The Conditional Figure

I had just heard Said the Whale talk about their new album As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide at CBC’s Musical Nooners. Stephen Quinn asked frontman Tyler Bancroft about the inspiration behind this noticeably darker album that deals with the deaths of friends, neighbours, and babies. Tyler said something like, “After turning 30, life gets a lot more difficult. There are many beautiful things too, but it comes with a bunch of rough stuff.”


As a recent 30-year-old, this concert me in a contemplative mood as I wandered downtown on my way to the HSBC building to see David Robinson‘s sculptures at the Pendulum Gallery.

I had seen Robinson’s work previously—in his Parker Street studio during the Eastside Culture Crawl and at Regent College.

The works command attention in the high-ceilinged, glass-covered atrium, as if the lines and angles of his sculptures play off the architecture.


There is usually an element of tension in his works, whether it be balancing precariously while blindfolded, falling out of a safety net, or pushing and pulling against larger-than-life forces.


David Robinson, Chair (2013), mixed media. 67 x 33 x 74 inches.


David Robinson, Draped Figure (2009), paper, resin, 31 x 44 x 15 inches.


David Robinson, Dead Reckoning (2017), ed. 5. Sitka spruce, Baltic birch, polymer-gypsum, bronze, 96 x 64 x 11 inches.


David Robinson, Departure (2015), bronze/Douglas fir, 27 x 33 x 9 inches.

The way curator Chris Keatley wrote about this exhibit, aptly named The Conditional Figure, seemed to piggyback on what Said the Whale had just talked about.

This exhibition presents large-scale sculptural works that consider the figure as a conditional entity, created to exist in a dynamic, rather than a static state. Figures are split and penetrated, surfaces are textured and rough. The idea of the unassailable body, strong, solid and resolute, is brought into question, bringing forward the view of ourselves as systems in flux, constantly changing and evolving in time and space. In some works, the figures themselves retain a solidity of form, and it is their extended bodies – boats, planes, wings, ladders etc. – that suggest the fragile nature of both structures and beliefs in which we wrap ourselves.

How has my view of self changed as I’ve aged? What do other people see and what do I see when I look in the mirror? Has the blindfold come off? Am I as secure as I think I am? Am I paddling alone? Against the current? What load am I pulling?


David Robinson, Binary Vision (2003), ed. 6, polymer-gypsum, glass steel, 90.5 x 45 x 20.5 inches.

I view David Robinson’s sculptures as poetry in space. They ask the tough questions about existence. The vast white walls serving as the background to many of the works create breathing room to consider these questions in a gentle, unhurried way that almost feels too bare.

This exhibit complemented the permanent public artwork in the atrium by Alan Storey I’ve been meaning to see for a while now. Talk about balance and tension. This 1600 kg aluminum pendulum swings back and forth from the roof about 6 metres out, aligning with its base briefly before departing again.


If you’re downtown, I highly recommend you see Robinson’s exhibit before it closes today!

there’s no room for me here anymore

In False Creek Change,” Vancouver indie group Said the Whale sing about the gentrification of the city, of saying goodbye to a place they once called home:

False Creek changed in ‘86

the year Expo exploited her shore

It’s been twenty-two years laying down bricks

and there’s no room for me here any more, any more

there’s no room for me here anymore


I made my mark in ‘84

Born to the month of June

My home at the heart of Charleson Park

I never thought I’d be leaving so soon, so soon

Never thought I’d be leaving so soon

False Creek condos. View from Granville Island.

False Creek with view of Science World built for Expo ’86

Those are some pictures of False Creek today. With all its seafoam glass condos and precious view corridors, you’d hardly think it was one of the city’s key industrial sites prior to the 1980s when it got cleaned up for Expo. People who could no longer afford to stay, left. There’s no room for me here anymore.

I was reminded of Said the Whale’s song when reading about how the City of Vancouver is pledging to help artists find stable, long-term studio space after a number of them had to vacate a heritage building on 901 Main Street. You can read the article in The Vancouver Sun.

To help provide more space for Vancouver’s 8200 artists, the City has proposed turning two empty, city-owned buildings along Industrial Avenue in False Creek Flats – 251 & 281, into art studios. Together, the buildings comprise over 26 000 square feet.

281 Industrial Avenue. Photo by Jim Carrico.

It’s tough to be an artist in a city where the rent is so expensive. Artists need affordable space to make their art. They need a room of one’s own, to borrow Virginia Woolf’s phrase.

If this proposal goes through, it will make room for a certain kind of people in False Creek again – artists whose creative endeavours are often suited to older, industrial warehouses with their open floor layouts, large windows and high ceilings. Maybe it will welcome back to a place (and home) artists who have new songs to record, pictures to paint, and stories to write about that won’t just be farewell, there’s no room for me here anymore.