputation in the music.

FUSE is also a great time to check out the exhibits that are housed on the four floors of the gallery. The Noise of Silence featured the Cezanne and the Modern exhibit in the last weeks of its run at the gallery. There were some new exhibits as well, like the projection room on the top floor, which was a huge draw for crowds, eager to snap a selfie before the projections changed. Other popular exhibits at the event were The Poetics of Space and The Material Future, which combined the architecture of Herzog and de Meuron and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

The event focused on the notion of quietness, the space that a lack of sound creates. It was not an easy task to remain still and silent, especially in a crowd that can be quite raucous after a few visits to the courtroom bar, but it was a fun exercise, in patience and diligence. The performers experimenting with silence were contrasted with the spontaneous combustions of Jocelyn Merlock and James Maxwell, whose performance brought a harmonious balance to the evening. If the packed event on a particularly rainy evening in the city was any indication, FUSE nights are bringing home global themes in contemporary art, and it’s working well.

Check out our video coverage of the night here.

Woman views the wall of art at FUSE: The Noise of Silence at the Vancouver Art Gallery Line drawing at FUSE: The Noise of Silence at the Vancouver Art Gallery FUSE: The Noise of Silence in full swing at the Vancouver Art Gallery Projections at FUSE: The Noise of Silence at the Vancouver Art Gallery Bed covered in hair at FUSE: The Noise of Silence at the Vancouver Art Gallery Attendees take in the art at FUSE: The Noise of Silence at the Vancouver Art Gallery