Day of the Dead on Display at Art Masters 2019

Updated: Nov 4, 2019

It’s a painting contest unlike anything you’ve ever witnessed before—eight artists in a single venue given an hour to all paint on a common theme. Oh, and they get a mystery box of ‘supplies’ only a few minutes before the timer starts. This is Art Masters.


The event, held at The Portside Pub in the Gastown district of Vancouver, B.C., was a resounding success. The theme of the night was Day of the Dead, fitting with Halloween fast approaching.

All eight artists displayed a wide variety of takes on the theme, ranging from the natural landscape of Bill Westwell to the haunting suspended figure on Shelly Grisbrook’s canvas.


But only one can win and the title for this year’s Art Masters went to UNKY. 


“It’s awesome,” said UNKY. “Everyone prefers a different kind of art, so I’m just happy they liked it.”

The winning painting was also sold in a live auction. It went for $350 to Leon Berzen.


Berzen said he didn’t vote for UNKY’s painting, but that it was still a favourite.

“She has a feeling for art,” he said of UNKY. Of the painting itself, Berzen added, “There’s

an arrogance to it, in the eyes.”


The success of Art Masters is measured in its atmosphere and ability to capture its audience. On both of these fronts, the show surpassed all marks.


Before the show, the nervousness of the artists was palpable. For some, this was the first time they had ever done something like this.


“Definitely nervous,” said Drew van Unen, who took home third place. “I’m curious to see what others will do.”

But when you’re working with such a strong time constraint, self-editing is tossed out the window. There are no mistakes. Impulse has to reign free.


“You need to have a concept, but let it fluctuate,” said van Unen of the contest, referring to the unknown contents of the mystery box.


The mystery box given to each artist contained a few things that would be at home in an artist’s studio such as paper towels and sponges. But there were also the more obscure, like Q-tips and rope. If that wasn’t enough, there was the flat-out crazy with vampire teeth, plastic eyeballs, and a fake arm and a leg.

Some artists took to the challenge wholeheartedly. Second-placed Jenna Jones actually used the eyeball on the canvas, effectively gluing it on and giving her work a 3-D element. But being innovative is nothing new to her.


“The canvas is a tool,” Jones said, referring to her style, what she calls fluid abstract, where she physically moves the canvas and lets the medium play across its surface.


“It’s just as much a paintbrush as it’s a medium to hold the paint,” she said.

As the countdown hit zero and the artists put down their brushes, knives and other implements, the striking difference of styles was immediately apparent. 


UNKY was right—if everyone prefers different kinds of art, Art Masters has something for everyone.


ARTISTS

Michael Abelman

Melissa Burgher

Heidi Chartrand

Shelley Grisbrook

Jenna Jones

Drew van Unen

UNKY

Bill Westwell



SPONSORS

Alana Godin

Contemporary Art Gallery

Opus Art Supplies

RusArt Supplies

TR Trades

Union Street Cycle

Water Street Cafe

Xiamen Air



BY NATHAN DUREC

16–19 April 2020

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