Island artist torn between natural environment and technology

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The natural environment plays an important role in Luke Ramsey’s art, from his vibrant murals – which adorn the buildings and monuments around Victoria – to the multi-colored killer whales and bears that inhabit his acrylic paintings.

But the former Victoria City Artist-in-Residence also has a deep-rooted relationship with technology. Several of his designs have appeared in the New York Times, accompanying editorials on computers and their awkward marriage to humanity. “I wouldn’t say that I hate [technology], but having grown up before the internet became a big thing, and having these two different experiences, I guess I have a nostalgia for the way things used to be, ”Ramsey said.

The 41-year-old autodidact moved from Victoria to a wooded area of ​​Powell River two years ago, and his desire to work remotely means he depends on the computers, data storage and connectivity they provide. , to survive.

Ramsey uses “the cloud” as his medium, to store and transfer digital versions of his work, while simultaneously painting clusters of clouds outside the windows of his studio in Powell River, where he lives with his wife. wife.

This dichotomy is at the heart of Real Cloud, his fourth solo show for the Madrona Gallery. Twenty pieces he has created over the past 18 months will be on display at the gallery until September 26, providing a reflection of his time in Powell River.

“It has a lot to do with being an artist and sharing a lot of content on the digital cloud, constantly uploading it to this fleeting, endless stream,” Ramsey said. “I don’t want technology to influence me too much, but it’s hard not to think about uploading something to social media and knowing that someone is going to be looking at this piece of art on their phone. I love being educated about technology and its negative effects, but living in Powell River and being a working artist, the internet is amazing. You don’t want to bite the hand that is feeding.

The Victoria-raised muralist, illustrator and painter has explored art and its relationship to a variety of environments throughout his career, starting with his street art designs as a teenager. Although he had support teachers at Claremont Secondary, Ramsey was not interested in art school.

Instead, he spent time in the city’s punk community, whose DIY approach and collaborative nature have been a constant presence in his work. Canadian cartoonist Marc Bell was one of the first mentors, he said, but it wasn’t until he returned to Victoria after teaching English in Taiwan that he began to pursue a career. full-time artist, having earned his first mural commission in a toy store. the.

Ramsey spent nine years on Pender Island, which is when the now identifiable colors and content of his work became evident (iconic landscape painter Ted Harrison, Ramsey readily admits, has enormous influence) .

Several of Ramsey’s notable murals in the city, including those adorning the Oak Bay High School athletic track, Gonzales Park, Vic West Park, Hollywood Park, and the turret / stairwell of Dallas Road near Cook Street, are inundated with images of the West Coast. These same themes are evident in his graphics and window prints for Tall Tree Health, a James Bay clinic, his vinyl wrap for the Cook St. Liquor facade, and a series of murals on the six-story parking lot of the Bengal Center in Vancouver. , his biggest project to date.

Real Cloud will merge its audience – those who know him from his murals and those who know his paintings – under one roof.

“What I like about exhibitions is that it’s an opportunity for people who know my murals, my public work, to have a piece of it in their home. I love having work that is accessible to the public, and I love that there is work for people to support the arts in another way. I am grateful to have worked in different fields.

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