Arts Profile: Victoria’s Artist in Residence gets an extension to share more of his social, environmental, and politically inspired work
Meet Victoria’s Artist in Residence
By Jamila Douhaibi
You may have seen his artwork projected on the Empress and Parliament buildings, gazed at the Cormorant Street community mural, or walked your dog by the collaborative piece in Vic West Park. Luke Ramsey, the City of Victoria's Artist in Residence, has made his mark all over townv. Ramsey became Victoria's first resident artist at the end of 2016 and recently had his position extended until the end of 2018.
Ramsey grew up in Victoria, but has also lived in Powell River and on Pender Island. On Pender, he acted as the island's Artist in Residence from 2005–2010. Living on the West Coast for so long, Ramsey definitely believes his painting has been influenced by his surroundings—but it's also just "whatever mood I'm in at the time that will come through in my work."
Sometimes social, environmental, or political, Ramsey says, "I want the art to just be the pure expression of the unknown or something I want to see in the world," not just what is out there already.
Regardless of whether the images are concrete or imagined, Ramsey says his "self is very embedded into the work."
He believes that there is an ethics of art, and though it can be easy to compromise yourself for a paycheque, it's important to him to work for groups and organizations that are making the world a better place.
Pen to paper
His style of work is fairly expansive, ranging from posters to murals to graphic designs and even music videos.
Ramsey says, "I like to apply my art to different mediums." His ultimate comfort zone is just pen to paper.
Although, he admits, another great way to get exposure is murals and graffiti.
He says that "renegade free expression that doesn't have to conform to institutions" can be offensive and cool, but that there should be other outlets and resources for talented artists.
When Ramsey stepped into his role in Victoria, it was with the knowledge that this position was created to "put an artist at the table in the city," he says, rather than just having art as an afterthought.
Overall, there has been more positive than negative feedback towards the residency program by the people he's interacted with. Though smaller communities like Pender Island and Powell River were a more tight-knit place for an artist, Ramsey says that he's "blown away by how many more artists and musicians are active in this town.”
More than self
In his first year of the residency, Ramsey held a lot of workshops, as well as worked on many collaborative pieces, like public murals around the city. He says he was given a $30,000 budget and a lot of creative freedom, and he knew he could spend that money on product and material, or on working with people, so he "utilized those funds to bring other artists in" for a lot of the work he was doing.
There's a lot of focus on the self in art, but it's important "not to have a sense of complete ownership" over projects—especially because different people bring different voices to pieces. Art can be used as a great tool to connect people, which Ramsey believes happened with people he met throughout his first year.
He also believes that sharing the position by working with other artists ensures that the city is not overexposed to a large amount of the same work. Ramsey says that he's "really proud and happy" to have his work around Victoria, but he doesn't want to over-saturate it when he can simply share the city spaces.
For 2018, Ramsey says he has a "couple projects under wraps," but definitely wants to keep the focus on collaborating with other artists. He says he took on too much in the first year because he wanted to take advantage of the program to the full extent, but wants to keep the same ambition and drive, without burning out.
Though Ramsey says he's "cautious about technology," he's worked on a few virtual reality collaborations, and is interested in exploring the area further. For one project, he made a bird-shaped tent near Dallas and Cook Street, and had people wear a virtual reality helmet and make art while inside the tent. He's also currently working with the city to create another mural project and is planning to invite both local and international artists to collaborate for projects in the city next summer.
Whatever his influence, medium, or whomever he's collaborating with, Ramsey says that it's important to focus on the intent behind the work—even if it's just "getting weird and having fun.”
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