Summer in the City II

Cycling through downtown Vancouver is one of my favourite things to do, and I love Chinatown, Strathcona, and the area around the docks. When wandering through the back alleys there I am always fascinated to see how the street art has changed and developed.

This small labyrinth is tucked away near Union Street.

Many murals grace the walls of buildings and bridges down here; this first nations sun is part of a large image beneath an overpass near the old Sugar Factory.

On Alexander Street, in Gastown right near Chill Winston’s restaurant, is the gallery and studio of Choboter, an artist whose name was previously unknown to me. His works are vaguely reminiscent of Pollock’s drips, although more kitschy, with women’s faces and bodies embellished upon the paint drips and drops.

One of the blocks along Hastings is constantly metamorphosing. Every time I ride by, another piece of old time Vancouver has disappeared to be replaced by yet more restaurants, coffee shops, and palaces of consumption.

SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts faces off against the not-so-Regal Hotel across the street, its windows usually full of interesting art.

I have been photographing the alleyways between Cambie and Richards for a few years now; each time I return, the images have changed. Having been away from the area for a year, it was interesting to see what has happened with the street art and graffiti.

The alley behind the Dominion Building yielded some cool stencil art.

These large-scale wall stencils represent the contemporary evolution of printmaking art. Rather than the small, rather intimate aesthetic of traditional printmaking, these works are big, bold, and often have a socially conscious point to make.

However, there’s also lots of the usual guys with huge guns, death’s heads, and rampaging monsters thing …

A few weeks ago we checked out Tomoyo’s small installation Yearning at Solder and Sons books and cafe, 241 Main Street. Originally from Japan, Tomoyo has lived in Vancouver many years. She also spends part of the year in Ladakh, India where she is involved with the Tibetan community. Her drawings speak to issues of community, spirituality, and the injustices perpetrated on the people of Tibet.

Solder and Sons is right near the Main Street viaduct, from the top of which is a great view out over the docks, the harbour, and the North Shore mountains.

Riding along the Carrall Street bikeway from False Creek to Gastown, we pass the Sun Yat Sen Park and Gardens, recently voted the World’s Top Urban garden. It is an oasis of calm and green beauty in a sea of concrete.

From the gardens we can see the revolving “W” of the former Woodwards Department Store, now the epicentre of downtown eastside Vancouver gentrification.

While vestiges of the gritty downtown eastside remain, such as the West Hotel, the areas untouched by real estate hipsters are shrinking in the face of an influx of expensive doughnut shops and trendy restaurants.

At the yearly Powell Street Festival, the remains of Vancouver’s original Japanese community gather in Oppenheimer Park (between Powell Street and the waterfront).

See more pics here and here.

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