One of the first things that struck me about Montréal when I first moved here were the spiral staircases. Winding, weaving, twisting upon themselves, these iron or wood stairways are treacherous in winter and yet add an element of elegance and fantasy to the city’s streets, while allowing for a greater density of residential occupation. In her bilingual book, Québec, I love you/Je t’aime, illustrator Miyuki Tanobe recounts her delight at seeing a wedding party with a young bride and groom joyfully ascending the graceful curve of a staircase.
This local architectural creature is superimposed on another spiral formation — that of DNA, often called the “blueprint for life;” in reality, it is the only fundamental ‘species’ that exists. More over, DNA’s incredible ability to store information has recently been noted by science (700 terabytes in a single gram at last count).
In this piece, the city’s celebrated spiral staircases are re-imagined as strands of transforming, intertwined DNA, marching into some evolutionary event horizon, accentuated by the intelligent gaze of the eyes lining the railing, floating like a jellyfish manifold churning in the vast ocean of time.
Unseen and microscopic, this part of the fungi organism spreads as a branching network underground, making up what could be the largest organism in the world, according to mycologist Paul Stamets in his book Mycelium Running.
Another digital collage, part of a page done for a ‘zine I put together for Expozine 2011. You can see the rest of the PDF here.
The hummingbird is seen as a symbol of resurrection, beauty and magic. Set against a mandala or wheel design of bursting colours, a bird-creature dressed in white has her feet immersed in a pool of water (a symbol for the subconscious), while geometric lines of energy seem to emanate from its depths.
A drawing with pencil crayon, inspired by the Shipibo of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest. The patterns in the background — nurturing by the waters of the unconscious — are adapted by Shipibo designs, which are inextricably linked to sound.
What if we could paint music?
From Ayahuasca: Communion with the Infinite:
One of the challenges for the Western mind is to acknowledge the relationship between the Shipibo designs and music. For the Shipibo can “listen” to a song or chant by looking at the designs, and inversely paint a pattern by listening to a song or music.
Another ink illustration in the “Know Hope” series and inspired by my urban explorations of Montréal. At the intersection of Villeneuve and Avenue du Parc stand two carpet stores facing each other (one has since gone out of business — though Parc Avenue has no less than half a dozen of carpet stores within these few blocks). Sumptuous carpets hang tall in their grand windows, and in the imaginings of my mind’s eye I saw the carpets burst free, transforming into Escher-like tessellations.
Print available on Etsy.
Another fanciful ink illustration for Spacing Montréal, and part of the “Know Hope” series. Inspired by a bike ride down one of the myriad laneways found in Montréal’s Mile End neighbourhood, where quaint structures can be found (see image below left), I encountered a shortened door — seemingly made for people of gnomish proportions — and fronted none too coincedentally by a spray-painted sign (below right).
Print available on Etsy.
Pen & ink illustration for urban living blog Spacing Montréal:
The ubiquitous mansard roofs* of Montréal have always fascinated me. From the monumental to the ordinary vernacular, these distinctive roofs inspired by the once-popular Second Empire** style give the built surface a tactile depth to the multi-layered character of the city. Some stand rotting on dilapidated corners, now only silent witnesses to better times. On other streets they are painted in proud colours, basking in the rosy light of another setting sun, somehow opening onto other dimensions of imaginations about the city.