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Formation of the Letter W by Nick Howe

words and photography Brit Bachmann

"This show is like Olympia Greek Taverna in Rutland. The lights are dim, can't really tell if the food sucks. I appreciate this show a lot. The colours are nice. I also appreciate Greek tavernas."


This was not my first reaction. It was my roommate's, @badguy_wywy.


Not that I completely disagreed, however. Nick Howe's show, Formation of the Letter W at Avenue Gallery definitely had similar vibes to a Westernized Greek taverna if you took the pieces literally. There was a certain element of kitsch, represented by his choice of cheap and found materials, and a gaudy accent of gold paint. Although there were mismatched patterns and a range of textures, all the pieces breathed to the same beat.


Formation of the Letter W had a beach vibe. I felt it right away, with the colours, the subtle suggestion of waves and the not-so-subtle reference to lounging. One of the paintings was a talk bubble with an actual novel, inside. Another was a long turquoise shelf to lean against, with a wave-like sculpture resting on top. And in the centre of the room was a sculpture reminiscent of a kelp-slapped cliff rock, or something you just want to fold over.


And like being at the beach, I was slightly concerned about my outfit and overall appearance. While peoples’ bodies were bouncing from one corner of the gallery to the next in apparent appreciation of the works, their gazes were actually bouncing off each other. The cool people.


Photo of the artist, Nick Howe

(Forgive my photos; getting crystal clear voyeur snaps at a gallery opening where everyone is looking at each other is next to impossible.)


Like every art show in Vancouver, the party migrated away from the works and to the studio spaces behind the gallery. Avenue's exhibition space is only 1/5 the total space of the building. The artist studios stretch all along the walls to the back smoking room and alley, divided by lounging couches, multi-purpose tables and colourful bikes.


In one of the back studios I found the artist, surrounded by an entourage of beautiful people holding cheap beer. Do you know Nick Howe? He is the type of guy who doesn't have an Instagram account, but has a hashtag (#nickhowe). While his appearances can be a little dazzling if you haven't met him before, he is actually surprisingly down-to-earth. He is funny, easy to blush, and enjoys long walks on the beach.



Howe confirmed that my interpretation of Formation of the Letter W was accurate. The pieces in his show were created to reflect the pulse of waves, which also represent the pulse of creation. The cool colours were direct references to water, but also to the sterility of pools, chlorine and sanitizer.

Howe created an artificial landscape, in more ways than one. There is something to be said for an artist who can create works that directly affect the moods and intentions at a gallery opening. We were all transported to a dystopian beach scene, where lukewarm beer flowed readily and peoples' vanities were on display. The only thing missing was calamari.


The opening reception of Formation of the Letter W was Thursday, September 4th at Avenue Gallery, 165 Hastings St. Nick Howe is a graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and currently works out of Sunset Terrace.