Capilano U Murals
Published18 August, 2021
Photo credit Tae Hoon Kim
In 2018, Capilano U and the Vancouver Mural Festival marked the University’s 50th anniversary by transforming drab concrete walls to symbolize the creativity that distinguishes this community.
As we return to campus in September, we recognize many students and employees may be setting foot onto our locations for the first time. While doing so, you may have questions about the many murals on campus.
This story was first published during the CapU50 celebrations.
Breeze, Willow building
Taka Sudo’s electric style contrasts different features, such as pairing an urban element with a natural element and applying bold colour to a muted white background. Sudo's signature technique embraces bright neon paint splashes in abstract forms (representing urban elements), with these elements coming together to form a natural shape, such as an animal (representing natural and organic elements).
Capilano U’s forested surroundings and proximity to the ocean made the ideal natural backdrop for Sudo’s work. The concrete buildings scattered about campus made for the urban element, and voilà, Sudo had the inspiration and contrast for creating his natural/urban mural.
Sudo noted that while painting his mural, there was a comfortable breeze blowing through the area he was working, as well as a steady stream of people walking by, which led him to title his work, Breeze. It is his hope that the bright animal characters depicted in his mural represent the diverse passion of Capilano U students, and that it motivates them as they pass by.
Emily Hyunh, Courtney Lamb, Ata Ojani, Brynn Staples
Connecting the Dots, Arbutus building
Capilano U has been connecting people since 1968, including artists Emily Huynh, Courtney Lamb, Ata Ojani and Brynn Staples, who met in 2016 as students in the University’s IDEA School of Design. Connecting the Dots is the team’s celebration of connection through art and real life.
The large-format “connect-the-dots” pattern incorporates each artist’s concepts of the number 50, as inspired by the past five decades. The numbers were collaged and overlaid on top of a grid of dots that helps guide the viewer in uncovering the hidden 50s in the mural. The colours were chosen to complement Capilano U’s natural surroundings and brighten the grey, concrete backdrop.
Carrielynn Victor & Debra Sparrow
Untitled, Cedar building
The collaboration of mural artist Carrielynn Victor and weaver Debra Sparrow expresses the latter’s handwoven Coast Salish blankets in mural form as a celebration of a living culture. The centerpiece of the mural is a traditional Coast Salish house post, depicting an ancestor, honoured by being wrapped in a blanket. Vibrant patterns radiate out from this historical point — elements of traditional weaving that grow in size and urgency.
The design highlights the role of ancestors in shaping a culture that is growing and looking to the future. There is also the present, with the mural given a clear sense of location by reflecting its immediate environment and the seasonal colour palette of the nearby forest. In the mural’s lower left corner is a black and white representation of a turning page, increasing the sense of heritage and learning. It’s a subtle reminder of the Coast Salish refrain to always carry with you who you are and remember where you have come from.
Young Eagle, kálax-ay Sunshine Coast campus
Young Eagle is set against bolts of blue on 25-by-10-metre wall. Eagles symbolize courage, strength and determination — to many, all essential qualities in the pursuit of higher education.
The mural’s dynamic energy and vivid shades of blue connect it to the sky and transform what was before a bare cement wall into a flash of inspiration.
Untitled, Birch building
Andrew Tavukciyan’s style of work is vibrant and abstract, built on a surreal blend of organic and machine-like elements with a cartoon influence. His vivid murals make people stop and think, and he encourages the viewer to interpret the work in whatever way they see fit.
To begin, Tavukciyan focused on how to incorporate the existing features of the wall: six evenly spaced windows and vertical and horizontal indentations that create a makeshift grid. The first shapes composed were the circular platforms that sandwich the top row of windows. From here, the rest of the design flows organically, branching out into the asymmetrical wall space.
Tavukciyan randomly chooses colours until he finds a scheme that works. Likewise, he finds shapes which twist and turn and alter according to what makes sense in his head. There is an explosion of action suggested with the lines, pipes and ribbons of his work – it is spontaneous, but not random.
Like the creative abandon of jazz musicians on stage, Tavukciyan is playing within the rules, creating something with its own time and space.
Spectrum Through the Prism, Birch building
An old 2013 sketchbook from his days as a Capilano U IDEA School of Design student provided the inspiration for illustrator Cristian Fowlie.
The original sketch was a visual collection of the core artistic concepts Fowlie was then learning about at Capilano U, rendered in vivid primary colours and basic shapes. It used simplicity and urgency to link art history — Mondrian, Modernism and Peter Saville — with colour theory, geometry, anatomy, portraiture and graphic design.
The mural is clear, direct and vivid, rendered in red, blue, black, yellow and white. This limited colour palette gives the completed mural strength, providing an immediate sense of familiarity with the basic artistic concepts whilst also giving the essence of abstractness.
Fowlie is pleased when people claim to recognize individuals portrayed in the completed mural, or even see themselves in it, but the work is abstract, capturing attitudes rather than individual likenesses. The concept of a prism refracting and separating pure light into a spectrum of colours is a metaphor for how the university provides an array of experiences and perspectives that enable participants to create, collaborate and grow in confidence.
Here & Now, Cedar building
Here & Now is a reminder to be present, and the mural prompts a moment of mindfulness for the busy student passing by.
The mural emphasizes the unique beauty of the surrounding campus, with the background of the mural an abstract landscape inspired by natural elements found in the Sea-to-Sky corridor. The overlapping layers are representative of nature: dappled light on trees and reflections in water.
Flutter, Nat and Flora Bosa Centre for Film & Animation
Drew Young has lived in Vancouver for more than 10 years, although it was in his hometown of Victoria where he painted his first mural in 2006. He hasn’t stopped since.
With more than 30 murals to his credit, not to mention the more than 100 he has directed in the Lower Mainland, Young is a something of an art mural aficionado. His work as a fine artist led him to participate in Art Basel in Miami Beach and at the Come Together Festival in Bogota, Colombia.
For Young, murals are an opportunity to make a “big ol’ painting.” He has art directed projects for TEDxVancouver, the SKOOKUM Festival and the Squamish Valley Music Festival. Young’s mediums include oil, collage, digital abstraction and acrylics. He completed Capilano U’s IDEA School of Design program in 2011, which he credits as being the place where his freelance art career really began.
Nelson Garcia & Xochitl Leal
Vancouver couple Nelson Garcia and Xochitl Leal painted their first mural in 2010 in East Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood. While they have created a number of mural projects together since, Garcia himself has created over 100 murals all around the world, from Uruguay to Mexico to Japan.
For the artist duo, murals are about “scale and visibility, impacting people and beautifying a space.” Garcia and Leal also enjoy expressing their artistic talent through pen, pencil, digital, linocut and papercutting techniques.
Leal notes that one of the things she enjoys most about their mural artwork are the emails she receives from people who have seen them.
“I have people telling me that they look forward to seeing our murals during their commute, or that they have spent hours trying to figure out their meaning,” she said.
Happy Accidents (Willow building)
Happy Accidents’ candy-like, punchy palette was chosen to appeal to any viewer’s inner child and the abstract geometric forms give the piece a sense of uplifting freedom and energy.
Tierney Milne’s artwork is colourful and bold — a positive interruption in students’ rainy day commuting and a vivid kaleidoscope amid the muted tones of the natural beauty of the Capilano U campus. While most of the artwork is supported by a strong grid structure, the intentional shifts outside the lines and hand-drawn elements, as if jotted with a marker in a sketchbook, break the grid and remind the viewer of the beauty in the imperfect and human.
A few familiar visual elements are scattered through the composition, but for the most part, the piece encourages the observer to enjoy and free-flow through the various intersecting and interacting abstracted forms and colours without immediately attaching to meaning. The viewer becomes an active participant, using their own creativity and imagination to interpret the work, which changes over multiple viewings.
Through colour, form and pattern use, this mural shows there can be a satisfying beauty even without a firm subject. The happy accident comes when observation becomes involved in this work.